U.S. Legislative Immigration Update January 25, 2010

Right Side News Reports from the Federation for American Immigration Reform in this January 25th, 2010 Legislative Weekly

  • Scott Brown’s Victory in Massachusetts Demonstrates the American People Support Immigration Enforcement
  • Rep. Chaffetz Files Bipartisan Resolution in Support of True Immigration Reform
  • Homeland Security Grants Humanitarian Parole to Haitian Orphans
  • Homeland Security to Fast-Track TPS Applications for Illegal Aliens; Fraud Likely
  • Arizona and Indiana Move Forward With Immigration Enforcement Bills
  • Aliens in U.S. Military Receive Fast-Track to U.S. Citizenship 

Scott Brown’s Victory in Massachusetts Demonstrates the American People Support Immigration Enforcement

All eyes were on Massachusetts last week as the highly publicized special election for the U.S. Senate seat came to an end.  Scott Brown, the little-known Republican State Senator, defeated Democrat Martha Coakley, Massachusetts Attorney General, in an upset described as the second “shot heard ’round the world.”  (The Hill, January 19, 2010).

Although most consider health care to be the issue that nationalized this election, immigration was another reason 52% of voters in the Bay State supported Brown.  Brown’s stance on immigration clearly set him apart from his opponent. Brown summarized his position as follows:

I recognize that our strength as a nation is built on the immigrant experience in America. I welcome legal immigration to this country. However, we are also a nation of laws and government should not adopt policies that encourage illegal immigration. Providing driver’s licenses and in-state tuition to illegal immigrant families will act as a magnet in drawing more people here in violation of the law and it will impose new costs on taxpayers. I oppose amnesty, and I believe we ought to strengthen our border enforcement and institute an employment verification system with penalties for companies that hire illegal immigrants.

(Brown’s Campaign Website).  In contrast, Ms. Coakley supported amnesty for illegal aliens and, during an interview with WGBH-FM, stated “we will always have open borders.”  (New York Post, January 20, 2010).

Brown’s win will make it harder for amnesty proponents to move their agenda forward, if for no other reason than Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), a key amnesty proponent, no longer commands 60 votes needed to end a filibuster. Still, pro-amnesty forces claim that the Brown victory does not necessarily derail the President’s agenda, including “comprehensive” immigration reform.  (Immigration Impact, Jan. 20, 2010).  In fact, the Immigration Policy Center, a pro-amnesty advocacy group, claims that because Mr. Brown will face re-election in 2012 he will need to vote for amnesty in order to maintain support from Massachusetts voters. Meanwhile, FAIR president Dan Stein observed, “Tuesday’s election was the political ‘shot heard around the world,’ and any politician, anywhere in the country, who ignores the public’s unmistakable opposition to amnesty for illegal aliens, does so at his or her own peril.”  (FAIR Press Release, January 21, 2010).

Rep. Chaffetz Files Bipartisan Resolution in Support of True Immigration Reform

On Thursday, January 21, Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), along with Congressmen Duncan Hunter (R-CA), Frank Kratovil (D-MD), and Glenn Nye (D-VA), introduced a bipartisan resolution (H.Res.1026) in the U.S. House of Representatives calling on Members of Congress to support commonsense immigration reform. The resolution states that it is the sense of the House of Representatives that: (1) E-Verify should be mandatory, and that worksite enforcement policies should hold both employers and illegal employees responsible for violations of immigration law; (2) installing and sustaining border security infrastructure and manpower is a critical responsibility of the federal government; and (3) any immigration reform Congress adopts should not grant amnesty to, or confer legal status upon, illegal aliens in the United States. (H.Res. 1026, January 21, 2010).

With 12 Republicans and ten Democrats co-sponsoring the resolution, H.Res.1026 has already garnered strong bipartisan support. However, FAIR is urging our dedicated members and activists to call their elected officials and tell them to sign on as a co-sponsor of H.Res.1026 if they have not already done so. (See FAIR’s Action Alert). FAIR members can also fax their elected officials in support of the Chaffetz resolution, as well. (See FAIR’s Fax Page).

