Legislative Update: 7/5/2016
Will Senate Finally Deliver Justice to Kate Steinle’s Family?
July 1 marked the one year anniversary of Kate Steinle’s tragic murder in San Francisco by Francisco Sanchez, an illegal alien with seven convictions and five deportations under his belt. (FAIR Legislative Update, July 8, 2015) Kate’s death was a direct consequence of San Francisco’s status as a sanctuary city — State and local jurisdictions with polices that obstruct immigration enforcement. Outrageously, Sanchez was in federal custody months before he killed Kate but San Francisco authorities had requested a custody transfer under the guise of prosecuting a decades old drug charge. (Id.) Predictably, those charges were dropped and San Francisco law enforcement released Sanchez back onto the streets despite his extensive criminal history and an ICE detainer request because of the city’s sanctuary policy. (Id.) Indeed, Sanchez even admitted in a jailhouse interview he knew San Francisco’s sanctuary policy would protect him from ICE. (Id.)
Despite the public outrage over Kate’s murder, Senate Democrats denied justice for the Steinle family when they voted against a bill that would eliminate sanctuary jurisdictions. In October 2015, Sen. David Vitter’s (R-LA) “Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act” (S. 2146) failed 54-45 (with 60 “yes” votes needed). (FAIR Legislative Update, Oct. 27, 2015) All Senate Democrats except Sens. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) placed partisan politics over sound policy and voted to kill the bill. (Id.) Pro-amnesty Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) was the only Republican to vote against the bill while Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) did not cast a vote. (Id.)
Now, more than a year after Kate’s preventable death the Senate will finally vote again on anti-sanctuary city legislation. Last week, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) introduced the “Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act” (S. 3100) and GOP leadership has scheduled a floor vote this week. (See Toomey Press Release, June 27, 2016) S. 3100 is a commonsense bill that denies certain federal grants to sanctuary jurisdictions and clarifies that state and local authorities are permitted by law to carry out detainer requests. (See FAIR’s Summary of S. 3100) FAIR supports S. 3100 and urges the Senate to pass the bill.
Additionally, the Senate will vote on Sen. Ted Cruz’s “Kate’s Law” (S. 2193), which is named after Kate Steinle. (See Cruz Press Release, June 30, 2016) Kate’s Law is a narrow bill that establishes a mandatory minimum five year prison sentence for illegal reentry. FAIR supports S. 2193 and urges the Senate to pass the bill.
Newly Appointed Border Patrol Chief Has No Immigration Experience
Last Monday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske, as one of his last significant acts, named FBI assistant director Mark Morgan as the new chief of the U.S. Border Patrol. (Daily Wire, June 28, 2016) Morgan is the first person in the Border Patrol’s 92-year-old history who did not rise through the hierarchy of the agency, and was chosen from outside. (Id.)
While Morgan’s biography suggests that he has impressive law enforcement experience, unfortunately he appears to lack any experience on immigration. Morgan’s career has included stints as a Los Angeles Police Department officer, as a deputy sheriff in Platt County, Mo., and 20 years at the FBI, which included leading a Hispanic gang task force in the Los Angeles field office that focused on MS-13 and 18th Street gangs and senior roles in Baghdad, Iraq; New Haven, Connecticut; and El Paso, Texas. (Los Angeles Times, June 20, 2016) However, Morgan is now responsible for enforcing immigration laws and ensuring the border is secure at a time when the highest numbers of illegal aliens have been caught at the U.S.-Mexico border since 2014.
In addition to tackling the overwhelming numbers of illegal aliens crossing the border, Morgan will need to also address the agency’s continued low morale. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which includes the Border Patrol, continues to be ranked by its employees as the worst place to work in the federal government. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Dec. 15, 2015) According to the “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government” rankings, DHS received an index score of 43.1 for 2015, the lowest of all 19 large government agencies. (Id.) The longstanding morale problem is unsurprising considering the department has primary jurisdiction over our borders — an area where the Obama administration has willfully disregarded the law. (Id.) Brandon Judd, the National Border Patrol Council president, expressed his and other border patrol agents’ frustration during testimony he provided at a House Judiciary Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee hearing when he told the Committee that agents were told to release illegal aliens caught at the border since the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had “no intention” of deporting them. (See FAIR Legislative Update, March 29, 2016)
Unfortunately instead of appointing an individual with experience that can hit the ground running, Morgan’s appointment to the Border Patrol seems to be an effort by the administration to pander yet again to the open borders lobby like the American Civil Liberties Union, who lately have been critical of agents “use of force” at the expense of the agents’ own safety. At the time the FBI sent Morgan to the Border Patrol to serve as acting assistant commissioner for internal affairs investigating complaints of excessive use of force and employee misconduct, former Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol, Michael Fisher issued a policy memorandum limiting the ability of Border Patrol agents to use force to protect themselves at the border. (See FAIR Legislative Update, March 12, 2014)
Unsurprisingly, the rank-and-file members of the border patrol appear skeptical that Morgan is the right pick for the job. For example, Joshua Wilson, spokesman for the San Diego National Border Patrol Council said, “How can someone who has never made an immigration arrest in his career expect to lead an agency whose primary duty is to make immigration arrests?” (Daily Wire, June 28, 2016)
The National Border Patrol Council (NBPC) has expressed skepticism about Morgan’s ability to run the Border Patrol Agency saying that if Morgan does not make strong and fruitful efforts to keep agents safe and empowered to enforce laws, then the NBPC “will not pause in [their] mission to bring the truth about the border to light or as the voice of 16,500 Border Patrol agents. (Daily Caller, June 21, 2016) They have asked Chief Morgan “to remember that the men and women working on the border everyday are the real experts in border security, and that it would behoove him to hear and act upon their concerns and suggestions.”
