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U.S. Legislative Immigration Update July 12, 2010

Right Side News Reports from the Federation for American Immigration Reform in this July 12, 2010 Legislative Weekly

  • Obama Administration Sues Arizona
  • New FAIR Study: Illegal Immigration Costs Taxpayers $113 Billion Annually
  • AZ Governor Cancels Border Conference After Mexican Governors Threaten Boycott
  • NYC Welfare Agency Under Fire for Failure to Provide Interpreters 

 

Obama Administration Sues Arizona

The Obama administration has finally confirmed what it has been hinting at for weeks by filing suit to block Arizona’s new immigration law.  (U.S. v. Arizona Complaint).  The Department of Justice requested a preliminary injunction to stop the legislation from taking effect on July 29, claiming that the law is unconstitutional because it usurps federal authority to protect U.S. borders and American citizens.  Though the state law merely mirrors existing federal law, the federal government takes issue with the intent behind the Arizona law.  According to the Justice Department, treating all 11 million of the nation’s illegal aliens as criminals would overwhelm the system.  (Associated Press, July 7, 2010).  Once again, this administration is making it clear that immigration enforcement and border security are not a priority.

The Justice Department’s main justification for filing the lawsuit is that the Arizona law will conflict with federal enforcement priorities. In a statement, the Department said,  “S.B. 1070 will place significant burdens on federal agencies, diverting their resources away from high-priority targets, such as aliens implicated in terrorism, drug smuggling, and gang activity, and those with criminal records,” clearly implying that other illegal aliens would be left alone. (DOJ Press Release, July 6, 2010).  Homeland Security officials claim that the government cannot possibly find, arrest and deport everyone who is here illegally.  Immigration and Customs Enforcement official Daniel Ragsdale filed a declaration supporting the lawsuit which stated, “ICE does not seek to arrest, detain, remove, or refer for prosecution, all aliens who may be present in the United States illegally.”  (Declaration of ICE Executive Associate Director for Management and Administration Daniel Ragsdale). The Obama administration is afraid that other states will pass laws similar to Arizona’s, which they allege will overwhelm federal agencies with illegal aliens who will cost the government millions to deport.  Id.  Thus, the heart of Obama Administration’s complaint is that the Arizona law should be struck down because it will force the federal officials to actually do their jobs by enforcing existing immigration laws.

Interestingly, despite initial reaction to SB 1070 from the White House, the Justice Department never attempts to make a legal argument that the law would lead to racial profiling.  Instead, Justice lawyers argue that the Arizona law is unconstitutional based legal doctrine of “preemption,” which stems from the Constitution’s provision that says federal law generally trumps state law (otherwise known as the Supremacy Clause).  Because the federal government has “preeminent authority to regulate immigration matters,” the lawsuit argues, the Arizona law must be struck down. (U.S. v. Arizona Complaint).  The case is now before United States District Judge Susan Bolton, who says she will take the time necessary to make a solid legal decision and has offered no guarantee that she will rule before the law takes effect on July 29.  (KVOA, July 8, 2010). 

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer reacted strongly to the news, noting that, “As a direct result of failed and inconsistent federal enforcement, Arizona is under attack from violent Mexican drug and immigrant smuggling cartels.  Now, Arizona is under attack in federal court from President Obama and his Department of Justice.  Today’s filing is nothing more than a massive waste of taxpayer funds.  These funds could be better used against the violent Mexican cartels than the people of Arizona.”   (Brewer Statement, July 6, 2010). State Sen. Russell Pearce, the principal sponsor of the bill, also responded forcefully to the federal lawsuit. “It’s outrageous and it’s clear they don’t want (immigration) laws enforced. What they want is to continue their non-enforcement policy.  They ignore the damage to America, the cost to our citizens, the deaths.” (USA Today, July 6, 2010). 

Kris Kobach, the law professor who helped author the law, explained that the lawsuit’s claim that more vigorous enforcement of federal immigration laws in Arizona will conflict with federal purposes is dubious.  (National Review, July 6, 2010).  “[T]he U.S. District Court for Arizona already rejected that line of thinking in Arizona Contractors Association v. Napolitano (2007), evaluating Arizona’s 2007 law that required all employers to use the E-Verify system to verify the work authorization of employees. According to the court, “the fact that the Act will result in additional inquiries to the federal government is consistent with federal law.”  Id.

