Legislative Update: 3/1/2016
Obama Administration Admits Sanctuary Cities are a Problem
Several weeks ago Rep. John Culberson (R-TX), chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the Department of Justice (DOJ), 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 Culberson Letter to DOJ, Feb. 1, 2016; FAIR Legislative Update, Feb. 9, 2016)
Specifically, Culberson outlined several actions that he expected 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. Culberson warned that “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)
The DOJ finally issued their response to Culberson in a letter signed by Assistant Attorney General Peter J. Kadzik, which was released shortly before Attorney General Loretta Lynch testified before the subcommittee last Wednesday. (DOJ Letter to Culberson, Feb. 23, 2016) The response was initially lauded as a major shift in policy by the Obama administration to enforce the law against sanctuary cities. However, as FAIR noted in its line-by-line analysis, the Obama administration’s response does not appear to be an actual shift in policy but a carefully worded document that was intentionally crafted to give the administration maximum leeway.
Importantly, the DOJ letter does represent the first instance of the Obama administration conceding that sanctuary cities are a public safety danger. “Kadzik’s letter represents the first clear admission by the Obama administration that sanctuary jurisdictions pose a risk to public safety and that they violate federal law,” declared Dan Stein, FAIR’s president. (FAIR Press Release, Feb. 25, 2016) “In the past, including in the aftermath of last summer’s killing in San Francisco of Kate Steinle by an illegal alien with a long criminal record, the administration has dismissed the connection between sanctuary policies and public safety as mere anomalies. Now it is on record acknowledging the dangers of not enforcing our nation’s immigration laws.” (Id.)
The key House appropriators are vowing to hold the Obama administration accountable in the aftermath of the letter. Subcommittee Chairman Culberson continues to threaten the administration with the appropriations process if they fail to satisfactorily punish sanctuary cities. “There will be no more Kate Steinle murders, if I can help it,” Culberson told reporters. (TownHall, Feb. 28, 2016)Similarly, full Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) has requested DOJ to report back in four months on the implementation of the new policies.
Stay tuned to FAIR as details emerge…
Senator Sessions Introduces Bill to Address UAC Crisis
Since the summer of 2014 unaccompanied alien minors (UACs) from Central America have surged across the border unlawfully at record numbers. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Dec. 15, 2015; FAIR Legislative Update, June 11, 2014) Fueled by President Obama’s non-enforcement policies, the Central American UACs continue to make the trip to the Southern border because they know they will get to stay in the U.S. once they arrive. Specifically, because of a loophole in the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2008, UACs from Central America cannot be promptly returned to their home countries. (P. Law 110-457) Instead, they receive a “notice to appear” which sets a court date in the future before an immigration judge but illegal aliens refer to these official documents as “permisos” or free passes. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Dec. 1, 2015) Unsurprisingly, the National Border Patrol Council estimates that 80-90 percent of UACs fail to show up for the hearing and disappear into the interior of the country. (Id.)
In response, true immigration reformer Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) introduced legislation that closes the TVPRA loophole and ensures the prompt return of UACs who illegally cross the border. Known as the “Protection of Children Act,” (S. 2561) the bill amends TVPRA Section 235(a) to establish the same removal process for all UACs, regardless of their country of origin. (FAIR Summary of S. 2561) The bill also requires that UACs appear before an immigration judge within 14 days after being screened and prohibits the use of taxpayer funds to provide attorneys for the hearings. (Id.) For UACs who are placed in the custody of someone in the U.S., the bill requires the Department of Health and Human Services to collect background information to prevent the release of UACs to illegal aliens already in the country. (Id.) The Sessions-Johnson bill is the companion to the House version (H.R. 1149), authored by Rep. John Carter (R-TX) and passed out of the House Judiciary Committee last year. (See FAIR Summary of H.R. 1149; House Judiciary Markup of H.R. 1149)
FAIR supports H.R. 1149 and S. 2561.
