U.S. Legislative Immigration Update October 19, 2009

  • Congressman Gutierrez Outlines “Core Principles” of an Amnesty Bill
  • Final Version of DHS Spending Bill Contains Troubling Immigration Provisions
  • White House Uses Federal Funds to Steer Volunteers to Pro-Amnesty Groups
  • Amendment to Require Citizenship and Immigration Questions as Part of Census on Hold in Senate

Congressman Gutierrez Outlines “Core Principles” of an Amnesty Bill

On Tuesday, October 13, Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) released the “core principles” of the amnesty bill he is planning to introduce in Congress later this year. The bill will be similar to other pieces of amnesty legislation from previous sessions of Congress, including (1) several different amnesty programs aimed at legalizing the 12 million illegal aliens currently living in the United States and (2) empty promises of enforcement. (Rep. Gutierrez Press Release, October 13, 2009).

The three amnesty programs included in Rep. Gutierrez’s proposal are:

  • An amnesty for illegal alien “workers.” In Gutierrez’ own words: “We need a bill that says if you come here to hurt our communities, we will not support you. But if you are here to work hard – if you are here to make a better life for your family – you will have the opportunity to earn your citizenship.” (Gutierrez Press Release).
  • The AgJOBS amnesty. (Id.). This legislation would grant amnesty to millions of illegal alien agricultural workers and “reform” the H-2A temporary agricultural worker program to allow employers easier access to cheap foreign labor. (See FAIR’s Legislative Analysis of AgJOBS, June 17, 2009).
  • The DREAM Act amnesty. (Gutierrez Press Release). The DREAM Act (1) grants amnesty to illegal aliens who entered the country as children and have met certain minimal educational requirements and (2) reverses current federal law to allow states to provide taxpayer-subsidized in-state tuition to illegal aliens. (See FAIR’s Legislative Analysis of the DREAM Act, March 2009).

According to a new poll from Zogby International, passage of these amnesty provisions would likely result in increased illegal immigration. The Zogby poll found that 56 percent of Mexican citizens believe that granting amnesty to illegal aliens in the United States would make it more likely that people they know would go to the United States illegally. Only 17 percent thought it would make Mexicans less likely to go illegally, with the remaining 27 percent either saying that they were unsure or that an amnesty would make no difference. (Zogby, October 2009). With respect to the passage of amnesty in the United States, the opinions of Mexican citizens are important: according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), nearly 60 percent of the illegal aliens living in the United States in January 2008 were from Mexico. (DHS: Estimates of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population Residing in the United States: January 2008, February 2009).
 
The Gutierrez bill will also provide for increases in legal immigration, according to a press release from the pro-amnesty “Reform Immigration for America” coalition. According to the release, the forthcoming legislation will “[a]llocate sufficient visas to close unlawful migration channels.” (Reform Immigration for America Press Release). However, a recent report released by The New York Times indicates that this provision in the Gutierrez bill would actually open additional channels of unlawful migration. According to The Times, “the United States still has no reliable system for verifying that foreign visitors have left the country.” In fact, federal officials estimate that “40 percent of the…illegal immigrants in the United States came on legal visas and overstayed.” (The New York Times, October 11, 2009). Accordingly, Congressman Gutierrez’ plan to increase legal immigration by allocating more visas would actually exacerbate the problem of illegal immigration in the United States.

Rep. Gutierrez has yet to release actual legislative language. However, Gutierrez did state last week that he is planning to introduce his bill “sometime right after Thanksgiving.” (Congress Daily, October 14, 2009).

Stay tuned to FAIR for the latest developments concerning the Gutierrez amnesty bill.

Final Version of DHS Spending Bill Contains Troubling Immigration Provisions

On Thursday, October 15, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the final version of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spending bill. (Roll Call Vote #784, October 15, 2009). The final version of the bill, known as the Conference Report, represents the product of backroom negotiations meant to reconcile the differences between the originally-passed House and Senate versions of the legislation. FAIR has analyzed the Conference Report and identified a number of troubling immigration-related provisions:

