Legislative Update: 9/22/2015
GOP Candidates Discuss Birthright Citizenship, Border Security, Deportation in Second Debate
Last Wednesday night, CNN hosted the second set of debates between the Republican candidates running for President. (Debate Transcript, Sept. 16, 2015) The top 11 candidates, Donald Trump, Dr. Ben Carson, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, faced each other for three hours during primetime. (Id.) The time spent on immigration — a decision of the moderators — was not very long considering the length of the debate. (Id.) Although the candidates fielded questions on several key topics on illegal immigration, other important immigration issues — such as the impact on Americans of legal immigration — were not covered. (Id.)
The debate was most clarifying on the candidates’ views of birthright citizenship. (Id.) Moderator Jake Tapper first brought up the issue to Donald Trump, telling him that Carly Fiorina had accused him of “pandering” on the issue for saying he would abolish it. (Id.) Donald Trump said that he believed that birthright citizenship is not mandated by the Constitution. (Id.) A lot of “great legal scholars — not television scholars, but legal scholars,” have informed his opinion, he explained. (Id.) Automatic birthright citizenship, “can be corrected with an act of Congress,” and “probably doesn’t even need that.” (Id.) He also sharply criticized the policy itself, saying “we’re the only ones dumb enough, stupid enough, to have it.” (Id.) Ultimately, he said, the issue “probably ends up at the Supreme Court.” (Id.)
Jake Tapper then asked other candidates to weigh in. (Id.) Ms. Fiorina asserted that “you can’t just wave your hands and say the 14th Amendment is gonna go away.” (Id.) This response did not acknowledge that Trump’s argument was not that the 14th Amendment does not exist but that it does not tie the government’s hands. (Id.) Senator Paul, on the other hand, said “Donald Trump has a bit of a point,” because the Supreme Court has never adjudicated the issue. (Id.) The “original author” of the 14th Amendment, Sen. Paul pointed out, had said on the Senate floor that the amendment applied to slaves, not others. (Id.)
The debate also covered some of the candidates’ approaches to securing the border. (Id.) Mr. Trump again called for building a wall on the southern border. (Id.; see FAIR Legislative Update, Aug. 25, 2015) Governor Bush, however, said that “to build a wall,” combined with deportations, “would cost hundreds of billions of dollars” and would “destroy community life” and “tear families apart.” (Debate Transcript, Sept. 16, 2015) Governor Christie, while avoiding saying whether or not he supported a wall itself, said that the border needed to be secured with “electronics” and “drones,” and we need to “tap [those who overstay their visas] on the shoulder” and tell them to leave the country. (Id.)
The candidates also discussed their views of what should happen to illegal aliens, without much discussion of whether there are other options besides mass deportations or legal status. (Id.) Donald Trump again said that illegal aliens are “going to go out,” and “they’ll come back if they deserve to come back.” (Id.) Governor Christie, however, said mass deportations were too impractical, and Gov. Bush said it was too expensive. (Id.) Dr. Carson said, “if anyone knows how” to deport 11 to 12 million illegal aliens, he’d “be willing to listen.” (Id.)
In light of recent high-profile cases, notably the July 1 killing of Kate Steinle by an illegal alien with seven felony convictions and five deportations, the dangers of an unsecure border have received national attention. In response, Americans are demanding that our immigration laws be enforced and that the government make more data available on the crimes committed by illegal aliens.
Although the federal government collects detailed, race-specific data on crimes committed in the U.S., information regarding arrests of illegal aliens is markedly absent. This practice of not compiling statistics on illegal alien crime is consistent with the Obama administration’s practice of rarely even acknowledging the victims of such crimes. (See Breitbart.com, Sept. 17, 2015) In an attempt to quantify the number and nature of arrests of illegal aliens, Fox News analyzed local, state, and federal statistics, and found that the number of crimes committed by illegal aliens is disproportionately high in relation to their share of the population. The findings show that while illegal aliens make up 3.5 percent of the population, they account for 12 percent of murder sentences, 20 percent of kidnapping sentences, and 16 percent of drug trafficking sentences. (FoxNews.com, Sept. 16, 2015) Yet the federal government goes to great lengths to keep the illegal alien crime wave under wraps, offering no comprehensive statistics that would undercut the Obama administration’s entire immigration policy.
