Legislative Update: 11/17/2015
Paris Massacre Must Lead Washington to Reconsider Mass Resettlement of Migrants
In the chaotic aftermath of last Friday's deadly attacks in Paris, French and international authorities are still trying to sort out exactly who planned and executed the attacks, and how they managed to strike at the heart of a Western capital.
One thing we know for certain from Friday's tragedy and from the terrorist attacks carried out in Paris last January: Europe has not succeeded in assimilating many Muslim immigrants or their European-born offspring. That failure threatens the very fabric of European democracy and culture.
So-called "homegrown" terrorists are, in fact, the products of recent transplants. Irrespective of who is at fault for the failure of the assimilation process, there can be no question that the consequences of not assimilating millions of immigrants and their children, who do not share Western cultural values, threaten our way of life.
The second thing that appears to be true is that the warnings issued by both European and American intelligence agencies were real: The massive and unregulated wave of migration sweeping across Europe poses a dangerous threat to the security of the West. The evidence strongly suggests that, as warned, ISIS (and likely other terrorist organizations) is using the situation to infiltrate the Western nations they have sworn to destroy.
At least one of the Paris terrorists possessed a Syrian passport that was registered as having passed through Greece, Serbia and Croatia in October. Whether the passport was real or forged is still unclear. It is also irrelevant. Amid the chaos, there is no way to verify the validity of travel documents — many of the migrants don't even have identity documents when they arrive. Thus, their true identities cannot be known. Many are not even Syrian, but merely claim to be. Most importantly, there is no way for Western nations to ensure that the people who are being admitted are not security threats.
Despite the warnings of international, and even our own intelligence services, there is no indication that the Obama administration is reconsidering its pledge to admit at least 10,000 Syrians as refugees in the coming year (and possibly many times that number). Just last month, FBI Director James Comey testified before Congress that there are "certain gaps" (read: gaping holes) in our ability to screen Middle Eastern migrants. Comey's assessment was affirmed by other intelligence officials.
FAIR Supports a Compassionate and Generous Refugee Policy
FAIR does recognize the moral and humanitarian responsibility of the United States to accept refugees for resettlement in reasonable numbers. However, like the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, FAIR believes that resettlement should be a last resort, not a first resort, and that the primary objective should be repatriation of refugees to their homelands when conditions allow.
In furtherance of those goals, permanent resettlement should be afforded to those who are in the most imminent danger and whose prospects for successful repatriation within a reasonable period of time are least likely. Others should be provided protection and assistance in, or near, their homelands with the ultimate goal of safe repatriation. In all situations, the United States must be able to assess, with a high degree of confidence, that those who are resettled in this country do not pose a danger to American society.
FAIR has repeatedly objected to the overt politicization of refugee policy and to the abuse of "temporary" protection programs that are anything but temporary. These abuses make it more difficult for our nation to provide protection and resettlement to those who need it most.
Fix Our Existing Immigration Chaos Before We Add New Challenges
The U.S. already has existing national security vulnerabilities that this administration has adamantly refused to addressed. The border remains porous, many of the 9/11 Commission recommendations still remain unfinished including REAL ID and the implementation of an effective exit system to track overstayers, and the F-1 student visa program is replete with fraud and loopholes. Adding thousands of additional refugees — especially those from countries deemed high security risks — imposes additional burdens on a bureaucracy that has proven itself incapable of monitoring who's who.
What Must be Done
In light of last week's attacks and the frank acknowledgements from intelligence officials here and in Europe, the Obama administration must abandon its plans for mass resettlement of Middle Eastern migrants. If they don't, Congress must stop them. To accomplish that, it's time for Americans to ask their elected leaders important questions:
- With terrorism risks escalating, when will you finish the fence, stop allowing states to issue driver's licenses, rein in the abuses of the F-1 student visas, implement an exit system and tend to other unfinished national security reforms?
- How is screening of the existing level of refugees accomplished both domestically and internationally? Can you provide reasonable guarantees that terrorists will not exploit the loopholes given that they already have in France?
