Legislative Update: 5/23/2017
Labrador and Goodlatte Introduce Davis-Oliver Act to Restore Interior Immigration Enforcement
By: RJ Hauman
Last week, Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee Vice-Chairman Raúl Labrador (R-ID) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) introduced an extensive interior enforcement bill that would enhance public safety, protect national security, and restore the rule of law. (Labrador-Goodlatte Press Release, May 16, 2017) The bill, the Michael Davis, Jr. and Danny Oliver in Honor of State and Local Law Enforcement Act (H.R. 2431), is named after two California law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty in 2014 by an illegal alien gang member with multiple deportations. (Id.) “One of the most important aspects of immigration reform is bolstering enforcement of existing immigration law,” Rep. Labrador said in a press release. (Id.) “We need to give law enforcement at all levels the tools and resources they need to keep America safe and secure.” (Id.)
The Davis-Oliver Act is nearly identical to legislation that the House Judiciary Committee has advanced in the past and that current Attorney General Jeff Sessions introduced during his time in the Senate. Specifically, the bill cracks down on dangerous sanctuary city jurisdictions by clarifying U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) detainer authority, withholding federal grant funding, and protecting compliant jurisdictions from the threat of lawsuits. (Davis-Oliver Act One-Pager) The bill also takes a number of steps to enhance public safety. (Id.) Notably, it broadens the list of deportable offenses and expands expedited removal. (Id.) It also contains provisions to penalize “recalcitrant” countries that either refuse or delay repatriation of their nationals after they have been ordered removed from the United States. (Id.)
The bill also protects national security by improving the nation’s first line of defense, the visa issuance process. (Id.) It provides thorough vetting of foreign nationals seeking to enter the United States in order to prevent terrorist entry. (Id.) The bill also promotes the rule of law and removes the ability of any president to unilaterally dismantle immigration enforcement by granting states and localities the authority to enforce their own immigration laws consistent with federal practices. (Id.) Lastly, the bill authorizes the hiring of 12,500 ICE agents and provides ICE with more resources. (Id.)
The House Judiciary Committee began marking up (amending) the Davis-Oliver Act last week, but only got through two amendments before running out of time due to the consideration of other bills. The markup continues today, with Democrats likely offering many amendments to strike portions of the nearly 200-page bill. However, Republicans control a majority of the committee so the bill is expected to pass out of committee unchanged.
FAIR supports the Davis-Oliver Act and will fight for its consideration on the House floor.
Overwhelmed Immigration Courts Impeding Trump’s Interior Enforcement Push
By: Shari Rendall
During the first 100 days since President Trump signed an interior enforcement executive order, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested 41,318 illegal aliens, a nearly a 40 percent increase over the 30,028 arrested during the last year of the Obama administration. (See ICE Release, May 2017; FAIR Legislative Update, Jan. 31, 2017) Since President Trump signed his “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States” executive order, ICE has arrested more than 400 aliens daily, marking a clear departure from the Obama administration’s lenient enforcement policies. (See ICE Release, May 2017)
While the Trump administration continues to focus on removing criminal aliens as its top enforcement priority, it does not ignore other classes of illegal aliens. ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan says that ICE will remove any alien found to be in the country illegally, distinguishing the Trump administration from the Obama one that ignored a huge swath of illegal aliens (nearly 87 percent). (See FAIR Immigration Report, February 2016) The arrest numbers clearly reflect this policy shift. While 75 percent of the total arrests were convicted criminal aliens (30,473), the most significant arrest increases were the 12,766 non-criminal aliens arrests (a 50 percent increase over the 8,381 arrests during the same period in 2016), a category of illegal aliens the Obama administration considered “law-abiding and productive.” (See ICE Release, May 2017; see FAIR Legislative Update, Jan. 10, 2017)
Arresting illegal aliens is the first step in the deportation process –the actual removal of these aliens will be Trump’s true test. The surge of unaccompanied alien minors (UAMs) during the Obama administration overwhelmed the immigration courts and led to a significant backlog of cases. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Aug. 2, 2016) When Obama left the White House, the backlog topped 500,000 cases. (Id.) According to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, as of April 2017, the backlog has grown to 585,930 cases. (See TRAC Report, April 2017) There are currently approximately 325 immigration judges out of 374 authorized by Congress. (See DOJ Executive Office for Immigration Review, May, 2017) In March, President Trump’s budget blueprint requested an additional $80 million (19 percent above FY 2017 level) to hire an additional 75 immigration judge teams to “more efficiently adjudicate” removal proceedings. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Mar. 21, 2017) Even if Attorney General Jeff Sessions fills all 374 immigration judge positions, an experienced judge can hear about 750 cases annually – which means the total number of cases that can be heard in one year is about 280,000. (BuzzFeed News, Feb. 23, 2017) At that rate, it will still take years to get through the backlog.
