Legislative Update: 7/19/2016
Trump’s VP Has Mixed Immigration Record
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump officially revealed his running mate on Friday, tweeting “I am pleased to announce that I have chosen Governor Mike Pence as my Vice Presidential running mate.” (See The Hill, July 15, 2016) Although Trump pushed back the official news conference to Saturday because of the tragic terrorist attack in Nice, France on Thursday night, he needed to make the announcement official Friday morning because Gov. Pence faced a noon deadline to withdraw from Indiana’s gubernatorial race.
Pence, who served in Congress from 2001 to 2013 before becoming Indiana’s governor, has a mixed record on immigration. While Pence did vote against the DREAM Act amnesty in the 111th Congress, he also cast several votes in opposition to FAIR’s position over the years, including supporting cuts in funding for border fencing, technology, and infrastructure and opposing efforts to strengthen cooperation between ICE and state and local law enforcement. (See FAIR’s Voting Reports) Notably, Pence also has a history of supporting amnesty. In 2006, then-Rep. Pence spearheaded a proposal that would reward illegal aliens with legal status — but not citizenship — if they briefly left the country and returned. (See Pence Plan) Known as “touch back,” this plan waives the 3- and 10- year bars under current law that prohibit an individual’s return to the U.S. based on the length of time here unlawfully. This position is nearly identical to Trump’s comment that he would deport all illegal aliens but allow the “good ones” to return. More recently, Pence reiterated his openness to amnesty that does not result in citizenship, telling the Wall Street Journal in 2014 that “there’s plenty of room here for compassion and there’s plenty of room here for crafting a solution that will deal with [illegal aliens] in the long term.” (See Wall Street Journal, Aug. 22, 2014)
On the other hand, as governor, Pence has taken a tougher approach on certain aspects of immigration policy that impacted fiscal and social costs of the Hoosier state. As governor, he opposed the resettlement of Syrian refugees in his state and publicly blamed Obama administration policies for the surge of unaccompanied alien minors entering the country unlawfully. Additionally, Indiana joined Texas and 24 other states in the lawsuit that challenged the expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the creation of Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) amnesty programs.
Trump’s announcement received praise from Pence’s former colleagues in the House. “He was a very successful member of Congress, a great governor and would really excite the conservative part of the party,” said House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who likewise has a checkered history on immigration. (The Hill, July 14, 2016) True immigration reformer Rep. Lou Barletta added, “It just shows that Donald Trump has made two very good presidential decisions — one when he came out with his list for the Supreme Court, and now his pick for vice president.” (Id.)
FAIR is cautiously optimistic about Pence’s selection in the event Trump wins the general election. “Throughout his public career, Gov. Pence has had a mixed record on immigration,” said Dan Stein, FAIR’s president. (FAIR’s Statement on Pence, July 15, 2016) “As a member of the House of Representatives, Pence was very much a part of the Republican establishment that paid lip service to the public’s concerns about immigration enforcement, while promoting the agenda of the Chamber of Commerce. As governor of Indiana, he has had to deal with the fiscal and social costs of policies made in Washington.” (Id.) “We hope that the perspective Pence will bring to the ticket and to the White House, if elected, will reflect his experience as governor, a job that required him to deal with the burdens imposed by our nation’s failed immigration policies,” Stein concluded. (Id.)
Obama Administration Refuses to Punish Recalcitrant Countries, Releases Criminal Aliens Instead
The Obama administration is refusing to punish countries that are reluctant to take back their own citizens convicted of crimes, even if it means thousands of deportable criminals are released back onto U.S. streets. (Washington Times, July 14, 2016) By releasing these criminals, according to Republicans, the administration has American blood on its hands. (Id.) “That’s on you. They shouldn’t be here in the United States of America,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told administration officials at a hearing last Thursday. (Id.) “You’re so worried about playing nice instead of implementing the law; these people are committing more crimes. I just got through listing the people — everything from murder to DUI to sexual abuse. Get rid of them!” (Id.)
Since 2013, 86,288 criminal aliens have been released back into U.S. communities and have gone on to commit 231,074 crimes. (Washington Examiner, July 14, 2016) Of these 86,288 criminal aliens, 8,721 were released pursuant to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Zadvydas v. Davis, which held that a convicted criminal alien who had completed his sentence but whose country of origin refused repatriation could not be detained indefinitely. (Id.; see Zadvydas v. Davis, 533 U.S. 678 (2001)) Under current immigration law, officials can retaliate against these countries by withholding visas until they are cooperative (See INA § 243(d), 8 U.S.C. § 1253(d)). This penalty has only been used once, in 2001, against Guyana, which refused to take back 113 of its citizens. (Washington Times, July 14, 2016) Within two months after the U.S. stopped accepting visas, Guyana yielded and cleared 112 for repatriation. (Id.)
Despite the stunning success rate in Guyana, the Obama administration has refused to employ what is clearly the most powerful tool at its disposal. (Id.) The State Department blamed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), saying Secretary Jeh Johnson needs to officially request that visas be withheld from recalcitrant countries. (Id.) If Johnson was to issue this request, the State Department is required under law to stop issuing visas, Michele Bond, Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs, told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. (Id.) Daniel Ragsdale, Deputy Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which oversees deportations, confirmed that Johnson had not yet made any requests. (Id.) When asked by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) why DHS has not done so, Ragsdale said that Johnson has been in contact with the State Department to discuss the issue. (Daily Caller, July 14, 2016) “We will work on that,” Ragsdale said unconvincingly. (Id.)
