Written by FAIR
Right Side News sites FAIR as the source for this critical update
Last week, Congress considered two bills that could greatly expand taxpayer-funded benefits to legal and illegal aliens. On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed the controversial economic stimulus bill (H.R.1, the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009"), legislation that includes a provision that may allow illegal aliens to receive government checks. (The Associated Press, January 29, 2009) The following day, the Senate passed H.R.2, the "Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009," a bill that would extend taxpayer-funded health care to certain legal immigrants who were not previously eligible for the program (Congressional Quarterly, January 29, 2009), and could allow illegal aliens to access the coverage, as well. (See Congressman Lamar Smith's (R-TX) Press Release, January 14, 2009 and Congressman Steve King's (R-IA) Press Release, January 14, 2009).
Following the House's passage of the economic stimulus package, a top Republican congressional official told sources in the media that the bill could grant tax credits to illegal aliens. According to the official, the legislation will allow people who do not have Social Security numbers to qualify for the tax credits. Illegal aliens who are not eligible for Social Security numbers are allowed to file tax returns with an alternative number, called an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN). The stimulus proposal that passed the House on Wednesday will allow anyone with an ITIN to qualify for the tax credits - $500 per worker and $1000 per couple - authorized in the bill. (The Associated Press, January 29, 2009) The Senate is set to consider its version of the stimulus bill this week. (Reuters, January 28, 2009)
The State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) reauthorization that passed the Senate on Thursday includes a provision that would remove a five-year waiting period to enter the program for new, legal immigrants. Critics of the legislation also decry the fact that the bill includes looser citizenship and eligibility documentation requirements, as well. The bill will now move to the House, where it is expected to pass easily and with little or no alteration. (Congressional Quarterly, January 29, 2009)
As the new administration and Congress discuss economic stimulus proposals and job creation plans, some Members of Congress are working to ensure legal American workers and taxpayers are protected. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (H.R. 1), which passed the House on January 28th, included two provisions related to the E-Verify program -- an important electronic tool that allows employers to verify the legal work status of potential employees.
Both of the provisions that passed the House were first offered as amendments during the House Appropriations Committee's markup of the bill. (See FAIR Legislative Update 01-26-09) Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) offered an amendment to reauthorize the E-Verify program for four years, while Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) offered an amendment to require all contractors receiving stimulus funds to verify that their employees are legally authorized to work in the United States. By adding E-Verify amendments to the stimulus bill, these members are helping ensure that taxpayer-funded jobs go to legal workers.
Rep. Calvert said in a press release, "If the stimulus package creates millions of jobs, which the Majority party is claiming, I want to be absolutely sure that those jobs are going to American workers or legal residents, not illegal aliens." (Rep. Calvert Press Release) In a similar press release, Rep. Kingston commented, "We've got a federal program on our hands that actually works. It's ninety-nine percent effective. I can't think of a single federal program with that success rate. Only in Washington would it make sense to let it die." (Rep. Kingston Press Release). H.R. 1 passed out of the House on a party line vote with both amendments intact. A similar stimulus bill is up for consideration in the Senate.
As the Senate begins to debate the stimulus package, Senators Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Ben Nelson (D-NE) are also working to guarantee that any jobs created by the package benefit American workers and not illegal aliens. The two Senators wrote a letter to Senators Harry Reid (D-NV) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) arguing that E-Verify should be made mandatory for businesses benefiting from the stimulus plan. In the letter, the Senators argued, "Recently, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the unemployment rate for December was 7.2 percent. That figure, the highest in 16 years, translates into roughly 11.1 million American workers without jobs. In this time of increased unemployment, our focus should be on creating jobs that will be filled by American citizens." The Senators conclude, "The stimulus package is intended to help ease the pain of the current recession and restore growth to our economy. If passed, it will be paid for by the American taxpayers and we believe that Congress should do all it can to ensure that American taxpayers are the intended beneficiaries of its efforts." (Sen. Sessions Press Release)
At the same time as America's banking system was melting down last year, the banks at the center of the economic crisis sought to bring thousands of foreign workers into the United States, even as those same banks began laying off American workers. (Associated Press, February 1, 2009) In response, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said "In this time of very, very high unemployment ... and considering the help these banks are getting from the taxpayers, they're playing the American taxpayer for a sucker,"
According to the Associated Press, "the dozen banks now receiving the biggest rescue packages, totaling more than $150 billion, requested visas for more than 21,800 foreign workers over the past six years." The banks sought to import foreign workers for positions that included high level executives, lawyers, junior investment analysts and human resources specialists at an average salary of $90,721 per year which is nearly twice the median income for all American households.
In addition, last week when Microsoft announced it would be laying off foreign workers, Senator Grassley wrote Microsoft urging them to lay off H-1B workers before laying-off American citizens. In the letter, Sen. Grassley wrote, "I am concerned that Microsoft will be retaining foreign guest workers rather than similarly qualified American employees when it implements its layoff plan."
Sen. Grassley also noted that Microsoft has asked for increased H-1B visas, adding "the purpose of the H-1B visa program is to assist companies in their employment needs where there is not a sufficient American workforce to meet their technology expertise requirements... Certainly, these work visa programs were never intended to allow a company to retain foreign guest workers rather than similarly qualified American workers, when that company cuts jobs during an economic downturn." (Sen. Grassley Press Release) Microsoft responded that "a significant number" of the layoffs would include foreign workers, but the company did not detail how many of those workers held H-1B visas. (Computerworld, January 26, 2008)
Mexico's central bank reported last Tuesday that remittances - money sent to Mexico by Mexican migrants living and working outside their native country - fell for the first time since the government began collecting information on such transfers thirteen years ago. Central bank officials said that remittances fell to $25 billion in 2008, a 3.6% drop from the previous year's total of $26 billion. Experts cite better enforcement of U.S. immigration laws and the slumping American economy as the two primary reasons for the drop. (Yahoo News, January 27, 2009)
The announcement by the Mexican bank follows a series of news reports from around the country that have presented evidence that many immigrants to the U.S. from all over the world are returning home amidst increased enforcement of immigration laws and the economic downturn. Within the past few months, newspapers and television stations have reported declining illegal alien populations in Colorado, North Carolina, Florida and Pennsylvania, lending credence to statistical and anecdotal evidence pointing towards an overall decline. (See FAIR's Legislative Update, December 15, 2008) Recent studies by the Pew Hispanic Center (Trends in Unauthorized Immigration) and the Center for Immigration Studies (Homeward Bound) support the anecdotal evidence that illegal immigration to the United States is slowing and that illegal aliens are returning home in large numbers.
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.