Immigration Reform News and Impact on US Homeland Security January 20, 2015

Immigration news update as the Federation for Immigration Reform reports from Washington.
House Republicans expressed concern that GOP leaders might not keep promises to other Republican Members of Congress to restore regular order and pass funding bills, such as immigration.

  • Republicans Retreat to Debate StrategyUnited States Capitol west front edit2
  • House Passes DHS Appropriations Bill Defunding Obama’s Executive Actions
  • Threats to Homeland Security: A Matter of Funding or an Unsecured Border?
  • Report: Clinton State Department Waived Visa Ban for Democratic Donors
  • Virginia Committee Passes Bill Limiting In-tuition to Legal Residents

Republicans Retreat to Debate Strategy

Last week, more than 240 Republicans currently serving in the House and Senate traveled to Hershey, Pennsylvania for the annual GOP Retreat. (Politico, Jan. 16, 2015) The three-day gathering served as an opportunity for newly elected Republicans to meet incumbents outside of the nation’s capital. Joined by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said, “The most positive thing is we’ve got a group of new Republican members in the Senate [and] a group of new Republican members in the House…” (Id.)

Some Republicans expressed optimism that party was more unified than the House was during last year’s retreat when House Speaker John Boehner’s announced amnesty-based immigration “principles.” (See FAIR Legislative Update, Feb. 5, 2014) This year, House Chief Deputy Whip Patrick McHenry (R-NC) stated, “There’s far more consensus on matters of… immigration than is perceived.” (Politico, Jan. 16, 2015) Rep. McHenry added that “[o]ur members understand the consequences of what we’re doing and that we have to lead.” (Id.)

However, other House Republicans expressed concern that GOP leaders might not keep promises to other Republican Members of Congress to restore regular order and pass funding bills. Congressman Reid Ribble (R-WI) speculated that GOP leadership “might dance around it later when they find out how difficult [it] is.” (Id.)

In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch Connell (R-KY) said, “We’re going to try to pass” the Department of Homeland Security funding bill, H.R. 240 (see FAIR Legislative Update, Jan. 13, 2014), which he characterized as “our first choice.” (National Journal, Jan. 15, 2015) By contrast, Senate GOP Conference Chairman John Thune (R-SD) said that he didn’t “want at this point to say what Leader McConnell might ultimately decide to do” with H.R. 240. (The Hill, Jan. 15 2015)

Stay tuned to FAIR for details…

House Passes DHS Appropriations Bill Defunding Obama’s Executive Actions

Last Wednesday, by a vote of 236 to 191, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 240, which funds the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through fiscal year 2015 and blocks Federal money for the President’s executive amnesty. (See H.R. 240; Roll Call Vote 35) Two Democrats — Collin C. Peterson (D-MN) and Brad Ashford (D-NE) — joined 234 Republicans to vote for H.R. 240. Ten Republicans joined the 181 Democrats to vote against funding DHS: Representatives David Valadao (R-CA), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Renee Ellmers (R-NC), Bob Dold (R-IL), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Jeff Denham (R-CA), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Mike Coffman (R-CO), and Justin Amash (R-MI). (Id.)

Before final passage of the bill, the House approved five amendments addressing President Obama’s executive amnesty, including two defunding amendments: (1) the Aderholt-Mulvaney-Barletta amendment, blocking the President’s November 2014 executive amnesty and previous Morton Memos; and (2) the Blackburn Amendment, barring the expansion of the DACA program. (See FAIR, Legislative Update, Jan. 13, 2015) The Aderholt-Mulvaney-Barletta Amendment passed by 237 to 190. (See Roll Call Vote 29) Along with 183 Democrats, seven Republicans – Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Bob Dold (R-IL), Jeff Denham (R-CA), and Renee Ellmers (R-NC)—voted against it.

However, 26 Republicans joined 183 Democrats in voting against the Blackburn Amendment, which passed by 218 to 209. (See Roll Call Vote 30) The seven Republicans who voted against the Aderholt-Mulvaney-Barletta Amendment also all voted against the Blackburn Amendment, with the addition of Fred Upton (R-MI), Chris Smith (R-NJ), David G. Reichert (R-WA), Devin Nunes (R-CA), Pat Meehan (R-PA), Martha McSally (R-AZ), Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Pete King (R-NY), John Katko (R-NY), Joe Heck (R-NV), Cresent Hardy (R-NV), Richard Hanna (R-NY), Mike Coffman (R-CO), Mark Amodei (R-NV), Chris Gibson (R-NY), Charlie Dent (R-PA), and Ryan Costello (R-PA). (Id.)

