FAIR Legislative Update March 18, 2013
Republican National Committee Supports Amnesty
Embracing the false notion perpetuated by the open-borders lobby that the Party will continue to lose elections until it pushes amnesty, the Republican National Committee (RNC) today told its members they must support “comprehensive immigration reform.” (See Growth and Opportunity Project at p. 8, Mar. 18, 2013)
The call to support an amnesty agenda appeared in a report released this morning entitled the “Growth and Opportunity Project”. Commissioned by RNC Chairman Reince Priebus in response to the Party’s failure to win the White House or Senate in 2012, the report’s authors include Henry Barbour, Sally Bradshaw, Ari Fleischer, Zori Fonalledas, and Glenn McCall. (Id. at p. 1)
If Republicans fail to “embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform,” the report warns, “our Party’s appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only.” However, in making such a sweeping statement, the report’s authors neglect to consider the number of Americans opposed to amnesty who may either leave the Party or simply refuse to vote for Republican candidates as a result of such an about-face by the Party establishment. (Id. at p. 8)
Despite the fact that granting a reprieve to the nation’s 11-12 million illegal aliens will increase job competition for the 22 million un/underemployed Americans, as well as the number of individuals who are eligible for public assistance and ObamaCare, the RNC also claims amnesty will help grow the economy. “We also believe that comprehensive immigration reform is consistent with Republican economic policies that promote job growth and opportunity for all.” (Id.)
In issuing the report, the RNC appears to be taking its marching orders on immigration policy from President Obama. In a closed-door meeting with Republican lawmakers at the White House last Wednesday, President Obama told them they would benefit more from passing amnesty legislation than the Democrats. (Associated Press, Mar. 13, 2013) Only five days later, the RNC appears to agree, calling on its members to support “comprehensive” immigration reform.
To express your views to the RNC, call 202-863-8500. You can also email them at http://www.gop.com/contact-us/.
Administration Admits it Released over 2,000 Illegal Aliens from Detention
On Thursday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton admitted that the Administration released 2,228 illegal alien detainees back onto the streets under the guise of budget cuts. (See Arizona Central, Mar. 14, 2013) This contradicted earlier statements made by Department of Homeland Security officials, who originally tried to downplay news of the story by claiming the numbers were only in the hundreds. (See, e.g., USA Today, Mar. 14, 2013)
The confession, made before a House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on immigration enforcement, was the first time since news of the releases broke weeks ago that an Administration official had been forthcoming about the decision. (See Associated Press, Mar. 1, 2013)
Questioning of Director Morton by Subcommittee Chairman John Carter (R-TX) (a key player in the House negotiations over amnesty legislation) confirmed that those released pose a risk to public safety. In fact, the hearing revealed that more than 600 of the illegal aliens the agency released possessed a criminal record. (See Bloomberg Government Transcript, Mar. 14, 2013)
Of the 600 with criminal records, Director Morton testified that ten are considered to be Level 1 offenders. Level 1 offenders include those detained because they committed an aggravated felony under U.S. immigration law. (See INA § 101(a)(43)) Conceding these illegal aliens are in fact dangerous to society, Director Morton revealed that upon further review of their criminal records, ICE had already taken four of the ten back into custody. (Id.)
Director Morton testified that an additional 159 are considered to be Level 2 offenders, which includes convictions of multiple DUIs and theft offenses. He added that 460 are considered to be Level 3 offenders, which includes convictions for a variety of misdemeanor offenses including a single DUI and shoplifting. (Id.)
The hearing also shed light on the agency’s rationale for the releases. Despite previous claims by the Administration that it released the illegal aliens in anticipation of sequestration, Director Morton blamed Congress’ inability to pass an annual budget as the primary reason. “Were we cognizant of the fact that the sequester was looming? Of course we were, and we contemplated that, but the principal reason was to get right within the budget by the end of the continuing resolution.” (Id.)
Currently, the government is operating under a “continuing resolution” passed by Congress that funds its day-to-day functions at the same level as the last appropriations bills enacted. The continuing resolution extends funding for government operations for the first six months of the 2013 fiscal year, October 1, 2012 until March 27, 2013. After discussions with the agency’s chief financial officer and his deputy director, Director Morton claimed he learned that “if we did not reduce our detained population, we ran a very likely risk of running out of funds before the end of the continuing resolution [March 27].” (Id.)
Exacerbating this problem, Director Morton claimed, was that for the first part of the fiscal year the agency had been maintaining more than the 34,000 beds required by Congress. As such, Director Morton argued that because Congress only funded the agency until March 27, and because the agency had been spending more money to detain additional illegal aliens for the first part of the fiscal year, that the agency needed to begin releasing illegal alien detainees to avoid going broke now that the March 27 continuing resolution deadline was looming. Director Morton explained: “The principal driving forces were that we were running hot — in other words, we were maintaining over 34,000 beds. We had a shortfall…our funding literally ended at the end of the [continuing resolution]. We didn’t have another six months of funding. We had to get that right.” (Id.)
Director Morton accepted full responsibility for the release of the illegal aliens. “I made the ultimate decision about who to release and how to release them,” he told the Subcommittee. “[I]t was me that made the decision…It was based on information I received from our [chief financial officer].” (Id.) He also denied that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano or anyone in the White House took part in the decision.
House Gang of Eight Briefs Leadership on Amnesty Bill
Last week, the bipartisan group of eight Members of the House of Representatives briefed their respective party leaders on the progress of their amnesty bill. (New York Times, Mar. 15, 2013; Washington Post, Mar. 15, 2013) The four Democrats — Xavier Becerra (CA), Luis Gutierrez (IL), Zoe Lofgren (CA), and John Yarmuth (KY) — met with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Thursday. Meanwhile, the four Republicans — Mario Diaz-Balart (FL), Sam Johnson (TX), John Carter (TX), and Raul Labrador (ID) — met with Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) on Friday.
