FAIR Legislative Update November 21, 2011
In the Obama Administration’s latest attempt to implement a backdoor amnesty program, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued new policy memos last week instructing agency attorneys to begin reviewing immigration cases and administratively closing those that do not meet its”priorities.” As part of phase one of the program, the memos direct attorneys at district ICE offices to immediately begin reviewing all incoming deportation cases. A pilot program for reviewing all pending deportationcases will begin in Baltimore and Denver immigration courts December 4 and will continue into January 2012.
To ensure that ICE attorneys do not go astray and sign off on the deportation of illegal aliens, the memos set forth detailed procedure to which the agency’s attorneys must adhere when reviewing not only ICE removal cases, but also all of Customs and Border Patrol and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) cases. In this procedure, ICE attorneys must determine whether removal cases fall into one of two categories: (1) cases that are enforcement priorities for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and thus must pursue in conjunction with the Department of Justice (i.e. the typical process for a deportation case); and (2) cases that are not enforcement priorities for DHS and thus should be considered for administrative amnesty.
According to the memos, cases that are enforcement priorities include aliens who: (1) are suspected terrorists; (2) have been convicted of a felony or multiple misdemeanors; (3) are gang members or human rights violators; or (4) entered the country illegally or violated the terms of their admission within the last three years. The last of these appears to be an express admission that ICE no longer intends to deport illegal aliens who have been in the country more than three years.
Cases that are not enforcement priorities and thus are eligible for administrative amnesty include aliens who meet the criteria of the failed DREAM Act. These include aliens who came to the U.S. under the age of 16, who have been in the country for over five years, and who have completed high school or a GED program. Other deportation cases eligible for administrative amnesty include those in which aliens have a”very long-term presence” in the U.S., have an immediate family member who is a U.S. citizen, and have made”compelling” ties and contributions to the U.S. to remain in the country.
Critics have decried the new ICE memos and the Obama Administration’s blatant attempt to circumvent Congress in order to implement its political agenda. House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith blasted the Obama Administration not only for its backdoor amnesty program, but for giving illegal aliens jobs. ”We know that when this administration issues deferred action to illegal immigrants, it routinely grants 90% of them work authorization. How can the Obama administration justify granting work authorization to illegal immigrants when so many American citizens don’t have jobs? Twenty-three million Americans who are unemployed or can’t find full-time work must wonder why this administration puts illegal immigrants ahead of them …The administration should put the interests of American workers first.” (Rep. Smith Press Release, Nov. 17, 2011)
FAIR criticized the Obama Administration for diverting taxpayer dollars Congress has appropriated for immigration enforcement into its backdoor amnesty program. ”In both money and manpower, including the reassignment of lawyers and judges, the administration is diverting resources from enforcement priorities set by Congress to identifying illegal aliens whose cases are to be dismissed,” said FAIR in a press release. (FAIR Press Release, Nov. 17, 2011) Indeed, the latest memos reveal that ICE has already launched a training program on the”appropriate use” of the Morton memos — a training program that includes DHS officials at the highest level traveling to New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, to”personally instruct enforcement officers and attorneys” on how to implement its backdoor amnesty initiative.
After the pilot program for reviewing pending deportation cases ends mid-January, DHS will review the data and consult with the Department of Justice on how to proceed. The next phase will likely include expanding the review of deportation cases in Baltimore and Denver to other major cities around the nation.
In the aftermath of a demonstration against Alabama’s new immigration enforcement law, HB 56, Immigration and Customs Enforcement refused to detain thirteen aliens who admit they are illegally in the U.S. The thirteen were among a hundred protesters who while walking in front of the state house chanted slogans that included,”Undocumented and unafraid!” and ”No papers, no fear, immigrants are marching here!” (Fox News Latino, Nov. 17, 2011) Montgomery police arrested some for disorderly conduct (sitting in the street) and others for trespassing (blocking the lobby to the state house). (The Montgomery Advertiser, Nov. 18, 2011)
After their arrest, Montgomery police chief Kevin J. Murphy said they would be asked to provide documentation, which could lead the police to contact Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). “If it’s shown they don’t have documentation, that’s reasonable suspicion to detain them for ICE,” Murphy said. (The Montgomery Advertiser, Nov. 16, 2011) On Thursday, Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange confirmed that the city had done what it needed to do. “Our responsibility was to notify the federal authorities, which we have done.” (The Montgomery Advertiser, Nov. 18, 2011) While there was initially some conflicting information about the status of the arrestees, their lawyer quickly cleared it up. “They’re all illegal,” said defense attorney Mike Winter. “They’re undocumented immigrants.” (Montgomery Advertiser, Nov. 17, 2011)
Nevertheless, an ICE spokesman for ICE’s New Orleans field office announced that ICE did not issue detainers for the illegal aliens arrested and that the agency was”unable to comment on the protestors’ legal status.” (The Montgomery Advertiser, Nov. 18, 2011)
As a result, the Montgomery city jail released most of the illegal aliens Thursday afternoon on $300 bond each (one was let out a day earlier; the other two the following day). The ten walked out the front door of the Montgomery Police Department chanting, “Undocumented, unafraid!” ((Fox News Latino, Nov. 17, 2011)
The protest was organized by the Alabama Youth Collective, an organization that advocates for illegal aliens. (The Montgomery Advertiser, Nov. 16, 2011) The spokesman for the Collective Mohammed Abdollahi, who is himself an illegal alien from Iran said the protest was aimed at giving the undocumented a face for politicians and a voice to speak out. (Id.)
