Legislative Update: 6/13/2017
Trump Approves DACA at Obama Rate
By: Robert Law
While most Americans were fixated on fired FBI Director James Comey testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee last week, the Trump administration quietly released the 2017 first quarter Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) statistics. Between January 1 and March 31, the federal government granted amnesty to 17,275 illegal aliens for the first time and renewed DACA for 107,524 illegal aliens whose two year deportation reprieve was set to expire. (USCIS DACA Data 2017 Q1) Since President Donald Trump did not take office until January 20, Center for Immigration Studies Executive Director Mark Krikorian calculated that the new administration is responsible for 78 percent of the year’s first quarter approvals. (CIS Blog, June 8, 2017) That means the Trump administration has granted amnesty and work authorization to 13,436 new illegal aliens—an average of 192 new illegal aliens amnestied per day. (Id.) Additionally, the Trump administration is responsible for renewing DACA for 83,630 illegal aliens. (Id.)
President Trump’s failure to end DACA is by far his biggest broken campaign promise to date. Throughout the 2016 election cycle, Trump vowed to “immediately terminate President Obama’s illegal executive amnesty in which he defied federal law and the Constitution.” (See FAIR Legislative Update, Apr. 4, 2017) Instead, the Trump administration is approving unconstitutional DACA applications at the same rate as the Obama administration. (See Washington Times, June 8, 2017) Disappointingly, it does not appear that the Trump administration ever plans to end DACA. In fact, Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly recently suggested that President Trump would sign a DACA amnesty bill into law, telling the House Homeland Security Committee, “I am hoping, frankly, because there is bipartisan support for doing something about DACA legally, legislatively.” (Id.)
To date, more than 780,000 illegal aliens have received DACA since President Obama unlawfully created the program in 2012. (USCIS DACA Data 2017 Q1) The DACA status grants these illegal aliens a reprieve from deportation, provides work authorization for two years, and makes some of them eligible for taxpayer benefits including in-state tuition and driver’s licenses.
16 States Ask Supreme Court to Uphold Trump’s Travel Freeze
By: Robert Law
Led by the State of Texas, officials representing 16 states filed a brief on June 6, asking the Supreme Court to reinstate President Trump’s national security executive order. (Washington Times, Jun. 6, 2017) President Trump has twice issued an executive order to ensure foreign nationals are properly vetted before they enter the country. Despite the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) giving the president broad authority on non-citizen admissions based on national security concerns, both versions of the executive order have been blocked by activist judges who dislike the policy. (FAIR Legislative Update, Mar. 7, 2017; See FAIR Legislative Update, Feb. 14, 2017) The Trump administration has appealed the nationwide temporary restraining order to the Supreme Court.
Last week, the high court expedited its consideration of the case. (FAIR Legislative Update, June 6, 2017) Implementation of the revised executive order was put on hold following a Maryland federal district court’s decision to block several of the order’s key provisions after open borders advocates filed legal challenges. (Id.)
The States that signed on to the brief in support of the Trump administration are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia. (States’ Brief) “The Order classifies aliens according to nationality based on concerns about the government’s ability to adequately vet nationals of six covered countries who seek entry. Not only that, but these six countries covered by the Order were previously identified by Congress and the Obama Administration, under the visa-waiver program, as national security ‘countries of concern,’” the states said in their brief. (Id.) “The Executive Order therefore is emphatically not a ‘Muslim ban,’” they concluded. (Id.)
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who filed the brief, commented on the States’ position. (Texas AG Press Release, Jun. 6, 2017) “The executive order is a tailored response to a very real threat to our national security,” said Attorney General Paxton. (Id.)
The Ninth Circuit is concurrently considering legal issues posed by the same order, but has not yet issued a ruling. (CNN, May 15, 2017) In addition to considering the provisions limited travel from the six countries, the Ninth Circuit case will be reviewing the 120-day temporary suspension of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. (Id.) If the Ninth Circuit decides soon, its decision would likely also receive review in the Supreme Court.
USCIS Adopts Policy Ending Diploma Mills for H-1B Foreign Workers
By: RJ Hauman
The Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently ruled that individuals seeking an H-1B visa available to foreigners with advanced degrees must have earned their degree(s) from an accredited institution. (LifeZette, June 1, 2017) The ruling – which was adopted as official USCIS policy – effectively closes a loophole in the embattled H-1B visa program that allowed prospective H-1B foreign workers to easily obtain an advanced degree from non-accredited “diploma mills.” (Id.)
