FAIR Legislative Update May 7, 2012
Obama Administration Weakens Secure Communities
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) quietly announced last week that it is changing its Secure Communities program to better meet the Administration’s enforcement priorities. The announcement came in the form of a 19-page report ICE released to address a series of recommendations made by the Department of Homeland Security’s Secure Communities “Task Force.” (See ICE Response to the Task Force on Secure Communities Findings and Recommendations, Apr. 27, 2012)
While ICE’s responses to the recommendations varied, the agency made a significant policy shift by agreeing with the Task Force recommendation that it should refrain from enforcing the law against illegal aliens apprehended for “minor traffic offenses.” (See ICE Response at p. 13) As a result, ICE announced that when Secure Communities identifies illegal aliens pursuant to a traffic offense, ICE will no longer ask the local jails to detain the illegal aliens so that ICE may begin deportation proceedings. ICE characterized its policy shift as follows: “For individuals arrested solely for minor traffic offenses, who have not previously been convicted of other crimes and do not fall within any other ICE priority category, ICE will only consider making a detainer operative upon conviction of the minor criminal traffic offense.” (Id. at 14)
Even more disturbing, ICE’s response appears to encourage local agencies not to submit fingerprints to the FBI or DHS for individuals arrested for “minor offenses.” ICE states: “It should be noted that states can choose not to submit to the federal government the fingerprints for individuals arrested for minor offenses. In states that do not fingerprint for minor offenses (or that fingerprint for state use but do not submit those fingerprints to the FBI) aliens cannot be identified through Secure Communities because they do not become part of the federal information sharing process in the first place.” (Id.) Not only does this directly provide sanctuary cities a way to circumvent the program, but it belies previous statements by the Administration that the program is not optional. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Aug. 8, 2011)
Moreover, despite claims of limited resources, ICE also announced it plans to take action against jurisdictions with arrest rates the agency deems too high. According to the report, ICE and the DHS division of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties have “retained a leading statistician” to examine data for each jurisdiction where Secure Communities is activated and to look for indications of racial profiling. “Statistical outliers,” the response reads, “will be subject to an in-depth analysis and DHS and ICE will take appropriate steps to resolve any issues.” (See ICE Response at p. 15)
ICE’s announcement that it will limit the scope of Secure Communities is particularly striking because Secure Communities is virtually the only immigration enforcement program the Obama Administration has been promoting. For this reason, the policy change is an unmistakable indication that the Obama Administration has decided to cede even more ground to the open borders, pro-amnesty lobby.
Mexican ID Cards Now Serve as Valid ID in Oregon
Last Tuesday, the Governor of Oregon, John Kitzhaber (D), announced that state and local officers will begin accepting Matricula Consular ID cards issued by the Mexican government as proof of identity for illegal aliens during traffic and other stops. (Associated Press, May 2, 2012)
Four years ago, Oregon toughened its driver’s license policies to prevent illegal aliens from receiving and renewing licenses, but now the state is backing down. (The Oregonian, June 29, 2008) Governor Kitzhaber, glossing over the fact that illegal aliens are violating federal immigration law and state laws by driving unlicensed, claimed that police no longer have an accurate way of identifying illegal aliens during traffic stops. (See Gov. Kitzhaber Letter, May 1, 2012; see also Associated Press, May 2, 2012)
Mexican Matricula Consular cards are highly susceptible to fraud. The Mexican government issues them to Mexican nationals residing outside of Mexico, regardless of their immigration status. (See FAIR Matricula Consular ID Summary, 2003) The Mexican government has no centralized database to coordinate the issuance of the ID cards, and multiple cards can easily be obtained under the same name and address, or with the same photograph, making it easy to establish false identities. (FBI Testimony, June 26, 2003).
