Legislative Update: 1/19/2016
Supreme Court to Hear Executive Amnesty Case
The Supreme Court announced that it will take up the case challenging President Obama’s authority to grant executive amnesty to millions of illegal aliens without congressional approval. In a January 19 announcement, the high court said it will add Texas v. U.S., the 26 state lawsuit challenging Obama’s November 2014 executive actions on immigration, to its current term. (See The Hill, Jan. 19, 2016) Specifically, the Supreme Court will decide whether to uphold the injunction blocking the DAPA and expanded DACA amnesty programs until the case is litigated on the merits. In November, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the injunction originally imposed by Judge Hanen in February 2015. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Nov. 17, 2015) The November 2015 ruling by the Fifth Circuit marked the fourth time the Obama administration has lost in court defending DAPA and expanded DACA. (Id.)
Interestingly, in its order accepting certiorari, the Supreme Court added a question for the parties to present arguments on beyond the three raised by the government in its petition for certiorari. The Court also wants the parties to brief and argue whether DAPA and expanded DACA “violates the Take Care Clause of the Constitution, Art. II, §3.” (See Politico, Jan. 19, 2016)
The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in April and issue a ruling in June — just months before the 2016 presidential election. (See The Hill, Jan. 19, 2016) Stay tuned to FAIR’s Texas v. U.S. Resource Page and IRLI.org as details emerge.
Obama Downplays Immigration’s Impact on Economy During State of the Union
Unlike his previous State of the Union addresses, President Obama spent little time on immigration during the final one of his presidency. Over the past couple of years, President Obama has demanded that Congress send him a “comprehensive” immigration reform bill, but this time merely listed “fixing a broken immigration system” among the policy priorities for his final year in office. (State of the Union Address, Jan. 12, 2016) However, immigration did come up while President Obama was discussing ways to improve the economy. “[I]mmigrants aren’t the principal reason wages haven’t gone up enough; those decisions are made in the boardrooms that too often put quarterly earnings over long-term returns,” Obama insisted. (Id.)
In response, FAIR criticized President Obama for downplaying the role that immigration, both legal and illegal, has on the economy. “In his address, the president asserted that immigrants are not the principle reason why wages have not gone up for millions of struggling Americans who have fallen out of the middle class. But that does not mean that excessive immigration and his own refusal to enforce immigration laws are not important exacerbating factors adding to the many national and global conditions that have taken their toll on American workers,” declared FAIR’s president, Dan Stein. (FAIR Press Release, Jan. 13, 2016) Stein continued, “Over seven years, the president has eviscerated immigration enforcement, particularly in the workplace, where some 8 million illegal aliens fill jobs that might otherwise have gone to hard working Americans seeking their fair shot at prosperity.” (Id.) “The reality is that over the course of his presidency, all of the net new jobs created in the U.S. economy were filled by immigrants,” noted Stein. (Id.)
Disappointingly, the GOP response by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley failed to point out the harm Obama’s immigration policies have had on American workers. Instead, she said “We must fix our broken immigration system. That means stopping illegal immigration. And it means welcoming properly vetted legal immigrants, regardless of their race or religion. Just like we have for centuries.” (GOP Response, Jan. 12, 2016) However, Haley — who is frequently mentioned as a potential vice president nominee — called for increasing legal immigration, despite a historical low workforce participation rate. “No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country,” she declared. (Id.)
Outrageously, the Spanish language GOP response deviated from the script on immigration and called for amnesty. According to a translation by the Miami Herald, pro-amnesty Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) said, “It’s essential that we find a legislative solution to protect our nation, defend our borders, offer a permanent and humane solution to those who live in the shadows, respect the rule of law, modernize the visa system and push the economy forward.” (See ImmigrationReform.com, Jan. 15, 2016)
House Judiciary Committee Creates Task Force to Examine Executive Overreach
Last week, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) announced the creation of a Task Force on Executive Overreach to examine the historic increase in presidential power and disregard for the separation of powers. (See Goodlatte Press Release, Jan. 12, 2016) “In recent decades, presidents of both parties have aggrandized their power and usurped Congress to legislate from the Oval Office,” Goodlatte said in a statement. (Id.) “This is not a Republican or Democratic issue; it’s an American issue and touches the very core of our system of government.” (Id.) The announcement comes at a time when the American people are becoming exasperated by the Obama administration’s repeated abuse of executive authority and disregard for the rule of law, especially in the area of immigration policy. For more information, read FAIR’s timeline of President Obama’s Record of Dismantling Immigration Enforcement (update coming soon).
