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US Legislative Immigration Update March 9, 2009

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March 2nd, 2009
FAIRUS.org

Right Side News Reports from the Federation for American Immigration Reform In This March 9th Legislative Weekly...

After Lengthy Delay, the Senate Will Allow a Vote on Long-Term Extension of E-Verify

Today or tomorrow, March 9 or 10, after nearly a nine month delay, the United States Senate is finally expected to vote on a long-term extension of E-Verify.  Efforts to extend E-Verify had been blocked in the previous Congress by Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and earlier this year by the Democratic Majority in the Senate.  (See FAIR News Release, July 29, 2008).

For the past week, the Senate has been considering the Fiscal Year 2009 Omnibus appropriations bill which will fund the federal government's operations through September 30, 2009.  The bill already contains a six-month extension of E-Verify, the critical enforcement program that allows employers to voluntarily verify that new employees are legally authorized to work in the United States.

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) has offered an amendment that would extend this vital program through September 2014.  (Senate Amendment 604).  Last Thursday morning, Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) had used procedural maneuvers to block the amendment and objected to even allowing the Senate to debate the amendment.  (See FAIR Action Alert, March 5, 2009).  By Thursday night, it became apparent that this move had backfired, and Senator Reid finally agreed to allow a vote on the amendment.  The Senate is expected to vote on the Sessions' amendment either late Monday evening or on Tuesday. 

House Committee Examines 287(g) Program

On Wednesday, March 4, the House Homeland Security Committee held a hearing on the subject of Section 287(g) agreements, which allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to enter into agreements to train state and local law enforcement agencies in the enforcement of federal immigration laws. (8 U.S.C. 1357(g)).

While some members of the committee suggested that the 287(g) program was created to target only criminal aliens committing violent crimes, Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), who wrote the original bill that created 287(g), made clear Congress' intent, saying: "The goal was to really enable those local law enforcement authorities who wanted to enforce the immigration laws in whatever way they thought best, and that might or might not include those who have committed serious crimes.  Some people...are under the mistaken impression that somehow that's required by the legislation, and that's really a decision made by the government in individual situations."  (House Homeland Security Committee Hearing, March 4, 2009).

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report confirming Rep. Smith's statement regarding the focus of the 287(g) program said: "Section 287(g) and its legislative history do not detail...which removable aliens should be prioritized for removal."  (GAO Report, January 2009).  GAO cited that 67 agencies had enrolled in 287(g), and over 951 law enforcement officers had completed program training.  Additionally, GAO analyzed data from 25 of the 67 agencies during FY2008 and found that the agencies had arrested 43,000 aliens and turned 34,000 over to ICE.  Of the aliens turned over to ICE, 41% were placed in removal proceedings and an additional 44% agreed to voluntary removal. (GAO Report, January 2009).  Despite these facts, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) suggested that the primary purpose of the program was to catch "undocumented criminal aliens who are involved in violent, serious crimes" and then questioned whether the program has been a success.  (Statement of Chairman Bennie G. Thompson, March 4, 2009).

A view from the front lines of local law enforcement confirms the success of the program.  Frederick County, MD Sheriff Chuck Jenkins - whose agency participates in the 287(g) program - provided a firsthand account of the program's success, saying: "Since the 287(g) program was implemented in Frederick County, the results have clearly shown it to be an overwhelming success."  Dismissing suggestions that 287(g) results in racial profiling, Jenkins observed that "there have been absolutely no complaints of profiling or discrimination based on ethnicity" since the program was implemented in Frederick County.  Jenkins urged the Committee to expand 287(g) resources and encourage law enforcement agencies across the entire United States to participate in this partnership.  (Testimony of Charles A. Jenkins, March 2, 2009).  Nevertheless, William F. Riley, from ICE's Office of State and Local Coordination, testified that ICE was changing the template for 287(g) agreements to specify who should be arrested; how the arrests should be made; how data is to be collected; and how ICE will supervise the program. (Statement of William F. Riley, March 4, 2009; The Associated Press, March 4, 2009).

