Legislative Update: 4/19/2016
With yesterday marking the deadline for filing federal income taxes, FAIR reminds the American people that illegal immigration costs U.S. taxpayers at least $100 billion annually. Specifically, FAIR calculates the fiscal burden of illegal immigration on Americans as follows: $51 billion in education; $18 billion in general government services; $17 billion in healthcare; $17 billion in justice and law enforcement; and $10 billion in public assistance.
The total cost to U.S. taxpayers will increase significantly if the Supreme Court allows President Obama to implement his executive amnesty programs. Both Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and the expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) bestow upon illegal aliens work authorization and social security numbers (not to mention exemption from deportation). Importantly, under our federal tax laws, illegal aliens with deferred action are eligible to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC). Outrageously, once eligible for EITC and ACTC, tax law allows a person to amend their tax returns from the past three years to claim the credits — even if that person was ineligible during those years! Between EITC and ACTC, the Congressional Research Service — the nonpartisan policy research arm for lawmakers — confirmed that each amnestied illegal alien is eligible for $35,000 in tax credits. (FAIR Legislative Update , Mar. 3, 2015) Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector calculated “cash payments from the EITC and ACTC to DAPA recipients would equal $7.8 billion per year” plus another $23.5 billion in retroactive claims. (FAIR Legislative Update , Mar. 24, 2015) Rector also concluded that the implementation of the DACA and DAPA amnesty programs would cost additional hundreds of millions of dollars. (Id.)
As FAIR previously pointed out, the full taxpayer cost of executive amnesty is far greater than is being reported. Specifically, illegal aliens with deferred action are eligible for Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act), unemployment benefits, Social Security, and Medicare. (See FAIR’s Executive Amnesty Will Give Illegal Aliens Taxpayer Funded Benefits, Nov. 17, 2014 at 1, 4-7) Additionally, certain illegal aliens with deferred action are eligible for Medicaid and SCHIP health care benefits. (Id. at 6) Rector calculates the “lifetime costs” of Social Security and Medicare benefits to DAPA recipients at $1.3 trillion and Obamacare benefits at $15.5 billion per year. (FAIR Legislative Update , Mar. 24, 2015)
Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Executive Amnesty Case
Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard arguments for U.S. v. Texas, the 26 state lawsuit challenging President Obama’s November 2014 executive amnesty. Specifically, the high court will decide whether to uphold the injunction blocking Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) until the case is litigated on the merits. FAIR believes U.S. v. Texas is the most important case the Supreme Court will decide this year. “Needless to say, when the Supreme Court delivers its ruling in June the implications for U.S. immigration policy will be profound,” said Dan Stein, FAIR’s president. (SCOTUSblog, Feb. 9, 2016) “What is at stake is nothing less than the entire premise of more than a century of immigration policy: Namely, the legitimacy of laws that restrict immigration in order to protect the social, economic, and security interests of the American people.” (Id.)
Although cameras are not allowed in the Supreme Court, early accounts from reporters present during the arguments suggest that the justices are divided on the case. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is always seen as the “swing vote,” appeared sympathetic to the states’ argument. “It seems to me that’s a legislative, not an executive task,” Kennedy reportedly said in reference to granting work authorization to millions of illegal aliens. (See The Hill, Apr. 18, 2016) “It’s as if the president is setting the policy and the Congress is executing it,” he continued. “That seems upside down.” (Id.)
