U.S. Legislative Immigration Update December 14, 2009

Right Side News Reports from the Federation for American Immigration Reform in this December 14th, 2009 Legislative Weekly

  • Gutierrez to Introduce Amnesty Bill Tuesday
  • Senate Immigration & Health Care Debate Continues
  • Napolitano: DHS Taking “Unprecedented Action” to Enforce Immigration Laws
  • Congress May Attempt to Sneak PASS ID Through Before Year End
  • Has the Time Come for an Immigration Time-Out?

 

Gutierrez to Introduce Amnesty Bill Tuesday

On Tuesday, December 15, open borders advocate Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) will introduce a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that, if passed, would grant amnesty to millions of illegal aliens in the United States. (Rep. Gutierrez Press Release; National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Press Release, December 11, 2009). According to Gutierrez, his bill “will set a liberal standard in the [immigration] debate.” (Roll Call, December 7, 2009).

While the specifics of the legislation will not be clear until the text becomes available later this week, Gutierrez previously outlined a set of “Core Principles for a New Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill.” (Rep. Gutierrez Press Release, October 13, 2009). These “principles” indicate that Gutierrez’ bill will include three amnesty programs, including:

  • An amnesty for illegal alien “workers.” In Gutierrez’ own words: “We need a bill that says if you come here to hurt our communities, we will not support you. But if you are here to work hard – if you are here to make a better life for your family – you will have the opportunity to earn your citizenship.” (Gutierrez Press Release).
  • The AgJOBS amnesty. (Id.). This legislation would grant amnesty to millions of illegal alien agricultural workers and “reform” the H-2A temporary agricultural worker program to allow employers easier access to cheap foreign labor. (See FAIR’s Legislative Analysis of AgJOBS, June 17, 2009).
  • The DREAM Act amnesty. (Gutierrez Press Release). Although this legislation has varied a little over the years, in general the DREAM Act: (1) grants amnesty to illegal aliens who entered the U.S. before the age of 16, have lived in the U.S. for at least 5 years, and have met certain minimal educational requirements. The Dream Act also reverses current federal law to allow states to provide taxpayer-subsidized in-state tuition to illegal aliens. (See FAIR’s Legislative Analysis of the DREAM Act, March 2009).

FAIR has also learned that the Gutierrez amnesty bill will include at least a portion of the “Reuniting Families Act” (H.R. 2709), legislation sponsored by Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA). This legislation would dramatically increase legal immigration by providing for the “[r]ecapture” of what its proponents claim are “[u]nused” green cards from 1992 to date  to bring in more family-based immigrants-all of whom will need jobs.  The U.S. State Department has estimated that over 326,000 employment visas and more than 231,000 family visas would be made available under this provision. (U.S. State Department, Unused Family and Employment Preferences Numbers Available for Recapture, Fiscal Years 1992-2007).

The Reuniting Families Act would also provide for additional increases in legal immigration by:

  • Changing the classification of children and spouses of lawful permanent residents so that they would be recognized as “immediate relatives.” (§102). This would allow lawful permanent resident spouses and children to immediately qualify for a visa. (Rep. Honda’s Press Release, June 2, 2009).
  • Increasing the annual per country limits on family and employment-based visas from seven percent to ten percent. (§103). Under current law, each foreign country has a seven percent share of the total cap of visas that Congress allocates each year.

FAIR has recently released an updated report arguing that Congress has a responsibility to ensure that available jobs are filled by legal workers. With more than 15 million Americans out of work and a nationwide unemployment rate of ten percent (Bureau of Labor Statistics, December 4, 2009), passage of the Gutierrez amnesty bill – or any amnesty legislation for that matter – would constitute a failure by Congress to live up to its basic responsibilities to the American people. (Amnesty and Joblessness).

Stay tuned to FAIR for the latest in-depth analysis of the Gutierrez amnesty bill.

Senate Immigration & Health Care Debate Continues

Last week our Legislative Update included information about two possible amendments to the Senate health care bill, but we were unable to disclose the identities of the Senators who had indicated they would offer those amendments.  We are now able to do so.

