Legislative Update: 4/9/2014
House GOP Using Defense Authorization Bill as Amnesty Vehicle?
Pro-amnesty House Republicans are devising a plan to sneak amnesty into the fiscal year 2015 defense authorization bill. Representative Jeff Denham (R-CA) is leading the effort to amend his ENLIST Act (H.R. 2377), a military-based DREAM Act, onto the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). (breitbart.com, Apr. 2, 2014) The ENLIST Act requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to issue green cards (legal permanent resident status) to certain illegal aliens just for enlisting in the military. The only conditions are that the illegal aliens: (1) entered the U.S. before 2012; and (2) were younger than 15 when they entered the country. (See H.R. 2377)
Specifically, Rep. Denham is targeting Members of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), the committee of jurisdiction for the NDAA, in order to get his amnesty bill included. "We are working to gather co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle," Denham spokeswoman Jordan Langdon said. (Roll Call, Apr. 3, 2014) Because Rep. Denham is not on the committee, he needs an HASC member to introduce the ENLIST Act. Currently, 11 of the bill's 42 co-sponsors are HASC members, including Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA). (See H.R. 2377 Co-sponsors List)
However, HASC Chairman McKeon announced on Friday that he will not include the ENLIST Act in the original version of the NDAA, known as the Chairman's mark. "I do not intend to include the ‘ENLIST' Act in the proposed [NDAA] that I will submit to the Armed Services Committee next month," read a statement from McKeon. (Chairman McKeon Press Release, Apr. 4, 2014) "I have reached this conclusion without regard to my views on the underlying policy, but because I do not believe that the Chairman's mark should be the original venue for this debate." (Id.)
This does not mean that the committee will not consider the ENLIST Act, only that it must be offered as an amendment and receive a majority vote to be included in the NDAA. In fact, Denham unsuccessfully tried to get the ENLIST Act added to last year's NDAA when it was before the entire House of Representatives.
Undeterred by McKeon's announcement, Rep. Denham told inside-the-beltway publication Roll Call that he is going to continue fighting to get his amnesty language included in this year's defense authorization bill. "I was confident last year that I had the votes on the amendment....I was willing to work through the committee process to work through the issue," Denham said. (Roll Call, Apr. 4, 2014) "I feel that is very clear, now, that my bill has complete jurisdiction within the [Armed Services] committee.... I assume that my amendment would be ruled in order and I would expect to have a vote on the issue and I would expect that it would pass.... This time I would not withdraw the issue." (Id.)
In response to Denham's efforts, true immigration reformer Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) is circulating a letter calling on House GOP leadership to reject Denham's attempt of including his bill in the NDAA. "We were surprised to learn that some of our House colleagues seek to include all or part of the ENLIST Act in the [NDAA]," reads the letter addressed to Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA). (Rep. Brooks Letter to Boehner and Cantor) "This effort to shift the immigration debate to the NDAA and the House Armed Services Committee is improper and undermines Congress' ability to properly debate immigration issues." (Id.) "If immigration legislation is addressed by the House, it should be done so via the proper process, not by attaching it to must pass legislation," the letter adds. (Id.)
Additionally, other true immigration reformers criticized Denham for using the defense authorization bill as a vehicle for amnesty. "Amnesty for those illegally here should not be tucked away and hidden within the [NDAA]," charged Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX). (breitbart.com, Apr. 2, 2014) Representative John Fleming (R-LA), an HASC member, added, "This attempt to open a back door recruitment path to illegals is mind-boggling." (breitbart.com, Apr. 3, 2014) "Our military would have to suspend the rule of law to ask those who are here illegally to take an oath to support and defend the Constitution, while those who have already served according to that oath could be facing unemployment," added Rep. Steve King (R-IA). (breitbart.com, Apr. 2, 2014)
On Monday, Chairman McKeon announced the schedule for when the HASC will amend the NDAA, a process known as "markup." The various Armed Services subcommittees will markup their relevant portions April 30 and May 1, and then the entire committee will conduct a final markup on May 7. (Chairman McKeon Press Release, Apr. 7, 2014) Once the committee approves the NDAA, House GOP leadership will determine when to bring the bill to the House floor for final consideration. Stay tuned to FAIR as details unfold...
Congressional Hispanic Caucus Sends List of Demands to Homeland Security
Last week, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) sent a memo to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson demanding the Department make sweeping changes to immigration policy administratively. (Working Draft Memorandum; Roll Call, Apr. 4, 2014) In the memo, the CHC claims the changes outlined in the six-page memo are necessary to stop the "needless separation" of "American families" caused by the deportation of illegal aliens with "strong family ties" and "deep roots" in the United States. (See CHC Memo at 1.)
