FAIR Legislative Update July 23, 2012
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano last week offered virtually no insight into the Administration’s politically-charged plan to grant deferred action to illegal aliens who meet the qualifications for the DREAM Act. To the contrary, faced with a grilling last week by Members of the House Judiciary Committee during an oversight hearing, Napolitano’s testimony indicated that the Obama Administration had virtually no plans in place to handle the process for granting deferred action to illegal aliens or for preventing fraud in the program.
Clearly frustrating Members of the Committee, Secretary Napolitano provided them no information beyond what the Administration has already made public — this despite the fact that the Administration announced its new policy over a month ago. For example, although Napolitano told the Committee that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would have the deferred action application process in place by August 15, she could provide few details as to what documentation would be accepted to prove an illegal alien actually meets the eligibility criteria. The Secretary simply said she was unsure whether illegal aliens who use school transcripts to demonstrate eligibility must have those transcripts officially certified by the school. Moreover, she could not say whether the cost of processing applications would fall upon American taxpayers. (Bloomberg Government Transcript, July 20, 2012)
Remarkably, notwithstanding Secretary Napolitano’s admission that DHS has yet to develop the most basic processes for implementing its new deferred action policy, she acknowledged that illegal aliens are already benefitting from it. In an exchange with the Committee’s Chairman, Lamar Smith (R-TX), Napolitano revealed that approximately 1,000 illegal aliens have already been granted deferred action pursuant to her memorandum. She also admitted that while the parents of these aliens were not explicitly granted deferred action under her memorandum, they nonetheless are eligible for prosecutorial discretion. (Id.)
Finally, in spite of persistent high unemployment in the United States, Secretary Napolitano insisted that granting illegal aliens deferred action is the right thing to do. “I thought about [the unemployed] deeply before I wrote my memorandum because jobs for Americans are very important…But we shouldn’t balance the American economy on the backs of children who were brought here [unlawfully],” the Secretary told the Committee. (Id.)
The hearing was the second in two weeks to focus on the June 15 amnesty memorandum. But although several Members of Congress have introduced legislation or press releases decrying it, Congressional leadership has yet to officially act or back any bills that would stop it.
On Friday, Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) led other Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee in demanding that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) rescind its plans to close nine Border Patrol Stations. (Smith Letter, July 20, 2012) These Members made their demand in a letter addressed to CBP Chief David Aguilar, who announced last month that his agency will close nine interior border patrol stations. (See FAIR Legislative Update, July 16, 2012) Other Members who signed the letter include Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Howard Coble (R-NC), Elton Gallegly (R-CA), Steve Chabot (R-OH), J. Randy Forbes (R-VA), Steve King (R-IA), Trent Franks (R-AZ), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Ted Poe (R-TX), Dennis Ross (R-FL ), and Mark Amodei (R-NV).
In the letter, these House Republicans voiced their strong disapproval for CBP’s decision to close the nine stations, located at Lubbock, Amarillo, Dallas, San Angelo, Abilene, and San Antonio (TX); Billings (MT); Twin Falls (ID); and Riverside (CA). “We are highly concerned that the closure of several Border Patrol stations will undercut proven methods to intercept drug smugglers, human traffickers and illegal immigrants in corridors they use extensively north of the U.S.-Mexico border,” the letter reads. “These stations were placed in these locations because they were and remain high-volume travel corridors for illegal immigrants and drug smugglers who successfully cross the border without apprehension.” (Smith Letter, July 20, 2012)
The Members also flatly rejected the weak justification CBP has offered for the closures, namely to maximize the effectiveness of its resources. “[W]e have serious grounds for believing these claims are simply wrong,” the Members state. “These stations have proven exceedingly effective in seizing millions of dollars in drugs and thousands of illegal immigrants. With key stations closing, it will be much easier for illegal immigrants and drug smugglers to reach their intended destinations in the interior if they succeed in crossing the border undetected.” “We urge you in the strongest terms to rescind the decision.” (Id.)
The debate over the closure of these stations will likely continue for some time. Through this same letter, House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith also demanded that CBP provide 2010 “efficiency review” on which the agency has based its decision and its plan for assisting state and local law enforcement agents with its ongoing immigration enforcement needs. That information, once available, should help illuminate the Obama Administration’s policy-making process with regard to immigration enforcement.
After nearly a year of blocking the State of Florida’s efforts to stop illegal aliens from voting, the Obama Administration relented last week and provided state officials access to a federal database that could help determine immigration status of registered voters.