  • As FAIR initially reported last week, Congressional Leadership deliberately eliminated from the Conference Report four common sense enforcement measures that were adopted as part of the Senate’s version of the FY2010 DHS spending bill. These measures were amendments offered by: (1) Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), which would have made E-Verify permanent; (2) Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), which would have improved the construction of the border fence by requiring fencing that will help eliminate illegal pedestrian border crossings, instead of the fencing currently under construction, which deters only vehicular crossings; (3) Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), which would have clarified that employers can use E-Verify, not only for new hires, but also for existing employees; and (4) Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), which would have blocked the Obama Administration from gutting the “no-match” rule put in place in 2008 to notify employers when their employees are using a Social Security number that does not match their name. (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, October 13, 2009). The Conference Report does reauthorize E-Verify for three years, a provision that FAIR President Dan Stein described as “the bare minimum this administration and the congressional leadership could support and still make any credible claim that they are prepared to enforce U.S. immigration laws.” (See FAIR’s Press Release, October 8, 2009).
  • Section 538 of the Conference Report grants the Assistant Secretary of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) the discretion to exempt federal contractors who work at airports from the requirement that they use E-Verify to confirm that their new hires are legally authorized to work in the United States and not illegal aliens. (See Conference Report Bill Text, page 103). If the United States has learned anything since 9/11, it is that we need more security, not less, at our airports. In fact, on August 13, 2008, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested 42 illegal aliens working at Dulles International Airport, just 30 miles west of one of the 9/11 terrorists’ targets – the Pentagon. (ICE Press Release, August 13, 2008).
  • The Conference Report also includes an amendment, sponsored by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), which was ultimately adopted as a part of the Senate version of the bill. This language reauthorizes two visa programs – which were otherwise set to expire – for an additional three years. These programs are the: (1) fraud-ridden Special Immigrant Non-Minister Religious Worker Visa Program (Office of Fraud Detection and National Security Fraud Assessment Summary, July 2006) and (2) the Conrad 30 Program, which allows foreign doctors who attend school in the United States to extend their stay if they agree to practice in medically underserved communities for three years. (See Conference Report Bill Text, pp. 139-140).
  • Finally, the Conference Report incorporates a third troubling provision in the Hatch Amendment. This language eliminates the requirement that an alien widow or widower of a deceased U.S. citizen must have been married to the citizen for a minimum of two years or face the automatic denial of a marriage-based petition for a green card application. In addition, the Conference Report grants similar relief to all aliens if any relative sponsor dies. (See Conference Report Bill Text, pp. 140-145). This provision will institute chain migration with respect to this particular area of immigration law, which will only serve to increase the number of green cards issued by the federal government.

The Conference Report will now move to the Senate, where it is expected to pass. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law.

White House Uses Federal Funds to Steer Volunteers to Pro-Amnesty Groups

As President Obama teamed up last week with former President George H.W. Bush to encourage Americans to perform more community service (Associated Press, October 16, 2009), FAIR’s staff has discovered that a search for “immigration” volunteer opportunities on the administration’s Serve.gov website – which describes itself as “your online resource for not only finding volunteer opportunities in your community, but also creating your own” (About Serve.gov) – has a distinct bias in favor of organizations that support amnesty.
 
At the Serve.gov website home page, users are prompted to “Find a Volunteer Opportunity” by entering one or more “Keywords” into a search box under the heading “What interests you?” (Serve.gov). Entering “immigration” into the search box takes the visitor to a page outside of the Serve.gov server (All for Good), where the number one result for a search conducted in Washington, D.C. is the “Trinity Amnesty Center” – an organization based just outside President Obama’s home town of Chicago. Clicking on the link for the Trinity Amnesty Center takes the visitor back to the Serve.gov website, where they discover that the Center is seeking volunteers to help “people with immigration problems.” (Serve.gov: Opportunity Sign Up – Trinity Amnesty Center).  Another organization that comes up as part of the search results on Serve.gov is CASA de Maryland. According to media reports, CASA de Maryland has  lobbied extensively to ensure that illegal aliens would be able to obtain driver’s licenses in Maryland and also worked to help illegal aliens find jobs. (New York Times, December 30, 2005).

Amendment to Require Citizenship and Immigration Questions as Part of Census on Hold in Senate

When the Senate began debate on the annual 2010 funding for the departments of Commerce, Justice and certain science programs on October 7, 2009, Senators David Vitter (R-LA) and Robert Bennett (R-Utah) filed an amendment to the “CJS” bill that would have required the Census Bureau, which is part of the Department of Commerce, to include on the census forms questions related to citizenship and immigration status.  (See H.R. 2847 and S. Amdt. 2644).
 
The Vitter-Bennett amendment said: “none of the funds provided in this Act… may be used for collection of census data that does not include questions regarding United States citizenship and immigration status.”  (S. Amdt. 2644).  During debate on his amendment, Senate Vitter stated that: “the way the census is designed, the House would be reapportioned counting illegal aliens. States that have large populations of illegals would be rewarded for that. Other States, including my home State of Louisiana, would be penalized.”  Senator Bennett stated that in “Reynolds v. Symms… the Supreme Court gave us the one man, one vote rule, which said that the districts should be close enough in population that, in effect, every voter had the same weight of representation in the House of Representatives.” Bennett also pointed out that counting illegal aliens in the Senate would “chang[e] the one man, one vote [principle] of the Supreme Court [so that] a State with a large number of illegal immigrants will see to it that its voters have greater representation than voters where the illegal immigrants are not.”  In other words, as currently structured, the Census will include illegal aliens as will the Congressional reapportionment that follows.  As a result, certain states will have more representation in Congress than they should, which will dilute the value of citizen’s votes in states which have less representation than they should.

On October 13, 2009, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) filed cloture on the “CJS” appropriations bill in an attempt to block a vote on the Vitter-Bennett amendment.  This parliamentary maneuver, however, failed as the motion to invoke cloture received only 56 of the necessary 60 votes to pass.  (To see how your Senators voted on the motion, see Roll Call Vote 320).  Unable to use cloture to block the Vitter amendment, Senator Reid stopped consideration of the CJS bill and instead moved to other legislation.  This prompted Senator Vitter to comment that Senator Reid was “going through somersaults right now to prevent there being a direct vote on this amendment because it would be very difficult for [some Democratic Senators] to vote against it.”  (The Hill, October 15, 2009).

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