Today’s immigration reform news as the Federation for American Immigration Reform reports the latest immigration reform actions by America the Freepolicy makers:

  1. White House, Business Privately Plot Immigration Changes
  2. TSA Allows Illegal Aliens to Board Commercial Aircraft with Deficient ID
  3. Polls Show Widespread Support for True Immigration Reform
  4. Virginia Waives Immunization Requirements for Unaccompanied Illegal Alien Minors

White House, Business Privately Plot Immigration Changes

Administration officials are now indicating that President Obama’s forthcoming unilateral actions on immigration will be broader than initially thought. Senior Obama Administration officials have been privately meeting with business groups to discuss the changes they want to legal immigration to garner more support for Obama’s decision to bypass Congress. (Politico, Aug. 18, 2014; Associated Press, Aug. 20, 2014)

Unsurprisingly, the wish list from the business lobby is extensive. First, business interests want the Obama Administration to declare that green cards not issued in previous years are still valid, what open borders advocates call the “recapturing” of green cards. (Associated Press, Aug. 20, 2014) Business advocates claim this change will immediately free up 800,000 additional green cards. (Id.) Second, they want the Obama Administration to exempt spouse/dependent green cards from the cap for employment-based green cards. Third, they want work permits extended to the spouses of all H-1B nonimmigrant visa holders, by expanding the regulation the Obama Administration proposed in May that would grant work authorization to certain dependents of H-1B workers. (Id.; see also FAIR Legislative Update, May 14, 2014) Finally, the agriculture industry wants changes to the H-2A nonimmigrant visa program for temporary farm workers. (Politico, Aug. 18, 2014)

The Obama Administration has downplayed the outreach to business groups — who typically back Republican candidates — as being a political move to protect the President from voter backlash in the midterm elections. Yet, over the past few months, Administration officials have held at least 20 meetings with companies including Cisco, Intel, Accenture, Oracle, Microsoft, and pro-amnesty business interest groups Fwd.US, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Compete America. (Id.) One source included in the meetings said the White House is “very seriously looking at a big variety of things to figure out what people think would be helpful.” (Id.) Yet, White House Spokesman Shawn Turner merely said, “The president has not made a decision regarding next steps, but he believes it’s important to understand and consider the full range of perspectives on potential solutions.” (Politico, Aug. 18, 2014)

True immigration reformer Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) criticized the closed door meetings. “The same group of CEOs who helped write the Senate’s Gang of Eight immigration bill in secret is now scheming with the White House to extract by executive fiat what was denied to them by the American people and Congress.” (Sessions Press Release, Aug. 18, 2014) “This Administration is actively working against the interests of the American worker,” Sessions charged. (Id.) Senator Sessions also called out Cisco and Microsoft for lobbying the White House for more foreign workers when the two companies have laid off a combined 24,000 workers in the past month. (Id.; see also BizJournals, Aug. 13, 2014; USA Today, July 17, 2014)

After initially vowing to “act alone” this summer, the timing of Obama’s unilateral actions is now unclear. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Aug. 5, 2014) As public opposition to the President acting alone continues to mount, White House officials are exploring holding off on making deportation changes until after the November elections. (Politico, Aug. 18, 2014) On the other hand, Obama could make the changes favored by businesses next month, which the White House believes is less controversial. (Id.)

Stay tuned to FAIR as details emerge…

TSA Allows Illegal Aliens to Board Commercial Aircraft with Deficient ID

In a letter sent to Congressman Kenny Marchant (R-TX), the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) admitted it is allowing illegal aliens to board commercial aircraft with no more than a Notice to Appear as identification. (Letter to Rep. Marchant, Aug. 7, 2014). The TSA letter confirms initial reports in July 2014 that the TSA was allowing illegal aliens to board aircraft without proper identification, which the Obama Administration denied, calling the claims “completely wrong.” (Breitbart, Aug. 22, 2014)

However, in the August 7 letter to Rep. Marchant, the TSA admitted: “If a passenger does not have an acceptable form of identification, then the passenger is allowed to present two other forms of identification. One of the two forms of identification must bear the individual’s name and other identifying information such as photo, address, phone number, social security number, or date of birth. TSA may assess a variety of government issued documents to establish passenger identity. The [Notice to Appear] form may be used along with another form of identification in this instance.” The letter continues, “If a passenger can only present a [Notice to Appear Form], TSA will attempt to establish the passenger’s identity through DHS partner Components, such as U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) or U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).” (Letter to Rep. Marchant, Aug. 7, 2014)

The National Border Patrol Council, the union that represents Border Patrol agents, could not hold back its disdain for the TSA policy, which clearly creates gaping loopholes in the security of our nation’s transportation system. Spokesman Hector Garza told reporters, “This just adds insult to injury. Not only are we releasing unknown illegal aliens onto American streets, but we are allowing them to travel commercially using paperwork that could easily be reproduced or manipulated on any home computer. The Notice to Appear form has no photo, anyone can make one and manipulate one. They do not have any security features, no watermark, nothing. They are simply printed on standard copy paper based on the information the illegal alien says is the truth.” (Breitbart, July 11, 2014) Garza continued, “We do not know who these people are, we often have to solely rely on who they say they are, where they say they came from, and the history they say they have. We know nothing about most of them, ICE releases them into the American public, and now they are boarding aircraft at will with a simple paper document that anyone can easily alter or reproduce themselves.” (Id.)

