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US Legislative Immigration Update February 9, 2009

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February 9, 2009
Right Side News Reports from the Federation for American Immigration Reform In This February 3rd Legislative Weekly... 

E-Verify Stalls in Senate after Senator Objects to Sessions' Amendment

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) has been working to offer an amendment to the Stimulus Bill in the United States Senate that would include the E-Verify language that passed the House.  (See FAIR Legislative Updates 02-03-2009 and 01-26-2009) This amendment would reauthorize E-Verify and would ensure that jobs created by the bill would be made available only to people legally authorized to work in the United States rather than illegal aliens.

Just last month, nearly 600,000 people lost their jobs and the national unemployment rate now stands at 7.6% a number that has not been seen for 16 years.  (Chicago Sun-Times, February 7, 2009).   

For the past few days, Senator Sessions has been prevented from securing a vote on his amendment.  On Monday, February 09, 2009, Senator Sessions pushed forward on the amendment by asking the Senate to guarantee him a vote on the amendment.  Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) objected to this request effectively stalling any forward momentum on the E-Verify amendment. Senators Amend Stimulus Bill to Ensure TARP Recipients Hire U.S. Workers First

Last week, Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Charles Grassley (R-IA) offered an amendment to the economic stimulus package that will require any recipient of funds from last year's $700 billion federal bailout of the financial services sector to meet certain hiring standards before they are allowed to hire H-1B workers. Last week, the Senate adopted the "Employ American Workers Act" offered by Senators Sanders and Grassley, which would prevent entities that received funds from the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) from displacing U.S. citizen workers, and was adopted by voice vote. (Congressional Record: Page S1669, February 5, 2009; Congressional Record: Page S1803, February 6, 2009; Daily Digest: Page 1, February 6, 2009)

The amendment's adoption came one week after the Associated Press released a report revealing that "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." (Associated Press, February 1, 2009; also see FAIR's Legislative Update, February 3, 2009).  According to the AP report, those banks that received billions in taxpayer bailouts sought to import foreign workers to fill positions that paid an average salary of nearly $91,000 annually, including high-level executives, lawyers, junior investment analysts and human resources specialists.  (Id.).

In remarks on the Senate floor, Senator Sanders noted that he "firmly believe[s] that companies going through layoffs that employ H-1B [workers] have a moral obligation to protect American workers by putting them first during these difficult times." (Computerworld, February 5, 2009).  Senator Grassley commented on the amendment in a press release: "Hiring American workers ... should be a top priority for businesses taking taxpayer money through the TARP program."  Grassley added that "there is no need for companies to hire foreign workers through the H-1B program when there are plenty of qualified Americans looking for jobs." (Senator Grassley's Press Release, February 5, 2009).

Senator Grassley has been a leader in efforts to reform the H-1B visa program.  When Microsoft announced two weeks ago that it would be cutting 5,000 jobs, Grassley wrote the company and urged them to lay off H-1B workers before laying off American citizens. (See FAIR's Legislative Update, February 3, 2009).  Furthermore, Grassley cosponsored H-1B reform legislation in 2007 with Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) that "would give priority to American workers and crack down on unscrupulous employers who deprive qualified Americans of high-skill jobs." (Senator Grassley's Press Release, January 23, 2009).  Grassley has also lamented an internal report released by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in September 2008 that revealed high levels of fraud and technical violations within the H-1B program. (See FAIR's Legislative Update, October 14, 2008). Obama Administration Politicizes the 2010 Census by Stripping Commerce Dept. of Oversight

Responding to special interests, last week President Obama ordered that the oversight of the Census Bureau be transferred from the Secretary of Commerce to the White House.  The action came after special interest groups - including the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO), an organization that openly advocates amnesty for illegal aliens - expressed concern about Obama's new nominee to fill the Commerce Secretary position, Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH).  (CQ Politics, February 5, 2009).  Concerns over whether or not illegal aliens will be counted in the census - and therefore count towards congressional reapportionment - have mounted as the 2010 census approaches.  (See FAIR's Report Who Represents Illegal Aliens?, September 2008 and FAIR's Legislative Update, August 4, 2008). 

