Breaking immigration reform news as the Federation for American Immigration Reform reports the latest immigration reform news policy makers:
- Obama Vows to Implement Amnesty Through Executive Action
- President Obama Seeks Authority to Speed Deportations of Illegal Minors
- Boehner Tells Obama No Vote on Immigration This Year
- Murrieta Protest Halts Transfer of Illegal Aliens
- DHS Secretary, Lawmakers Make Visits to Border
- New York City Council Grants Illegal Aliens ID Cards
Obama Vows to Implement Amnesty Through Executive Action
Standing before the White House press corps in the Rose Garden last week, President Obama vowed to use his executive powers to unilaterally implement an amnesty for illegal aliens. (Obama immigration remarks, June 30, 2014)
The President suggested he was forced into this position by the unwillingness of House Republicans to pass “comprehensive” immigration reform. In particular, he noted that in a conversation days earlier, House Speaker John Boehner had informed him that the House would not vote on immigration for the rest of the year. (See also Boehner Press Release, June 30, 2014) The President called the House’s refusal to take up the Senate bill, S. 744, a “year of obstruction” and said that their failure to “pass a darn bill” has meant no opportunity for the 12 million illegal aliens to “come out of the shadows and earn their citizenship” and “fewer resources to strengthen our borders.” (Obama immigration remarks, June 30, 2014)
President Obama also used the speech to dismiss criticism of his policies, such as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, that have caused the surge. To the contrary, Obama insisted that the claim he has exceeded his executive authority “makes no sense” and that our “broken” immigration system is the problem because “folks don’t know what the rules are.” (Id.) “I don’t prefer taking administrative action,” Obama insisted. (Id.) But, he declared, “America cannot wait forever for [House Republicans] to act. And that’s why, today, I’m beginning a new effort to fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own, without Congress.” (Obama immigration remarks, June 30, 2014)
Obama outlined two initial steps he had taken as part of this immigration “fix.” First, he announced he had directed Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder to shift resources from the interior to the border, presumably to somehow address the surge of illegal alien minors flooding into Texas. (Obama immigration remarks, June 30, 2014) Second, the President said he had asked Johnson and Holder to identify additional actions by the end of the summer that his administration can unilaterally take to “do what Congress refuses to do.” (Id.) The President indicated he will adopt these recommendations “without further delay.” (Id.)
Amnesty advocates applauded the President’s announcement of unilateral action. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) praised Obama for “protect[ing] families from being torn apart” as “Boehner has made it absolutely clear that he won’t lift a finger to fix our broken immigration system.” (Los Angeles Times, June 30, 2014) Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) added, “The antidote for do-nothingism is doing something… This is the president I voted for.” (New York Times, June 30, 2014)
Republican Members of Congress criticized Obama for implementing amnesty by executive fiat. Senate Judiciary Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said, “Just because the legislative branch may not act on immigration reform this year doesn’t mean the President can do an end around Congress and act unilaterally by signing executive orders that do nothing to fix the underlying problem.” (Grassley Press Release, June 30, 2014) House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) charged, “President Obama refuses to take any responsibility for our broken immigration system: he created the crisis at the border and he has many tools at his disposal to fix it.” (Goodlatte Press Release, June 30, 2014) Goodlatte added that Obama’s unilateral actions “will only worsen the crisis at the border and will further undermine Americans’ faith in the President’s ability to lead.” (Id.) Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) said it is “laughable that President Obama now is trying to point the finger at House Republicans. We’re the ones who have been calling for border security rather than amnesty.” (Smith Press Release, June 30, 2014) “If the President insists on enacting amnesty by executive order, he will undoubtedly face a lawsuit and will find himself, once again, on the wrong side of the Constitution and the law,” Smith warned. (Id.)
Similarly, FAIR blasted President Obama for his abuse of executive authority to implement his backdoor amnesty agenda. “Rather than take responsibility for an illegal immigration crisis brought about by his administration’s defiant refusal to enforce our nation’s immigration laws, President Obama attempted to shift the blame to House Republicans for refusing to pass legislation that would provide even greater inducements for more people to violate our immigration laws,” charged Dan Stein, FAIR’s president. (FAIR Press Release, June 30, 2014) “Most importantly, the president said nothing in his Rose Garden speech about sending a clear signal that we will enforce our laws and return people who have no viable claim to be admitted,” Stein added. (Id.)
