Legislative Update: 8/25/2015
UACs Still Crossing the Border at Crisis Levels
New data released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reveal that, though media attention has died down, unaccompanied alien children (UACs) and parents with children continue to illegally pour across the border at crisis levels. (See Cbp.gov; CNSnews.com, Aug. 17, 2015; FAIR Legislative Update, Apr. 9, 2014) During the first ten months of fiscal year 2015, border agents apprehended 30,862 UACs and 29,407 family units at the southern border. (Cbp.gov) Although this rate is less than what border agents witnessed at the peak of the crisis during FY 2014, apprehensions of UACs have only dipped to FY 2013 levels. (See FAIR Legislative Update, June 4, 2014; FAIR Legislative Update, Apr. 9, 2014; Cbp.gov)
In comparison, before President Obama implemented his amnesty policies which allowed many illegal aliens with children to stay in 2011 and 2012, the rate of UACs illegally crossing the border per year was only 6,000. (See FAIR Morton Memos Analysis; FAIR Legislative Update, Apr. 9, 2014) However, by FY 2013, the numbers of UACs crossing the border had increased more than five-fold to 34,000. (Id.)
Now, the main enforcement measure that the Obama Administration took to address the crisis, expanding family detention, has been dealt a serious blow. (See FAIR Legislative Update, June 30, 2015) In late June, under pressure from open borders activists, the Administration undermined its own detention program by allowing family units that establish a “credible fear” of persecution to be released after posting a bond. (Id.) Then, in July, a federal judge ruled that the Obama Administration’s practice of detaining illegal alien minors, both UACs and those in family units, violates a 1997 Clinton Administration class action settlement agreement. (FAIR Legislative Update, Aug. 4, 2015) Last Friday, the judge ordered that the minors must be released by October 23. (LA Times, Aug. 22, 2015)
Without detention, these illegal alien minors and family units tend to disappear into the interior. Last year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) disclosed that 70% of illegal alien families who illegally crossed the border failed to appear at required follow-up appointments with immigration agents 15 days after their release. (FAIR Legislative Update, Sept. 30, 2014) As word gets out in Central American countries that even the deterrent of family detention has been ended, the numbers of minors crossing the border may well go back up to 2014 levels or higher.
Trump Unveils Immigration Enforcement Plan
Donald Trump, the current front runner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, released his immigration reform plan last week. Unlike the plans from his GOP opponents Jeb Bush and John Kasich which focus on legalizing the nation’s illegal alien population, Trump’s proposal rejects amnesty and instead focuses on immigration enforcement.
Trump’s plan — developed with guidance from Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) — centers on three “core principles” of immigration reform: control the border; enforce immigration laws; and prioritize American workers. (Donald Trump Immigration Plan; see Breitbart, Aug. 14, 2015) “Real immigration reform puts the needs of working people first – not wealthy globetrotting donors,” reads the introduction to Trump’s plan. (Donald Trump Immigration Plan) “We are the only country in the world whose immigration system puts the needs of other nations ahead of our own. That must change.” (Id.)
Regarding border security, Trump calls for building a fence along the Southern border — as already required by law. (Id.) He states the Mexican government should pay for the cost of the wall, noting that Mexico benefits from billions of dollars per year in remittances from wages earned unlawfully by illegal aliens. (Id.) To enforce this provision, Trump states he will: (1) impound remittances “derived from illegal wages;” (2) increase fees on temporary visas to Mexican CEOs and diplomats; (3) increase fees on NAFTA worker visas from Mexico; and (4) increase fees at ports of entry along the Southern border. (Id.) Importantly, even if the U.S. bears the expense for the wall, Trump notes that the “cost of building a permanent border wall pales mightily in comparison to what American taxpayers spend every single year on dealing with the fallout of illegal immigration on their communities, schools, and unemployment offices.” (Id.)
