US Legislative Immigration Update April 20, 2009

April 20, 2009

FAIRUS.org
Right Side News Reports from the Federation for American Immigration Reform in this April 13th Legislative Weekly…

  • Obama Discusses Amnesty in Mexico, Delays E-Verify Rule in United States
  • Polls Show Washington Out-of-Touch with the American People on Amnesty, Border Security
  • Colorado Judge Ends Illegal Alien Identity Theft Investigation
  • Pew Study Shows Illegal Aliens Uneducated and a Burden to America’s Health Care System
  • Labor Coalitions Agree on Amnesty Bill Outline; Business Groups Express Concern
  • Grassley-Durbin Poised to Introduce Bill to Protect American Workers, Curb H-1B Abuses

Obama Discusses Amnesty in Mexico, Delays E-Verify Rule in United States

Last week, President Obama boarded Air Force One and flew to Mexico to discuss several policy issues with Mexican President Felipe Calderon.  During a Calderon-Obama press conference, President Obama addressed the issue of immigration.  According to The Christian Science Monitor, Obama restated his pledge to pass an amnesty bill this year. (The Christian Science Monitor, April 16, 2009).  In addressing the drug cartel violence, the President said his administration was accelerating efforts to implement the Bush-era Merida Initiative to “provide Mexico with the military aircraft and inspection equipment they need when they need it.”  (Chicago Sun-Times, Obama-Calderon Press Transcript– April 16, 2009).  President Obama’s statements at the press conference indicated that his Administration’s border security efforts were aimed at preventing the shipment of guns to Mexico rather than securing the border to prevent illegal immigration.

While Obama was in Mexico discussing amnesty, his administration announced its decision to delay a rule that would require most federal contractors to use E-Verify to help ensure that their employees are legally authorized to work in the United States.  (HR.BLR.com, April 17, 2009).  This was not the first time the implementation of this rule has been delayed. Originally, this rule was set to take effect on January 15, 2009.  However, the Bush Administration caved to a coalition of special interest groups who sued to prevent the rule from taking effect, and delayed the rule’s implementation until February 20, 2009.  (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, January 12, 2009).  On January 29, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that the Obama Administration would delay the rule’s implementation further – until May 21, 2009 – to give itself “an adequate opportunity to review the rule.” (The Washington Post, January 30, 2009).

The most recent delay postpones the final rule’s implementation another six weeks, to June 30, 2009.   In announcing this latest move, the Department of Homeland Security stated the delay is needed to give DHS “adequate opportunity to review the rule” – the identical justification the Obama Administration provided for delaying the rule in January.  House Judiciary Ranking Member Lamar Smith (R-TX) criticized the announcement: “Delaying implementation of this rule again insults citizen and legal immigrant workers. The purpose of the rule is to ensure that individuals working for or contracting with the federal government employ legal U.S. workers, not illegal foreign workers.” (Congressional Quarterly, April 17, 2009).

Polls Show Washington Out-of-Touch with the American People on Amnesty, Border Security

Last Tuesday, Rasmussen Reports released polling data that demonstrates that the Washington political class remains hopelessly out-of-touch with the American people on immigration policy.  In gauging whether it was “Very Important” for the government to improve America’s border security and to reduce illegal immigration, 66% of likely voters nationwide agreed compared to just 32% of “America’s Political Class.”  (Rasmussen, April 12, 2009).  The American Political Class generally trusts politicians, not the American people; is highly representative of the government establishment; and doesn’t view the federal government as self-interested.  (Rasmussen, March 20, 2009).
 
Rasmussen found an even larger difference between the political class and the American people on the issue of amnesty.  Voters were divided on whether legalization is “Somewhat Important”: 48% say it is, while 45% say it’s not.  Among the political class, however, Rasmussen found that 74% say legalization is important, while only 17% disagreed.  (Id.)  The American people also clearly favor an enforcement approach, as 68% of Americans support punishing employers who hire illegal aliens; 73% of Americans believe law enforcement should automatically check an individual’s immigration status during routine traffic stops; and among people with a “mainstream” or “populist” view, a view Rasmussen says most Americans share, 83% oppose giving driver’s licenses to illegal aliens.  (Rasmussen, April 12, 2009).

