U.S. Legislative Immigration Update March 1, 2010

Right Side News brings you the latest legislative updates impacting our borders and immigration policies from the Federation for Immigration Reform:

  • House to Act on Jobs Bill This Week
  • Illegal Aliens Committing Identity Fraud, Theft to Sneak Past E-Verify
  • Obama’s Top Civil Rights Prosecutor Misrepresents Hate Crimes Statistics
  • Obama Health Care Plan Silent on Immigration Issues
  • Rep. Tiahrt Introduces Bill to Prevent Illegal Aliens from Accessing SCHIP Benefits
  • State Bills Would Require School Districts to Collect Data on Foreign-Born Students 

House to Act on Jobs Bill This Week

The U.S. Senate passed Majority Leader Harry Reid’s $15 billion jobs bill last Wednesday by a 70-28 vote.  (Politico, February 24, 2010).  Reid introduced the “Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act” (HIRE Act), S.AMDT. 3310, to address the issue of jobs and the economy, but disappointed immigration reformers by leaving out any mandate that jobs created by the bill go to U.S. workers.  (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, February 22, 2010).  The bill has two major tax provisions, an exemption from payroll taxes for employers who hire new employees in 2010 and a $1,000 tax credit for employers who keep those employees for at least 52 weeks. Unfortunately, the bill does not require that these new workers be legal or that employers use E-Verify to confirm their work authorization.

Senate Republicans expressed concern that the bill did not prevent businesses from using the new tax credits to write off jobs given to illegal aliens and advocated for a verification mechanism to ensure that newly created jobs will actually go to legal American workers.  (The Hill, February 22, 2010).  Despite these concerns, Senator Reid invoked a procedural maneuver that blocked any and all amendments to the bill.  Senator Grassley specifically objected, stating, “The bill as currently written would allow employers of illegal workers to benefit from the payroll tax holiday. Now, for sure, we should correct that mistake with an amendment, but, under this parliamentary set-up, you can only offer an amendment if not a single senator objects to setting aside the existing business and replacing it with a new idea. So, the leadership posture on this bill prohibits this correction…”  (C-SPAN, February 23, 2010).  Under the Senate legislation as passed, employers who fill newly created jobs with illegal aliens or guest workers would be entitled to the same tax credits and exemptions as employers who hire out-of-work Americans. Even if the employer were subsequently prosecuted for employing illegal aliens, the employer could legitimately claim these tax benefits for hiring them.

The bill has now been sent to the House for final passage, but a vote on the measure has been postponed due to concerns from an array of Democrats ranging from members of the Congressional Black Caucus to fiscally conservative Blue Dogs.  (The Washington Post, February 26, 2010).  If House leadership opens the door for amendments in an attempt to expand the Senate bill, true immigration reformers may have the opportunity to fix the immigration issues that the Senate failed to address.   One commonsense solution would be an amendment requiring the use of E-Verify and barring employers who do not hire legal U.S. workers from receiving tax benefits. 

Stay tuned to FAIR as the House prepares to debate and vote on the jobs bill this week. 

Illegal Aliens Committing Identity Fraud, Theft to Sneak Past E-Verify

A recently released report has revealed that illegal aliens are using fraudulent methods to obtain employment with employers who are enrolled in E-Verify – the online, electronically operated system that allows employers to confirm that their new hires have established their authorization to work in the United States. The report was conducted by Westat, a Maryland-based social science research firm under contract with the federal government. According to Westat, approximately half of illegal aliens run through E-Verify are inaccurately found to be work authorized, primarily due to identity theft. (Report, December 2009).

The Westat report identified four ways that illegal aliens can obtain employment despite being screened through E-Verify: (1) obtaining valid identification documents by using fraudulent “breeder” documents; (2) using altered or counterfeit documents; (3) buying, borrowing, or stealing valid documents; and (4) looking for alternative employment where employers (a) do not check documents or (b) will provide employees with fraudulent documents containing information for workers with employment authorization. (Report, December 2009). However, the federal agency tasked with administering E-Verify – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) – is already taking numerous steps in order to fight identity fraud and theft.

The most notable of these steps is expanding the E-Verify “Photo Tool.” The Photo Tool, which was launched by the Bush Administration in September 2007, allows employers to view photographs of workers presenting green cards and employment authorization documents. (USCIS News Release, September 25, 2007). By matching a photograph in the E-Verify program with the identification a worker presents, an employer can confirm that the document has not been altered. In Fiscal Year 2010, USCIS is adding U.S. passport photographs to the Photo Tool and is working to add visa photographs. USCIS also notes that it is “close to announcing a pilot agreement with a state to add its driver’s license data, which could be a first step before adding its driver’s license photographs.”

