Legislative Update: 6/16/2015
Trade Deal that Could Increase Foreign Workers in Limbo
Last week, House leadership attempted but failed to advance the fast track trade promotion authority (TPA), which could allow the President to implement parts of his immigration agenda through trade deals. (See FAIR Legislative Update, May 27, 2015; New York Times, June 12, 2015) Unlike the Senate, which passed one bill authorizing the TPA last month, the House Rules Committee split the legislation into three smaller bills, with each one needing to be passed in a separate vote to authorize TPA. (The Hill, June 11, 2015; House Rules Committee, June 11, 2015; see Roll Call Vote 359) The three bills needed to pass the package were the Trade Adjustment Assistance Act (TAA), which would provide assistance to workers displaced by the trade deals, the TPA itself, and a (much less controversial) customs trade bill. (The Hill, June 11, 2015)
Since the vote on TPA authority was expected to be close, House GOP leadership strategically ordered the bills in an attempt to pass the package. Accordingly, GOP leadership decided that the TAA vote would be first and only if it passed would the TPA vote occur. The uncontroversial customs trade bill would be the final vote if both TAA and TPA passed. While many Democrats opposed TPA they typically support the worker assistance provisions in TAA so GOP leadership was trying to pass TAA with mostly Democratic support and then TPA with mostly Republican support. Before the TAA vote, President Obama personally went to the Capitol to lobby Democrats to save his trade deal by voting for TAA and TPA itself. (Politico, June 11, 2015) Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) also made a rare speech urging a vote for both bills. (CQ News, June 12, 2015) However, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) came out against the TAA on Friday, realizing that defeating TAA was the only way she could prevent the TPA from being voted on. (The Hill, June 12, 2015) The vote for the TAA overwhelmingly failed 126 to 306, with a majority of both parties opposing. (Politico, June 12, 2015; see Roll Call Vote 361)
Somewhat surprisingly, House leadership then brought the TPA itself to the floor for a vote, despite the fact that the TAA’s failure meant that the TPA could not advance even if it passed. (Politico, June 12, 2015) In a “show” vote, the TPA itself passed narrowly with largely Republican votes, 219-211. (Id.; Roll Call Vote 362)
The trade deal could still get to the President’s desk if the TAA should pass next week. Speaker Boehner said Friday that he will bring it up for re-consideration Tuesday, giving President Obama the weekend to convince enough Democrats to vote for it. (Washington Post, June 12, 2015) However, it would take around 90 members who voted against the TAA to change their minds without losing any of its previous support.
Stay tuned to FAIR as details emerge…
Senate GOP Using Defense Authorization Bill as Amnesty Vehicle?
Several pro-amnesty Republicans in the Senate have plans to sneak amnesty into the fiscal year 2016 defense authorization bill. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) is leading the effort to include a military amnesty in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The Kirk amendment is modeled off of Rep. Jeff Denham’s (R-CA) ENLIST Act and requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to issue green cards (legal permanent resident status) to certain illegal aliens just for enlisting in the military. (SeeFAIR Policy Statement on ENLIST Act) Specifically, the Kirk amendment makes all illegal aliens with work authorization through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) eligible for amnesty. (Kirk Amendment #1776) The amendment also makes aliens with two years of lawful status eligible to enlist, meaning aliens who were lawfully admitted for a temporary basis (e.g., student visa) could circumvent the proper procedure established by the Immigration and Nationality Act in order to get a green card. (Id.) And, because of an Executive Order still in effect from the Bush administration, these amnestied illegal aliens are immediately eligible to become U.S. citizens once they receive their green cards. (See FAIR Policy Statement on ENLIST Act)
Additionally, Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) has two amendments that are “sense of the Senate” amendments that instruct the Secretary of Defense to evaluate letting DACA recipients join the military. (Heller Amendment #1894; Heller Amendment #1895) Interestingly, the Heller amendments are nearly identical to amendments offered — and rejected — by the House of Representatives just last month. (See FAIR Legislative Update, May 19, 2015; FAIR Legislative Update, May 12, 2015)
Remarkably, these Senators are trying sneak amnesty into the NDAA even though Armed Services Committee Chairman — and Gang of Eight leader — John McCain (R-AZ), who has jurisdiction over the NDAA, called such an effort in the House inappropriate. Regarding the House debate over amnesty in the NDAA, Sen. McCain, “We’re not doing anything on immigration on the NDAA.” (The Hill, May 5, 2015) He added, “The defense bill is for defense, not for Dreamers.” (Id.)