In 1995, Senator Gregg voted for a budget that would have sought to eliminate the Commerce Department, and in 2000, Gregg fought against then-President Clinton over a request for "emergency" funding for the 2000 census.  Gregg's history prompted NALEO to release a statement last Tuesday - the day on which he was named to the Commerce Secretary post - in which they questioned Gregg's "willingness to ensure that the 2010 census produces the most accurate possible count of the nation's population."  (CQ Politics, February 5, 2009).  Two days later, media outlets began reporting on the change in Census Bureau oversight. (Id.).

Details of how the day-to-day relationship between the White House and the Census Bureau will function are unclear, but the White House said that the President will work closely with the bureau. According to a White House spokesperson "there is historic precedent for the director of the census, who works for the Commerce secretary and the president, to work closely with White House senior management - given the number of decisions that will have to be put before the president." (Congress Daily, February 6, 2009).  The spokesperson added that the Obama administration plans "to return to that model." (Id.). According to Politico, Hill sources are indicating that "the Census would, more or less by default, fall under the jurisdiction of Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel." (Politico, February 5, 2009).

House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Ranking Member Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Information Policy, Census and National Archives Subcommittee Ranking Member Patrick McHenry (R-NC) "expressed significant opposition" to Obama's decision. (Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Press Release, February 5, 2009).  Issa and McHenry sent a letter to Obama, highlighting their concerns and questioning the legality of the move. (Id.). Immigration Reform Legislation Abounds in the 111th Congress

The 111th Congress has been in session for just over a month, and already legislators have introduced 65 immigration-related bills: 45 in the House and 20 in the Senate. These bills range in topics from enforcement to amnesty and represent a wide variety of interests and ideologies.  As a component of this week's Legislative Update, FAIR has culled 9 true immigration reform bills that have been introduced in the past month.  While these bills may never reach the House or Senate floors, they provide good examples of some of the efforts true immigration reformers are making in Congress on behalf of the American people.  (The information regarding bills included in this update article was copied completely from the Thomas Database).

Bills offered in the House of Representatives include:

Immigration-related bills introduced in the Senate include:

For a complete list of all immigration-related legislation that has been introduced in the 111th Congress, see FAIR's Legislation page. Illegal Alien Convicted of Identity Theft Set to Appear Before the Supreme Court

On Wednesday, February 25, the United States Supreme Court will hear the case of Ignacio Carlos Flores-Figueroa, an illegal alien from Mexico who was convicted in 2006 on felony fraud and identity theft charges after illegally using the social security number and alien registration number of other people in order to work illegally in the U.S.  Flores-Figueroa pleaded guilty to several immigration violations, was later convicted on two counts of felony identity theft and sentenced to 75 months in prison on all counts.  (Government's Brief Before the Supreme Court).

Flores-Figueroa's lawyers took issue with the identity theft conviction, arguing that while he "knowingly" misused a social security number that did not belong to him, he had no reason to think that the number actually belonged to someone else.  They argue that because he did not know with certainty that someone else had been assigned that number, he should not be convicted of the aggravated felony of identity theft.  The federal district court in Iowa disagreed with the interpretation of the alien's attorneys as did the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.  (Eighth Circuit Decision).  If successful at the Supreme Court, Flores-Figueroa's sentence would be reduced substantially. 

Open borders supporters often argue that illegal aliens are not hurting anyone when they work in violation of the law or when they use false or stolen documents to obtain work.  This case demonstrates all too clearly that these cases of identity theft are not victimless crimes as they can cause financial or other injury to the person whose identity has been stolen.  If Flores-Figueroa is successful, it will make it more difficult for federal law enforcement to successfully convict illegal aliens of identity theft, since illegal aliens would be able to claim the defense of ignorance with respect to these kinds of crimes.
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