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US Legislative Immigration Update March 2, 2009

Written by FAIRUS.org

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March 2nd, 2009
FAIRUS.org
Right Side News Reports from the Federation for American Immigration Reform In This March 2nd Legislative Weekly...

Rep. Gutierrez Launches Nationwide Illegal Alien Amnesty Tour

On Friday, February 27, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) began visiting 16 American cities in an effort to promote blanket amnesty for millions of illegal aliens currently in the United States and so-called comprehensive immigration reform.

Gutierrez promoted the tour as the "'Family Unity' Immigration Outreach Tour" and in a press release called it an effort to "document the harm caused to citizens across our nation in the absence of comprehensive immigration reform."  In addition to Friday's events in Providence, Rhode Island, and weekend events in Atlanta, Georgia, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, the tour is expected to hit fourteen other cities including Phoenix, Arizona; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Gutierrez Press Release, U.S. House of Representatives, February 18, 2009 and Cybercast News Service, February 5, 2009).

Last week, after an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid in Bellingham, Washington in which 25 people were detained for deportation, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano met with Gutierrez and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.  (The Hill, February 26, 2009).  Following the meeting, the media reported that members were "more hopeful than ever that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will end workplace raids by immigration enforcement officials."  Late last week, Napolitano ordered a review of ICE which drew criticism from enforcement minded Members of Congress. Republican Congressman Lamar Smith said: "Let me see if I have this straight, ICE agents arrest a criminal illegal immigrant gang member, discover he had worked illegally with other illegal immigrants at a manufacturing plant, begin an investigation of the employer and arrest the illegal immigrants to get more facts ... and the secretary orders an investigation of ICE?"  (The Hill).

Omnibus Appropriations Bill Contains Short-Term E-Verify Reauthorization

Last week, the House of Representatives passed H.R.1105, the Fiscal Year 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act.   The legislation - which provides funding to continue federal government operations until the end of the current fiscal year (which ends on September 30, 2009) - includes a short-term reauthorization of E-Verify, the voluntary, online, electronically operated system that allows employers to quickly check the work authorization status of their new hires.  (H.R.1105, Division J Summary; Also see FAIR's E-Verify Talking Points).

The inclusion of a mere short-term E-Verify reauthorization in the spending bill comes as little surprise.  During a Senate floor debate concerning the economic stimulus bill, Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) hinted that the omnibus would include a short-term E-Verify reauthorization.  However, neither Dodd nor any other Congressional leader has explained what will happen to the E-Verify program when this short term reauthorization expires in six months.  Some immigration reformers have argued that a short-term reauthorization indicates that Congressional Leadership intends to hold E-Verify hostage in order to leverage other immigration legislation, and potentially a "comprehensive immigration reform" package.  (See FAIR's Legislative Update, February 17, 2009).

Last month, Representative Ken Calvert had attempted to attach a four-year E-Verify reauthorization to the economic stimulus bill last month.  The amendment was adopted by the House Appropriations Committee by voice vote and was included in the original bill that passed the House of Representatives.  (See FAIR's Legislative Update, January 26, 2009 and Legislative Update, February 3, 2009). The Senate passed the bill without the reauthorization, and ultimately Congressional Leadership stripped the Calvert language from the final version of the bill that was eventually signed into law by President Obama.

Last week, a stand-alone bill containing language identical to the Calvert Amendment that was stripped from the stimulus bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ).  This bill, H.R.662, is identical to H.R.6633, a bill that overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives last Congress by a 407-2 vote.  H.R. 6633 stalled in the Senate, however, when Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) placed a legislative hold on the bill. (See FAIR's Legislative Update, August 4, 2008).

Indiana Senate Passes True Immigration Reform Bill

On February 24, State Senators in Indiana overwhelmingly passed Senate Bill 580, true comprehensive immigration reform legislation aimed at punishing those who transport, harbor, or employ illegal aliens in Indiana.  (Roll Call Number: 228, February 24, 2009). The two most important provisions in the bill prohibit employers from knowingly employing an illegal alien after September 30, 2009 and provide a safe harbor from prosecution for employers who use E-Verify to verify the employment authorization status of their new hires.  (Senate Bill No. 580, Reprinted February 24, 2009).  The legislation also does the following:

State Senator Mike Delph (R-Carmel), co-author of the bill, commented on the Senate's passage of the legislation: "The Senate came together today and sent a clear message that we will no longer tolerate this failure of the federal government to protect our borders and ensure our national security."  (Senator Delph News Release, February 24, 2009). Senate Bill 580 now moves to the Indiana State House of Representatives for further action.  The Indiana House passed its own version of an immigration reform bill last year but was unable to reach a final compromise with the Senate.  (Indy Star, February 24, 2009).
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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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