U.S. Legislative Immigration Update June 1, 2009

June 2, 2009

FAIRUS.org

Right Side News Reports from the Federation for American Immigration Reform in this June 1st Legislative Weekly…

  • ICE Uncovers $6 Million Scheme to Employ Illegal Aliens in 14 States
  • New Travel Requirements Require American Citizens to Show Passport to Re-Enter U.S.
  • Congressman Seeks to End Birthright Citizenship for Children of Illegal Aliens
  • Supreme Court Nominee Sotomayor Connected to La Raza and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund

ICE Uncovers $6 Million Scheme to Employ Illegal Aliens in 14 States

ICE arrested eight individuals on May 26 on charges related to labor racketeering, forced labor trafficking, and immigration and other violations in 14 states. The arrests stemmed from an unsealed 45-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury against 12 defendants, including eight Uzbekistan nationals. (ICE Press Release, May 27, 2009; DOJ Press Release, May 27, 2009).
 
The indictment alleges that Abrorkhodja Askarkhodjaev – a citizen of Uzbekistan residing in Mission, Kansas – owned and operated a labor leasing company in Kansas City, Missouri. Through his company and a dozen other businesses, Askarkhodjaev allegedly secured fraudulent labor contracts for housekeeping, cleaning services and other duties with clients in the hotel/resort, casino and construction industries in 14 states, including: Missouri, Kansas, Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, South Carolina and Wyoming. To fulfill the contracts, the businesses allegedly used foreign nationals who either entered the United States illegally, overstayed their visas, or did not have legal authorization to reside or work in their specific locations during their term of employment. (DOJ Press Release, May 27, 2009).

The indictment accuses Askarkhodjaev and several associates of committing a long list of other crimes. These include failing to pay employment taxes; failing to pay overtime; failing to pay workers in the manner required by federal regulations; defrauding insurance companies; employing illegal aliens and threatening the illegal workers with physical harm in order to coerce them to work. In addition, DOJ alleges that Askarkhodjaev and his associates used false information in order to obtain certification and approval for hundreds of foreign H-2B workers. (Id.).
 
The indictment further alleges that Askarkhodjaev and his associates required the foreign nationals they lured to the United States to work where they assigned them, but then threatened to cancel the immigration status of aliens who refused to work as directed. The aliens were allegedly charged numerous fees and were forced to reside in exorbitantly priced apartments, which were exclusively secured and controlled by Askarkhodjaev’s businesses. These fees and expenses, combined with the lack of payment for hours worked, often resulted in the aliens receiving a paycheck with negative earnings, which was allegedly meant to ensure that the workers never made enough to repay debts, purchase transportation home, or to pay for their living expenses. (Id.). Acting U.S. Attorney Matt Whitworth described the apartments as “crowded, substandard and overpriced.” (The Kansas City Star, May 27, 2009).

Whitworth summarized the charges against the 12 individuals: “This RICO indictment alleges an extensive and profitable criminal enterprise in which hundreds of illegal aliens were employed at hotels and other businesses across the country. The defendants allegedly used false information to acquire fraudulent work visas for these foreign nationals.” (Workforce Management, May 28, 2009).  Acting special agent in charge of ICE James Gibbons noted that “the indictment alleges that this criminal enterprise lured victims to the United States under the guise of legitimate jobs and a better life, only to treat them as modern-day slaves under the threat of deportation.” ICE estimates that the scheme resulted in proceeds of at least $6 million. (ICE Press Release, May 27, 2009).

New Travel Requirements Require American Citizens to Show Passport to Re-Enter U.S.

Starting June 1, American citizens traveling to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda or any of 17 nations in the Caribbean will be required to present a valid U.S. Passport or Passport Card when re-entering the United States. (State Department Fact Sheet). The new requirements are being implemented as part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), which was created by a 2004 federal law designed to implement recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, April 2, 2008; KVOA News 4, May 28, 2009). The WHTI seeks to enhance border security through the standardization of travel documentation. (San Antonio Express, May 28, 2009).
 
Under the WHTI, U.S. citizens traveling by air must present a U.S. Passport to re-enter the U.S. when returning from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. When returning by land or sea, U.S. citizens may also present a Passport Card and certain other WHTI-compliant documents. These include:

  • Trusted Traveler Cards (NEXUS, SENTRI or FAST);
  • State Issued Enhanced Driver’s Licenses (when available);
  • Enhanced Tribal Cards (when available);
  • U.S. Military Identification with Military Travel Orders;
  • U.S. Merchant Mariner Documents when traveling in conjunction with official maritime business; 
  • Native American Tribal Photo Identification Cards; and
  • Form I-872 American Indian Cards. (State Department Fact Sheet).

