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U.S. Legislative Immigration Update October 26, 2009

Right Side News Reports from the Federation for American Immigration Reform in this October 26th Legislative Weekly…

  • Including Illegal Aliens in 2010 Raises Serious Constitutional & Voting Rights Issues
  • Investigation Reveals ICE Monitoring Programs are Ineffective Immigrant Detention Alternatives
  • With Unemployment Near Ten Percent, Giffords Seeks Importation of More Cheap Foreign Labor

Including Illegal Aliens in 2010 Raises Serious Constitutional & Voting Rights Issues

Last week’s Legislative Update provided details about an amendment filed by Senator David Vitter to the Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) appropriations bill. (FAIR’s Legislative Update, October 19, 2009). The Vitter amendment would require the Census Bureau to ask questions about citizenship and immigration status as part of the 2010 decennial census. (See The Stein Report, October 19, 2009; for more information on how prior censuses have included questions on citizenship see The Stein Report, October 26, 2009).

The Vitter amendment is very important and brings with it serious implications about a variety of issues. For example, Census data will be used to “apportion” Congressional seats to each state. If non-citizens are used for purposes of Congressional apportionment, Senator Vitter’s office has said that nine states with lower illegal immigration and lower foreign-born populations would end up losing a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, while four states would pick those seats up. (CQ Today, October 22, 2009). The implications are that the inclusion of non-citizens for purposes of House apportionment would reduce, or dilute, the political influence of citizens in House elections. FAIR conducted a similar analysis in September 2008 regarding the impact of including non-citizens in the apportionment process. (See FAIR’s Report: Who Represents Illegal Aliens?, September 2008).

In addition, because House apportionment also determines the number of Electoral College votes each state has, the inclusion of non-citizens for apportionment purposes could also determine the outcome of America’s Presidential elections. For example, when nine House seats are given without regard to citizenship, that necessarily takes away nine seats from other states. Accordingly, this could potentially create a swing of 18 electoral votes in a Presidential election. Such a swing would have been more than enough to change the outcome of several recent elections.

Another area where the Census will matter is with respect to the distribution of federal funds under programs based on population. According to the census bureau, state populations are used to determine how nearly $400 billion is allocated in federal spending every year. If the census does not ask citizenship and immigration questions, states with higher illegal alien populations will get more federal funds at the expense of states with lower illegal alien populations. As a result, a few states will get money they shouldn’t, while the vast majority of states will be short-changed out of their fair share. (For a detailed discussion of this issue, listen to FAIR’s October 26, 2009 podcast, here).

Also last week, several Members of the House held a press conference to voice their opposition to the Vitter Amendment, including Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), Rep. Barbara Lee, (D-CA) and Rep. Joe Baca (D-CA). (CQ Today, October 23, 2009). Velazquez, Honda and Lee are respectively the chairs of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Congressional Asian-Pacific American Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus. The media failed to point out, however, that each of these members were also from either New York or California, which are two of the states that benefit most from the inclusion of non-citizens, including illegal aliens, in the apportionment process.

In this light, it also becomes apparent why Rep. Joe Baca introduced H.R. 3855, the “Every Person Counts Act,” on October 20, 2009. This bill would require including illegal aliens for purposes of the Census. In his press release, Congressman Baca wasn’t shy about the fact that he wants illegal aliens to skew Congressional apportionment, Presidential elections and Federal funding in favor of his home state of California. Baca said that census data (1) “determines the allotment of federal funding” and (2) is “absolutely necessary for [determining] Congressional representation and Electoral College figures.” (Rep. Baca’s Press Release, October 21, 2009).

If you want to help ensure the Vitter amendment is adopted by the Senate, please see FAIR’s Action Alert to see what you can do to make a difference.

Investigation Reveals ICE Monitoring Programs are Ineffective Immigrant Detention Alternatives

On Tuesday, October 20, the Houston Chronicle released a report based on records obtained from the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The report revealed that, during the past five years, nearly 20 percent of suspected illegal aliens who went through ICE’s “Intensive Supervision Appearance Program” (“ISAP”) failed to appear for their day in immigration court, and that “private contractors that administer ISAP…were ‘unable to locate'” these aliens. (Houston Chronicle, October 20, 2009).

When a suspected illegal alien is arrested, ICE officers have the discretion to release that alien (rather than physically detaining the alien) under certain monitoring conditions. The “Alternatives to Detention” (“ATD”) Unit was created in Fiscal Year 2002 to manage these released aliens. ATD is tasked with “develop[ing] and implement[ing] programs to improve aliens’ compliance with conditions of release, including their attendance at immigration hearings and compliance with final court orders.” ATD manages two contract programs: ISAP and the “Enhanced Supervision/Reporting Program” (“ESR”). ISAP has been implemented at 11 sites nationwide, while ESR has been implemented in 27 ICE field and sub- offices. (ICE Fact Sheet – Alternatives to Detention, March 16, 2009).

ISAP is managed by “case specialists” who “closely supervise participating aliens to ensure successful completion of the program, using a variety of effective strategies such as electronic monitoring via radio frequency (RF) and global position satellite (GPS), unannounced home visits, and telephonic reporting requirements.” In addition, participating aliens are required “to comply with a variety of activities, including local office visits, employment verification, curfews and travel document information collection.” On its website, ICE claims that “[t]he program currently reports a 99 percent total appearance rate at immigration hearings, a 95 percent appearance rate at final removal hearings and a 91 percent compliance rate with removal orders.” (Id.).