The NDAA is currently on the Senate floor, where these amnesty amendments could receive a vote any day.
Stay tuned to FAIR as details emerge…
DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson Fudges Facts at Rice University
Speaking to an audience at Rice University last week, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson delivered a carefully-crafted, but flagrantly misleading speech on the current state of illegal immigration in the U.S. (Johnson transcript, June 8, 2015)
Ironically, Secretary Johnson’s speech was entitled “Immigration: Perception Versus Reality”. However, far from separating fact from fiction, Johnson laced his speech with claims designed to convince listeners that illegal immigration is dropping dramatically and that Americans should support granting amnesty to the millions of illegal aliens currently in the U.S.
Of all the claims Secretary Johnson made, perhaps the most egregious was the underlying assumption of the speech that apprehensions reflect the level of illegal immigration. Johnson said, “Apprehensions on the southern border — which are a direct reflection of total attempts to cross the border illegally — have declined significantly over the last 15 years, and are a fraction of what they used to be.” (emphasis added)
This is not true. Apprehensions are not a direct reflection of total attempts to cross the border illegally. Apprehensions measure only the number of aliens the Border Patrol physically catches, not those who have successfully crossed past the Border Patrol (referred to as “got aways”). Nor does the number of apprehensions include the number of “turn backs,” which refer to aliens who illegally enter the U.S., but who are not apprehended because they cross back into Mexico. (See GAO-13-330T)
Indeed, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has criticized the Administration’s sole use of apprehensions as a measure of border security, stating it only represents Border Patrol “activity” not “results.” (Id.) It noted that even studies commissioned by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) document “that the number of apprehensions bears little relationship to effectiveness because agency officials do not compare these numbers with the amount of cross-border illegal activity.” (Id. at 17-18)
Even Johnson’s predecessor in the Obama Administration, Janet Napolitano, acknowledged that the number of apprehensions does not measure the number of people who illegally enter the U.S. During an exchange with Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) while testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Napolitano acknowledged that apprehensions do not measure the number of people who evade the Border Patrol and are able to move into the U.S. (Senate Judiciary Committee hearing transcript, Apr. 23, 2013)
Nevertheless, during his speech, Secretary Johnson persisted in misleading the public. Johnson stated, “[I]llegal migration into this country peaked in the year 2000, reflected by over 1.6 million apprehensions that year.” Johnson continued: “In fact, illegal migration into this country has dropped considerably since then, reflected by the decline in total apprehensions from 1.6 million in 2000 to around 400,000 a year in recent years. Last fiscal year the number of apprehensions on the southwest border was 479,371.”
This statement is egregiously false and misleading. First — as described above — the Secretary is equating the number of apprehensions with the number of people illegally in the U.S., which is incorrect. And even if there were a correlation, Johnson conveniently forgets to tell his audience that apprehensions have actually increased over the past four years. Border Patrol apprehensions totaled 487,000 in FY 2014; 421,000 in FY 2013; 365,000 in FY 2012; and 340,000 in FY 2011. (See Customs and Border Protection Performance and Accountability Report, FY 2014, p.8) If apprehensions were indeed a measure of illegal immigration, then Secretary Johnson failed to mention that illegal immigration has grown steadily over the past four years of the Obama Administration.
Second, Johnson appallingly ignores data — data he actually presents in a different part of his speech (chart below) — that shows the illegal alien population dramatically rising between 1990 and 2007. This data also shows that the illegal alien population has remained steady virtually steady in the past five years (at about 11.5 million). Clearly illegal immigration did not peak in 2000, as Secretary Johnson claims.
Finally, even though the data shows the illegal alien population in the U.S. has leveled off in the past few years, it also shows that the illegal alien population has not declined as Secretary Johnson insists it has, pointing to a lower number of apprehensions. And, as a last note, one should also stop to compare this with the Obama Administration’s claims that it has deported a record number of illegal aliens. If the claim of high deportations is true, then more illegal aliens must be entering the U.S. in order for the illegal alien population to remain steady.
