Legislative Update: 10/20/2015
Senate Votes on Anti-Sanctuary City Bill Today
This afternoon at 2:15 p.m. Eastern, the Senate will vote on a bill that aims to eliminate sanctuary cities — State and local jurisdictions with policies that obstruct immigration enforcement. Introduced by Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), the “Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act” (S. 2146) is commonsense legislation that denies certain Federal funds to jurisdictions that refuse to (1) share information about criminal aliens with the Federal government or (2) recognize Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer requests. (FAIR Summary of S. 2146) Additionally, the bill increases penalties for illegal reentry and requires the Federal government to publish on a website a list of all sanctuary jurisdictions. (Id.)
Today’s critical vote comes more than three months after Kate Steinle was shot and killed in San Francisco by an illegal alien with seven convictions and five previous deportations. (FAIR Legislative Update, July 8, 2015) The suspect, Francisco Sanchez, was released back onto the streets by San Francisco law enforcement despite his extensive criminal history and an ICE detainer request because of the city’s sanctuary policy. (Id.) Indeed, Sanchez even admitted he went to San Francisco because he knew it is a sanctuary city that would protect him from ICE. (Id.)
FAIR supports S. 2146 and urges the Senate to pass the bill. “Policies that protect people who are breaking U.S. immigration laws, including criminal aliens who have been arrested for other offenses, jeopardize the lives and safety of Americans,” said Dan Stein, president of FAIR. (FAIR Press Release, Oct. 15, 2015) Stein continued, “They also violate federal law. It is essential that Congress act immediately to end these policies.” (Id.) Hopeful that the Senate passes S. 2146, Stein concluded, “If President Obama decides to veto the bill it is up to him to explain to the American people why he is refusing to act against reckless policies that have resulted in needless deaths of innocent citizens.” (Id.)
The vote can be watched live on C-SPAN.
Obama Administration Policies May Allow Illegal Alien Sex Offenders to Avoid Deportation
Last Wednesday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) sent a joint letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson regarding two illegal alien sex offenders currently in law enforcement custody. (Grassley and Goodlatte Letter, Oct. 14, 2015) In the letter, the lawmakers express concern that the administration’s new lax Priority Enforcement Program (PEP), in combination with local sanctuary policies, may let certain sex offenders avoid deportation and be released back into American communities. (Id.; see House Judiciary Committee PEP Press Release, June 23, 2015)
On October 5, Arturo Ocon-Garcia was apprehended by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for illegal entry and remains detained. (Grassley and Goodlatte Press Release, Oct. 14 2015) Ocon-Garcia was previously convicted of sex offenses in Chicago, which has sanctuary policies that require local law enforcement to ignore U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers. (Id.) These detainers request that local officials detain illegal aliens for an additional 48 hours after local jurisdiction ceases so that an ICE officer may place the alien into federal custody. The lawmakers are specifically asking how DHS plans to ensure that Ocon-Garcia is not released back into the public if he is handed over to local law enforcement. (Id.)
Regarding the other case, Melvin Perez Bonilla was arrested on October 7 in Arlington, Virginia and has confessed to multiple sex offenses. (Id.) Since he does not have a prior criminal conviction, Bonilla may not trigger the issuance of an ICE detainer to transfer him into federal custody. (Id.) This is a direct consequence of PEP, which significantly narrowed the category of immigrants the administration will attempt to deport. (Id.)
DHS has until October 23 to provide more information on the immigration statuses of the sex offenders and indicate how the agency plans to respond to their charges. (Id.)
Last Tuesday, the five Democratic candidates for president participated in their first debate. (Debate Transcript, October 13, 2015) Notably, the candidates — Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, James Webb, and Lincoln Chafee — did not spend a substantial amount of time discussing immigration. (Id.) However, during the limited time the issue was debated, they made clear that they all supported amnesty and extending an array of taxpayer benefits to illegal aliens. (Id.) Only one candidate, Webb, was willing to suggest that a mass amnesty should be accompanied by vague border security measures. (Id.)
All of the candidates who were asked whether illegal aliens should be eligible for subsidized health care expressed support. (Id.) Clinton said that she wanted “to support states that are expanding health care and including undocumented children and others.” (Id.) She also said that she wanted “to open up the opportunity for immigrants to be able to buy in to the exchanges under the Affordable Care Act” so that, presumably, illegal aliens would get “the same subsidies” as anyone else. (Id.) Making them eligible for subsidies, she said, “needs to be part of a comprehensive immigration reform.” (Id.) O’Malley agreed, saying that, otherwise, providing their health care would adversely affect “our insurance rates.” (Id.) Webb also said he “did not have a problem” with illegal aliens getting Obamacare. (Id.)
Similarly, the candidates who were asked about in-state tuition for illegal aliens affirmed their support for that taxpayer subsidized benefit as well. (Id.) Clinton stated that her plan would “support any state” that wanted to provide in-state tuition for them, and she would “work with those states and encourage more states to do the same thing.” (Id.) O’Malley bragged that he had, as Governor, already supported such an initiative, the Maryland Dream Act, which the voters had approved. (Id.)