Since the administration has refused to address what is an important public safety issue, Rep. Brian Babin recently introduced H.R. 5224, the Criminal Alien Deportation Enforcement Act of 2016, which would withhold foreign aid and travel visas from any country that refuses to take back its own citizens who have been criminally detained in the United States. “Hundreds of Americans have died at the hands of criminal aliens, and to make things worse, some of them were simply let go because their countries of origin refused to take them back, Babin said. (Babin Press Release, May 16, 2016) “This is absolutely insane – and my bill holds uncooperative countries accountable by stripping them of U.S. foreign aid and travel visas.” (Id.) FAIR supports H.R. 5224 and urges its swift passage.
Costs No Real Barrier to Implement E-Verify
A report by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) found that if E-Verify was required nationwide it would only cost the federal government an additional $95-214 million over four years to fully implement. (See USCIS Report, June 2016) By comparison, the Fiscal Year 2016 Omnibus that funds the government totaled $1.1 trillion, making the cost of implementing mandatory E-Verify negligible. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Dec. 22, 2015) This report was in response to a Senate request accompanying the Fiscal Year 2016 Homeland Security Appropriations bill which required USCIS to determine the estimated costs and timeline for making e-verify mandatory for all employers. (Id.)
E-Verify is a free, federally run program that allows employers to electronically verify the Social Security numbers of new hires with existing records. (See FAIR Statement, June 2011) While the E-Verify program is currently voluntary throughout the country, federal agencies, the legislative branch, and some federal contractors are required to use it. In addition, some states have passed legislation making its use mandatory for certain businesses. (Id.)
To calculate the additional government cost of mandatory E-Verify, USCIS used Rep. Lamar Smith’s (R-TX) H.R. 1147, the Legal Workforce Act. This legislation is widely regarded as the most likely to move and was been passed out of the House Judiciary Committee last year. USCIS considered the following components of H.R. 1147 when calculating the cost: (1) requiring the verification of existing employees and not just new hires; and (2) the short enactment time (three years) to fully implement E-Verify nationwide. (See USCIS Report, June 2016) Despite the Legal Workforce Act having more stringent components than other mandatory E-Verify proposals, the additional government cost is no more than $214 million.
The USCIS report also highlights how popular E-Verify is with employers. Over nearly a decade, E-Verify has grown tremendously from 24,000 in Fiscal Year 2007 to more than 616,620 at the end of Fiscal Year 2015, with an average of 1300 new employers enrolling per week. (See USCIS Report, June 2016) According to the latest Census data, there are about 30 million businesses in the United States. (Census Data, 2014)
Mandatory use of E-Verify is not only long overdue, it is also overwhelmingly supported by the majority of Americans. Back in 2011, a Pulse Opinion Research Poll commissioned by FAIR found that 81 percent support “Congress requiring all employers to use E-Verify to ensure that workers are legally eligible to work in the U.S.” (See Pulse Opinion Poll, June 2011) Today’s polls are comparable. For example, a recent poll taken in North Caroline found that 78 percent support the use of E-Verify. Only 12 percent said they oppose such a requirement, and half of those are only “somewhat opposed.” (See Civitas Institute Poll, May 2016)
The availability of jobs in the U.S. is the single largest draw for illegal immigration. Reducing the illegal workforce by requiring E-Verify will be a tremendous boon to unemployed Americans, as legal workers will take over positions currently taken by individuals who lack work authorization. The USCIS report makes clear that mandatory E-Verify should be implemented immediately: it is popular; effective; and low cost.
NY Gov Subsidizes Citizenship Applications
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo launched a new initiative last week to pay for the cost of citizenship applications of low-income immigrants in the Empire State. (The Observer, July 14, 2016)
Dubbed “NaturalizeNY”, among other things, the program aims to waive the application fees of 2,000 eligible immigrants through a public-private partnership between New York State, the Robin Hood Foundation, the New York Community Trust, the New York Daily News, as well as several universities.
To operate the program, New York State, the Robin Hood Foundation, and the New York Community Trust, are investing more than $1.25 million to cover fee assistance vouchers to cover the full cost of the naturalization process. Personnel from SUNY Albany, Stanford University, and George Mason University will administer the vouchers. (Governor Cuomo Press Release)
Immigrants qualify for the vouchers by entering a lottery. To be eligible, they must have a household income that falls between $30,240 and $60,480, and apply by September 23, 2016. (Id.) Partners have dedicated funds to cover the $680 federal naturalization application fee for 2,000 immigrants. (Id.)
In addition to paying the full cost of 2,000 application fees, as part of the program the State will also host Citizenship and Naturalization Legal Clinics at its 27 “Opportunity Centers” across New York. (Id.) At no cost to the prospective applicant, each Legal Clinic will provide:
- Information on the U.S. citizenship process
- Eligibility screenings
- Naturalization application assistance
- Naturalization application fee waiver assistance
- English and civics classes
According to the Governor’s Office, New York is home to 915,000 green card holders who may be eligible for citizenship, with more than 650,000 living in New York City alone. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security estimates this figure is even higher, stating that in 2012, there were more than one million green card holders in New York eligible to naturalize. (DHS Estimates of the Legal Permanent Resident Population, July 2013)