Homeland Security Grants Humanitarian Parole to Haitian Orphans

Last week, Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Napolitano announced that it will allow hundreds of Haitian orphans to enter the United States through the policy of humanitarian parole.  (DHS Press Release, January 18, 2010).  DHS will coordinate with the State Department (DOS) to provide travel documents, including immigrant visas and humanitarian parole authorizations, to Haitian orphans who are eligible for adoption in the United States.  (DHS Humanitarian Parole Fact Sheet). The legal authority to grant humanitarian parole stems from the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which grants Homeland Security the discretion to temporarily parole aliens into the United States on a case-by-case basis for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.  (INA § 212(d)(5)(A)). 

Homeland Security has currently limited humanitarian parole to Haitian orphans who fall within one of two categories:

  • Children legally identified as orphans eligible for intercountry adoption by the Government of Haiti prior to the earthquake, and who were in the process of being adopted by U.S. citizens prior to January 12, 2010.
  • Children who were identified by an adoption service provider or facilitator as eligible for intercountry adoption prior to the earthquake, and were already matched to prospective American adoptive parents prior to January 12, 2010.

It is estimated that at least 900 orphans are immediately eligible for expedited visas and evacuation.  (NPR, January 21, 2010).

There are signs, however, that the U.S. government may expand humanitarian parole to cover many more. Both DHS and DOS have stated that there are additional children who have been orphaned or separated from relatives due to the earthquake, and that the agencies will continue to evaluate additional eligibility criteria.  Id.  DHS has indicated to Congressional staff that it is already considering the expansion of humanitarian parole to these children and other Haitians, including the relatives of legal permanent residents (LPRs) living in the United States.  According to FAIR’s sources in the Senate, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has acknowledged that there is no limitation to the number of Haitian children who may receive humanitarian parole.  This is particularly remarkable in light of the fact that there were already 380,000 orphans in Haiti before the earthquake.  (Associated Press, January 21, 2010).

It remains to be seen how far the reach of humanitarian parole for Haitians will extend.  DHS spokesman Matt Chandler has said that for the untold number of those newly orphaned by the earthquake, it is important that they stay in Haiti, stating, “We remain focused on family reunification.”  (NPR, January 21, 2010).  But the categories of Haitians who will be given passage to the U.S. have already been broadened.  Last Thursday, it was reported that approximately 200 injured Haitian children will be brought to Florida for medical care, even though they do not have American adoptive parents.  (Miami Herald, January 21, 2010).  Secretary Napolitano granted humanitarian visas to these children in response to a request from Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).  Alejandro Mayorkas, the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, explained, “Medical emergency need is grounds for humanitarian parole.”  Id. 

As special interest groups lobby the government to substantially increase immigration from Haiti, many will be watching to see whether DHS’s actions are consistent with the original purpose of humanitarian parole: a policy intended to be used “sparingly to bring someone who is otherwise inadmissible into the United States for a temporary period of time due to a compelling emergency.”  (See USCIS for more information on humanitarian parole).

Homeland Security to Fast-Track TPS Applications for Illegal Aliens; Fraud Likely

Last week, troubling details emerged concerning the Obama administration’s recent decision to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Haitians present in the United States as of January 12, 2010 – the date a tragic earthquake struck the Caribbean nation. (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, January 19, 2010).  The TPS designation will allow Haitian nationals to remain in the United States for at least 18 months and grants these aliens work authorization, regardless of their immigration status. (See FAIR’s TPS Issue Brief, January 2010). Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano has stated that the administration is expecting as many as 200,000 Haitians to apply for TPS.  (The Wall Street Journal, January 16, 2010).

To receive TPS, a Haitian national will be required to prove that he or she (1) is a Haitian citizen; (2) was present in the United States prior to January 12, 2010; and (3) had not been convicted of certain serious crimes. (USCIS Fact Sheet) Typically, the TPS application process takes about six months to complete – a necessity to ensure that applicants have satisfied the requisite criteria. However, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Alejandro Mayorkas indicated last week that his agency will fast-track the screening process for Haitian TPS applicants, with the ultimate goal of delivering work permits to applicants within 90 days. (Miami Herald, January 20, 2010).  This decision to rubberstamp TPS applications will almost certainly make the program more susceptible to fraud. Mr. Mayorkas has also announced that USCIS is likely to waive TPS application fees for “financially vulnerable” Haitian nationals. (Id.). A single TPS application typically totals about $470 in fees. (USCIS Fact Sheet).  If USCIS waives the application fees for even 100,000 applicants, it would cost American taxpayers nearly $50 million.

