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U.S. Legislative Immigration Update November 2, 2009

Right Side News Reports from the Federation for American Immigration Reform in this November 2nd Legislative Weekly…

  • Latest House Health Care Bill Contains Verification Process that Raises Concerns
  • Sen. Reid Blocks Sen. Sessions’ E-Verify Amendment to Unemployment Extension Bill
  • Federal Contractor Says E-Verify Helps With Hiring Process
  • Congressional Letters Push Administration on 287(g), Amnesty

Latest House Health Care Bill Contains Verification Process that Raises Concerns

Last Thursday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) introduced the latest version of the House health care bill, The Affordable Health Care for America Act (H.R. 3962).  FAIR had raised concerns about a previous version of this bill (H.R. 3200) due to its lack of a verification mechanism to ensure that illegal aliens would be unable to obtain taxpayer-funded health care benefits under the bill. (See FAIR’s Legislative Analysis, July 31, 2009).

Section 342(d)(4) of the latest House health care bill does contain a verification mechanism, but that mechanism falls short of the kind of verification that FAIR has said would be necessary to protect the American taxpayers.  Prior to this year, Congress had required that individuals claiming to be citizens must first present, and States must review, citizenship documentation before being allowed to enroll in a State administered program that provides certain federal benefits, such as the Medicaid program.  (Non-citizen eligibility would be determined under a parallel system using the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (“SAVE”) system).  The documentation requirements for citizens had been spelled out by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in a memo as recently as June 9, 2006 and included a requirement that people provide documentation supporting their claim of citizenship.  (See CMS Letter, June 9, 2009 and accompanying regulations, July 12, 2006).

With the passage of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (“CHIP”) Reauthorization Act of 2009 earlier this year (Public Law 111-3), however, Congress created an alternative system that simply allowed anyone who claimed to be a citizen, and who was otherwise income-eligible, to enroll in certain federal health care programs (like CHIP and Medicaid) as long as that individual provided a name and Social Security number (SSN) that matched.  (See Section 211 of the CHIP bill, codified as Section 1902(ee) of the Social Security Act).  This provision actually weakened the existing documentation requirements, as applicants would no longer have to bring any identification, such as a photo I.D., as part of the enrollment process to demonstrate that they actually are who they say they are. (This change runs counter to many other important and effective immigration enforcement programs, like E-Verify.  E-Verify requires employers to have a completed I-9 form prior to running an E-Verify check.  See USCIS’ E-Verify Quick Reference Guide, The I-9 form, in turn, requires the new hire to present a government issued photo I.D.). In addition, the CHIP bill also allows individuals to enroll in the government program even before any eligibility determination, i.e., the name-SSN match, had been made.

What exactly does this mean?  During debate over the CHIP bill, Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) had the following to say with respect to Section 211 of the CHIP bill:

“The problematic section is Section 211. This will likely increase the number of illegal immigrants… because it eliminates the current document verification to demonstrate that you are entitled to accept the benefits of the program…. In my State, all of the illegal immigrants–virtually all of the illegal immigrants have Social Security numbers.  In fact, they have a lot of Social Security numbers…. So even if they are checked through the system, which this bill does not require, you would [not] catch them. All you have to do is to say: Here is a Social Security number. Now let me avail myself of the benefits.”

(Congressional Record, January 26, 2009, S802).

So, despite the inclusion of a verification system in the latest health care bill, this verification process will not work to effectively preclude illegal aliens from accessing the taxpayer-funded affordability credit.  For example, the CHIP bill provides that this section, Section 211, will not even go into effect until January 1, 2010.  Accordingly, the cornerstone of the eligibility verification system in the latest version of the House health care bill: (1) does not yet exist; (2) has not yet been proven to work; and (3) has not been assessed for effectiveness (by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) or any other agency).  This is troubling, to say the least.

