Legislative Update: 6/14/2016
Who Has DHS Secretary Actually Been Meeting With? FAIR Found Out.
The daily calendars of Homeland Security Secretaries Janet Napolitano and Jeh Johnson, from January 2013 through December 2015, reveal that amnesty advocates had an open door to the secretaries and their senior staff. These calendars cover the period during which the Gang of Eight amnesty bill was under consideration by Congress and the president’s policies intended to grant de facto amnesty to millions of illegal aliens were being formulated.
The records of Napolitano’s and Johnson’s schedules were obtained by FAIR through a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI).
The daily schedules reveal that during this three-year period:
- 35 meetings between DHS secretaries (including senior staff) and immigration advocacy groups and/or business interests took place. Outside input into immigration policy decisions was limited exclusively to groups and individuals supporting amnesty and expanded immigration. Under pressure from members of Congress, Johnson met on one occasion with advocates for immigration enforcement and families of victims of crimes committed by illegal aliens.
- Among those outside “stakeholders” who met with the DHS secretaries, were radical open borders advocates and representatives of the extremist group Code Pink.
- Meetings with representative of foreign governments that have expressed interest and claimed a stake in U.S. immigration policy.
- The White House played a direct role in DHS’s immigration policy and strategy decisions. During this period, Cecilia Munoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, met directly with Secretaries Napolitano or Johnson on 19 occasions. Munoz formerly served as vice president of the National Council of La Raza.
- Promoting amnesty (described as Comprehensive Immigration Reform) was a high priority for DHS. The DHS secretaries held 45 meetings with high level staff on CIR.
- After it became clear that the Gang of Eight amnesty bill would not pass the House, DHS immediately began formulating “legal authority” for the executive amnesty programs announced in November 2014, even while the president was publicly claiming he did not have any legal authority to do so.
The three years’ worth of calendar records for Secretaries Napolitano and Johnson clearly suggest that advancing the administration’s political goals took precedence over the department’s mission of enforcement of U.S. immigration laws.
The key immigration roles in DHS were farmed out to long-time advocates for illegal aliens and mass immigration who sought and took advice exclusively from likeminded groups and individuals. The records suggest that neither Secretaries Napolitano nor Johnson ever considered the American people to be stakeholders in their nation’s immigration policies.
As such, the department charged with enforcing U.S. immigration laws and protecting the security of the American people at home was almost entirely co-opted for the purpose of advancing the president’s political agenda.
VWP Countries Not Sharing Critical National Security Information
An alarming new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that a significant number of the countries benefiting from the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) are not sharing critical national security information. The VWP currently allows citizens of 38 countries to enter the U.S. for up to 90 days without having to obtain a visa or be interviewed, face-to-face, by a U.S. consular officer. (See INA § 217(a)) In exchange for this special treatment, these countries entered agreements with the U.S. promising to (1) report lost and stolen passports; (2) share identity information about known or suspected terrorists; and (3) share criminal history information. (GAO Visa Waiver Program Report, May 2016 at 8) The GAO noted that all 38 countries are complying with the requirement to report lost and stolen passports. (Id. at 11)
Importantly, the GAO report uncovers that one-third of VWP countries are not sharing the identity of potential terrorists with the U.S. government and one-third are not sharing criminal history information. (Id.) The GAO report does not reveal which countries are failing to comply with these reporting requirements but points out that “the U.S. government identified the information-sharing agreements as critical for protecting the United States from nationals of VWP countries who might present a threat.” (Id.) Thus, the GAO concludes, “because many VWP countries have not yet provided information through the agreements — possibly including information about known or suspected terrorists — agencies’ access to this critical information may be limited.” (Id. at 20)
The GAO report also criticized the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for failing to enforce the information-sharing requirements. “[C]ontrary to standard program management practices, DHS did not establish time frames for instituting the new requirements,” a reference to the key change to the VWP made in the 2015 omnibus that requires these countries to implement the agreements. (Id. at 17; see FAIR Legislative Update, Dec. 15, 2015) Additionally, the report found that DHS is failing to properly advise Congress on the status of the VWP. “Our review showed that almost a quarter of DHS’s most recent reports to Congress about VWP countries were submitted 5 or more months” after the statutory deadlines.” (GAO Visa Waiver Program Report, May 2016 at 19) “As a result, Congress may lack timely information needed to conduct oversight of the VWP and assess whether further modifications are necessary to prevent terrorists from exploiting the program.” (Id. at i)
FAIR has consistently opposed the VWP which serves no legitimate national interest. (See FAIR Visa Waiver Program Issue Brief) The VWP has been heavily scrutinized after terrorist attacks in Brussels and Paris. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Mar. 29, 2016) This GAO report is just the latest example of the need to immediately suspend or eliminate the VWP.
