FAIR Legislative Update July 25, 2011
House Judiciary Committee Takes First Step in Decreasing Immigration Numbers
A bill which would eliminate the flawed diversity visa program passed through the House Judiciary Committee last week. The Security and Fairness Enhancement (SAFE) for America Act, H.R. 704, made it through a full committee mark-up by a vote of 19-11. (CQ, July 20, 2011) As the law is currently written under the Immigration and Nationality Act Section 201(e), the diversity visa program allows in 55,000 immigrants randomly chosen from a lottery each fiscal year.
The U.S. began issuing visas under the program in 1995, to increase the diversity of America’s immigrant population by allowing a lottery for individuals from nations with low rates of immigration into the U.S. (Government Accountability Office (GAO) Report, Sept. 2007) Since then, hundreds of thousands of aliens – including those from countries listed as State Sponsors of Terrorism—have been allowed visas and legal permanent resident status in the U.S. (Press Release, July 20, 2011; GAO Report, Sept. 2007) As part of the 2011 lottery program, 1,842 Iranians, 553 Sudanese, and 32 Syrians were issued diversity visas into the U.S. (Press Release, July 20, 2011)
The SAFE Act was introduced earlier this February by Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), who spoke out against the visa lottery’s threat to national security. (Id.) “Under the program, each successful applicant is chosen at random and given the status of permanent resident based on pure luck,” he remarked. (Id.) “Our immigration policy should be based primarily on our national needs, security and economics and not in part on an arbitrary system, lacking even minimal checks.” (Id.)
Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), agreed. “Basing our immigration system on the luck of the draw is not smart immigration policy,” Smith said. (Id.) “It’s an open invitation for fraud and a jackpot for terrorists. With the visa lottery, the American people lose since U.S. immigration policy and national security are compromised.”
The movement forward of this legislation is an important step by the House Judiciary Committee to take action to reduce immigration numbers. The bill will now go before the full House of Representatives.
Last week, California lawmakers sent Assembly Bill 130, one of two bills that make up the “California DREAM Act of 2011,” to Governor Jerry Brown, who is expected to sign the legislation. (ABC News 10, July 15, 2011; AB 130 § 1) If enacted, the bill would allow illegal aliens—who already qualify for in-state tuition in California—to receive privately funded financial aid administered through the State’s public universities and community colleges. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Nov. 22, 2011) “Every victory in this, large or small, is important, and this is the first of what will be a full comprehensive victory in the area of education [for illegal aliens],” said California Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, the bill’s sponsor. (Website of Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, July 22, 2011)
The other bill comprising the California DREAM Act is Assembly Bill 131, also sponsored by Assemblyman Cedillo. AB 131 would even further reward illegal aliens in California by making them eligible for publicly funded student financial aid programs administered by the State. (AB 131 § 4 (b)) Once legal California residents receive awards, illegal alien students would also be eligible to receive certain competitive publically funded grants. (AB 131 § 4 (c)) The California Assembly passed AB 131 on June 1, and it is awaiting action in the Senate Committee on Appropriations. (See Bill History, July 22, 2011)
If signed into law, the bills would immediately benefit the estimated 1,941 illegal aliens in the University of California system, 3,633 in the California State University system, and over 36,000 in the California community college system. (ABC News 10, July 15, 2011)