There is, however, an easy fix that can be made to the House bill to make the verification system workable.  The bill should go back to previous law and require an applicant for the affordability credit to present some form of government issued identification to demonstrate that: (1) they are who they say they are; and(2) if they claim to be a citizen, that they can demonstrate that fact.  These goals could easily be accomplished.  For example, an amendment that strikes the reference in the bill to Section 1902(ee) of the Social Security Act (on page 230, line 4) and substitutes Section 1903(x) of the Social Security Act, which lists a variety of different forms of identification to adequately demonstrate an individual is a citizen of the United States, would achieve this goal.  (See Section 1903(x)).

Stay tuned to FAIR’s Legislative Update for more information as the debate over the health care bill and immigration continue to unfold.

Sen. Reid Blocks Sen. Sessions’ E-Verify Amendment to Unemployment Extension Bill

This past week, undeterred by Congress’ previous failure to permanently extend E-Verify, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) again took to the Senate floor to fight for American workers and to protect American jobs.  When the Senate took up a bill to extend federal unemployment benefits for 14 weeks, Senator Sessions filed an amendment to permanently extend the E-Verify program – the online, electronically operated system that allows employers to quickly and easily confirm that their new hires are legally authorized to work in the United States and not illegal aliens. (H.R. 3548, September 22, 2009; See S.AMDT.2695, October 20, 2009).   The Sessions amendment will ensure that available jobs would go to American citizens and legal immigrants. 

Earlier this year, during Senate debate over the Department of Homeland Security annual appropriations bill, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) successfully attached an amendment permanently extending E-Verify to the Senate version of the DHS bill.  (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, July 13, 2009).  Unfortunately, the Sessions amendment was stripped from the final version of the bill by the House-Senate conferees, and the DHS Appropriations bill ultimately  authorized E-Verify for only three years.  (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, October 19, 2009).

Senator Sessions’ latest amendment sought to accomplish three important job protection and immigration enforcement-related goals, including:

  • Making E-Verify permanent. (S.AMDT.2695, Sec. 201). As stated above, Congress recently reauthorized E-Verify for only three years. This leaves the program vulnerable to amnesty proponents using a long-term or permanent reauthorization of E-Verify as a bargaining chip to leverage the passage of a mass amnesty for the 12 million illegal aliens living in the United States. 
     
  • Requiring that individuals who receive unemployment compensation benefits under any state or federal law first have their identity and employment eligibility verified through E-Verify. (Id., Sec. 203). This provision in the Sessions amendment would have helped ensure that illegal aliens would not be able to access taxpayer-subsidized unemployment compensation benefits.

  • Requiring businesses that contract with the federal government to use E-Verify “to verify the identity and employment eligibility of-(1) all individuals hired during the term of the contract by the contractor to perform employment duties within the United States; and (2) all individuals assigned by the contractor to perform work within the United States…under such contract.” (Id., Sec. 204). The Obama Administration recently – after several delays – implemented a regulation similar to this provision of the Sessions amendment. (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, September 8, 2009). However, the Sessions amendment is necessary because it would have codified the requirement that federal contractors use E-Verify, effectively barring the Obama – or any subsequent – Administration from gutting this provision without Congressional approval.

Unfortunately, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) filed a motion to cut off debate (i.e., invoke cloture) on the unemployment compensation extension bill without first allowing the Senate to vote on the Sessions amendment. The Senate agreed to Reid’s “cloture motion,” effectively stalling any forward momentum on the Sessions amendment. (Roll Call Vote #329, October 27, 2009). The Senate is expected to vote on final passage of the legislation sometime this week. (Congressional Quarterly, October 29, 2009).

Federal Contractor Says E-Verify Helps With Hiring Process

On Tuesday, October 27, the Union-Tribune in San Diego reported that a major federal contractor has found that E-Verify – the online, electronically operated employee verification system – actually helps with the hiring process.  These comments came less than two months after the Obama Administration implemented a federal regulation requiring most federal contractors to use E-Verify. The comments raise questions about the allegations that amnesty-advocating, big business special interest groups have levied against E-Verify. (Union-Tribune, October 27, 2009).