Rasmussen suggests that the 2006 and 2007 immigration debates centered on the issue that mattered most to Washington’s political elite: how illegal aliens could earn a “path to citizenship.”  The debates failed to address the concerns of the American people, namely, “gaining control of the border.”  (Id.)  In 2007, Rasmussen found that just 16% of American voters believed “comprehensive immigration reform” would reduce illegal immigration, compared to 74% who believed it would not.  (Rasmussen, May 30, 2007).  At the time, just 22% of Americans supported the Senate bill.  (Rasmussen, June 25, 2007).  Last week, Rasmussen noted that public opinion on amnesty legislation has remain unchanged since the 2006 debate on the Bush-McCain-Kennedy immigration reform bill which, despite “tremendous support among the political elite,” was defeated in 2007 after “the Senate was eventually forced to surrender to public opinion.” (Id.)  (Rasmussen, April 12, 2009).

Colorado Judge Ends Illegal Alien Identity Theft Investigation

Colorado District Judge James Hiatt ordered Weld County district attorney Kenneth Buck to return or destroy evidence concerning the use of stolen or fraudulent documents by illegal aliens.  (The Greeley Tribune, April 14, 2009).  Weld County Sheriff’s deputies obtained the evidence, which included stolen Social Security numbers and tax records, while executing a search warrant of Amalia’s Translation and Tax Service (ATTS) in Greeley, Colorado last October.

The police seizure was the result of an investigation into a suspected identity theft ring which began when a Texas man realized – after an IRS audit – that his Social Security number had been stolen.  Police examined the records of 5,000 of Amalia Cerillo’s clients and found that 1,369 of them had used stolen or false Social Security numbers.  (9News.com).  Since then, forty people have been arrested on identity theft or criminal impersonation charges, and sixty-five additional arrest warrants have been issued. (New York Times, Feb. 1, 2009).  According to the Weld County District Attorney, an examination of just one quarter of the seized returns showed tax withholdings of $1 million and $2.6 million in deductions, giving the suspects collectively $1.6 million in extra, unearned money.  (9News.com).

The investigation was halted in January 2009 when the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit, alleging the search of Ms. Cerrillo’s business was illegal and that retention of the documents violates the privacy rights of her clients. (ACLU of Colorado Press Release, Jan. 27, 2009).  The ACLU, who represented Ms. Cerrillo and four of her clients, argued that the County Sheriff’s Office illegally searched the files of Cerillo’s clients when they had individualized suspicion implicating only one of them.

Finding that the Weld County Sheriff’s Office lacked probable cause for the search, Judge Hiatt last week granted the ACLU a preliminary injunction and ordered that all documents seized in the raid be returned to Ms. Cerrillo, or destroyed, within seven days. (Id.)  District Attorney Buck has announced he will likely appeal the ruling but is awaiting a decision on a related case from the Colorado Supreme Court.  (The New York Times, April 13, 2009; and Denver ABC-7 News, April 13, 2009). 

Pew Study Shows Illegal Aliens Uneducated and a Burden to America’s Health Care System

Last week, the Pew Hispanic Center released a report entitled A Portrait of Unauthorized Immigrants in the United States providing some of the most recent and detailed statistics available about illegal aliens living in the United States.  These statistics reveal that at a time when America can least afford additional financial and economic burdens, illegal aliens are straining taxpayers in regards to health care, education, and other social services.

The Pew Hispanic study reveals that illegal immigration is placing a strain on America’s education system.  Children of illegal aliens now represent 6.8% of the total population of students enrolled in Kindergarten through 12th Grade, up from 5.4% in 2003.  In five states – Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, and Texas – 10% of K through 12 students have parents who are illegal aliens.  (Id. at 9).

Pew’s data also reveals that illegal aliens are far less educated than the U.S. population as a whole.  Pew states that illegal alien adults between the ages of 25 and 64 are disproportionately uneducated and unskilled when compared to U.S. citizens or legal immigrants.  Nearly 29% of illegal aliens in the United States possess “less than a ninth-grade education; an additional 18% have some high school education but have not completed high school.”  This compares to 2% and 6% of U.S. citizens in that age range who, respectively, have not reached the ninth-grade level or the equivalent of a high school degree.   (Id. at 10).  Younger illegal aliens (ages 18 to 24) do not fare much better: 40% of illegal aliens in that age group have not completed high school, compared to 15% of legal immigrants and 8% of U.S. citizens in the same age group (Id. at 11-12).

