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US Legislative Immigration Update January 26, 2009

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January 21, 2009
Right Side News Reports from the Federation for American Immigration Reform In This January 26th Legislative Weekly...
Last Wednesday, January 21st, the House Appropriations Committee adopted two E-Verify-related amendments in its consideration of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act - the economic stimulus bill. E-Verify is an electronic system that allows employers to verify that they are hiring legal workers by matching identification documentation against databases managed by the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security. Offered by Representatives Ken Calvert (R-CA) and Jack Kingston (R-GA), both amendments were adopted by the committee without objection.

House Appropriations Committee Adds E-Verify Amendments to Stimulus Bill


Congressman Calvert's amendment reauthorizes E-Verify for four years. The language of the Calvert amendment is identical to language in H.R.6633, a bill that passed the House of Representatives last July by a vote of 407-2.  (Rep. Calvert's Press Release, January 21, 2009)  H.R.6633 stalled in the Senate last year when Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) placed a legislative hold on the bill.  Nevertheless, the E-Verify system was temporarily extended in September 2008 when President Bush signed H.R.2638, a stop-gap spending bill designed to fund government operations until Congress reconvened in 2009.  This legislation contained a six-month reauthorization of E-Verify, extending the program until March 6, 2009. Representative Calvert's amendment to the stimulus bill represents a first step towards a long-term reauthorization of E-Verify, but if Congress fails to act, the program will expire on March 6.  Commenting on his amendment in a press release, Calvert said, "It is imperative that [E-Verify] continue to operate and it is only fitting that it should be included in a bill that is aimed at stimulating the economy and creating jobs." (Rep. Calvert's Press Release, January 21, 2009)

After the committee adopted the Calvert amendment, an amendment offered by Representative Kingston was adopted. That amendment would require any federal contractor that receives federal funding from the stimulus bill to verify the employment eligibility of their workers through E-Verify.  The Kingston amendment aims to ensure that jobs created by the stimulus bill go to legal workers.  Kingston commented on his amendment in a press release, saying that he was "heartened that any jobs created by [the stimulus bill] will be secured for American workers." (Rep. Kingston's Press Release, January 21, 2009)

In June 2008, President Bush issued an Executive Order requiring federal contractors and subcontractors to use E-Verify.  The final rule that would have implemented the Executive Order was set to go into effect on January 15, 2009, but a coalition of special interest groups filed a lawsuit in late December to block the rule from taking effect as scheduled.  In the face of the lawsuit, the Bush Administration announced that it would postpone the effective date of the new regulations to February 20, 2009.  (See FAIR's Legislative Update, January 12, 2009)  On January 21, Representatives Kingston and Calvert joined with Representatives Brian Bilbray (R-CA) and Elton Gallegly (R-CA) in sending a letter to President Obama, asking him "to demonstrate [his] commitment to helping unemployed U.S. citizens by immediately implementing" the postponed rule. (Letter to President Obama, January 21, 2009)

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), 99.6% 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. Furthermore, over 100,000 employers are currently enrolled in E-Verify, with approximately 1,000 new employers signing up for the program every week.  (USCIS Press Release, January 8, 2009)

Senate Committee Assignments Announced

In the first weeks of the 111th Congress, Democratic and Republican Senate leadership have announced the committee assignments for the next two years.  The Chairmen and Ranking Members for these committees will be largely responsible for setting the agenda for those committees, determining the hearing schedules, and deciding which bills will come up for vote in committee markups.

The following committees and their leadership will each have significant input over immigration-related matters:

  • Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs
    • Chairman: Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT)
    • Ranking Member: Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)
  • Committee on Finance
    • Chairman: Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)
    • Ranking Member: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
  • Committee on the Judiciary
    • Chairman: Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
    • Ranking Member: Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA)
  • Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
    • Chairman: Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA)
    • Ranking Member: Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY)
  • Committee on Appropriations
    • Chairman: Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI)
    • Ranking Member: Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS)

In addition, Senate Republicans have given amnesty supporters, Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, seats on the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. 
This committee will conduct critical oversight into the operations of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which includes U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  USCIS manages several important programs related to immigration matters, including the E-Verify program - the voluntary program that helps employers verify the work authorization status of employees - and the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program, which Federal, state and local agencies can use to verify an immigrant's status to ensure that they do not collect welfare, health care or other government assistance when they are not entitled to these benefits.  (More about E-Verify and SAVE can be found here)

To find out more about these Senators and their voting records in past Congresses, see FAIR's Voting Reports.  To learn more about the freshman class of Senators, visit FAIR's Election Center.

Open-Borders Amnesty Lobby Disappointed With Gillibrand Appointment

Last week's confirmation of Senator Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State created a vacancy in the United States Senate.  Even before Governor David Paterson (D-NY) could officially announce that he was appointing Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) to fill the vacated Senate seat, the open-borders lobby came out in full force in opposition to the Governor's choice.  (Rochester Homepage, January 24, 2009). Greg Siskind, a prominent pro-amnesty blogger wrote that "her appointment will be extremely disappointing to the pro-immigrant community."  Siskind's blog, widely distributed on the pro-amnesty email alert network, warns that, "Unless Gillibrand dramatically changes her views on immigration, she will very likely face a primary opponent when her seat is up." (Siskind's Blog Post).
 
According to Rep. Gillibrand's website, she is "firmly against providing amnesty to illegal immigrants."  The website further states, "I believe the first step to fixing our immigration system is to stop the flow of illegal immigration. This can be accomplished by securing the Southern border, enforcing the employment laws on the books and ensuring that our farmers and businesses have the adequate number of legal workers after they have exhausted their search for American workers."  (Rep. Gillibrand's Website: Immigration). 

The day after Gillibrand's appointment was announced, the media reported a significant shift in her position on immigration, quoting her as saying that the nation should: "ensure that anyone who wants to work in this country has a way to stay here legally."  (New America Media, January 25, 2009).

In the 110th Congress, Rep. Gillibrand voted with FAIR seven out of twelve votes.  (Rep. Gillibrand's Voting Record
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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.

With more than 250,000 members and supporters nationwide, FAIR is a non-partisan group whose membership runs the gamut from liberal to conservative.Our grassroots networks help concerned citizens use their voices to speak up for effective, sensible immigration policies that work for America's best interests.

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