In addition to fast-tracking TPS applications and waiving fees, USCIS also indicated last week that it will not ask applicants about their immigration status. According to USCIS district director Andrea Quarantillo, a TPS applicant’s immigration status “is really of no interest to us.” (The New York Times, January 20, 2010). Moreover, Quarantillo indicated that DHS would not rush to remove deportable Haitians who apply but fail to qualify for TPS, unless they are found to have committed serious crimes. (Id.). By failing to determine the immigration status of TPS applicants, DHS has effectively admitted that it has no plans to remove illegal Haitian aliens who benefit from TPS once the designation is lifted – if it is lifted at all. As FAIR President Dan Stein has said: “The intent of TPS was to allow people who were legally present in the U.S. to remain under circumstances where their return home is impossible. In the case of illegal aliens, they never had any intention to return home even before the earthquake struck. While deportations should be temporarily suspended, there is no reason why people who are in the country illegally should gain legal status as a result of this disaster.” (See FAIR’s Press Release).

Recent public polling indicates that more Americans oppose to inviting Haitian refugees into the United States than support such a move. According to Rasmussen Reports, 46 percent of Americans say that Haitian refugees should not be invited to live in the United States. 31 percent of Americans believe that the refugees should be invited to live here, while another 22% remain undecided. (Rasmussen Reports, January 21, 2010).

Arizona and Indiana Move Forward With Immigration Enforcement Bills

Faced with rising unemployment and the federal government’s refusal to enforce our immigration laws, state legislatures are moving to address these issues on their own. Last week, senate committees in Indiana and Arizona voted to move forward with two enforcement-oriented bills.

On January 20, 2010, the Indiana Senate Committee on Pensions and Labor passed Senate Bill (SB) 213 by a unanimous vote of nine to zero. (Roll Call Vote # 6791, January 20, 2010).  Sponsored by State Senators Mike Delph (R-Carmel), Phil Boots (R-Crawfordsville), and Dennis Kruse (R-Auburn), SB 213 would require all state agencies, municipalities, and employers that contract with state and local government entities in Indiana to use E-Verify.  SB 213 would also require the state’s Department of Labor to verify citizenship before determining eligibility for unemployment benefits and prohibit the enactment of sanctuary ordinances throughout the state.  (Senate Bill No. 213; Bill Summary; and Press Release, January 6, 2010). The bill will now move before the Senate Committee on Appropriations for further consideration. (Committee Report, January 21, 2010).

Also on January 20, the Arizona Senate Committee on Public Safety and Human Services approved SB 1070 by a vote of four to three. (Committee Meeting Video, January 20, 2010).  Entitled the “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act,” SB 1070 would prohibit Arizona police departments from adopting sanctuary policies that prevent officers from asking individuals about their immigration status. SB 1070 would also establish a new state trespassing statute that would make it illegal for any person to be present on any public or private land in Arizona in violation of federal immigration law. The bill, which has drawn support from the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association and the Arizona Police Association, must now pass the State Senate’s Rules Committee before receiving consideration before the full Senate. (The Arizona Republic, January 21, 2010). A similar bill passed the Arizona State Senate last year, but stalled in the House. (KSWT, January 20, 2010).

Aliens in U.S. Military Receive Fast-Track to U.S. Citizenship

As part of an effort to attract new recruits, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently announced the publication of a rule that allows aliens in the U.S. military to immediately apply for citizenship if they served in active-duty status for any time after September 11, 2001. (DHS Press Release, January 15, 2010). The rule also amends DHS regulations to reduce the time requirements for naturalization through military service from three years to one year for applicants who served during peacetime.  Id.  The rule formalizes a longstanding policy to expedite and streamline the citizenship process for aliens serving in the armed forces.  DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano stated that “The foundation of our national security is the patriotic service and extraordinary sacrifices made by the men and women of our armed forces.  Expediting the citizenship process for service members reflects our commitment to honoring those who come from all over the world to serve our country and become its newest citizens.”  Id 

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