  • Other important actions USCIS is taking to fight identity fraud and theft include:
  • Expanding the number of behaviors that USCIS monitors for misuse of E-Verify;
  • Increasing the amount of compliance assistance that USCIS provides to employers enrolled in E-Verify;
  • Creating mechanisms for locking Social Security Numbers (SSNs) detected in possible identity fraud; and
  • Deploying a self-check function to allow individuals to check their E-Verify response before they are hired, which could also allow individuals to lock and unlock their SSNs for E-Verify responses. (USCIS Synopsis, January 28, 2010).

While acknowledging that some illegal aliens are successfully gaming the system, the Westat report still resoundingly endorses the E-Verify program. It indicates that E-Verify has properly denied employment to hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens. (Report, December 2009).  In addition, USCIS points out that it’s likely that the program “deters many unauthorized workers from even applying for jobs with participating employers.” (USCIS Synopsis, January 28, 2010). The report indicates that 96 percent of all E-Verify initial responses were consistent with the person’s work authorization status. With respect to work authorized individuals, over 99 percent were initially confirmed through E-Verify. In addition, 95.2 percent of employers participating in E-Verify reported that they were satisfied with the program overall. Finally, the report notes that E-Verify reduces discrimination against foreign-born workers in the hiring process and that USCIS has taken steps to strengthen protections for workers’ privacy and civil rights. (Report, December 2009).

Despite these facts, well-known amnesty proponent Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) blasted E-Verify, calling the report “a wake-up call to anyone who thinks E-Verify is an effective remedy to stop the hiring of illegal immigrants.” (The Associated Press, February 25, 2010). However, USCIS describes E-Verify as the “best available tool to help employers determine whether their employees are authorized to work in the United States.” (USCIS Synopsis, January 28, 2010). And as Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies points out, “in the old, paper-based system, 100 percent of illegal aliens are approved.” The fact that E-Verify has properly prevented hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens from obtaining employment in the United States, Krikorian observes, “is real progress.” (The Corner, February 25, 2010).

Obama’s Top Civil Rights Prosecutor Misrepresents Hate Crimes Statistics

The nation’s top civil rights prosecutor last week blatantly misrepresented FBI crime statistics by claiming that hate crimes against Latinos are on the rise.  Mr. Thomas Perez, who took over the Justice Department’s civil rights unit for the Obama Administration, said last Wednesday, “The data and my own experience is that hate crimes are on the rise: Hate crimes against every group are on the rise.”  (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, February 25, 2010).  According to the Seattle Intelligencer, Perez then expressed particular concern that hate crimes directed at Latinos are on the rise  and that Hispanic leaders and organizations are receiving threats, in his opinion, “because they had the audacity to stand up for immigration reform.”  (Id.).  

The remarks Perez made are controversial because the most recent FBI hate crime data for 2008 directly contradict them and Mr. Perez provided no other source to back up his claims. The 2008 FBI hate crime data, released in November 2009, show that in all four categories regarding hate crimes against Hispanics, there was a significant drop from the previous year.  (FBI 2008 Hate Crimes Report).  Specifically:

  • Anti-Hispanic incidents fell 6%
  • Anti-Hispanic offenses fell 5%
  • Victims of anti-Hispanic incidents fell 4.6%; and
  • Known offenders against Hispanics fell 6.2%

In making his statement, Mr. Perez disregarded these statistics and instead cited an incident of a man sending threatening emails to leaders of the National Council of La Raza as anecdotal evidence. (Id.).  

Mr. Perez has long pledged to make prosecuting hate crimes a top priority, noting last fall that he “spent the better part of a decade prosecuting hate-crime cases.”  (The Washington Post, December 22, 2009).  Indeed, Perez served as a deputy assistant attorney general at the Department of Justice from 1988 to 1999.  He previously served as Special Counsel to the late Senator Ted Kennedy and advised him on matters related to civil rights, criminal justice, and constitutional issues.  (White House Press Release, March 13, 2009).  During his time at the Department of Justice, Mr. Perez began volunteering for CASA de Maryland, a taxpayer funded organization affiliated with the National Council of La Raza that advocates amnesty and provides assistance to illegal and legal aliens throughout Maryland.  After leaving Justice at the end of the Clinton administration he became president of CASA de Maryland’s Board of Directors in 2002. He was Maryland’s labor secretary when President Obama appointed him to the civil rights post. 

Mr. Perez’s experience as a federal prosecutor makes his statement regarding hate crime data particularly troubling. Most would assume that an experienced prosecutor would know that the latest available data does not support the charge that hate crimes against Latinos are on the rise.  This has led some to question not only the veracity of Mr. Perez’s statements, but the political motivation behind them.

Obama Health Care Plan Silent on Immigration Issues

Last week, President Obama attempted to kick-start the stalled health care debate by offering his own proposal to reform the U.S. health care system. While the White House states that the proposal “incorporates the work the House and the Senate have done and adds additional ideas from Republican members of Congress,” the president’s plan is more akin to a list of ideas rather than actual legislative text. (Proposal).  Importantly, the White House proposal is completely silent with respect to the immigration-related issues FAIR and other groups had raised concerning the House and Senate-passed health care bills.

