Legislative Update: 9/25/2013
House Judiciary Chairman Supports Citizenship for ALL Illegal Aliens
At a GOP Conference Hispanic Heritage event last week, House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) laid out a plan to legalize the 12 million illegal aliens currently in the country.
Under the former immigration attorney’s proposal, so-called “DREAMers,” illegal aliens who claim to have been brought into the country unlawfully as minors, would be treated differently from the rest of the illegal alien population. According to Rep. Goodlatte, these aliens should be granted citizenship through unspecified education or military service requirements. (Politico, Sept. 19, 2013) “I wouldn’t give them what I would call a special pathway to citizenship, I would give them an earned pathway to citizenship,” he said. (Id.)
Regarding the broader illegal alien population, Goodlatte would grant them immediate legalization and allow them to receive green cards and eventual citizenship through the current family-based and employment-based sponsorship channels. (Id.) “We have to find the appropriate legal status for people who are not lawfully here,” Goodlatte said. (Id.)
While strikingly similar to the Senate Gang of Eight plan, Goodlatte called his plan a “major solution” and said amnesty would “help our country solve a very serious problem of not knowing who is here and under what circumstances they are in the U.S.” (NBC Latino, Sept. 19, 2013) “It would eliminate the fear factor that’s involved,” he added. (Id.)
Though he says it is not a “special path,” Goodlatte’s amnesty plan skirts federal law to give illegal aliens eventual citizenship. Current law generally prohibits illegal aliens from obtaining a green card, and if illegal aliens leave and apply from outside of the country, they must wait 3 or 10 years before they can be admitted depending how long they were in the country unlawfully. (Immigration and Nationality Act §§ 245(c), 212(a)(9)(B)) Interestingly, this plan is also nearly identical to a portion of the now-defunct House Gang of Seven’s “comprehensive” immigration bill that was leaked back in July. (FAIR Legislative Update, July 22, 2013)
House Gang Falls Apart
After months of claiming it has been on “the verge” of revealing a “comprehensive” immigration reform bill, the House Gang of Seven (formerly the Gang of Eight) lost two additional members Friday. (Washington Post, Sept. 20, 2013; see also FAIR Legislative Update, Mar. 11, 2013)
In a joint press release, Texas Republicans John Carter and Sam Johnson announced they were formally leaving the group, “After years of hard work and countless meetings, we have reached a tipping point and can no longer continue working on a broad approach to immigration.” (See Carter and Johnson Joint Press Release, Sept. 20, 2013)
However, the two made clear that they were not abandoning the talks because they no longer agreed with the group’s mission (i.e. amnesty for the 12 million illegal aliens currently in the U.S. and a mass guest worker program), but rather blamed distrust of the Obama Administration’s willingness to faithfully execute any new immigration laws. “We want to be clear,” the pair said. “The problem is politics. Instead of doing what’s right for America, President Obama time and again has unilaterally disregarded the U.S. Constitution, the letter of the law and bypassed the Congress…”
With the loss of Reps. Carter and Johnson, the “Gang’s” future appears uncertain. Indeed, according to longtime amnesty advocate and lead Gang Member Rep. Luis Gutierrez, the group’s efforts have been put on hold. “It doesn’t appear that we’re going to move forward with the group of seven,” he said in an interview with the Washington Post. (Washington Post, Sept. 20, 2013) “The process is stalled. I don’t believe we’re going to produce a bill anytime soon.” (Id.)
The Gang lost its first member, Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) earlier this year, making Florida’s Mario Diaz-Balart the lone remaining Republican of the group. In addition to Gutierrez, its Democrat members include California Representatives Zoe Lofgren and Xavier Becerra, and Kentucky Congressman John Yarmuth.
Just days after news of the Gang’s collapse broke, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced she would be introducing a “comprehensive” immigration reform bill identical to that of the Senate passed mass amnesty bill S. 744. (Washington Post, Sept. 23, 2013) Pelosi’s version, however, is expected to also include the language of H.R. 1417, a border bill introduced by Texas Republican Michael McCaul and co-sponsored by longtime open borders advocate Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX). (Id.)
Obama: Executive Amnesty Ignores Law
In an interview with Spanish media outlet Telemundo last week, President Obama told viewers he did not have authority to unilaterally grant amnesty to the estimated 12 million illegal aliens currently in the U.S. if Congress refuses to pass amnesty legislation this year.
In declaring he lacked such ability under his executive powers, President Obama said that granting the nation’s entire illegal alien population a reprieve from deportation and authorizing them to work in the country “would be ignoring the law in a way that would be very difficult to defend legally.” (Washington Post, Sept. 17, 2013) Interestingly, the President drew a distinction between his circumvention of the law for illegal aliens up to the age of 30 via his Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — which he claimed was legal because it was done to allow federal agencies the ability to devote more time and resources to “high-priority” immigration cases — and doing the same for the entire illegal alien population. (Id.) The latter is “not an option,” he said. (Id.)
