Legislative Update: 5/17/2016
Annual Immigration-Focused Radio Row on Capitol Hill June 22-23
The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) announces June 22-23 as the dates for its 10th annual Hold Their Feet to the Fire radio row broadcast in Washington. Over 50 talk radio hosts from across the country will broadcast live both days, debating immigration policy and interviewing members of Congress, media figures, law enforcement officials, experts, activists, and those who live and work along the southern border.
Launched in 2007, Hold Their Feet to the Fire has grown to become the nation’s largest yearly gathering of American talk radio hosts and the most prominent annual media event focusing exclusively on immigration policy.
Hold Their Feet to the Fire is scheduled after all the primaries and caucuses are finished, before the political conventions and during the time the Supreme Court is most likely to rule on Obama’s unconstitutional amnesties. The event also occurs while both the House and Senate are in session to accommodate lawmakers who regularly attend the event.
“This yearly electronic town hall is about holding our elected leaders accountable, recognizing those who support secure borders and enforcement of our laws, and educating the public,” said Bob Dane, Executive Director of FAIR. “Those running for office — and those staying in office — need to know the immigration crisis is now front and center in voters’ minds and the issue isn’t going away until it’s resolved. Now is the time for answers, solutions, and action.”
Lawmakers interested in attending and speaking with talk radio hosts should contact FAIR’s Press Secretary, Cassie Williams, for more information at 202-328-7004 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
How Many Illegal Aliens will be Deported in Upcoming Enforcement “Raids”?
The number of unaccompanied alien minors (UAMs) and family units from Central America surging across the border this year is now on track to exceed the record number from 2014. (See FAIR Legislative Update, May 10, 2016) Fueled by President Obama’s non-enforcement agenda, the Department of Homeland Security now estimates that at least 75,000 UAMs will be apprehended in 2016. (Id.) In response, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reportedly told field offices last week it will commence a 30-day enforcement “surge.” (Reuters, May 12, 2016) ICE sources say the raids will target illegal alien adults and minors who have already had their asylum claims denied and have been ordered removed from the country. (Id.) However, an official ICE spokeswoman downplayed the report, saying the agency does not “confirm or deny the existence of specific ongoing or future law enforcement actions.” (Id.)
True immigration reformers should be skeptical of the scope of this impending enforcement “surge.” At the end of last year, the Obama administration said it would conduct “large-scale” deportation raids targeting the same categories of illegal aliens as this upcoming enforcement effort. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Jan. 12, 2016) Despite more than 100,000 Central American UAMs and family units having unlawfully crossed the border the last couple of years, these “raids” only led to the arrest of 121 illegal aliens — and fewer than 100 were actually removed from the country. (Id.)
Despite these illegal aliens having no right to be in this country and the small numbers actually removed, amnesty advocates — including the two Democratic candidates seeking the presidential nomination — blasted the Obama administration for this minimal effort to enforce the law. “I oppose the painful and inhumane business of locking up and deporting families who have fled horrendous violence in Central America and other countries,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). (The Hill, May 13, 2016) Similarly, Hillary Clinton said “large scale raids are not productive and do not reflect who we are as a country.” (Id.) Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), illegal aliens’ biggest advocate in Congress, also criticized the minimal enforcement effort. “These are not illegal immigrants…. They are asylum seekers,” claimed Rep. Gutierrez, even though the illegal aliens targeted have had their asylum claims denied by an immigration judge. (Id.)
The announcement of these “raids” coincides with additional Congressional scrutiny of the Obama administration’s failure to enforce our immigration laws. On Thursday, true immigration reformer Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), in his capacity as chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest, will hold a hearing entitled, “Declining Deportations and Increasing Criminal Alien Releases — The Lawless Immigration Policies of the Obama Administration.” (Senate Judiciary Committee) The hearing starts at 2:30 p.m. and can be streamed live here.
