US Legislative Immigration Update May 4, 2009

May 4, 2009
FAIRUS.org

Right Side News Reports from the Federation for American Immigration Reform in this May 4th Legislative Weekly…
 

  • With New Enforcement Guidelines, is DHS Signaling a Return to Catch and Release?
  • May Day Marches Renew Push for Amnesty, Open Borders
  • Despite Greenspan’s Testimony in Support of Amnesty & Illegal Immigration, Senate Hearing Still Fails to Make the Case for Amnesty
  • Utah Employer Praises E-Verify, Says Using it Helps His Business

This report has been provided by Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and their searchable database of indepth resources are available on their website www.fairus.org /

With New Enforcement Guidelines, is DHS Signaling a Return to Catch and Release?

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) last Thursday issued new worksite enforcement guidelines for all of its agents in the field – guidelines that cause concern among immigration reformers.  The new guidelines came as no surprise, given that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano had indicated after the successful enforcement action in Bellingham, Washington that her department would be reexamining ICE’s procedures more closely.  (FAIR Legislative Update, April 6, 2009).  After ICE released the illegal aliens apprehended as part of the Bellingham enforcement action, the aliens were given work authorization pending legal action against their employer.  (Seattle Times, March 31, 2009).

The guidelines focus on the need to criminally prosecute employers who hire illegal workers, calling it “a priority of ICE’s worksite enforcement program and interior enforcement strategy.” They do not, however, offer anything new in the way of substance with respect to enforcement against employers. Rather, they state that ICE offices should utilize “the full range of reasonably available investigative methods and techniques” and “consider the wide variety of criminal offenses that may be present in a worksite case.”

With respect to illegal workers, the guidelines indicate the agency is still committed to some form of worksite enforcement.  They state: “Arresting and removing illegal workers must be part of a strategy to deter unlawful employment, but is alone insufficient as a comprehensive worksite enforcement strategy.”  However, immigration reformers are concerned that the guidelines also indicate that Homeland Security intends to release the illegal aliens found at worksites, risking that they will abscond before removal.  In particular, the memo states “ICE will continue to fulfill its responsibility to arrest and process for removal illegal workers encountered during worksite enforcement operations.”  (Emphasis added).  Processing for removal, however, could simply mean releasing the illegal aliens and giving them a notice to appear in court on a certain day to begin removal proceedings.  Such a practice would be tantamount to reinstating the catch and release policy – a Border Patrol policy that was widely criticized as ineffective and counterproductive, and which was ended in 2005.  (FOXNews, October 18, 2005). 

Moreover, the guidelines call into question whether illegal alien workers will be arrested in the first place.  The guidelines generally require ICE offices to obtain indictments, search warrants, or a commitment from the Department of Justice to prosecute the employer before arresting the illegal workers for civil immigration violations.  This places a significant burden on ICE offices because federal prosecutors will be unlikely to commit to prosecuting a case before reviewing all of the evidence that would come to light through an enforcement action.

Finally, the new worksite enforcement guidelines are generating concern among immigration reformers because of what they omit-namely any mention of targeting and arresting illegal alien workers who have committed either the crime of felony identity theft or identity fraud.  Using a Social Security number that is not yours, including stealing another person’s Social Security number, whether for employment purposes or otherwise is a felony.  (42 U.S.C. 408(7)(B)).  Each year, more than 9 million people in the U.S. pay taxes using the wrong Social Security number, and while some of these cases involve innocent mistakes like a clerical error, “many – if not most – of the 9 million mismatches are [illegal] immigrants using the wrong SSN.”  (MSNBC RedTape Chronicles, March 31, 2006).  The failure of ICE to mention the importance of targeting and aggressively prosecuting these crimes is significant.  It further suggests that the Obama Administration considers illegal immigration a victimless crime, despite that in one survey of victims of identity theft generally (not just employment-based theft) reported: trouble getting a loan (47%); paying higher interest and credit rates (19%); higher insurance rates (16%); and having trouble finding a job of their own (11%).  (SpamLaws.com).

At least one open borders organization – the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) – has issued a press release critical of the government’s new enforcement policy, saying it does not do enough to address the needs of illegal workers, including providing access to legal protections for workers who are victims of employer misconduct.  (ImmigrationProf Blog, April 30, 2009).  NILC’s Executive Director Marielena Hincapié said, “It is simply unacceptable that these ‘new’ guidelines are the administration’s response to the millions of people demanding rational and humane immigration policies.” She added, “This new guidance sends a strong message to the millions of Latinos who voted for change when they elected President Obama that this administration is not serious about change and protecting the rights of workers.” (Id.).