Obama’s interview last week was not the first time, however, in which the President claimed it was outside of his authority to grant backdoor amnesty to the illegal alien population. Indeed, President Obama made a similar assertion years ago, before the Morton Memos or DACA. ”With respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order, that’s just not the case,” President Obama said at a town hall hosted by Univision in March of 2011. “There are enough laws on the books by Congress that are very clear in terms of how we have to enforce our immigration system that for me to simply through executive order ignore those congressional mandates would not conform with my appropriate role as President,” he stated. (See Remarks by the President at Univision Town Hall, Mar. 28, 2011)
In addition, President Obama used his interview to chide House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) for the House not yet taking up the Senate amnesty bill passed in June. “Why not go ahead and let it come to the floor of the House and let’s see what happens?” he asked. (Politico, Sept. 17, 2013) “The only thing that’s holding it back right now is John Boehner calling it into the floor…So this is really a question that should be directed to Mr. John Boehner. What’s stopping him from going ahead and calling that bill?” (Id.) The President’s comments, however, are completely false, ignoring the fact that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has never actually sent the 1,200 “comprehensive” reform bill over to the House, and making it impossible for the Speaker to simply “let it come to the floor.”
Illegal Aliens Brazenly Handcuff Themselves to White House Fence
On the morning after President Obama said he did not have the authority to unilaterally halt deportations, seven illegal aliens handcuffed themselves to the fence in front of the White House. (Washington Post, Sept. 18, 2013.) The protesters chanted, “si se puede” a Spanish phrase which can be translated to “Yes, we can,” Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan. (Id.)
U.S. Park Police arrested the protesters, only to release them early that afternoon, after the pro-amnesty group organizing the demonstration, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), paid each of their $100 fines. (NBC Latino, Sept. 18, 2013.) All seven protesters are in the United States illegally, but not all have deportation proceedings currently filed against them. (Id.) Officials at Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not comment on their release. (USA Today, Sept. 19, 2013.)
Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the NDLON, warned that the demand for President Obama to grant an executive amnesty will not cease until the President reverses his position. “Our community will not take ‘no’ for an answer,” he said. (International Business Times, Sept. 18, 2013.) “Unless the President alters course, he risks cementing his legacy as having presided over the most anti-immigrant administration in history. History books will blame the President and not Congress for a hypocritical and shameful period of immigrant expulsion.” (Id.)
Pew: Illegal Alien Population Climbing
On Monday, the Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project released a report estimating the illegal alien population is at 11.7 million for 2012, up from 11.5 million in 2011. (Pew Research Center Report)
According to the new data, approximately 52 percent of the illegal alien population comes from Mexico (6.05 million), down from a peak of 57 percent in 2007. (Id.) Meanwhile, the number of illegal aliens from other countries is potentially at a record 5.65 million, up from a 2007 peak of 5.25 million. (Id.) Because of the margin of error, Pew considers these results “preliminary estimates” and plans to release more precise numbers later this year. (Id.)
Pew’s findings directly contradict the Obama Administration’s claims that it is deporting record numbers of illegal aliens and that the border is more secure than ever. In fact, after the illegal alien population declined between 2007 and 2009 — largely attributed to the Great Recession — the number of illegal aliens in the country has steadily increased every year during Obama’s presidency. According to the report, there were 11.3 million illegal aliens in 2009; 11.4 million in 2010; 11.5 million in 2011; and 11.7 million in 2012. (Pew Research Center Report)
Additionally, the Pew report found that the number of legal immigrants residing in the country increased from 26.9 million in 2007 to 28.3 million in 2012. (Id.)
San Francisco Considers Anti-Detainer Legislation
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is considering legislation that would require local law enforcement agencies to release criminal aliens back onto its streets in an ironic attempt “to protect public safety.” (130764) The ordinance, introduced by Supervisor John Avalos, prohibits the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department from honoring all Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) immigration detainers. Unlike the controversial AB 4 that recently passed the California Legislature and is awaiting Governor Jerry Brown’s signature or veto, the San Francisco ordinance applies to all ICE detainers and does not include an exemption for serious or violent offenders. The ordinance’s alleged purpose is to “foster respect between law enforcement and residents, to protect limited local resources, and to ensure family unity, community security, and due process for all.”
Due to its sweeping scope, San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee and Police Chief Greg Suhr expressed concern that the proposed ordinance does not properly address felons or violent criminals. The Mayor indicated that he would veto the measure without such an exception. (KTVU News, Sept. 17, 2013) Supervisor Jane Kim, a co-sponsor of the ordinance, said she is drafting a compromise that will allow authorities to use their discretion in detaining persons arrested for a violent felony and who have convictions for such crimes in the past seven years. (KQED News, Sept. 17, 2013)
Last year, the City transferred 542 suspected illegal aliens to ICE following requests for immigration detainers. (SF Examiner, July 23, 2013)
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on the draft ordinance sometime soon. A vote scheduled for Tuesday, September 17, 2013, was delayed until a compromise on the language can be reached, likely this week. (KTVU News, Sept. 17, 2013) The ordinance will require favorable votes from six of the eleven Supervisors to pass. It will require consideration at two separate meetings with at least five days intervening, a first reading and a final passage. Eight Supervisors are currently in favor of the ordinance. (SF Examiner, Sept. 15, 2013) It only takes eight votes to override a mayoral veto.
By pushing forward with this anti-detainer legislation, San Francisco is going against the express wishes of federal law enforcement officers. In an August 23, 2012 letter to FAIR, former ICE Director John Morton stated that jurisdictions that ignore ICE detainer requests are undermining public safety in their communities. Recently, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle, Washington sent a letter to the King County Council, who is considering an anti-detainer ordinance, providing data that shows that ignoring federal immigration detainers even for minor crimes could make the community less safe. According to the letter, the proposed ordinance would allow dangerous criminals who happened to be arrested for minor offenses avoid federal justice.