- How would screening be carried out for tens of thousands of additional refugees from high risk countries in a manner that provides reasonable guarantees that terrorists will not exploit the loopholes?
- What is the local, state and federal cost and impact of additional refugees on American taxpayers?
These are critical questions that must be answered because the first priority of any government is to protect the security of its people.
First, ISIS and other terrorist groups have vowed to use the freedom and openness of our societies to attack us. We must believe them. Second, even if the vast majority of migrants being resettled are not security threats, the Paris attacks (like the attacks of 9/11) prove that it only takes a few people to inflict catastrophic damage. Finally, we must undertake an honest assessment of our assimilation process. Regardless of whose fault it is, the failure to assimilate immigrants and their children into the economic and cultural mainstream can be lethal.
Fifth Circuit Thwarts Obama's Amnesty Programs
Last Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit struck a major blow to President Obama by keeping in place the injunction on part of the November 2014 executive amnesty. In a 2-1 decision, the court upheld District Court Judge Andrew Hanen's injunction on Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) until the courts decide the merits of these executive amnesty programs. (5th Circuit Order Upholding Injunction, Nov. 9, 2015) Last week's ruling marks the fourth time this year the Obama administration has lost in court defending DAPA and expanded DACA: twice before Judge Hanen and twice before the Fifth Circuit. (See FAIR Legislative Update, June 2, 2015; FAIR Legislative Update, Apr. 14, 2015; FAIR Legislative Update, Feb. 18, 2015)
Similar to its previous ruling, the Fifth Circuit agreed with Judge Hanen that the plaintiff-States have legal standing to sue — a prerequisite for bringing a lawsuit. In a harsh rebuke of the Obama administration, the court described Judge Hanen's ruling as "impressive and thorough" and held that the States' "standing is plain, based on the driver's license rationale." (5th Circuit Order Upholding Injunction at 2, 9) Specifically, the court determined that Texas has standing because issuing driver's licenses to DAPA beneficiaries would cost the state at least $130.89 per license. The court was unpersuaded by the government's claim that the states lack standing. "But the cases the government cites for that proposition either did not involve standing; concerned only nonprosecution (as distinguished from both nonprosecution and the conferral of benefits); or merely reaffirmed that a plaintiff must satisfy the standing requirements." (Id. at 15)
The Fifth Circuit also rejected the government's claim that the executive amnesty is not subject to judicial review. "Judicial review of DAPA is consistent with the protections Congress affords to states that decline to provide public benefits to illegal aliens," the court held. (Id. at 32) The court dismissed the government's position that Texas's injury is self-inflicted because the state chose to base driver's license eligibility on federal immigration law. (Id. at 20) "The fact that Texas sued in response to a significant change in the defendants' policies shows that its injury is not self-inflicted," the court declared. (Id. at 22) "Deferred action, however, is much more than nonenforcement.... Moreover, if deferred action meant only nonprosecution, it would not necessarily result in lawful presence." (Id. at 35, 37)
Additionally, the court completely dismissed the statutory authority the administration claimed it has to implement DAPA. The majority said the broad grants of authority in the relevant statutes "cannot reasonably be construed as assigning 'decisions of vast "economic and political significance,"' such as DAPA, to an agency." (Id. at 61-62) The court continued, "The interpretation of those provisions that the Secretary advances would allow him to grant lawful presence and work authorization to any illegal alien in the United States — an untenable position in light of the INA's intricate system of immigration classifications and employment eligibility." (Id. at 62)
FAIR and its legal affiliate, the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), applauded the Fifth Circuit's decision. "FAIR welcomes the Fifth Circuit's ruling as a victory for the American people and our constitutional form of government," said Dan Stein, FAIR's president. (FAIR Press Release, Nov. 10, 2015) Stein continued, "The ruling of the three-judge panel was clear and definitive. The president does not have the authority to simply ignore immigration laws and substitute his own policies in their place." (Id.) Stein then appeared on EWTN to discuss the ruling, video of his appearance can be seen here. IRLI Executive Director Dale Wilcox said, "Congress never intended for the President to dismantle our carefully-crafted immigration laws by declaring mass amnesty and then claim he could never be challenged in court. The attempts of the President's attorneys to misconstrue court precedent and give away work permits en masse cannot prevail in a system founded on the rule of law and thankfully that was confirmed yesterday by the Fifth Circuit." (IRLI Press Release, Nov. 10, 2015)
Despite repeatedly failing to overturn the injunction, the Obama administration announced it will challenge the Fifth Circuit's decision. "The department disagrees with the Fifth Circuit's adverse ruling and intends to seek further review from the Supreme Court of the United States," Department of Justice spokesman Patrick Rodenbush said in a statement. (The Hill, Nov. 10, 2015) It is unclear if the Supreme Court will hear the appeal since the high court rarely weighs in on injunctions. Once the appeals of the injunction are over, the case returns to Judge Hanen to determine whether DHS has the authority to unilaterally grant deferred action and work authorization to millions of illegal aliens without Congressional approval.
