FAIR Legislative Update March 29, 2010
Senate Blocks Senator Sessions’ Final Attempt to Fix Immigration Loopholes in Health Care Bill
In the final round of the year-long health care debate, the Senate took up the House’s reconciliation bill last Sunday. H.R. 4782, the “Health Care and Education Affordability and Reconciliation Act,” amends the original Senate bill with “fixes” the House has negotiated with the Senate over the past several weeks. The Senate passed the bill by a 56-43 vote, and although many changes were made, lawmakers failed to fix the major immigration-related problems despite the efforts of true immigration reformers. (The Associated Press, March 26, 2010).
Senate Republicans offered dozens of amendments to the reconciliation bill, but each proposal was rejected. FAIR worked with Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) on an amendment that would significantly improve the immigration policy reflected in the bill. Last Thursday, Sessions introduced the amendment (Amendment 3701), which would ensure that Americans are not required to pay for the health benefits for illegal aliens by requiring the use of an effective eligibility verification system. The amendment would do two things:
- It would require the use of a meaningful and effective verificationsystem to ensure that illegal aliens will not be able to access taxpayer-funded tax subsidies created by the bill;
- It would maintain the 5-year waiting period in current law so that immigrants must pay into the system before they are able to receive taxpayer-funded health benefits. The 5-year waiting period is critical because it embodies the principle that immigrants should not become a public charge – or burden – to the American people.
The Senate ultimately chose not to close the significant immigration policy loopholes in the health care reconciliation bill by rejecting the Sessions amendment by a vote of 55 – 43. (Vote #95, March 25, 2010).
Jury Convicts Former DHS Official for Inducing Illegal Alien to Remain in U.S.
Last week, a former port director for the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) was convicted of inducing an illegal alien to remain in the United States. As a result of the conviction, former CBP employee Lorraine Henderson faces up to ten years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine.
According to media reports and court documents, in March 2004, Henderson, who made approximately $140,000 per year as a CBP port director in the Boston-area, hired the illegal alien to clean her two-bedroom condo in Salem, MA. Several months later, Henderson referred the illegal alien to a co-worker. In December 2005, Henderson’s co-worker warned her that she thought the housekeeper was illegal, and urged Henderson to fire her. (The Boston Globe, March 20, 2010; The Boston Globe, March 23, 2010).
Following the initial conversation with her co-worker, Henderson continued to employ the illegal alien housekeeper. In March 2008, the co-worker learned that Henderson was still employing the housekeeper, and reported the matter to her superiors. An internal affairs investigation was initiated and, in May 2008, DHS agents approached the illegal housekeeper. The housekeeper subsequently cooperated with DHS, secretly recording conversations with Henderson and gathering evidence against her, in exchange for a green card. On September 9, 2008, the housekeeper recorded a conversation between herself and Henderson. The housekeeper told Henderson that she had an immigration problem and needed Henderson’s help. Henderson offered to talk to someone to find out what options the illegal alien had, and told her, “Don’t leave … ‘cause once you leave, you will never come back.” Subsequently, Henderson consulted a co-worker who specialized in immigration matters and was later told that the housekeeper had to be fired. (Id.).
In December 2008, lawyers for DHS and the Department of Justice filed a complaint against Henderson in the United States District Court of the District of Massachusetts alleging that Henderson had knowingly and willfully induced an illegal alien to remain in the United States in violation of federal law. (8 U.S.C. 1324; See also Supporting Affidavit, December 4, 2008). Henderson was arrested and suspended from her job without pay. The federal court handed down an indictment against Henderson on February 3, 2009. (DOJ Press Release, February 3, 2009).
During her six-day trial earlier this month, Henderson testified that she never confronted the housekeeper after her co-worker warned her that she was an illegal alien because she “didn’t think we had the authority to ask if she was illegal.” Henderson further claimed that, after consulting the immigration specialist, she had intended to fire the housekeeper, but the housekeeper never returned. Following her conviction last week, a federal judge set Henderson’s sentencing for June 17, 2010. (The Boston Globe, March 20, 2010; The Boston Globe, March 23, 2010).
True Immigration Reformers Brief Capitol Hill Staff on Immigration Policy
On Monday, March 22, the newly-formed Reclaim American Jobs Caucus (see FAIR’s Legislative Update, March 22, 2010) invited representatives from pro-immigration enforcement organizations to brief Capitol Hill staff on immigration policy. The well-attended briefing gave various Congressional offices the opportunity to have a rational, informative dialog with organizations on immigration policy just one day after thousands of amnesty supporters staged a rally on the National Mall. (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, March 22, 2010). Participants in the Capitol Hill briefing included: Dan Stein, President of FAIR; Mark Krikorian, Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS); Carol Swain, Professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt University and author of Debating Immigration; Mike Cutler, a Fellow at CIS; and Roy Beck, CEO of NumbersUSA.
The briefing primarily focused on the adverse effect that mass immigration has on employment rates in the United States. Krikorian cited statistics debunking the pro-amnesty lobby’s argument that illegal aliens “do jobs Americans won’t do,” including the fact that more than 70 percent of employees in the service industry are native-born, according to the Department of Labor. Professor Swain presented a wealth of data proving that mass immigration harms the employment prospects of native-born minorities the most, and argued that E-Verify should be expanded and made mandatory. Cutler, a former agent with the now-defunct Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), focused on the national security implications of mass immigration, and Beck argued that lowering immigration rates would immediately get unemployed Americans back to work.
FAIR President Dan Stein noted: “Ultimately, this is about the American Dream and the ability of Americans right across the spectrum in our political society to feel that they’re working in a fair labor market where employers are required to hire those who are lawfully authorized to work. It’s about trust and respect. It’s about trusting that the government has the ability to manage immigration properly; that the laws against hiring illegal workers are going to be enforced properly; that employers in a sense have obligations to respect that law. And it’s about respecting the rule of law, and respecting our borders, respecting our sovereignty, and respecting us as a people; that we have the self-confidence…to stand firm and say that our immigration laws can and must be enforced.” (Video, March 22, 2010).
Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Two Immigration Bills
During last week’s business meeting, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved two immigration bills by voice vote. The “Return of Talent Act” (S. 2974), sponsored by Senators Leahy (D-VT), Durbin (D-IL), Lugar (R-IN), and Feingold (D-WI) would allow lawful permanent residents to return to their home country for up to 18 months to assist in post-conflict or natural disaster reconstruction efforts without negatively affecting their continuous residency requirement in the U.S. Current law requires LPRs to reside continuously in the U.S. for at least five years before they can apply for naturalization to become a citizen, but this bill would create an exception by permitting the aliens to count the time spent outside of the U.S. toward the naturalization physical presence requirement. The bill would also allow LPRs who work in medical professions to go to countries other than their country of citizenship or nationality for extended periods of time.
The “Refugee Opportunity Act” (S. 2960), sponsored by Senators Leahy (D-VT), Cardin (D-MD), Feingold (D-WI), and Lugar (R-IN), would exempt aliens who are admitted into the U.S. as refugees or granted asylum and are employed abroad by the federal government or a federal contractor from the continued physical presence requirement. Under current law, refugees who enter the U.S. must be present in the country for one year in order to have their immigration status adjusted to “lawful permanent resident” (LPR).
Stay tuned to FAIR for the latest developments on immigration legislation…