FAIR Legislative Update May 20, 2013
The AFL-CIO affiliated union of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officers plans to release a statement today in opposition to the Senate Gang of Eight amnesty bill, reports the Daily Caller.
In a statement obtained by the media outlet, Kenneth Palinkas, the president of the union which represents over 12,000 USCIS officers and personnel, expresses concerns with the Senate legislation and the Administration’s refusal to enforce the laws already on the books. Under the Gang of Eight bill, “Legal status is  explicitly granted to millions who have committed serious immigration and criminal offenses, while dramatically boosting future immigration without correcting the flaws in our current legal immigration process. We need immigration reform that works. This legislation, sadly, will not,” says Palinkas.
Palinkas also states he is concerned that under Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s leadership, the agency has become nothing more than a rubberstamp for special interests. “While we believe in treating all people with respect, we are concerned that this agency tasked with such a vital security mission is too greatly influenced by special interest groups — to the point that it no longer properly performs its mission,” the statement reads.
Among other concerns noted is the convening of “secret panels” created by Secretary Napolitano to review all requests that illegal aliens be issued a notice to appear for deportation proceedings, the 99.5% approval rating of DACA applicants and lack of in-person interviews of DACAs, and the excessive granting of fee waivers — costing taxpayers over $200 million last fiscal year.
The statement comes in conjunction with the union adding its name to a letter from law enforcement officers from around the country who are concerned about the lack of security measures in the Senate amnesty legislation.
Read more from the Daily Caller here.
Following another Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to amend the nearly 900-page “comprehensive” immigration reform bill Tuesday, Senator Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) spokesman told reporters the Senator was “disappointed” over the Committee’s refusal to improve the bill by requiring its mandated entry-exit system be biometric.
In fact, Senator Rubio has begun circulating a list of amendments he would like to pass to strengthen the bill’s security provisions. Amendments on the Senator’s list include one to complete 700 miles of double-layered fencing along the Southern border (which also was voted on and failed during Committee markup) and another to extend the entry-exit system to land ports of entry. (Washington Times, May 15, 2013)
“Immigration reform must include the best exit system possible because persons who overstay their authorized stay are a big reason we now have so many illegal immigrants,” said spokesman Alex Conant. (The Hill, May 14, 2013) “We wanted the Judiciary Committee to strengthen the legislation by adding biometrics to the new exit system, and we were disappointed by [Tuesday’s] vote.” (Id.) “Senator Rubio will fight to add biometrics to the exit system when the bill is amended on the Senate floor,” Conant continued. (Id.)
Rubio’s support for stronger border security provisions coincides with a marked drop in Rubio’s approval rating among self-identifying conservatives since the Gang of Eight Amnesty bill was unveiled. A Public Policy Poll released last week shows that, when asked for their preferred GOP candidate for the 2016 presidential race, only 17% of “very conservative” respondents indicated support for Sen. Rubio, while only 18% of “somewhat conservative” respondents supported him. (Public Policy Polling, May 15, 2013; Brietbart, May 15, 2013)
The results show a decline in approval from late March — prior to the release of his amnesty bill — when Rubio was favored by 26% of those identifying themselves as “very conservative” and 22% of those identifying themselves as “somewhat conservative.” (Id.)
Rubio’s support among Hispanics has also declined since introducing his amnesty bill, the exact opposite effect that he and other pro-amnesty Republicans claimed such legislation would have on the Hispanic community. The previous poll demonstrated 39% of Hispanics had a favorable view of Rubio, while the latest poll demonstrates that number has decreased to 34 percent. (Id.)
Tuesday’s Committee vote was over an amendment introduced by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), one of the few members striving to improve the bill’s security provisions. It was rejected 6-12, with the Republican members of the Gang of Eight — Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) — voting with all 10 Democrats against the measure. (See Senate Judiciary Committee Website)
After lengthy negotiations, the bipartisan Gang of Eight in the House of Representatives announced the group has agreed to a “comprehensive” immigration reform plan. “We have an agreement in principle,” declared Rep. John Carter (R-TX) while announcing the Gang will introduce the bill “at the very latest” in the first week in June. (The Hill, May 16, 2013; BGov, May 16, 2013)
While refusing to discuss any of the bill’s actual details, House Gang members offered conflicting accounts on the bill’s overall status. “The big hurdles are taken care of, so now it’s an issue of finalizing the draft,” announced Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL). (The Hill, May 16, 2013) On the other hand, Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) was a little more cautious, “Until you get a bill to the president’s desk, you have to continue to convene.” (CQ Today, May 16, 2013) “We have to continue to have the conversation.” (Id.)