The overwhelmed immigration courts continue to be part of President Obama’s lasting legacy of dismantling immigration enforcement. President Trump’s tough stance on illegal immigration will hopefully ease the courts’ burden by utilizing expedited removal whenever possible and ending “catch and release.” Additionally, as incentives disappear many illegal aliens will voluntarily leave the country.
Grassley, Durbin Urge DHS Secretary to Protect Blue Collar American Jobs
By: Robert Law
Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is leading a bipartisan effort to protect blue collar American workers. When Congress passed a 1,700 page omnibus to fund the federal government for the rest of the fiscal year, the bill authorized Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly to ignore the congressionally set annual 66,000 H-2B guest worker (low skilled non-agriculture) cap and flood the market with cheap foreign labor over the next couple of months. (See FAIR Legislative Update, May 9, 2017) In a bipartisan letter, Chairman Grassley is joined by Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) urging DHS Secretary Kelly and Labor Secretary Alex Acosta to protect blue collar Americans by refusing to increase the number of H-2B workers admitted the rest of the fiscal year. (Grassley, Durbin Letter to Secretary Kelly, May 17, 2017)
The four senators are calling on the Trump administration officials to prioritize the national interest over special interests desire for cheap foreign labor. “Studies show that wages have stagnated and there has been a significant ‘long-term decline in the labor force participation rate’ for U.S. workers in H-2B fields,” the senators point out. (Id.) “In short, a large body of evidence suggests that our increasing reliance on the H-2B program cuts wages, pushes American workers out of jobs, and may, in some cases, discourage them from ever applying again. Indiscriminate increases in the number of H-2B workers will only exacerbate these problems.” (Id.) They caution that increasing the number of H-2B workers is a “determination [that] should not be made lightly and should, at a minimum, be supported by statistical data, an assessment of the projected needs of specific businesses, evaluation of employer recruitment efforts, fair calculations of the relevant prevailing wage, and a review of potential labor pools’ qualifications and availability.” (Id.)
Louisiana House Passes Anti-Sanctuary Bill
By: State & Local Government Relations
Following in Texas and Mississippi’s footsteps, the Louisiana House of Representatives passed a measure on May 17 to prohibit sanctuary policies in the state. (NOLA, May 17, 2017) The House agreed, 62-32, on a compromise version of the original measure after it was initially rejected the week prior. (Id.)
Specifically, the anti-sanctuary measure, House Bill (HB) 676, prohibits all Louisiana agencies and localities from formally adopting any order, ordinance, rule, law, policy, or regulation that prohibits or discourages cooperation or communication with ICE. (HB 676) The measure also prohibits any order that prevents law enforcement from inquiring into an individual’s immigration status during a criminal investigation. (Id.)
To hold state agencies and localities accountable, HB 676 prohibits any entity the Attorney General determines has an unlawful sanctuary policy from receiving certain state grants or funds. (Id.) HB 676, however, gives state agencies and localities 90 days to rectify their policies after such determination is made before any penalties are imposed. (Id.)
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, whose office would be integral to enforcing the measures, has praised the legislative efforts. (Advocate, May 17, 2017) “In a loud, overwhelming manner the Louisiana House declared our state should not give more rights to criminal illegal aliens than to our own citizens,” Landry said in a statement. (Id.) “Sanctuary cities impede communication and coordination with immigration authorities which in turn threatens public safety and jeopardizes our state’s access to federal funding.” (Id.)
The Senate must approve HB 676 before it can be sent to the Governor John Bel Edwards’s (D) desk for signature. It is unclear what the fate of HB 676 will be if it passes the Senate. Governor John Bel Edwards has not taken a position on the bill but expressed concerns last year regarding similar anti-sanctuary legislation. (U.S. News, May 9, 2017) The Governor stated, however, that he did not oppose the concept of the prohibition. (NOLA, May 5, 2016)