In order to address the information gap facing American policymakers and keep the federal government accountable for the threat posed by illegal immigrant crime, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) has introduced H.R. 3151, the Arrest Statistics Reporting Act. (See FAIR’s Summary of H.R. 3151) In a statement on the House floor, Rep. Brooks said “My bill, the Arrest Statistics Reporting Act, does two things. First, it requires that arrest reports already sent to the FBI by state and local governments include the best known immigration status of the arrestee. Second, it requires the federal government to publish illegal alien crime data in the FBI’s annual crime reports. This data will better inform the public and lawmakers about illegal alien crime and empower us to make the decisions needed to protect American lives.” (Brooks Floor Statement, July 22, 2015)
Earlier this year, Congress pushed through legislation that gave President Obama the ability to implement his immigration agenda through trade agreements. (See FAIR Legislative Update, June 30, 2015) Specifically, Congress approved trade promotion authority (TPA) which gives the President the authority to negotiate trade deals that Congress can approve or disapprove (by a simple majority vote) but cannot amend. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Apr. 21, 2015) FAIR opposed TPA because it has huge implications for immigration policy — namely a large trade deal the Obama administration is negotiating, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), where a “key feature” of the TPP is a “temporary entry” guest worker program. (Id.)
At the time, TPA supporters and the Obama administration denied that immigration was a component of TPP. (See newsmax.com, May 13, 2015) However, official U.S. Trade Representative documents recently obtained by Breitbart News through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request contradict the Obama administration claims. (Breitbart News, Sept. 14, 2015) Indeed, the FOIA proves that there is an entire chapter in the TPP on immigration titled, “Temporary Entry for Business Persons.” (Id.)
To date, the 12 nations negotiating the TPP have not reached an agreement due to a dispute on an unrelated portion of the deal. If finalized, Congress can only prevent the immigration provisions from being implemented by voting against the entire agreement.
Last Wednesday, the Missouri Senate and House of Representatives voted to override Governor Jay Nixon’s veto of a bill that prohibits illegal aliens from receiving a taxpayer-funded scholarship, called the A+ Scholarship. (Kansas City Star, Sept. 16, 2015) Senate Bill (“S.B.”) 224 survived Governor Nixon’s veto by a 114-37 vote in the House of Representatives and a 28-4 vote in the Senate. (Id.)
The A+ Scholarship program is a taxpayer funded scholarship that pays two years of tuition at Missouri’s community colleges for students who meet certain grade, attendance, and community service requirements. S.B. 224 limits eligibility of this scholarship to only citizens and immigrants who are lawful permanent residents. (S.B. 224)
Opponents of S.B. 224 argued that the bill is unfair to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (“DACA”) recipients and that basing scholarship award eligibility on immigration status is not a fair practice. Deferred action, as used in the DACA program, is a temporary reprieve from deportation by the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) that may be terminated by DHS at any time pursuant to their discretion. (Napolitano Memorandum, June 15, 2012) Deferred action under DACA is temporary and does not confer lawful status onto the illegal alien applicant. (Id.)
At the National Council of La Raza’s annual conference, Governor Nixon announced his rationale for vetoing S.B. 224. (Governor Nixon Speech, July 11, 2015) “If the federal government says [deferred action recipients] are lawfully present — and our state Department of Higher Education has determined them to be eligible for these scholarships,” stated Governor Nixon. (Id.)
Proponents of S.B. 224 commented that funding for scholarships was already stretched thin in the state and supported the measure in order to reserve taxpayer subsidies for lawful residents of Missouri. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sept. 18 2015) The scholarship program recently experienced a shortage of funding with the increase of enrollment in students. (Id.) “The main thing was to preserve and protect Missouri resources for Missouri residents,” commented Senator Gary Romine, sponsor of S.B. 224. (Id.)
S.B. 224 goes into effect immediately and can no longer be rejected by the Governor.