President Obama Seeks Authority to Speed Deportations of Illegal Minors
The same day he gave a speech in the White House Rose Garden repudiating House Republicans for not passing “comprehensive” immigration reform, President Obama also sent a letter to Congressional leaders requesting their help to speed the deportation of illegal alien minors flooding across the southern border. (WhiteHouse.gov, June 30, 2014) In the letter, the President asked Congress to pass policy changes and provide additional funding to help stem the crisis.
Regarding policy changes, President Obama requested that Congress:
Provide the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) “additional authority to exercise discretion in processing the return and removal of unaccompanied minor children from non-contiguous countries like Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador”; and
Increase penalties smugglers of “vulnerable migrants,” including children. (WhiteHouse.gov, June 30, 2014)
With respect to appropriations, the President asked Congress to provide the Departments of Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, and Justice additional funding that would fund:
“An aggressive deterrence strategy” to remove and repatriate recent border crossers;
“A sustained border security surge,” including the “interdiction and prosecution of criminal networks”;
“A significant increase in immigration judges,” reassigned to adjudicate cases of recent border crossers, and the establishment of corresponding facilities to expedite the processing of such aliens;
“A stepped up effort” to work with Central American governments to repatriate and reintegrate returned aliens, address the root causes of migration, and communicate the realities of these dangerous journeys; and
The resources necessary to appropriately detain, process, and care for children and adults.
Of all of the requests in the President’s letter, the proposed policy changes will likely ignite a robust legislative battle in Congress. This is because the administration may ask Congress to amend the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (known as the TVPRA, and sponsored by then Senator Joe Biden) to fast-track deportations of illegal alien minors. (USA Today, July 2, 2014; S. 3061) Indeed, a White House official confirmed last week that the White House may ask Congress to change the law to allow minors from Central America to be treated the same way as minors from Mexico. (Id.) The official said the changes are necessary to update a law that was adopted when the flow of unaccompanied minors crossing the border was far lower.
TVPRA strictly dictates the process through which the government processes, detains, and removes illegal alien minors. (Public Law 110-457; For a useful “redlined” version that shows the original 2000 bill plus amendments through 2013, see also Johns Hopkins Protection Project document) Section 235 of the Act requires the Department of Homeland Security (namely the Border Patrol) to screen apprehended minors within 48 hours. If the Border Patrol determines the alien is from Mexico (or Canada) and has no credible claim to asylum, the Border Patrol may promptly return the alien minor to Mexican (or Canadian) officials for repatriation without formal proceedings. (Sec. 235(a)) However, if the Border Patrol determines the illegal alien minor is from a non-contiguous country — i.e. a country that does not share a land border with the U.S. — the Department of Homeland Security must initiate formal removal proceedings and, within 73 hours, transfer custody of the minor to Health and Human Services (HHS) for care while awaiting a hearing. (Sec. 235(b)) This process can take years, which, in combination with the President’s non-enforcement policies, has encouraged illegal alien minors to flow across the southern border in record numbers.
If the White House truly intends to amend TVPRA to speed up the removal of illegal alien minors from Central America, open borders groups are sure to fight it. The day after President Obama sent his letter to Congressional leaders, the ACLU, America’s Voice and over 200 additional pro-amnesty organizations sent the President a letter objecting to any change to TVPRA that would speed up deportations. (ACLU letter, July 3, 2014) “We are deeply concerned,” reads the letter, “that the administration will… remove children apprehended at the border through a non-judicial process… We oppose any plan to amend the TVPRA to weaken the protections afforded to children from Central America.
However, other immigration groups that have traditionally supported President Obama have acknowledged the role the TVPRA has played in creating the current crisis along the southern border. Marc Rosenblum, deputy director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Program at the Migration Policy Institute, said the 2008 Act is “probably is encouraging these children to come,” and called the flood of illegal alien minors across the southern border “an unintended consequence” of the law. (The Arizona Republic, June 30, 2014) Nick Phillips, a consultant for the Latin American Program at The Wilson Center, who is based in El Salvador, said “Salvadorans know that kids who make it to the U.S. can stick around for awhile with their families… It doesn’t matter what Joe Biden or Jeh Johnson say. It’s what the families say that matters.” (Id.)
