Legislative Update: 9/20/2016
Nearly 900 Immigrants From 'Special Interest' Countries Mistakenly Given U.S. Citizenship
In a scathing new report, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General revealed that the federal government “granted U.S. citizenship to at least 858 individuals from special interest countries who had been ordered deported or removed under another name.” (DHS IG Press Release, Sept. 19, 2016) While the report does not identify the names of the immigrants or the countries of origin, IG John Roth said all are from countries that “are of concern to the national security of the United States” or neighboring countries with high rates of immigration fraud. (See DHS IG Report, OIG-16-130, Sept. 8, 2016) The report found that this egregious mistake occurred because “neither the digital fingerprint repository at DHS nor the repository at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) contains all old fingerprint records of individuals previously deported.” (DHS IG Press Release, Sept. 19, 2016) The IG report further noted that approximately “148,000 fingerprint records of aliens from special interest countries who had final deportation orders or who are criminals or fugitives have yet to be digitized.” (Id.)(emphasis added)
Outrageously, the problem has been known for years but DHS officials failed to act. IG Roth found that the federal government has known since at least 2008 when a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official identified 206 immigrants who used different names or other biographical immigration to obtain citizenship or immigration benefits. (DHS IG Report, OIG-16-130, Sept. 8, 2016) The report noted that very few cases have been investigated over the years. In fact, the Offices of the United States Attorneys (USAO) have only taken up two cases for criminal prosecution. (Id.) “According to ICE, it previously did not pursue investigation and subsequent revocation of citizenship for most of these individuals because the USAO generally did not accept immigration benefit fraud cases for criminal prosecution.” (Id.)
Administration Announces Plan to Increase Refugee Admissions by Nearly 30 Percent, Will Congress Act?
Last week, the Obama administration announced plans to dramatically increase refugee admissions to 110,000 in the upcoming fiscal year, which begins October 1st. (Politico, Sept. 13, 2016) The FY 2017 refugee admissions figure represents a nearly 30 percent increase over the 85,000 admissions during the current fiscal year, and a 57 percent increase over the 70,000 admitted in FY 2015. (FAIR Press Release, Sept. 13, 2016)
The sharp increase in refugee admissions will likely accommodate many Syrians – and people from other countries known to harbor terrorists – that pose significant risks to national security. (Id.) Top national security experts, including some who serve in the Obama administration, have publicly warned that effective vetting of migrants from Syria is impossible. (Id.) However, the Obama administration has ignored these warnings, even electing to fast-track the refugee vetting process from 18-24 months to just three months in order to meet self-imposed admission quotas. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Apr. 12, 2016)
“[Last week’s announcement] is nothing short of reckless and indefensible,” charged FAIR President Dan Stein. (FAIR Press Release, Sept. 13, 2016) “ISIS has vowed to use the refugee process to infiltrate terrorists into Western nations, and has demonstrated the ability to provide them with the documentation they need to successfully obtain refugee status.” (Id.)
“The results have been lethal, as terrorists posing as refugees have been involved in a series of deadly attacks in Europe. Rather than heed the warnings of security experts and halt the admission of people whose identities and affiliations cannot be verified, the administration is rushing to get as many as they can into the country before leaving office,” Stein continued. (Id.)
Since the breakdown of the regular appropriations process has once again necessitated the passage of a Continuing Resolution (CR) to temporarily fund the government, FAIR is calling on Congress to use this as an opportunity to cut off funding for large-scale refugee resettlement. (Id.) Fortunately, Congressman Brian Babin (R-TX) is leading the effort to do just that. Congressman Babin, along with 37 of his colleagues, recently sent a letter to House Republican leadership and Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) asking them to put American national security first in any upcoming CR legislation by including a moratorium on refugees from Syria, the Middle East, and North Africa until specific conditions are met. (Babin Press Release, Sept. 15, 2016)
“There is no duty of the federal government more important than ensuring the protection of the American people,” the letter states. (Id.) “We believe it is prudent and in the best interest of the American people that language be included in the upcoming FY2017 Continuing Resolution to restore Congressional oversight and authority over the refugee program. We cannot allow the refugee program to serve as a Trojan Horse threat to American national security. Our sworn duty is first and foremost to the safety and security of the American people.” (Id.)
Congress is expected to vote on a CR this week that will fund the government through December 9.
Stay tuned to FAIR as CR negotiations continue…
New statistics from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reveal that a record number of Central American “family units” will be apprehended in FY 2016, easily surpassing the previous high from FY 2014. (See CBP Apprehension Statistics) In August, nearly 10,000 family units were apprehended, bringing the total to 68,080 with a month still remaining in the fiscal year. (Id.) By comparison, the previous record for family unit apprehensions was FY 2014 with a total of 68,445. (Id.) Importantly, the August total represents a 24 percent increase compared to July, bucking the historical trend of lower numbers during the hot temperatures of August. (Id.)
