FAIR Legislative Update September 7, 2010
FBI Uncovers Largest Human-Trafficking Case in U.S. History
On September 2, a federal grand jury indicted six alleged smugglers in what the FBI has called the largest human-trafficking case in U.S. history. (Associated Press, September 2, 2010). In the indictment, the government alleges that the defendants, four of whom are employees of the Los Angeles-based labor recruiting firm, Global Horizons Manpower Inc., conspired and devised a scheme to obtain the labor of approximately 400 Thai nationals by enticing them to come to the United States through the H-2A agricultural guest worker program during 2004 and 2005 with false promises of lucrative jobs. (FBI Press Release, September 2, 2010).
According to the government, the defendants then charged the Thai workers high recruitment fees, which were financed by debts secured with the workers’ family property and homes. However, once the workers arrived in the U.S., the labor recruiters confiscated their passports and placed them on various farms throughout the country, where they were forced to work in substandard conditions. (Id.) Attorneys for some of the workers say that Global Horizons Manpower sent them to farms in more than a dozen states, including Hawaii, Washington, California, Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah. (USA Today, September 3, 2010).
FBI Special Agent Tom Simon described the actions of the recruiting firm as a “classic bait-and-switch.” (Herald Sun, September 3, 2010). “They were telling the Thai workers one thing to lure them here. Then when they got here, their passports were taken away, and they were held in forced servitude working in these farms.” (Id.) As further alleged in the indictment, “[t]he object of the conspiracy was to obtain cheap, compliant labor,” and that once the workers were “indebted by the defendants’ recruitment fees,” they were compelled to work as a result of economic coercion and threats of incarceration and deportation. (Id.)
The rate of illegal immigration to the U.S. has slowed in 2009 according to the latest Pew Hispanic Center report. The report, released on September 1, 2010, revealed that the annual inflow of unauthorized immigrants to the U.S. was nearly two-thirds smaller in the March 2007 to March 2009 period than it had been from March 2000 to March 2005. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, the annual inflow rate slowed by eight percent:
During the first half of the decade, an average of about 850,000 new unauthorized immigrants entered each year, increasing the unauthorized population from 8.4 million in 2000 to 11.1 million in 2005. Since then, the average inflow dropped to about 550,000 per year from March 2005 to March 2007 and declined further to an average of 300,000 per year for March 2007 to March 2009.
This reduced rate of inflow, says the Pew Hispanic Center, combined with increased enforcement efforts played a role in lowering the illegal alien population to what it estimates is now 11.1 million. But despite the overall drop in the illegal alien population, Pew still estimates that the illegal alien population in the United States grew 32 percent from 2000 to 2009. In fact, “nearly half of unauthorized immigrants living in the country in 2009—47%, or 5.2 million people—arrived in 2000 or later.”
Although Pew estimates that the illegal alien population has declined in 2009, Mexican nationals still constituted roughly the same portion of the illegal alien population, about 60 percent or 6.7 million. According to the Pew Hispanic Center report, “[t]he unauthorized population from Mexico grew steadily from 2001 to 2007, expanding from 4.8 million to 7 million during those years” and this number has since remained “stable.” Another 2.2 million illegal aliens living in the U.S. in 2009 were from other Latin American countries.
Significantly, as the U.S. economy has suffered through a severe recession, the Pew report also revealed that there were approximately 7.8 million illegal aliens in the U.S. labor force as of March 2009—a number representing 5.1 percent of the country’s total labor force. During 2009, illegal alien men had only a 10 percent unemployment rate, a rate lower than the 11 percent rate for U.S.-born workers and slightly lower than the 10.2 percent rate for legal immigrant workers.
On September 2, 2010, 66 members of Congress—five Senators and 61 Representatives—filed an amicus brief in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals appealing Judge Susan Bolton’s decision in the U.S. Justice Department’s suit against the State of Arizona over SB 1070. The brief, which was drafted with the assistance of the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) and the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), was the second amicus brief to be filed by members of Congress who support SB 1070. The first brief was filed on July 20, 2010 before Judge Bolton handed down her decision enjoining several key provisions of the Arizona law, largely adopting the arguments made by the U.S. Justice Department. (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, August 2, 2010).
Judge Bolton’s ruling is now on appeal before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The appellate brief argues that Judge Bolton erred in enjoining SB 1070 in two key ways. First, the brief argues that Judge Bolton relied on case-law that was rendered inapplicable by subsequent alien registration laws passed by Congress. The brief also argues that Judge Bolton misapplied the standard articulated by the U.S. Supreme Court for evaluating statutes of the nature presented in SB 1070. The Ninth Circuit is slated to hear oral arguments in the case in November.