Immigration Reform News and Impact on US Homeland Security March 24, 2015

(Washington, DC : Tuesday March 24, 2015) Latest news updates this week from the Federation for American Immigration Reform

  •  ICE Dragnet Catches 23 DACA Recipients Among Serious Criminals
  • Robert Rector: Executive Amnesty to Cost Taxpayers Billions Annually
  • Senate Judiciary Committee Gives Voice to American Tech Workers
  • Federal Judge May Impose Sanctions for Obama Administration Violating Injunction
  • FAIR’s Dan Stein to Debate Pro-Amnesty Grover Norquist Thursday
  • New Mexico Fails to Reign in Illegal Alien Driver’s License Law

 ICE Dragnet Catches 23 DACA Recipients Among Serious Criminals

A five-day nationwide operation targeting aliens with serious criminal convictions conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in early March led to the arrest of 2,059 criminal aliens, 23 of whom are DACA recipients. (Washington Times, Mar. 19, 2015; ICE Press Release, Mar. 9, 2015)

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials now confirm that all 23 had originally been granted amnesty under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and of the 23, 15 still have lawful presence under the program. (Washington Times, Mar. 19, 2015) Of these, DHS states 14 had been granted DACA before their convictions, but confirmed that it had granted deferred action to at least one illegal alien after the individual’s conviction in a drug case. (Foxnews.com, Mar. 13, 2015)

The remaining eight DACA beneficiaries had initially received deferred action under DACA but lost their status. (Id.) Two were denied renewal of deferred action because of a criminal record, one was denied for not paying the application fee, two allowed their status to lapse, and three had their status revoked because of their convictions. (Id.)

Members of Congress said the apprehension of these DACA beneficiaries confirms their long stated concerns that the supposed safeguards in the application process are inadequate to protect public security. (Id.) “With few fraud detection measures and effective background checks in place,” said House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), the arrest of DACA recipients with criminal convictions, “is no surprise.” (Id.) Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said that the arrests reveal a seemingly “haphazard and risky vetting process by an administration that is very interested in finding creative and possibly unconstitutional ways for people to stay in the country.” (Id.)

Indeed, even before the ICE dragnet, the Senate Judiciary Committee had focused on the flawed procedures of the DACA program, especially after the murder of four in February in North Carolina. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Mar. 3, 2015) Last Wednesday, Sen. Grassley confirmed that the murder suspect, Emmanuel Jesus Rangel-Hernandez, was a DACA recipient. (Grassley Press Release, Mar. 20, 2015) Rangel-Hernandez had been placed in removal proceedings in 2012 following drug charges, but an immigration judge dismissed those proceedings in 2013 after he received DACA status. (Grassley Press Release, Mar. 20, 2015) According to whistleblowers, he received DACA status despite United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) knowing that he was a gang member. (Id.) Senator Grassley and Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC), another member of the Judiciary Committee in whose hometown the murders took place, have now sent a letter to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson seeking more information about USCIS approvals of DACA recipients with gang or criminal affiliations. (Id.)

Robert Rector: Executive Amnesty to Cost Taxpayers Billions Annually

Last week, Robert Rector, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, testified that Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) amnesty recipients will receive trillions of dollars in taxpayer benefits over their lifetimes.

Rector’s cost study was the focus of a Tuesday hearing in the House entitled, “The Fiscal Costs of the President’s Executive Actions on Immigration.” (Video of hearing available here) In his study, Rector estimates that 3.97 million illegal aliens with an average 10th grade education are eligible for DAPA. (Robert Rector, The Fiscal Consequences of Executive Amnesty, Mar. 17, 2015 at 1) These amnestied illegal aliens will be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC), including the ability to retroactively claim these refundable credits for three prior years. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Mar. 3, 2015) Accordingly, Rector calculated “cash payments from the EITC and ACTC to DAPA recipients would equal $7.8 billion per year.” (Rector at 4)(emphasis added) Additionally, Rector calculates the retroactive claiming of EITC and ACTC at $23.5 billion. (Id. at 1)

The cost of executive amnesty is even greater when you take into account the federal benefits programs illegal aliens can access. Noting that “nearly all DAPA families have at least one U.S. born child,” Rector found “DAPA-eligible families already receive $6,600 per year in means-tested aid, or $13.2 billion per year overall.” (Id. at 5)(emphasis added) Since the executive amnesty awards illegal aliens with Social Security numbers — making them eligible for Social Security and Medicare benefits — Rector calculates the “lifetime costs” of these programs to DAPA recipients at $1.3 trillion. (Id. at 1)(emphasis added) Additionally, if enrolled in healthcare under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), “the cost to the taxpayers would be around $7,300 per DAPA family or $15.5 billion per year.” (Id. at 6)(emphasis added)

Beyond the benefits paid out to amnestied illegal aliens, taxpayers will also bear the cost of implementing the program. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced it will spend nearly $500 million per year just to implement DAPA and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). USCIS announced the costs in response to a letter sent by Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI), and Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee Chairman Jeff Sessions (R-AL) in January asking for more information after the news broke that the Administration was leasing office space in Virginia to begin implementation of the program. (Letter to USCIS, Jan. 22, 2015; see FAIR Legislative Update, Dec. 9, 2014)