Equally disturbing, by allowing illegal aliens to board commercial aircraft with only an NTA, the TSA appears to be violating its own policy. According to the TSA website, updated August 21, 2014, the agency states that to board an aircraft, adult passengers over 18 must present a valid U.S. Federal or State-issued photo ID that contains a name, date of birth, expiration date, social security number, phone number, and a tamper-resistant feature. (TSA Frequently Asked Questions) Note, however, that the NTA contains neither a photograph of the alien, nor has any tamper-resistant features. (See Form I-862, Sample Notice to Appear) Moreover, while the TSA states that for those whose documents are lost or stolen, an individual may present two other forms of ID, yet in its letter, the TSA admits it is letting illegal aliens board with nothing more than an NTA.

Polls Show Widespread Support for True Immigration Reform

In two recent public opinion polls, large majorities of voters said they favor immigration enforcement, reduced immigration, and immigration policies that protect the American worker. (See the polling company, inc. Memo, Aug. 19, 2014; see also the polling company, inc. Slide Deck, Aug. 14, 2014) These findings came from two nationwide surveys conducted of 1,001 likely voters from July 16-20, 2014 and 1008 adults from August 7-10, 2014, jointly released last week by pollster Kellyanne Conway. (Memo at p. 1, footnote 1)

Conway’s poll found that Americans favor more immigration enforcement and reduced levels of immigration over amnesty policies. Seventy-five percent of respondents want more enforcement, including 63% of Hispanics and over 50% of Democrats. (Memo at p. 2) Most favor limiting chain migration to spouses and minor children, while 76% said adult foreign citizens who overstay their visas should not be permitted to remain in the United States. (Memo at p. 3-4) In addition, seventy percent of those polled believe most illegal aliens should be encouraged to return to their home countries rather than offered legal status in the United States. (Memo at p. 7) In addition, over two thirds of likely voters, including 64% of union members, believe that the U.S. should deny illegal aliens jobs and welfare benefits to encourage repatriation to their home countries. (Memo at p. 3)

Importantly, large majorities of those polled also indicated strong support for the American worker. Eighty-nine percent of respondents agreed that U.S.-born workers and legal immigrants already in the country should receive preference over additional immigrants who come to the United States illegally. (Memo at p. 4) Seventy-seven percent also believe U.S. born workers and legal immigrants should be given preference for jobs over new legal immigrants. (Id.) If businesses have trouble finding workers, 75% of those polled said that U.S. businesses should raise wages and improve working conditions rather than hire immigrants. (Memo at p. 8) Furthermore, eighty percent said businesses should be required to recruit and train more American workers from groups with high unemployment levels. (Memo at p. 4) Also, seventy-four percent said that the government has a responsibility to adopt immigration policies that protect unemployed or low-wage Americans from competition with illegal aliens for jobs. (Memo at p. 10)

Overall, the poll showed evidence of the increasing dominance of immigration as an issue in the minds of likely voters. A majority of those surveyed (57%) named immigration as the most or one of the three most important issues to their vote this fall. (Memo at p. 2) Pollster Kellyanne Conway said, “I have never seen immigration at the level where it is in terms of American consciousness.” (Daily Signal, Aug. 21, 2014)

Virginia Waives Immunization Requirements for Unaccompanied Illegal Alien Minors

The Virginia Department of Education (DOE) issued a memorandum last month ordering all of its 132 divisions to “immediately enroll” unaccompanied illegal alien minors into public schools even if they have not received required immunizations. (Breitbart, Aug. 14, 2014) The DOE issued the memorandum as a result of the approximately 2,850 unaccompanied illegal alien minors the federal government relocated to Virginia this year. (Id.; Office of Refugee Resettlement) According to the DOE memo, many unaccompanied illegal alien minors will be classified as “homeless,” thus enabling them to enroll without satisfying the state’s immunization requirements. (DOE Memo, Jul. 25, 2014) The memorandum specifically states:

“While a case-by-case review of each child’s circumstances upon enrolling in a Virginia public school is necessary, many of these unaccompanied children will be deemed homeless under applicable state and federal law.” (Id.)

The DOE memo further states:

“School divisions must immediately enroll homeless students, even if those students are unable to produce the records required for enrollment. In addition, division superintendents cannot exclude from school attendance those homeless children who do not provide the requisite health or immunization information required of other students.” (Id.)

The DOE’s statement that many of these unaccompanied children will be deemed homeless under applicable state and federal law is curious considering the Department of Homeland Security’s representation that the large majority of illegal alien minors are placed with parents or other relatives.

As a result of the public outrage that followed the release of the Virginia DOE memo, the DOE revised its wording to omit any mention of unaccompanied minors. (DOE Memo, Aug. 4, 2014) The edited version did, however, reiterate the requirement that schools “must immediately enroll homeless students” and must do so regardless of whether or not they are able “to produce the records required for enrollment.” (Id.)

Virginia is one of many states trying to deal with the resettlement of unaccompanied minors from Central America. (USA Today, Aug. 11, 2014) Governor Terry McAuliffe avoided commenting directly on whether immigration was impacting jobs and schools in the state during a radio interview last month. (WatchDog, Aug. 6, 2014) McAuliffe, instead, referred to the surge of illegal aliens as purely a federal issue and stated that Virginia “doesn’t have a problem.” (Id.)

Many Virginia citizens, however, have expressed serious concerns regarding the resettlement of unaccompanied illegal alien minors into the state. Virginia taxpayers spend about $10,500 per pupil per year enrolled in its public schools. (Id.) Because illegal aliens often require English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction and have other special educational needs, the cost of their education to taxpayers is frequently greater. Virginia parents have also expressed concerns regarding overcrowding in classrooms and spread of disease. (Id.)

Since October 2013, more than 62,900 unaccompanied illegal minors have been detained in the United States after illegally entering the country from the southern border. (Breitbart, Aug. 14, 2014) Officials are expecting over 37,000 unaccompanied illegal alien minors to enroll in public schools across the United States this fall. (CNS News, Aug. 14, 2014)