U.S. Legislative Immigration Update February 28, 2011

Right Side News Reports from the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in this February 28, 2011 Legislative Weekly. FAIR tracks pending immigration laws in the United States which can impact homeland security in positive or negative ways and are a valued resource

  • Saudi National on Student Visa Arrested in Terror Plot
  • Kansas Makes Move to Repeal In-State Tuition for Illegal Aliens
  • Indiana Senate Passes Arizona-Style Immigration Bill
  • New Mexico Continues to License Illegal Aliens
  • Congressman Carter Introduces Mandatory E-Verify Legislation

Saudi National on Student Visa Arrested in Terror Plot

On Wednesday, FBI agents arrested Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari, a Saudi Arabian national who was in the U.S.on a student visa (F visa) for attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.  (NY Times, Feb. 25, 2011) The FBI began tracking Aldawsari February 1 after a chemical supplier became suspicious of him and called law enforcement authorities. The company reported that Aldwasari attempted to purchase phenol (a chemical used to create the explosive picric acid) by telling the supply company that he was connected to a university and planned on using the chemical for “off-campus personal research.” (Reuters, Feb. 24, 2011)  The FBI discovered that Aldawsari had already obtained most of the other chemical ingredients and supplies such as nitric and sulfuric acids, a hazmat suit, wiring, and a smoldering iron kit, making the phenol the last key component of the plot.  (Id.)

Authorities believe that Aldawsari’s plan to explode the devices at U.S.targets was years in the making.  Aldawsari, a 20-year-old chemical engineering student, stated in journal entries that he sought a student visa three years ago so that he could carry out terrorist attacks in the U.S. (Id.) From October 2008 to August 2009 he attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TNwhere he took English classes.  (Dallas Morning News, Feb. 25, 2011) Then in August 2009 Aldawsari enrolled at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, TX as a chemical engineering student. (Id.) Authorities said he attended Texas Tech for a year and a half before transferring to nearby South Plains College because of poor grades about a month ago. (Id.; NY Times, Feb. 25, 2011)

Government officials say that Aldawsari wrote in his journal that he was inspired by Osama bin Laden and wanted to create “an Islamic group under the banner” of al-Qaeda. (Washington Post, Feb. 25, 2011) “I excelled in my studies in high school in order to take advantage of an opportunity for a scholarship to America,” he allegedly wrote. (Id.) “And now, after mastering the English language, learning how to build explosives, and continuous planning to target the infidel Americans, it is time for Jihad.” (Id.) His list of targets included the Dallas home of former President George W. Bush, homes of three former military guards at Abu Graib Prison, several dams in California and Colorado, and various parts of New York City.  (Id.)

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, argued lenient U.S. immigration law was a major factor in this case. “We shouldn’t be surprised that terrorists continue to enter the U.S.on visas when our immigration laws are so loosely enforced.  The 9-11 hijackers entered the U.S.after obtaining visas.  And the Christmas Day bomber was able to board a plane en route to Detroitbecause he too had a visa,” he said.  (Rep. Lamar Smith Press Release, Feb. 24, 2011) “History is only repeating itself because we are letting it.  We must do more to screen visa applicants to prevent terrorists from entering the U.S. in the first place.” (Id.)

Aldwasari appeared in federal court in Texasfor the first time on Friday where he pled not guilty.  His attorney declined to comment as he left the Texas courtroom; however, he issued a statement saying, the “eyes of the world are on this case” and how Aldawsari is treated. (Dallas Morning News, Feb. 25, 2011) “This is not ”Alice in Wonderland,“ where the Queen said ‘First the punishment then the trial,’” the statement read. (Id.) “This is America, where everyone is entitled to the presumption of innocence, due process, effective representation of counsel and a fair trial.” If convicted Aldawsari faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.  (Id.)