May Day Marches Renew Push for Amnesty, Open Borders

Proponents of amnesty for illegal aliens and other open-border immigration policies took to the streets on Friday, May 1 to voice their support for comprehensive immigration reform.  These organized marches, which occurred simultaneously in several cities throughout the United States, had been timed to coincide with the White House’s announcement about beginning the amnesty dialogue in May.  (The Pilot, April 14, 2009; and Fox News, April 8, 2009).

Last week’s amnesty rallies were smaller in scale than similar rallies that took place in 2006 when the 109th Congress first considered amnesty.  The 2006 rallies featured tens of thousands of individuals who favored granting amnesty to the millions of illegal aliens in the United States, but also economic and other benefits for the illegal alien community.  (CNN, April 10, 2006; and CNN, May 1, 2006). 

Last week’s rallies, however, were smaller in scale and lacked attendance.  Prior to the rallies, organizers downplayed attendance expectations, citing public health concerns over the swine flu, while others suggested that amnesty supporters were afraid of taking a day off from work given the current recession.  (NBC Chicago, April 1, 2009).  Clarissa Martinez of the National Council of La Raza said despite the fact that health officials had not advised organizers to cancel the rally, organizers were “monitoring the situation.”  (Associated Press, April 30, 2009).   The tone of one amnesty supporter, who was involved in previous rallies, suggested that turnout may have been due to a lack of motivation on the part of illegal aliens: “We marched.  We voted.  We went through the process of citizenship … and we don’t see [any] change so far.”  (The Chicago Tribune, April 30, 2009).

Media outlets also remarked on the low turnout for the rallies.  In Los Angeles, “hundreds of immigration rights advocates marched through downtown on Friday, but crowds appeared much smaller than in previous May Day demonstrations….”  (Silicon Valley Mercury News, April 1, 2009).  According to the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) spokesman, Officer Bruce Borihanh, the department made no estimates of the size of Friday’s demonstrations. “We left all crowd estimates to the organizers,” Borihanh said, noting that “the organizers specifically asked us to do that.” (Id.).  Participation was also low in Chicago, with just 2,000 people participating in the rally, down from the 150,000 who participated in 2007. (NBC Chicago).  It was also estimated that a noon rally in downtown Santa Ana, California drew around 150 people. (Silicon Valley Mercury News). 

Despite Greenspan’s Testimony in Support of Amnesty & Illegal Immigration, Senate Hearing Still Fails to Make the Case for Amnesty

Last Thursday, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) held a Judiciary subcommittee hearing entitled: “Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2009, Can We Do It and How?”  (See FAIR Legislative Update, March 27, 2009).  True immigration reformers know that “comprehensive” reform is Congressional-speak for amnesty.  The hearing failed to make the case for amnesty, despite the fact that the witness list was packed with supporters of amnesty and supporters of a massive guest-worker program to import foreign workers.  The lone witness who supported immigration enforcement was Kris Kobach, a true immigration reformer.  (Stein Report, April 29, 2009).  Kobach is a national expert on constitutional law and is affiliated with the Immigration Reform Law Institute; his previous experience includes advising Attorney General John Ashcroft on immigration matters.

Headlining the witness panels was former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.  Greenspan began his testimony by acknowledging that the “notion of rewarding with permanent resident status those who have broken our immigration laws does not sit well with the American people.” (Prepared Testimony of Alan Greenspan, April 30, 2009).  Greenspan also cited a poll that concluded that two-thirds of the American people “would like to see the number of illegals decreased.”  (Id.). 

Despite his own assessment of public opinion, Greenspan sat before the Judiciary Committee of the United States Senate and advocated for a temporary guest-worker program so that employers could import cheap labor.  Greenspan said his recommendation was based on his conclusion that illegal immigration had benefitted the economy, had not reduced the wages of American workers, and that it was a “flexible component of our workforce, often a safety valve” for employers.  Despite such sweeping statements, Greenspan failed to cite any economic data or statistics that supported his testimony or to discuss why the existing guest worker programs (for agricultural workers, low-skilled workers, nurses, doctors, or other purportedly skilled workers) that allow employers to import hundreds of thousands of foreign workers each year were insufficient to meet demand. (Id.). 

