FAIR Legislative Update June 7, 2010
Arizona Governor Meets with Obama
Governor Jan Brewer and President Obama discussed the Arizona immigration enforcement law at the White House last week after he accepted her request for a meeting. (Arizona Republic, June 4, 2010). Obama has publicly blasted the law as “misguided” and “misdirected,” and Brewer wanted to discuss the law face-to-face as Justice Department officials are currently considering a legal challenge to block the law from taking effect on July 29. (Fox News, June 3, 2010). When asked how she would respond if the president told her that Justice was planning to sue, she answered, “I would say, well, ‘we’ll meet you in court.’ I have a pretty good record of winning in court.” (The Washington Post, June 3, 2010).
Governor Brewer described the 3-5 minute meeting as cordial. President Obama raised the issue of Arizona’s tough new immigration law, but brushed over any discussion of whether the Department of Justice would file suit against it. (Fox News, June 3, 2010). President Obama also expressed his belief that border security must be coupled with comprehensive immigration reform and urged Brewer to be his partner in passing such a law. Governor Brewer, however, responded that her state is not ready for the comprehensive solution he favors. (Associated Press, June 3, 2010). Instead, Brewer reiterated that Arizona needs “to have the fence completed, have more troops on the border and more resources.” (Id.). Overall, Brewer said that she got few results from the meeting, though Obama did indicate he would send an official to sit down with her in the next month. (Id.).
Almost 200 protesters waited for the governor outside of the White House, chanting, “Jan Brewer, shame on you!” (Id.). But Brewer did not back down from her support of the Arizona law. (CongressDaily, June 3, 2010). She said, “I feel very confident about what we’ve done in the past is the right thing to do. We’re protecting America. We need to secure the border.” (Fox News, June 3, 2010).
Obama Administration Challenges Arizona E-Verify Law
The Obama administration has asked the Supreme Court to strike down a 2007 Arizona law that punishes employers who hire illegal aliens, a law enacted by then-Governor Janet Napolitano. (Solicitor General’s Amicus Curiae Brief). Called the “Legal Arizona Workers Act,” the law requires all employers in Arizona to use E-Verify and provides that the business licenses of those who hire illegal workers shall be repealed. From the date of enactment, the Chamber of Commerce and other special interest groups have been trying to undo it, attacking it through a failed ballot initiative and also through a lawsuit. Now the Chamber is asking the United States Supreme Court to hear the case (Chamber of Commerce v. Candelaria), and the Obama Administration is weighing in against the law.
To date, Arizona’s E-Verify law has been upheld by all lower courts, including the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Ninth Circuit, in particular, viewed it as an exercise of a state’s traditional power to regulate businesses. (San Francisco Chronicle, June 2, 2010). Obama’s Justice Department, however, disagrees. Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal said in his filing with the Supreme Court that the lower courts were wrong to uphold the statute because federal immigration law expressly preempts any state law imposing sanctions on employers hiring illegal immigrants. Mr. Katyal argues that this is not a licensing law, but “a statute that prohibits the hiring of unauthorized aliens and uses suspension and revocation of all state-issued licenses as its ultimate sanction.” (Solicitor General’s Amicus Curiae Brief, p. 10). This is the administration’s first court challenge to a state’s authority to act against illegal immigration, and could be a preview of the battle brewing over Arizona’s recent illegal immigration crackdown through SB 1070.
Napolitano has made no comment on the Department of Justice’s decision to challenge the 2007 law, but federal officials said that she has taken an active part in the debate over whether to do so. (Politico, May 28, 2010). As Governor of Arizona, Napolitano said she believed the state law was valid and became a defendant in the many lawsuits against it. (Id.).
Hispanic Caucus Calls for Suspension of Arizona Immigration Enforcement Agreements
In response to Arizona’s tough new immigration law, the pro-amnesty Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) is urging Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to “immediately suspend” immigration enforcement partnerships with law enforcement agencies in the state. Specifically, the CHC is calling for suspension of all 287(g) and Secure Communities agreements in Arizona. (The Hill, June 1, 2010; CHC Letter to Napolitano, May 28, 2010). The 287(g) program allows the federal government to enter into agreements with state local law enforcement agencies to train police officers in the enforcement of federal immigration laws. (287(g) Program Overview). The Secure Communities program seeks to identify and deport illegal aliens booked into local jails. (Secure Communities Brochure).
The CHC made its demands to Napolitano in a letter signed by CHC Chairwoman Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.), CHC Immigration Task Force Chairman Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), and Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Cal.). In addition to calling for the suspension of 287(g) and Secure Communities agreements, the CHC praised Napolitano for her recent statement opposing the Arizona law. Additionally, the CHC “strongly recommend[ed] that [DHS] deploy monitors from the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (OCRCL) to Arizona by the time the law goes into effect.” The letter further criticized DHS for its “inexplicable decision” to continue its 287(g) and Secure Communities partnerships with Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, claiming that continuation of the agreements is “eroding the integrity of DHS and emboldening Arpaio and his allies.” (CHC Letter to Napolitano, May 28, 2010).
