US Legislative Immigration Update September 21, 2009

Right Side News Reports from the Federation for American Immigration Reform in this September 21, 2009 Legislative Weekly…

  • White House Endorses Closing Illegal Alien Health Care Loophole, Outrages Open Borders Lobby
  • Senate Health Reform Plan Released This Week
  • 2009 Hold Their Feet to the Fire a Resounding Success
  • New Report Shows Schools Increasingly Hiring Foreign Teachers Over Americans

White House Endorses Closing Illegal Alien Health Care Loophole, Outrages Open Borders Lobby

Last week, Finance Committee Chairman, Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) released a thumbnail sketch of the Senate health care bill.  While this document is merely a detailed outline, and the specifics have yet to be finalized, the Baucus outline does reference eligibility verification to prevent illegal aliens from accessing benefits, including the Senate bill’s tax credits to help pay for health insurance.  (See Chairman’s Mark).

Just three days after Rep. Joe Wilson’s (R-SC) response to President Obama’s address before Congress, the Obama Administration indicated “that verification of immigration status would be required for anyone seeking to purchase coverage” under their health care reform proposal. (The New York Times, September 11, 2009).  Five days later, Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) released a sketch of his proposal.  The position taken by President Obama and Senator Baucus last week with respect to taxpayer-funded benefits for illegal aliens is not materially different than the public position they took from May to July.  (See CBSNews, July 21, 2009; Topix, July 27, 2009; Houston Chronicle, May 21, 2009).  Accordingly, the public statements made by the President and Senator Baucus beginning in May and again last week, that illegal aliens will not receive benefits, have remained consistent.  Despite this consistency, the Baucus document, coupled with the Obama Administration’s announcement prompted outcry from open-borders lobbyists late last week.

The Baucus’ outline prompted well known anti-enforcement, open borders advocates to criticize the plan because of its inclusion of an immigration status verification requirement.  Frank Sharry, Executive Director of the pro-amnesty group America’s Voice, stated: “Quite frankly, it seems now that the politics of health care reform is to dump on immigrants even if it means bad policy.” Luis Cortés, chief executive officer of Esperanza USA, argued that the inclusion of the verification requirement indicated “that the U.S. Congress is losing its moral barometer.” (Congress Daily, September 16, 2009).  Furthermore, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) has scheduled a “national call on the state of health care reform” to discuss what people “can do to ensure that health care reform is inclusive of all communities and that the President and Congress do not throw Latinos and immigrants under the bus.” (NCLR).
 
These recent outbursts by the open-borders lobby has prompted true immigration reformers to wonder why – if the provisions of the House bill, including Section 246 which said “Nothing in this bill…shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States,” was effective – were America’s Voice and LaRaza so quiet about this issue in May and when the House bill was introduced in July?  (See FAIR’s House Health Care Bill Analysis).  The answer, of course, is obvious.  The silence from the open-borders lobby proves how truly ineffective Section 246 would have been.  The fact that these groups are so vocal today proves that the President’s statements and the Senate outline represent a giant leap forward towards the inclusion of meaningful eligibility verification to prevent illegal aliens from accessing health benefits.  While true immigration reformers still have a long way to go to realize meaningful eligibility verification, there is no doubt that the voices of the American people are finally being heard on this issue.  (To understand how FAIR and the American people made their voices heard, see FAIR’s Legislative Update, August 17, 2009 and August 24, 2009).

It is also worth noting that the anti-enforcement lobby’s opposition to any immigration status verification in a health care reform proposal is completely out-of-touch with the views of the average American and clearly outside the mainstream of public opinion. According to Rasmussen Reports, an overwhelming 83% of U.S. voters “say that people should be required to prove they are a citizen of the United States before receiving government health care subsidies.” (Rasmussen Reports, September 7, 2009). This may be because Americans understand the exorbitant health care-related costs that illegal aliens impose on American taxpayers.  For example, a media report revealed earlier this month that taxpayers in California “contribute more than $1 billion annually to cover the health care costs of illegal residents.” (The Contra Cost Times, September 11, 2009).

Senate Health Reform Plan Released This Week

Last week, Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, released a detailed outline of his committee’s health care bill.  (See Chairman’s Mark).  Baucus’ document is a “conceptual” draft and does not yet contain sufficient detail for FAIR to determine the specific details of the eligibility verification provisions in the outline and to determine whether they would prove effective to actually prevent illegal aliens from accessing benefits under the bill.