The unexpected passing of Justice Antonin Scalia has left the court with only eight justices to decide the case. In the event of a 4-4 split, the lower court’s decision stands meaning the injunction stays in place while the case is returned to Judge Hanen to be litigated on the merits. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Apr. 12, 2016)
Senate Democrats Block Biometric Entry-Exit Vote
True immigration reformer Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) has offered an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization bill that would ensure the implementation of the biometric entry-exit system at all airports that serve as ports of entry and exit. Specifically, his amendment provides that no funds from the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act may be obligated or expended “for the physical modification of any existing air navigation facility that is a port of entry, or for the construction of a new air navigation facility intended to be a port of entry, unless the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) certifies that the owner or sponsor of the facility has entered into an agreement that guarantees the installation and implementation of the [biometric exit system] at such facility not later than two years after the date of enactment of the Act.” (See Sen. Sessions Amendment, Apr. 12, 2016, Sen. Sessions video, Apr. 13, 2015)
Congress has required an entry-exit system for nearly two decades and, since 2004, has required it be biometrically based. The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (“9/11 Commission”) recommended an entry-exit system as an “essential investment in our national security.” (Sen. Sessions Press Release, Apr. 13, 2016) Indeed, as noted by former Commissioners on the 9/11 Commission in a report issued in 2014, “[w]ithout exit-tracking, our government does not know when a foreign visitor admitted to the United States on a temporary basis has overstayed his or her admission. Had this system been in place before 9/11, we would have had a better chance of detecting the plotters before they struck.” (Id.) While the entry segment has been in place for nearly a decade, the exit part has been neglected and there is no biometric system currently in place for any port of exit out of the U.S. by land, air or sea. (Law360, Apr. 13, 2016)
The failure to implement a biometric entry-exit system at all ports-of-entry has resulted in a huge visa overstay issue. For example, according to DHS, 527,127 foreigners who were granted temporary admission into the country on a B- visa (business or pleasure), failed to depart when required to do so in 2015. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Jan. 26, 2016) A vast majority, 91 percent of those who overstayed their visas, have joined the illegal population. (Id.) While the DHS report is illustrative of the problem it does not provide a complete picture. The report did not include overstays for the F-1 student visa; H- and L- visas; or the J-1 exchange visa. Additionally, the report only counts the B- visa overstays of nonimmigrants that entered the United States through air or sea ports-of-entry without accounting for those who enter via land ports-of-entry. (Id.) It is estimated that 40 percent of the illegal alien population are visa overstays.
Historically, the impediments to implementing the biometric entry-exit system have been twofold: funding and the lack of willing participation by the airport and airline industries. (Sen. Sessions Press Release, Apr. 13, 2016) The funding issue has been resolved by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 which created a dedicated source of revenue to implement the biometric entry-exit system. (Id.) Senator Sessions’ amendment would remove the second barrier to ensure implementation. In January, Deputy Assistant Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) John Wagner testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration that the primary challenge to implementation was the infrastructure saying, “our ports of entry were not built for exit processing, because unlike arrivals, there’s no exclusive and dedicated space for departure controls, so where the biometric collection takes place is critical.” (Id.) Senator Sessions’ amendment would allow DHS and each airport that serves as a port of entry to create a solution that works specific to the needs of each individual airport so long as the entry-exit system is installed and implemented within two years. (Id.)
FAIR has endorsed Sen. Sessions’ amendment and sent a statement of support up to all Senate offices.
FAIR worked with Sen. Sessions’ and Senate Leadership to try to get this amendment as part of the amendment package. In order to be included, it needs to have unanimous consent by all of the Senators. A single objection, whether related to the amendment or not, will prevent a vote on this important amendment. Disappointingly, Senate Democrats objected, blocking the amendment from receiving a vote.
Legislation Introduced to Maintain the Term ‘Illegal Alien’ at the Library of Congress
In early April, at the behest of pro-amnesty groups, the Library of Congress announced that “the heading ‘Illegal aliens’ will therefore be canceled and replaced by two headings, Noncitizens and unauthorized immigration, which may be assigned together to describe resources about people who illegally reside in the country.” (Los Angeles Times, Apr. 3, 2016)
The Library of Congress’s decision is blatant capitulation to political correctness — replacing the correct term “illegal alien” with terms that are both factually and legally incorrect. The term “noncitizen” is overly broad and encompasses individuals who are legally entitled to be in the country, including legal permanent residents (green card holders) and guest workers. By contrast, illegal aliens have disregarded our immigration laws and reside in the country unlawfully.
The term “illegal alien” is the most legally precise, descriptive term in the lexicon. It delineates between one of only two possible categories; one either has legal status to be on U.S. soil or one is residing here illegally. “Illegal” means prohibited by law — and entry without inspection into the U.S. is prohibited. And “alien” is a term that refers to a person who is not a citizen of the country. The term is well defined in 8 U.S.C. Section 1101. It is also used by legal professionals across the board, including the United States Supreme Court.
Despite what the pro-amnesty groups claimed to the Library of Congress, there is nothing insulting or dehumanizing about using the term alien to indicate an individual is a non-citizen. Likewise, it is perfectly fitting to acknowledge that an alien who is residing illegally in the United States has broken the law. To identify someone as an “illegal alien” does not imply a value statement about the person’s humanity; it merely identifies the individual’s immigration status.
