FAIR Legislative Update June 3, 2013
Key Senators Join House GOP for Closed-Door Immigration Session
As the Senate prepares to take up the Gang of Eight amnesty bill (S. 744) next week, key Republican Senators are slated to discuss immigration reform efforts with their counterparts in the House of Representatives Wednesday. (National Journal, May 31, 2013) Scheduled to take place during a closed-door meeting of the House Republican Study Committee (RSC), the line-up is expected to feature a variety of opinions on the Senate amnesty bill.
So far three Senate Republicans are on the RSC’s agenda: Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Rand Paul (R-KY). (Id.) They will be joined by three critical members of the House GOP: Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), who chairs the House Judiciary Committee; Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), who chairs the House Immigration Subcommittee; and Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID), who has emerged as the House GOP’s most vocal amnesty proponent. (Id.)
Sen. Rubio is expected to use the forum to lobby for his 1,000+ page amnesty legislation, whereas Sen. Lee, based on his actions during the Judiciary Committee markup of the bill, is anticipated to stress the need for border security and enforcement first. Sen. Paul’s position, on the other hand, has been less clear than Rubio and Lee, having previously proposed his own amnesty plan while also speaking out on the need to strengthen the legislation’s national security provisions in the wake of the Boston Marathon attacks.
The closed-door forum comes less than a week before the Senate is expected to begin debate on the amnesty legislation. Even if the legislation passes the upper chamber, which Gang of Eight member Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) has already expressed doubt over, House leadership has vowed to take up its own legislation piecemeal, leaving the Senate bill’s fate in the House uncertain.
Tech Union Voices Outrage over Hatch-Schumer Deal
The International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) sent a strongly worded letter last week to U.S. Senators urging them to oppose the Gang of Eight’s “comprehensive” immigration reform bill because of its “anti-worker” H-1B guest worker provisions. (IFPTE Letter, May 29, 2013; see FAIR Legislative Update, May 28, 2013) In particular, the IFPTE decried an agreement between Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) to expand the program even further than the original bill and dilute what worker protections were offered. “This bill fails miserably in fixing” the problems with the H-1B program, wrote the IFPTE. The Hatch amendment “gut[s] the modest reforms” originally included in the bill. (IFPTE Letter, May 29, 2013)
IFPTE charged that the Hatch-Schumer deal favors illegal aliens and special interests over American workers. “IFPTE believes it is not appropriate or fair for politicians to trade the jobs of American workers — in this case STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] workers — in exchange for a path to citizenship. Such a scenario, which is what is reflected in S. 744, is akin to a cruel betrayal of American workers,” the letter charged. (Id.) The Hatch-Schumer amendment “sold [American STEM] workers and students down the river, in favor of catering to the high-tech industry’s interest in gaining unfettered access to cheap labor,” the letter continued. (Id.)
In its letter, the IFPTE was specific in its criticism of the Hatch-Schumer deal. First, it objected to the amendment’s gutting of the requirement in the original bill that employers must offer jobs to “equally or better qualified” Americans over H-1B workers. (Id.) Next, the IFPTE charged that the deal gives employers “carte blanche” authority to “fire American workers and replace them with lower paid H-1B workers” because of a loophole that “renders the non-displacement language” meaningless. (Id.) Additionally, IFPTE pointed out that the amendment grants work authorization to all H-1B spouses without any “prevailing wage protections to speak of.” (Id.) Characterizing these provisions as a “lose-lose for both American and foreign workers,” IFPTE implored Senators to “oppose this legislation.” (Id.)
Some of the most outrageous provisions in the Hatch-Schumer deal include limiting the number of employers required to attest that they have not displaced U.S. workers within certain timeframes and excluding most employers from the requirement in S. 744 that all employers offer jobs to equally or better qualified U.S. workers. Additionally, the deal nearly triples the H-1B cap, with the specific number determined by how quickly the cap is reach during the previous year instead of taking into account market conditions. (See FAIR Legislative Update, May 28, 2013)
Polling Finds Weak Support for Gang of Eight Amnesty Bill
Recent national polling of 1,000 likely voters found overwhelming opposition to the Gang of Eight’s “comprehensive” immigration reform bill, S. 744. (Pulse Opinion Poll, May 20, 2013) The Pulse Opinion poll found that 60 percent of those surveyed prefer “full enforcement” — border and workplace — before even considering work permits for the 11-12 million illegal aliens. (Id.) By contrast, only 26 percent agree with the bill’s amnesty-first, enforcement-maybe approach. (Id.) Similarly, 58 percent support deporting some or most of the illegal population and 59 percent indicated they were more likely to vote for a political party that supports enforcing immigration laws first. (Id.)
