Legislative Update: 7/14/2015
GOP Lawmakers Target Sanctuary Cities after San Francisco Murder
In response to the death of 32-year old Kate Steinle who was allegedly shot and killed by Francisco Sanchez, an illegal alien with seven felony convictions and five deportations, Republican lawmakers on both sides of the Capitol are targeting “sanctuary cities” — state and local jurisdictions with policies that obstruct immigration enforcement — to prevent future tragedies from happening. (See FAIR Legislative Update, July 8, 2015)
Several House members have introduced legislation targeting sanctuary cities. On Thursday, Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) introduced the Establishing Mandatory Minimums for Illegal Reentry Act, also known as Kate’s Law, that requires a five year minimum sentence for previously deported illegal aliens who unlawfully return to the country. In a press release, Rep. Salmon declared, “By instituting mandatory minimums for those who illegally reenter our nation after already having been deported, we help dissuade those who so casually disregard our laws and continue to victimize Americans.” (Salmon Press Release, July, 9, 2015) Previously, Rep. Salmon had introduced H.R. 2942, the Stop Catch and Release Act — also known as Grant’s Law after an American citizen who was murdered by an criminal illegal alien — which requires Homeland Security to keep criminal aliens in custody and complete removal proceedings instead of releasing them back onto the streets.
Similarly, on Thursday true immigration reformer Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) reintroduced legislation that will deny federal funds to sanctuary cities. Known as the Mobilizing Against Sanctuary Cities Act, the bill prohibits dispensing federal funds for at least one year to any state or local government with a policy or law that prevents them from assisting immigration authorities enforce immigration laws. In a press release, Rep. Barletta said, “Four years ago when I introduced this bill, Congress lacked the political will to pass it. I see the tide turning now, and I am just heartbroken that it has taken the death of a young woman, a cherished member of her family, to bring this issue to the fore again.” (Barletta Press Release, July 9, 2015)
It is unclear if House GOP leadership will move any of these bills considering they have been reluctant to advance true immigration reform legislation this Congress. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told the Washington Examiner, “This individual should have been deported and that’s not just our position. I think there is a role we need to look at within the federal government to those cities that are not abiding by federal law.” (Washington Examiner, July 8, 2015) “You could hear from Congress,” McCarthy added. (Id.)
Over in the Senate, true immigration reformer Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) spearheaded a letter to Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson blasting him for allowing sanctuary cities to defy federal law. “Your department has refused to confront so-called ‘sanctuary’ jurisdictions, endangering the public safety and leading to tragedies such as the recent killings of Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco, Calif., and Angelica Martinez in Laredo, Texas,” wrote Sessions, who was joined by 8 GOP Senators on the Judiciary Committee. (Sessions Letter to Johnson, July 7, 2015) “[Y]our department has elected to acquiesce willfully to the presence of criminal aliens in the United States and ordered law enforcement officers and agents to look the other way except in extremely limited circumstances.” (Id.) The letter goes on to criticize DHS’s new “Priority Enforcement Policy” which President Obama unilaterally implemented in November to replace the successful Secure Communities enforcement program and demands answers to 13 questions including whether Secretary Johnson has “any guarantees” that sanctuary cities will “fully comply” with PEP. (Id.)
Additionally, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) introduced an amendment to an appropriations bill that would make sanctuary cities ineligible for federal immigration and law enforcement grants. In a press release, Sen. Cotton said, “It is unacceptable that cities would issue ordinances that explicitly aim to frustrate federal immigration laws that are supposed to keep illegal immigrant felons off the streets. U.S. taxpayers shouldn’t be expected to support such misguided local policies that put their safety in jeopardy.” (Cotton Press Release, July 8, 2015)
Without specifically mentioning any of these efforts, the GOP leader from the Senate and House appeared on the Sunday talk shows to condemn sanctuary cities. “I think any sanctuary city… should not be receiving federal criminal assistance money, period,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on “Fox News Sunday.” (Fox News Sunday Transcript, July 12, 2015) House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) added on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that federal immigration laws “are required to be enforced…. And the fact that some cities have decided to ignore the law is wrong. It’s flat out wrong.” (Face the Nation Transcript, July 12, 2015)
Judge Threatens Secretary Jeh Johnson with Contempt of Court for Violation of Injunction
Last Tuesday, Judge Andrew Hanen threatened to hold the Obama Administration in contempt of court for failing to rescind all of the 2000 three-year work permits granted in violation of his injunction. (See FAIR Legislative Update, July 8, 2015; Order, July 7, 2015) In the order, Judge Hanen said again that he was “shocked and surprised” at the “cavalier attitude” the Administration had taken towards rectifying the situation. (Id.) He further ordered that if the government doesn’t revoke all 2000 work authorizations by July 31st, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and other officials must personally attend an August hearing to explain why they should not be “held in contempt of Court.” (Id.)
