Legislative Update: 11/10/2015
Stop the STEM Job Giveaway
The Obama administration is preparing to make it easier for the technology industry to utilize cheap, foreign labor for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) jobs rather than hire American graduates. Under the proposed rule, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will allow foreign STEM degree-holders to remain in the country and work on their student visas for up to three years after they graduate. The proposed rule involves extending the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program — a DHS creation to keep foreign “students” in the country — from 12 months after graduation to 36 months for those in the STEM field.
By law, DHS must accept public comments on the proposed regulation and respond to them before implementing the change. This is your opportunity to make your voice heard. If there’s enough opposition, DHS might revoke the proposed rule and never implement it. The deadline for submitting comments is November 18.
Cruz Criticizes Reid on Senate Floor After Democrats Block Passage of Kate’s Law
Presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) took to the Senate floor last Wednesday seeking passage of Kate’s Law, a bill he introduced after 32-year-old Kate Steinle was murdered in San Francisco (a sanctuary city) by an illegal alien with seven convictions and five previous deportations. (Washington Examiner, Nov. 4, 2015) The popular bill would amend federal law to impose a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for any illegal reentry offense. (See FAIR Summary of Kate’s Law) Cruz reintroduced Kate’s Law shortly after Senate Democrats filibustered Sen. David Vitter’s (R-LA) Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act, which contained critical elements of the bill. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Oct. 27, 2015)
Cruz attempted to have Kate’s Law passed through a Senate procedure known as unanimous consent. Unanimous consent has the benefit of expediting the process as it allows the chamber to bypass the typical rules regarding floor debate and cloture votes when considering legislation. However, if any one senator objects, the unanimous consent request fails.
In an emotional floor speech while seeking unanimous consent, Cruz noted that Americans are on his side on this issue. In addition to overwhelmingly positive polling as indicated by recent polling, he also pointed out last Tuesday’s sheriff election in San Francisco, in which voters removed pro-sanctuary city Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi from office. (Townhall.com, Nov. 4, 2015) “This shouldn’t be a red state/blue state issue,” Cruz said. (Id.) “The American people are tired of politicians standing with violent criminal illegal aliens. This should bring us together. We should stand together and say, ‘We will protect the American citizens.’” (Id.)
However, Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) immediately voiced his objection to Cruz’s request, thus blocking Kate’s Law from passage. (See Senator Cruz Press Release) Reid claimed that the bill represents an “attack on the immigrant community” and would be too costly to implement. (Id.) In a passionate response, Cruz took offense over the notion that incarcerating aggravated felons, murderers, and rapists who illegally reenter this country is somehow a slight to immigrants. (Id.) “I am a son of an immigrant who came from Cuba,” the Texas Republican reminded his Senate colleague. (Id.) Cruz also shot down Reid’s opposition to the bill on fiscal grounds, saying “If it costs too much to lock up murderers, rapists, kidnappers, then you know what? — We need to spend the money it needs to lock up every single murderer we can. I am sorry that the Democratic Party doesn’t want to spend the money to lock up murderers — apparently it is cheaper to lose our sons and daughters.” (Id.)
Video of the floor speech and Reid-Cruz exchange can be found here.
Worksite Enforcement Plummets under Obama
Newly obtained government data shows that the Obama administration has essentially abandoned worksite enforcement over the last couple of years. According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) statistics obtained by Law360, the number of audits of the I-9 documents required for new hires plummeted from 3,127 in fiscal year 2013 to 1,320 in fiscal year 2014. (Law360, Nov. 2, 2015) The numbers are even smaller for fiscal year 2015 (which ended September 30), as ICE only conducted 360 audits through June. (Id.) The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) found similar results earlier this year, noting that the decline in I-9 audits has resulted in fewer employer arrests and fines collected. (See FAIR Legislative Update, June 23, 2015)
When President Obama took office in 2009 he dramatically changed the way ICE handled worksite enforcement. Rather than continuing the practice of sending ICE agents into worksites and arresting illegal alien workers, Obama ordered ICE to audit the I-9 documents new hires are required to provide their employers as proof of authorization to work in the country. (ICE News Release, July 1, 2009; see New York Times, July 9, 2010; FAIR Legislative Update, Mar. 5, 2014) However, while previous worksite enforcement efforts were unannounced, ICE started giving employers advanced notice that they will inspect the I-9 forms — giving employers who used illegal alien labor an opportunity to cover their tracks before ICE arrived.
The abandonment of worksite enforcement underscores the need to make E-Verify mandatory for all employers. E-Verify is highly effective, easy to use, and the only reliable method to ensure the integrity of the workforce.
Texas Governor Abbott Strips Funding from Texas Sanctuary Cities
Last week, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced his plan to strip certain state grants from law enforcement agencies in Texas that refuse to honor requests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials to hold an illegal alien. (Fox News, Nov. 5, 2015) Governor Abbott’s policy follows Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez’s decision to unilaterally determine whether law enforcement in her county will comply with certain ICE detainers, and is an attempt to maintain a uniform policy of cooperation with federal immigration agents by all Texas law enforcement officials.
Governor Abbott first responded to Sheriff Valdez’s decision in late October, announcing that sanctuary policies will “no longer be tolerated” in Texas. (Breitbart, Oct. 26, 2015) Sanctuary policies frequently protect criminal aliens from detection and removal by restricting compliance with detainer requests, often called ICE holds. (Pew Charitable Trusts, Oct. 31, 2014; see FAIR’s Sanctuary Policies Report, Oct. 2013) Sanctuary policies have been the focus of public outrage since the murder of a 32 year-old California woman, Kate Steinle, this summer by an illegal alien suspect who was released by San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi after his office refused to honor ICE’s detainer request.
Under Governor Abbott’s new policy, all Texas Sheriff’s Departments must fully honor detainer requests made by ICE in order to receive grants from the Governor’s Criminal Justice Division (CJD). (Abbott Letter, Nov. 4, 2015) All applicants for CJD grant awards will be required to certify that their official will honor all ICE detainer requests received for “criminal immigrants.” (Id.) Additionally, any subsequent failure to honor an ICE detainer will require the dissenting office to refund the full amount of any CJD award money received. (Id.)
The Obama Administration has already weakened its standard for issuing ICE detainer requests, making any refusal to comply with those the agency actually does issue a particular public safety threat. Late last year, President Obama’s Department of Homeland Security replaced the effective Secure Communities program with the new Priority Enforcement Program (PEP). PEP limits federal agents’ discretion by only allowing DHS to issue detainers for aliens with convictions that have already been determined to be “threats to national security, border security, and public safety,” including “aliens engaged in or suspected of terrorism or espionage.” (DHS Immigration Detainer Form)
“Given [the federal government’s] weakened standard, it is particularly imperative that Texas sheriffs fully participate with ICE’s detainer program so that every single federal detainer request for a criminal immigrant is honored,” Governor Abbott stated in a letter to Sheriff Valdez. (Abbott Letter, Nov. 4, 2015) “More broadly, it is vitally important that Sheriffs lead by example and enforce the rule of law.” (Id.)