Immigrant Households Receive 41% More Welfare than American Households
A new report by the Center for Immigration Studies revealed that immigrant households receive 41 percent more annually in federal welfare benefits than native-born households. (Breitbart, May 9, 2016) The average household headed by an immigrant (both legal and illegal) in 2012 consumed $6,234 in federal welfare benefits, while the average native-born household consumed only $4,431 in benefits, said the report. (Id.) The report, which was based on U.S. Census Bureau data, follows up on an earlier study that looked at the rate of welfare use and found that 51 percent of immigrant-headed households used at least one welfare program. (See Welfare Use by Immigrant and Native Households, September 2015)
Broken down by category of benefits, households headed by immigrants consume on average 33 percent more cash benefits through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), 57 percent more food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and several other programs, and 44 percent more Medicaid dollars. (Breitbart, May 9, 2016) Both groups, however, use housing assistance in the form of rent subsidies and public housing at similar levels. (Id.)
The entire report can be viewed here.
Drug Cartels Benefit From America’s Porous Borders
Border Patrol agents working in Arizona and California report that drug trafficking by illegal aliens has been heavier than usual this month. (Breitbart, May 5, 2016) In the Yuma Sector, Border Patrol agents arrested 43 illegal aliens and seized nearly a ton of marijuana, with an estimated value approaching one million dollars. (Id.; see also U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Media Releases, May 3, 2016) Border Patrol agents patrolling the Sonoran Desert arrested seven Mexican nationals and seized 235 pounds of marijuana they had smuggled into the country near Gila Bend. More than 350 pounds of abandoned marijuana was later located in separate incidents in the same area. (Breitbart, May 5, 2016) Wellton Station Border Patrol agents arrested 58 illegal aliens and seized 1,225 pounds of marijuana. Two of those arrested had illegally re-entered the country while smuggling 218 pounds of marijuana into the U.S. Both men were previously deported and were in violation of supervised release. (See U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Media Releases, May 2, 2016)
The increasingly porous border has become a virtual highway for illicit traffic and violence. Mexican criminal cartels have increased their presence along the border, identifying lapses in border enforcement and then smuggling people and drugs across. (Pew Charitable Trusts, Mar. 28, 2016) However, the White House continues to ignore pleas from border states like Texas and Arizona for more resources to address the problems of increased drug trafficking. In fact, the White House’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget proposal recommended cutting the number of Border Patrol agents by an additional 300, even though the agency is operating 1500 agents below the mandated level. (See Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson’s testimony, Mar. 16, 2016)
While Congress expressed outrage at the White House’s proposed cuts to the number of Border Patrol agents, its action on the drug trafficking issue has not provided the needed leadership. In an op-ed, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) acknowledged that the opioid problems in this country stem “not only from abuse, but from the illicit drug trade” and that America is “consistently a step behind in stopping trafficking of opioids and other illegal drugs.” (See McCarthy op-ed, April 2016) Yet, even though the House spent four days last week considering nearly 20 bills addressing the opioid issue, it did not include a single one to secure our border and stop these dangerous substances from getting into our communities.
Potentially even more damaging, Congress may consider The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act (S. 2123 in the Senate and H.R. 3713 in the House) later this year that would weaken law enforcement tools to combat illegal alien drug traffickers. This legislation seeks to release dangerous drug trafficking criminals back into our communities. Proponents of the bill argue that many of those incarcerated “under harsh” sentences were for simple drug possession charges. However, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) refutes that saying, “more than 99 percent of federal inmates incarcerated for drug crimes are traffickers, not simple drug possessors.” (Washington Times, Mar. 8, 2016) The beneficiaries of the Sentencing Reform and Correction Act, according to Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), are illegal aliens who in Fiscal Year 2015 comprised “77 percent of federal drug possession convictions and 25 percent of federal drug trafficking convictions.” (See Sen. Sessions’ statement)
FAIR opposes S. 2123/H.R. 3713 in its current form because dangerous criminal aliens — who at a minimum have broken our drug laws in addition to our immigration laws — should not be released back into our communities.