Immigration reformers took issue with the House-passed health care bill (H.R. 3962) because it: (1) waives the five-year waiting period for legal aliens with respect to the taxpayer-subsidized affordability credits created under the legislation and (2) contains a flawed verification process that would allow illegal aliens to fraudulently obtain benefits. (See FAIR’s Legislative Analysis of H.R. 3962). There were similar problems in the Senate bill (H.R. 3590; See also FAIR’s Legislative Analysis of H.R. 3590), although the Senate bill generally bars illegal aliens from participating in the “exchange” marketplace, while the House bill does not. (See FAIR President Dan Stein’s USA Today op-ed, November 2009). It is unclear as to how President Obama’s proposal would address these issues.

Unfortunately, last week’s bipartisan health care summit did not address any of these issues, and at this point, it remains uncertain as to how the health care debate will proceed. Stay tuned to FAIR for the latest on immigration and health care reform…

Rep. Tiahrt Introduces Bill to Prevent Illegal Aliens from Accessing SCHIP Benefits

On Thursday, February 25, Congressman Todd Tiahrt (R-KS) introduced the “Reinstatement of Personal Responsibility for Immigrants Act” (H.R. 4708). H.R. 4708 would reverse several troubling changes that were made to the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) when President Obama signed the SCHIP Reauthorization bill (H.R. 2) into law in February 2009. Specifically, the Reinstatement of Personal Responsibility for Immigrants Act would require applicants for taxpayer-subsidized benefits under SCHIP to be verified through a well-established verification system that requires applicants to present documentation to establish both their identity and citizenship. In addition, the legislation would reinstate the five-year waiting period before legal immigrants could access benefits under SCHIP. Finally, the bill would require that legal immigrants who apply for SCHIP have their eligibility verified through the proven Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) system. H.R. 4708 has already garnered four co-sponsors, including Reps. Brian Bilbray (R-CA), Dean Heller (R-NV), Sue Myrick (R-NC), and Walter Jones (R-NC). (The Morning Sun, February 25, 2010).

FAIR has endorsed the Reinstatement of Personal Responsibility for Immigrants Act. In a letter to Rep. Tiahrt, FAIR President Dan Stein said the provisions in H.R. 4708 “not only help prevent illegal aliens from unlawfully accessing taxpayer-funded benefits, they enforce a long-standing policy that legal aliens should not be admitted to the United States unless they are able – with the help of their sponsors – to be self-sufficient.” (FAIR’s Endorsement Letter, February 25, 2010; The Morning Sun, February 25, 2010).

State Bills Would Require School Districts to Collect Data on Foreign-Born Students

Last week, committees in the Oklahoma and Arizona state legislatures passed landmark bills that would require school districts to collect information on the number of foreign-born students enrolled in their schools.

In Arizona, the House Government Committee last week passed HB 2382 by a vote of 6-2. (Vote Results; Arizona Capital Times, February 23, 2010). Sponsored by State Rep. Carl Seel, HB 2382 would require the Arizona Department of Education to (1) determine the number of students in Arizona public schools “who cannot prove lawful presence in the United States” and (2) provide a “verifiable, good faith estimate of the total cost” to Arizona taxpayers for providing educational services to noncitizen students generally, as well as students who were unable to prove lawful presence in the United States. (HB 2382 Legislative Text; HB 2382 Bill Summary). Similar legislation, sponsored by State Senator Russell Pearce, passed the Arizona Senate Committee on Education Accountability and Reform last week, as well. (Vote Results; SB1097 Legislative Text; SB1097 Fact Sheet). While the legislative prospects for the bills are unclear at this point, the Arizona School Administrators Association is lobbying against them because they “do[] not specify what documentation [schools] need to decide whether to count a student as a legal resident or not.” (East Valley Tribune, February 24, 2010).

In Oklahoma, the House Appropriations and Budget Committee voted unanimously last Wednesday to pass HB 3384, the “Quality of Education Assessment for Oklahoma Citizens Act of 2010.” (NewsOK, February 25, 2010). Sponsored by State Rep. Randy Terrill, HB 3384 would require every public elementary and secondary school in Oklahoma to determine, at the time of a child’s enrollment, whether the child (1) was born outside of the United States, according to his or her original birth certificate or (2) qualifies for assignment to an English as a Second Language (ESL) remedial program. (HB 3384, § 3(A)). If the school determines that the child was born outside of the United States, the child’s parent, guardian, or legal custodian must notify the school of the child’s citizenship or immigration status. (§ 3(C)). Finally, HB 3384 would require the Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction to compile an annual public report analyzing “the impacts upon the standard or quality of education provided to children who are citizens of Oklahoma that may have occurred . . . as a consequence of the enrollment of children who are not lawfully present in the United States.” ((§ 3(F)). The bill now moves to the full Oklahoma house, where its prospects are uncertain. (NewsOK, February 25, 2010).