Legislative Update: 10/9/2013
Heads of ICE, USCIS Unions Voice Opposition to Biometrics Bill
Leaders of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Council and Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) unions sent letters to Members of Congress yesterday voicing their opposition to H.R. 3141, Border and Maritime Subcommittee Chairwoman Candice Miller’s (R-MI) biometric exit bill.
“While H.R. 3141 sets deadlines for implementation of the system at air, sea, and pedestrian land ports, nothing is included that would actually compel any administration to comply with the law. The current Administration has already made it clear that enforcing the immigration laws enacted by Congress is not an administrative priority, forcing our officers and agents to act in direct violation of the law,” said National ICE Council President Chris Crane. (Click here to read the ICE letter.)
Kenneth Palinkas, President of the USCIS union Council 119 echoed Mr. Crane’s concerns, calling out the Obama Administration for its failure to implement and enforce preexisting law. “The current legislation has no teeth in it and does not even address concerns of 17 years ago when it was first required by Congress, as enforcement of current immigration laws is frowned upon by the current Administration.”
FAIR opposes H.R. 3141 because it represents more of the same failed border security policies that have created the current dire situation along the border. In fact, rather than strengthening border security, H.R. 3141 undermines it by phasing-in implementation of the biometric exit system that is already required by current law at all air, sea, and land ports of entry. In particular:
- H.R. 3141 requires only partial implementation of the biometric exit program at land ports of entry. The bill only requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to have a fully operational biometric exit program at pedestrian-only land ports of entry within three years, while merely putting into place a pilot program for vehicular outbound traffic. As such, by creating a distinction between pedestrian and non-pedestrian land traffic, H.R. 3141 eliminates a requirement that all land ports of entry contain a biometric exit component.
- H.R. 3141 contains zero enforcement mechanisms to ensure the Department of Homeland Security implements the biometric system as required. Given that Congress first required an exit system in 1996 — over 17 years ago — there is nothing in this bill that would prevent the Department from ignoring the requirements of the legislation as it (and its predecessor agency) has done in the past.
- H.R. 3141 gives the Secretary of Homeland Security 6 months just to submit to Congress a plan to establish a biometric exit data system that complies with preexisting law (8 U.S.C. 1365b), something that should already be in place.
- H.R. 3141 gives the Secretary two years from enactment to establish a biometric exit system at the 10 busiest U.S. international airports and seaports, and does not require full implementation at all air and sea ports until five years.
Click here to read FAIR’s summary of H.R. 3141.
Together, the national ICE and USCIS unions make up nearly 20,000 Department of Homeland Security employees.
House Republican Leader Vows to Pass Amnesty Bill This Year
On Sunday, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), the chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, declared in an interview with Univision’s “Al Punto” that the lower chamber will take up “comprehensive” immigration reform in 2013. According to inside-the-beltway publication Politico, McMorris Rodgers, the fourth-ranking House Republican, said Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) “over the last few weeks has continued to talk about the importance of the House moving forward on immigration reform” and insisted “there’s still time” to pass an amnesty bill. (Politico, Oct. 5, 2013)
Although Congress is currently deadlocked in a battle over government funding, McMorris Rodgers insisted immigration is still a top agenda item for House GOP leadership. “I believe that we have a window here between now and the end of the year and that this is a priority.” (Id.) “We must pass immigration reform,” McMorris Rodgers stated. (Id.) “It’s a priority for Republicans, for Democrats. There’s a recognition that it’s important to America. It’s important to our economy. America has long been the land of immigrants.” (Id.)
Representative McMorris Rodgers’s statements are just the latest example of House GOP leadership’s determination to pass “comprehensive” immigration reform before 2014. In fact, only days before the government shutdown, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) held a closed door meeting to push amnesty for the 12 million illegal aliens in the country. (Breitbart, Sept. 27, 2013) The previous week, House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) laid out a plan to legalize the entire illegal alien population during a GOP Conference Hispanic Heritage event. (FAIR Legislative Update, Sept. 25, 2013) And in July, Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) endorsed amnesty and the House Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee held a hearing in support of a DREAM Act amnesty for illegal aliens who claim to have been brought to the country unlawfully as minors. (FAIR Legislative Update, July 30, 2013)
Pro-Amnesty Groups Granted Exception to Rally on Closed National Mall
Although the National Park Service has closed the National Mall to the general public due to the government shutdown, the Service granted an exception to permit illegal alien supporters to rally on the Mall yesterday. (Washington Examiner, Oct. 7, 2013).