While the details still have to be completed, FAIR is initially encouraged that verification is part of the plan in the Senate.  (See page 21 of the Chairman’s Mark).  This represents a significant improvement over the House bill (H.R. 3200) which lacked eligibility verification altogether.  These initial details were also sufficient to prompt Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), an ardent amnesty supporter and member of the Senate Finance Committee, to threaten to kill the bill when it is considered by the Finance Committee.  (See The Hill, September 18, 2009).
 
According to The Hill, Menendez “is putting Democrats in a bind by seeking to let illegal immigrants benefit from the healthcare overhaul.” (Id.). While Democrats enjoy a 13-10 advantage on the Committee, the fact that Menendez’ fellow Democrat committee member, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), has said he will oppose the bill, means that Senator Menendez has become the swing vote for the committee to be able to vote out a bill. Accordingly, Menendez is now putting himself at odds with President Obama and 83 percent of the American people who support eligibility verification.

As details become available concerning the bill’s language, FAIR will keep true immigration reformers up to date.

2009 Hold Their Feet to the Fire a Resounding Success

Last week, September 15 and 16, FAIR held its annual Hold Their Feet to the Fire event in Washington, D.C. 45 of America’s finest radio talk show hosts broadcast their shows live from radio row, reaching listeners in all 48 of the contiguous states. In addition, the event brought hundreds of activists from across the country to the nation’s capital to lobby Congress in support of true immigration reform.

Dozens of Members of the U.S. Congress participated in Hold Their Feet to the Fire, including: Senators Jeff Sessions (R-AL); Ben Nelson (D-NE); Charles Grassley (R-IA); and Jim Bunning (R-KY). In addition, Members of the House of Representatives who attended included: Representatives Joe Wilson (R-SC);  Parker Griffith (D-AL); Lamar Smith (R-TX); Tom Price (R-GA); Brian Bilbray (R-CA); Jack Kingston (R-GA); Steve King (R-IA); Geoff Davis (R-KY); Louie Gohmert (R-TX); Bob Goodlatte (R-VA); Walter Jones (R-NC); Ted Poe (R-TX); Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA); Hal Rogers (R-KY); Paul Ryan (R-WI); John Carter (R-TX); Kevin Brady (R-TX); Ed Royce (R-CA); Marsha Blackburn (R-TN); Roy Blunt (R-MO); Nathan Deal (R-GA); Jason Chaffetz (R-UT); and Henry Brown (R-SC). (If any Members of Congress were inadvertently omitted from this list, we apologize.)

New Report Shows Schools Increasingly Hiring Foreign Teachers Over Americans

A report released last week by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) entitled “Importing Educators: Causes and Consequences of International Teacher Recruitment” has revealed that “some American school districts have turned increasingly to overseas recruiting to find teachers” to fill teaching vacancies. The findings in the new report raise questions regarding proper levels of legal immigration and, in particular, the H-1B visa program. (AFT Report; The New York Times, September 15, 2009).

According to the report, nearly 20,000 teachers were working in the United States on temporary visas in 2007, and that number is increasing steadily. The report contains a case study of the Baltimore Public School District and notes that the city had hired 108 teachers from the Philippines in 2005. Just two years later, more than 600 Filipino teachers are now working in Baltimore classrooms, comprising more than 10% of the district’s teaching workforce. The report went on to assert that Baltimore school officials were leaning so heavily on these foreign teachers to fill job vacancies in their district that they were recruiting less aggressively in the United States: “Rather than attending job fairs throughout the Mid-Atlantic, trying to persuade reluctant American teachers to accept positions in troubled inner-city schools, HR officials can meet all their hiring needs in one trip. At a single career fair in Manila, they can interview hundreds of pre-screened applicants, each of whom is eager to pay for the opportunity to work in Baltimore city schools.” (Id.).

The AFT’s findings imply that international teacher recruitment is displacing American teachers. Amid the current economic recession, declining tax revenues have forced many state and local governments to lay off teachers. (The Wall Street Journal, February 3, 2009). Why, then, are school districts across the country increasingly recruiting foreign teachers to come to the United States to fill teaching vacancies? The AFT report suggests a possible answer: in one school district, foreign born teachers were “paid only $18,000 per teacher for their services, well below prevailing wage.” (AFT Report).

The AFT report also points out that many foreign teachers are being brought to the United States on H-1B visas. The H-1B visa program allows employers to bring foreign workers to the United States to work in specialty occupations that require “the theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent in the specific specialty.” (Department of Labor). However, some – most notably Bill Gates of Microsoft – have put forth the misconception that the H-1B program exists primarily to bring foreign workers to the United States to work in technology-related fields. Gates has then leveraged this misconception to lobby Congress to increase the H-1B visa cap so that companies such as Microsoft can have access to more cheap foreign labor. (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, March 24, 2008).

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