Part of the task force’s mission will be to study the impact that the increase in presidential and Executive Branch power has had on congressional oversight, the lack of transparency that promotes unchecked executive power, and the obligation of the President to faithfully execute the law as required by the Constitution. (See Goodlatte Press Release, Jan. 12, 2016) Moreover, the task force will review ways in which Congress can restore the proper balance of powers and hold the Executive Branch accountable. (Id.) “The separation of powers and its checks and balances are designed to protect individual liberty and we must ensure that it is preserved for future generations,” Goodlatte noted. (Id.)
The newly created task force will be chaired by true immigration reformer Rep. Steve King (R-IA). (Id.) Additional Republican members of the task force are Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Jim Jordan (R-OH), Ted Poe (R-TX), Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Raul Labrador (R-ID), Ron DeSantis (R-FL), Ken Buck (R-CO), and Mike Bishop (R-MI). (Id.) Chairman Goodlatte will serve as an ex officio member of the task force. (Id.) To see how task force members voted on recent immigration measures, review FAIR’s latest Congressional Voting Report.
The House Judiciary Committee plans to mark up a resolution to authorize the task force for six months in the coming weeks. (See Goodlatte Press Release)
REAL ID to Finally be Implemented 13 Years After Enactment
Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson announced that the REAL ID Act will finally be fully implemented in 2018, or 13 years after it became law in 2005. In a January 8 press release Johnson said, “Effective January 22, 2018, air travelers with a driver’s license or identification card issued by a state that does not meet the requirements of the REAL ID Act (unless that state has been granted an extension to comply with the Act) must present an alternative form of identification acceptable to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in order to board a commercial domestic flight.” (Johnson Press Release, Jan. 8, 2016)
The REAL ID Act was enacted in 2005, pursuant to the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, after it was discovered that many of the 9/11 hijackers had fraudulently obtained driver’s licenses and used them in planning their attacks. (See FAIR’s REAL ID Fact Sheet) REAL ID increases national security by requiring states to comply with rules to verify the authenticity of driver’s licenses. Specifically, the REAL ID Act prohibits residents from non-compliant states from using their state-issued IDs for official federal purposes, such as boarding commercial aircraft, entering federal buildings, or accessing nuclear facilities. (Id.) Implementing these requirements will make it harder for terrorists to obtain fake IDs and close loopholes that make it easier for illegal aliens to live and work in the United States. (Id.)
The Obama administration has consistently undermined the REAL ID Act by repeatedly issuing “temporary deferment” to all states that have not yet met its requirements. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Jan. 22, 2013; FAIR Legislative Update, Mar. 26, 2012) Contrary to the REAL ID Act, these temporary deferments allowed Federal agencies to accept non-compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards for boarding commercial aircraft and other official purposes. The delayed implementation also permitted states to grant driver’s licenses and ID cards to illegal aliens.
According to DHS Secretary Johnson’s press release, the Obama administration will not further delay implementation, calling the January 8 announcement “the final phase of implementation of the REAL ID Act.” (Johnson Press Release, Jan. 8, 2016) Currently, only 23 states are fully compliant with REAL ID despite the law being passed 11 years ago. (See Keeping IDentities Safe Map of REAL ID Compliance)
Sessions, Brat Urge GOP Colleagues to Curb Immigration
Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest, and Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA), urged their Republican colleagues to adopt an immigration reform agenda that rejects special interests and instead brings current high levels of immigration under control. (Breitbart, Jan. 12, 2016; seeSessions and Brat Press Release, Jan. 13, 2016)
In a letter penned last week, the two true immigration reformers called for an approach to immigration that is more in line with what Republican voters support. (Breitbart, Jan. 12, 2016) “The enormity of what is happening is somehow being lost on our political leaders. But it is not lost on the American people,” the pair wrote. (Id.) “Immigration affects every aspect of our constituents’ lives. It affects their jobs, wages, schools, hospitals, neighborhood crime, social stability, and community living standards.” (Id.)