There was also no dissent among the candidates that they fully supported amnesty. (Id.) Clinton and O’Malley both promised to go “further” than President Obama has in granting amnesty by executive action. (Id.) O’Malley also claimed that a “comprehensive immigration reform bill” (amnesty and increased legal immigration) would “make wages go up in America $250 for every year.” (Id.)
The only area the candidates left potentially open for disagreement on immigration was guest-worker programs. Sanders, on the defensive for voting against the 2007 amnesty bill, explained that he had always supported amnesty, but had to vote against that bill because of its guest worker provisions. (Id.) He cited the description of the Southern Poverty Law Center of those provisions as tantamount to “semi-slavery.” (Id.) However, he did not explain whether he thought the guest worker positions in the 2013 Gang of Eight bill, which he did vote for, presented the same issues. (See Politico, June 19, 2015; see also FAIR’s S. 744 Resources )
The unanimity of the Democrats on immigration was a stark contrast to the varied opinions on display during the Republican debates. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Sept. 22, 2015; FAIR Legislative Update, Aug. 11, 2015)
Education Secretary Arne Duncan, speaking at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute conference in Washington, called on Congress to provide federal financial aid to illegal aliens. (Breitbart News, Oct. 9, 2015) “We have to make sure we give financial aid to our undocumented students and the fact that as a nation we have yet to do that is a travesty,” said Duncan. (Id.) The outgoing Education Secretary also praised the efforts of states that provide in-state tuition to illegal aliens, pointing out that they have “stepped up” by providing taxpayer subsidized assistance. (Id.)
Under current law, illegal aliens are not eligible for federal student aid, such as Stafford Loans and Pell Grants. (See Department of Education Financial Aid Guidelines) However, as Duncan noted, just over one-third of states offer subsidized tuition rates to illegal aliens – many of whom are beneficiaries of President Obama’s DACA amnesty. (See NCSL State Tuition Overview) As these states further damage and strain delicate education budgets and impose additional burdens on taxpayers, several lawmakers are looking to do the same at the federal level. Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) has introduced legislation, S. 1059, which would give illegal aliens access to federal aid including the Pell Grant and work-study programs. Hirono claims that her proposal would ensure students have “a fair shot at affordable higher education.” (The Hill, April 22, 2015) However, Hirono’s statement fails to recognize that admitting and subsidizing illegal aliens drains taxpayer dollars and unfairly takes away seats at universities from law abiding citizen and legal resident students.
Efforts to provide taxpayer subsidized education benefits to illegal aliens remains extremely unpopular with the American people. Indeed, a recent Rasmussen poll found that 83 percent of Americans believe those here illegally should not be legally allowed to receive federal, state, or local benefits, such as financial aid for higher education. (Washington Examiner, April 6, 2015)
Last week, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a handful of immigration-related bills into law designed to accommodate illegal aliens and shield them from enforcement of immigration law. (Los Angeles Times, Oct. 10, 2015) The bills include: legislation that assists illegal alien victims of crime in meeting requirements for deportation relief, legislation that creates state penalties for misuse of E-Verify, legislation that will inevitably allow some illegal aliens to vote, and legislation allowing some illegal aliens to receive additional taxpayer funded health care benefits.
Specifically, Senate Bill (“S.B.”) 674 protects illegal aliens who have been victims of crimes from deportation by requiring law enforcement to certify that alien victims are “helpful” or “likely to be helpful” in the prosecution of that crime, for the purpose of making that alien eligible for a U Visa. Under S.B. 674, law enforcement officers are required to make this certification, whether or the alien’s assistance is actually required or useful to law enforcement at all. (S.B. 674) A U Visa is a limited visa, capped by Congress at 10,000 per year, awarded in exchange for the assistance in the prosecution or investigation of violent crime. (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) By removing law enforcement discretion, S.B. 674 thereby makes more aliens eligible for the visa than intended by Congress.
Additionally, Governor Brown signed legislation that will inevitably allow some illegal aliens to vote in state elections. (Breitbart, Oct. 12, 2015) S.B. 1461 provides for automatic voter registration for all eligible driver’s licenses applicants. This measure poses serious concerns regarding voter fraud because the California Department of Motor Vehicle’s databases are specifically designed to make noncitizen license holders unsearchable. (Breitbart, Oct. 12, 2015) Any illegal alien with a fraudulent California driver’s license could potentially vote as a result of this bill.
Governor Brown also signed S.B. 4, last week which implements a law passed in June that will provide taxpayer funded Medi-Cal benefits to illegal aliens under the age of 19. As a result, 170,000 illegal aliens are expected to be added to the already-overburdened program. (Los Angeles Times, Oct. 9, 2015)
The California Legislature will convene in January 2016 to address additional immigration-related legislation.