Last week’s Houston Chronicle report, however, has called those numbers into question. According to the Chronicle: “records maintained by private contractors that administer ISAP show they were ‘unable to locate’ 18 percent of 6,373 illegal immigrants who passed through the program between 2004 and the end of January [2009].” The 99 percent figure put forth by ICE as ISAP’s “total appearance rate at immigration hearings” (Id.) has come about because the illegal aliens “who absconded were simply ‘terminated’ from ISAP and not included in ICE’s nearly perfect court attendance rate.” Furthermore, the Chronicle noted that the records they obtained showed that the ESR program “suffered from poor data tracking of immigrants who have absconded from the program.” (Houston Chronicle).

The findings of the Chronicle investigation are especially troubling in light of the Obama Administration’s recent announcement of “New Immigration Detention Reform Initiatives.” (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, October 13, 2009). One of these new “initiatives” states that ICE is planning “[t]o advance the…use of alternatives to detention (ATD)” by developing “an assessment tool to identify aliens suitable for ATD.” Even more worrisome is the assertion that ICE “will submit a plan to Congress this fall to implement an ATD program nationwide.” (DHS Press Release, October 6, 2009). Given the findings of the Houston Chronicle investigation, ICE’s pursuit of a “nationwide” ATD program could inadvertently, or perhaps intentionally, lead to an increase in the number of illegal aliens who abscond while under ICE supervision and monitoring. This means that more illegal aliens could be able to avoid their day in court and, as a result, also avoid their ultimate deportation.

With Unemployment Near Ten Percent, Giffords Seeks Importation of More Cheap Foreign Labor

FAIR has learned that – with unemployment at its highest rate in more than 25 years – Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) is prepared to introduce legislation that would double the number of visas available annually for foreign workers under the H-1B visa program. The H-1B visa program allows employers to bring foreign workers to the United States to work in specialty occupations that require “the theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent in the specific specialty.” (Department of Labor).

Giffords has not yet formally introduced her H-1B legislation, but sources indicate that it will be similar to a bill that Giffords sponsored in the previous Congress. That legislation, entitled “The Innovation

Employment Act,” would have:

  • Doubled the H-1B visa cap from its current level of 65,000 a year to 130,000 a year;
  • Increased the H-1B cap to 180,000 in the years 2010 to 2015 if the 130,000 cap was reached in the previous year; and
  • Eliminated the cap – currently at 20,000 – on H-1B visas issued to foreign graduate students attending U.S. colleges and studying science, technology and related fields. (H.R. 5630, March 13, 2008).

In spite of lobbying by big business special interests seeking easier access to cheap foreign labor – including Microsoft (See Computerworld, October 20, 2008) – the Giffords bill was buried in committee and never received any significant consideration. (H.R. 5630 – All Actions).

Giffords’ decision to renew her pursuit of a massive increase in the importation of cheap foreign labor amid the current economic recession is curious, to say the least. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nationwide unemployment rate is now at a 26-year high of 9.8 percent. (Reuters, October 2, 2009; Bureau of Labor Statistics, October 2, 2009). Nevertheless, Giffords and others are continuing to seek to utilize the H-1B program to displace American workers with cheap foreign labor.

Last week, in fact, the Shreveport Times in Louisiana reported that the Caddo Parrish School Board had “agreed to pay $1,660 to each Filipino teacher recruited by Universal Placement International to apply for each teacher’s H-1B visa.” Caddo Parish has hired 43 teachers on H-1B visas “for difficult-to-fill positions.” Caddo’s agreement to pay $1,660 per teacher has come about as a result of a complaint filed by the Louisiana Federation of Teachers on behalf of more than 200 Filipino teachers working in several parishes throughout the state. The complaint was filed against Universal Placement International, alleging that this recruiting company had “charged teachers an exorbitant amount of money, about $15,000, to secure a teaching position in the United States and proper documentation. Once they arrived, teachers then were charged 10 percent of their monthly income.” (Shreveport Times, October 21, 2009).

Government studies have also indicated that the H-1B visa program is highly susceptible to fraud. (H-1B Benefit Fraud & Compliance Assessment, September 2008). In fact, on October 16, 2009, the federal government announced that it had arrested a California-based immigration lawyer and his business partners who had allegedly “set[] up nearly a dozen shell companies to file fraudulent employment visa petitions on behalf of their clients.” According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), “[m]any of the petitions were for H-1B visas,” and “the aliens named in those visa applications [allegedly] never worked for the defendants or the fictitious companies.”

The group then allegedly sold the H-1B visas to immigrants seeking to come to the United States for prices ranging from $6,000 to over $50,000. ICE claims that the lawyer and his partners then used the illegal proceeds to purchase empty cemetery plots to hide the funds. (ICE Press Release, October 16, 2009). High rates of fraud and technical violations within the H-1B visa program have prompted Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) to introduce legislation with the stated goal of “reform[ing] and reduc[ing] fraud and abuse” in the H-1B program. (S.887, April 23, 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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