FAIR Legislative Update October 12, 2010
ICE Presents Misleading Deportation Data
On October 6, Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director, John Morton, held a press conference to announce that in 2010 ICE had “removed more illegal aliens than in any other period in the history of our nation.” (DHS/ICE Press Release, Oct. 8, 2010) According to ICE’s deportation statistics, from October 2009 until September 2010, the agency deported 392,862 illegal aliens. (Los Angeles Times, Oct. 6, 2010)Roughly half of the deportations—more than 195,000—were of criminal illegal aliens. (Id.) However, Napolitano failed to mention that while the deportation of criminal illegal aliens has risen, the change in the total number of overall deportations is statistically insignificant. (Washington Post, Mar. 8, 2010) In fact, the number of deportations of non-criminal illegal aliens has decreased, reflecting not only the unwillingness of the Obama Administration to uniformly enforce U.S. immigration laws against both criminal and non-criminal illegal aliens, but also the Administration’s constant misrepresentation of immigration data to make it appear as if it is actually enforcing the law.
Napolitano attributes the increase in criminal deportations to the Secure Communities program (partnership between ICE and state and local law enforcement agencies that uses fingerprints to identify aliens who have been booked into state and local jails). (DHS/ICE Press Release, Oct. 8, 2010) However, while Secure Communities is a step in the right direction in enforcing our nation’s immigration laws, it is unclear whether the increase in the number of criminal alien deportations is completely attributable to the program. FAIR President Dan Stein observed, “Secretary Napolitano is giving herself and DHS a big pat on the back for stepping up enforcement without mentioning that the department is merely completing cases initiated under the previous administration, under policies that she and President Obama have aggressively dismantled since taking office.” (FAIR Press Release, Oct. 7, 2010)
Michael Bloomberg, New York City Mayor and founder of Bloomberg L.P. (which provides financial news and information), and Rupert Murdoch, the chairman and chief executive officer of News Corporation (which includes media outlets such as the Fox News Channel and the Wall Street Journal), testified before the House Immigration Subcommittee on Immigration in support of amnesty legislation at the end of September. In particular, the two media giants were invited to share their perspectives on the relationship between immigration and the economy.
In their testimony, each made a case for mass amnesty based on the alleged economic benefits that granting amnesty would generate. According to Bloomberg, “creating a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants will strengthen [the U.S.] economy.” Citing studies by the Cato Institute and the Center for American Progress, Bloomberg argued that granting illegal aliens in the U.S. amnesty would add billions to the gross national product in the coming decades. Similarly, Murdoch argued that granting amnesty to the entire illegal alien population would add approximately $1.5 trillion to the gross domestic product over the course of ten years—although he did not cite the report from which he derived that figure.
Bloomberg and Murdoch’s remarks were in stark contrast to the testimony of immigration expert Steven Camarota, Director of Research at the Center for Immigration Studies. Camarota stated that the net benefit of immigration to native-born U.S. citizens is only 0.25 percent of the gross domestic product, or roughly $33 billion. Significantly, when analyzing the economic impact of immigrants in the workforce, Camarota pointed out the importance of considering the amount of lost wages resulting from the displacement of native- U.S. citizen workers. Accordingly, Camarota argued that Americans, particularly members of the lower-class, absorb about $375 billion in lost wages due to the addition of immigrants into the American workforce. This amounts to a net loss of $342 billion when the total that immigrants contribute to the gross domestic product is factored in. Moreover, Camarota stated that the ones who truly gain from immigrants in the workforce are not average Americans, but rather business-owners, who gain about $408 billion a year from immigrant workers.
In addition, FAIR’s recent fiscal cost study demonstrates the financial burden imposed on U.S. taxpayers by illegal aliens. The cost study estimates that the annual costs of illegal immigration at the federal, state, and local level is about $113 billion—nearly $29 billion at the federal level and $84.2 billion at the state and local level. (See FAIR’s Fiscal Burden of Illegal Immigration on United States Taxpayers, Jul. 2010) More specifically, illegal alien families cost American taxpayers over $1 billion annually under the Temporary Assistance of Needy Families (TANF) program, and although in theory public housing is unavailable to illegal aliens, illegal aliens are able to access such housing at an estimated annual cost of $787 million. (Id.)
Rather than suggesting that corporate employers such as themselves share the blame for our broken immigration system, both Bloomberg and Murdoch blamed Congress for failing to solve the problem. Chastising Congress, Bloomberg declared, “And the reason we have illegal immigrants here is because of Congress’s inability and unwillingness to pass laws where employers can figure out who is documented and who isn’t. And it is just duplicitous for Congress to sit there and say they shouldn’t do it and then not give them the tools. All of us have the problem of trying to figure out whether or not that Social Security card was bought for $50 bucks or issued by the federal government.” Murdoch added, “You’re the people who make the laws in this country, and you're the people who have to make sure they're enforced. It’s not up to me as a private citizen.”
“We are responsible for the security and safety of the people of the United States and we really don’t know who is coming,” a federal agent in San Diego told reporters on the condition of anonymity. (KPBS San Diego, Sept. 29, 2010) The agent’s comment is in response to the growing number of political asylum seekers coming to the U.S. from Somalia who disappear from the government’s radar shortly after arrival. (Id.) This is occurring at a time when the Al-Qaeda-linked Somali Islamist group, Al-Shabab, has threatened to attack the United States. Leaders of Al-Shabab have claimed affiliation with Al-Qaeda since 2007, and in 2008 the U.S. government added the group to its list of foreign terrorist organizations. (Council on Foreign Relations, July 28, 2010;KPBS San Diego, Sept. 29, 2010)
The Somali asylum seekers begin their journey to the U.S. by traveling to Kenya where they acquire fraudulent passports which they then use to fly to Cuba. (KPBS San Diego, Sept. 29, 2010) Then they travel from Cuba to Central America, where smugglers take the Somalis to Mexico by truck. (Id.) From there, the Somalis allegedly surrender themselves to immigration officials who take their names and pictures without verification and then they are provided with expulsion documents. (Id.) Finally, the Somalis fly to Tijuana and walk across the border into the U.S. where the expulsion documents give them sufficient identification to request political asylum. (Id.)
