FAIR Legislative Update July 30, 2013
At a town hall meeting in Racine, Wisconsin Friday, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) told over 300 local constituents that the House will not move on immigration until the fall. “Tentatively, October, we’re going to vote on these bills,” Ryan said, citing legislation concerning border security, interior enforcement, workplace verification, guest worker visas, and “a bill to legalize people who are undocumented.” (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, July 27, 2013)
Pushing the timeline for immigration reform back further, Ryan’s statements reveal that Congress will leave for the August recess without a vote on any immigration legislation. They are only in session in September for nine days.
Although Ryan did say that the House is not going to take up the Senate bill, he nonetheless voiced support for similar legislation. Ryan said he’d like to see a “15-year pathway to citizenship” that includes a “probationary” immigration status. (Id.)
Acknowledging questions from illegal alien attendees, Ryan expressed he was not “doing this for politics,” rather that he felt comprehensive immigration reform was the “right thing to do” for the United States, calling illegal aliens “undocumented Americans.” (Id.)
On Tuesday, the House Immigration Subcommittee held a hearing exploring the DREAM Act. Although no particular piece of legislation was addressed, the hearing broadly focused on legislative efforts aimed at granting amnesty to illegal aliens who claim to have come to the U.S. as minors.
Entitled, “Addressing the Immigration Status of Illegal Immigrants Brought to the United States as Children,” Chairman of the Immigration Subcommittee, Trey Gowdy (R-SC), opened the hearing arguing that illegal aliens who “were brought” to the country as minors should be prioritized for amnesty over other illegal aliens. “Attempts to group the entire 11 million into one homogeneous group in an effort to secure a political remedy will only wind up hurting the most vulnerable,” Rep. Gowdy declared in his opening statement. “The equities are on the side of the children in my judgment,” he concluded. (Bloomberg Government Transcript, July 23, 2013)
Chairman of the full Judiciary Committee, Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), a key player in House Leadership’s immigration strategy, struck a tone similar. “[N]ot every illegal immigrant in the United States can be placed into the same category…[T]here’s another class of unlawfully present aliens — a class of individuals who deserve to be considered from a different perspective. I’m talking about aliens brought here as children by their parents. They had no input into their parents’ decision to bring the family to the U.S. illegally,” he argued. (Id.)
It is unclear whether Gowdy and Goodlatte’s pro-DREAM amnesty stances include the growing number of unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S.-Mexico border unlawfully, who therefore were not brought into the country by a parent. (Pew Stateline, May 9, 2013) In 2012, the U.S. Border Patrol reported 24,481 unaccompanied minor crossings, more than three times than in 2008.
Not surprisingly, the rest of the hearing provided a decidedly pro-amnesty-only perspective. In fact, the hearing’s two panels were stacked with witnesses who spoke in favor a DREAM Act-style amnesty. The first panel was comprised solely of current Members of the U.S. House of Representatives who support the passage of DREAM Act, three out of the four of which have introduced their own versions. The line-up included Reps. Mike Coffman (R-CO), Jeff Denham (R-CA), Cory Gardner (R-CO), and long-time amnesty advocate Luis Gutierrez (D-IL). And, among the panelists in the second group were representatives from two pro-amnesty organizations, the Southern Baptist Convention and the Migration Policy Institute, as well as an illegal alien. (See Judiciary Committee Website)
Kicking off the first panel was Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO), who used his time on the panel to promote his military DREAM Act legislation, H.R. 435, a bill that would amend current law to allow illegal aliens granted reprieve under President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to join the military and then give them a path to eventual citizenship. Interestingly, Coffman argued that allowing illegal aliens to join the military would boost national security. “I strongly believe that by allowing these young people who we are talking about today to serve in our military, it is not just the right thing to do but will serve to strengthen the national security of our country.” (Bloomberg Government Transcript, July 23, 2013) However, Coffman did not address the Administration’s alarming 99.5 percent approval rate for DACA applicants or the fact that the program lacks safeguards and anti-fraud mechanisms to verify applicants meet the already low criteria. (See CIS Website)