The overarching demand of the CHC is that Homeland Security "use all legal means" to "suspend, delay, or dispense with the deportations" of illegal aliens who would qualify for amnesty under the Senate amnesty bill (S.744). (Id.) To achieve this, the CHC lists several "policy options" for DHS. These include:
- Expanding DACA — the administrative program that defers the deportation of DREAMers and gives them work authorization — to include parents and siblings of DACA beneficiaries plus illegal alien parents of citizens and green card holders (legal permanent residents).
- Expanding parole in place — which has no basis in statute or regulation — to DACA beneficiaries and other illegal aliens who are immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. (To read more about parole in place, see FAIR Legislative Update, Nov. 20, 2013)
- Expand "humanitarian parole" — a policy intended to temporarily help foreign nationals on a case-by-case basis — to include parents and siblings of DACA beneficiaries and immediate relatives of citizens and green card holders. This means giving aliens OUTSIDE the country who are relatives of illegal aliens, legal permanent residents, and citizens an automatic path to citizenship. (To read more about humanitarian parole, see FAIR Legislative Update, Nov. 20, 2013)
- Allowing illegal aliens — namely DACA beneficiaries and aliens with temporary protected status (TPS) — to enlist in the military.
- Greatly expand the definition of "extreme hardship" — the establishment of which often allows illegal aliens who are related citizens to get waivers under federal immigration law — to:
- include merely being related to an American and
- allow the term to apply to illegal alien relatives of green card holders instead of just citizens.
In addition to demanding these administrative changes to the law, the CHC is demanding the Department of Homeland Security narrow the scope of its immigration enforcement. According to the CHC, Homeland Security should:
- No longer deport illegal aliens who have convictions for illegal entry (a misdemeanor) or illegal re-entry (a felony).
- No longer deport illegal aliens who have been in the country for more than six months.
- Grant deferred action to more illegal aliens by giving more weight to "positive" or "mitigating" factors and less weight to "negative" factors.
- Restrict the use of expedited removal, the process by which illegal aliens caught near the border are deported without formal proceedings, and implement a screening process to determine the appropriate removal process for all illegal aliens caught near the border.
- Reduce the number of detainers ICE issues to illegal alien convicts.
- End 287(g), the federal/state/local cooperation program, and Secure Communities, the program that electronically compares digital fingerprints of illegal aliens booked into jails with immigration databases.
- Improve the quality of detention centers.
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus sent these demands to Secretary Johnson in anticipation of its upcoming meeting with the Secretary scheduled for Wednesday, April 9. (Roll Call, Apr. 4, 2014) Congressman Luis Gutierrez, a member of the CHC and one of Congress' most vocal amnesty advocates, told reporters Friday that the memo includes "many, many of the prosecutorial discretion initiatives that we have presented to the president in the past. Some of it isn't new. Some parts of it are new. It's very broad."
Gutierrez also warned House Republicans that that if they don't concede to the President and grant amnesty, President Obama will simply take charge. "If we don't see a bill moving forward and concrete steps being taken ... they can watch the president ... pick up his pen," Gutierrez said on the call. "It's one or the other. I see it coming." (Id.) Gutierrez also warned House Republicans that they had better have an immigration reform plan "seriously rolling down the tracks by the time we break for Independence Day" or else Republicans "might as well fold up the tent." (Gutierrez press release, Apr. 2, 2014)
CBP Chief Admits Obama's Policies Have Fueled Spike in Minors Illegally Crossing Border
In a budget hearing before the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee last Wednesday, newly confirmed U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske admitted that Obama Administration policies are likely contributing to the recent surge in minors crossing the border illegally. (SeeAppropriations.gov, Apr. 2, 2014; Breitbart.com, Apr. 3, 2014; Daily Caller, Apr. 3, 2014) The CBP is currently projecting a ten-fold increase over the past three years in children crossing the border illegally without parents or guardians, from 6,000 in 2011, to 34,000 in 2013, and 60,000 projected this year. (See Opening Statement of John Carter, Apr. 2, 2014)
Representative Carter argued that the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) immigration policies are fueling this spike. One such policy is its Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.(See FAIR's Legislative Update, Jun. 19, 2012) Another is DHS's practice, revealed in an order by a Texas federal judge last December, of reuniting the unaccompanied minor border crossers with their parents in the United States when federal agents intercept a smuggling operation bringing the children across the border illegally. (See Fox News, Dec. 19, 2013) These policies, said Carter, are "creating a gravitational pull so strong that parents are willing to support vile criminal networks, and to place their precious children in harm's way." (Opening Statement of John Carter, Apr. 2, 2014)
Commissioner Kerlikowske conceded that"[t]he deferred action, the family reunification, is an issue," though he resisted the idea that administration policies have been the sole cause of the increase in border crossings. (See Appropriations.gov, Apr. 2, 2014; Breitbart.com, Apr. 3, 2014; Daily Caller, Apr. 3, 2014) Citing a 2013 survey of illegal entrants, he said: "crime and gang issues in their own country are a push out — sometimes there's family violence also." (Id.) "Then of course, there's the economic incentive to come to America, which has always been here," he said. "But I certainly understand this issue of family reunification being a part of what is really a complex problem." (Id.)
