FAIR Legislative Update June 10, 2013
Senate Votes on Amnesty Tomorrow
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has scheduled a vote for Tuesday at 2:15 P.M. on whether to proceed with the Gang of Eight amnesty bill (S. 744). The vote, which requires 60 votes to pass, is the first major vote on S.744. If the motion passes, the Senate will proceed to debate the amnesty bill and offer amendments.
Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY), has already said he will do nothing to prevent the bill from coming to the Senate floor. To the contrary, he welcomed the chance to debate the 1,000+ page amnesty bill. “With regard to getting started on the bill, it’s my intention — if there is a motion to proceed required — to vote for the motion to proceed so we can get on the bill and see if it we’re able to pass a bill that actually moves the ball in the right direction,” he said. (The Hill, May 21, 2013)
Members of the Senate already began debating the bill Friday, with Senators Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) leading the charge against the amnesty. “[S. 744] will definitely give amnesty today, immediate legal status for 11 million people today. But the policies of enforcement for the future…are not fulfilled in this legislation,” decried argued Sen. Sessions. (Washington Post, June 7, 2013) Sen. Lee called the bill “another 1,000 page mistake.” (National Review Online, June 7, 2013)
S. 744 puts the interests of illegal aliens before the American people in several ways. The bill:
- Prohibits the deportation of illegal aliens until their amnesty application is processed.
- Does not require any additional border fencing or completion of current border fence requirements.
- Does not require illegal aliens to learn English or pay back taxes in order to be amnestied.
- Does not prohibit criminal street gang members from obtaining amnesty.
- Allows in-state tuition and federal financial aid for illegal aliens, subsidized by taxpayers.
- Does not require a biometric entry-exit system as already required by current law at all land, air, and sea ports of entry to ensure visitors don’t overstay their visas.
- Will cost U.S. taxpayers $6.3 trillion over the course of 50 years as a result of the amnesty.
To read more about the bill and why it is bad public policy, visit FAIR’s Amnesty 2013 Resource Center.
To voice your opinion on S. 744, you can reach your Senators by calling the Senate switchboard toll-free at 1-888-978-3094.
Rubio to Vote Against own Amnesty Bill?
In an exchange with radio host Hugh Hewitt on Tuesday, Gang of Eight leader Marco Rubio (R-FL) declared he would vote against his own amnesty bill, S. 744, if amendments are not passed to improve the legislation on the Senate floor.
Rubio said the Senate must improve the bill’s border security provisions, including limiting the Administration’s discretion, if it has any chance of passing. “Let’s strengthen the border security parts of this bill so that they’re stronger, so that they don’t give overwhelming discretion to the Department of Homeland Security, and I think if we can do that, then you’re going to be able to get something done. But if you can’t, it’s not going to happen.” (Hugh Hewitt show, June 4, 2013; see also Daily Caller, June 5, 2013).
Indeed, the Florida Republican indicated he was currently working with his Senate colleagues on border security amendments. “We’re working on it right now…And what we’ve heard is people don’t want to just turn it over to the Department of Homeland Security to come up with a [border security] plan. They want the plan to be laid out specifically…” (Hugh Hewitt show, June 4, 2013) Nonetheless, a Rubio spokesman said it was still “premature to discuss specific amendments that Sen. Rubio may be offering or supporting.” (The Hill, June 9, 2013)
The second-highest ranking Republican in the Senate, John Cornyn (TX), is also working on his own border security amendment that he says if passed, will be enough to win his support for the legislation. (Washington Post, June 5, 2013) However, according to a summary of the yet-to-be filed amendment, entitled the “RESULTS” amendment, it does not fundamentally change the amnesty-first, enforcement (maybe) later structure of the bill. The RESULTS amendment requires a “fully operational” biometric entry-exit system to be in use at air and sea (but not land ports of entry and that DHS obtain 100 percent situational awareness of every segment of the U.S.-Mexico border before amnestied aliens can receive a green card. However, illegal aliens are still able to get amnesty (RPI status) as soon as DHS files its border security plan six months after enactment. (See summary of amendment here
Although Sen. Rubio previously stated he and Sen. Cornyn had been working together for weeks on amendments, Rubio has denied participating in the drafting the RESULTS amendment. (Politico, June 7, 2013) Stay tuned to FAIR for more information as amendments are filed and debated…
House Votes to Defund Morton Memos, DACA
While the Senate gears up to debate amnestying the nation’s 12 million illegal aliens, the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday 234-201 adopted Rep. Steve King’s (R-IA) amendment that would prevent the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from implementing, administering or enforcing ICE prosecutorial discretion initiatives. This amendment is now part of the larger DHS Appropriations bill that funds the Department for fiscal year 2014.
Rep. King’s amendment defunds certain backdoor amnesty policies implemented by DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and ICE Director Morton in 2011 and 2012. These policies include:
- Limiting the enforcement of immigration laws to a subset of illegal aliens who have been convicted of crimes (March 2, 2011).
- Discouraging ICE Agents from enforcing our immigration laws against certain segments of the illegal alien population, including aliens who qualify for the DREAM Act (June 17, 2011).
- Discouraging ICE Agents from enforcing our immigration laws against crime victims, witnesses to crime, and “individuals pursuing legitimate civil rights complaints,” defined very broadly (June 17, 2011).
- Setting strict guidelines ICE attorneys must follow when reviewing all deportation cases, and setting up a program to review of all pending deportation cases to release illegal aliens not meeting the Administration’s “priorities” (November 17, 2011).
- Administratively enacting the DREAM Act by instructing DHS personnel to refrain from deporting illegal aliens up to the age of 30 who meet certain criteria; qualifying illegal aliens are granted deferred action status for a renewable period of two years and are eligible for work authorization and a Social Security card (June 15, 2012).