A new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the federal government’s watchdog, revealed that the United States is the world largest source of remittances. (Washington Examiner, Feb. 23, 2016) The report, one of two produced at the request of Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), estimates that foreign-born residents in the U.S. sent an astounding $52.4 billion in remittances abroad in 2014. (Vitter Press Release, Feb. 26, 2016; see Vitter Press Release, July, 23, 2014) “The GAO reports I have requested and made public today help us determine how massive the remittances problem is with illegal immigrants sending billions out of the U.S. — money they likely haven’t paid income taxes on,” Vitter stated in a press release. (Vitter Press Release, Feb. 26, 2016)
In 2006, the GAO found that the United States was the largest remittance-sending country in the world. Foreign-born residents in the U.S. sent nearly $38 billion to households abroad, and, estimates from the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) have shown that $25 billion of remittances come from illegal aliens each year. (Id.) The newly released GAO report includes updated estimates, which confirm that the U.S. remains the largest remittance-sending country in the world. (Id.) Of the $54.2 billion in remittances sent abroad in 2014, the GAO, citing the World Bank’s Bilateral Remittance Matrix, estimates that $25 billion was sent to Mexico, $15 billion to China, and $10 billion to India. (Id.)
Both reports produced by the GAO emphasize the importance of Vitter’s legislation, S. 79, The Remittance Status Verification Act, also known as the Wire Act. This legislation would require a remittance transfer provider to request proof that a sender, transmitting funds to a recipient located in another country, is in the country lawfully, or to collect a fee if the sender cannot verify legal status. (Vitter Press Release, July, 23, 2014) The money accrued through fees would go to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to cover costs of enforcing the legislation, and any leftover funds would be transferred to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to enhance border security. (Id.) Along with creating a disincentive for illegal aliens to send money to their home countries, the GAO estimated that Vitter’s legislation could raise up to $1 billion for border security. (Vitter Press Release, Feb. 23, 2016) “The Obama administration has shown a complete lack of both competence and interest when it comes to securing our borders and enforcing our immigration laws. And that’s costing us a lot of money. Billions, in fact,” Vitter said. (Id.) “What my legislation would do is basically improve on our border security while making illegal immigrants pay for it.” (Id.)
You can access the reports here:
- Money Laundering Risk and Views on Enhanced Customer Verification and Recordkeeping Requirements (GAO-16-60)
- Actions Needed to Address Unreliable Official U.S. Estimate (GAO-16-65)
Last Thursday, true immigration reformer Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest, held a hearing entitled “The Impact of High-Skilled Immigration on U.S. Workers.” (Judiciary.gov) The hearing focused on the thousands of U.S. workers being replaced by foreign labor. The witnesses were: Leo Perrero, former Disney IT Engineer; John Miano, IRLI Of Counsel; Mark O’Neill, JackThreads Chief Technology Officer; Prof. Hal Salzman, Rutgers University; Prof. Chad Sparber, Colgate University; and Prof. Ron Hira, Howard University.
In his opening remarks, Chairman Sessions highlighted the plight of thousands of American workers being displaced by H-1B foreign workers. (Sen. Sessions’ statement, Feb. 25, 2016) Underscoring the situation, Sessions showed a picture from Connecticut-based Northeast Utilities, now Eversource, where American workers placed American flags outside of their cubicles. All of those American workers were replaced by H-1B workers (who the U.S. workers were forced to train) and the flags were removed. (Id.) Although Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), who represents those displaced workers, stated that he was troubled by the situation at Eversource, his solution would further hurt American workers. Specifically, Sen. Blumenthal is a cosponsor of Sen. Orrin Hatch’s (R-UT) “I-Squared” bill that would triple the number of H-1Bs visas without providing any protections for American workers. (See S. 153)
Mr. Perrero’s moving testimony about being laid off from his job at Disney despite outstanding performance reviews revealed that companies are using the H-1B program to replace American workers. The fact that STEM American workers have been displaced by H-1B workers is often hidden because employers threaten to void their severance packages if the displaced Americans speak out. Mr. Perrero pointed out that many companies are following this practice, including Southern California Edison (SCE), which the Labor Department recently determined legally used the H-1B program to replace 400 Americans with foreign workers. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Sept. 15, 2015; FAIR Legislative Update, Feb. 18, 2015)
IRLI Counsel John Miano and Profs. Hira and Salzman used their testimony to explain how the loopholes in the H-1B law make it perfectly legal for companies to replace American workers with foreign H-1B workers. The three witnesses pointed out that there is nothing in the law regulating H-1B visas requiring employers to hire U.S. citizens first or lay them off last. Instead, the labor condition application only requires employers to attest that the H-1B worker “will not adversely affect the working conditions of workers similarly employed.” (INA 212(n)(1)(A)(ii)) This wording allows employers to tailor the H-1B job description so they can claim that laid off American workers are not “similarly employed.” Additionally, the witnesses pointed out that H-1B workers are preferred because they are immobile and the statutory “prevailing wage” is lower than the free market wage an American worker could command.