The Pulse Opinion poll clearly shows that likely voters believe Congress should focus on jobs instead of amnesty. By an overwhelming 51 to 23 percent margin, those surveyed said immigration policy should protect unemployed Americans from foreign-worker competition over bringing illegal aliens “out of the shadows.” (Id.) With 22 million Americans unemployed or underemployed, the data reveals that a mere 21 percent agree with the Gang of Eight’s claim that the U.S. is in danger of labor shortages and needs more immigrant workers compared to 67 percent who disagree. (Id.) Unsurprisingly, only 19 percent of those surveyed rate their prospects of getting a job in the next two years as “good” or “excellent” while 77 percent believe their job prospects are only “fair” or “poor.” (Id.)
In addition to the Pulse Opinion poll, a recent Rasmussen Reports national survey of 1,000 American adults found that by a significant 84 to 12 percent margin, those surveyed believe English should be the official language of the United States. (Rasmussen poll, May 14, 2013) But, as currently drafted, S. 744 does not require illegal aliens to learn English as a condition for amnesty.
Connecticut Governor to Sign Driver’s License Bill for Illegal Aliens
On May 30 at 12:37 a.m., the Connecticut Senate approved HB 6495, a bill that will allow illegal aliens to obtain Connecticut driver’s licenses. Just a week earlier, the bill passed the House by a vote of 74-55 (FAIR Leg. Update, May 28, 2013). HB 6495 passed the Senate by a vote of 19-16, with two democrats and all Republicans voting against the bill. Governor Dannel Malloy reportedly supports the bill and has expressed his intent to sign it. (Gov. Malloy Statement, May 30, 2013). Of the estimated 120,000 illegal aliens in Connecticut, 54,000 illegal aliens will become eligible for a driver’s license when the law takes effect on January 1, 2015. (Reuters, May 30, 2013).
During the debate in the Senate, all reasonable attempts to amend the bill were rejected, including:
- an amendment that would require the new license to include the phrase “not to be used as voter identification;” (LCO #8030)
- an amendment that would prohibit applicants from submitting photocopies or uncertified copies of documents proving identity or residency; (LCO #8080)
- an amendment that would establish a work study group who would study the issue before granting driver’s licenses to illegal aliens; (LCO #8077)
- an amendment that would require a national background check and prohibit persons from obtaining the license if they committed a felony in any jurisdiction, not just Connecticut;(LCO #8078) and
- an amendment that would prohibit the issuance of the license to not only felons but any person who has been convicted of a significant misdemeanor or more than three misdemeanors of any kind (LCO #8095).
As passed, HB 6495 requires the issuance of driver’s licenses to any applicant that “is not legally present in the United States or does not have a Social Security number” so long as the applicant (1) submits proof of residency in the state, (2) submits certain proofs of identity which include a foreign passport or consular ID card, and (3) files an affidavit with the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles stating that the illegal alien has or will file an application seeking legal status in the United States as soon as he or she is eligible to do so (which incidentally may never occur). (Section 1(b)(1)). The license would not be acceptable for federal identification or voting purposes and must contain the phrase “for driving purposes only.” (Sections 1(c), (e), and (f)). A person who has been convicted of a felony in Connecticut is not eligible for the license. (Section 1(b)).
HB 6495 also creates a task force to study and make recommendations regarding methods DMV officials can use to verify the authenticity of foreign passports, visas and other documents that illegal alien applicants are required to present under the new law. DMV Commissioner Melody Currey admits DMV staff do not currently possess the skill or knowledge to accomplish this task. (Hartfort Courant, May 30, 2013). “We are issuing the right to drive,” Currey said. “We’re not verifying they are who they say they are… that’s why [these licenses] can’t be used for identity.” (Id.).
Rep. Themis Klarides (R-114) called the process in which the bill was rushed through the legislature “irresponsible” and “disappointing.” Rep. Klarides said, “Hastily ramming this legislation through at a time when most people are asleep, including many reporters and investigative watchdogs, illustrates the proponents’ underlying motive: pure politics.” (Rep. Klarides statement , May 23, 2013).
Rep. David Scribner (R-107) said in a statement, that with the passage of HB 6495, “Connecticut would be the only state on the east coast to allow such a program, making the state a magnet for illegal immigrants who bring with them a host of increased costs to state government.” (NBC, May 30, 2013). As evidenced by New Mexico, which has provided driver’s licenses to illegal aliens since 2003, “[the state] has become a destination for criminals and undocumented immigrants in other states seeking fraudulent identification.” (Bloomberg News, Mar. 15, 2013).
Connecticut is the latest of a number of states that have passed such legislation during the 2013 legislative session, including Colorado (SB 251), Maryland (SB 715), Nevada (SB 303) and Oregon (SB 833). Similar measures are currently pending in California (AB 60) and Washington D.C. Other states, including New Mexico, Illinois, Utah and Washington currently grant driver’s licenses to illegal aliens.