Legislative Update: 2/9/2016
Nearly 180,000 Fugitive Criminal Aliens Remain in U.S.
New Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) data reveals that the Obama administration is not even enforcing the law against illegal aliens who fall under the administration’s enforcement priorities. The ICE data, obtained by true immigration reformer Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) in his capacity as Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest, shows that at least 179,027 illegal aliens remain in the country despite having been convicted of a crime and received final orders of removal from an immigration judge. (Sessions Press Release, Feb. 4, 2016) Providing some context for these numbers during the presidential election campaign, Sessions includes a chart demonstrating that there are approximately 70,000 more fugitive criminal aliens in the country than the population of New Hampshire’s largest city, Manchester. (Id.) Noting that ICE only removed approximately 60,000 criminal aliens last year, Sessions points out that at that rate it would take “nearly three years” to remove just the current criminal alien population. (Id.; see FAIR Legislative Update, Jan. 5, 2016)
The presence of nearly 180,000 fugitive criminal aliens demonstrates that President Obama is unwilling to enforce our immigration laws even against illegal aliens his administration considers a “priority” for removal. As part of the November 2014 sweeping executive actions on immigration, President Obama repealed the Morton Memos and established new priorities for immigration enforcement against an even narrower class of illegal aliens. Under the guise of “prosecutorial discretion,” the Obama administration claimed it will focus “limited” resources on three tiers of illegal aliens:
- Aliens who pose a threat to national security, border security, or public safety — including aliens convicted of a felony (except an immigration-related felony) and aliens convicted of aggravated felonies;
- Misdemeanants and new immigration violators; and
- Aliens who have been issued a final order of removal after January 1, 2014. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Nov. 24, 2014)
Although the data obtained by Sen. Sessions does not reveal the nature of the criminal convictions, all 179,027 appear to fall within the Obama administration’s “enforcement priorities” — including potential Level 1 priority for felony and aggravated felony convictions — making their continued presence in the country even more outrageous.
Key Republican Appropriator Urges Lynch to Stop Sanctuary Cities, Threatens Justice Department Funding
Congressman John Culberson (R-TX), chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the Justice Department, wrote a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch threatening to exercise his budget authority if she does not take steps to shut down sanctuary cities — state and local jurisdictions with policies intended to impede the enforcement of immigration law by federal immigration officials. (See FAIR Sanctuary Policies Page) “Sanctuary city policies across the country prevent state and local law enforcement from notifying the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) when an illegal alien is released from their custody,” the Texas Republican said. (Culberson Press Release, Feb. 1, 2016) ”This is unacceptable, and it allows thousands of criminal aliens to remain on the streets.” (Id.)
Specifically, Culberson outlined several actions that he expects Lynch to take in order to ensure compliance with existing Federal immigration law — notably Section 1373 of the Immigration and Nationality Act — and help prevent the release of criminal aliens into American communities. These include:
- Work with state and local jurisdictions to change their illegal sanctuary policies. If they refuse, then take legal action to compel their compliance with Section 1373;
- For fiscal year 2016, amend the application forms for Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants (Byrne JAG), Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grants, and the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) reimbursement program to require grantees to certify that they do not have policies that violate Section 1373;
- Deny funding to any state and local jurisdictions that refuse to comply with Section 1373; and
- Determine if state and local jurisdictions that knowingly release criminal aliens are in violation of Section 1324 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which prohibits shielding illegal aliens from detection.
If Lynch refuses to take the aforementioned actions, Culberson warned that the Justice Department could face consequences when Congress writes its 2017 spending bill. “Any refusal by the Department to comply with these reasonable and timely requests will factor heavily in my consideration of their 2017 budget requests, and whether or not I will include language in the fiscal year 2017 CJS appropriations bill prohibiting the award of law enforcement grants to jurisdictions that harbor illegal aliens.” (Culberson Press Release, Feb. 1, 2016)
Florida House Passes Bill to Ban Sanctuary Cities
The Florida House of Representatives passed House Bill (HB) 675 on Thursday, February 4, to prohibit localities in the state from instituting sanctuary policies that impede the enforcement of immigration law. (Breitbart, Feb. 5, 2016) Sanctuary policies prevent state and local officials from contacting or cooperating with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regarding to matters concerning criminal aliens. (FAIR Report, Oct. 2 2015) Representative Larry Metz (R, District 32) sponsored HB 675, which was approved in the state House by a vote of 80-32. (Breitbart, Feb. 5, 2016)
Specifically, HB 675 supports the enforcement of immigration law by prohibiting Florida’s cities and counties from implementing policies, ordinances, practices, procedures, or customs that prevent local officials from cooperating with federal immigration authorities. (HB 675) Under HB 675, state and local officials must be allowed to initiate immigration status investigations, respond to a request by DHS for notification of the release date of an inmate, provide federal agents access to an inmate for an interview, and comply with immigration detainers. (Id.; DHS Immigration Detainer Form; DHS Request for Notification Form)
HB 675 also promotes cooperation between DHS and state and local officials by requiring that state and local officials, including law enforcement officers, are not restricted from sending or receiving immigration status information to the federal government, maintaining immigration status information, or using that information to determine eligibility for a public benefit, service, or license pursuant to federal or state law. (HB 675)The measure also allows state and local officials to use immigration status information to verify a claim of residence or determine the identity of a person who is detained by law enforcement. (Id.)
Indeed, federal immigration law was written contemplating cooperation and assistance from local law enforcement officials. “Without both border security and internal enforcement, the system breaks down, and to fix it, we have to do our part in the state of Florida,” commented Representative Metz. (Breitbart, Feb. 5, 2016)
Florida is just one of about a dozen states considering legislation this year to prohibit sanctuary policies. Recent media attention to crimes committed by criminal aliens has reignited public outrage and motivated lawmakers around the country to introduce legislation in support of immigration enforcement. Outcry against sanctuary policies peaked after 32 year-old Kate Steinle was fatally shot by a criminal alien in San Francisco, California this July. The suspect is an illegal alien who was released by the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department in accord with the Department’s sanctuary policy. “It was a sort of a very tragic reminder of what can happen when we have sanctuary policies and we certainly don’t want that to happen anywhere,” commented Representative Metz. (Breitbart, Feb. 5, 2016)
The Florida Senate must approve HB 675 before it can be sent to Governor Rick Scott’s desk for signature. If signed into law, the passage of HB 675 will mark a major victory for true immigration reformers in the state.