Legislative Update: 10/27/2015
Senate Democrats Deny Justice for Kate Steinle
Last Tuesday, Kate Steinle’s family was denied justice when the Senate failed to pass the “Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act” (S. 2146). (See FAIR Summary of S. 2146) In a 54-45 vote (with 60 “yes” votes needed), all Senate Democrats except Sens. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) placed partisan politics over sound policy and voted to kill the bill. (Senate Roll Call Vote #280) Pro-amnesty Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) was the only Republican to vote against the bill while Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) did not cast a vote. (Id.)
Senator David Vitter (R-LA) introduced S. 2146 in response to the growing threat that sanctuary cities — State and local jurisdictions with policies that obstruct immigration enforcement — pose to the safety of American citizens. Most notably, Kate Steinle, who was shot and killed July 1 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.)
The outcome of this vote is disappointing for several reasons. First, Tuesday’s vote was only a procedural vote to begin debating the bill. Despite the commonsense nature of S. 2146, pro-amnesty Democrats showed they are willing to obstruct the legislative process to protect all illegal aliens from immigration enforcement. Additionally, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) — who was Kate Steinle’s Senator — cast the decisive 41st “no” vote that officially killed the bill. Similarly, Kate Steinle’s other Senator, Diane Feinstein (D-CA) also voted “no” despite saying shortly after Ms. Steinle was killed that her death “could have been avoided” if San Francisco did not have a sanctuary policy. (See Washington Times, July 7, 2015) Tellingly, Feinstein instituted San Francisco’s first sanctuary policy back in the 1980s when she was mayor.
San Francisco Board of Supervisors Continues to Prioritize Criminal Alien Interests over Public Safety
On Tuesday, October 20, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution to urge San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi to continue to abstain from cooperating with the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) and refuse compliance with detainer requests. (Wall Street Journal, Oct. 21, 2015) This resolution demonstrates the Board of Supervisors’ commitment to shield criminal aliens from the enforcement of immigration law despite the threat such policy brings to public safety.
San Francisco is one of first jurisdictions in the country to institute policies instructing its law enforcement officers to refuse cooperation with federal immigration authorities, and has since been dubbed a sanctuary city. Sanctuary cities are state and local jurisdictions with policies intended to impede the enforcement of immigration law by federal immigration officials. Under the pressure of illegal alien advocates, many jurisdictions are instituting policies to prohibit their law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration officials. (Breitbart News, Oct. 26, 2014; CBS 5, Nov. 9, 2014) These policies, which proponents argue are intended to foster “trust” with law enforcement in immigrant communities, are designed to protect criminal aliens from detection and removal from the United States by restricting compliance with detainer requests, often called ICE holds. (Pew Charitable Trusts, Oct. 31, 2014; FAIR, Oct. 2013)
The city’s sanctuary policy ignited severe public outrage following the fatal shooting of 32 year-old Kate Steinle at Pier 14 by an illegal alien suspect with multiple deportations and felony convictions. (SFGate, July 4, 2015) The accused murderer, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, was previously in federal custody and would have been deported for the sixth time before he was transported to San Francisco to address a 20-year-old drug charge. (Pleasanton Patch, July 22, 2015) When the charge was thrown out by the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, the city’s sheriff’s department refused to honor a detainer request to transfer Lopez-Sanchez to ICE. (Id.) Instead, the Sheriff’s Department, pursuant to its sanctuary policy, released Lopez-Sanchez back into the community. (Id.)
The Board of Supervisors approved the resolution despite complaints filed by San Francisco Deputy Sheriffs demanding that the Sheriff’s Department rescind the policy that prohibits the San Francisco sheriff’s office from cooperating with federal immigration authorities. (Complaint, July 13, 2015; Guardian, July 19, 2015) The San Francisco Deputy Sheriff’s Association’s complaint charges that the Department’s refusal to cooperate with federal immigration authorities “recklessly compromises the safety” of the citizens, visitors, and law enforcement personnel of San Francisco. (Complaint, July 13, 2015) Specifically, they charge that the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department’s policy, issued by Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi in 2014, ties the hands of its law enforcement officers by prohibiting any cooperation with immigration detainers issued by ICE. (Press Release, May 29, 2014) San Francisco’s Sanctuary Directive and Due Process for All Ordinance also stand as obstacles to law enforcement’s ability to cooperate with ICE. (Executive Directive 07-01; File No. 130764) Both prohibit compliance with immigration detainers issued by federal authorities and from notifying federal authorities regarding when a criminal alien will be released from city custody. (Id.)
UAC Crisis Continues, Fueled by Catch and Release Policies
Last Wednesday, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee held a hearing on the ongoing flood across the southern border of unaccompanied alien minors (UACs) and minors with families. (See Senate Hearing, Oct. 21, 2015; Washington Times, Oct. 21, 2015) During the hearing, Chris Cabrera, the vice President of the National Border Patrol Council, testified that the Obama administration’s “catch and release” policy is preventing the Border Patrol from stopping the crisis. (Breitbart News, Oct. 21, 2015)
The hearing highlighted the fact that UACs and family groups primarily continue to cross the border illegally because they know they will get to stay in the U.S. once they get here. (Cabrera Testimony, Oct. 21, 2015) They are “very forthcoming” with Border Patrol agents in interviews, Cabrera explained. (Id.) According to Mr. Cabrera, they fully understand that even if they are caught, they will simply receive a “Notice to Appear,” and then are free to go. (Id.) In “Border Patrol circles,” he said, “that paperwork is now known as the Notice to Disappear.” (Senate Hearing, Oct. 21, 2015) Eighty to ninety percent of those who get them, he said, do not show up for the hearing. (Id.) The solution to the crisis, he suggested, was for the illegal border crossers to be “detained, adjudicated, and repatriated,” (Cabrera Testimony, Oct. 21, 2015)
The hearing also highlighted the role social media plays in encouraging UACs and family units to keep coming across the Southern border. (Senate Hearing, Oct. 21, 2015) Kimberly Gianopoulos, the Director of International Affairs and Trade of the U.S. Government Accountability Office, testified that the use of social media has “exploded.” (Id.) Not only do families who have already made the journey advertise their success on social media, but, Ms. Gianopoulos explained, human smugglers also use social media to advertise their services. (Id.)