Similarly, the CBP statistics show that unaccompanied alien minors (UAMs), primarily from Central America, continue to surge across the border at near record highs. In August, 5,804 UAMs were apprehended—a record high for that month and an 85 percent increase compared to August 2014. (Id.) Thus far, 54,052 UAMs have been apprehended making FY 2016 the second highest level ever with one month remaining in the fiscal year. (Id.) While FY 2016 will likely fall short of FY 2014’s record high of 68,541 UAM apprehensions, this year easily surpasses FY 2015’s total of 39,970. (Id.)
The surge of UAMs and family units is unsurprising given the Obama administration’s refusal to secure the Southern border. Once Central American UAMs and family units are apprehended at the border, they receive papers setting court dates and are then released into the U.S. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Dec. 1, 2015) These documents are known as "notices to appear," but illegal aliens refer to them as "permisos," or free passes, because they give permission to stay in the country while they await their appearance in already backlogged immigration courts. (Id.) Testifying before a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing late last year, Chris Cabrera of the National Border Patrol Council stated that "[these documents] are now known as the ‘notice to disappear' — 80 percent, 90 percent of those folks will not show up for that hearing." (See Cabrera Testimony, Oct. 21, 2015; FAIR Legislative Update, Oct. 27, 2015)
Predictably, the Obama administration dismissed charges that its policies are encouraging the surge of illegal immigration. CBP downplayed the August figures, claiming officials are “working aggressively to address underlying cases and deter unauthorized migration.” (Washington Examiner, Sept. 13, 2016) Additionally, the Obama administration continues to point to increased gang violence in Central America as the main reason that the numbers coming into the country illegally continue to rise. This of course ignores the fact that these countries have a long history of violence but the surge coincides with Obama’s rollout of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) amnesty program.
Alarmingly, it appears that the Obama administration’s handling of the surge is actually importing gang members into the U.S. who are posing as UAMs. Federal authorities note the recent surge in increased MS-13 gang activity in the U.S. either as fresh recruits or hardened sleepers. (Fox News, Sept. 15) The MS-13 gang, officially known as Mara Salvatrucha and primarily made up of Central Americans—especially Salvadorians, is gaining a foothold in areas like New York, Texas, Maryland, and Virginia where many UAMs are being settled. (Id.) In Texas, where 15,999 UAMs were placed, there has been a huge spike in MS-13 crime and according to the 2015 Texas Department of Public Safety Gang Threat Assessment, MS-13 membership swelled by 800. (Id.)
Governor Nixon’s veto of a measure that would have weakened the state’s E-Verify law survived the Missouri General Assembly’s attempt to pass over the veto during the legislature’s short veto session last week. (CBS St. Louis, Sept. 14, 2016) The General Assembly passed House Bill (HB) 1870 in May, and Governor Jay Nixon (R) vetoed the measure in July. HB 1870 included provisions to allow an employer to avoid legal requirements to use E-Verify by filing a form indicating the program imposes a hardship to the employer. (HB 1870) Currently, Missouri law only requires public employers and contractors with the state or its localities to verify that its employees are authorized to work in the United States using the program. (§ 285.530 R.S.Mo.)
E-Verify is a free, federally run program, operated online, that allows employers to electronically verify the Social Security numbers of new hires with existing records. (See FAIR Statement, June 2011) While use of the E-Verify program is currently optional, federal agencies, the legislative branch, and some federal contractors are required to use it. In addition, twenty states have passed legislation making its use mandatory for all or certain employers operating in those states. (Id.)
“At a time when many believe that not enough is being done to address illegal immigration, House Bill No. 1870 would take Missouri backwards by undoing an important safeguard currently in place and widely used to verify the legal status of employees and applicants for employment,” stated Governor Nixon in his veto letter. (Veto Letter) “There is nothing challenging or costly about E-Verify that would cause substantial difficulty or expense to an employer, and any argument to the contrary is frivolous,” Nixon added. (Id.)
Indeed, cost should be no barrier to employers who are required or choose to use the free, web-based program. Administrative costs should also be nil because employers are already required by federal law to verify the work authorization of their newly hired employees using the federal I-9 process. The E-Verify program itself takes mere minutes to run.
Governor Nixon’s veto of HB 1870 is a testament to his commit to protect Missouri’s American workforce from job displacement due to mass illegal immigration, as E-Verify is the most effective tool employers can use to verify that their newly hired employees are in fact authorized to work in the United States. The availability of jobs in the United States is uncontroversially the single largest draw for illegal immigration.