Legislative Update: 2/28/2017
Nearly One Million Illegal Aliens With Final Orders of Removal Still Free
By: RJ Hauman
Despite alarmist claims by open borders Democrats that the Trump administration had begun a nationwide crackdown on illegal aliens, almost one million illegal aliens living in the U.S. who have been ordered deported remain free. (Washington Examiner, Feb. 20, 2017) In total, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested 680 illegal aliens in recent sweeps across 11 states. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Feb. 21, 2017) This recent enforcement effort—which was planned under the Obama administration—resulted in the apprehension of only .07 percent of the 950,062 illegal aliens with final orders of removal as of May 21, 2016. (Washington Examiner, Feb. 20, 2017) The majority of the illegal aliens arrested and detained are gang members, sex offenders, rapists, and drug traffickers. (Id.)
Facing the overwhelming task of addressing the existing illegal alien population of approximately 13 million, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly recently authorized the hiring of an additional 10,000 ICE agents and enforcement officers. (Breitbart, Feb. 20, 2017) The move by DHS begins the implementation of President Trump’s executive order to increase enforcement–particularly in removing criminal aliens inside the borders of the U.S. (Id; see FAIR Legislative Update, Jan. 31, 2017)
Along with the increase in manpower, President Trump has empowered ICE agents by replacing Obama administration policies that exempted large classes of removable aliens from potential enforcement. The new enforcement priorities established by executive order on January 25 truly prioritize the enforcement of immigration law against criminal aliens (subject to certain grounds of inadmissibility), aliens who commit crimes, aliens who abuse public taxpayer benefits, or are otherwise a national security concern. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Jan. 31, 2017) These enforcement priorities are a proper use of “prosecutorial discretion” compared to Obama administration policies that exempted from enforcement all illegal aliens who did not meet their very narrow “enforcement priorities.” (See FAIR Legislative Update, Nov. 11, 2014) For example, the previous administration only considered recent border crossers, aliens who illegally reentered after deportation, significant visa abusers, and aliens with final orders of removal to be “priorities” for enforcement. (Id.) However, even if such illegal aliens were in state or local custody, they would be released and the administration would not seek to begin deportation proceedings. (Id.)
Poll Shows Americans Support Trump’s Immigration Proposals
By Shari Rendall
A new poll conducted by Harvard-Harris revealed that Americans overwhelmingly oppose sanctuary cities and want aliens who commit crimes deported. (The Hill, Feb. 21, 2017) The Harvard-Harris poll, conducted between February 11- 13, is significant because of the 2,148 registered voters surveyed, 39 percent were Democrats, 30 percent Republicans, 27 percent Independents and 4 percent other. (Id.)
According to the Harvard-Harris poll, the crackdown on sanctuary cities by President Trump was the most popular among his immigration executive orders. On January 25, President Trump signed an interior enforcement executive order that gave the Attorney General and Department of Homeland Security Secretary the authority to ensure “that jurisdictions that willfully refuse to comply with [the anti-sanctuary city statute] are not eligible to receive Federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes.” (See FAIR Legislative Update, Jan. 31, 2017) Eighty percent of the respondents said they want local authorities to comply with federal law and report illegal aliens they encounter. (The Hill, Feb. 21, 2017) Although Trump’s executive order is a bold first step, Congress must pass The Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act, a bill that denies certain non-law enforcement grants to jurisdictions that impede the enforcement of federal immigration law, to ensure that future administrations will not be able to shield sanctuary jurisdictions. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) introduced the bill (S. 87) in the Senate and Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) introduced the companion (H.R. 400) in the House of Representatives.
Not surprisingly, the poll also found that the American people are deeply concerned about our borders and national security. Among those surveyed, 75 percent support efforts to increase the number of border patrol agents and 53 percent of respondents back President Trump’s national security executive order until proper vetting can be instituted. (Id.) A 38 percent plurality of respondents fear that the suspension of the travel freeze order by an activist judge jeopardizes national security. (Id., see FAIR Legislative Update, Feb. 7, 2017)
The poll also found broader support for President Trump’s policy on refugees than President Obama’s. Despite high ranking officials warning of the government’s inability to screen refugees from dangerous parts of the world, the Obama administration admitted 84,995 refugees in Fiscal Year 2016 and announced it was increasing the refugee resettlement to 110,000 for Fiscal Year 2017, with an emphasis on Syrian refugee resettlement. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Jan. 31, 2017) President Trump took several measures to undo Obama’s reckless refugee policy. In addition to the indefinite freeze on Syrian refugee resettlement that is currently blocked by the courts, Trump used executive authority to cap Fiscal Year 2017 refugee admissions at 50,000. (Id.) According to the Harvard-Harris Poll, 51 percent of those surveyed agree with President Trump that admitting 100,000 refugees is too much. (The Hill, Feb. 21, 2017)
This polling comes on the heels of one conducted by McLaughlin and Associates which found 59 percent of American voters support President Trump’s executive order to defund sanctuary jurisdictions. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Feb. 21, 2017) While there are over 300 sanctuary jurisdictions in the United States that shield illegal aliens from removal, the top 10 sanctuary cities receive $2.27 billion in federal funding for programs ranging from public health services to early childhood education. (The Hill, Feb. 21, 2017; see FAIR’s Sanctuary Policies Across America, January 2017)