Meanwhile, true immigration reformers are waiting for the Obama Administration to release details regarding its legislative request to Congress. In his letter to Congressional leaders, President Obama promised to release more information after Congress returns from its 4th of July recess.
Boehner Tells Obama No Vote on Immigration This Year
Last Monday, GOP House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) confirmed reports that he told President Obama the House was unlikely to pass an immigration bill this year. (Roll Call, Jun. 30, 2014; brietbart.com, Jun. 30, 2014; Politico, Jun. 30, 2014) “In our conversation last week,” the Speaker said in a statement, “I told the president what I have been telling him for months: the American people and their elected officials don’t trust him to enforce the law as written.” (Speaker Boehner Press Release, Jun. 30, 2014) Therefore, he continued, it will be “difficult” to for the House to pass legislation “[u]ntil that changes.” (Id.)
Over the past year, the Speaker has repeatedly voiced his support for granting illegal aliens amnesty. Most notably, last January, the Speaker introduced principles on immigration that included amnesty in the form of legalization for illegal aliens who entered the country as adults and full citizenship for those who entered as minors. (Speaker Boehner’s Press Office, Feb. 3, 2014; FAIR Legislative Update, Jan. 29, 2014; FAIR Legislative Update, Feb. 5, 2014)
But despite his personal support for amnesty, the Speaker has been unable to convince House Republicans and Americans at large that amnesty is a viable immigration policy. Having received strong opposition to his immigration principles within days of their release, the Speaker said it was clear that distrust of the President would stop the House from moving legislation on them. (FAIR Legislative Update, Feb. 12, 2014) And, over the course of the year, Speaker Boehner has generally stood by this statement, even though to select audiences he has reiterated his personal determination to pass “comprehensive” immigration reform and even mocked his fellow House Republicans for not wanting to do so. (FAIR Legislative Update, Apr. 16, 2014; FAIR Legislative Update, Apr. 23, 2014; FAIR Legislative Update, Apr. 30, 2014))
More recently, as illegal alien minors have been flooding across the southern border, Speaker Boehner has even acknowledged the consequences of the President’s executive amnesties such as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. After the President’s Rose Garden speech last Monday, Speaker Boehner said that the President’s amnesty policies had in fact “directly” caused the recent border crisis by persuading children and families that “if they enter the country illegally they will be allowed to stay.” (Speaker Boehner Press Release, Jun. 30, 2014) The Speaker made a similar statement in his June 20 letter to President Obama, calling on him to deploy the National Guard to the southern border. (Speaker Boehner Letter, Jun 20, 2014)
Whether the Speaker’s recent comments reflect a significant shift in his immigration stance may soon be put to the test. Last Monday, President Obama also wrote a letter to Congress asking for more authority on immigration to deal with the crisis, although the White House did not release more details on this request. (USA Today, Jun. 30, 2014) In response, the Speaker’s office indicated only that the President’s letter was too vague on the details to determine whether it was an effective proposal, but did not rule out acting to move legislation in response. (Id.)
Murrieta Protest Halts Transfer of Illegal Aliens
Last Tuesday, two hundred protesters from the town of Murrieta, California physically blocked the U.S. Border Patrol from transporting illegal aliens to the city’s detention facility. (KPBS, July 2, 2014; Los Angeles Times, July 2, 2014; CNN, July 3, 2014; NBC Los Angeles, July 2, 2014) The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was transporting the aliens to the Murrieta Border Patrol facility — and other communities across the country — in an attempt to cope with the overwhelming number of alien minors illegally crossing into the southern border into Texas. (See FAIR Legislative Update, July 25, 2014) DHS planned to send approximately 140 illegal alien minors to Murrieta every 72 hours throughout the month of the July, and potentially longer.
