U.S. Legislative Immigration Update November 9, 2009

Right Side News Reports from the Federation for American Immigration Reform in this November 9, 2009 Legislative Weekly

  • House Leadership Sides with Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Health Care Bill, Passes Bill With Illegal Alien Coverage Loophole
  • Senate Democrats Block Vitter/Bennett Census Amendment
  • Vulnerable Democrats Tell Leadership to Avoid Amnesty in 2010
  • True Immigration Reformers Win Statewide Elections in Virginia

House Leadership Sides with Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Health Care Bill, Passes Bill With Illegal Alien Coverage Loophole

Last week, the latest House health care bill (H.R. 3962) raised a number of concerns over the direction the bill was taking with respect to immigration policy.  Earlier this summer, FAIR had raised concerns over the language of the bill with respect to Section 342(d), which would waive the current 5-year waiting period before legal aliens can access the affordability credits under the bill.  (See FAIR’s Cost Analysis).  FAIR also led the national debate over the loopholes that existed in the earlier House bill, H.R. 3200, that would allow illegal aliens to access the benefits under the bill.  (See FAIR’s Legislative Analysis of H.R. 3200 and FAIR’s Legislative Update, August 17, 2009).

As detailed in a new analysis by FAIR, the latest House bill contains many of the same problems as the earlier bill.  (FAIR’s Legislative Analysis of H.R. 3962).  Section 342(d) of the new House health care bill contains identical language to the earlier bill and waives the 5-year waiting period.  In addition, FAIR’s new analysis explains how the verification process in the new bill is so flawed that illegal aliens will still be able to fraudulently claim benefits under the bill.

These flaws in the bill prompted FAIR’s President Dan Stein to state: “If powerful special interests prevail, the final version of a health care reform bill will have been used to transform immigration policies as aggressively as it was used to transform the U.S. health care system itself.”  (FAIR’s Press Release, November 4, 2009).  When the full implications of these provisions in the House bill came to light, several Members of Congress agreed to file amendments with the House Rules Committee in an effort to have the House consider amendments on the floor to correct the immigration problems with the bill.  True immigration reformers Reps. Nathan Deal (R-GA), Joe Wilson (R-SC) and Dean Heller (R-NV) filed an amendment with the Committee to ensure that the bill maintained the current 5-year waiting period. Additionally, the Deal-Wilson-Heller amendment sought to reform the bill to include a workable verification system that would protect the American taxpayers.  In addition, Rep. Steve King filed an amendment to ensure that illegal aliens would be unable to participate in the taxpayer-funded health care exchange to buy discounted health insurance.  

FAIR and our thousands of loyal activists pushed House leadership and Members of the Rules Committee to help shepherd these amendments through Committee. FAIR issued an action alert on Thursday, and Dan Stein sent a letter to members of the Rules Committee urging the committee to permit these key amendments a vote on the floor.  The Rules Committee began its meeting on Friday afternoon and finished their work after midnight on Saturday morning. 

By a vote of 6 to 4, the committee reported the “rule” for the House bill, which established the time for debate and determined which amendments could be considered on the House floor.  The rule capitulated to the demands of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus by blocking each of the key immigration amendments supported by FAIR from any consideration on the House floor.  (See H.Res. 903). Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) made a motion to make the Deal-Wilson-Heller amendment in order – which would have guaranteed that the amendment would get an up or down vote on the House floor – but her motion was defeated by a vote of 4 to 6.  The motion was defeated on a party line vote with all four Republicans on the committee voting for the motion and six Democrats on the committee – Reps.  James McGovern (MA), Alcee Hastings (FL), Dennis Cardoza (CA), Michael Arcuri (NY), Ed Perlmutter (CO), and Jared Polis (CO) – voting against the Foxx motion (Chair Louise Slaughter (NY) did not vote).  See Rules Committee Report No. 111-330, Record Vote No. 278 on page 6 of the Report).