Texas Congressman Introduces Bills to Strengthen U.S. Immigration Laws
Representative John Culberson (R-TX) recently introduced three bills to strengthen immigration enforcement at the border and throughout the United States. (Culberson Press Release, Apr. 29, 2016) According to Culberson, if the bills are enacted, “every illegal alien over the age of eighteen will be prosecuted wherever they’re found, criminal illegal aliens will be deported swiftly after serving their sentences, and existing law will be enforced with zero tolerance from Brownsville to San Diego.” (Id.)
H.R. 5101 — ZERO TOLERANCE FOR ILELGAL ENTRY ACT
H.R. 5101 will expand the successful ‘zero tolerance’ program enacted in the Del Rio sector to the entire border. The ‘zero tolerance’ program requires all United States attorneys in the sector to prosecute any individual that illegally crosses the border to the fullest extent under existing law. The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee and awaits further action.
H.R. 5102 — INTERIOR IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT ACT
H.R. 5102 will ensure that adult illegal aliens are prosecuted wherever they are apprehended. Under current law, any illegal alien apprehended must be prosecuted in the border sector in which they originally entered, which is very difficult to prove. The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee and awaits further action.
H.R. 5103 — CRIMINAL ALIEN DETENTION AND REMOVAL ACT
H.R. 5103 will guarantee that any illegal alien convicted of a felony is promptly deported upon completion of their prison sentence. The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee and awaits further action.
FAIR supports all three bills, as well as Rep. Culberson’s continued efforts in the appropriations process to use the power of the purse to punish dangerous sanctuary city jurisdictions. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Mar. 1, 2016)
Illinois Committee Advances Bill to Give Illegal Aliens Financial Aid
The Illinois House Committee on Higher Education passed a measure on May 11 to allow illegal aliens attending a state university to receive taxpayer and donor funded financial aid. The Illinois Senate already approved Senate Bill (SB) 2196 last month with a 30 to 19 vote.
SB 2196 allows any illegal alien who has graduated from and attended high school in Illinois for at least three years to be eligible to receive financial aid. (SB 2196 § 5) To become eligible, the measure only requires an illegal alien student to sign a form stating his or her intention to apply for legal permanent residency if and when they are eligible to do so. (Id.) In addition to financial aid, SB 2196 also allows illegal aliens to receive scholarships, grants, awards, stipends, room and board, tuition waivers, and other forms of financial or in-kind assistance. (Id.) Illegal aliens in Illinois already receive taxpayer-funded tuition subsidies to attend state colleges and universities. (See 110 ILCS 305 § 7e-5)
Opponents of SB 2196 contend that is unfair to Illinois families, as it would decrease available aid for Illinois citizens. (Red Alert Politics, May 1, 2016) “My concern was that if you voted for it you would have several hundreds of people who were not citizens getting scholarships, but if you do that you would have hundreds of citizens who are not getting those scholarships,” noted Senator David Luechtefeld (R-58). (Daily Progress, Apr. 29, 2016)
The state legislature is considering SB 2196 despite the state’s higher education budget crisis. Over the past decade, public colleges and universities in Illinois have been forced to increase tuition by 57 percent. (Young Invisibles Report, 2015) Between 1998 and 2008, the state legislature has also decreased funding for need-based financial aid by 28 percent. (Institute for Research on Higher Education, 2011) Illinois taxpayers already pay over $4.3 billion annually to subsidize illegal immigration in their state, more than half of which, $2.6 billion, is attributable to the costs of K-12 education for illegal aliens. (See FAIR Cost Study, 2010)
The state House must approve SB 2196 before it can be sent to Governor Bruce Rauner’s (R) desk for signature. Similar legislation was introduced and ultimately defeated in the Connecticut General Assembly this session. (FAIR Legislative Update, Apr. 26, 2016) Currently, only five states — California, New Mexico, Minnesota, Texas, and Washington — allow illegal aliens to receive taxpayer funded financial aid.