Trump to Unveil New Travel Freeze Executive Order Tomorrow
By: Robert Law
According to a senior administration official, President Donald Trump is expected to sign a new executive order tomorrow temporarily freezing refugee and other admissions by foreigners from seven countries that are hotbeds for terrorism. (Associated Press, Feb. 27, 2017) The president was originally going to sign the new order last week but White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump held off “to make sure that when we execute this, it’s done in a manner that’s flawless.” (Id.; see FAIR Legislative Update, Feb. 21, 2017)
The White House was forced to issue a new executive order after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an activist judge’s temporary restraining order (TRO) that blocked the administration from implementing part of its national security executive order. (FAIR Legislative Update, Feb. 14, 2017) On January 27, President Trump signed an executive order entitled, “Protect the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” that, among other things, (1) temporarily barred the entry of individuals from seven countries linked to terrorism for 90 days; (2) temporarily barred all refugee resettlement for 120 days; and (3) indefinitely paused the resettlement of refugees from Syria. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Jan. 31, 2017) Outrageously, federal District Judge James Robart blocked these provisions by issuing a TRO just days after the order was signed despite the Immigration and Nationality Act giving the president clear authority to take these steps to protect national security. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Feb. 7, 2017)
At this point it is unclear how the new executive order will differ from the original one. Stay tuned to FAIR as details emerge…
State Lawmakers Advance Anti-Sanctuary Legislation
By State & Local Government Relations
The movement to ban sanctuary policies has picked up momentum in numerous state legislatures this month. Sanctuary policies are laws or orders that prohibit or restrict law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration officials, allowing criminal aliens to live and work freely in communities. Notably, in addition to granting law enforcement the ability to cooperate with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, many lawmakers are now also including provisions to ban sanctuary policies in taxpayer-funded colleges and universities.
The Georgia House of Representatives passed House Bill 37 last week to prohibit private colleges and universities in the state from instituting any policy role or practice to prohibit or restrict employees from communicating or cooperating with federal immigration officials or law enforcement officers. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Feb. 22, 2017) The Georgia Senate must consider HB 37 before it can be sent to Governor Nathan Deal (R) for approval.
The Mississippi Senate passed Senate Bill 2710 last week to prohibit all public entities, including state agencies and municipalities and publically-funded institutions of higher education, from instituting a sanctuary policy that restricts any person from communicating or cooperating with federal officials regarding the immigration status information. (Clarion-Ledger, Feb. 23, 2017) The Mississippi House must approve SB 2710 before it can be sent to Governor Phil Bryant (R) for signature.
Lawmakers in Virginia passed HB 2000 to prohibit localities from adopting policies that restrict the enforcement of federal immigration laws to less than the full extent permitted under federal law. (Washington Times, Feb. 22, 2017) Before passing the measure however, the Virginia House removed provisions of HB 2000 that would have required public contractors who contract with Virginia localities to use E-Verify, a free, web-based program maintained by the federal government, to verify the work authorization status of their employees. (Introduced Version) HB 2000 must be signed by Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) or survive a veto-override vote by the legislature before it can become law. Last week, Governor McAuliffe reiterated his intention to veto the measure. (Washington Post, Feb. 22, 2017)
The Texas Senate passed SB 4 earlier this month to require state and local law enforcement, including campus police at public colleges and universities, to cooperate with federal immigration officials. (Texas Tribune, Feb. 7, 2017) SB 4 also specifically requires compliance with ICE detainers and denies state funding to entities with active sanctuary policies. (SB 4) The Texas House must approve SB 4 before it can be sent to Governor Greg Abbott’s (R) office for signature. Governor Abbott announced his support for the measure and marked SB 4’s passage as a priority for the year.
Lawmakers in at least 20 other states (including Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Tennessee) are also considering anti-sanctuary legislation to defeat sanctuary policies in their jurisdictions. FAIR encourages its members to contact their lawmakers to stress the importance of enacting anti-sanctuary legislation.
President Trump Addresses Congress Tonight
By Shari Rendall
President Donald Trump will address a joint session of Congress tonight at 9 p.m. eastern. During his first major address since the inauguration, President Trump will have the opportunity to lay out his legislative agenda to Congress and the American people. (Wall Street Journal, Jan. 24, 2017) Immigration is expected to be heavily featured during the speech, with Trump likely defending the border and interior enforcement executive orders he penned and potentially previewing the revised travel freeze order. Thus far, Republican leadership has failed to advance any immigration bills despite lawmakers having introduced a number of important bills in the first two months of the 115th Congress. The primetime speech is an opportunity to offer Congress guidance on how they should proceed to pass true immigration reform legislation.
Despite Trump’s immigration platform playing a key role in his Electoral College victory, Democrats are doubling down on their open borders agenda. Gang of Eight leader, and current Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced that illegal alien Astrid Silva will give the Democrats’ Spanish-language response after President Trump concludes his remarks.
Stay tuned to FAIR for post-address analysis.