Legislative Update: 5/7/2014
House Committee to Vote on Military Amnesty Today?
Today, the House Armed Services Committee is holding a hearing to consider amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Though not on the Committee, pro-amnesty Republican Jeff Denham (CA) has been furiously lobbying Committee Members to adopt his military amnesty bill, called the “ENLIST Act” (H.R. 2377), as an amendment. Fueling his effort, Rep. Denham has received support from high-ranking Republicans, such as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA).
If attached, the ENLIST Act would require the Department of Homeland Security to give certain illegal aliens a green card upon enlisting in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard, at which point they would be immediately eligible to apply for citizenship pursuant to current law. Such a measure would jeopardize national security, as well as place additional burdens on our military, which is already being drastically reduced.
FAIR is urging all of our members, activists, and supporters to call their Representatives TODAY and urge them to oppose the ENLIST Act! Even if your Representative does not sit on the Armed Services Committee, his/her opposition is important, as the ENLIST Act could be offered as an amendment on the House floor if Denham’s efforts to get it added during the committee process fail. To help guide you in your conversation, here isFAIR’s Top 10 Reasons to Oppose the ENLIST Act. For more details on why the ENLIST Act is bad public policy, please read FAIR’s policy statement.
Pro-Amnesty Senators Push for Military DREAM Act
Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin (D-MI), signaled last week that he would like to see a measure included in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would grant illegal aliens green cards and citizenship in exchange for enlisting in the military. Telling inside-the-beltway publication POLITICO that he is open to the idea, he said “I think it’s relevant enough to our bill, and it’s worth trying to get it added.” (Politico, May 2, 2014)
The position taken by Senator Levin, who is retiring at the end of this year, is critical because the Senate version of the NDAA must pass through his Armed Services Committee, giving him and his committee members a first crack at including the amnesty language in the bill. Long-time amnesty proponent Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), who does not sit on Armed Services, is already vying for his version of a military-based DREAM Act to be added to the bill. “I think that [Levin] would be open to my offering the amendment,” said Durbin. (Id.) “I’ve been working on it for years with this secretary of Defense and his predecessor and the White House. I think it’s a great idea.” (Id.)
Pro-amnesty Senators from both sides of the aisle are pushing for the amnesty provision’s inclusion in the annual defense spending bill. “I think it makes eminent sense,” insisted South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham who helped lead the amnesty charge in the upper chamber last summer. (Id.) “I think that hopefully it’d be received in a bipartisan fashion.” (Id.) Fellow “Gang of Eight” member Senator Durbin agreed, also trying to preempt arguments that attaching an amnesty to the defense bill is not germane. “I don’t get it. Why is it unrelated?” Durbin said. “Volunteering for the military in the defense authorization bill? Can’t think of anything that’s more related.” (Id.)
Nonetheless, one key amnesty proponent is not on board: Arizona Republican John McCain. He worries that tacking a DREAM Act onto the NDAA opens the floodgates for more mischief. “We’ve got to be careful that we don’t load up the defense bill. People will say, ‘Wait a minute, then I want the STEM on the NDAA. I want the farm workers on the NDAA,’” said McCain, referring to additional components of so-called “comprehensive” immigration reform. (Id.)