A particularly outrageous moment occurred during Ranking Member Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) questioning. Schumer, who led the Gang of Eight and was not present when Mr. Perrero was brought to tears telling his story, concluded his remarks by looking Mr. Perrero in the eyes and declaring that Mr. Perrero would not have lost his job if the Senate’s mass amnesty guest worker bill had become law. (See ImmigrationReform.com, Feb. 25, 2016)
In fact, had S. 744 become law Mr. Perrero would likely have lost his job sooner than he did. Indeed, a critical moment during the Senate Judiciary Committee markup of the bill came when Schumer struck a deal with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) that eliminated the few protections for American workers written into the bill. (See FAIR’s S. 744 H-1B Summary) Furthermore, the Schumer-Hatch deal limited the number of employers required to attest that they have not displaced U.S. workers. (Id.) Finally, the deal nearly tripled the H-1B cap to 200,000 — the very program used by Disney to replace Mr. Perrero and several hundred of his very qualified American peers. (Id.)
A new poll by Rasmussen Reports shows that most Americans prefer stricter border control. (American Thinker, Feb. 25, 2016) Among those surveyed, 59% believe “gaining control of the border” should be the key priority for any immigration reform. (Id.)
Key Findings from Rassmussen:
- Most Americans believe that the current immigration policies encourage more people to enter the country illegally.
- Support for Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s wall is 51% of all voters and 70% of Republicans.
- Most Republicans (79%) and voters not affiliated with either major political party (65%) say gaining control of the border is more important than legalizing the status of workers already here, but most Democrats (57%) take the opposite view. Just 35% of Democrats consider border control more important.
- Sixty-seven percent of voters who consider border control more important believe providing a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants will just encourage more to come illegally.
- Men and those 40 and older put more importance on border enforcement than women and younger voters do.
Tennessee Representative Durham Introduces Legislation to Address Illegal Immigration
Tennessee State Representative Jeremy Durham (R-65) introduced five bills to the Tennessee General Assembly this session to take aim at costs associated with illegal immigration in the state. (Brentwood Home Page, Feb. 24, 2016) The package of legislation includes measures to increase penalties for businesses that unlawfully hire unauthorized workers, eliminate sanctuary cities, and restrict in-state tuition at Tennessee’s public colleges and universities from non-citizens.
Specifically, Representative Durham introduced HB 2554, to increase penalties on businesses that knowingly employ unauthorized workers. Unauthorized workers are non-citizens, including illegal aliens, who have not received authorization by the federal government to work in the United States and compete with citizens for domestic jobs. The second measure, HB 2556, requires the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development to report the total number of final orders indicating unauthorized employment violations to the Tennessee General Assembly. HB 2554 is currently scheduled to be heard in the House State Government Subcommittee on March 2, and HB 2556 is scheduled to be heard in the House Consumer and Human Resources Subcommittee on that same day.
Representative Durham also introduced a measure, HB 1669, to strengthen the current Tennessee law that prohibits local governments from instituting ordinances or policies that interfere with the enforcement of immigration law. HB 1669 reinforces this law by restricting any local government entity with an unlawful sanctuary policy from receiving Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development funding. HB 1669 is currently awaiting consideration by the House State Government Committee.
Lastly, Representative Durham took aim at growing education expenses at Tennessee’s public colleges and universities. HB 2552 prohibits public colleges and universities in the state from receiving state funding if the institutions classify non-U.S. citizens as eligible for receiving in-state tuition. Current Tennessee law allows all Tennessee residents who have established domicile in the state to receive in-state tuition at its public institutions of higher education, but does not extend eligibility to illegal aliens. HB 2552 redefines in-state tuition eligibility to only allow citizens to receive the subsidy. It was assigned to the House Education Administration and Planning Committee, but has not yet received a hearing.
Representative Durham explained that the legislation is intended to address the growing fiscal burden of illegal immigration to Tennessee taxpayers and to close loopholes in state law regarding immigration enforcement. (Brentwood Home Page, Feb. 24, 2016) “While Tennessee is forced to deal with the costs associated with illegal immigration, the federal government chooses to stand on the sidelines, purposefully ignoring existing legislation on these matters,” Durham said. (Id.)According to 2011 estimates, Tennessee taxpayers spend at least $497 million annually ($547 million minus an estimated $50 million received in taxes by unauthorized workers) to subsidize illegal immigration in their state. (FAIR Cost Study)