Stay tuned to FAIR and IRLI as details emerge...
Bernie Sanders: I'd Go Further than Obama's Executive Actions
Speaking to a Las Vegas immigration forum organized by pro-amnesty activists, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) vowed to go further than President Obama's executive actions, expanding amnesty to include nearly all illegal aliens. "I will not wait around for Congress to act. Instead, beginning in the first 100 days of my administration, I will work to take extensive executive action to accomplish what Congress has failed to do and build upon President Obama's executive orders," said the Democratic presidential candidate and self-described socialist. (See Sanders Immigration Remarks) However, on the same day as Sanders' speech, a federal appeals court ruled that Obama's executive actions from nearly a year ago must remain blocked.
Obama's executive actions announced last November would grant amnesty to 4-5 million illegal aliens by giving them protection from deportation (deferred action) plus work authorization. (Politico, Nov. 9 2015) The actions included expansion of the current Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, as well as the creation of a new deferred action program, Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA). (Id.) Expanded DACA seeks to broaden the program's initial eligibility requirements, giving deferred action to a greater amount of illegal aliens who claim to have been brought to the U.S. as children. (Id.) DAPA would grant deferred action to illegal aliens with children who are U.S. citizens or green card holders, while giving them work authorization. (Id.) Under Sanders' proposal, all illegal aliens who have been in the U.S. for at least five years would be eligible for these protections. (Id.) According to the Sanders campaign, his executive actions would reward more than 7 million illegal aliens living in the U.S. (Id.)
Sanders' immigration proposal is seemingly at odds with a populist campaign message that centers on wage inequality and creating jobs. Adding millions of illegal aliens to the workforce will exacerbate the depressed labor market, further depress wages, and make it more difficult for the millions of unemployed/underemployed U.S. citizens and legal immigrants to find employment. (See FAIR Amnesty Fact Sheet) In fact, Sanders even opposed the 2007 McCain/Kennedy amnesty bill on these grounds, citing the bill's impact on American wage-earners. (New York Times, Oct. 19 2015) "What this legislation is not about is addressing the real needs of American workers," Sanders said in a Senate floor speech at the time. "It is not about raising wages or improving benefits. What it is about is bringing into this country over a period of years millions of low-wage temporary workers with the result that wages and benefits in this country, which are already going down, will go down even further." (Id.)
CIS: Caring for Refugees 12 Times More Expensive in U.S. than in Middle East
This month, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) released a report calculating how much each refugee from the Middle East costs American taxpayers to resettle and reside for five years in the U.S. (CIS Report, Nov. 2015) The cost, which CIS calculated using Census Bureau data and includes both resettlement costs and welfare payments, is $64,370 per refugee, an average cost 12 times what the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has requested to care for each Syrian refugee in countries neighboring Syria. (Id.)
The UNHCR has also reported that it needs $2.5 billion in additional funding to care for the approximately four million Syrians in neighboring Middle Eastern countries. (Id.) Thus, according to CIS's calculations, the U.S. could make up the entire UNHCR funding gap for all of the refugees if it advanced the five-year cost of resettling 39,000 Syrian refugees in the U.S. (Id.)