Not surprisingly, the CHC is not the first pro-amnesty group to call for a suspension of 287(g) agreements in Arizona. The AFL-CIO, a federation of labor unions notorious for its support for amnesty for illegal aliens, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (LCCHR) both made similar overtures to Napolitano in a letter sent May 10. (AFL-CIO Letter, May 10, 2010, See also FAIR’s Legislative Update, May 17, 2010).
Mexican Pirates Attack Texas Fisherman along the Southwest Border
As violence continues to escalate along the U.S.-Mexico border, reports revealed last week that over the past month there have been three incidents in which Mexican pirates have confronted Texas fisherman on a 98,960 acre lake straddling the Mexico-Texas border. Known as Falcon Lake, the spot is popular for recreation, as it is home to some of the best freshwater fishing in the nation. According to the reports, Mexican members of the Los Zeta drug cartel armed with semi-automatic assault weapons have been boarding American fishermen’s boats demanding cash, guns, and drugs. (The Washington Post, May 30, 2010). The Washington Post described the Los Zeta cartel attacks as “a rampage of killing and extortion along the Mexican border.” (Id.).
Currently involved in a feud with the rival Gulf drug cartel, the Zetas are now transporting drugs from Mexico across Falcon Lake into the United States. In fact, the Border Patrol seized 18,000 pounds of marijuana in the lake region last year, worth about $14 million, and it appears that it may confiscate even more this year. (Id.). Texas fishermen have reported that during the incidents on the lake, Zetas have claimed that they are “federales” – the Mexican federal police – prior to boarding their boats. The fishermen have thus far been able to escape unharmed by paying the cartel members several hundred dollars. (Id.). However, the incidents have prompted the Texas Department of Public Safety to issue a warning to boaters and fishers, instructing them to avoid the Mexican side of Falcon Lake. At least one of the encounters seems to have occurred in U.S. territory. (The Brownsville Herald, May 20, 2010).
The encounters on Falcon Lake are only the most recent in a series of incidents highlighting the need for strengthening southwest border security. (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, May 3, 2010). While the Obama administration recently put forth a plan to deploy 1,200 National Guard troops to the border, Texas politicians have criticized the proposal as insufficient. Texas Senator John Cornyn said that the plan was “not enough” (Cornyn News Release, May 27, 2010), while Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison argued that Obama’s plan fell “considerably short of meeting our dire need for more forces.” (Hutchison Statement, May 28, 2010). Senators Cornyn and Hutchison teamed up last week with fellow border state senators Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) to offer an amendment to the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill that would have deployed 6,000 National Guard troops to the border. However, Senate Democrats managed to defeat the measure. (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, June 1, 2010).
Mexican Government to Open California Office to Issue IDs to Illegal Aliens
The Mexican government has announced its intention to open a satellite consular office on Catalina Island – a resort island off the California coast with a history of drug smuggling and human trafficking. According to media reports, the new consular office will allow Mexican nationals to obtain identification, called Matricula Consular cards, by appointment. Moreover, an unnamed official with the Department of Homeland Security’s Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) toldThe Washington Examiner that Mexico has asked ICE “not to enforce U.S. immigration laws on the island while the cards [are] being issued.” (The Washington Examiner, June 3, 2010).
Matricula Consular cards are issued to Mexican nationals residing outside of Mexico, regardless of their immigration status. The ostensible purpose of the cards is to provide identification for opening bank accounts and obtaining other services; however, ICE officials have noted that the cards are often “used to skirt U.S. immigration laws.” (Id.). In addition, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has criticized the cards, concluding that they are “not a reliable form of identification.” (FBI Testimony, June 26, 2003).
In 2003, an FBI official told a House Judiciary Subcommittee that, as a result of its unreliability, the Matricula Consular poses major criminal and terrorist threats. With respect to the criminal threats, the FBI official noted that (1) “the Matricula Consular can be a perfect breeder document for establishing a false identity” which “serves to conceal a criminal who is already being sought by law enforcement” and (2) that the Matricula Consular helps facilitate “alien smuggling.” Regarding the terrorist threat, the official stated: “[t]he ability of foreign nationals to use the Matricula Consular to create a well-documented, but fictitious, identity in the United States provides an opportunity for terrorists to move freely within the United States without triggering name-based watch lists that are disseminated to local police officers.” (Id.).
The Mexican government’s decision to open the Catalina Island consular office prompted outrage from Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-Cal.), whose district includes Catalina Island. Rohrabacher stated: “Handing out Matricula Cards to Mexicans who are not in this country legally is wrong no matter where it’s done. But on Catalina it will do more damage. It’s a small island, but there’s evidence it’s being used as a portal for illegals to access mainland California. If there were a large number of Americans illegally in Mexico and the U.S. consulate was making it easier for them to stay, Mexico would never permit it.” (Rohrabacher News Item, June 3, 2010; The Washington Examiner, June 3, 2010).