The regulation requiring federal contractors to use E-Verify was first proposed by the Bush Administration in summer 2008 (see FAIR’s Legislative Update, June 23, 2008) and set to be implemented in January 2009. (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, November 24, 2008). Prior to the date set for implementation, a coalition of pro-amnesty special interests, led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, filed a lawsuit to prevent the regulation from taking effect as scheduled. (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, January 5, 2009). The Bush Administration caved into the pressure from the anti-enforcement coalition and delayed the implementation of the regulation. (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, January 12, 2009). Subsequently, the Obama Administration pushed the regulation back on three additional occasions (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, June 8, 2009) before finally implementing it in September.

Last week’s piece from the Union-Tribune, also reported that Karl Johnson, spokesman for San Diego shipbuilder General Dynamics NASSCO, which has multimillion dollar federal contracts to build ships for the Navy, commented on E-Verify: “It has run smoothly for us. Shipbuilding takes a lot of people, and the system has helped us with the hiring process.” Apparently, General Dynamics NASSCO isn’t the only employer that finds E-Verify beneficial and easy to use: According to the Union-Tribune, there are now nearly 161,000 businesses enrolled in E-Verify nationwide. (Union-Tribune).

Congressional Letters Push Administration on 287(g), Amnesty

Last week, two different groups of Members of the House of Representatives sent two separate letters to President Obama. On October 26, a bipartisan group of 54 Representatives sent the president a letter expressing their support for 287(g) – the federal program that allows officials from the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to train state and local law enforcement agencies in the enforcement of federal immigration laws. (See Letter, October 26, 2009). Also last week, a group of “House Democrats signed a letter reminding President Obama of his administration’s commitment” to grant amnesty to the approximately 12 million illegal aliens living in the United States. (New America Media, October 27, 2009).

The 287(g) letter made several important points to President Obama, including:

  • 287(g) was not intended to be “limited to ‘dangerous’ criminals, as some have suggested, but designed to let state and local law enforcement officials help enforce all immigration laws and to remove illegal immigrants from the streets before they go on to commit preventable crimes.” (Letter). This statement may have been targeted at President Obama’s Secretary of DHS, Janet Napolitano. Earlier this year, Napolitano announced that ICE had “standardized the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) used to enter into ‘287(g)’ partnerships.” According to a DHS press release, the new MOA “aligns 287(g) local operations with major ICE enforcement priorities – specifically, the identification and removal of criminal aliens.” (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, July 13, 2009; See also DHS Press Release, July 10, 2009). 
     
  • “[W]hether through jail intake, task force, or other operational models, [287(g)] is effective and has been used by jurisdictions across the United States to help reduce crime and illegal immigration.” (Letter). 
     
  • 287(g) “allows law enforcement officials direct access to the information needed, and the authority, to issue detainers and hold an illegal immigrant until ICE is available to transport the individual to a detention facility.”
     
  • “According to ICE statistics, ‘[S]ince January 2006, the 287(g) program is credited with identifying more than 130,000 potentially removable aliens….'”
     
  • “Recent criticism of the program is unfounded. When asked about claims of racial profiling or civil rights violations at a March hearing, the Government Accountability Office testified, ‘[w]e didn’t see any complaints in the files of any jurisdiction or in OPR about any jurisdiction….'” (Id.).

On the other hand, the pro-amnesty letter signed by the group of Democrats expressed a “commitment to fix our broken immigration system” and stated the group’s “strong support for moving forward on…comprehensive immigration reform this year.” (New America Media). True immigration reformers know that the term “comprehensive immigration reform” is nothing more than a euphemism for granting amnesty to the approximately 12 million illegal aliens currently living in the United States. In fact, one of the signers of the letter was Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), a well-known amnesty proponent who, earlier this year, released the “core principles” of an amnesty bill that he is planning to introduce some time after Thanksgiving. (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, October 19, 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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