Legislative Update: 6/23/2015
CIS: Worksite Enforcement Plummets under Obama
A new report from the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) found that worksite enforcement has plummeted over the past couple of years. Using internal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) statistics, the report charges that the Obama administration has “largely abandoned efforts to enforce the laws against hiring illegal workers.” (CIS, ICE Records Reveal Steep Drop in Worksite Enforcement Since 2013, June 2015)
When President Obama took office in 2009 he dramatically changed the way ICE handled worksite enforcement. Rather than continuing the practice of sending ICE agents into worksites and arresting illegal alien workers, President Obama ordered ICE to audit I-9 documents required for new hires and impose fines on the employers. (ICE News Release, July 1, 2009; see New York Times, July 9, 2010; FAIR Legislative Update, Mar. 5, 2014) However, while previous worksite enforcement efforts were unannounced, ICE started giving employers advanced notice that they will inspect the I-9 forms — giving employers who used illegal alien labor an opportunity to cover their tracks before ICE arrived.
The ICE data analyzed by CIS show that the steep decline in the number of worksite I-9 audits has resulted in fewer employer arrests and fines collected. From 2010 to 2014, there were approximately 200 employer arrests a year though the number has been trending downward since a high of 240 in 2012. (CIS, ICE Records Reveal Steep Drop in Worksite Enforcement Since 2013, June 2015) This year, CIS projects there will only be 65 employer arrests. (Id.) Similarly, from 2011 to 2014, ICE collected more than $8 million a year in fines. (Id.) In 2015, ICE is expected to collect approximately half of that, or $4,620,000. (Id.)
The abandonment of worksite enforcement also corresponds with the failure of S. 744, the mass guest worker amnesty bill. From 2009 to 2013 (the year the Senate introduced and passed S. 744), ICE worksite audits increased from 1,444 to 3,127, presumably in an attempt to show that the Obama administration would enforce our immigration laws. (Id.) Then, in 2014 when it was clear the House would not pass the amnesty bill, worksite audits significantly dropped to 1,320. (Id.) This year, ICE is on pace to perform only 435 worksite audits. (Id.)
Border Patrol Agents Say Obama Administration Handcuffing Enforcement Efforts
Border Patrol agents along the Southern border are now openly stating that Obama administration officials are preventing them from doing their job. “We lack the political will to enforce the law and allow our agency to be effective,” charged Shawn Moran, a spokesman for the National Border Patrol Council. (Los Angeles Times, June 17, 2015)
Specifically, agents say U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have implemented new policies that hamper Border Patrol agents from detaining drug smugglers entering the United States. Previously, Border Patrol agents successfully apprehended drug smugglers through “roving interdiction patrols” during which agents would stop suspicious vehicles that had crossed the border into the U.S. (Id.) However, Obama administration officials within CBP started requiring reports from agents at the port-of-entry station the vehicle crossed through to enter the country that have created a bureaucratic hindrance. “Now the port of entry has to explain who was in the primary lane, what actions were taken, if the vehicle was inspected, so you can see there’s a whole host of implications,” explained Shane Gallagher, a Sand Diego sector agent. (Id.) “There was a lot of pressure for us to get out of the [drug] interdiction game,” Gallagher continued. (Id.)
Border Patrol agents also claim they are being forced to transport unaccompanied alien minors and their parents to facilities within the interior of country, leaving the border vulnerable. “You’re leaving large swaths of the area unprotected,” said Chris Cabrera, agent in the Rio Grande Valley sector. (Id.) “You take a few agents from the field, then you take a few more, and before you know it, you’re down to five agents covering a 53-mile stretch of river.” (Id.) Cabrera added, “We do not have what we need to do the job we need done.” (Id.)
Effort Underway to Make Poland Eligible for Visa Waiver Program Despite High Rate of Illegal Immigration
Last Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee added an amendment to the fiscal year 2016 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding bill that makes Poland eligible for the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). 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)) To participate in the VWP, federal law requires that the sending country demonstrate that U.S. visitors that their visa refusal rate is 3 percent or less. (INA § 217(c))
However, the amendment — authored by Sens. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) — would allow Poland to benefit from the program despite failing the statutory criteria for participation. In 2014, 6.4 percent of visa applications from Polish nationals were rejected — more than double the threshold establish for VWP participation. Additionally, Poles are among the top 20 nationalities of illegal aliens in the U.S. Moreover, since joining the European Union in 2004, some 2 million Polish citizens have settled outside that country, mostly in other EU countries.
Including Poland in the VWP will result in significant increases in immigration, legal and illegal. Compounding the risk of increased illegal immigration from Poland is a 2013 Obama administration policy memo allowing VWP overstays to apply for green cards if they are immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. Given the large number of Polish immigrants in the U.S., adding Poland to the VWP program practically invites people to enter under fraudulent pretenses.
California Governor and Legislators Craft Deal to Give Illegal Aliens Health Care
Last Wednesday, California Governor Jerry Brown and a handful of state legislators announced that they reached a $115.4 billion budget agreement to cover illegal aliens in the state’s Medi-Cal program. (KCRA, June 17, 2015) Federal law already requires states to provide emergency and prenatal care to residents without regard to immigration status. (8 U.S.C. 1621) The new, expanded Medi-Cal portions of the budget deal designed to cover illegal alien minors are expected to cost state taxpayers $40 million in the first fiscal year, and grow to at least $132 million a year. (KCRA, June 17, 2015) The Medi-Cal program includes comprehensive coverage in out-patients services, mental health and substance use disorder services, hospitalization, prescription drugs, physical and occupational therapy, laboratory services, and preventive and wellness services, among other things. (CA Dep’t of Health Care Services)
Legislators who opposed the Governor’s deal emphasized the strain it will put on the already over-burdened Medi-Cal program. The program has long suffering a budget crisis and a shortage of doctors willing to accept new Medi-Cal patients. The deal is expected to add at least 170,000 children to the program in the initial stages of implementation. That number is likely to grow as the population of illegal aliens in the state increases. In 2011, the Legislature was forced to slash Medi-Cal funding by 10 percent. (Los Angeles Times, June 10, 2013) Reportedly, the cuts have already reduced provider accessibility and services and the overall quality of healthcare for the millions of California residents already dependent on Medi-Cal. (Id.)
Others suggested that legislation granting such expansive benefits would encourage more illegal immigration to the state. (ABC News, June 17, 2015) “The issue really comes down to, the more you offer, the more will come,” said Don Rosenberg, a retired entertainment executive and concerned California resident. Currently, California has the highest population of illegal aliens in the United States, estimated in 2014 to be almost 3 million. (FAIR Report) Illegal immigration to the state was also estimated in 2014 to cost California taxpayers over $25.3 billion annually. (Id.)
While the California Legislature was hammering out this deal, lawmakers and local leaders from Sacramento County, California approved funding to provide healthcare benefits for low-income illegal aliens residing in the county. (Sacramento Business Journal, June 18, 2015) The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors approved a plan to spend $6.6 million in taxpayer funds to provide healthcare for approximately 3,000 illegal alien adults. (Id.) Combined with the state deal, all low-income illegal aliens residing in Sacramento County will be eligible for health services.
The changes in health care coverage will go into effect on May 1, 2016. (Sacramento Business Journal, June 18, 2015) To be eligible for the benefits, a household of four would have to make less than $59,625 a year. (ABC News, June 17, 2015)