According to recently released Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) data, the Obama administration placed 4,097 unaccompanied alien minors (UAMs) with adult sponsors in the United States during the month of May, having already eclipsed the total for the entire previous fiscal year. (See HHS Unaccompanied Children Statistics; MRC TV, May 31, 2016) The 33,347 UAMs released into the country since the current fiscal year began is also on track to top FY 2014 record levels, which saw an unprecedented 53,515 UAMs placed with sponsors. (Id.)
Once UAMs are apprehended at the border, they are screened, processed, and detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). (See FAIR UAC Fact Sheet) Within 72 hours, they must be turned over to HHS and placed into a temporary immigration shelter. From there, HHS attempts to place the UAM with an adult sponsor — who is likely in the country unlawfully — to care for them temporarily, pending the resolution of their case in immigration court. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Apr. 26, 2016) Federal law requires HHS to ensure that UAMs are protected from trafficking and other forms of abuse. However, a Senate investigation revealed that HHS’s policies and procedures are inadequate to protect the UAMs that are in the agency’s care, as a number of UAMs were placed in the hands of human traffickers who forced them into slave labor conditions. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Feb. 2, 2016; Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Staff Report, Jan. 28, 2016) Additionally, the investigation found that many UAMs fail to appear in immigration court and effectively disappear into the country, as HHS cedes all power and responsibility over the UAM once they are transferred to the care of a sponsor.
Fortunately, true immigration reformer Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) have introduced legislation to address the placement of UAMs with adult sponsors. S. 2561, the Protection of Children Act of 2016, requires HHS to collect background information to prevent the release of UAMs to illegal aliens already in the country. (See FAIR Summary of S. 2561) The bill also closes a loophole in the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2008 that prevents Central American UAMs from being promptly returned to their home countries. This loophole, combined with President Obama’s refusal to enforce our immigration laws, continues to exacerbate the UAM surge that began in 2014. The Sessions-Johnson bill is the companion to the House version, H.R. 1149, which was authored by Rep. John Carter (R-TX) and passed out of the House Judiciary Committee last year. (SeeFAIR Summary of H.R. 1149; House Judiciary Markup of H.R. 1149)
FAIR supports H.R. 1149 and S. 2561.
Texas Department of Public Safety Increases Border Presence
The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) is near reaching its 2016 goal of sending an additional 250 state troopers to the state’s southern border and expanding its presence in West Texas and the Big Bend region. (Texas Tribune, June 30, 2016) By the end of this summer, DPS will have graduated 209 new recruits from its training academy to serve as border troopers.
The Texas legislature passed House Bill (HB) 11 last year, requiring the agency to expand patrolling near the state’s border with Mexico to compensate for the Obama administration’s inability to contain the surge of unaccompanied alien minors (UAMs) and family units into Texas. (HB 11; FAIR Legislative Update, Mar. 29, 2016) To accomplish this, HB 11 allotted $800 million of the 2016 state budget toward border security, providing for the additional manpower, technology, training, and equipment immediately needed to address growing concerns on the southern border. (Texas Tribune, June 30, 2016); HB 11)
Texas State Representative John Frullo (R-84) commented on the border surge’s increasing burden on Texas resources earlier this year. (ImmigrationReform.com, Feb. 22, 2016) “We’re doing a job, at the state level, that the federal government is not doing. Unfortunately [we], as Texas citizens, are paying twice: Once to the federal government to do the job that they’re not doing, and then once where we’re putting that money into border security,” said Representative Frullo. (Id.)The Obama administration’s proactive dismantling of immigration enforcement nationwide has forced many states to take action to discourage illegal immigration to their regions. (See FAIR Legislative Update, June 28, 2016) Notably, Texas and surrounding states have experienced an increase in crime, especially with regard to human and drug trafficking, as a result of the surge.
Resettling UAMs into American communities also comes at a high price to state and local taxpayers. In June, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) estimated that the 110,605 UAMs who have been apprehended since 2014 will cost state and local taxpayers at least $1.5 billion a year in education costs. (ImmigrationReform.com, June 14, 2016) A 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision guarantees illegal alien minors a taxpayer-funded education. (Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982)) These costs come in addition to expenses taxpayers pay for housing, food, and health and law enforcement services. Texas taxpayers already pay an outstanding $10.83 billion annually to subsidize illegal immigration in their state. (FAIR Cost Study, 2014)
The latest statistics from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reveal significant increase in the UAMs and family units crossing the southwest border in 2016. (See CBP Apprehension Statistics) Alarmingly, UAMs and family unit apprehensions in the current fiscal year have eclipsed the numbers recorded at the same point in 2014. (Washington Post, Sept. 3, 2014; FAIR Legislative Update, May 31, 2016) In that year, nearly 140,000 UAMs and family units surged across the border at record rates, overwhelming the federal government’s ability to respond. (Id.) 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.)