Not surprisingly, the illegal alien protesters were vocal in their opposition to Alabama’s immigration enforcement law. One illegal alien said through a translator: “It’s all in favor of our rights in a community, and that’s why we’re fighting against this law of hate.” (Id.) A second, who was arrested for blocking the lobby of the state house, said: “We’ll do whatever it takes to ensure our community is not oppressed by laws like HB 56.” (Id.) A third, who had traveled down from Illinois to participate in the protest, declared: “This is a nation of immigrants, and as immigrants we have the right to be here.” (The Montgomery Advertiser, Nov. 16, 2011)
Last week, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) introduced a bill to close a tax loophole that allows illegal aliens to collect $4.2 billion annually in taxpayer dollars through the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC). (See TIGTA Report 2011-41-061, July 7, 2011; see also FAIR Legislative Update, Sept. 6, 2011)”The Child Tax Credit Integrity Preservation Act,” co-sponsored by Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) would prevent illegal aliens from obtaining the tax credit by requiring that individuals who claim the credit provide a valid Social Security Number (SSN). Currently, the IRS only requires individuals provide an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), which the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) indiscriminately hands out to illegal aliens, to receive the ACTC.
“These tax credits were never meant for illegal immigrants,” said Kingston in a press release following the introduction of his bill. ”Closing this loophole is a commonsense measure that will save taxpayers billions. At the same time, it cuts off an incentive for those here illegally. There’s been a lot of talk about so-called loopholes on the campaign trail but closing this one is something we can all get behind.”
The Kingston-Westmoreland bill mirrors legislation introduced by Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) earlier this spring. (See S. 577) Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX) also introduced similar legislation earlier this year, called the”Refundable Child Tax Credit Eligibility Verification Reform Act” (H.R. 1956).
The New York State Board of Regents voted last Monday to propose its own version of the DREAM Act in an effort to make illegal aliens eligible for state financial aid. (Huffington Post, Nov. 11; New York Daily News, Nov. 15, 2011) According to the Board, its proposal seeks to:
- Eliminate education provisions requiring students to be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident to receive publicly funded grants, awards, and/or student loans;
- Make illegal aliens eligible for the Regents’ loan forgiveness program;
- Allow non-residents, including illegal aliens, who graduate from New York State high schools to receive general awards, academic performance awards and/or student loans;
- Authorize public university and college system trustees to provide state-aided programs, scholarships or other financial assistance to illegal aliens who graduate from New York State high schools; and
- Allow illegal aliens, who have a taxpayer identification number, to open a New York family tuition account.
(See Proposed Regents State and Federal Legislative Priorities for 2012, pg. 9, Nov. 14, 2011)
New York education commissioner, John King, praised the anticipated measure.”My sense is that there is enthusiasm in the legislature for moving forward on this issue,” he said.”I think people are very aware that this is a smart investment.” (Huffington Post, Nov. 11, 2011) Some members of the New York State Legislature, on the other hand, disagreed,”Providing illegal aliens free tuition and other social services while our taxpaying, working families struggle to pay college loans and send their kids to college is patently absurd,” said Sen. Greg Ball (R-Hudson Valley). (Wall Street Journal, Nov. 15, 2011)
FAIR estimates that illegal immigration cost New Yorkers nearly $9.5 billion in 2010, nearly $4.9 billion of which is due to the costs of educating illegal aliens at the K-12 level. (See FAIR Cost Study, July 2010)