The letter was hand delivered to all Republican lawmakers’ offices in advance of the GOP’s annual retreat in Baltimore. (Id.) At the retreat, House and Senate Republicans openly discussed policy ideas and mapped out a legislative strategy for the coming year. (Id.) With House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) trumpeting the need to develop and promote a bold agenda in order to shape the presidential election, the pair argued that the time has come for Republican lawmakers to unite around an immigration reform agenda that begins with legislation to reduce immigration. (Real Clear Politics, Jan. 15, 2016; Breitbart, Jan. 12, 2016) “If we want to lay out a ‘bold, conservative agenda,’ and demonstrate that we serve the voters — and not the special interests — we should begin by advancing bills to reduce out-of-control immigration. That is the reform our voters want, and that is what we must deliver,” Sessions and Brat wrote. (Breitbart, Jan. 12, 2016)
Florida Legislature Advances True Immigration Reform Bills
Members of the Florida House Civil Justice Subcommittee voted 9-4 to support immigration enforcement efforts by advancing House Bill (HB) 675, on Wednesday, January 13. HB 675 would prohibit the State of Florida and its cities and counties from instituting dangerous sanctuary policies that impede the enforcement of immigration law. (Palm Beach Post, Jan. 13, 2016)
Specifically, HB 675 prohibits any state or local government entity from instituting a policy, practice, or procedure that interferes with a state or local law enforcement official’s ability to comply with immigration detainers received by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Furthermore, the bill would prohibit policies that restrict ICE agents’ access to inmates for interviews, and ensure that state and local officials can initiate immigration status investigations with the federal government, and provide ICE with an inmate’s status or release date.
Importantly, the measure ensures that state and local law enforcement are not constrained from maintaining the immigration status information of an individual, exchanging such information with federal immigration officials, or using such information to determine eligibility for a public benefit, service, or state awarded license. (Id.) Jurisdictions that violate HB 675 are subject to a fine of at least $1000, but not more than $5,000, per day that the policy was in effect. (Id.)
Representative Larry Metz (R-District 32) introduced HB 675 to ensure state and local law enforcement comply with federal immigration law and protect the public. Sanctuary policies recklessly prioritize the interests of criminal aliens over the general public by shielding them from federal enforcement efforts. Many sanctuary policies require local law enforcement to release criminal aliens back into communities despite notification from ICE that the suspect has already been identified as a national security or public safety threat. (FAIR Report, Oct. 2 2015) “This bill would basically say, as a matter of policy in the state of Florida, that we’re not going to tolerate state or local governmental agencies from refusing to cooperate with the enforcement of existing federal immigration law,” Representative Metz said of his legislation. (Palm Beach Post, Jan. 13, 2015)
HB 675 was not the only bill supporting immigration enforcement that was advanced in the state legislature last week. The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee passed a measure, HB 9, on Wednesday that would make presence in Florida a felony for those who have absconded final orders of removal issued by the federal government. Representative Carlos Trujillo (R-District 105) sponsored HB 9 because of concerns that the government is selectively enforcing the law. (Palm Beach Post, Jan. 13, 2016) “At what point do we say we’re not a country of laws?” Representative Trujillo said. (Id.) It is unclear whether HB 9 would withstand judicial scrutiny if the measure becomes law.
The House Judiciary Committee must approve HB 675 and HB 9 before they can be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration. If passed by the House of Representatives, the Senate must consider the bill before it can be sent to Governor Rick Scott’s desk for signature. Governor Scott has not yet commented on either measure.