Notably, the two most contentious issues according to Gang members — a temporary guest worker program and a health insurance requirement for amnestied illegal aliens — remain unresolved. (The Hill, May 16, 2013) “We expect to have several viable options presented,” Carter said. (BGov, May 16, 2013) “We’re basically going to leave it open…It will be determined either in committee or on the floor.” (The Hill, May 16, 2013)
Despite the House Gang’s optimism about its “comprehensive” amnesty bill reaching the chamber floor, its future remains uncertain given it conflicts with House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte’s preference of a piecemeal approach. “The House Judiciary Committee intends to examine immigration reform in a step-by-step approach,” Goodlatte told reporters last month during a press conference. (ABC News-Univision, Apr. 25, 2013)
Seven immigration related bills that would have provided illegal aliens benefits in some form died with the adjournment of the Florida Legislature on May 2, 2013. (NCSL). The seven bills covered a broad range of issues, such as protection against ICE detainers, in-state tuition, welfare benefits, and driver’s licenses.
House Bill 767 and its Senate companion bill, Senate Bill 730, the so-called “Florida Trust Act (Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools),” would have prevented local officials from complying with ICE detainers unless the alien in custody had been convicted of or was charged with a serious offense. Both bills died in their respective Criminal Justice Committees on May 3. California passed a similar version of the TRUST Act (AB 1081) in 2012, but it was subsequently defeated by the Governor’s veto.
House Bill 1113 and its Senate companion bill, Senate Bill 624, the so-called Florida DREAM Act, would have provided in-state tuition to illegal aliens who had: (1) attended school in Florida for three years, (2) received a Florida high school diploma or GED, (3) registered at a state university or Florida College System institution, and (4) filed an affidavit with the state university or college stating that he/she has filed an application to legalize his/her immigration status or will do so as soon as eligible to do so. HB 1113 died in the House Higher Education and Workforce Subcommittee and SB 624 died in the Senate Education Committee on May 3.
Senate Bill 704 and its House companion bill, House Bill 4023, would have made illegal alien minors eligible for the state’s welfare program, Kidcare. Current law restricts the Kidcare program to “qualified aliens” as defined by federal law to exclude illegal aliens. SB 704 died in the Senate Health Policy Committee and HB 4023 died in the House Healthy Families Subcommittee on May 3.
Senate Bill 1304 would have made an illegal alien eligible for Florida driver’s license by expanding acceptable proof of identity to include (1) a foreign passport from the applicant’s country of citizenship or (2) a consular ID card. SB 1304 died in the Transportation Committee on May 3.
Last Monday, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) released a 76-page report that raises significant questions as to whether border security efforts undertaken by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are effective. (Managing Illegal Immigration to the United States: How Effective is Enforcement?, May 2013)
The report particularly criticized the Obama administration and Congress for failing to measure outcomes of border security measures and withholding data from the public. According to the authors, the federal government has done “too little to measure and evaluate its enforcement efforts and has not made public the results of the small amount of analysis that has been done internally.” (p.1-2) The only output number, they write, is the number of apprehensions made by Border Patrol agents near the border. This lack of data is “puzzling” they say, especially because DHS’s core mission includes securing the border. However, the authors estimate, given the best available information, that the current apprehension rate along the U.S.-Mexico border is somewhere between 40-55 percent. It further notes that the likelihood of DHS deporting an illegal alien is 1.4 percent.
The CFR report not only criticizes the Obama Administration for not measuring results and withholding the data it has, it calls on Congress to fix the problem. “The Obama Administration has not offered, and Congress has failed to insist on, any accountability for the effectiveness” of border security efforts.” The CFR report then urges Congress to order DHS to develop and release “a full set of performance measures” for immigration enforcement and to systematically evaluate the effectiveness of individual programs.