On Saturday, the rule was adopted on the House floor by a vote of 242 to 192.  (Roll Call Vote 882).  The adoption of the rule eliminated any chance that the House would consider any immigration related amendments to the bill.  During debate on the bill, Rep. Nathan Deal stated the following: “make no mistake about it, illegal aliens will receive government-funded health care under this because all they are required to show is a Social Security number and a name. There is no way to prevent the same Social Security number from being used by numerous individuals, and there is no requirement that a picture ID be produced in order to prove that the person is in fact the name that appears on the Social Security card. If you think identity theft is a problem now, just wait until this bill passes.”  (Congressional Record, November 7, 2009, H12836).  The House later passed H.R. 3962 – without any fixes to the immigration problems contained in the bill – by the slimmest of margins:  a vote of 220 to 215.  (Roll Call Vote 887).

Senate Democrats Block Vitter/Bennett Census Amendment

On Thursday, November 5, all 60 Senate Democrats voted to shut off debate on the Fiscal Year 2010 spending bill for the Departments of Commerce, Justice and certain federal science programs. This vote effectively blocked the Senate from voting on an amendment offered by Senators David Vitter (R-LA) and Robert Bennett (R-UT) that sought to require the Census Bureau to include questions about citizenship and immigration status in next year’s decennial census. (Associated Press, November 5, 2009).

As FAIR has previously reported, this was not the first time the Senate voted to shut off debate on the so-called “CJS” spending bill. On October 13, 2009, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) filed “cloture” on the CJS bill in an attempt to block the Vitter/Bennett amendment from receiving a vote. This parliamentary maneuver, however, failed, as the motion to invoke cloture received only 56 of the necessary 60 votes to pass. (Roll Call Vote #320, October 13, 2009). After this original attempt to block the Vitter/Bennett amendment failed, Reid pulled the bill from the Senate floor. (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, October 19, 2009). On November 5, Reid once again brought the bill to the floor and promptly filed a second cloture motion. This time, Reid’s procedural maneuvering worked: all 60 Senate Democrats voted for the motion, effectively blocking the amendment from receiving a vote. The vote was entirely along party lines, with 39 Republicans voting against Reid’s cloture motion, and one Republican, Senator John McCain (R-AZ), not voting. (Roll Call Vote #335, November 5, 2009).  

The U.S. Constitution requires that the government conduct a census every 10 years to determine the nation’s population. The results of the census are used to allocate Congressional seats to each state and, according to the census bureau, to determine how nearly $400 billion is allocated in federal spending every year. According to data compiled by Senator Vitter’s office, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania and South Carolina each stand to lose a Congressional seat after the 2010 census. These seats are ultimately going to be re-dispersed to four states with exceptionally high illegal alien populations: California, Texas, Illinois, and New York. This means that these four states with large illegal alien populations will receive more than their fair share of federal funding and representation in Congress at the expense of nine other states.

The Vitter/Bennett amendment would have laid the groundwork for reforming how Congressional seats are apportioned by disregarding illegal aliens and other non-citizens so that they are no longer able to affect both the outcome of U.S. elections and the dispersal of funding for certain federal programs. The question that true immigration reformers are asking, then, is why did Senate Democrats from the nine states that stand to lose federal dollars and representation in Congress vote to block the Vitter/Bennett amendment? The following is a list of ten Democratic Senators from the nine states listed above, all of whom voted to block the Vitter/Bennett amendment: Evan Bayh (Indiana); Tom Harkin (Iowa); Mary Landrieu (Louisiana); Carl Levin (Michigan); Debbie Stabenow (Michigan); Kay Hagan (North Carolina); Jeff Merkley (Oregon); Ron Wyden (Oregon); Robert Casey, Jr. (Pennsylvania); and Arlen Specter (Pennsylvania). (Roll Call Vote #335).

Vulnerable Democrats Tell Leadership to Avoid Amnesty in 2010

On Wednesday, November 4, The Hill ran an article indicating that moderate Congressional Democrats who may be vulnerable in the upcoming 2010 midterm elections “want their leaders to skip the party’s controversial legislative agenda for next year to help save their seats in Congress.” The Hill noted that these vulnerable Democrats “don’t want to be forced to vote on…immigration reform…which they say should be set aside so Congress can focus on jobs and the economy.” (The Hill, November 4, 2009). These comments all reflect the feelings of the American people who, with the national unemployment rate now above ten percent for the first time in 26 years (Bureau of Labor Statistics, November 6, 2009), are adamantly opposed to “comprehensive immigration reform” – Democratic Leadership’s euphemism for granting amnesty to millions of illegal aliens.