In addition to supporting a new guest worker program, Greenspan reiterated his support for expanding efforts to import high skill labor because it helped reduce American workers’ wages.  Greenspan testified that lifting caps on certain categories of immigrants “would lower [those] wage premiums” which allow highly skilled, highly educated Americans to earn a higher salary.  Greenspan decried that immigration limits “[shield America’s] skilled labor force from world competition.”  (Wall Street Journal, April 30, 2009 and IT World, April 30, 2009). Thursday’s testimony was consistent – if not as clear – as Greenspan’s previous statement that America’s “skilled wages are higher than anywhere in the world.  If we open up a significant window for skilled workers, that would suppress the skilled-wage level….”  (Boston Globe, March 14, 2007).

Another witness included Montgomery County, Maryland Chief of Police J. Thomas Manger, representing the Major Cities Chiefs’ Association, whose Board of Directors and Officers from the U.S. are exclusively comprised of law enforcement officials from sanctuary cities.  (See Judicial Watch, April 23, 2009).  In his testimony, Chief Manger argued against the very successful, and voluntary, 287(g) program.  287(g) provides state and local law enforcement agencies with training to enforce immigration laws.  Manger objects to the federal program because he does not believe it to be the best allocation of resources for his department.  Both Manger and Senator Schumer described the 287(g) program as an “unfunded mandate,” despite the fact participation in the program by state and local agencies was neither mandatory, nor unfunded.  

The remaining witnesses at the hearing were also amnesty advocates. They included: Dr. Joel Hunter; Eliseo Medina, the Vice-President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU); and Doris Meissner, Senior Fellow at the Migration Policy Institute and former Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).  Each of these witnesses have supported previous attempts to enact amnesty.  As one media outlet concluded about the hearing: “If past is prologue, with Mr. Schumer crafting immigration reform expect amnesty and a policy that may ultimately hurt America.  Why? Because Senator Schumer’s early leadership role to fix America’s immigration system [in 1986] arguably contributed to the broken system that afflicts America today.” (Canada Free Press, April 30, 2009).

Utah Employer Praises E-Verify, Says Using it Helps His Business

A Utah employer who uses E-Verify spoke out in support of the program last week, saying that customers called him because he advertised that he participates in the program.  Larry Morrison of St. George, Utah – owner of Morrison Insulation LLC – told a city council forum that his company “gets ‘two jobs a week’ just by advertising that it uses E-Verify to check its employees’ work status,” and argued that “more businesses should use the system.” (The Spectrum, April 30, 2009). The fact that small businesses see a public relations benefit through the use of E-Verify undermines the claims of big-business, special- interest groups that argue that the work eligibility verification system places a burden on businesses.

Mr. Morrison’s comments came less than two weeks after the Obama Administration announced its decision to yet again delay a rule that would require most federal contractors to use E-Verify. This announcement was the second time the administration delayed the rule’s implementation. (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, April 20, 2009).  The rule was originally set to take effect in January, but the Bush Administration caved to a coalition of special interest groups – including the Chamber of Commerce – who sued to stop the rule from taking effect as scheduled.  (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, January 12, 2009).

The Chamber, which claims to be the “voice of business” on its website, has said in its online magazine that requiring federal contractors to use E-Verify “would have made it more difficult for employers to hire new workers and keep existing ones.” (U.S. Chamber Magazine, March 2009). As a real business owner, Mr. Morrison’s recent statement that his company “gets ‘two jobs a week’ just by advertising that it uses E-Verify” and his recommendation that “more businesses should use the system” both seem to conflict with the Chamber’s position. (The Spectrum, April 30, 2009).

Recent efforts to pass a long-term reauthorization of the E-Verify have fallen short in Congress, leaving the program vulnerable to the administration and certain Members of Congress using it as a bargaining chip in attempts to pass amnesty for illegal aliens. During conference committee negotiations on the economic stimulus bill in February, Congressional leadership stripped two E-Verify related amendments from the final version of the legislation signed into law by President Obama. (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, February 17, 2009). One of these amendments, sponsored by Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA), would have reauthorized E-Verify for four years. (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, January 26, 2009). Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) later attempted to attach an amendment reauthorizing E-Verify for six years to the Omnibus Appropriations stopgap funding measure that the Senate debated in March, but that effort was shot down on a 50 – 47 vote. (Roll Call Vote, March 10, 2009).
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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.

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