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US Immigration Legislative Update September 8, 2008

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September 8, 2008
FAIR has released its Legislative Immigration Update that covers the following:

Congress to Resume Consideration of Five Immigration Bills

With just over three weeks remaining in the 110th session of Congress, sources on the Hill note that Democratic leadership in both chambers will attempt passage of five immigration-related bills. The House Judiciary Committee will consider four bills, while the Senate will take up reauthorization of E-Verify - the online, electronically operated system that allows employers to check the work authorization status of their new hires.

Legislation to be considered when the House Judiciary Committee meets this week includes: H.R. 5882; H.R. 5924; H.R. 5950; and H.R. 6020.

On the Senate side, Congressional Quarterly (CQ) has reported that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is expected to bring a five-year E-Verify reauthorization to the floor at some point in September. The bill - H.R. 6633, the Employee Verification Amendment Act - overwhelmingly passed the House by a vote of 407 to 2 just prior to the August recess. In addition to the five-year reauthorization, H.R. 6633 contains language requiring DHS and the Social Security Administration to enter into a reimbursement agreement in regards to funding the operation of E-Verify. (Sec. 3(a)) The legislation also requires the Government Accountability Office to conduct two studies on E-Verify to determine what causes errors in non-confirmations and the economic impact of the program on small businesses. (Sec. 5 and 6)

Several other E-Verify reauthorizations have been proposed in the Senate, including S. 3257, sponsored by Arlen Specter (R-PA), which would extend E-Verify for five years and reauthorize several other visa categories. (CQ Today Online News, August 21, 2008; S. 3257) Senator Robert D. Menendez (D-NJ) - who has put a legislative hold on Specter's bill - has introduced S. 3414 which reauthorizes E-Verify for five years, but also includes a provision that would recapture visas that the State Department did not issue in fiscal years 1992 through 2007. (CQ Today Online News, August 21, 2008; S. 3414 Sec. 2) CQ reports that Menendez supports H.R. 6633 and that Specter, along with other Republicans, has petitioned Majority Leader Reid to bring forward an E-Verify reauthorization free of other programs. (Id.)

ACLU Sues to Stop E-Verify in Rhode Island

On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The suit seeks to block Rhode Island Governor Don Carcieri from enforcing his executive order requiring private employers to check the immigration status of new hires using E-Verify. The Governor's order requires state agencies and companies doing business with the state to verify the immigration status of new employees using E-Verify. It also requires state police and state prison officials to identify illegal aliens for possible deportation. (Associated Press, September 4, 2008)

The ACLU argues that E-Verify identifies a disproportionate number of foreign-born workers as ineligible to work and could therefore encourage employers using E-Verify to discriminate against employees who appear foreign. (Associated Press, September 4, 2008) Their suit also contends that the Governor exceeded his authority by having it apply to private businesses, and that it also violates state statutes governing the state purchasing process. (ACLU News Release, September 3, 2008)

The Governor's office responded, "The lawsuit is wholly without merit and the Governor was well within his constitutional and statutory authority. The executive order was very closely patterned to follow the law and kept mandates well within the purview of the executive branch." (Rhode Island News, September 4, 2008) According to Jonathan Scharfen, Acting Director of USCIS, 99.5 % of all employees who are authorized to work in the U.S. are verified through E-Verify immediately. Non-confirmations occur almost exclusively because: the employee is not authorized to work in the U.S.; the employee failed to update records with the Social Security Administration; or the employer made an error when entering information. (Testimony of Jonathan Scharfen, June 10, 2008)

San Francisco Mayor Halts Identification Program

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom last week announced his decision to halt a citywide identification program that would issue ID Cards to city residents, including illegal aliens, until the city's controversial sanctuary city policy can be reviewed. The city vowed to review the sanctuary city policy after the San Francisco Chronicle reported the city was paying to fly criminal illegal aliens to their home countries instead of turning them over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for deportation. In a letter to City Administrator Ed Lee, Mayor Newsom ordered suspension of the ID card program "until a thorough review has been completed to ensure that every aspect of the program complies with all applicable state and federal laws." (San Francisco Chronicle, September 4, 2008)

The ID card program, which passed the San Francisco City Council last November and was set to be implemented this October, would be issued to any applicant who could prove he had lived in the city for at least 15 days, regardless of citizenship status. Under the current program proposal, the ID card would be accepted by all city departments and agencies and possibly libraries, city golf courses, and banks. (San Francisco Office of the County Clerk)

The Immigration Reform Legal Institute (IRLI) filed a lawsuit against the city on grounds that the city approved the program without properly assessing the environmental impacts that would result from an influx of illegal aliens, funds for the program result in illegal use of taxpayer money, and the city's inability to declare residency for someone who is in the country illegally. (IRLI) Sharma Hammond, staff attorney for IRLI, said of the ID card program, "It's aiding and abetting and encouraging illegal immigrants to remain in the country unlawfully." (San Francisco Chronicle, September 4, 2008)

Remittances Slowing, Attrition Rising Due to Economic Downturn

Responding to the slowing economy and housing crisis, fewer Mexicans are sending money home and more illegal immigrants are opting to return to their home countries, according to reports last week. The reports coincide with last week's announcement by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that unemployment has reached the highest point in the last five years at 6.1 percent. (The Wall Street Journal, September 5, 2008)

Remittances - money sent from migrants in one country back to their home country-dropped 6.93 percent in July, according to reports from Mexico's Central Bank last week. (Reuters, September 1, 2008) However, Mexicans still sent home over $11 billion in the first half of 2008 and remittances remain the second largest contributor to the Mexican economy. (The Wall Street Journal, July 30, 2008) According to the Washington Post, Mexicans who rely on these remittances were affected not only by the decrease in money sent, but also by the dollar's decline - the value of the U.S. dollar dropped 8 percent relative to the Mexican peso. (Washington Post, September 2, 2008)

In addition to increased border patrol along the Southern border, the economic downturn and slowing housing market have also become both deterrents for illegal border crossings and increasing incentives to return home, according to anecdotal reports from the Los Angeles Times. (Los Angeles Times, September 1, 2008) With a July unemployment rate of 7.3% and a loss of 84,000 construction jobs in California, only 10 to 15 percent of day laborers are now finding employment, the paper reported. (Id.) For many of these day laborers, life in the United States has proven just as difficult as life in their home countries. One day laborer noted, "Given the choice between suffering in your own country or in another... you might as well eat beans and be with your family." (Id.) Another illegal alien from Mexico told the Los Angeles Times "he wouldn't have left his electrician job in Mexico and come in January had he known the economic situation in California." (Id.)
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The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) is a national, nonprofit, public-interest, membership organization of concerned citizens who share a common belief that our nation's immigration policies must be reformed to serve the national interest. FAIR seeks to improve border security, to stop illegal immigration, and to promote immigration levels consistent with the national interest—more traditional rates of about 300,000 a year.

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