FAIR Legislative Update May 17, 2010
Senate Democrats Block DeMint’s Effort to Finish the Fence
As FAIR reported last week, Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) introduced an amendment to the financial regulation bill (S. 3217) that would require the completion of 700 miles of double-layer physical fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border within one year. (FAIR’s Legislative Update, May 10, 2010; DeMint Press Release, May 5, 2010). DeMint attached his amendment to an amendment authored by Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) that would restrict secret holds in the Senate. (Roll Call, May 13, 2010). This ensured that the Senate would have to vote on the border fence amendment before turning to Wyden’s amendment.
Senate Democrats, however, chose to block consideration of DeMint’s amendment by having Wyden withdraw his amendment. Wyden called the DeMint Amendment “very controversial,” but the very same amendment passed last year by a bipartisan 54-44 vote when Senator DeMint offered it to the FY2010 Homeland Security Appropriations bill. (Roll Call Vote No. 220, July 8, 2009). In the end, Senator DeMint offered Democrats a chance to make good on their numerous pledges to address border security, but to no avail. (C-SPAN, May 13, 2010 at approximately 5:17:30).
As Democratic leaders continue to pay lip service to amnesty proponents, their promises to move “comprehensive” immigration reform share one common theme: they need bipartisan support. At the White House Cinco de Mayo celebration, President Obama said he wants “to begin work this year” on an immigration bill, but also made it clear he needs bipartisan support to get it done. (The Washington Post, May 6, 2010). White House press secretary Robert Gibbs reiterated the President’s message that same day when he told reporters, “We’ve seen that in the past it takes Democrats and Republicans — even in the best of circumstances — to get this done.” (The Politico, May 5, 2010)
Likewise, Democratic Leaders in the Senate continue to hedge regarding their numerous pledges to take up an amnesty bill this year, blaming inaction on the lack of Republican support. Last week, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) conceded that “It’s unlikely we’ll get to it this year.” (The Hill, May 12, 2010). Durbin claimed that a tough political environment has made it almost impossible for the Senate to consider the outline for “comprehensive” immigration legislation released several weeks ago by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.). Id. When asked about the chances of that bill advancing, Durbin responded, “You saw what happened in Utah to Bob Bennett.” Id. Durbin maintained there is still a “remote chance” that Democrats could move an immigration bill, but did not sound overly optimistic. Id.
In an op-ed published in The Hill last week, Senator Reid opined that “The political math in the Senate dictates Republicans must be our partners in this process.” (The Hill, May 11, 2010). Of the sound defeat of the 2007 bill, Reid said, “mischaracterizations of our effort by the bill’s opponents drove away some of the moderate Republicans who wanted to find common ground.” Id. However, Reid failed to acknowledge that fifteen Democrats voted against the 2007 bill. (SeeRoll Call Vote No. 235, June 28, 2007). Reid ironically concluded that immigration should be treated as a problem to be solved, “not as an opportunity for politicians to score political points.” (The Hill, May 11, 2010).
While Congressional leaders point fingers, Americans are growing more and more frustrated with the federal government’s failure to secure the border. In last week’s Gallup’s survey of the most important problems facing the nation, those naming illegal immigration jumped from 2 percent in April to 10 percent in May, the highest recorded by Gallup in over two years. (Gallup Poll, May 12, 2010). Even Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who is facing a primary challenge from former Representative J.D. Hayworth, has been feeling the pressure and has expressed a commitment to border security in recent weeks by calling for National Guard deployment and introducing a border security bill with Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ). (McCain Press Release, May 6, 2010). McCain also cosponsored Senator Jim DeMint’s (R-S.C.) amendment that would require completion of the border fence, and released a campaign ad in which he urges the federal government to “complete the danged fence.” (McCain Ad). McCain’s apparent change of heart since 2007 suggests he would not support an amnesty bill if it leaders brought it to the Senate floor this year.
Further complicating the Democratic search for Republican support, is Senator Lindsey Graham’s own recent change of heart. Graham, who worked on an amnesty bill for months with Senator Chuck Schumer (D.-N.Y.), now says the issue is dead in 2010. (The Washington Post, May 6, 2010). Graham believes that the real reason Obama and the Democrats have been unsuccessful in pushing amnesty is that “there are at least a double-digit number of Democratic Senators who would not support comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship today.” (Graham Press Release, May 5, 2010). Graham dismissed the claims that Republicans are to blame, stating, “Let’s be clear, the lack of support for comprehensive immigration reform is not a Republican problem, it is an institutional problem. There is just not the appetite – on either side of the aisle – for this issue right now.” Id.
Two recently released polls indicate that Americans – both in and outside Arizona – strongly support a tough new immigration law that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed into law last month. (See FAIR’sLegislative Update, April 26, 2010). The polls came as open borders lobbyists have stepped up their assault of the Arizona law, filing lawsuits to prevent its implementation and continuing to falsely claim that it will lead to “racial profiling.” (See FAIR’s Legislative Updates fromMay 10, 2010 and April 26, 2010).
