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U. S. Legislative Immigration Update January 23, 2012

January 23, 2012 Right Side News Reports from the Federation for American Immigration Reform(FAIR) in this legislative weekly including:

  • DHS Retaliates Against Alabama; Suspends Roll-Out of Secure Communities
  • President Obama to Relax Screening Requirements for Visa Applicants
  • Obama Administration to Abandon over 1,600 Deportation Cases
  • Gallup: Nearly Two-Thirds of Americans Dissatisfied with Current Immigration Levels

DHS Retaliates Against Alabama; Suspends Roll-Out of Secure Communitiesbald_eagle_head_and_american_flag1

Early in January, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) notified Alabama officials it had suspended the roll out of Secure Communities within the state.  (The Birmingham News, Jan. 18, 2012)

The Secure Communities program, which uses fingerprinting technology to identify illegal aliens within local jails, is currently operational in 37 out of Alabama’s 67 counties.  However, DHS had scheduled to complete the roll-out of Secure Communities to all counties in the state by the end of 2011. (CQ Today, Jan 17. 2012)

Remarkably, in an email sent to members of the Alabama Congressional Delegation, DHS essentially admits that the decision to suspend the program was done in retaliation against Alabama’s new immigration enforcement law, HB 56.  The email from DHS states: “Although the federal courts have enjoined several parts of H.B. 56, certain provisions were not enjoined and are currently in effect…While these provisions of Alabama’s state immigration enforcement law, which conflict with ICE’s immigration enforcement policies and programs, remain the subject of litigation, ICE does not believe it is appropriate to expand deployment of Secure Communities…in Alabama.”  (Aderholt press release, Jan. 17, 2012)

Meanwhile DHS told Alabama officials that the reason for the suspension of Secure Communities was cost.  Spencer Collier, director of the Alabama State Department of Homeland Security, said that a DHS official assured him two weeks ago that the delay in Alabama was strictly for budget reasons.  (The Birmingham News, Jan. 18, 2012) “She assured me that all 67 counties would be brought up to speed, but that it was taking longer and they were not going to make the December deadline,” Collier said. “She didn't say anything about the immigration law…”  (Id.)

Alabama’s representatives reacted strongly to DHS’s announcement.  In a letter to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, Rep. Robert Aderholt, Chairman of the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, urged DHS to complete the implementation of Secure Communities in Alabama.  (Aderholt Letter to Napolitano, Jan. 17, 2012) He wrote:  “The decision to delay deployment in Alabama, a state that enacted its own Immigration enforcement law due to concerns about the Federal government’s failure to enforce the law, is incomprehensible and gives additional evidence to those very concerns.”  (Id.)

President Obama to Relax Screening Requirements for Visa Applicants

Increasing the potential for terrorism and visa over-stays, President Obama issued an executive order Thursday that will make it easier for aliens to obtain nonimmigrant visas by waiving screening safeguards.  (See Executive Order, Jan. 19, 2011)

The order directs the Secretaries of State and DHS to come up with a plan within 60-days that:  (1) increases nonimmigrant visa processing in China and Brazil by 40 percent over the coming year; and (2) ensures that 80 percent of nonimmigrant visa applicants are interviewed within three weeks of the government  receiving their application.  In a release issued the same day as the order, the State Department announced that this will be accomplished in part by waiving the long-standing statutory requirement that aliens seeking to renew visas undergo in-person interviews with a consular officer. (State Department Press Release, Jan. 19, 2012) Because the order applies to all “nonimmigrant visas,” it will relax the screening process for not only the tens of millions of tourists and business travelers who enter the U.S. each year, but also for hundreds of thousands of guest workers.