Senate Democrats Demand Obama Grant Amnesty to Central Americans
Last week, pro amnesty Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) led 24 of their Democratic colleagues in urging President Obama to take executive action to allow illegal aliens from Central America to remain in the country legally. In a letter, the senators ask Obama to designate Guatemala and re-designate El Salvador and Honduras for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). (Durbin and Leahy Letter to Obama, June 8, 2016) The senators also called for an end to small-scale deportation “raids” targeting unaccompanied alien minors (UAMs) and family units who have fled “rampant violence” in Central America. (Id.)
The granting of TPS is significant. Originally enacted in 1990, TPS applies to non-resident foreigners unable to return to their homeland because of civil strife or effects of a natural disaster of “extraordinary and temporary conditions.” (See FAIR Temporary Protective Status Issue Brief) Those foreigners who benefitted from the initial grant of TPS were people not seeking permanent U.S. residence, such as asylum applicants. Instead, foreign students or visitors whose visas were expiring were spared from seeking a visa extension by this provision. However, in practice, the true beneficiaries of TPS were not temporary visitors, but rather people who had entered the United States illegally. Not only did TPS spare these illegal aliens from deportation, it provided them “temporary” legal status in the country, along with work permits and access to a slew of taxpayer-funded benefits. Predictably, there has been nothing “temporary” about TPS, as it is renewed every 12 or 18 months, forever. Therefore, TPS has become a back door route to permanent residence rather than providing temporary protection.
Further, TPS relieves foreign governments of the responsibility for meeting the needs of their own citizens. Granting TPS to Central Americans due to high crime rates effectively disincentivizes governments in the Northern Triangle from addressing safety concerns at home, all while receiving millions in economy-bolstering remittance payments from the United States.
The Durbin-Leahy letter is just the latest example of Democrats showing complete disregard for the enforcement of our immigration laws, as well as exhibiting a willingness to exacerbate the problem of mass migration from Central America. Refusing to deport illegal aliens who have had their asylum claims denied by an immigration judge and then granting them de facto life-long legal status is not a solution to any migration crisis. Instead, it tells Central American UAMs and family units that our borders are open to illegal migration and that laws will not be enforced.
Illegal Aliens Exploit Obama’s Non-Enforcement Agenda By Kidnapping UAMs
Illegal aliens are now kidnapping children and bringing them across the border to masquerade as a “family” in order to take advantage of the Obama administration’s lax immigration enforcement policies. (Washington Times, June 7, 2016) This stunning development came from Leon Fresco, a deputy assistant attorney general who handles immigration cases, conceding that a federal judge’s order to quickly release families served as an “enticement for kidnapping.” (Id.) He admitted to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that when illegal aliens know that if they “come as a family unit, [they] won’t be apprehended and detained — we now have people being abducted so that they can be deemed as family units, so that they can avoid detention.” (Id.)
The news is unsurprising given that Central American illegal aliens have been exploiting President Obama’s non-enforcement agenda for years. First, while fear of generalized violence has never been sufficient for granting asylum, many illegal aliens realized that if they uttered the phrase that they had “credible fear” of persecution (the initial threshold for an asylum claim) they would be released after posting a bond. (FAIR Legislative Update, Aug. 25, 2015) Also, because of a loophole in the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2008, UAMs from Central America cannot be promptly returned to their home countries. (P. Law 110-457) Instead, they receive a “notice to appear” which sets a court date in the future before an immigration judge but illegal aliens refer to these official documents as “permisos” or free passes. (FAIR Legislative Update, Feb. 16, 2016) Similarly, the surge intensified after a court ruled that the Obama administration’s practice of detaining illegal alien minors, both UAMs and those in family units, violated a 1997 Clinton Administration class action settlement agreement and the minors had to be released. (FAIR Legislative Update, Aug. 25, 2015) Clearly, illegal aliens abducting children to pose as “family unites” is a direct consequence of the Obama administration’s non-enforcement immigration policies.