Judge Hanen noted that two months had passed since the Department of Justice (DOJ) lawyers conceded the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had directly violated the injunction and promised to take “immediate steps” to undo the violation. (Id.) This delay, Judge Hanen said, “is unacceptable, and as far as the Government’s attorneys are concerned, completely unprofessional.” (Id.) Therefore, Hanen ordered the “individual” defendants in the case to attend a hearing in his court to make their case against being held in contempt on August 19, along with all of the relevant witnesses on the topic. (Id.) The individual defendants in question include Jeh Johnson, the Secretary of DHS, Gil Kerlikowske, the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Ronald Vitiello, Deputy Chief of U.S. Border Patrol, Sarah Saldana, Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Leon Rodriquez, Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
It is far from clear that the named defendants, particularly Secretary Johnson, will actually attend the hearing in person. First, Judge Hanen has indicated that if USCIS manages to revoke all the permits by the end of the month and satisfactorily demonstrates it has done so, he will cancel the August hearing. (Id.) Second, some circuit courts have found that executive officials may refuse to attend a court summons based on a claim of separation of powers. (See In re: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) But if the hearing is not canceled, if Secretary Johnson refuses to attend, and if Judge Hanen insists that no other official can represent DHS, the 5th Circuit will likely have to resolve the issue.
The language in the order suggests that Judge Hanen is hoping not to have a showdown with DHS, but simply wants to stop the Administration from continuing to flout the court’s authority. (Order, July 7, 2015) He cited his “reluctance” to sanction any party or attorney, in part because sanctions can “bog both the parties and the Court down on side issues.” (Id.) But, he stated, no reasonable person can consider a “direct violation of an injunction” to be a side issue, and at some point, continued refusal to comply with an order must be “non-accidental, but deliberate.” (Id.) If the violation continues past July, he concluded, the federal government needs “a stronger motivation to comply with lawful court orders.” (Id.)
The DOJ hastily responded to Judge Hanen’s order by filing another advisory last Thursday. (DOJ Advisory, July 9, 2015) In this latest advisory, the DOJ again took a contrite tone, saying that the federal government takes Judge Hanen’s concerns “very seriously” and “fully appreciates the urgency of the situation.” (Id.) It also stated the federal government’s belief that Judge Hanen will be satisfied, after receiving the parties’ July 31 report detailing the steps taken to correct the situation, that “no hearing is required on August 19.” (Id.)
However, despite the DOJ’s assurances, the content of the advisory may be less than reassuring that DHS really has a handle on correcting the problem. (Id.) The DOJ said that DHS had changed all of the 2000 three year world permits to two year permits, updated the SAVE database (which states use to verify eligibility), and sent two rounds of letters demanding the return of the work permit cards upon threat of revoking the deferred action. (Id.) Yet, it has still managed to get back slightly less than 1200. (Id.) In fact, this failure to get a response from over 40% of these amnesty beneficiaries calls into question the Administration’s past claims that giving amnesty to illegal aliens will benefit the public by making those illegal aliens “accountable” to the government and easier to keep track of. (See e.g. Johnson Remarks, Feb. 7, 2014) Even more concerning, the advisory also admitted that DHS had actually issue 500 more three year work permits in violation of the injunction than the DOJ had previously mentioned. (DOJ Advisory, July 9, 2015) Apparently, these 500 had been mailed out before the injunction, returned by the mail system as undeliverable, and then re-mailed by a USCIS mailing contractor to the recipients after the injunction. (Id.) This lack of control over the issuance of permits, of course, is a testament to the slipshod nature of the original DACA program, which, notwithstanding its continuance while DAPA and extended DACA are enjoined, is itself unlawful, and, as such, never had a proper source of funding.
Judge Hanen had indicated in his order that he will hold off until the parties’ report on July 31 to determine what other actions he will take in response to the misconduct by the federal government. (Id.; see FAIR Legislative Update, Apr. 14, 2015) The judge had ordered targeted discovery to determine how Department of Justice attorneys had come to mislead him last fall when they represented that USCIS was not yet granting extended DACA applications. (Id.)
Meanwhile, on Friday, a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit held oral argument on the merits of Judge Hanen’s injunction itself. (Politico, July 10, 2015) The questions by two of the judges appeared to confirm expectations that the panel is unlikely to overturn Judge Hanen’s injunction. (Id.) Judge Jerry Smith stated that it seemed to him the programs at issue involve “a lot more than prosecutorial discretion.” (Id.) And Judge Jennifer Elrod even appeared to question the basis of the Administration giving out work authorization at all, saying: “[i]t would seem that it would be unlawful to allow other people to have deferred action with work authorization when who gets work authorization is specifically limited to very narrow classes.” (Id.)