Tuesday’s rally, “Camino Americano: March for Immigration Reform,” sponsored by pro-amnesty groups such as CASA in Action and the AFL-CIO, began at noon and lasted several hours. (UPI, Oct. 8, 2013). Pro-amnesty Members of Congress, such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), attended. (Washington Examiner, Oct. 7, 2013). Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) told the protesters to thank “the administration at this time of shutdown for allowing us to be here today.” (National Review, Oct. 8, 2013.)
Pelosi Unveils Amnesty Bill
Last week, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other senior House Democrats, introduced H.R. 15, a mass amnesty and guest worker bill based on the 1,000+ page Senate amnesty legislation, S. 744. Democrats describe the legislation as the Senate Gang of Eight’s bill with alternative “border security” provisions. According to Pelosi herself, H.R. 15 contains the “best of the Senate bill,” without the Corker-Hoeven “border surge” amendment, and with the McCaul-Jackson Lee border bill (H.R. 1417) in its place.
However, a close look at the changes Leader Pelosi made to the bill shows that they do not improve the bill. For example, the changes Leader Pelosi made to the border security provisions by incorporating the McCaul-Jackson Lee bill are virtually meaningless as the McCaul-Jackson Lee bill borrows much of its language from the Senate amnesty bill. (See FAIR’s Comparison of H.R. 1417 and S.744) Like S.744, H.R. 1417, does not require that the Department of Homeland Security actually obtain situational awareness or operational control of any part of the border; it merely requires DHS to submit a plan for doing so. Worst of all, the bill contains absolutely no enforcement mechanisms or penalties if the Department of Homeland Security fails to fulfill its responsibility to create and implement such plans.
In addition, the stripping of the Corker-Hoeven amendment is no loss for enforcement advocates. While seemingly full of tough requirements to add thousands of more border agents and security measures, the Corker-Hoeven Amendment also granted the Department of Homeland Security discretion to waive numerous provisions, leaving the borders no more secure than before. Ultimately, the Corker-Hoeven amendment was nothing more than a pork-laden amendment aimed at securing the votes of certain swing Senators.
At the press conference to unveil the bill, Minority Leader Pelosi touted the Democratic bill as “100 percent bipartisan.” However, there is not one Republican among the 166 co-sponsors currently listed on the bill. Indeed, GOP leaders in the House have completely dismissed the legislation, saying they will not bring it to the floor for a vote. A spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said the legislation has a “zero percent” chance of making it to the floor. (Politico, Oct. 2, 2013) And a House Judiciary Committee aide indicated that the chairman, Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), has no plans to even take it up in his committee, which has jurisdiction over the critical immigration issue. (Id.)
Stay tuned to FAIR for details…
California Favors Illegal Aliens over U.S. Citizens
Having just enacted eight new bills providing benefits, driver’s licenses, in-state tuition, licenses to practice law, and sanctuary in California, the state will soon have nothing left to give to illegal aliens. On Saturday, Governor Brown signed the eight bills benefiting illegal aliens, including AB 4 which bans California law enforcement officials from honoring most requests from federal immigration authorities to hold criminal aliens. (Governor’s Statement, Oct. 5, 2013)
Effective January 1, 2014, law enforcement officers in California will be prohibited from detaining any person on the basis of a United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer after that individual becomes eligible for release, unless the individual:
- has been convicted of specific serious or violent felony;
- has been convicted of a felony punishable by imprisonment;
- has been convicted in the past 5 years of a misdemeanor for a crime that could have been punishable either as a misdemeanor or a felony, (specifically listed crimes include child abuse, bribery, gang-related offenses or driving under the influence, but only for a conviction that is a felony);
- is a registrant in the California Sex and Arson Registry;
- has been arrested on suspicion of a serious or violent felony and a magistrate has made a finding that there is probable cause to hold the person for that charge; or
- has been convicted of certain federal aggravated felonies or is subject to a federal felony arrest warrant.
Even then, AB 4 gives state and local law enforcement officials the option of releasing the most dangerous criminal aliens back onto the streets. All other criminal aliens are required to be released.
At 58 percent, California has the second highest criminal recidivism rate in the nation. (Huffington Post, May 31, 2013; see also California Recidivism Reports) “The odds are that better than one out of two criminal aliens who will be released from custody under AB 4, rather than remanded to federal immigration authorities, will go on to commit another crime. The conscious decision of the California Legislature and Gov. Brown to block the deportation of criminals will make them morally culpable for the pain, suffering, and loss of the next people who are victimized,” declared Dan Stein, president of FAIR.
Over the weekend, a statewide poll of 800 likely California voters, conducted by Zogby Analytics, found that only 24.6 percent of people thought the governor should have signed the bill, compared with 44.4 percent who wanted him to veto it. The Zogby poll also found that 55.7 percent of California voters believe that public safety will be endangered by the bill, while only 23.7 percent said it would enhance public safety.
