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US Legislative Immigration Update November 24, 2008

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November 24, 2008
FAIRUS.ORG
Immigration Law in Congress and current immigration legislation impacting Americans
Fair has released its Legislative Immigration Update that covers the following.

Investigation Reveals Dozens of Texas County Illegal Alien Absconders

A Houston Chronicle investigation has revealed dozens of cases in Harris County, Texas where suspected illegal aliens posted bail and absconded on criminal charges including drug trafficking, aggravated sexual assault of a child, and murder. The investigation examined the arrest and immigration records of 3,500 Harris County inmates who told authorities that they were in the country illegally during a span of eight months starting in June 2007. Of these cases, at least 178 suspects absconded, meaning they had their bails revoked for either allegedly committing more crimes or missing court dates. (Houston Chronicle, November 17, 2008)

According to Harris County officials, the primary cause of the problems came from a shortage of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents tasked with locating illegal aliens in the county's jails. Prosecutors and pretrial services officers argue that the shortage of ICE agents inhibits the agency's ability to file paperwork to detain illegal aliens, leaving local officials with few tools to validate defendants' claims of legal immigration status. (Id.)

Lynne Parsons, the chief of the Harris County District Attorney's Central Intake Division, told the Chronicle that her office runs criminal history checks on all defendants. These checks sometimes allow the DA's Office to obtain limited immigration information from an FBI database, but Parson noted that, without notification from ICE or other law enforcement bodies, her office generally must "rely on the person being charged to tell us the truth" when asked about immigration status. (Id.)

Compounding these problems, ICE officials admitted to the Chronicle that the agency has experienced difficulty in screening all of the foreign-born inmates in the Harris County jail system. The sheer number of defendants that move through the county's court system - 100,000 people were arrested and charged with Class B misdemeanors or higher in Harris County last year - also makes it difficult to identify illegal aliens. (Id.)

The investigation also revealed controversies in Harris County's bail-setting process. Of the 178 illegal alien absconders found in the review, 20 cases involved individuals who had been charged with felonies and had bonds set below $35,000 - the minimum recommended in the county's bail schedule for illegal aliens accused of felonies. (Id.)

Following the reports, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) issued a press release in which he expressed concern with the findings: "These reports, if accurate, are completely unacceptable and must be addressed. If there is a lack of resources, then Congress needs to immediately approve additional funding to put more boots on the ground. But if it's a failure to do their job properly, then federal officials must be held accountable. I simply cannot understand how individuals arrested for violent crimes, and who admit to being in this country illegally, would even be given the option to post bail. These are criminals who have already made clear through their own actions that they have zero respect for the laws of this country." Cornyn added that the investigation had prompted him to take action, and the Senator pointed out that he would "be seeking an immediate briefing from the Department of Homeland Security in the days ahead." (Id.) The Chronicle report also prompted Cornyn to declare that "action to correct our broken immigration system is long overdue." (Senator John Cornyn Press Release, November 17, 2008)

ICE has responded to the Chronicle investigation in a news release posted on its website. The agency claims that the report "is based upon outdated information." The news release also notes "that now all new admissions to Harris County Jail are automatically checked for immigration history" and describes several improvements that have been made in Harris County to address criminal alien absconders. (ICE News Release, November 19, 2008)

USCIS Issues Final Rule on E-Verify

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has issued the final rule for President Bush's June 6, 2008 Executive Order requiring federal contractors and subcontractors to begin using the electronic E-Verify system to verify their employees' work eligibility starting January 15, 2009. (Federal Acquisition Regulation; FAR Case 2007-013, Employment Eligibility Verification) The newly-issued rule implements an amendment President Bush made to Executive Order 12989 that directs federal government agencies to require businesses that contract with the federal government to electronically verify the work authorization status of their employees. (Executive Order: Amending Executive Order 12989, as Amended, June 9, 2008)

The Civilian Agency Acquisition Council (CAAC) and Defense Acquisition Regulations Council (DARC) published the final rule, which takes into account more than 1,600 comments for the proposed rule. CAAC and DARC changed the proposed rule "to lighten the burden on small businesses who decide to accept federal contracts, and to provide contractors with flexible means of complying with the basic requirement that all persons working on federal contracts be electronically verified." (Id.)

Under the newly published rule:

Several types of contracts are exempt from the rule, including:

More than 92,000 employers currently use E-Verify. In Fiscal Year 2008, more than 6.5 million queries were run through E-Verify, representing 1 out of every 8 hires made in the United States. (USCIS News Release, November 13, 2008) Acting USCIS Director Jonathan Scharfen testified before Congress in June that 99.5% of all employees who are authorized to work in the United States are verified through E-Verify without receiving a tentative non-confirmation or having to take any type of corrective action. (Testimony of Jonathan Scharfen, June 10, 2008)

Dallas School District Issues Fraudulent Social Security Numbers to Teachers

For years the Dallas Independent School District (DISD) had been issuing fraudulent Social Security Numbers (SSN's) to expedite the payroll process for new bilingual teachers until the practice was stopped this past summer, according to reports from the Dallas Morning News. (Dallas Morning News, November 14, 2008) According to the district's internal investigation, "The inappropriate procedure of assigning false SSNs has been systemic." (New York Times, November 14, 2008) A spokesman for DISD said that while inappropriate, the school district had "good intentions" and the internal report noted that the program was "without consideration or thought of the impact of generating false data." (Id.)

Under the unofficial hiring program, the teachers, who are recruited through DISD's alternative certification program, were given the SSN's at their time of hire. The foreign educators, who were in the United States on visas, were then instructed to apply for their own SSN's, which would then replace the fraudulent numbers that had already been entered into the system. In issuing the fraudulent SSN's, DISD officials ran fraudulent background checks, submitted fraudulent numbers to the Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration, and failed to submit accurate employment data to the Texas Attorney General's office. (Dallas Morning News, November 14, 2008)

According to internal investigative reports done by DISD officials, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) believed the practice to have been halted in 2004 when TEA told DISD to stop issuing the fraudulent SSN's. DISD officials maintain they do not know how many SSN's have been issued or for how long the practice has been in place. The investigative report does note that the social security numbers issued all began with "200," a sequence that is typically assigned to Pennsylvania residents. At least 26 of the fraudulent numbers assigned to bilingual teachers in DISD were already in use by individuals in Pennsylvania. (Dallas Morning News, November 14, 2008)
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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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