As FAIR detailed in an Action Alert earlier this week, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) has filed an amendment (Amdt. No. 3111) that would do three things:

  • It would require the use of a meaningful and effective verification system to ensure that illegal aliens will not be able to access taxpayer-funded tax subsidies created by the bill;
  • It would prevent illegal aliens from accessing the taxpayer-funded exchange to buy insurance; and
  • It would maintain the 5-year waiting period in current law so that immigrants must pay into the system before they are able to receive taxpayer-funded health benefits.  The 5-year waiting period is critical because it embodies the principle that immigrants should not become a public charge – or burden – to the American people. 

In addition, as our alert described, the Senate bill forces low-income American citizens – those with income below 100% of federal poverty (FPL) – to stay enrolled in Medicaid instead of giving them choices for their health insurance.  At the same time, the Senate bill gives similarly-situated legal aliens more health care choices because they can receive the taxpayer-subsidized tax credit with which they can buy whatever health insurance they want.  This policy creates a fundamental unfairness because it treats immigrants better than American citizens.

Senator John Ensign (R-NV) has filed an amendment (Amdt. No. 3016) to ensure that American citizens would have the same choices for their health care as the bill gives legal immigrants.  This will guarantee citizens are not treated unfairly.

FAIR has also learned of another amendment – one that represents a dangerous change in policy – that has been filed by Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM).  This amendment (Amdt. No. 2991) would outright repeal the current 5-year waiting period before immigrants can access taxpayer-funded health care benefits.  While the Senate bill already contains language to circumvent this sensible waiting period, this amendment would burden the American taxpayers by making every legal alien immediately eligible for health care.

Napolitano: DHS Taking “Unprecedented Action” to Enforce Immigration Laws

On Wednesday, December 9, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) oversight hearing. Napolitano – who President Obama has designated as his “point person” on amnesty legislation – used the hearing to make the argument that the Obama administration has been tough with respect to immigration enforcement. True immigration reformers, however, remain unconvinced.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) opened the hearing by noting that past opposition to amnesty legislation was related to the federal government’s failure to secure our borders. “We often hear we can’t begin comprehensive reform of our immigration laws until we’ve won control of our borders,” he said. Incredibly, Leahy then went on to argue that DHS has actually achieved this “control”: “[S]ince the Senate last considered immigration reform…most of the enforcement benchmarks and triggers included in prior legislation have been substantially met.” (Sen. Leahy’s Testimony, December 9, 2009).

Following Leahy’s statement, the Committee’s Ranking Member – Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) – disagreed with the Chairman’s assertion that immigration enforcement has improved “substantially” since amnesty was last considered. Speaking to Secretary Napolitano, Sessions said, “I am disappointed by some of the actions that you’ve taken that I think undermine the enforcement measures for those in the country now illegally.” Sessions continued: “At a time where the unemployment rate is 10 percent, I believe it’s not responsible to invite or allow illegal workers to take jobs that should be available to American citizens and legal immigrants.” (CQ Congressional Transcripts, December 9, 2009).

To underscore his critique, Sessions pointed to data recently released by DHS’ Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that show that during Fiscal Year 2009 administrative arrests pursuant to worksite enforcement fell 68 percent; criminal arrests fell 60 percent; criminal indictments fell 58 percent; and criminal convictions fell 63 percent. (Id.; For more on these ICE statistics, see FAIR’s Legislative Update, November 23, 2009; See also House Judiciary Committee – Minority Press Release, November 18, 2009).

Napolitano began her opening statement by claiming that “[o]ver the past year [DHS has] taken unprecedented actions to achieve our goals.” (Secretary Napolitano’s Testimony, December 9, 2009). Napolitano highlighted how DHS has changed the 287(g) program and sought to expand Secure Communities, policy decisions that, in actuality, indicate that the Obama administration is abandoning immigration enforcement in all but the most serious criminal cases. (See FAIR’s Legislative Updates from May 26, 2009 and July 13, 2009). Napolitano claimed that her Department has “enhanced and expanded” E-Verify – the online, electronically operated system that allows employers to quickly and easily ensure that their new hires are legally authorized to work and not illegal aliens. However, Napolitano failed to mention that the Obama administration had delayed the implementation of a federal regulation requiring federal contractors to use E-Verify on three separate occasions before finally relenting and allowing the rule to take effect in September of this year. (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, June 8, 2009).