On May 12, the Pew Research Center released the results of a surveyshowing that 59 percent of individuals across the country approve of the Arizona law. (Report, May 12, 2010). More specifically, the survey found that 73 percent of the public “approve of requiring people to produce documents verifying their legal status if police ask for them,” and 67 percent support “allowing police to detain anyone who cannot verify their legal status.” The survey even found that 62 percent “approve of allowing police to question anyone they think may be in the country illegally,” (Id.) even though the scope of such activity is broader than what is reflected in the Arizona law. The law actually only requires a law enforcement officer to attempt to verify an individual’s immigration status if – during a lawful stop, detention, or arrest only – the officer develops a reasonable suspicion that the individual is unlawfully present in the United States. (See HB 2162, amending SB 1070).
The same day Pew released its survey, NBC News and the Wall Street Journal released the results of a survey which show that 64 percent of Americans support the Arizona law. (Survey Results at 21). Speaking on NBC Nightly News, NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd commented on the poll’s methodology: “We read them the law verbatim, exactly as it’s been written. 64 percent approve of it, 34 percent oppose it.” (NBC Nightly News, May 12, 2010).
Last week’s Arizona surveys coincided with the release of reports fromRasmussen and Gallup indicating that the number of people who view immigration as an “important” problem has increased dramatically over the last month. With the federal government’s continued refusal to enforce immigration laws (See, e.g., FAIR’s Legislative Update, November 23, 2009), these new polls suggest that the public favors allowing states and localities to step in and fill the void.
On Tuesday, May 11, the Bureau of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began issuing a revamped version of the “green card” – the document given to Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs) which provides proof of authorization to live and work in the United States. (USCIS Questions and Answers Sheet, May 11, 2010). The redesigned cards include a number of technological upgrades that seek to prevent counterfeiting, obstruct tampering, and facilitate “quick and accurate authentication of the card.” (USCIS Fact Sheet, May 11, 2010).
According to USCIS, the new green cards include:
- “Secure optical media,” which will store biometrical information about the card holder to provide for “rapid and reliable identification”;
- A number of measures that seek to make counterfeiting more difficult, including “[h]olographic images, laser engraved fingerprints, and high resolution micro-images”; and
- “Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) capability,” which will allow Customs and Border Protection officers at ports of entry to read the cards from a distance and compare them immediately to data on file. (USCIS Press Release, May 11, 2010).
USCIS further says that the new cards utilize “[f]ine-lined artwork and complex architecture” which “incorporate patterns that are nearly impossible to reproduce.” Moreover, the material from which the cards are now made is tamper-resistant, and USCIS claims that any attempted tampering will become “immediately visible to the naked eye.” Finally, the photograph of the card holder will now be in “[g]reater detail,” allowing for “easier identification of the bearer.” (USCIS Fact Sheet, May 11, 2010).
Newly approved LPRs will receive the revamped green cards, while cards already in circulation will be replaced as individuals apply for renewal or replacement. (USCIS Press Release, May 11, 2010). Existing green cards that bear an expiration date will remain valid until they expire, and holders of those cards will receive the redesigned version when seeking a renewal or replacement. Green cards with no expiration date will remain valid, though USCIS “recommends that holders of cards without an expiration date apply to replace their cards with the redesigned version.” (USCIS Questions and Answers Sheet, May 11, 2010).
USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas commented on the new cards: “Redesigning the Green Card is a major achievement for USCIS. The new security technology makes a critical contribution to the integrity of the immigration system.” (USCIS Press Release, May 11, 2010). The new card may be viewed at the USCIS website.
In a letter sent May 10th, the AFL-CIO and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (LCCHR) demanded that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano immediately rescind all of Arizona’s 287(g) agreements in light of Arizona’s new immigration law, SB 1070. (AFL-CIO Letter, May 10, 2010). The letter praised President Obama for calling SB 1070 “misguided,” but said added that “more than words are required from the federal government at this time.” If Secretary Napolitano does not rescind Arizona’s 287(g) agreements, the organizations charged, “the federal government will be complicit in the racial profiling that lies at the heart of the Arizona law.”
Amnesty forces have been targeting the 287(g) program for years because of its effectiveness. Indeed, the program became so popular that as of June 2009, DHS had 66 active agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies (LEA) in 23 states, and 833 active 287(g) officers. (See Office of Inspector General, The Performance of 287(g) Agreements, OIG-10-63, March 2010). But barely six months in office, the Obama Administration announced major changes to the program, narrowing its focus to the removal of criminal aliens only. (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, July 13, 2009). Not long after, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano insisted that all agencies participating in the 287(g) program sign new, narrower agreements with the federal government to circumscribe their ability to conduct enforcement at the local level. This latest move by AFL-CIO and LCCHR appears to be an attempt to stop the program altogether.