- Limiting the circumstances under which ICE agents can issue detainers and take custody of illegal aliens in the hands of local law enforcement officials; also cuts the 287(g) immigration enforcement program in half (December 21, 2012).
(See King Morton Memos Amendment; see also FAIR’s Summary of the Morton Memos)
Rep. King’s amendment strengthened the overall DHS Appropriations bill, which slightly increases funding for the E-Verify employment eligibility program, maintains the number of full-time active-duty Border Patrol agents at 21,370 and the minimum number of detention beds at 34,000, and maintains current funding levels for the critical 287(g) program.
In addition to Rep. King’s amendment, several other true immigration reformers successfully offered amendments to improve the appropriations bill, including:
- Rep. Collins’ (R-GA) amendment to prohibit funds from being used by ICE to process the release of, or alternatives to detention for, illegal aliens who commit serious crimes;
- Rep. Gingrey’s (R-GA) amendment to prohibit funds from being used in contravention of the 287(g) program; and
- Rep. Salmon’s (R-AZ) amendment to prohibit funds from going to sanctuary cities.
The DHS Appropriations bill passed the House 245-182; it now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Labrador Renounces “Gang” Membership
Last week, Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) withdrew from the House “Gang of Eight” — the group of four Democrats and four Republicans that is negotiating its own version of “comprehensive” immigration reform legislation.
Labrador is viewed by many as filling the role of courting Republicans in the House, similar to that of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) in the Senate. His colleague, House gang member Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), had previously said Labrador’s a “big part” of securing conservative votes, and that “he’s been essential in these [amnesty] negotiations.” (Roll Call, Jun. 5, 2013)
According to the self-appointed GOP leader of the House amnesty talks, Labrador said he could not reach a consensus with the other members on how to deal with healthcare for amnestied aliens. “We just couldn’t agree on the healthcare,” Labrador told reporters. (The Hill, Jun. 5, 2013) “The Democratic Party believes that health insurance is a social responsibility of the nation. I believe that health insurance is an individual responsibility. That’s a really hard philosophy to mesh,” he said. (Roll Call, Jun. 5, 2013)
Instead, Labrador plans on working with GOP leadership on its concerted effort to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation piecemeal. “I’m just going to move on and work with other members of the House Judiciary Committee to try to craft legislation that can actually pass the House,” Labrador announced. (The Hill, Jun. 5, 2013) “I can’t continue to negotiate,” Labrador declared. (Roll Call, Jun. 5, 2013) “Sometimes you just have to walk away and you might end up getting a better product.” (Id.)
Despite losing the influential Labrador, Diaz-Balart declared he was “very optimistic” the group would release its bill soon now that the remaining seven members reached consensus on the healthcare issue. (The Hill, Jun. 5, 2013) “We have found a way forward,” declared gang member Rep. John Carter (R-TX). (The Hill, Jun. 5, 2013) “It looks like we resolved it, we found a way to move forward,” added pro-amnesty Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL). (Roll Call, Jun. 5, 2013) “Everything has been agreed, and it has to be drafted.” (Id.)
FAIR Applauds Florida Governor’s Veto of Driver’s Licenses for Illegal Aliens
On Tuesday, June 4, Florida Governor Rick Scott vetoed HB 235, a bill that would have allowed illegal aliens participating in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to obtain Florida driver’s licenses. (Governor News Release, June 4, 2013). DACA is an Obama Administration policy, issued in 2012 without Congressional or Judicial review, that administratively implements the DREAM Act. (See FAIR Leg. Update, June 19, 2012). Through DACA, immigration agents have been directed not to remove any illegal alien who illegally entered the United States before the age of 16 if the illegal alien meets certain other criteria. (USCIS, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Process, updated Jan. 18, 2013). Those granted deferred action are, by federal regulation, also eligible to receive work authorization. (8 C.F.R. 274a. 12(c)(14)).
HB 235 would have amended Florida’s current law by expanding the list of documents that are acceptable as proof of identity to obtain a temporary Florida driver’s license. Specially, HB 235 authorized the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) to accept a notice of an approved application for DACA status as proof of identity and legal presence. (Sec. 1).
In his veto message, Governor Scott correctly noted that “[q]ualifying for deferred action status does not confer substantive rights or lawful status upon an individual; it does not create a pathway to a green card or citizenship.” (Governor News Release, June 4, 2013). The Governor also correctly noted that the deferred action policy has not been approved by Congress or officially promulgated through a federal rule. (Id.). Governor Scott concluded that Obama’s DACA order is not sufficient legal justification to amend Florida’s driver’s license law. (Fox Latino, June 5, 2013).
The ACLU of Florida sent a letter to the Department of Motor Vehicles on Wednesday condemning the Governor’s veto and claiming that DACA grantees can obtain driver’s licenses despite the Governor’s veto. (eNews Park Forest, June 5, 2013; ACLU Letter, June 5, 2013). Florida law currently permits non-citizens with federal work authorization to obtain temporary driver’s licenses. (§ 322.08 F.S. (2)(c)(7)). Thus, DACA recipients who have received work authorization would seem to be eligible for a driver’s license. These provisions, however, could be changed by the Florida legislature.
The Florida House passed HB 235 on April 25 and the Senate hastily passed it the following day. The Florida legislature adjourned on May 2. Following the Governor’s veto, HB 235 will be sent back to the legislature where the House and Senate may override the Governor’s veto by a two-thirds vote. (Florida Constitution, Article III, Section 8). Florida begins its organizational session on November 20, 2013. (NCSL 2013 Legislative Session Calendar, June 4, 2013).
Between in the first 9 months of the DACA program, USCIS received 515,922 total applications for DACA and approved 497,960, resulting in a 96.5% approval rate. (USCIS May 2013 Report).