At the beginning of his speech at Rice University, Secretary Johnson promised transparency. He declared, “I am on a mission to separate fact from fiction about immigration in the public mind, and share more information.” Clearly, Secretary Johnson achieved none of these goals. To the contrary, his speech painted a misleading and incomplete picture of border security and the state of illegal immigration in the U.S.
Hundreds of Cuban Criminals Released into U.S. Every Year as Obama Negotiates to Open Cuba
President Obama is currently negotiating with the Cuban government to open up relations between the U.S. and Cuba, but he does not appear to be taking the opportunity to pressure Cuba into taking back its own criminal aliens. (Washington Times, June 9, 2015) Because of a Supreme Court case from 2001, Zadvydas v. Davis, the government must release all aliens, including criminal aliens, from detention six months after their 90-day removal period has expired if a court determines that removal of the alien is not reasonably foreseeable. (See Zadvydas v. Davis, 533 U.S. 678 (2001)) Cuba, more than any other nation, refuses to repatriate criminal aliens. (Washington Times, Jun. 9, 2015) According to House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), in fiscal year 2014 Cuba refused to take back 878 criminals, more than a third of the total of criminals released in the U.S. due to Zadvydas v. Davis. (Id.) It has already refused to repatriate 400 in the first eight months of this fiscal year. (Id.)
Even Administration officials acknowledged back in January that the President’s current negotiations to “normalize” relations with Cuba presented an opportunity to insist the Cuban government take back its criminals. (New York Times, Jan. 18, 2015; New York Times, Jan. 13, 2005; Sun Sentinel, Jan. 8, 2015) Yet, six months after the President’s announcement that he will open doors to Cuba after more than five decades, and two months after he met with Raul Castro in Cuba to launch talks, there is no sign that the State Department has raised the issue during negotiations. (USA Today, Dec. 17, 2014; CNN.com, Apr. 12, 2015; Washington Times, Jun. 9, 2015) The State Department did not respond to multiple requests for comment from the Washington Times for more information on Cuba’s refusal to cooperate.
Illinois Passes Bill to Give Law Licenses to DACA Beneficiaries
Last week, the Illinois General Assembly passed Senate Bill (“S.B.”) 23 to allow illegal aliens granted deferred action under President Obama’s deferred action for childhood arrivals (“DACA”) program admission to the state bar. (Illinois General Assembly) The bill, which received a 69-37 vote in the House and 41-12 vote in the Senate, enables DACA beneficiaries to practice law in the state despite not having a legal immigration status. (Id.)
S.B. 23 allows that Supreme Court of Illinois to grant a law license to an illegal alien who, after fulfilling the requirements to practice law in the state, demonstrates that they have an approved request for deferred action under the DACA program and current employment authorization. (S.B. 23) Deferred action, as used in the DACA program, is a temporary reprieve from deportation by the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) that may be terminated by DHS at any time pursuant to their discretion. (Napolitano Memorandum, June 15, 2012) Deferred action and work authorization under the program are typically granted for two year terms and do not confer lawful status onto the illegal alien applicant. (Id.)
The General assembly passed Senate Bill 23 despite the Illinois Supreme Court requiring all bar applicants to take an oath, swearing to support the Constitution and the Constitution of the state of Illinois, and to “faithfully discharge the duties of officer and councilor of the Law” to the best of his or her abilities. Illegal aliens granted deferred action, however, cannot in good faith take an oath to uphold the law as they are in continuous and knowing violation of it. As the Honorable Mahlon Hanson and Honorable Elizabeth Hacker, former immigration judges, explain, “Deferred action is only an administrative convenience to the government which gives some cases lower enforcement priority. It is not a status recognized by Congress nor was it ever meant to be an escape hatch for illegal aliens to postpone or avoid removal proceedings or removal itself.” (Views From the Bench, Jan. 12, 2015)
Governor Bruce Rauner must sign S.B. 23 before it can become law. If approved, Illinois will become the third state to allow illegal aliens to practice law, following California and Florida.