If enacted, H.R. 240 would provide $39.7 billion in discretionary funds for DHS, an increase of $400 million from the level of funding from fiscal year 2014. (See House Committee on Appropriations, press release, Jan. 14, 2015) Several key agencies and programs would receive more funding under this increase. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Jan. 22, 2014 (summarizing fiscal year 2014 appropriations)):

  • The bill provides $8.46 billion for salaries and expenses of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, (CBP), an increase of $360 million. (H.R. 240 at 6) It maintains the current level of active duty Border Patrol agents, 21,370. (Id. at 7)

  • The bill provides $5.93 billion to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). (Id. at 10) It maintains the current minimum 34,000 detention beds. (Id. at 12)

  • The bill provides $252 million for the Office of Biometric Identity Management, which is responsible for implementing the biometric entry-exit system, an increase of $25 million. (Id. at 35)

  • The bill provides $124 million for the E-Verify program, an increase of about $10 million. (Id. at 50) The House did not restore language prohibiting DHS from using funds to hire individuals not verified through the program after Congress removed such language last year.

H.R. 240 moves to the Senate for consideration. However, prior to arrival at the President’s desk, at least six Democratic Senators must join the Republican Senators to pass procedural barriers. The Democrats are expected to push to fund DHS without constraints on the President’s executive amnesty programs. (National Journal, Jan. 15, 2015)

Threats to Homeland Security: A Matter of Funding or an Unsecured Border?

Internal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) data leaked during the height of the summer border crisis demonstrate how aliens from all over the world have taken advantage of the porous U.S.-Mexico border and the Obama Administration’s failure to enforce U.S. immigration laws. (Breitbart, Jul. 14, 2014; Breitbart, Aug. 3, 2014) This data, showing the broad range of nationalities streaming across the border, shows how the very real homeland security threats prior to November 2014 and n continued after the Administration’s memos, eroding Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents’ ability to provide meaningful immigration enforcement. (See, e.g., Breitbart, Jan. 11, 2015)

Last August, intelligence analysis leaked by a source within Customs and Border Protection (CBP) showed that aliens from more than 75 different countries attempted to enter the United States illegally between 2010 and 2014. (Breitbart Texas, Aug. 3, 2014) This “Sensitive But Unclassified” report revealed the number of illegal aliens within that timeframe from various countries that the Border Patrol has apprehended or who turned themselves in to Border Patrol agents. (Id.) The OTMs (referring to “other than Mexicans”) intercepted by the Border Patrol do not only originate from Central America. (Id.) Many individuals apprehended by the Border Patrol came from countries with significant populations involved in terrorist activity. (Id.) For instance, in fiscal year 2014 through July alone, Border Patrol intercepted 239 aliens from Pakistan, 294 aliens from Somalia, 181 aliens from Egypt, and 202 aliens from Syria. (Id.)

Another report from the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) showed that the Administration’s amnesty policies caused the Central American migrant surge and the crisis at the border which aliens exploit. (Breitbart, Jul. 14, 2014; see FAIR Legislative Update, Jul. 22, 2014) EPIC, a regional intelligence center run by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) found that perceptions of U.S. immigration policy, not violence in Central America, were the primary causes of the surge of Central Americans at the southern border. (Id.) U.S. borders will be perceived as more insecure than before, with the Administration’s November announcement of a mass amnesty and dismantling of interior enforcement. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Nov. 24, 2014) Indeed, leaked internal CBP training documents now show that the vast majority of illegal aliens are now immune from detention and deportation. (Breitbart, Jan. 11, 2015)

Some Democrats in Congress, who have indicated they will refuse to fund DHS unless Republicans acquiesce to President Obama’s amnesty, have, ironically, seized upon the recent terrorist attacks in Paris as a reason to urge true immigration reformers to capitulate. (Newsweek, Jan. 13, 2015) House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told reporters last Tuesday that the “horrible, horrible” attacks should make Republicans feel such “heightened” urgency that they agree, without restrictions, to fund the Department that Obama has directed to carry out his unlawful policies. (Id.) The Republicans, she insisted, will not fund DHS “unless they can be a menace to immigration.” (Id.)

Report: Clinton State Department Waived Visa Ban for Democratic Donors

According to recent reporting by NBC 4 New York and the New York Times, Hillary Clinton’s State Department waived the entry ban on a wealthy Ecuadorian woman whose family gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democratic candidates. (New York Times, Dec. 16, 2014; NBC 4 New York, Dec. 17, 2014) The woman, Estafanía Isaías, whose father and uncle, Roberto and William Isaías, were convicted in absentia for bank fraud in Ecuador in 2012, was barred from the U.S. in 2007 for alien smuggling. (Id.) She had allegedly lied on visa applications in order to bring her maids into the country to work at her parents’ mansion in Coral Gables, Florida. (Id.)

