Legislative Update: 1/12/2016
ICE Enforcement ‘Raids’ Remove Only 121 Illegal Aliens
Responding to criticism over the handling of the surge of unaccompanied alien minors (UACs) and family units from Central America since 2014, the Obama administration announced over the holidays that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would begin “large-scale” deportation raids. (See The Hill, Dec. 24, 2015) According to an anonymous official, the raids target illegal alien adults and children who have already had their asylum claims denied and have been ordered removed from the country. (Washington Post, Dec. 23, 2015) However, the ICE raids—which took place in Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas—led to the arrest of only 121 illegal aliens who are now in removal proceedings. (The Hill, Jan. 4, 2016)
Although the Obama administration detained only 121 of the more than 100,000 Central American UACs and family units that have unlawfully crossed the border the past couple of years, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson defended the effort. “As I have said repeatedly, our borders are not open to illegal migration; if you come here illegally, we will send you back consistent with our laws and values,” Johnson insisted. (Johnson Press Release, Jan. 4, 2016) He continued, “I have said publicly for months that individuals who constitute enforcement priorities, including families and unaccompanied children, will be removed.” (Id.) The enforcement priorities Johnson referenced was part of President Obama’s November 2014 executive actions on immigration. (FAIR Legislative Update, Nov. 24, 2014) Under the new enforcement priorities, which replaced the Morton Memos, the Obama administration established an even narrower category of illegal aliens it will enforce the law against, including recent border crossers. (Id.)
Despite the small number of illegal aliens captured during the “raids,” amnesty advocates blasted the Obama administration for this minimal effort to enforce the law. “The raids by the Obama administration on families from Central America must stop. They are a cruel reminder of a discredited policy,” complained Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL). (The Hill, Jan. 5, 2016) Remarkably, amnesty-supporting religious groups have gone so far as to announce that they will house the Central American illegal aliens to shield them from ICE. (See Washington Post, Jan. 6, 2016)
OBAMA ADMINISTRATION USING MORE MILITARY BASES TO HOUSE UACS
As unaccompanied alien minors (UACs) from Central America continue to surge across the border unlawfully, the Obama administration is struggling with how to handle the crisis. With Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) facilities at capacity, officials have resorted to temporarily housing UACs on military bases. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Dec. 15, 2015) At the end of December, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter directed Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico to house 400 UACs. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Jan. 5, 2016)
Now, the Obama administration is considering using more military bases to handle the UAC overflow. According to a DoD e-mail sent to Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL), the government is beginning “site assessments” at six military facilities: Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Alabama; Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida; Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota; Naval Support Activity in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts; and Travis Air Force Base in California. (See Washington Examiner, Jan. 6, 2016) Additionally, DoD is preparing 1,600 beds at two federal worker centers: Homestead Jobs Corps in Florida and Denver Federal Campus. (Id.)
In response, Rep. Roby blasted the Obama administration’s decision to house UACs at military bases. In a letter to HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell, Roby said “Air Force personnel at Maxwell-Gunter… are working hard to keep America safe. That mission is challenging enough without the added responsibility of housing, feeding, and securing detainees.” (Roby Letter to Burwell, Jan. 4, 2016) Noting that the Alabama Air Force base is “an active military installation that is home to robust military activities and a number of highly classified programs,” Roby declared, “It is entirely inappropriate to house illegal immigrants at this or other active military installations.” (Id.)
Last week, FAIR’s Government Relations team released the latest Congressional Voting Report, covering the First Session of the 114th Congress. The Voting Report is designed to help you understand how your lawmakers voted on immigration measures in furtherance of a rational immigration system. Specifically, this report includes votes on:
- Defunding President Obama’s unlawful executive amnesty programs
- Nominating pro-amnesty U.S. District Attorney Loretta Lynch to become Attorney General
- Defunding State and local jurisdictions with dangerous “sanctuary city” policies.
We encourage all of our members to review the Congressional Voting Report and learn more about how their lawmakers are representing them. You can access the report here.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney issued a package of executive orders shortly after being sworn into office on January 4. (City of Philadelphia, Jan. 4, 2016) Included in the package was a directive to city law enforcement to refuse cooperation with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by rejecting detainer requests submitted by the agency. (Id.; Blue Mass Group, Jan. 5, 2016) A detainer is a request to state or local law enforcement to maintain custody of a criminal alien for up to two days so ICE may arrange to assume custody and ultimately initiate removal proceedings. (DHS Immigration Detainer Form; DHS Request for Notification Form) However, pursuant to new ICE policies, many detainer requests issued by federal officials merely ask law enforcement to notify ICE of the anticipated date of release of the alien in custody. (Id.)
Specifically, Mayor Kenney’s executive order prohibits the city from complying with all detainers unless a criminal alien has already been convicted of a first or second degree felony and the federal government provides the city a judicial warrant. Because of this requirement, very few, if any, aliens will be transferred to the federal authorities under Mayor Kenney’s order because ICE does not generally issue judicial warrants for detainer requests.
Mayor Kenney’s executive order was issued shortly after former Mayor Michael Nutter announced that the city would resume cooperation with the ICE by participating in the agency’s new Priority Enforcement Program (PEP). (City of Philadelphia, Dec. 22, 2015) The program was initiated by the Obama Administration in late 2014 to replace the effective Secure Communities program. PEP weakens the federal government’s standard for issuing ICE detainer requests and limits federal officials’ discretion by only allowing agents 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; DHS Request for Notification Form) Thus, Mayor Kenney’s executive order requires criminal aliens that the federal government has already determined to be a threat to public safety to be released back onto the streets.
Prior to PEP’s implementation, former Mayor Nutter issued a similar executive order that shielded criminal aliens residing in Philadelphia by prohibiting city officials from complying with ICE detainers. However, Nutter partially rescinded this policy on December 22, 2015 when he issued the executive order that announced city participation in the program. (City of Philadelphia, Dec. 22, 2015) It is important to note that a jurisdiction may participate in PEP, but not actually comply with all detainers requests made by the federal agency.
Sanctuary policies, which shield illegal aliens from detection by federal immigration officials by restricting communication and cooperation between state and local officials with the federal government, have been the focus of public outrage since the murder of a 32 year-old California woman, Kate Steinle, last 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. Since July, legislators from around the country have introduced legislation to protect public safety and prohibit local government officials from instituting sanctuary policies.