People who cross the border seeking political asylum are taken into custody and are typically released in about two months pending the granting of asylum. (Id.) However, federal agents say the government is not doing a good job of tracking these individuals. (Id.) In fact, some of these individuals have simply disappeared and of those who do return, few are rejected for asylum even if they lack authentic identification. (Id.) According to one federal agent, “What people here should realize is how broken our political asylum system is. People have gotten through who pose a terrorism risk.” (Id.)
Al-Shabab expert, Chris Harnisch, says the terrorist group appears to have found another flaw in the United States’ political asylum system. (Id.) “Clearly not every Somali that makes that trip from southern Somalia to Mexico all the way up to San Diego is going to be a member of Al-Shabab,” Harnisch said. (Id.) “But it only takes one or two Somalis to be members of Al-Shabab to pose a threat to the United States.” (Id.) According to Harnisch, given that most Somalis earn less than two-dollars per day, and that federal agents estimate that the trip costs approximately 60,000 dollars, it’s possible that Al-Shabab could be funding the trip for some of these Somali asylum-seekers. (Id.)
The motivation for Al-Shabab to fund the journey from Somalia to the U.S. is two-fold: 1) Al-Shabab could potentially wage a terrorist attack in the U.S.; and 2) Al-Shabab is seeking to recruit Americans for its own war in Somalia. In 2008 it was reported that about 20 men in their late teens and early 20s, primarily from the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, had disappeared and were thought to have joined Islamist rebels who were on the verge of overthrowing the U.S.- and U.N.-backed government in Somalia. (Washington Times, Dec. 29, 2008) Most recently, Al-Shabab is suspected of carrying out two suicide bombings in Uganda that killed 64 people watching the World Cup this summer. (NY Times, Aug. 5, 2010)
According to one federal agent, five to ten men of East African origin make the journey across the U.S.-Mexican border each week. (KPBS San Diego, Sept. 29, 2010) In 2000, the Department of Homeland Security reported that 2,393 Somalis were granted legal permanent resident status in the United States. (Department of Homeland Security, 2009 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, Aug. 2010) This number sky-rocketed to 10,745 in 2008, and to 13,390 in 2009.
On the same night that Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) introduced a bill that would grant mass amnesty to the 13 million illegal aliens in the U.S., Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), introduced bills to strengthen our borders and decrease immigration levels. Sen. Hatch’s bill, S.3901, the “Strengthening Our Commitment to Legal Immigration and America’s Security Act,” contains provisions to increase security measures at the border and eliminate the diversity visa program. Likewise, Rep. Poe’s bill, H.R. 6253, the “National Guard Border Enforcement Act,” aims to secure the U.S.-Mexico border by increasing the number of National Guard Troops deployed.
More specifically, Sen. Hatch’s “Strengthening Our Commitment to Legal Immigration and America’s Security Act”:
- Creates a mandatory exit procedure program for foreign visitors based on tracking programs such as US-VISIT. (§ 4(b))
- Encourages state and local governments to participate in the Secure Communities and 287(g) programs by preventing them from receiving reimbursements from the federal government for detaining illegal aliens if they refuse to participate in such programs. (§ 3(3))
- Decreases legal immigration levels by eliminating 55,000 diversity visa allotments. (§ 4(c))
- Criminalizes the use of any identification other than one’s own. (§ 7(a))
- Mandates that the Commissioner of the IRS notify a social security number holder (or parent thereof if a minor) if it detects an inaccurate social security account for an employee and the employer fails to respond. (§ 7(b)(1))
Reacting to Sen. Hatch’s bill, amnesty proponents such as Thomas Saenz, President of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), commented “I'm concerned that it appears to be an enforcement-only bill, and that’s not what we need to have.” (KSL Salt Lake City, Sept. 30, 2010) Sen. Hatch, however, feels that his bill is “a step in the right direction to try and do something to secure our borders and, at the same time, strengthen our laws so we can handle these matters.” (Id.)
Complementing these measures, Rep. Poe’s “National Guard Border Enforcement Act”:
- Requires the Department of Defense to deploy no less than 10,000 additional National Guard Troops to the U.S.-Mexico border. (§ 2(a)(1))
- Permits a Governor of a state along the U.S.-Mexico border to request additional National Guard Troops if 10,000 troops are insufficient. (§ 2(a)(2))
- Provides federal funding for the implementation of state border control plans. (§ 2(a)(b))
Rep. Poe’s bill highlights the fight that has been going on in Congress to send more National Guard troops to the border to address growing violence and lawlessness spawned by the drug cartels. Lawmakers from border states, such as Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ), urged President Obama to send 6,000 National Guard troops to the border and even introduced amendments on Senate bills to force the president to act. Under increasing pressure from lawmakers and the growing violence along the southern border, President Obama acted, but committed only 1,200 National Guard troops, which were sent to the border during August and September. Remarking on the introduction of his bill, Rep. Poe stated “The federal government[’s] ‘not our problem’ attitude is unacceptable and this legislation will require the Defense Department to do what they were created to do — protect the people of this country and the dignity of our borders.” (Washington Times, Oct. 3, 2010)