In order to ease the transition, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has developed a comprehensive website to aid U.S. citizens who plan to travel to countries affected by the new WHTI requirements. (CBP – Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative).

Travelers who are unable to produce the appropriate documentation upon entering the United States will be questioned by Border Patrol officials and could potentially be sent to a Customs office for additional questioning. State Department official Melissa de la Tejera noted that “entry to the U.S. of a returning American citizen will not be refused,” and added that U.S. citizens “might experience some delays until the Border Patrol is satisfied.” (San Antonio Express, May 28, 2009).

Congressman Seeks to End Birthright Citizenship for Children of Illegal Aliens

True immigration reformers in the U.S. Congress have reintroduced legislation seeking to end birthright citizenship for children born to illegal alien parents in the United States. Authored by Congressman Nathan Deal (R-GA) and co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of 46 other Members of the House of Representatives, the Birthright Citizenship Act of 2009 (H.R.1868) would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to change the current interpretation of federal law that automatically confers citizenship to any child born in the United States regardless of the immigration status of the child’s parents. (See H.R. 1868 Legislative Text and Co-sponsor Listing).

The Birthright Citizenship Act of 2009 has received increasing attention in the media, possibly due to Rep. Deal’s announcement in early May that he intends to run for governor of Georgia. (The Associated Press, May 25, 2009; 11Alive.com, May 26, 2009; WRBL, May 27, 2009). The Birthright Citizenship Act of 2009 does not seek to amend the Constitution, but would instead amend a statute in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to clarify the interpretation of the 14th Amendment. Congressman Deal’s bill would limit birthright citizenship only to children born to at least one parent who is either: (1) a citizen or national of the United States; (2) a lawful permanent resident; or (3) actively serving in the U.S. military. The legislation would only apply prospectively and would not “affect the citizenship or nationality status of any person born before the date of the [bill’s] enactment.” (H.R.1868, April 2, 2009).
 
Congressman Deal noted that the United States is one of only a few industrialized countries who still allow birthright citizenship. While stating he was skeptical about the bill’s chances of passage, he said, “I think it’s important to keep the issues that are part of the immigration problem alive.” (The Associated Press, May 25, 2009).

For years, FAIR has argued that the original intent of this clause of the 14th Amendment was to ensure states could not deny citizenship to persons whose parents had an allegiance to the U.S. – or at least had a lawful presence in the U.S. and had therefore subjected themselves knowingly to U.S. jurisdiction. Last week, FAIR’s Communications Director Bob Dane commented to The Associated Press that Deal’s bill “is a sensible, long overdue measure that closes a clause that was never meant to be a loophole.” Dane added: “Coming into the country for the express purpose of having a child in order to anchor that child and yourself is, in effect, gaming the system.” (Id.).

Supreme Court Nominee Sotomayor Connected to La Raza and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund

Second Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor – President Obama’s nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter – has been connected to the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF). NCLR is well known in the immigration debate for its support of amnesty for illegal aliens, while PRLDEF has been involved in several immigration-related lawsuits.
 
According to a profile compiled by the American Bar Association, Sonia Sotomayor was a “member of…the National Council of La Raza” at least as recently as 2000. (American Bar Association Profile, 2000). For decades, NCLR has supported amnesty legislation, including the failed 2007 Bush-Kennedy amnesty bill, AgJOBS and the DREAM Act. NCLR also opposes the REAL ID Act, as well as cooperative state and local law enforcement efforts to help enforce our immigration laws. (See NCLR’s Immigration Issues Page).
 
Sotomayor is also a former board member of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF). (LatinoJustice PRLDEF Press Release).  Now known as LatinoJustice PRLDEF, this organization has: fought for bilingual education in public schools; sued to force the state of New York to grant in-state tuition to illegal aliens; opposed allowing employers to require English be spoken at the workplace; and filed a lawsuit to allow Mexican and Central American day laborers to seek employment in public. (See LatinoJustice PRLDEF’s “About Us” Page).

Congress is set to return from its annual Memorial Day recess this week. While it remains unclear as to how Sotomayor’s confirmation process will move forward, the Senate will begin hearings on the nomination this summer with the goal of deciding on her appointment before the Supreme Court reconvenes in October.
 ————————

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.