In addition to relaxing the screening process for issuing visas, President Obama also proposed expanding the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The VWP allows visitors from participating countries, which have low rates of visa refusals, to be admitted to the United States without applying for a U.S. visa. (See FAIR VWP Backgrounder, Oct. 2011) As such, a VWP traveler bypasses the normal human-to-human consular scrutiny that is intended to deny persons who represent a threat to the country for health, criminal, or security reasons, as well as those who have no intention of returning to their country after their visit. (Id.; see FAIR Legislative Update, Dec. 12, 2011)

In his speech announcing the changes, President Obama sought to portray these changes , lobbied for by the powerful travel industry, as a way to create jobs and improve the economy. (See, e.g., U.S. Travel Association Visa Report, 2011) “[T]oday I directed my administration to send me a new national tourism strategy focused on creating jobs…The more folks who visit America, the more Americans we get back to work.” (White House Remarks, Jan. 19, 2011) However, FAIR President Dan Stein called Obama’s plan “reckless,” arguing that if President Obama really wanted to change immigration policy to expand jobs, “he’d restore credibility to our immigration system by securing our border, stepping up interior enforcement, supporting mandatory E-Verify, and substantially reducing legal immigration.” (FAIR Press Release, Jan. 19, 2012)

Remarkably, the President’s executive order comes just two weeks after the Inspector General released a report revealing that only 10 percent of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) visa processors felt they had sufficient time to review cases. (OIG-12-24Report, Jan. 2012; see also FAIR Legislative Update, Jan. 9, 2012) The report also revealed that senior officials at USCIS were strong-arming employees into approving visa applications. (Id.)

Obama Administration to Abandon over 1,600 Deportation Cases

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) attorneys in Denver and Baltimore have recommended that the agency “administratively close” 1,667 removal cases.  The recommendation is a result of a six-week pilot review of all pending deportation cases in Denver and Baltimore immigration courts. (Bloomberg Businessweek, Jan. 19, 2012) Data released by the Department of Homeland Security shows that during that time, ICE attorneys reviewed 7,923 cases in Denver, recommending that 1,301 be closed, and 3,759 in Baltimore, recommending that 366 be closed. (Id.)

The pilot programs are part of the Obama Administration’s backdoor amnesty program, announced in August 2011, designed to ensure that only aliens meeting the Administration’s “priorities” are deported. (SeeNapolitano letter , Aug. 18, 2011) The Administration issued guidelines for implementation of the program in November and actually began the process through the launch of pilot programs in Denver and Baltimore in December. (Read more about the Administration’s amnesty efforts here)

Although the pilot program was slated to end Jan. 13, 2012, the Denver Post reports that ICE attorneys in Denver will continue to review the remaining cases on that Court’s pending removal docket. “It is not a sprint. It is about being careful. We know we are making an impact on human beings' lives,” said ICE spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez of the review. (Denver Post, Jan. 13, 2012)

House Judiciary Committee Chairman, Lamar Smith (R-TX), lamented the consequences of the pilot program’s preliminary results. “Nearly 2,000 illegal and criminal immigrants in Denver and Baltimore have been granted backdoor amnesty that allows them to remain in the U.S. and apply for work authorization.  And this administration routinely grants work authorization to 90% of illegal immigrants when their cases have been administratively closed,” he stated. (House Judiciary CommitteePress Release, Jan. 19, 2012)

DHS officials say they plan to use the results to review the remaining estimated 300,000 pending deportation cases, as well as for all incoming cases indefinitely. (NY Times, Jan. 19, 2012)

Gallup: Nearly Two-Thirds of Americans Dissatisfied with Current Immigration Levels

In a Gallup Poll released this week, nearly two-thirds of Americans said they are dissatisfied with the current level of immigration.  (Gallup,Americans’ Immigration Concerns Linger, Jan. 17, 2012) Of the total number of respondents, 34 percent said they are “very dissatisfied” and another 24 percent said they are “somewhat dissatisfied.”  Only 4 percent of respondents said they are “very satisfied” with current immigration levels. (Id.)

Of the respondents who said they are dissatisfied, Gallup asked whether immigration should be increased or decreased.  Combining the results of the second question with the first, Gallup reports that 42 percent of Americans are dissatisfied and want immigration decreased; 16 percent are dissatisfied and want levels to remain the same; and, only 6 percent are dissatisfied and want immigration increased.  (Id.)

 

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