Pew Hispanic states that the fact that illegal aliens tend to be unskilled and uneducated reveals why illegal alien adults are also disproportionately represented among the poor.  Pew found that 21% of illegal aliens inside the United States are considered “poor” (compared to 13% of legal immigrant adults and 10% of U.S. citizen adults).  Additionally, illegal alien adults and their U.S.-born children account for 11% of the total U.S. population living below the poverty level, “twice their representation in the total population.” (Id. at 17). 

The Pew report contained figures concerning the impact of illegal aliens on the American health care system as well.  Pew reports that 59% of illegal aliens, 45% of illegal alien children, and 25% of U.S.-born children of illegal aliens lacked health insurance in 2007.  This last figure stands in stark contrast to the 8% of children of U.S. citizen parents who were uninsured in 2007.  (Id. at 18).

Labor Coalitions Agree on Amnesty Bill Outline; Business Groups Express Concern

Last week, the AFL-CIO and Change to Win – the two most prominent labor union coalitions – announced that they had agreed to push broad immigration legislation that would grant amnesty to more than 12 million illegal aliens residing in the United States.  (The New York Times, April 13, 2009).  According to a jointly-released document entitled “Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform”, the coalitions support: (1) amnesty for illegal aliens; (2) a work authorization system (but not the existing widely used, highly successful E-Verify system); (3) “rational operational control of the border”; (4) the creation of a commission to regulate future flows of both temporary and permanent workers; and (5) opposition to expansion of guest worker programs (including tighter restrictions on the H-1B visa program).  (AFL-CIO/Change to Win Framework, April 2009; see also CongressDaily, April 16, 2009).

In 2007, these two groups disagreed on the framework for immigration reform, and in particular whether Congress should create another broad guest worker program.  At the time, Change to Win supported a sweeping new guest worker program, while the AFL-CIO was opposed.  The 2007 Bush-Kennedy amnesty bill included such a program, which prompted the AFL-CIO to oppose the legislation. This opposition, coupled with opposition from true immigration reformers helped lead to the bill’s ultimate demise in the Senate.  (The New York Times, April 13, 2009).  The labor coalitions’ most recent announcement regarding the creation of an independent commission to regulate the future flow of guest workers appears to be the key to how these groups resolved their differences.  (The Dallas Morning News, April 17, 2009).

However, inclusion of a commission to regulate guest workers could hurt the chances of a bill passing the Senate this year as another group supporting amnesty – big business – opposes this measure.  Randel Johnson of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce stated that the Chamber believes “any legislation should allow for a robust temporary-worker program.”  (The Wall Street Journal, April 15, 2009).  Tamar Jacoby of ImmigrationWorks USA, a group of businesses organized in support of amnesty, questioned whether the commission would work: “Will it be adequately attuned to and triggered by the labor market? A system that may – or may not – supply the workers that business will need in the future after the recession will be of great concern to employers.”  Johnson added: “If the unions think they’re going to push [an amnesty] bill through without the support of the business community, they’re crazy.” (The New York Times, April 13, 2009).

Grassley-Durbin Poised to Introduce Bill to Protect American Workers, Curb H-1B Abuses

When Congress returns to session this week, it is expected that Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) will introduce legislation to reform the H-1B “specialty occupation” visa and the L-1 “intercompany” visa program.  Under this bill, its supporters state that employers would have to make a good faith effort to hire an American before they hire an H-1B visa holder.  In addition, the bill will include the following: (1) provisions to ensure that job openings are better publicized, thereby improving the chances that employers will hire American workers; (2) new limits to curb the current practice of “leasing” or “outsourcing” of H-1B workers to circumvent protections for American workers; (3) improvements in how the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) investigate fraud and an increase in fines for any violations; and (4) provisions that will improve information sharing between DOL and DHS.

Senator Grassley made the following statement in relation to this legislation: “With the unemployment rate at more than 8 percent, companies should first be looking at home for qualified American workers when filling positions.  It’s well past time that reforms be made in the H-1B and L visa program to root out fraud and abuse and ensure that American workers are given every consideration in today’s market.  Our legislation will return the visa programs back to their original intent, and reduce a company’s ability to hire foreign workers to replace qualified Americans.”
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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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