Kansas Makes Move to Repeal In-State Tuition for Illegal Aliens

us-flag-flyingEarlier last week, the Kansas House of Representatives voted to approve a measure which would repeal a 2004 Kansas Law granting illegal aliens in-state tuition at Kansascolleges and universities.  (Kansas City Star, Feb. 21, 2011; K.S.A. § 76-731a)  The Republican-controlled Kansas House passed the bill, HB 2006, by a vote of 72-50.  (Kansas State Legislature)

The lenient in-state tuition allowance for illegal aliens was signed into law almost seven years ago by then-governor Kathleen Sebelius.  (Kansas City Star, Feb. 8, 2011)  According to the current law, illegal aliens are eligible for the discounted in-state tuition rates regardless of their immigration status if they attended a Kansashigh school for three or more years and intend to become citizens.  (Kansas City Star, Feb. 21, 2011; K.S.A. § 76-731a).  Since its enactment, legislators have made attempts to repeal the law but did not have the votes until conservatives gained more seats in last year’s election.  (Id.)  Sources conflict on whether current Republican governor Sam Brownback supports the measure.  (Kansas City Star, Feb. 8, 2011; Lawrence Journal World, Feb. 23, 2011)

Kansasis currently one of ten states who have preferential in-state tuition rates for illegal aliens.  (See 110 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. § 305/7e-5; K.S.A. § 76-731a; Neb. Rev. Stat. § 85-502; N.M. Stat. Ann. § 21-1-4.6; N.Y. Educ. Law § 6301.5; Tex. Educ. Code Ann. §§ 54.052-54.053; UtahCode Ann. § 53B-8-106; Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 28B.15.012; Wisc. Stat. § 36.27(2)(cr))  Oklahomahad a similar law, but the state has since voted to repeal it.  (See70 Okl. Stat. §§ 3242, 3243.2)  Kansas State Representative Caryn Tyson, a sponsor of the bill to repeal the law, said her constituents have made clear that they oppose allowing in-state tuition rates to continue for illegal aliens.  “Our constituents know what they want, and they want support of [HB 2006],” she said. (Kansas City Star, Feb. 21, 2011)

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach also spoke out to legislatures to support the new repeal measure.  “If you’re breaking federal law, you’re eligible for in-state tuition, but if you follow federal law, too bad, you don’t get the benefit.  To me that’s shocking,” Kobach stated.  (The Wichita Eagle, Feb. 9, 2011)

After clearing the House, the bill will now face an uncertain future in the Kansas Senate.  Last Wednesday, the measure was referred to the Kansas Senate’s Committee on Federal and State Affairs for consideration.  (Kansas State Legislature)

Indiana Senate Passes Arizona-Style Immigration Bill

In Indiana last week, the state Senate passed an immigration bill similar Arizona’s SB 1070.  (Reuters, Feb. 23, 2011)  By a vote of 31-18, senators sent a bill to the state’s House of Representatives which generally requires state and local law enforcement to ask for proof of legal residency from individuals the officer has lawfully stopped or detained if the officer has reasonable suspicion that the individual is in the country unlawfully.  (Id.; SB 590)  The bill also mandates that state agencies and state contractors use E-verify and requires that only the English language be used in public meetings and public documents.

Advocates for the bill assert that it will protect Indiana from terrorists who sneak into the U.S. illegally; protect Indianaresidents from job competition with illegal laborers who drive down wages; and rescue the state from the tax burden of illegal aliens’ usage of government services.  (Indianapolis Star, Feb. 23, 2011)  Sen. Michael Young stated that “this bill should not be called the Immigration Matters bill.  It should be called the Indiana Security and Taxpayer Protection Act.”  (Id.)

The bill will now move to the Indiana House of Representatives, where large business interests in the state have promised to vigorously lobby against passage of the measure.  (Reuters, Feb. 23, 2011)

New Mexico Continues to License Illegal Aliens

New Mexicolegislators last week rejected a bill which would have banned the state from issuing drivers licenses to illegal aliens.  (Alamogordo Daily News, Feb. 19, 2011)  The bill, which was blocked by three state legislators from moving out of the House consumer and Public Affairs Committee last week, would have an individual to have a social security number or proper immigration documents to obtain a drivers license.  (Id.)

