Legislative Update: 9/29/2015
Congress Must Let EB-5 Regional Centers Expire
Tomorrow, Congress has the rare opportunity to end a visa program that has been riddled with fraud and abuse since its inception, the Immigrant Investor Regional Centers of the EB-5 visa program, simply by allowing it to expire. (See Washington Post, Sept. 6, 2015; Seattle Times, Sept. 24, 2015) Congress first created the EB-5 program in 1990 to allow rich foreign investors to obtain visas for themselves and their immediate family members by investing in a U.S. business. (See FAIR EB-5 Issue Brief) In 1993, because of low participation in the program, Congress relaxed the requirements for investments processed through “regional centers” approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). (Id.) Congress intended this expansion of the program to bring foreign investments to economically distressed or rural areas of the country, stimulating the American economy in places it was most needed. (Id.)
Unfortunately, the EB-5 program’s regional centers have never lived up to these intentions, and instead, have always been trouble. (Id.) USCIS has never been able to verify the American economy truly benefits from the investments processed by the regional centers. (Id.) Furthermore, the agency is not well equipped to prevent fraudsters from exploiting the program. (Id.) Nor has the agency been prepared to safeguard the public from the national security concerns inherent in what is, basically, a “visa-for-sale” program. (Id.)
FAIR’s Government Relations Team has written an issue brief describing the EB-5 program and explaining why Congress should let the program’s regional centers expire on September 30.
To read FAIR’s Issue Brief, click here.
Bush Doubles Down on Amnesty
Jeb Bush, speaking at a U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce conference in Houston, reiterated his strong support for the DREAM Act amnesty proposal as part of a “path to citizenship” for all illegal aliens. “I believe that DREAM Act kids should have a path to citizenship,” said Bush, who was interrupted by hecklers from pro-amnesty groups. (Bloomberg.com, Sept. 21, 2015) The Republican presidential hopeful also used the address to yet again call for a mass amnesty, calling it “the practical way of solving the problem of 12 million immigrants.” (Id.) Bush indicated that he would keep pushing for it “irrespective of the political ramifications.” (Id.)
These comments by Jeb Bush come as no surprise, as the immigration plan unveiled by his campaign in August is essentially a less detailed version of S. 744, the Gang of Eight amnesty bill passed by the U.S. Senate in 2013. (See FAIR’s S. 744 Resources) Just as S. 744 immediately grants amnesty in exchange for the promise of future enforcement, the Bush plan outlines six enforcement proposals that would accompany amnesty. (See Jeb Bush Campaign Immigration Plan) The plan clearly states illegal aliens will “obtain a provisional work permit” and then, “over an extended period of time earn legal status.” (Id.) With support for the DREAM Act on record, it would likely be a key amnesty provision in a more detailed Bush immigration policy proposal.
The DREAM Act initially appeared in 2001 and called for the legalization of more than a million illegal aliens who claimed to have entered the U.S. before age 16, provided that they spent two years in college or the military. Although Congress consistently rejected various forms of the bill since its introduction, a more expansive version was incorporated in S. 744. The S. 744 version sets no age limit for DREAM Act recipients and gives DHS the authority to waive the work/study requirement. (See FAIR’s Top 40 Reasons to Oppose the Gang of Eight Amnesty Bill) It is unclear which version of the DREAM Act Bush supports.
House Speaker John Boehner Announces Resignation Effective October 30
In a surprise announcement on Friday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said he will be resigning the speakership and his seat in Congress on October 30. (SeeBoehner Statement) According to an aide, Boehner had originally planned to leave Congress in late 2014, but stayed on to provide continuity after the unexpected defeat of Majority Leader Eric Cantor. (Politico.com, Sept. 25, 2015) Boehner’s resignation comes amidst a growing conservative rebellion, which could have eventually resulted in his ouster. (Id.)
