FAIR Legislative Update November 8, 2010
Immigration and the 2010 Midterm Elections
Immigration had a significant impact on the 2010 elections and is now a top election issue. Certainly the economy and unemployment were the dominant issues across the nation, but more candidates campaigned on immigration than in past elections. They posted position statements on their campaign websites, dedicated precious resources to radio and television commercials on the issue, and some even used the issue to attack their opponents in manner that may have made the crucial difference in the outcome. In addition, immigration was a frequent topic of debate, not only in official settings, but at campaign stops. Often the question asked was whether a candidate supported Arizona’s new immigration enforcement law, SB 1070. The popularity of SB 1070, combined with brutal drug cartel violence along the Southern border, a high unemployment rate, and strong voter disapproval of President Obama’s handling of the issue, meant that candidates could not avoid the issue as easily as in previous elections.
Read FAIR’s 2010 Midterm Election Analysis…
Lame Duck Session to Address DREAM Act, Other Measures
A mere two weeks after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promised a vote on the DREAM Act, Congress will resume for a lame duck session (the period of time before the old members of Congress leave office and the newly elected ones take their place) on November 15th. (The Hill, Oct. 31, 2010)
In addition to fulfilling Sen. Reid’s promise to take up the DREAM Act, the 110th Congress has other critical items that still require consideration. These include extending a Continuing Resolution to keep the federal government running past December 3, 2010 and deciding whether to extend President Bush’s 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, which expire at the beginning of the year. (NBC News, Nov. 4, 2010) In the Senate’s first week back, Sen. Reid has already scheduled votes on a natural gas bill, food safety legislation, and a paycheck fairness bill. (Politico, Nov. 5, 2010)
Three newly elected Senators will be taking office during the lame duck session. The Senators-elect are Chris Coons (D-DE), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Mark Kirk (R-IL). It remains undetermined, however, when each will take office and how each will vote on these upcoming measures. For example, Senator-elect Mark Kirk, will not be seated until the second-half of the lame duck session, scheduled after Thanksgiving, due to a delay in the official certification of his victory. (Id.) Kirk, who has stated that he would not vote for the DREAM Act, also stated that he would oppose the passage of any major legislation prior to the new Congress being seated. (See Debate Transcript on ABC News, Oct. 19, 2010; Washington Post, Aug. 17, 2010) Democratic aides say they expect Coons and Manchin to be sworn in immediately on November 15th. (Politico, Nov. 5, 2010)
This means that Capitol Hill could be unusually busy as the 111thCongress comes to an end. True immigration reformers will want to stay tuned and keep watch for any action on immigration legislation.
Federal Agents Discover Mexican Drug Tunnel as Border Violence Escalates
Last week, U.S. authorities discovered a 600-yard tunnel connecting a warehouse in Tijuana, Mexico to one in the industrial San Diego neighborhood of Otay Mesa. (CNN, Nov. 3, 2010) Discovery of the tunnel was the result of a continuing investigation by the San Diego Tunnel Task Force, which is made up of representatives from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Drug Enforcement Administration and the California National Guard. (Customs and Border Patrol Press Release, Nov. 4, 2010) Roughly 26 tons of marijuana was transported through the tunnel to San Diego, about ten of which were intercepted by U.S. authorities as a tractor trailer was transporting the stash from the Otay Mesa warehouse. The Mexican army found five tons in Tijuana. (CNN, Nov. 3, 2010)
The tunnel was fully equipped with a lighting, ventilation, and rail system, demonstrating the growing sophistication of the Mexican drug cartels. (L.A. Times, Nov. 3, 2010) “This wasn’t a mom-and-pop operation, or, in this case, a husband and wife operation,” said ICE Director John Morton. (BBC News, Nov. 4, 2010) “This is clearly organized crime at work. This was the cartels.” (Id.) Morton also said the seizure was particularly unusual because U.S. authorities caught the smugglers in the act, whereas most discoveries are of abandoned tunnels. (Id.) Smuggling occurred for approximately one month prior to U.S. authorities shutting it down. (Id.)
The discovery of the tunnel, which is only one of about 75 along the U.S-Mexico border to be unearthed in the last four years, comes at a time when violence is escalating along the U.S.-Mexico border. (L.A. Times, Nov. 3, 2010) Last week, six American citizens were killed in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez in only six days, including two University of Texas students who were killed when gunmen opened fire on their car. (CBS News, Nov. 4, 2010) And over the weekend, at least 20 additional people were killed due to the drug-cartel violence in Ciudad Juarez, increasing the total to over 6,500 murders in the city since 2008. (CBS News, Nov. 8, 2010)