Much of the cost of resettling Middle Eastern refugees in the U.S. is a result of their high use of welfare. (Id.) Unlike other new legal immigrants, refugees are eligible for all welfare programs upon arrival. (Id.; see also, FAIR Legislative Update, Sept. 15, 2015) According to the 2013 Annual Survey of Refugees, among previous Middle Eastern refugees, welfare usage has included: 32.2 percent receiving Supplement Security Income; 36.7 percent receiving Temporary Assistance to Needy Families; 17.3 percent receiving General Assistance; 91.4 percent receiving the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps); 18.7 percent living in public housing; and 73.1 percent on Medicaid or Refugee Medical Assistance. (CIS Report, Nov. 2015)
Nor do the costs vanish after the refugee has been settled for five years. (Id.) While the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) within the Department of Health and Human Services often reports that most refugees are "self-sufficient" within five years, ORR defines "self-sufficiency" as simply not receiving cash welfare. (Id.) A household that uses public housing, food stamps, or Medicaid is still considered "self-sufficient." (Id.)
The report seriously calls into question whether President Obama's plan of accepting tens of thousands of refugees from the Middle East is the "humanitarian" course to take. (See, e.g. Senate Judiciary Hearing, Oct. 1, 2015) In a world where taxpayers do not have infinite resources to spend on refugees, the U.S. can provide more humanitarian relief by spending its resources helping abroad instead of through refugee resettlement. And of course, if the U.S. chose foreign aid over resettlement, it could both help more refugees, and avoid the serious security threats inherent in accepting tens of thousands of aliens from a part of the world where the infrastructure necessary to conduct background checks does not exist. (See id.)
Tennessee Legislator to Introduce Bill to End Sanctuary Policies
Last week, Tennessee Representative Jeremy Durham announced that he is drafting legislation to ensure localities in Tennessee abide by state law and cooperate with federal immigration officials. (Tennessean, Nov. 12, 2015) Representative Durham's legislation, which he plans to introduce next year, will penalize jurisdictions in the state that institutes a sanctuary policy to impede the enforcement of immigration law. (Id.) Sanctuary policies frequently protect criminal aliens from detection and removal by restricting compliance with detainer requests by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), often called ICE holds. (Pew Charitable Trusts, Oct. 31, 2014; see FAIR's Sanctuary Policies Report, Oct. 2013)
Current Tennessee law prohibits state and local entities from adopting any policies that expressly prohibit public officials from complying with federal immigration law. (Tenn. Code Ann. § 7-68-103(a)) The law also prohibits any individual official from materially interfering with a public entity or official from complying with federal immigration law. (Tenn. Code Ann. § 7-68-103(b))
While citizens may petition the courts to ensure compliance with the statute, Representative Durham believes the law does not go far enough to deter violations. (Tenn. Code Ann. § 7-68-104; Tennessean, Nov, 12, 2015) His legislation will include penalties for public entities or officials who chose to violate the law. The details as to how the penalty scheme would look are still being worked out. "It's really up in the air how we do that. We may look at a comptroller line item budget. We might look at ECD (economic development) funding, but those are the things I'll be thinking about when we put the legislation together," he told reporters. (News Channel 5, Nov. 4, 2015)
Representative Durham joins state legislators all over the country who are taking action to eliminate sanctuary policies in their states and ensure local law enforcement prioritize public safety over the interests of criminal aliens. Sanctuary policies have been the focus of public outrage since the murder of a 32 year-old California woman, Kate Steinle, this summer by an illegal alien suspect who was released by a county sheriff after his office refused to honor ICE's detainer request. Seeking to avoid similar tragedies in Tennessee, Rep. Durham commented, "The idea behind the legislation is to protect Tennessee values and we must make sure our cities and municipalities have the proper deterrence from becoming a sanctuary city." (News Channel 5, Nov. 4, 2015)
It will be up to the Tennessee General Assembly to take up the issue in January when it reconvenes for the 2015-2016 legislative session.