The Secretary’s testimony also highlighted two other steps that DHS has taken to undermine immigration enforcement, including (1) reforming the immigrant detention system in such a way that will almost certainly lead to an increase in the number of illegal aliens who abscond while under ICE custody (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, October 13, 2009) and (2) advocating for passage of legislation that would gut security standards related to State-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards. (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, June 22, 2009). Policy decisions such as these reflect how the Obama administration has taken numerous steps to weaken immigration enforcement over the past year. In fact, FAIR has recently released a comprehensive assessment that details the numerous steps the Obama administration has taken to undermine the enforcement of U.S. immigration laws. (Paving the Road to Amnesty).

 

Congress May Attempt to Sneak PASS ID Through Before Year End

This time of year causes a lot of speculation about whether certain bills will pass before Congress adjourns.  This year is no exception.  In fact, several sources have indicated that Congress, with the help of the DHS Secretary Napolitano, may attempt to repeal current provisions of law that ensure states are issuing secure drivers’ licenses.  This repeal would occur through passage of the PASS ID Act.

The apparent urgency to gut REAL ID stems from deadlines that are befalling states this month. By December 1st, all states who had not substantially complied with REAL ID were required to request waivers. Residents of states that have not materially complied with REAL ID by December 31, 2009 will be required to go through secondary screening at airports beginning Jan. 1, which could create confusion and disruptions for tens of thousands of airline passengers. However, political observers have noted that Secretary Napolitano does not support REAL ID, and it is expected that Napolitano will continue to extend the waiver deadline. (See Congress Daily, Dec. 2, 2009).

Instead of actually enforcing REAL ID, the Obama Administration would prefer to gut REAL ID through the passage of the PASS ID Act. FAIR has previously reported on S. 1261, “Providing for Additional Security in States’ Identification Act of 2009” (PASS ID), which was introduced by Senator Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) on June 15, 2009.  (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, July 20, 2009; Legislative Update August 3, 2009).  PASS ID will gut the security provisions of the REAL ID Act, which was passed by Congress in 2005 in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  After the 9/11 Commission recommended improved security standards in the issuance of drivers’ licenses and identification cards, REAL ID was enacted to establish uniform security requirements for states to follow when issuing secure identification documents.  (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, June 22, 2009; FAIR’s PASS ID Legislative Analysis, July 1, 2009; and a chart comparing REAL ID and PASS ID — Comparison Chart).

The speculation is that PASS ID could be attached to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2010 (H.R. 3326), or some other bill considered “must pass” legislation.  The consequence of such deceptive practices is to stifle debate on significant legislation without adequate review by each member of Congress or notice to the American public.  Just last week, Secretary Napolitano again expressed her support for PASS ID and urged the Senate to move quickly to pass the bill and send it to the House this year.  (Examiner, December 7, 2009).  While the immediate outcome of this dispute is uncertain, if PASS ID does make its way onto the Senate floor, it will likely be fought by Senators who care about our national security  and oppose hiding critical policy changes within a massive piece of legislation. 

Has the Time Come for an Immigration Time-Out?

On December 11, 2009, former Rep. Virgil Goode, who represented Virginia’s Fifth Congressional District from 1997 to 2009, wrote an editorial making the case for why the United States should enact an immigration moratorium.  (Townhall.com, December 11, 2009).

In the editorial, Mr. Goode makes the case that 25 million American citizens who are currently out of work have been pushed out of the workforce, not just by illegal aliens, but also by certain legal immigrants.  Today, according to the Census Bureau, nearly 1 in 6 workers (which is roughly 16 percent) is foreign born –  the highest ratio since 1920.  When Senator Ted Kennedy passed his 1965 immigration bill, the percentage of foreign born workers was only around 5 percent.

Mr. Goode points out that since “the economic crisis began over a year ago, there’s been no discussion about reducing total immigration levels and we’ve allowed over 1.5 million new legal foreign workers in the country.”  These numbers represent visas issued by the United States government, comprising “75,000 permanent work visas and approximately 50,000 temporary work visas every month.” These 125,000 individuals are then hired for jobs that, Mr. Goode suggests, should go to Americans first.  Mr. Goode concludes by saying an immigration moratorium is an idea whose time has come. 

Earlier this year, FAIR began tracking the issue of unemployment and the impact amnesty and immigration has on American workers.  FAIR has just released a new version of the report, which can be found here

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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.