Commissioner Kerlikowske also admitted that the increase in unaccompanied minors crossing the border has hampered the CBP's mission. "Our CBP facilities are not designed to hold these large numbers, nor are our ports of entry," he said. "My role has been to keep our heads above water at CBP, to get the Border Patrol agents back doing their work on the border and not essentially babysitting a lot of children that they really don't have either the facilities or oftentimes the support that they need to do this." (Id.)
Despite Opposition, USCIS Nominee to Receive Full Senate Vote
On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-7 to approve the nomination of Leon Rodriguez for Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and send it to the floor for a vote from the full Senate.
Despite committee approval, opposition to the nomination of Rodriguez to head USCIS was strong. Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who voted against the nomination, outlined several reasons why Mr. Rodriguez is unqualified to be USCIS Director. First, Grassley said that Rodriguez "lacks adequate immigration experience to lead this agency, especially on the heels of potential sweeping immigration reform legislation." (Senator Charles Grassley Statement, Apr. 3, 2014) In particular, Grassley noted that Rodriguez's responses to his questions demonstrated "little appreciation for what his job will entail." (Id.) Next, it was "disconcerting" to Grassley that Rodriguez was on the board of CASA de Maryland, which has conducted activities "in direct conflict with the mission of USCIS." (Id.) While Rodriguez served on the board of CASA de Maryland, the pro-amnesty group filed a lawsuit relating to driver's license application loopholes used by illegal aliens and published a pamphlet instructing illegal aliens on steps they can take to avoid deportation. (Id. See also FAIR Legislative Update, Mar. 19, 2014) Third, Grassley said that Rodriguez "repeatedly failed to provide responsive answers" to questions, and was not "straightforward" in answering what his plans for Obama's Administrative amnesty program, DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) would be. (Senator Charles Grassley Statement, Apr. 3, 2014)
In addition, Senator Jeff Sessions declared that Rodriguez's appointment as USCIS Director would only further weaken enforcement of immigration law. (See Senator Jeff Sessions Video, Apr. 3, 2014) The Obama Administration, Sessions said, has been instrumental in the "development of an entire agency with an important national mission from being blocked from its ability to do the job it needs." (Id.) In particular, Sessions pointed to comments by Kenneth Palinkas, president of the USCIS Council, the union that represents over 12,000 USCIS employees, who said that the agency was under political "pressure to rubber-stamp applications" for immigration status. (Id. See FAIR Legislative Update, Oct. 16, 2013; see also CNN, Jan. 9, 2012) Nominating Rodriguez, a former board member of CASA de Maryland, instead of a proven police chief is "a direct declaration that the officers in USCIS are not to enforce the law effectively and aggressively," Sessions said. (See Senator Jeff Sessions Video, Apr. 3, 2014)
California Jails Hand Over 44% Fewer Criminal Aliens to Feds
New data shows that the number of criminal aliens California jails have turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents has plummeted 44 percent since the beginning of the year. (Associated Press, Apr. 6, 2014) The data, released by the Associated Press this week, detail the number of criminal aliens transferred by California sheriffs to federal authorities in 15 of the 23 counties most responsible for deportations through the Secure Communities program. Importantly, four of the five most populous counties in California are included: Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside, and San Bernardino. (Id.)
Overall, the number of criminal aliens transferred by these 15 counties to ICE in 2014 was 1,600, 44 percent fewer than the 2,984 criminal aliens the same counties transferred to ICE in 2013. (The Washington Post, Apr. 6, 2014) While some counties, such San Luis Obispo, registered a relatively small drop in the number of criminal aliens transferred (3 percent), other counties, such as San Francisco, registered a stunning 94 percent drop in the number of criminal aliens it turned over to ICE. (Id.)
The Associated Press report highlights the dramatic impact of California's new law, commonly called the TRUST Act. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Sept. 18, 2013) The law, which went into effect January 1st, generally bans local law enforcement from detaining any person on the basis of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold (detainer request) after that individual becomes eligible for release. (Id.) Since the law prohibits state and local jails from holding the criminal aliens until ICE is able to assume custody of them, the jails must release these criminals back on the streets.
ICE declined to comment.