In addition to estimating the overall cost of implementation, USCIS revealed that the monthly rent for the Crystal City facility is $645,590, or approximately $7.7 million per year, which it is still paying monthly despite the injunction placed on the implementation of the program. (USCIS Response to Senators, Feb. 26, 2015; See FAIR Legislative Update, Mar. 10, 2015) USCIS also informed the Senators that there will be approximately $26 million in “set up” costs for the facility plus another $26 million to staff the facility (including $21 million in salary and benefits and $5.6 million in background checks). (USCIS Response to Senators, Feb. 26, 2015)

Remarkably, the cost of implementing the amnesty could be even greater if the injunction is lifted. USCIS based its cost estimate on the assumption that only 60 percent of illegal aliens will apply for DACA and DAPA but note, “USCIS might ultimately need to increase its hiring plan up to a total of 3,100 new employees at an annual cost of $184.3 million, and total program costs of between $324 and $484 million per year.” (Id.)(emphasis added)

Senate Judiciary Committee Gives Voice to American Tech Workers

Last Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), held a hearing on high-skilled immigration: “Immigration Reforms Needed to Protect Skilled American Workers.” (Senate Judiciary Committee, Mar. 17, 2015) Testifying before the Committee were: Mr. Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO; Professor Ron Hira of Howard University; Mr. Bjorn Billhardt, President of Enspire; Mr. Jay Palmer, whistleblower on the Infosys visa fraud case; Mr. Benjamin Johnson, Executive Director of American Immigration Council; Mr. John Miano, attorney representing the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers (WashTech); and Professor Hal Salzman of Rutgers University. (Id.) During the hearing, several of the panelists explained to the Committee that expanding H-1B and L-1 visas will not, as the Administration claims, merely fill shortages in the domestic labor market, but will crowd Americans out of the science, technology, math, and engineering (STEM) fields. (Id.; see Washington Examiner, Mar. 17, 2015)

Professor Hal Salzman, using his expertise from years of research on technology industries and in-depth studies of STEM labor supply, explained how dire the situation has become for American STEM workers. (Salzman Testimony) According to his research:

  • the number of U.S. STEM graduates far exceeds the hiring needs of STEM industries, with only half of new grads finding jobs in STEM fields;

  • current needs of the IT industry can be filled by just half to two-thirds of U.S. graduates;

  • guest worker programs are a likely factor causing flat wages in the IT industry, and

  • the “predominant” function of IT guest worker programs is to facilitate the off-shoring of IT work. (Id.)

Importantly, these summarize the state of the U.S. STEM labor market under the existing level of immigration. If proposed legislation to increase the annual number of H-1B workers passes, the increase will provide enough guest workers to fill every new opening in the IT industry and replace their current workforce as well. (Id.)

Mr. Miano testified that the Executive Branch has exacerbated the problems caused by guest worker programs by creating an entire new category of workers via regulations, the Optional Practical Training program (OPT). (Miano Testimony) He explained how, in 1974, the Immigration and Naturalization Service on its own initiative began to allow aliens to work on student visas through regulation, though such work was limited to that required or recommended by the school. (Id.) However, he testified, as time went on, the regulations became more and more expansive, and today, graduates may remain in the U.S. for up to 35 months after graduation without any ties to a school, in a specific workaround of H-1B statutory limits. As of 2013, there were over 120,000 OPT guest workers in the U.S., and the Administration is planning to expand the program even further with future regulations. (Id.) Furthermore, he noted, there are no labor protections, either for Americans or the guest workers themselves. (Id.) He also explained that he is representing WashTech, a union of Washington Technology workers, in a lawsuit challenging the legality of this program, currently before the district court for the District of Columbia. (For more information about the lawsuit, in which the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) is also representing WashTech, see IRLI Press Release, March 6, 2015; IRLI Press Release, March 17, 2015)

Mr. Palmer, meanwhile, put a personal face on the hardships faced by vulnerable American STEM workers from decades of guest worker programs. (Palmer Testimony) He explained how American STEM employees are frequently laid off and replaced by H-1B or other guest workers and forced to train their less qualified replacements. (Id.) If they refuse to do so, they will not collect a severance package, and may even be let go for cause, preventing them from even collecting unemployment insurance. (Id.) Their employers also require them to sign non-disclosure agreements, and that is why the public hears so few of them tell their stories. (Id.) He himself, as a whistleblower in the Infosys case, which resulted in the largest visa fraud settlement in U.S. history, is “unemployed and blackballed in the industry.” (Id.)

At one point, Mr. Miano pointed out that the consequences of harming the career prospects of American STEM workers have an effect on more than just the workers themselves. (Senate Judiciary Committee, Mar. 17, 2015) With such a future before them in STEM fields, bright American students won’t choose to study them at all. (Id.)