Moreover, the FBI has long held that the cards are “not a reliable form of identification” and pose dangers to national security. (Id.) Having a Matricula Consular ID makes it easier for illegal aliens to move about the country, avoid triggering watch-lists, conceal identities from law enforcement, facilitate human trafficking and smuggling, and establish bank accounts to wire money outside the United States. (Id.; see also FAIR Matricula Consular ID Summary, 2003)
Nonetheless, Gov. Kitzhaber gave no indication of fear of such risks, instead expressing his goals for illegal aliens to “come out of the shadows and contribute to [Oregon’s] economic recovery,” and hinting at his desire for illegal aliens to be allowed to own driver’s licenses again. (See Gov. Kitzhaber Letter, May 1, 2012)
New York Steps Closer to Private Tuition Fund for Illegal Aliens
The New York State Assembly approved legislation last Tuesday that would permit illegal alien college students to participate in the state’s Tuition Assistance Program (TAP). (El Diario, May 3, 2012)
Bill #A08689B, which establishes the New York DREAM Fund Commission, passed the Assembly by a vote of 163 to 3. (See A08689B Votes, May 1, 2012) The 12-member commission will raise private funds for college tuition scholarships for illegal alien minors. The DREAM fund will also make family tuition accounts available to anyone who provides a valid taxpayer identification number, which the IRS grants to illegal aliens because they do not have valid Social Security Numbers. (See A08689B, May 1, 2012; see also New York Daily News, May 1, 2012)
A DREAM Act report produced by the pro-amnesty New York Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI) estimates the cost of funding illegal alien college tuition in New York to be around $17 million annually. (New York Fiscal Policy Institute Report, Mar. 9, 2012) New York’s taxpayers already subsidize illegal alien college students by allowing them to pay in-state tuition rates, and pays over $4.8 million annually in K-12 education for illegal aliens. (See FAIR Summary on States Permitting In-State Tuition for Illegal Aliens, Sept. 2011; see also FAIR Illegal Immigration Cost Study, July 2010)
FPI’s report attempts to justify these costs by arguing that an increase in “the education levels of workers also increases their productivity….” (New York Fiscal Policy Institute Report, Mar. 9, 2012) However, the students who would benefit from this tuition funding are currently prohibited by law from being employed in the United States. (See INA § 274A(h)(3))
The New York bill, which is similar to legislation passed by Illinois last year, now awaits consideration by the New York State Senate. (See A08689B, May 1, 2012; see also FAIR Legislative Update, May 9, 2011)
Justice Dept. Seeks to Intimidate Alabama School Districts
In its relentless quest to prevent state and local officials from enforcing immigration laws, the Department of Justice (DOJ) last week sent another letter of intimidation to the Alabama State Department of Education. In the letter, Civil Rights Division chief Thomas Perez drops a thinly veiled threat of litigation to persuade Alabama officials to back away from its immigration enforcement law, HB 56, and specifically the provision that requires schools to collect immigration data on its students.
To-date, Perez writes, the DOJ investigation shows that “H.B. 56 has had significant and measurable impacts on Alabama’s school children.” These impacts, Perez states, have weighed most heavily on Hispanic and English language learner students.
Perez states these findings are based on local school data and anecdotal evidence. The local school data, which Perez says raises “significant concern,” shows that between the start of the school year and February 2012, 13.4 percent of Alabama’s Hispanic schoolchildren withdrew from school. Remarkably, however, Perez appears unable to explain whether those school children re-enrolled in the same school district, re-enrolled in another Alabama school district, or left the state. He also does not specify what the normal withdrawal rate is in any given year to provide context.
Perez cites no other data given to him by the Alabama Department of Education to support his conclusions. Instead, he writes that anecdotal evidence backs up his claim that HB 56 is unlawfully impacting Hispanics residing in Alabama. Writing with deliberate vagueness, Perez states that “many” Hispanic students reported staying home from school or withdrawing out of fear and that “many students” conveyed that HB 56 made them “feel unwelcome in the schools they had attended for years.” “Hispanic children,” he adds, “reported increased anxiety and diminished concentration in school, deteriorating grades, and increased hostility, bullying, and intimidation.”
This letter from the DOJ to the Alabama Department of Education is not the first. In November 2011, Perez sent a letter to Alabama demanding its schools provide data about student absenteeism since the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Nov. 7, 2011) At first, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange balked at the request for local school data, but later the state agreed to cooperate with the DOJ investigation. However, it appears that the local school data, which Alabama sent to the DOJ in early April, did not provide the DOJ with the evidence of discrimination it sought as the most recent letter focused almost entirely on anecdotal reports and recitations of existing federal law.
The timing of this last DOJ letter was also unmistakable. It was sent to Alabama officials the very week the state legislature was scheduled to debate and vote on changes to HB 56. As it turns out, however, the Alabama Senate postponed debate on the legislation to amend HB 56 (HB 658) to this week.