The Hill article quoted several Democrats who may be vulnerable in 2010 as expressing reluctance with taking up amnesty legislation with the economy and unemployment in its current state. Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) stated: “[T]he most important issue in front of us is the economy right now, and that’s where most of us really want to stay focused, the economy and jobs, that’s what our constituency is concerned about.” Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-NC), a moderate Democrat who is considering challenging Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) in 2010, said that “[t]hree things ought to be the top priority: jobs, jobs and jobs.” Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN) echoed Etheridge’s sentiments: “[J]obs should be our top priority and we shouldn’t do anything that detracts from that.” (The Hill).

The Hill piece noted that “[s]ome Democrats are worried the [Democrats’] ambitious agenda could make winning reelection [in 2010] that much harder,” adding that “[o]ne Democratic senator facing election in a Republican-leaning state said he does not want to see the issue of…immigration reform…on next year’s agenda.” The article went on: “A group of vulnerable Democratic lawmakers see…immigration reform as [a] desperation pass[] down the length of the political playing field. They acknowledge that healthcare reform may very well pass, but they say…immigration reform [has] dim prospects.” (Id.).

The Democrat leading the charge for amnesty in the Senate, however, does not appear to sympathize with the concerns of his colleagues. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Immigration Subcommittee, told reporters on Tuesday, November 3 that amnesty “is still on the agenda for the 111th Congress.” The Hill noted that “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has called immigration reform his No. 3 priority after healthcare reform and global climate change legislation.” (Id.). It is curious that Reid, who is also up for re-election in 2010, has chosen to place such an emphasis on amnesty: Data released by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics in October indicate that the unemployment rate in Reid’s home state of Nevada is one of the highest in the country at 13.3 percent. (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

True Immigration Reformers Win Statewide Elections in Virginia

On Tuesday, November 3, a group of three true immigration reformers won statewide races for public office in the state of Virginia. While immigration was not a major factor in any of these races, the three candidates who won on Tuesday have staked out pro-enforcement positions on several immigration-related issues.

Former State Attorney General Bob McDonnell beat State Senator Creigh Deeds to become the commonwealth’s next governor. In a September 4 interview with the Washington Examiner, McDonnell indicated that he supported 287(g) – the federal program that allows federal officials to train state and local law enforcement agencies in the enforcement of federal immigration law. McDonnell indicated that he supported expanding the program statewide: “I have urged [current] Governor Kaine for one and a half years to enter into [the] partnership. It would be a proper and limited tool to help us enforce the law.” On the other hand, McDonnell’s opponent (Deeds) indicated that he would oppose a statewide expansion of 287(g). (Washington Examiner, September 4, 2009).

In addition to McDonnell, two other pro-enforcement candidates won statewide elections in Virginia. Bill Bolling was re-elected as the state’s Lieutenant Governor. In a July 2007 op-ed published in the Richmond-Times Dispatch, Bolling expressed opposition to amnesty and benefits for illegal aliens, and support for immigration enforcement measures, including enhanced border security and the 287(g) program. (Richmond-Times Dispatch, July 8, 2007). In addition to Bolling, pro-enforcement candidate Ken Cuccinelli was elected to serve as Virginia’s next Attorney General. Cuccinelli has said that he is “committed to passing legislation that removes the economic incentives that encourage illegal immigration.” In addition, Cuccinelli has opposed in-state tuition for illegal aliens, and supports requiring state contractors to use E-Verify, the online, electronically operated system that allows employers to quickly and easily ensure that their new hires are legally authorized to work and not illegal aliens. (See Cuccinelli’s Immigration Page). 

This past Tuesday marked a significant victory for true immigration reformers in the Commonwealth of Virginia