True immigration reformers are also voicing their opposition to such a measure. “I think it could threaten the bill, and would cause controversy,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL). (Id.) “I don’t think it should be in the NDAA. We have no shortage of personnel for the military. In fact, we are removing large numbers of personnel who want to serve.” (Id.) Indeed, each branch of the Armed Services reached or exceeded 100 percent of their enlistment targets for Fiscal Years 2013 and 2014 according to the Department of Defense (DOD). (See DOD press release, Jan. 10, 2013; see also DOD press release, Dec. 16, 2013) Moreover, the Pentagon currently plans to shrink the Armed Forces over the next three years, to pre-WWII levels. (Reuters, Feb. 24, 2014) Consequently, reductions in the size of the military, combined with a military-based DREAM Act, would have the effect of denying U.S. citizens who want to serve the opportunity to do so. (See FAIR’s Top 10 Reasons to Oppose the ENLIST Act; see also FAIR’s policy statement on exchanging amnesty for military service)
The Senate push to include an amnesty for illegal aliens who enlist in the military comes as the House Armed Services Committee prepares to “markup” (amend) the defense authorization bill today. Republican Representative Jeff Denham of California has been advocating for his military-based DREAM Act, called the “ENLIST Act” (H.R. 2377), to be attached to the bill during the markup, but has been met with resistance. While the “ENLIST Act” is still a threat to the NDAA, he is reportedly turning his sights to obtaining a standalone vote on his legislation this May or June. (See Financial Times, May 1, 2014)
Stay tuned to FAIR for updates…
Key House Republican Pushing Amnesty “Grand Bargain”
In a series of recent interviews, House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) renewed his promise to help steer amnesty through the House of Representatives. In an interview with Spanish media outlet Univision, Goodlatte said, “We are going to continue to try to make sure that we do immigration reform, because it’s important we do it…. And we should never declare that this effort is dead, because the problem is going to go on and it needs to be resolved.” (Univision Transcript at pp. 3-4, May 2, 2014) Regarding timing, however, Goodlatte was more circumspect: “My job isn’t to predict when it’s going to happen. My job is to build the consensus that we need to have immigration reform.” (ABC News, May 2, 2014)
Importantly, while Rep. Goodlatte used the term “immigration reform” in these interviews, it is clear that Goodlatte is advocating legislation that mirrors the Senate amnesty bill. Just days ago, Goodlatte detailed his vision for reform to community leaders in his home district: “Really, the grand bargain is that we find a [legal] status for many of the people who are already here — who are hard-working and been here for a certain amount of time and so on — but in exchange for that, we have to have zero tolerance of illegal immigration.” (Roanoke Times, Apr. 22, 2014; see also ABC News, May 2, 2014) Then, in exchange for promises of border and interior enforcement, Goodlatte told the Univision audience that he supports granting amnesty to illegal aliens “if they have abided by the laws of this country. If they have paid a fine, paid back taxes and done other things. Many of which are in the Senate bill, by the way, to do just that [sic].” (Univision Transcript at p. 7)
While Goodlatte promised to steer amnesty legislation through the House, he also indicated that President Obama would have to do more to enforce U.S. immigration laws before it could pass. “My point is that I want the President to enforce the law, and that way Congress will feel the pressure to reach a resolution to deal with the people who are unlawfully here, who have been law abiding citizens,” Goodlatte said on Univision. (Id. at p. 5) “But if the President keeps showing that he won’t enforce current law, then we’re going to have this ongoing problem where people in the Congress don’t trust that. And that creates a problem for me. Trying to convince my fellow members to do it.” (Id.)
Chairman Goodlatte’s latest amnesty push comes despite clear opposition from the American people and rank-and-file House Republicans. During the Univision interview, Goodlatte conceded that “we have not yet been able to find the Republican majority for bills addressing the status of those who are not lawfully present in the United States.” (Id. at p. 3) Moreover, Goodlatte claimed, “I don’t want to do anything that doesn’t have the strong support of the American people.” (Id. at p. 5)
However, recent polls show that Americans oppose amnesty legislation. Last week, a Rasmussen poll of 1000 likely voters found that 52 percent believe the U.S. government is not aggressive enough in deporting illegal aliens, and only 14 percent this it is too aggressive. (Rasmussen Reports, Apr. 30, 2014) That builds on a March NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll of 1,000 adults that found that 42 percent are less likely to vote for a candidate who supports a “pathway to citizenship” for illegal aliens compared to only 36 percent who are more likely to vote for such a candidate. (NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll at p. 16, Mar. 2014)
Asian Caucus Pushes Administration for Amnesty
Last week, members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) met with President Obama and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson in separate meetings to push for amnesty and less immigration enforcement. (CAPAC Press Release, May 2, 2014; DHS Readout, Apr. 30, 2014) Following last month’s example set by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), CAPAC members also gave Johnson a memorandum detailing specific recommendations to change immigration policies. (Politico, Apr. 30, 2014; The Press-Enterprise, Apr. 30, 2014)
In its memo, CAPAC told DHS leaders that they should grant more amnesties, weaken deportation policies, and end various enforcement programs. (See CAPAC Memo (undated)). First, the CAPAC recommendations seek amnesty for illegal aliens from Asian Pacific countries by expanding deferred action, increasing the use of waivers for provisional lawful presence, and broadening the interpretation of the “extreme hardship” standard to grant a waiver. (Id. at 2-5) Next, the CAPAC memorandum includes various ideas which would reduce the number of deportations, such as reducing expedited removals and stopping deportations for criminal re-entry. (Id. at 5-7) Finally, CAPAC wants to eliminate the following enforcement programs: Operation Streamline, the 287(g) program, and Secure Communities. (Id. at 8)
CAPAC Chairwoman Judy Chu (D-CA) scheduled the meeting with Johnson in order to deliver the caucus’ recommendations during his review of the Administration’s deportation policies. (Politico, Apr. 30, 2014) “We hear that the decision will be made within the next few weeks,” Chu said. (Id.) “In fact, that’s why we hurried to make this meeting so that we could have the input right at the critical time.” (Id.)