Newly-elected Governor Susana Martinez strongly supported the bill, even using leftover campaign funds to promote the bill through a radio ad campaign.  (KRQE News, Feb. 24, 2011)  “New Mexico is attracting people from around the world – China, Poland and Brazil,” the ad said.  “But they’re not coming [to New Mexico] to ski or for Balloon Fiesta.  They’re illegal immigrants coming for drivers licenses.”  (Id.)  The Governor’s office also pointed out alarming details of New Mexico’s lenient drivers license applications, revealing that just last week five illegal aliens of East Indian descent were arrested in an attempt to get New Mexico licenses for other illegal immigrants at a charge of $6,000 a piece.  (Alamogordo Daily News, Feb. 19, 2011)

As New Mexico is one of only three states—joined by Washington and Utah—that does not require proof of legal residency to obtain a drivers license, it is a destination spot for those looking to fraud the system.  (AZ Central, Aug. 14, 2010) The state Motor Vehicle Division reports that about 83,000 foreign nationals have received New Mexico driver’s licenses, but it does not track how many are illegal aliens.  (Alamogordo Daily News, Feb. 19, 2011)  New Mexicois also home to the nation’s highest percentage of uninsured drivers, a fact that refutes the claim of the illegal alien lobby that giving driver’s licenses to illegal aliens reduces uninsured rates.  (Insurance Research Council, Jan. 21, 2009)

Congressman Carter Introduces Mandatory E-Verify Legislation

In an important step to eliminate the illegal immigration jobs magnet, Rep. John Carter (R-TX) introduced legislation last week that would make the use of E-Verify by all employers mandatory and permanent. Currently, the E-Verify program requires extensions by Congress and is mandatory only for certain federal contractors and subcontractors, and for businesses and agencies in a handful of states where the program is required by state law or executive order.

The bill (H.R.800) would require employers to verify the immigration status of both new hires and current employees using the free online E-Verify program. (§2(d)) However, the bill also provides for verification through a toll-free telephone line, stifling the open borders’ lobby argument that mandating the use of E-Verify would be overly burdensome on small or rural businesses without access to internet service. (§2(b); Washington Post, Feb. 10, 2011)

Additionally, the bill provides for the following key reforms:  

  • Increases employer fines for employing illegal aliens—quadrupling the fine for employers discovered to have hired an illegal alien three or more times. (§5(a))
  • Prohibits employers from deducting wages paid to or on behalf of an illegal alien from their gross income. (§6(a))
  • Requires the IRS to disclose to the Social Security Commissioner and Homeland Security Secretary the taxpayer identity information of employers employing illegal aliens. (§6(d)(2))
  • Requires the Social Security Commissioner to notify an individual when his or her social security number is used more than twice to report wages to the IRS prior to crediting that individual with concurrent wages from more than one employer. (§4(a))

Despite a recent GAO reportfinding the program immediately verifies 97.4 percent of newly hired employees as work eligible, opponents of E-Verify continue to argue against making it mandatory.  The ACLU argues: “E-Verify continues to burden employers, cost the government billions of taxpayer dollars, and deny Americans’ their right to work—all the while potentially subjecting them to discrimination….” (ACLU Statement to House Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement; Feb. 10, 2011)

Nonetheless, a bipartisan group of lawmakers has sponsored H.R.800 support, including Reps. Heath Schuler (D-NC), Mike McIntyre (D-NC), and Louie Gohmert (R-TX).  Upon introducing the bill, Rep. Carter said, “By the federal government’s lack of action on this issue, not only have we seen illegal immigration drive down wages and drive up unemployment, we have allowed a culture of identity theft to take root through the fraudulent use of Social Security and taxpayer id numbers. … With record unemployment we cannot continue to allow illegal immigrants to take up badly-needed jobs for legal workers.” (Rep. John Carter Press Release, Feb. 18, 2011)