Until the 5th Circuit hands down its decision, the Judge Hanen has agreed to both parties’ request to suspend additional proceedings on the merits even as the investigation into the Administration’s misconduct continues. (Law 360, June, 11, 2015)
Stay tuned to FAIR as further details emerge…
Clinton Campaign Makes Illegal Aliens Eligible for Contest to Meet Hillary
Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign has changed the eligibility criteria for a contest to personally meet Mrs. Clinton to allow illegal aliens to enter. The first version of the contest, known as “Meet Hillary,” which ended June 5 offered a “free trip to our first big rally” and “a one-on-one chat with me.” (See Daily Caller, May 29, 2015) Notably, only U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents (green card holders) were eligible to win the “Meet Hillary” contest. (Id.) However, the new contest, known as “Dinner with Hillary,” which accepts entries until July 30 now allows illegal aliens to participate. (See Daily Caller, July 5, 2015) Indeed, the eligibility criteria now reads: “Promotion open only to individuals who are United States citizens or who reside in the fifty (50) United States, Puerto Rico or District of Columbia and are over the age of 18 (or the age of majority under applicable law).” (Dinner with Hillary Official Rules) (emphasis added)
The move to include illegal aliens in the contest is unsurprising considering in May Mrs. Clinton told amnesty activists that, if elected, she would go “further” than President Obama in granting executive amnesty to even more illegal aliens. (FAIR Legislative Update, May 12, 2015)
New Mexico Cracks Down on Fraud, Sees Drastic Drop in Illegal Alien Driver’s Licenses
The number of driver’s licenses issued to illegal aliens in New Mexico dropped by 70% following the Department of Public Safety’s recent crackdown on document fraud. (Fox News, July 8, 2015) The drastic reduction of driver’s licenses issued to illegal aliens supports the conclusion that states who issue identification documents to illegal aliens are susceptible to high instances document and identity fraud.
“While this is encouraging news, Gov. Martinez still sides with an overwhelming majority of New Mexicans who believe we must repeal the dangerous law of giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, which has turned our state into a magnet for criminal activity,” said a spokesman for the governor. (Fox News, July 8, 2015) Governor Susana Martinez has pushed for repeal of the New Mexico’s driver’s license law since she took office in 2010.
The Tax Fraud Investigation Division of the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department is actively investigating fraud schemes aimed at distributing New Mexico driver’s licenses to illegal aliens across the country. (Taxation & Revenue Press Release, July 7, 2015; Taxation & Revenue Press Release, May 21, 2014; Taxation & Revenue Press Release, Jan. 24, 2014; Taxation & Revenue Press Release, Dec. 27, 2013) Recently, the Tax Fraud Investigation Division brought a case against a New Mexico man for fraudulently obtaining and selling New Mexico driver’s licenses to out-of-state applicants. (Taxation & Revenue Press Release, July 7, 2015) Eduardo Chavez, who pleaded guilty to the felonies, allegedly sold forged New Mexico residency documents for as much as $1000 a piece. (Id.) The state’s crackdown on document fraud has resulted in a drop of foreign national driver’s license issuance from approximately 15,000 in 2010 to only 4,577 in 2014. (Fox News, July 8, 2015)
Indeed, New Mexico has experienced high instances of fraud as a result of granting driver’s licenses to illegal aliens. During an audit between August 2010 and April 2011, investigators found that as much as 75 percent of foreign national license applications were phonies. (KRQE) Between that same period, investigators also uncovered 37 percent of foreign national requests for appointments came from out-of-state, most from Arizona, Georgia, and Texas. (Fox News, Jan. 25, 2012)
The movement to repeal illegal alien driver’s licenses in New Mexico has seen wide support amongst state officials and constituents. A 2014 Albuquerque Journal poll revealed that 75 percent of New Mexicans support repealing the state’s current driver’s license law. (Albuquerque Journal, Feb. 11, 2015) Greg Fouratt, the Secretary of the Department of Public Safety, explained his support for repealing the current law, stating “New Mexico driver’s licenses have become a commodity for criminal rings across the country.” (Id.)
New Mexico Representative Bill Rehm, a retired county sheriff’s officer, introduced legislation this year to repeal the driver’s license law. “We sparked a whole criminal industry by allowing [illegal aliens to receive driver’s licenses],” said Representative Rehm. The legislation passed the House of Representatives but was ultimately unsuccessful in the Senate.
New Mexico is not the only state experiencing high instances of fraud in relation to its driver’s license law. Earlier this year, the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles announced that many out-of-state aliens had been fraudulently applying for driver’s licenses in Vermont. (Watchdog, Jan. 22, 2015) The Vermont DMV made this announcement after it uncovered that at least 130 applications at just one of its DMV offices last month were filled out using false address information. (Id.) When applicants later arrived in person to take the driving portion of the test, investigators learned that many of these applicants were illegal aliens who had paid $2,000 to individuals in New York for help to obtain Vermont driver’s licenses. (Id.)