The consultations with CAPAC follow earlier Administration meetings with the CHC. (See NBC News, Apr. 9, 2014) After a March meeting at the White House with CHC leaders on deportation policy, President Obama announced that DHS would review policy to conduct deportations “more humanely within the confines of the law.” (Politico, Mar. 13, 2014) Then, in April, the CHC met with Secretary Johnson. (Politico, Apr. 9, 2014) CHC also drafted a list of recommendations for DHS, which — like CAPAC — includes expanding deferred action, broadening the interpretation of the “extreme hardship” waiver criteria, limiting deportations, and ending the 287(g) program and Secure Communities. (See CHC Draft Memo, (undated)) CHC Chairman Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX) indicated that the April meeting was successful, noting, “There’s no question that the Administration is working with us….” (Congressional Hispanic Caucus Statement, Apr. 9, 2014) After the CHC meeting, Johnson said, “I have learned a lot from the submissions that they have made.” (Politico, Apr. 9, 2014)
Poll Finds Most Americans Want Enforcement, Not Amnesty
According to a poll of 1000 likely voters released by Rasmussen last week, 52% believe the U.S. government is not aggressive enough in deporting illegal aliens, and only 14% think it is too aggressive. (Rasmussen Reports, Apr. 30, 2014) Twenty-two percent believe the current number of deportations is “about right” and 11% are undecided. (Id.) The poll prefaced the question with the statement that the “U.S. government has deported nearly two million illegal immigrants since Barack Obama became president,” without explaining that that the “deportation” numbers under Obama includes border patrol removals that previously would not have been classified as deportations. (Rasmussen Reports, Apr. 27-28, 2014; FAIR’s Legislative Update, Mar. 19, 2014; FAIR’s Legislative Update, Nov. 6, 2013)
The Rasmussen poll also revealed that Americans want the immigration laws enforced and overwhelmingly oppose giving immediate legal status to illegal aliens. (Rasmussen Reports, Apr. 27-28, 2014) When asked “should those who are in this country illegally be granted legal status right away or should that come only after the border is secured,” only 16% answered that illegal aliens should be granted legal status right away, and 68% said “that should come only after the border is secured.” In addition, respondents also were strongly against the government stopping deportations until “Congress passes a comprehensive immigration plan,” with only 25% responding “yes,” and 56% responding “no.” (Id.)
The poll was conducted around the same time that Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson indicated that the Administration is planning to further weaken enforcement. (ABC News, Apr. 27, 2014) The Secretary’s review of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) deportation policies, a review that President Obama announced while under increasing pressure by open borders groups to ease his supposedly “record” deportations, appears to be nearly finished. (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, Mar. 19, 2014; Reuters, Apr. 24, 2014)
Florida Legislature Panders to Illegal Alien Lobby, Passes Law License and Tuition Bills
On Friday, May 2, the last day of this year’s legislative session, the Florida Legislature hastily passed two bills that encourage illegal immigration. House Bill (“H.B.”) 851 makes illegal aliens eligible for nonresident tuition fee waivers, and House Bill (“H.B.”) 755 makes illegal aliens eligible for a license to practice law in Florida.