Importantly, the hearing also provided evidence that the surge across the border is on the rise again. (Gianopoulos Testimony, Oct. 21, 2015; see FAIR Legislative Update, Aug. 4, 2015) Ms. Gianopoulos testified that analysis of Department of Homeland Security data indicate that apprehensions in August of fiscal year 2015 “increased compared to previous months this year” and exceeded August 2014 apprehensions “by nearly 50 percent.” (Gianopoulos Testimony, Oct. 21, 2015) Indeed, according to the latest numbers released by the Border Patrol, the surge across the border of UACs and minors with families continued to show signs of accelerating in September. (Washington Times, Oct. 21, 2015) Border patrol agents apprehended 4,476 UACs and 5,273 parents and children travelling as families — nearly twice the levels of September 2014. (Id.)
Unsurprisingly, the recent rise in numbers corresponds with a district judge’s order to end the detention of alien minors. With no viable method of deterrence, the UACs and family units have determined that the rewards of unlawfully entering the U.S. far outweigh the risks and they will continue to come. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Aug. 4, 2015; FAIR Legislative Update, Aug. 25, 2015)
House Republicans Unite Behind Paul Ryan for Speaker
Last Thursday, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced that he would seek the House speakership after gaining support from three major groups of House Republicans. (Fox News, Oct. 22, 2015) In a lengthy email to his GOP colleagues, the chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee and former Vice Presidential nominee said he was “ready and eager to be our speaker.” (Id.) “I never thought I’d be speaker. But I pledged to you that if I could be a unifying figure, then I would serve — I would go all in,” Ryan said in the email. (Id.) “After talking with so many of you, and hearing your words of encouragement, I believe we are ready to move forward as a one, united team.” (Id.)
Weeks of intense courtship finally came to a head on Tuesday at a closed-door meeting of the House Republican Conference, when Ryan informed his colleagues that he would serve as Speaker only if the House Freedom Caucus, Republican Study Committee, and the moderate Tuesday Group all agreed to support his candidacy by Friday. (Washington Post, Oct. 20, 2015) “If I can truly be a unifying figure, then I will gladly serve,” Ryan said in a press conference. (Id.) If not, he said, “I’ll be happy to stay where I am at the Ways and Means Committee.” (Id.)
During the meeting, Ryan laid out several conditions that the Republican groups would need to accept before supporting his candidacy. (Id.) He emphasized concerns about the toll the speakership would take on his family, especially his young children. (Id.) Ryan said that he would not give up weekends with his family to fundraise for Republican candidates around the country, as outgoing Speaker John Boehner often did. (Id.) Ryan also demanded that the conference agree on changes to the motion to vacate the chair, a procedural mechanism to oust a sitting speaker. (Id.) As outlined in Jefferson’s Manual, the motion to vacate the chair allows any member to offer a privileged resolution to oust the sitting speaker, with only a majority vote required for the resolution to succeed. (See Jefferson’s Manual) Since the threat of a vote on a motion to vacate the chair was used by House Freedom Caucus members to expedite Boehner’s departure, it is Ryan’s belief that the next speaker could not operate under the constant threat of removal. (Politico, Oct. 22, 2015)
On Wednesday, Ryan cleared what was believed to be the greatest hurdle to his nomination by earning the support of a supermajority of the House Freedom Caucus. (Roll Call, Oct. 21, 2015) According to Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID), a founding member, the “show of support” was not the same as a formal endorsement because Ryan did not garner enough votes to meet its 80 percent threshold. (Id.) However, Ryan determined that support from 70 percent of the caucus was enough to fulfill his condition. (Id.) The next day, the moderate Tuesday Group and conservative Republican Study Committee also announced their support for Ryan, paving the way for a run at the speakership that will surely be successful. (Roll Call, Oct. 22, 2015).
With Ryan likely to secure the speaker’s gavel he never initially intended to seek, his history of support for amnesty and increased immigration is a cause for great concern. (See Breitbart News, Oct. 11, 2015) In a move to shore up support from conservatives, Ryan indicated that he would not bring an immigration bill to the House floor during the 114th Congress, or the rest of President Obama’s term. (Washington Free Beacon, Oct. 21, 2015) However, as National Review points out, “the real action will come in 2017. If Ryan returns as speaker in the 115th Congress, it is a certainty that he will craft yet another iteration of the McCain-Kennedy/Schumer-Rubio approach to immigration.” (National Review, Oct. 22, 2015). It is FAIR’s hope that a Speaker Ryan would disavow past support of mass amnesty and open borders and embrace true immigration reform principles that place the interests of the American people first.
House Republicans will vote in conference tomorrow to select Ryan as their nominee and the full House floor vote will take place the following day. Current Speaker Boehner is set to resign from Congress on Friday. Stay tuned to FAIR for updates as the speaker race comes to a conclusion…