Last week’s developments were the culmination of dispute between Florida and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that has lasted over a year. In 2011, the State of Florida began an investigation that would identify and remove ineligible voters, including noncitizens, from its voter registry. To assist the investigation, Florida sought access to the DHS Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) database, which holds the most accurate and comprehensive citizenship and immigration status records in the United States. (Florida State Secretary Ken Detzner Press Release, July 14, 2012) However, the Obama Administration stonewalled the request for ten months. (See FAIR Legislative Update, June 19, 2012; see also Email Correspondence between the Florida Department of State and DHS, 2011-2012)
In response to the Administration’s delays, Florida resorted to alternate methods of identifying ineligible voters, and a legal battle between the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the State of Florida ensued. On June 11, DOJ and Florida filed competing lawsuits: The DOJ sued Florida, claiming the state could not purge registered voters from the voter rolls within 90 days of an election under the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). (See 42 USC 1973gg; see also DOJ Press Release, June 12, 2012) Florida sued the DOJ, claiming that DHS’ delay tactics were solely responsible for preventing the State from removing invalid voters in a timelier manner, and now jeopardized the efficacy of legitimate citizens’ votes. (Florida State Secretary Ken Detzner Press Release, June 11, 2012; see also Sec. Detzner Letter to Chief Herren, June 6, 2012)
The legal conflict was resolved on June 28 when Federal District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled in Florida’s favor, upholding the State’s right to remove ineligible voters at any time. Judge Hinkle declared that the time limit in the NVRA “does not apply to an improperly registered citizen” and that the law “does not require a state to allow a noncitizen to vote just because the state did not catch the [registration] error more than ninety days in advance.” (See Order for Case No. 4:12cv285-RH/CAS at p.7-11, June 28, 2012)
In line with Judge Hinkle’s ruling, USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas conceded access to the SAVE database to Florida in a July 14 letter sent to Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner. (Florida State Secretary Ken Detzner Press Release, July 14, 2012) In the letter, USCIS agreed to grant Florida access to the records of registered voters in question if the State provided specific information for each individual, including unique identifiers referred to as “alien numbers.” (Politico, July 14, 2012)
Agreeing to the terms, Florida Governor Rick Scott expressed his appreciation for USCIS’ decision to allow use of the SAVE database. “We’ve already confirmed that non-citizens have voted in past elections here in Florida. Now that we have the cooperation of the Department of Homeland Security, our state can use the most accurate citizenship database in the nation to protect the integrity of Florida’s election process.” (Governor Rick Scott Press Release, July 14, 2012)
A series of emails released last week reveal that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials delayed the deportation of President Obama’s uncle, Onyango Obama, to allow him to seek the reopening of his deportation case. (Washington Examiner, July 16, 2012; Judicial Watch, July 16, 2012)
The emails reveal that ICE officials gave Onyango Obama special treatment by staying his deportation, rather than deporting him following his arrest for driving under the influence (DUI) last year. According to the email exchanges between ICE Public Affairs Officer Brian Hale and ICE Director John Morton, officials granted Mr. Obama a stay of deportation to permit him to seek the reopening of his deportation proceedings, and attend pending criminal proceedings for his DUI charges. (Email Exchange at p. 43, April 1, 2012) (Id.)
The emails also reveal numerous exchanges between ICE officials who were monitoring media coverage of the President’s Uncle’s case, including statements by presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, stating that if elected he would deport Onyango Obama. (Id. at p. 42, Dec. 22, 2011)
Onyango Obama has been in the United States illegally since 1992, when he was ordered to leave the country after overstaying his visa. (Boston Globe, Sept. 9, 2011) Most recently, Onyango Obama was in the news for driving under the influence of alcohol at nearly twice the legal limit. (FAIR Legislative Update, Apr. 16, 2012; see also Boston Herald, Mar. 28, 2012) Upon arrest, Onyango was briefly detained by ICE officials when they discovered he had ignored his 20-year-old deportation order. (Boston Globe, Aug. 31, 2011)
Since this would not be the first instance of a relative of President Obama being allowed to remain in the country following years of unlawful presence, Obama might just succeed. The President’s Aunt, Zeituni Onyango, was ordered to leave the country twice between 2003 and 2004, but never did, and was eventually granted asylum in 2010. (FAIR Legislative Update, Sept. 27, 2010) Incidentally, Onyango Obama’s immigration attorney, Margaret Wong, is the same attorney who helped Zeituni win asylum. (Id.; see also Boston Herald, Apr. 13, 2012)