Trump’s interior enforcement provisions seek to eliminate the incentives that encourage illegal immigration. First, he states he will end “birthright citizenship” — the practice of automatically granting U.S. citizenship to anyone born on U.S. soil regardless of the parents’ immigration status. (Id.) Second, he calls for mandatory E-Verify nationwide to prevent illegal aliens from obtaining jobs. (Id.) Third, he states he will triple the number of ICE agents from the current level of 5,000, noting that the Los Angeles Police Department has approximately 10,000 officers. (Id.) Fourth, he will end catch-and-release policies and calls for the mandatory return of all criminal aliens. (Id.) Fifth, he promises to withhold federal funds from sanctuary cities — state and local jurisdictions with policies that obstruct immigration enforcement. (Id.) Finally, Trump calls for enhanced penalties for aliens who overstay their visas. (Id.)
Regarding legal immigration, Trump titles that section “Put American Workers First.” (Id.) Notably, he calls for the temporary freezing of employment-based green cards so employers “will have to hire from the domestic pool of unemployed immigrant and native workers.” (Id.) Trump also takes aim at the H-1B temporary visa program which the tech industry exploits to hire cheap foreign labor rather than qualified Americans in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Specifically, he states he will overhaul the H-1B program by requiring employers to hire American workers first (which is not currently required) and will increase the “prevailing wage” (the statutory wage level for H-1B workers) to eliminate the discount that employers legally exploit to hirer cheaper foreign workers. (Id.) Additionally, he will terminate the J-1 visa program and replace it with “a resume bank for inner city youth.” (Id.) And to further protect American taxpayers, Trump will require all aliens seeking entry to the U.S. to “certify that they can pay for their own housing, healthcare and other needs.” (Id.)
Maryland Governor to Reinstate Cooperation with ICE
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced last week that the state will increase cooperation efforts with the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) and comply with requests from the agency for information regarding criminal aliens. (Washington Post, Aug. 12, 2015) Governor Hogan’s predecessor, former governor Martin O’Malley, cut ties with the federal agency in 2014 by issuing a policy directive prohibiting state law enforcement from holding criminal aliens for the purpose of transferring criminals to ICE custody. (Baltimore Sun, Apr. 18, 2014)
Under Governor Martin O’Malley’s policy, the Baltimore County jail was prohibited from complying with ICE detainers in all but extremely limited circumstances. (FAIR Legislative Update, Apr. 23, 2014) An ICE detainer is a request addressed to a state or local law enforcement agency from ICE to maintain custody of a particular alien for no more than 48 hours so that federal officials may assume custody of the alien and initiate deportation proceedings. Changing this policy, Governor Hogan ordered the Maryland Department of Public Safety, including the Baltimore state prison, to resume notifying ICE of a criminal alien’s pending release from prison and comply with ICE detainers so long as the detainers are accompanied by a judicial warrant. (Washington Post, Aug. 12, 2015) While Governor Hogan’s policy marks a significant improvement upon the preceding policy, the requirement for a judicial warrant adds an unnecessary hurdle for the enforcement of immigration law, as ICE typically does not issue judicial warrants.
Governor Hogan’s decision to resume cooperation with ICE comes just a month after the murder of 32 year old Kate Steinle in San Francisco, California by an illegal alien suspect. The accused murderer, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, was previously in federal custody and would have been deported for the sixth time before he was transported to San Francisco to address a 20-year-old drug charge. (Pleasanton Patch, July 22, 2015) When the charge was thrown out by the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, the city’s sheriff’s department refused to honor a detainer request to transfer Lopez-Sanchez to ICE. (Id.) Instead, the Sheriff’s Department, pursuant to its sanctuary policy, released Lopez-Sanchez back into the community. (Id.)
This decision marks Governor Hogan’s first official action on the immigration issue, although the governor’s office was hesitant to classify it as such. “We are not making immigration an issue here,” said Doug Mayer, a spokesman for the Governor. (Washington Post, Aug. 12, 2015) “This is not an immigration issue. It’s a public safety issue.” (Id.)
Governor Hogan has not made any statements regarding efforts to repeal other pro-illegal immigration policies the state has instituted in recent years. (Id.) Maryland law currently provides numerous incentives for illegal aliens to reside in the state, including allowing illegal aliens to receive driver’s licenses and in-state tuition at Maryland’s public colleges and universities.