Under current Florida law, illegal aliens, as citizens of foreign countries, must pay a nonresident fee, which is twice the amount that U.S. citizen and legal resident students pay. H.B. 851 changes that and extends taxpayer-funded nonresident fee waivers to illegal aliens. Thus, illegal aliens will now receive in-state tuition at the state’s colleges and universities.
H.B. 851 gained traction in the legislature after Governor Rick Scott indicated that he would support the measure. (Miami Herald, May 4, 2014) Governor Scott, who was elected in 2010 based on a strong stance against illegal immigration, softened his position in this election year based on a misguided perception in the Republican Party that he must pander to Hispanics to win reelection. House Speaker Republican Will Weatherford, an outspoken proponent of the legislation, said at a news conference with Governor Scott after the bill passed, “I have to say, the bill would never have passed the Florida Senate had the governor not engaged.” (Id.)
Up until last Monday, the bill appeared to be dead as it had been referred to four committees in the Senate and hadn’t been considered by any. In a tactical move, Senator Jack Latvala, a proponent of H.B. 851 and sponsor of the similar Senate Bill 1400 that died in committee, moved to withdraw the bill from its committee assignments for Senate floor consideration, thus preventing any public hearings on the bill in the Senate. The procedural move needed a two-thirds vote of the Senate, 27 Senators, which didn’t appear likely as Senate President Don Gaetz opposed the measure.
Nonetheless, politics prevailed as House Speaker Weatherford threatened Senator Gaetz on Monday that if he stood in the way of the bill being removed from committee assignments, he would not take up the state’s $77.1 billion budget bill. (Miami Herald, May 4, 2014) “The Senate was aware, and so was the governor, that I was willing to go to great lengths to make sure there was a vote — not that there was a guarantee of passage, but that this issue had its day on the floor of the Senate,” Weatherford said on Friday. (Id.)
While the Florida House and Senate were debating in-state tuition for illegal aliens, amnesty advocates were plotting to move legislation that would allow the state of Florida to give illegal aliens licenses to practice law. The bill, H.B. 755, makes illegal aliens eligible to receive licenses to practice law in Florida. H.B. 755, which originally dealt only with issues regarding family law, was amended on the Senate floor at the last minute to include the provision authorizing illegal aliens to receive law licenses. (H.B. 755) Because of this late amendment, the issue was never considered in any committee and never provided a public hearing. (H.B. 755 Bill History) Florida citizens were denied an opportunity to voice their concerns, call their representatives, or testify against the bill. This bill follows the Florida Supreme Court’s decision in March to prohibit illegal alien Jose Godinez-Samperio from being admitted to the Bar, even though he passed its entry exam in 2011. (Sun Sentinel, May 2, 2014)
Under H.B. 755, an illegal alien will be eligible to receive a law license if he came to the country as a minor and has resided in Florida for more than 10 years. (H.B. 755) In considering the Senate amendment, the House amended the bill again to add additional conditions: an illegal alien must also have a Social Security number, authorization to work in the United States, and register with selective service if required to do so by law. (Id.) Under the amendment, illegal aliens eligible for President Obama’s back-door amnesty program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), are now eligible to receive a license to practice law. The Senate agreed to the House’s amendment on Friday.
Florida Representative Alan Hays opposed granting law licenses to those who reside in Florida in violation of the law. “The question is are we going to be a nation of laws or are we not,” he said. (Florida Times-Union, Apr. 24, 2014) “If The Florida Bar is not willing to overlook your parking tickets that haven’t been paid, why on earth are we going to tell them to overlook the fact that you’re here illegally? That just doesn’t add up for this country boy.” (Id.) Indeed, Florida Bar Admission Rules require applicants to demonstrate that they will “comply with the requirements of applicable state, local, and federal laws, rules, and regulations; any applicable order of a court or tribunal; and the Rules of Professional Conduct,” and the Florida Board of Bar Examiners requires individuals given law licenses to take an oath swearing to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Florida, and “maintain the respect due to courts of justice and judicial officers.” (Florida Bar Admission Rule 3-10.1(c)(5); The Florida Bar Oath of Admission)
Both bills must be signed by Governor Rick Scott before they can become law. Governor Scott has already promised to sign both bills. (Miami Herald, May 4, 2014; Sun Sentinel, May 2, 2014)