Section 214 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) dictates that the number of H-1B visas issued each year is capped at 65,000. (INA § 214(g)(1)(A)) However, there is an exemption to this cap that allows for the issuance of 20,000 additional H-1B visas to foreigners with a master’s degree or higher from a “U.S. institute of higher education.” (INA § 214(g)(5)(c)) The INA draws its definition of an “institute of higher education” from 20 U.S.C. 10001(a), which defines an “institute of higher education” as: “A public or nonprofit educational institution that is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association, or if not so accredited, is an institution that has been granted pre-accreditation status by such an agency or association that has been recognized by the [U.S. Secretary of Education].” (National Law Review, June 2, 2017) The AAO ruling further clarifies this definition, stating that in order to create eligibility for the H-1B master’s cap exemption, the school from which the H-1B beneficiary received an advanced degree must have been accredited or pre-accredited at the time the individual received that advanced degree. (Id.)
The case before the AAO involved a company that wanted to hire a foreign computer programmer who obtained a master’s degree from International Technological University in California before the school was accredited as an “institution of higher education.” (Id.) The AAO ruled that this individual was not eligible to be counted under the H-1B U.S. master’s cap because the school was not accredited at the time he received his degree. (Id.) The AAO also ruled that the petition could not be counted under the regular H-1B cap because “the relevant H-1B regulations generally do not permit H-1B petitioners to claim eligibility under alternative grounds.” (Id.) As such, the AAO determined it was proper for USCIS to deny the H-1B petition. (Id.)
Oregon Governor Requests Legislation to Expand State’s Sanctuary Law
By: Shari Rendall
On June 1, Democratic Representatives Teresa Alonso Leon (OR-22) and Diego Hernandez (OR-47) introduced “emergency” immigration legislation to expand Oregon’s sanctuary law at the request of Democratic Governor Kate Brown and Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. (See Press Release, May 31, 2017) House Bill (H.B.) 3464 would make it nearly impossible for state and local law enforcement to cooperate with federal immigration officials and allow criminal aliens, even those convicted of the most serious crimes, to escape immigration enforcement. (H.B. 3464)
In requesting the legislation, Governor Brown said, “We must ensure the civil rights of all Oregonians are protected and that the rule of law is respected.” (See Press Release, May 31, 2017) However, if H.B. 3464 is enacted, the rule of law will not be respected. In 1996, Congress adopted the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act to prohibit state and local governments from restricting their employees from sharing and receiving information regarding illegal aliens with the federal government. (See FAIR Fact Sheet, July 2016) H.B. 3464 directly conflicts with the purposes and objectives of this law by prohibiting state and local officials from disclosing the immigration status of individuals they encounter thereby prohibiting cooperation with federal officials in the enforcement of immigration law. (H.B. 3464)
Specifically, the bill prohibits state and local agencies in Oregon from sharing information about individuals including their contact information, time and location of their public appointments, the identity of relatives, and their place of employment. (Id.) The bill would also prohibit these institutions from requesting information about a person’s immigration or citizenship status. (Id.) If they already have that information, they “may decline to disclose” the status to federal authorities unless required by law or court order, according to the bill. (Id.)
Representative Alonso Leon claimed H.B. 3464 is needed because the so-called increase in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids and deportations under President Trump have created an environment of fear where children “are afraid to go to school in the morning, because they aren’t sure if their parents will be home at the end of the day.” (See Press Release, May 31, 2017) “I won’t stand for these inhumane immigration enforcement tactics that are tearing families apart,” she said. (Id.)
However, Rep. Alonso Leon completely disregards how tragedies committed by criminal aliens have torn apart American families. The Oregon Department of Correction Issue Brief shows there were more than 14,500 individuals incarcerated in the state for crimes such as rape, murder, or kidnapping. (See Oregon DOC Issue Brief, February 2017) One thousand four hundred and seventy-three of them are criminal aliens. (Id.) The crimes these aliens have committed are not victimless crimes. Kate Steinle, probably the most well-known victim, was tragically shot and killed by Francisco Sanchez, an illegal alien with seven convictions and five previous deportations. Sanchez admitted he went to San Francisco because he knew he would be shielded from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Outrageously, bill sponsor Reps. Alonso Leon and Hernandez employed a procedural tactic that essentially cuts voters out of the process by designating H.B. 3464 as “emergency” legislation. (2ANews, June 6, 2017) According to the Oregon Constitution, the emergency clauses were for new laws needed for the “immediate preservation of the public peace, health and safety.” (The Register-Guard, Feb. 26, 2017) With this emergency designation, H.B. 3464 will take effect immediately instead of the usual 90 days after passage – thus not allowing opponents to gather signatures to begin the challenge process. (Id.)