Although banned since 2007, the U.S. government gave Ms. Isaías a series of short-term waivers to enter the country until 2011. (NBC 4 New York, Dec. 17, 2014) These waivers allowed her to visit her father and uncle, who was living in Miami and successfully fighting his extradition to Ecuador for allegedly embezzling millions from the bank he once helped run. (Id.) The Obama Administration refused Ecuador’s requests to extradite them after they gave $90,000 to the President’s reelection campaign. (New York Times, Mar. 11, 2014) By 2011, the U.S. consulate, with growing concerns about allegations of wrongdoing, decided to stop granting Ms. Isaías’ short-term waivers to enter the country. (NBC 4 New York, Dec. 17, 2014)

This enforcement of the travel ban by American diplomats prevented Ms. Isaías from continuing to visit her father and uncle and blocked her from coming to Miami for a job with a communications strategist who had raised half a million dollars for President Obama. (New York Times, Dec. 16, 2014) The family then turned to Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who was up for reelection in 2012, for help. (Id.)

For more than a year, Senator Menendez and his staff repeatedly phoned and wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her chief of staff, Cheryl Mills requesting waiver of the travel ban. (Id.; NBC 4 New York, Dec. 17, 2014) Then, Isaías family members in Florida gave $11,000 to Senator Menendez’ reelection campaign, and more than $125,000 to the Obama Victory Fund and the Democratic National Committee. (Id.) According to a senior diplomat, such activity by a Senator on behalf of a foreign national, especially one accused of visa fraud and who was not a constituent of that member of Congress, is “quite unusual.” (New York Times, Dec. 16, 2014)

In spring 2012, the State Department granted the Senator’s request to overturn the ban, thus overruling the decision made by U.S. Consular officials in Ecuador. (Id.) On May 15, 2012, Senator Menendez’s office sent an email to the Isaías family to share the good news. This email came one day after Ms. Isaías’ mother gave $40,000 to the Obama Victory Fund. (New York Times, Dec. 16, 2014) After succeeding in gaining a visa for Ms. Isaías, the Senator also began to lobby on behalf of her sister, who had also been banned from the U.S. as an immigrant smuggler. (Id.)

Virginia Committee Passes Bill Limiting In-tuition to Legal Residents

On Thursday, Virginia Senate Committee on Education and Health passed a bill to restrict eligibility for in-state tuition at Virginia’s public colleges and universities for illegal aliens lawfully present in the country as a result of President Obama’s executive amnesty. (S.B. 722; FAIR Legislative Update, Nov. 24, 2014) Senator Richard Black introduced S.B. 722 after Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring issued an opinion last spring directing Virginia public schools to grant in-state tuition rates to DACA recipients, despite prohibitions in federal law. (Washington Post, Apr. 29, 2014; 8 U.S.C. § 1621)

Specifically, the bill amends Virginia law to exclude illegal aliens who have received Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”), Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”), or Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (“DAPA”) from establishing their domicile in the state. (S.B. 722) Currently, Virginia law only grants in-state tuition to aliens who can demonstrate domicile and are lawfully present in the United States. (Va. Code Ann. § 23-7.4)

The Obama Administration has issued TPS, DACA, and DACA as temporary benefits to illegal aliens, under the veil of prosecutorial discretion, to stop the deportation proceedings of illegal aliens. Neither deferred action nor TPS provide a pathway to any lawful immigration status. Although Congress created TPS through law, President Obama created both DACA and DAPA by use of executive action. (FAIR, Legislative Update, Nov. 24, 2014)

Senator Richard Black, sponsor of S.B. 722, defended the bill. “We’ve got families who have paid Virginia taxes for a lifetime in the hopes that maybe one of their kids can go to a state institution of higher learning, and all of a sudden, we’re going to have foreigners on the fast track,” Senator Black said. (Washington Post, Jan.2, 2015) Senator Black also emphasized that federal law prohibits granting in-state tuition to illegal aliens. (Washington Post, Jan. 15, 2015) “There is a Federal Statute that says that if you give in-state tuition to unlawful immigrants then you must give in-state tuition to Americans from other states,” Senator Black noted. (Id.) “It just makes sense that Americans should receive as much consideration as people here illegally. Giving in-state tuition moves illegal immigrants to the front of the line. For every unlawful person who gets in-state tuition, there will be an American who can’t go to college in Virginia and that’s unfair.” (Id.)

Debate in Virginia regarding in-state tuition has grown substantially following President Obama’s expansion of the DACA program, principally because Virginia’s higher education system has been suffering a budget crisis due to the weakened economy. State fiscal support for higher education decreased by 34.3 percent between 2007 and 2012. (State Higher Education Finance) During this period, Virginia’s public universities were forced to increase tuition by an average of 43.2 percent, making higher education less affordable for Virginia students and families. (Id.)

S.B. 722 must be voted on by the full Senate before it can be considered by the House of Delegates. Governor Terry McAuliffe(D-VA) announced last week that he would veto legislation that bars illegal aliens from receiving in-state tuition. (Washington Post, Jan. 15, 2015)