Speaker Boehner confirmed the group was close to reaching a deal. “I think as of [Wednesday] night, they may have an agreement, an agreement in principle in terms of how we would deal with the question of both legal immigration and illegal immigration,” he said in an interview last Thursday. (Washington Post, Mar. 15, 2013) “They’ve made real progress on a tough issue. They will continue to meet and work among themselves, with the committees of jurisdiction, outside groups, and others in our conference,” reiterated Michael Steel, a Boehner spokesman. (New York Times, Mar. 15, 2013)
Despite confirming the House working group is on the “cusp of an agreement,” Speaker Boehner insisted a decision as to how and when the group would introduce its legislation has yet to be made. “My goal is to address the issue — how we address it, what the process looks like, there are absolutely no decisions on that. But I do believe it’s important that we deal with this in a bipartisan way, and I’m going to do everything I can to continue to promote that,” stated Boehner. (Id.)
Nevertheless, congressional aides indicated that the House group will mirror the timeframe of their Senate counterpart, waiting until after the Easter recess (March 22 to April 8) to introduce their legislation. (Id.) By delaying the release of their amnesty bill until after the Congressional recess, the House and Senate groups avoid facing constituent opposition to specific legislative language during the two week break.
Stay tuned to FAIR as details unfold…
Senate Homeland Security Committee Holds Border Security Hearing
Last Thursday, the Senate Homeland Security Committee held a hearing on how to measure border security. Chairman Tom Carper (D-DE) announced that the hearing, entitled “Border Security: Measuring the Progress, Addressing the Challenges,” is the first of several hearings the Committee will hold on border security.
From the outset, Chairman Carper reiterated Democratic claims that the border is secure, insisting that public perception of a porous border is patently false. “Despite all of the money, people, and attention we have poured into these efforts, we are still facing what I believe is a lag between perception and reality,” Carper said in his opening remarks. “Border Patrol apprehensions of undocumented immigrants — our best current measure — are at their lowest level in decades,” he declared.
Remarkably, Carper then proceeded to contradict his argument by criticizing the use of apprehensions as an appropriate measure for border security. “Having said all that, I returned from the border wondering if apprehensions [are] the metric we should be using to measure our progress in border security and to guide our future investments there. I’m not convinced that it is.” “The truth is that we need to refine and strengthen the metrics we use to determine how secure our borders and ports of entry are. [We need to be] able to ensure that our security efforts are both effective and as cost-effective as possible,” Carper continued.
In response, several of the hearing’s witnesses offered suggestions for border security metrics. Doris Meissner, Senior Fellow at the Migration Policy Institute and head of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (now ICE and USCIS) under the Clinton Administration, acknowledged that the “issue of metrics [is] absolutely paramount” and suggested that the metric for measuring border security should be “flow.” “We have to know what the apprehensions are in percentage of what number,” she explained. David Shirk, Director of the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego, stated that the apprehension rate does not take into account recidivism and implored the Department of Homeland Security to provide more information so a proper assessment can be made.
Finally, Edwin Alden, Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, argued that all available data point to a more secure border. “People are smart about this, it’s not going to be like 1986,” said Alden, contrasting the lack of border enforcement after the 1986 amnesty with what he currently considers a secure border. Sen. John McCain disagreed, “No they’re not, maybe they should be but they’re not. I have town hall meetings all over my state. Maybe you have seen some on television,” said McCain dismissively.
Colorado Lawmaker Introduces Bill to Enable Sanctuary Policies
On Friday, March 8, Colorado Representative Joe Salazar (D-Thornton) introduced House Bill 13-1258, legislation that would enable state and local jurisdictions to adopt sanctuary policies. The bill does so by repealing current state law, which prohibits state and local sanctuary policies.
Colorado’s current law, Senate Bill 06-90, encourages immigration enforcement in three ways. First, consistent with federal law, it prohibits local governments from enacting any ordinance or policy that restricts officials from communicating or cooperating with federal officials regarding the immigration status of any person. (C.R.S. 29-29-103(1) (2012); see also 8 U.S.C. § 1373 and 8 U.S.C. § 1644)). Second it requires a peace officer who has probable cause to believe an arrestee is not legally present in the United States to report that person to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office. (C.R.S. 29-29-103(2)(a)(I) (2012)). Finally, the law requires the governing body of each local government to provide written notice to officers of their duty to cooperate with state and federal officials with regard to enforcement of state and federal immigration laws and to provide annual confirmation that it has done so to the general assembly. (C.R.S. 29-29-103(2)(b) (2012)).
Rep. Salazar, the bill’s House sponsor, hypothesizes that repealing this law “will make communities safer by allowing law enforcement to build that all-important trust with immigrant communities.” (Fox31, KDVR, Mar. 13, 2013). Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson, who also supports repealing SB 06-90, said his office “want[s] to focus [its] time and resources on protecting the public, not on unwanted federal responsibilities.” (Id.).
However, it is important for states like Colorado to prohibit sanctuary policies because they encourage illegal immigration and undermine the rule of law by protecting individuals who violate U.S. immigration laws. Between 2000 and 2010, the illegal alien population grew nationally by 27 percent. The cooperation of state and local police forces, which number about 800,000 strong, is vital for ICE to accomplish its statutorily mandated mission.
HB 13-1258 currently has the support of 24 of Colorado’s 65 Representatives and two of 35 Senators. (Latino Daily News, Mar. 15, 2013). HB13-1258 will soon be debated in the House State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee. (Id.)