Twenty House Republicans reacted to the news by sending a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder protesting the DOJ lawsuit. In the letter, they stated, “Not only does this lawsuit reveal the Obama administration’s contempt for immigration laws and the people of Arizona, it reveals contempt for the majority of the American people who support Arizona’s efforts.” (The Washington Post, July 7, 2010).   The latest Rasmussen poll of likely voters nationwide found that 56% disagree with the lawsuit, while only 28% agree with the challenge.  Additionally, 61% support a law similar to Arizona’s in their own state while only 28% are in opposition.  (Rasmussen Reports, July 7, 2010). Gallup also released a poll last Friday finding that initial reactions to the lawsuit are more negative than positive, by a 50% to 33% margin.  (Gallup, July 9, 2010).  The Gallup report stated, “The Obama administration is sailing against the tide of public opinion in its efforts to block the law.”  Id. But one senior Justice Department official argued, “We’re charged not with doing what’s popular or partisan or political, but doing what we think is right.” (The Washington Post, July 7, 2010).  Even so, Democratic governors are deeply concerned about potential backlash in the November elections and shared their anxiety with White House officials in a private meeting this weekend.  (The New York Times, July 11, 2010).

Arizona Senators Jon Kyl and John McCain issued a joint statement in response to Obama’s decision to sue:  “Attorney General Holder speaks of the ‘federal government’s responsibility’ to enforce immigration laws; but what are the people of Arizona left to do when the federal government fails in its responsibility?  The Obama Administration has not done everything it can do to protect the people of Arizona from the violence and crime illegal immigration brings to our state. Until it does, the federal government should not be suing Arizona on the grounds that immigration enforcement is solely a federal responsibility.”  (Kyl/McCain Press Release, July 6, 2010).

Americans around the country are also responding to the lawsuit with donations to the Arizona defense fund set up by Governor Brewer to help the state defend itself from Obama.  The fund has received contributions from all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, totaling almost $500,000.  (Los Angeles Times, July 9, 2010).  Governor Brewer remains confident about the outcome of the case: “Arizona will ultimately prevail against the lawsuits – including this latest assault by the Obama Administration. Our laws will be found to be constitutional – because that is exactly what they are.” (Brewer Statement, July 6, 2010).

New FAIR Study: Illegal Immigration Costs Taxpayers $113 Billion Annually

On Tuesday, July 6, FAIR released a new study estimating that illegal immigration now costs federal, state, and local taxpayers more than $113 billion per year. Titled The Fiscal Burden of Illegal Immigration on U.S. Taxpayers, the report finds that federal spending on illegal aliens totals $29 billion annually. However, the majority of the overall costs of illegal immigration are borne by state and local taxpayers, with an estimated cost of $84.2 billion. (See State Cost Map – Total Fiscal Costs by State).

To arrive at these estimates, FAIR’s new report examines dozens of government benefits – at the local, state, and federal levels – that are obtained by illegal aliens and their U.S.-born children,  legally and fraudulently. In addition, the report analyzes the impact of illegal immigration on education, health care, law enforcement and justice, public assistance, and other government programs. Key findings of the report include: 

  • Services and benefits to illegal aliens and their families cost native-headed households an average of $1,117 a year. Because the burdens of illegal immigration are not evenly distributed, the costs are much higher in states with large illegal alien populations. (See State Cost Map – Costs to Native-Headed Households by State).
  • Education for the children of illegal aliens represents the single largest public expenditure at an annual cost of $52 billion. Nearly all of that cost is absorbed by state and local governments.
  • The federal government recovers about 1/3 of its share of the costs of illegal immigration in the form of taxes paid by illegal aliens. However, states – which bear a much greater share of the costs of illegal immigration – only recover 5 percent of their expenditures from taxes paid by illegal aliens. 
  • Illegal aliens pay a total of about $13 billion per year in taxes. However, the study points out that governments at all levels would likely have realized significantly greater revenues if jobs held by illegal aliens had been filled by legal U.S. residents instead.
  • Contrary to the arguments of the open borders lobby, amnesty would not significantly increase tax revenues from current illegal aliens. In fact, over time, amnesty would dramatically increase public costs because newly-legalized aliens would become eligible for all means-tested government programs.

FAIR President Dan Stein commented on the importance of this new report: “The Fiscal Burden of Illegal Immigration on U.S. Taxpayers provides a definitive response to the question of whether illegal aliens are a net benefit or a net drain on government coffers. The report examines virtually every federal, state and local government program to determine the impact of illegal immigration on the bottom line. That bottom line, $113 billion a year and growing, makes our nation’s failure to control illegal immigration one of the largest preventable burdens borne by American taxpayers. If political leaders in Washington and state capitals want to understand why the American public is demanding enforcement of our immigration laws, The Fiscal Burden of Illegal Immigration on U.S. Taxpayers provides 113 billion good reasons.” (FAIR Press Release, July 6, 2010).