Likewise, Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) testified in favor of a similar, more expansive military-style DREAM Act that he introduced last month, H.R. 2377. Denham’s bill would amend current law to allow illegal aliens who arrived in the country before 2012 and under the age of 15 to enlist in the U.S. military. Upon enlistment, the bill would require the Secretary of Homeland Security to grant the illegal alien a green card. Denham indicated that his bill, H.R. 2377, would be part of Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte’s (R-VA) yet-to-be introduced KIDS Act, a Republican-led effort to pass a version of the DREAM Act. “[O]ne of the bills that’s already in print that a number of you have already co-sponsored will be part of the Kids Act, would be the ‘ENLIST Act’ [H.R. 2377],” Rep. Denham said to the Subcommittee. (Bloomberg Government Transcript, July 23, 2013)
Despite voting against the DREAM Act as recently as 2010, Reps. Cantor and Goodlatte are expected to introduce their legislation sometime in September, following Congress’s annual August recess. The pair has the blessing of House Speaker Boehner, who recently expressed support for the DREAM Act. Arguing such legislation is about “fairness,” Boehner asserted, “these children were brought here by no accord of their own, and, frankly, they’re in a very difficult position. And I think many of our members believe that this issue needs to be addressed.” (See National Journal, July 25, 2013)
House Hearing Used to Criticize Senate Approach to Border Security, Fails to Realize Own Bill Equally Flawed
On July 23, the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security held a hearing entitled “A Study in Contrasts: House and Senate Approaches to Border Security.” Specifically, the hearing compared the Corker-Hoeven amendment of the Senate amnesty bill, S. 744, with House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul’s border bill, H.R. 1417.
Subcommittee Chairwoman Candice Miller (R-MI) used her opening remarks to summarize past failures to secure the border. “Spending billions of dollars on border security without a way to assess progress is really what we have done for the last 20 years without truly understanding how effective the additional resources have been or measuring them.” (Bloomberg Government Transcript, July 23, 2013) She added that the Senate’s approach to border security represents “a continuation of previous efforts to secure the border — with a heavy emphasis on spending resources, with limited accountability or ability to measure outcomes to those applied resources.” (Id.)
Testifying before the Subcommittee that day were a panel of analysts and former government officials who unanimously agreed that the Corker-Hoeven amendment repeats the mistakes of the past. “The Senate bill in many ways goes about it backwards,” said Edward Alden, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. (Id.) “While additional surveillance technologies are a necessary and important part of enhancing border security, the Senate has chosen to focus on inputs rather than outputs.” (Id.) “A more prudent first step would be to evaluate how the current deployment of personnel is being utilized, and determine… how to reassign agents to where the threat has moved versus what appears to be arbitrary increases,” opined Jayson Ahern, former acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection. (Id.)
Lawmakers from both chambers of Congress used the hearing to slam the Senate bill. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), who testified at the hearing, declared S. 744 “could go down as one of the most massive wastes of funds in the history of the federal government” because it “blindly throws more than $46 billion in resources at the border, and contains absolutely no mechanism to ensure that these resources will be effective or properly implemented.” (Id.) The Senate bill “has no real strategy, no metrics and no requirements,” added McCaul. (Id.)
Although the hearing was meant to highlight the differences between the Senate and House approaches to border security, H.R. 1417 contains many of the same flawed components of the Corker-Hoeven amendment. (See FAIR’s H.R. 1417 Summary) FAIR’s analysis reveals that H.R. 1417 “adopts definitions from the Senate amnesty bill that have loopholes” that “inherently give the Secretary of Homeland Security broad discretion.” (Id.) Specifically, “like the Senate amnesty bill, H.R. 1417 does not require that DHS actually obtain situational awareness or operational control of any part of the border. It only requires DHS to submit a
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas, who is President Obama’s recent pick to be the No. 2 official at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is currently being investigated by the Inspector General due to allegations he improperly helped a Virginia-based tech company secure an EB-5 visa. (Associated Press, July 23, 2013) Run by former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s brother, the company allegedly reached out to Mayorkas for help approving the visa for a Chinese executive whose application had already been denied twice. (Id.)