During the current fiscal year, UAMs and family unit apprehensions have eclipsed the numbers recorded at the same point in 2014. (See CBP Apprehension Statistics) In 2014, nearly 140,000 UAMs and family units surged across the border at record rates, overwhelming the federal government’s ability to respond. (FAIR Legislative Update, May 31, 2016) Currently, 70,684 UAMs and family units have been apprehended crossing the southwest border, compared to 62,621 at the same point in 2014 — an increase of 13 percent. (Id.) Without detention, these UAMs and their “family units” will continue to make the trip to the Southern border because they know that they will get to stay in the U.S. once they arrive.
House Passes Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill with ‘Illegal Alien’ Provision
Last Friday, on a vote of 233-175, the House passed the Fiscal Year 2017 Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, which provides funding for the Capitol Police, government printing, and other basic operations of the House. (The Hill, June 10, 2016; Roll Call Vote #294) Also covered by the spending bill is the Library of Congress, which, at the behest of pro-amnesty groups, recently announced that it had canceled the use of “illegal alien” and the broader term “alien” for cataloging purposes. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Apr. 19, 2016) The Library of Congress explained that the terms would be swapped out for “noncitizens” and “unauthorized immigration” — terms that are factually and legally incorrect. (See FAIR Use of Illegal Alien Issue Brief)
During the bill’s subcommittee markup in April, Chairman Tom Graves (R-GA) included FAIR-supported report language that orders the Library to continue using the terms “alien” and “illegal alien” because they are consistent with terminology used in Title 8 of United States Code. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Apr. 26, 2016) This prompted the panel’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL), to offer an amendment during the full committee markup that would remove the Graves provision. (See FAIR Legislative Update, May 24, 2016) Fortunately, the Wasserman-Schultz amendment failed by a narrow margin and the House Rules Committee did not permit a similar amendment by Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) to receive a vote on the House floor.
New York Assembly Passes Bill to Help Give Scholarships to Illegal Aliens
The New York Assembly approved a measure on June 6 to require the state to create a commission tasked with providing scholarships to illegal aliens residing in the state. (NBC News, June 10, 2016) Known as the New York “DREAM Act”, Assembly Bill (AB) 4311 states that while scholarship money shall be comprised entirely of private contributions, state funds will still be used in the creation, promotion, and maintenance of the fund.
To be eligible for scholarships under AB 4311, an applicant must have resided with his or her parents or guardians while attending high school in New York for at least two years, have graduated from high school (or its equivalent) in New York, and have at least one parent who immigrated to the United States, legally or illegally. (AB 4311 §4) Under current law, only citizens, lawful permanent residents, and refugees may receive state financial assistance for college. (Education Law § 661(3))
Legislators voiced opposition to the measure, contending that it is unfair to put illegal aliens ahead of struggling New Yorkers. For instance, Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis (R-64) favored expanding the state’s Tuition Assistance Program, which provides financial aid to New York’s middle class, instead of enacting the DREAM Act. (New York State Assembly, Feb. 26, 2015) “[The Tuition Assistance Program] should be used in place of the DREAM Act to provide financial aid to middle-class citizens and legal immigrants who are struggling with the ever-increasing cost of college,” said Malliotakis. (Id.)
Although the language of AB 4311 does not specify a price tag for the commission, Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) included a line in his budget proposal this year, asking the legislature for $27 million to fund the program. (FY 2017 Executive Budget Financial Plan) The bill must be approved by the Senate Committee on Higher Education before it can considered by the full Senate for passage. Similar legislation was introduced in the Assembly and defeated in the Senate last session. If passed, Governor Cuomo, who has repeatedly articulated his support for granting post-secondary education benefits to illegal aliens, is likely to sign the measure.