IMMIGRATION LEGISLATION IN THE STATES
Last week, FAIR wrote Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, urging him to reconsider his proposed anti-cooperation policy in favor of protecting public safety. (FAIR's Letter to Mayor Nutter)
Mayor Nutter announced his intent to issue an executive order last month to prohibit Philadelphia's law enforcement officers from cooperating with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and complying with ICE detainers in all but an extremely limited number of circumstances. (Inquirer, Feb. 21, 2014) An ICE detainer is a request addressed to state or local law enforcement agencies from ICE to maintain custody of a particular alien for no more than 48 hours so that federal officials may assume custody for the purpose of removal from the United States. Specifically, Mayor Nutter's draft executive order prohibits Philadelphia law enforcement officials from: (1) notifying ICE it will be releasing an alien, or (2) holding an alien for ICE to assume custody, unless in either case the alien is a defendant in a pending criminal case charged with a first or second degree felony involving violence. (See Nutter Draft Executive Order)
FAIR's letter to Mayor Nutter explains how anti-cooperation policies impede federal enforcement of immigration law and pose a serious threat to public safety by creating safe havens that facilitate criminal activity, especially in regard to drug and gang-related crimes, human trafficking, and identity theft. (See FAIR's Letter to Mayor Nutter) FAIR warned Mayor Nutter that the number of dangerous criminal aliens that could be released as a result of his proposed executive order is certain to be high given that the policy only allows law enforcement officials to comply with ICE detainers if the alien is currently being charged with a violent first or second-degree felony, but not on the basis of prior convictions. (Id.)
Mayor Nutter's office told FAIR this month that the Mayor expects to issue a final executive order in a couple of weeks.
FAIR Cost Study Shows Florida In-State Tuition Bills Will Costs Taxpayers Millions
FAIR's new cost study on Florida's in-state tuition bills, estimates that, if enacted, the bills will cost Florida taxpayers in excess of $21.7 million and $22.7 million, respectively.
The study, which specifically examines House Bill ("H.B.") 851 and Senate Bill ("S.B.") 1400, outlines the real costs of providing illegal aliens with in-state tuition under these bills by quantifying the number of illegal aliens that will be eligible for the public benefit. FAIR's study projects about 6,000 illegal aliens will receive in-state tuition if H.B. 851 is passed and over 6,100 if S.B. 1400 is passed. Florida has the second largest illegal alien population in the United States after California.
Based on earlier FAIR cost estimates and the best available data, FAIR projects that if H.B. 851 is passed, it will cost Florida taxpayers $21.7 million in the first year, with this cost expected to rise in subsequent years as more illegal aliens take advantage of the law's provisions. FAIR used the same methodology to estimate the costs of S.B. 1400, and assumed that the number of illegal aliens who would qualify for reduced tuition rates under this bill would be 2.5 percent higher than under H.B. 851 as S.B. 1400 merely requires 3 years of high school attendance in contrast to H.B. 851's 4 year requirement.
Proponents of H.B. 851 and S.B. 1400 often argue that giving illegal aliens in Florida in-state tuition will lead to economic and fiscal benefits in the long-term. In effect, what they propose is spending considerable amounts of taxpayer dollars as an "investment," with the promise of a return 20 to 30 years in the future. However, while the immediate costs are real, the benefits are far from assured. There is no reliable evidence at this point to substantiate such claims, and some reasons to doubt it given that most illegal aliens are prohibited from working in the United States, and those who have received temporary work authorization may have this status revoked at any time. (See, e.g. Los Angeles Times, March 24, 2014)
S.B. 1400 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee by a vote of 7-2 on April 1 and is now in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education. (S.B. 1400 Status Report) The bill must also pass through the Appropriations Committee before it can be considered on the Senate floor. The bill would still have to work its way through the House if passed by the Senate (Id.) H.B. 851 passed the House of Representatives in March and has been referred to the Senate's Education, Judiciary, Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, and Appropriations Committees. (H.B. 851 Status Report) The 2014 Florida legislative session ends May 4.
2013 VOTING REPORT
Today FAIR is releasing its 2013 Voting Report to give its members insight into how their lawmakers have tackled the complex issue of immigration. FAIR's Government Relations team assembled this report by sifting through the immigration votes held during the first session of the 113th Congress and determining which ones were most important with respect to promoting good immigration policy.
This year's report is best characterized as a tale of two chambers. The Senate considered a mass guest worker amnesty bill as well as the nomination of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Alejandro Mayorkas to be the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the department's number two position. The Senate report contains votes on key amendments that reached the Senate floor on the Schumer-Rubio amnesty bill (S. 744), as well as those on critical procedural moves leading up to the final passage. The report also contains the nomination of Mayorkas, who was under investigation by the DHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG) regarding impropriety in the EB-5 program, and an OIG report found that USCIS was rubberstamping immigration benefits under his tenure. The House of Representatives on the other hand avoided the issue almost entirely. Therefore, FAIR chose votes on three immigration-related amendments to the DHS appropriations bill to present a picture of each Representative's position.
FAIR encourages all of its members to review the Voting Report and learn more about how their lawmakers are representing them. You can access the Report here.