Click here to watch an introductory video where co-authors Jack Martin and Eric Ruark discuss the report and some of its conclusions.

AZ Governor Cancels Border Conference After Mexican Governors Threaten Boycott

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has cancelled the 28th annual Border Governors’ Conference after receiving a letter from the six Mexican border state governors announcing their intention to boycott the conference. The Mexican governors said that their reason for boycotting the conference – scheduled to be held in Phoenix, Arizona in September – was to protest S.B. 1070, Arizona’s tough new immigration enforcement law. (The New York Times, July 6, 2010; Letter from Mexican governors, June 9, 2010).

The Border Governors’ Conference has been held almost every year since 1980, alternating locations between the United States and Mexico. In general, the conference seeks to “enhance[] joint border efforts” by addressing a number of issues, including border crossings; economic development; and border security.  Official recommendations focusing on these issues “are presented in the form of a Joint Declaration, which is signed by each of the ten participating Governors at each conference.” (Border Governors’ Conference – History). By rotation, Governor Brewer was to be the chairwoman and host of the 2010 conference. Consequently, the Mexican governors notified Brewer by letter that they were refusing to attend this year’s conference because of their belief that Arizona’s new immigration law is “based on ethnic and cultural prejudice contrary to fundamental rights.” (The New York Times, July 6, 2010; Letter from Mexican governors, June 9, 2010).

Governor Brewer responded with a letter of her own, notifying the Mexican governors that she had decided to cancel the conference. Brewer noted that she was “disappointed” with the governors’ boycott and pointed out that the conference “would have presented a great platform to initiate dialogue about [S.B. 1070] and other topics of great importance to the border region.” In addition, the governor stated that she remained “unwavering in [her] belief that signing Senate Bill 1070 … was the right thing to do for the State of Arizona.” Noting that the new law has been “misunderstood and misinterpreted by a number of people,” Brewer extended an invitation to the Mexican governors to come to Arizona and meet with Brewer’s administration and members of the Arizona law enforcement community. By coming to Arizona, Brewer wrote, the Mexican governors would “be able to better understand [S.B. 1070], how it will be implemented, and the myths that have been created about what the law requires or allows.” (Brewer Letter, June 30, 2010).

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has stepped into the fray, arguing that Brewer does not have the authority to cancel the conference. Richardson and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger – both of whom have been outspoken critics of S.B. 1070 – have advocated moving the conference to another state. It remains unclear whether the conference will be rescheduled, or whether Brewer will attend if it is held in a state other than Arizona. (The New York Times, July 6, 2010; The Sacramento Bee, April 30, 2010).

NYC Welfare Agency Under Fire for Failure to Provide Interpreters

In July 2008, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed an executive order requiring 37 city offices and agencies to provide interpreters and other language services to those who can’t speak English.  (Office of the Mayor, 2008). No extra money was allocated for these services; however the welfare agencies were required to develop a plan to avail them to those immigrants who were seeking assistance.  The mayor’s office went so far as to send undercover inspectors to field offices in order to ensure compliance. (New York Times, July 2010).

Two year later, studies conducted by immigrant advocacy groups have discovered widespread complaints among low income immigrants that interpreters and bilingual forms are not being provided to them.  The Human Resources Administration (HRA), which provides food stamps and medical assistance to many of the city’s immigrants, now finds itself the subject of a law suit for allegedly failing to comply with the law.  In August, Legal Services NYC, a legal aid group, filed suit on behalf of 12 immigrants, accusing the HRA of violating their civil rights and being guilty of “widespread discriminatory treatment of limited English proficient New Yorkers”. (The Examiner, August 2009). Mercedes Cruz, an immigrant from Honduras and one of the plaintiffs, bemoaned, “It shouldn’t be so difficult to get the help I need and qualify for.” (New York Times, July 2010).

In response to the torrent of criticism and legal action, agency officials have insisted that they are making progress implementing bilingual services.  They cite agency reports which show that half of HRA’s employees have been trained in complying with bilingual services this year.  Immigrant advocacy groups conceded that progress is being made, but they view the bureaucratic juggernaut and lack of funding as prime obstacles to improvement in service.  They even conducted a new study to be released this week which found that city workers never informed immigrants that they were entitled to interpreters.  Zena Kim, another plaintiff, concluded that the lack of compliance by the HRA makes the “process very daunting-that they have to speak English and do an interview in English.” (New York Times, July 2010).

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