Speaker Boehner will leave behind a disappointing legacy on immigration, as he continuously voiced support for granting illegal aliens amnesty and failed at pursuing true immigration reforms. Although the Speaker refrained from pushing the Senate Gang of Eight amnesty bill through the House, he introduced similar principles on immigration which called for a large scale amnesty similar to the Senate bill. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Feb. 5, 2014) Additionally, the Speaker abandoned an effort to defund President Obama’s amnesty programs, an act that galvanized many of the conservatives who would later call for his removal. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Mar. 10, 2015)
With recent polls showing that voters view immigration as a top issue, FAIR hopes that House Republicans will consider candidates for Speaker who support immigration policies that place the interests of the American people first. Indeed, a new Rasmussen poll found that 80 percent of registered voters view illegal immigration as a serious problem. (Rasmussen Reports, Sept. 1, 2015)
LA County Jails Allow For Some Cooperation with Federal Immigration Officials
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department announced last week that it will begin minimal cooperation efforts with federal immigration officials. (Los Angeles Times, Sept. 23, 2015) Previously, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department refused almost all cooperation with the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”).
Under the new policy, ICE will be allowed to interview all inmates awaiting release from jail, as well as any inmate convicted of a serious or violent crime. (Washington Times, Sept. 24, 2015) The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will also give ICE at least a seven-day notice of an inmate’s release from custody and allow ICE full access to county jails and databases. (Id.)
Los Angeles County will still only be able to comply with an immigration detainer for only the most serious criminal aliens, because County law enforcement must also abide by the requirements of state law under Assembly Bill (“A.B.”) 4, otherwise known as the Trust Act. (A.B. 4) An immigration detainer is a request from United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) to a state or local law enforcement agency to maintain custody of an alien for no more than 48 hours so that federal officials may assume custody for the purpose of removal from the United States. Under the 2013 law, criminal aliens must have a conviction of a serious or violent crime in order to be held in anticipation of transfer to ICE custody. (Id.)
The shift in policy was in part a response to several murders committed this year by criminal aliens who had previously been in state or local custody. Most notably, the murder of Kate Steinle in San Francisco this July focused public outrage at the lax enforcement policies instituted by California law enforcement officials. The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department, however, still refuses all cooperation with ICE. (Los Angeles Times, Sept. 23, 2015)
Massachusetts Committee Considers Bill to Shield Criminal Aliens from Enforcement
Last week, the Massachusetts Joint Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing on House Bill (“H.B.”) 1228, which would impede the enforcement of immigration law and build a barrier between state and local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities.
Specifically, H.B. 1228 prohibits Massachusetts law enforcement from complying with an immigration detainer or administrative warrant. (H.B. 1228) An immigration detainer is a request from United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) to a state or local law enforcement agency to maintain custody of an alien for no more than 48 hours so that federal officials may assume custody for the purpose of removal from the United States. (Id.) An administrative warrant, as defined by H.B. 1228, is an immigration warrant of arrest, order to detain or release aliens, notice of custody determination, notice to appear, removal order, warrant of removal, or any other document, issued by an immigration agent that can form the basis for an individual’s arrest or detention for an immigration enforcement purpose. (Id.) H.B. 1228 also prohibits Massachusetts law enforcement from allowing ICE agents to use their facilities for investigative interviews or other purposes, and prohibits local authorities from allowing ICE agents access to inmates. (Id.)
Local leaders, including Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson, testified at the hearing to warn of the public safety threat H.B. 1228 poses to Massachusetts residents and visitors. “This legislation not only asks law enforcement officers to violate their oath to faithfully and impartially enforce the laws, but forbids us from detaining serious criminal illegal aliens from going back into our communities to victimize more innocent people,” Sheriff Hodgson testified. (ImmigrationReform.com, Sept. 18, 2015) “What is deeply troubling to me and I believe the citizens of both the commonwealth and our nation, is why any of us who are elected by the people would want law enforcement to have less tools, less capabilities of sharing equipment, resources and intelligence to help keep our communities safe,” Sheriff Hodgson added. (Id.)
The Joint Committee on the Judiciary must vote to allow H.B. 1228 to proceed before it can be sent to the full House of Representatives for a vote. The Senate must also approve H.B. 1228 before it can be sent to the Governor for signature.