Federal Judge May Impose Sanctions for Obama Administration Violating Injunction

Federal judge Andrew Hanen, who is overseeing the lawsuit brought by 26 states to stop President Obama’s executive amnesty, announced during a Thursday hearing that he is considering imposing sanctions against the Obama Administration for violating the injunction that temporarily stops the program. (Transcript of the hearing available here) Judge Hanen ordered the hearing after the Department of Justice (DOJ) revealed that the Obama Administration had already began implementing the executive amnesty for at least 100,000 illegal aliens despite the injunction and assertions by DOJ attorneys in court. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Mar. 10, 2015)

Judge Hanen blasted the DOJ attorneys for deceiving the court about the Obama Administration’s full compliance with the injunction. “Like the judge, the states thought nothing was happening,” chided Hanen. (See Los Angeles Times, Mar. 19, 2015) “Like an idiot, I believed that.” (Id.) Although clearly furious with the Obama Administration, Judge Hanen noted the irony that if he imposes sanctions “the taxpayers of the [26] states would end up paying their own damages.” (Id.)

DOJ attorneys downplayed the Obama Administration’s approval of 100,000 extended DACA applications. Deputy Assistant U.S. Attorney General Kathleen Hartnett told the judge, “There is absolutely no basis for sanctions here.” (See Fox News, Mar. 20, 2015) “The government is absolutely trying to do the right thing.” (Id.) Hartnett continued, “I would like to apologize for any confusion… We had no intent to withhold any of this material from the court.” (See Los Angeles Times, Mar. 19, 2015)

FAIR’s Dan Stein to Debate Pro-Amnesty Grover Norquist Thursday

On Thursday, Dan Stein, FAIR’s president, and Grover Norquist, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, will debate immigration reform at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington, D.C. Washington Times immigration reporter Stephen Dinan will moderate the debate. Thursday morning’s debate will illustrate a stark contrast in what “immigration reform” means: Norquist favors increased legal immigration and amnesty for illegal aliens while Stein advocates for limited legal immigration and opposes any form of amnesty. “Norquist and Stein are the two intellectual heavyweights at the epicenter of the immigration debate,” said John Solomon, Editor and Vice President for Content and Business Development for the Washington Times. (FAIR Media Advisory, Mar. 23, 2015) “This debate promises conflict and common ground and will be illuminating to all who follow the issue.” (Id.)

 Stay tuned to FAIR for more details…

New Mexico Fails to Reign in Illegal Alien Driver’s License Law

New Mexico’s 2015 legislative session ended Saturday, leaving the state’s current law that grants illegal aliens with regular driver’s licenses in place. (KOAT Albuquerque, Mar. 22, 2015) Currently, New Mexico is one of only two states that grant regular driver’s licenses to illegal aliens without proof of lawful presence. Washington is the second. Because the New Mexico Legislature failed to adequately change the state’s driver’s license law, no New Mexico driver’s license will be accepted as proof of identity for federal purposes when REAL ID is implemented in 2016.

Earlier last week, repeal appeared likely when the New Mexico Senate passed Senate Bill (“S.B.”) 653, which would create a two-tier driver’s license system in its place. (Santa Fe New Mexican, Mar. 19, 2015) S.B. 653 was introduced by Senator Stuart Ingle as a compromise after the House of Representatives passed House Bill (“H.B.”) 32 last month to revoke driving privileges from illegal aliens all together. (Id.; H.B. 32)

Specifically, S.B. 653 would have created two distinct licenses: a license that meets REAL ID’s requirements to be accepted as identification for federal purposes and a license that does not meet REAL ID’s requirements to be accepted as identification for federal purposes, intended for applicants who cannot prove lawful presence in the United States. (S.B. 653) This system will allow the state to comply with the federal REAL ID Act while still granting illegal aliens driving privileges. The REAL ID Act, which was passed by Congress in 2005 in response to the September 11th terrorist attacks, prohibits the federal government from accepting any state’s driver’s license as proof of identity if individuals who cannot prove lawful presence in the United States are eligible to receive that license. (REAL ID Act)

The Democrat-controlled Senate pushed for the compromise even though the movement to repeal illegal alien driving privileges completely has widespread support amongst New Mexico officials and constituents. A 2014 Albuquerque Journal poll revealed that 75 percent of New Mexicans support completely repealing the state’s current driver’s license law. (Albuquerque Journal, Feb. 11, 2015) Greg Fouratt, the Secretary of the Department of Public Safety, explained his support for repealing the current law, stating “New Mexico driver’s licenses have become a commodity for criminal rings across the country.” (Id.)

Indeed, New Mexico has experienced high instances of fraud as a result of granting driver’s licenses to illegal aliens. During an audit between August 2010 and April 2011, investigators found that as much as 75 percent of foreign national license applications were phonies. (KRQE) Between that same period, investigators also uncovered 37 percent of foreign national requests for appointments came from out-of-state, most from Arizona, Georgia, and Texas. (Fox News, Jan. 25, 2012)

Similar bills to repeal the state’s driver’s license laws are likely to be reintroduced next session. Governor Susana Martinez, who has been pushing for repeal of the current driver’s license law since she took office in 2010, opposed the compromise but indicated she would sign a bill to repeal illegal alien driver’s licenses that makes it to her desk. (Albuquerque Journal, Feb. 11, 2015; Santa Fe New Mexican, Mar. 19, 2015)