FAIR believes it is inappropriate for the Library of Congress to unilaterally replace accurate, legal terms with inaccurate, generalized terms in the name of political correctness. Fortunately, Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) recently introduced legislation to stop this absurd decision and ensure the integrity of terminology used by the Library of Congress. (The Blaze, Apr. 13, 2016) Rep. Black’s bill, H.R. 4926, explicitly requires the Library of Congress to continue using the terms “alien” and “illegal alien.” It currently has 24 co-sponsors and more are expected in the coming days.
California Lawmaker Seeks to Expand Obamacare to Illegal Aliens
California is considering legislation to prioritize the interests of illegal aliens over citizens and legal residents in an effort to allow illegal aliens to obtain subsidized health insurance through the state’s Obamacare exchange. (Los Angeles Times, Apr. 14, 2016) Senate Bill 10 (SB 10), introduced by Senator Ricardo Lara (D-33), requires the state to seek a waiver from the federal government to allow illegal aliens, who are otherwise ineligible under federal law, to participate in the health care exchange.
The Assembly Committee on Health is currently considering SB 10, but the bill has already received strong opposition from true immigration reform activists. (Id.)”We oppose that [bill] because that encourages illegal immigration,” commented Robin Hvidston, executive director of We the People Rising. (International Business Times, Apr. 14, 2016) “It sends a message to the world that if you come to our country you will be rewarded.” (Id.)
California taxpayers will be forced to front the bill to subsidize illegal alien healthcare if SB 10 is enacted, as federal law prohibits federal money from being spent on public benefits for unqualified aliens. California has the largest illegal alien population in the United States — estimated at over 3 million people — and already spends at least $25.3 billion annually on costs related to illegal immigration. (FAIR Cost Study, June 19, 2014)
The California Assembly and Governor Jerry Brown (D) must approve SB 10 before it can become law. If enacted, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services must grant the state’s request for a waiver before illegal aliens may legally receive healthcare through the exchange. California is the first state in the country to consider making such request.
Nebraska Governor Vetoes Bill to Make Illegal Aliens Doctors and Lawyers
Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts vetoed legislation late Friday that would allow illegal aliens to practice medicine and law in the Cornhusker State. Days earlier, Nebraska’s unicameral legislature passed LB 947 to grant professional and commercial licenses to beneficiaries of President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Lawmakers passed the measure 33-11 in the April 13 vote, giving proponents the necessary edge to override the veto, which the legislature needs only 30 votes to overrule.
Governor Ricketts has pointed out how the bill is unfair to individuals entering the country the legal way. “It is a huge injustice to those people who are going through the immigration process the right way to provide these professional licenses to people who came here illegally and that’s why I oppose this law,” he told reporters. (Nebraska Radio Network, Apr. 13, 2016) “It’s creating a fundamental injustice for the people who are doing it the right way and really subverts the rule of law.” (Id.)
Moreover, in a letter to lawmakers, Governor Ricketts underscored the point that DACA is not only a temporary form of lawful presence, but a fiction at that. “The proper process to address the granting of legal status is for the President to work with Congress to address our immigration laws,” he wrote. (See Governor Ricketts’ letter) “By circumventing our current immigration process, LB 947 undermines the rule of law and is unjust to all the immigrants, permanent residents, and naturalized citizens who legally followed the established process.”
Nonetheless, a majority of the state’s lawmakers have voted to put the needs of illegal aliens over those of Americans, apparently agreeing with the bill sponsors’ assessment that his legislation to create more competition for native-born and legal immigrants is sensible. “It’s a common sense workforce development proposal to keep educated and skilled residents in Nebraska,” claimed Senator Heath Mello of Omaha. (The Gazette, Apr. 13, 2016) He said the idea for the bill came to him after hearing about illegal aliens training to be in the medical profession leaving the state because they weren’t allowed to practice in Nebraska.
If LB 947 becomes law (which it is expected to since the legislature overrode Governor Ricketts’ veto last year of legislation granting driver’s licenses to DACA beneficiaries), it will apply to more than 170 professions from doctors and lawyers, to tattoo artists and electricians. According to news reports, there are over 5,000 DACA recipients currently living in Nebraska.