Mayorkas denied the allegations at his nomination hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Thursday. Calling the allegations “unequivocally false,” Mayorkas asserted, “I have never in my career used undue influence to influence the outcome of a case.” (Washington Post, July 25, 2013)
The investigation of Mayorkas initially began as a survey of the EB-5 visa program, which grants foreign investors a green card if they invest between $500,000 and $1 million into a new business that creates a certain number of jobs for U.S. workers. (See INA 203(b)(5); see also USCIS Website, July 3, 2012) Mayorkas was named by the Inspector General’s Office as a target in the investigation involving the USCIS run program, according to an email sent to lawmakers last week. (Associated Press, July 23, 2013) The FBI was told about the investigation in June after it inquired about Mayorkas as part of the White House background investigation for his nomination as Deputy DHS Secretary. (Id.) According to the Associated Press, the Bureau has been concerned about the investor visa program and the projects funded by foreign sources since at least March. (Id.)
Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said that he has heard from whistleblowers that Mayorkas has a long history of failing to properly vet EB-5 applications. “I’ve received information and documents from whistleblowers over the last few days, which demonstrate that the Director was directly involved in expediting EB-5 applications before the proper security checks,” Grassley stated in a press release issued Wednesday. (See Grassley Press Release, July 24, 2013) “The FBI has expressed serious national security concerns with foreign investors involved in some of the EB-5 projects that had moved forward. We need to be sure that the EB-5 program is not only creating economic stimulus and jobs, but that the nation’s security isn’t at risk,” he continued. (Id.)
According to Grassley’s release, the Inspector General’s investigation extends even beyond the approval of risky EB-5 projects, including allegations of conflicts of interest, misuse of position, and an appearance of impropriety. (Id.)
Moreover, this is not the first time the USCIS Director has been caught up in a scandal with a brother of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s. Mayorkas was previously scrutinized for his involvement in the commutation of a prison sentence of a Democratic Party donor’s son by President Bill Clinton while he was a U.S. Attorney in California. Another one of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s brothers had been hired by the donor to lobby for the commutation. Mayorkas told lawmakers during his 2009 confirmation hearing for USCIS that “it was a mistake” to talk to the White House about the request. (Associated Press, July 23, 2013)
Despite the ongoing Inspector General investigation, Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee Delaware Democrat Tom Carper, insisted the Senate proceed with the Mayorkas nomination. “I believe it would actually be irresponsible to leave the Department without a permanent Deputy Secretary until the investigation is completed — especially given that, as of September 7th, we will not have in place a Senate-confirmed Secretary to run the Department,” Carper said Thursday. (Washington Post, July 25, 2013)
If confirmed, Mayorkas would likely run the Department of Homeland Security after Janet Napolitano leaves in September until the Obama Administration nominates — and the Senate confirms — a new head. (Id.) Secretary Napolitano announced earlier this month she was resigning to be the next president of the University of California system. (See FAIR Legislative Update, July 15, 2013)
According to inside-the-beltway publication Politico, the tech industry gave thousands of dollars to the Senate Gang of Eight as they jammed “comprehensive” immigration reform through the upper chamber. The tech industry — led by Google, Facebook, Oracle, and Microsoft — was willing to open its deep pockets because it is heavily invested in gaining access to a larger pool of cheap, foreign labor which the Gang of Eight delivered by nearly tripling the number of H-1B visas and adding green cards for aliens with degrees in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), a key player in passing the Senate’s amnesty bill, received nearly $20,000 in donations from the big four tech giants. Google, Microsoft, and Facebook each donated $5,000 to Reclaim America, Rubio’s leadership political action committee (PAC). (Politico, July 23, 2013) Oracle cut a $2,500 check directly to Rubio’s reelection campaign. (Id.)
Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) received nearly as generous contributions despite being a lower profile member of the Gang of Eight. Google donated $5,000; Microsoft contributed $2,500; and Intel added $1,000 to Bennet’s reelection campaign. (Id.) Meanwhile, Facebook directed $5,000 to Bennet’s leadership PAC, Common Sense Colorado. (Id.)
Pro-amnesty Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who is up for reelection in 2014, received donations from a variety of tech interests. Cisco CEO John Chambers gave $5,000 while key Silicon Valley venture capitalists Ron Conway and John Doerr contributed smaller amounts. (Id.) Graham also received campaign funds from Oracle’s PAC and Facebook’s lead lobbyist Joel Kaplan. (Id.)
Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), John McCain (R-AZ) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) received similar support. Specifically, the article mentions that Schumer received “big donations” from Google, Facebook, and Oracle while Durbin received a large donation from Microsoft. (Id.)
Only Sens. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) did not receive significant contributions. However, they are not up for reelection until 2018. (Id.)
As the immigration debate shifts to the House, the Gang of Eight is joining forces with the tech industry to influence House members to pass “comprehensive” immigration reform. For example, Sens. McCain, Schumer, and Graham met recently with representatives from Google, Microsoft, and FWD.us (Mark Zuckerberg’s advocacy group) to craft a strategy for targeting 100 House Republicans during the August recess. (Id.) The Gang of Eight had to cancel a follow up meeting after intense public backlash after the first closed door meeting came to light. (Reuters, July 22, 2013)
Last Monday, the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers (NAFBO) released a statement urging House leadership “to abandon their dreams of amnesty, by whatever name, and get on a realistic track to ensure national security and public safety.” (NAFBPO Press Release, July 22, 2013) The statement condemning amnesty and the Senate Gang of Eight Bill comes as debate heats up in the House of Representatives over the piecemeal approach to immigration reform.
NAFBO’s press release called on Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to refocus the conversation on interior enforcement. NAFBO Chairman Zack Taylor argued “real border security begins when protecting Legal Resident Aliens and American Citizens from criminal aliens becomes priority number one in Congress.” (Id.)
Citing examples of violent crimes committed by illegal aliens, NAFBO points to organized illegal drug and human trafficking that has led to the establishment of transnational criminal operations in over 2,000 American cities and the possibility that potential terrorists are encompassed in this group.
Ultimately stating that the Senate bill does has “little or no regard for national security or public safety,” the association charges that only when “effective interior enforcement” nationwide is established can border security and control truly be possible. (Id.) To see the full NAFBPO press release, click here.
The Texas Legislature is considering two immigration bills during a special session July 1, 2013. (Governor Proclamation, June 26, 2013) The first provides driver’s licenses to illegal aliens and the second prohibits employers from employing illegal aliens.
Texas House Bill 21 was filed on July 1 by Representative Roberto R. Alonzo. (HB 21 Status) HB 21 would make illegal aliens eligible for a Texas resident driver’s permit if they: (1) have resided in Texas for at least a year; (2) lack documentation of authority to be in the United States; and (3) have not been convicted of a crime. In an attempt to be compliant with federal REAL ID requirements, HB 21 provides the driver’s permits are invalid as proof of identity or immigration status for federal purposes. The bill was referred to the House Appropriations Committee on July 10.
Texas Senate Bill 17 was introduced on July 1, 2013 by Senator Dan Patrick. (SB 17 Status) SB 17 prohibits employers from knowingly employing or recruiting an “unauthorized foreign national.” The bill provides a safe harbor from liability for employers that use the federal E-Verify system to verify an employee’s work eligibility. SB 17, however, lacks any enforcement mechanism that would deter an employer from hiring an illegal alien and merely provides that any person may file a complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission. To date, the bill has not moved in the Senate.
The current special session may last no more than thirty days. The bills are not likely to receive a vote as the session ends this week and there has been no substantive movement on the bills. The bills will die if they do not pass both houses of the legislature before the session ends as Texas legislative procedure does not allow for carryover bills into the next legislative session.