Former ICE Director, Julie Myers-Wood agrees that public safety will be endangered by AB 4. “You’re going to have a high likelihood of individuals, who pose a significant public safety risk who are released into the community for some length of time without no guarantee ICE can put on a detainer at the time of a probable cause hearing,” said Myers-Wood. “That’s a huge loophole.” (Fox News, Sept. 24, 2013)
Last week, Governor Brown also approved AB 60, granting driver’s licenses to illegal aliens. The Zogby poll also found public opposition to that legislation. A majority of likely voters, 54.6 percent, oppose granting driver’s licenses to illegal aliens, while only 36.1 percent support the idea. A poll at the national level, conducted by Rasmussen Reports, found that 68% of Americans think illegal aliens should not be eligible for driver’s licenses in their state while just 22% favor allowing illegal aliens to get licenses. Despite public opposition, the California Department of Motor Vehicles plans to develop regulations to implement the law which goes into effect on January 1, 2015, unless the DMV certifies it is ready sooner. (Reuters, Oct. 4, 2013)
The other measures signed by Governor Brown to benefit illegal aliens in California include:
- AB 35 — Makes DACA recipients eligible for unemployment compensation benefits and state-issued ID cards.
- AB 524 — Provides that a threat to report the immigration status or suspected immigration status of an individual or the individual’s family constitutes extortion.
- AB 1024 — Makes illegal aliens eligible to obtain a license to practice law in the state.
- AB 1159 — Imposes various restrictions and obligations on persons who offer services related to comprehensive immigration reform.
- SB 141 — Provides taxpayer-subsidized in-state tuition rates to children who live in a foreign country and whose parent(s) or guardian(s) was deported or voluntarily-departed.
- SB 150 — Authorizes a community college district to exempt illegal aliens attending community colleges as a special part-time student from paying nonresident tuition rates.
- SB 666 — Provides for a suspension or revocation of an employer’s business license for retaliation against employees and others on the basis of citizenship and immigration status, and establishes a civil penalty up to $10,000 per violation. SB 666 also makes it a cause for suspension or disbarment for any member of the State Bar to report or threaten to report the suspected immigration status of a witness or party to a civil or administrative action or his or her family member to a federal, state, or local agency because the witness or party exercises a right related to his or her employment.
Not surprisingly, California endures the highest number of illegal aliens — 3.2 million — of any state in the union. The state also endures the largest fiscal cost — $21 billion per year — of any state as a result of illegal immigration. With the enactment of these and other bills signed by the governor over the weekend, California’s citizens and legal residents are certain to see that burden increase as more illegal immigrants are attracted to the state by its accommodating policies.
Previously Deported Aliens Demand Reentry, U.S. Govt Concedes
Last Monday, 34 illegal aliens entered the United States by walking across a bridge from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico into Texas as part of a National Immigrant Youth Alliance demonstration demanding that they be granted legal status and permitted to stay in the country. (Associated Press, Oct. 3, 2013).
These illegal aliens took a page out of the play book of the so-called “DREAM 9,” who pulled a similar stunt this past July in Nogales, Arizona. (Id.) Those taking part in that group requested asylum, were released after roughly two weeks in detention, and are now awaiting determinations by an immigration judge while living in the United States. (Id.)
Similarly, according to an immigration attorney working with the group of 34, as many as 25 of the illegal aliens being held in a detention center in El Paso all had their “credible fear” interviews to see if they qualify for asylum. They are now waiting to hear whether their cases will be assigned to a judge for full asylum proceedings. (The Republic, Oct. 8, 2013)
National Immigrant Youth Alliance leader Mohammad Abdollahi said that their strategy is “asking for humanitarian parole, which is usually reserved for people with extreme medical conditions. But our argument is that Dreamers should be considered that way as well.” (Los Angeles Times, Sept. 30, 2013.)
The Obama Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is reportedly at the heart of the “DREAM 30” march. Those participating in the event claim to be protesting the President’s DACA guidelines for allowing illegal aliens to remain in the U.S. and work because it prohibits those who left the country who were deported or left voluntarily prior to its enactment from getting the reprieve. (Associated Press, Oct. 3, 2013).
The National Immigrant Youth Alliance also staged a sit-in at Congressman Henry Cuellar’s office as part of the march. Though Rep. Cuellar (D-TX) has supported the DREAM Act in the past, he told local reporters that he does not support the efforts by this group of illegal aliens, who he called “professional activists.” In particular, Rep. Cuellar said that he ”was opposed to the methods used” by the National Immigrant Youth Alliance and that “minors are being put at risk to make a political statement.” (Pro 8 NBC News, Oct. 2, 2013).