Texas, Utah Continue Push for Tougher Enforcement Legislation

On Thursday, February 26, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott issued a legal opinion that concluded that a proposed state law that would suspend the business license of any employer that hires illegal aliens would be constitutional under federal law.  The AG found that the legislation proposed in Texas - which closely mirrors an Arizona law - does not conflict with the federal government's constitutional role in immigration matters.  (Office of the Attorney General of Texas, February 26, 2009; The Dallas Morning News, February 27, 2009).  The legislation is currently pending in the Texas state legislature and, if passed, would provide the state with additional enforcement measures to ensure employers are not hiring illegal aliens, but instead hire only workers who are authorized to work in the United States.

Meanwhile, on Monday, March 2, Utah lawmakers rejected a last-minute attempt by supporters of illegal immigration to delay implementation of legislation which strengthened in-state enforcement measures and barred illegal immigrants from receiving state benefits.  Senate Bill 81, which is set to go into effect on July 1, 2009, includes provisions that: (1) require that public employers and state contractors use a "Status Verification System" to confirm that newly hired  employees are eligible to work in the United States; (2) make it illegal for an employer to discharge U.S. citizen workers and replace them with illegal workers; (3) mandate applicants for public benefits demonstrate legal presence in the United States; and (4) empower local law enforcement to inquire about the citizenship and immigration status of arrestees.  (Utah State Bar, July 16, 2008).  The attempt to postpone implementation of the new law until July 1, 2010 died when the committee lacked enough votes to send the bill to the Senate floor.  (The Salt Lake Tribune, March 3, 2009).

Also on March 2, the Utah House of Representatives passed House Bill 64 by the overwhelming margin of 69-5.  If passed in its present form, House Bill 64 would create a state Attorney General-run Fraudulent Documents Identification Unit, the primary goal of which would be to pursue and prosecute immigration-related fraudulent document cases.  This bill is currently being considered by the Utah Senate.  (Utah House of Representatives, H.B. 64 Substitute Bill Tracking, March 4, 2009; KCPW Radio, March 4, 2009; The Salt Lake Tribune, March 5, 2009).  Utah's legislative session ends on Thursday, March 12.

D.C. Sanctuary City Policy at Issue in Chandra Levy Case

Federal authorities have finally issued an arrest warrant in the 2001 murder of former Congressional intern Chandra Levy.  The warrant charges Ingmar Guandique - an illegal alien and repeat violent felon - with her murder.  The recent turn of events raises new questions not only about the murder itself, but also about the District of Columbia's sanctuary city policy.

On Tuesday, March 3, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it had issued an arrest warrant for Ingmar Guandique, a 27-year-old illegal alien from El Salvador who is currently serving a ten-year federal prison sentence for two violent attacks against other women in Rock Creek Park - the same park where Levy's remains were found in 2002.  A supporting affidavit states that Guandique, a suspected member of the notorious Salvadoran Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang who was working as a "day laborer" in 2001, had admitted to at least two witnesses since his incarceration that he and two other unidentified individuals were responsible for Levy's death.  (CNN, March 4, 2009; The Washington Post, February 22, 2009).  Authorities considered Guandique a possible suspect as far back as 2001, although investigative missteps delayed charges from being brought in the case until new leads developed.  (The Washington Post, February 22, 2009; Jewish World Review, June 5, 2002).

The murder charge has raised questions about D.C.'s sanctuary city policy, which has been in place since at least August 1984.  The policy prevents police from inquiring into or detaining anyone for immigration violations and also prevents social service agencies from inquiring into an applicant's legal status, thus enabling illegal aliens to receive taxpayer-funded benefits. (Human Events, May 4, 2007; Judicial Watch, Government of the District of Columbia Response to Judicial Watch Request for Sanctuary City Policy Information).  On May 7, 2001, six days after Chandra Levy disappeared, Guandique was arrested by the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department after he burglarized a woman's apartment near Rock Creek Park.  (Human Events, May 31, 2002).  He was released by a judge after the burglary arrest and, in the weeks that followed, attacked two women in Rock Creek Park in separate attacks.  Guandique was convicted on charges related to those attacks. Had D.C. not had a sanctuary city policy in place and if Guandique been held by D.C. police after the burglary, he would have been unable to attack two women in Rock Creek Park in the summer of 2001.
 

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