The morning before the planned transfer, Murrieta Mayor Alan Long held a press conference to update residents. (Murrieta website, June 30, 2014) Calm, but clearly frustrated, Long declared that the need to transfer the illegal aliens was “a result of the failure of federal law at a federal level — the lack of enforcement.” (Id.) He then called on Murrieta residents to contact their Congressional representatives and the White House to express their concerns. (Id.) Long also noted that local Murrieta leaders had previously cancelled two other planned arrivals — the first for 500 aliens, and then for 300 aliens. (Id.)
The next day, as scheduled, 136 illegal aliens arrived by bus at the Murrieta Border Patrol facility for processing. (KPBS, July 2, 2014) However, Murrieta demonstrators stood in the road, blocked the path of the buses, waved American flags, and chanted “Stop Illegal Immigration!” (Id.) Protest organizer Patrice Lynes said, “We want the laws enforced at the border. A nation without borders is a nation without sovereignty… We will stop when the whole process stops. That’s when we will stop.” (NBC News, July 4, 2014) Although others arrived to wave Mexican flags and protest in favor of the illegal aliens, these counter-protesters were outnumbered. (KPBS, July 2, 2014) Within only fifteen minutes, the bus drivers turned around and rerouted to unload the passengers at a Border Patrol facility in Chula Vista, south of Murrieta. (Id.)
On Wednesday evening, the city of Murrieta held a town hall meeting at a local high school, attended by 1,500 participants. (KUSI News, July 3, 2014) Murietta citizens expressed concern that the transfers would result in residents infected with communicable diseases and strain local law enforcement resources. (The Sun, July 2, 2014) Mayor Long circulated a petition calling for “cohesive immigration policy” to citizens at the meeting. (See Murrieta petition, July 3, 2014) Calling current policy a “failure of the federal government,” the petition demands that the United States follow the rule of law, address the impact of immigration on health, and work to integrate immigrants into society. (Id.) The high school gymnasium was filled to capacity for the town hall, leaving hundreds outside the high school, protesting for and against the transfers. (KUSI News, July 3, 2014)
Thursday, Murrieta Mayor Alan Long sent a letter to President Obama in which he stressed the burden that the arrival of illegal aliens to his community is creating and asked the President to take action. (Mayor’s Letter to the President, July 3, 2014) Long explained that the Murrieta police force of 87 officers diverted all the resources they could away from their primary job of protecting the community to manage the arrival of the aliens. (Id.) He also noted that the Murrieta facility is “not appropriate” to receive and process hundreds of migrants, because it is “a jail, designed to hold drug runners and criminals caught at that Border Patrol checkpoint.” (Id.) Indeed, the facility can only process 25 illegal aliens per eight-hour shift (CNN, July 6, 2014) “[As] a city,” he wrote, “we do not have a role in immigration policies, but we are certainly being affected by it.” (Mayor’s Letter to the President, July 3, 2014)
Since last Tuesday’s protest, DHS has not released information on whether it still plans to transfer illegal aliens to Murrieta, but no buses arrived in the town. (Los Angeles Times, July 5, 2014) Nevertheless, demonstrators spent the rest of the week protesting about any subsequent attempt to transfer illegal aliens to Murrieta. (Los Angeles Times, July 4, 2014) Murrieta resident Steve Prime said that he spent his Independence Day holiday protesting; he said, “I’m just tired of our borders being overrun. We’re here being peaceful. I don’t like the language being used by the other side.” (Id.) Murrieta police arrested five protesters for altercations with other individuals. (Id.)
DHS Secretary, Lawmakers Make Visits to Border
Last week, six Members of Congress participated in a bipartisan fact-finding trip to Texas to tour federal facilities and receive briefings on the border crisis. (Roll Call, July 3, 2014)
The Congressional delegation, which included House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX), Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), and Rep. Joe Garcia (D-FL), spent two days at the Texas-Mexico border. (Roll Call, July 3, 2014) There, they visited the Port Isabel Detention Facility, a Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement facility, the Gateway International Bridge in Brownsville, the Border Patrol station in McAllen, and went on a tour of the Rio Grande River with Customs and Border Protection. (Id.) They also spoke with numerous officials from immigration enforcement agencies and HHS. (Id.)
After the trip, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Goodlatte highlighted three findings from the trip. (Goodlatte Statement, July 3, 2014) First, he said the vast majority of illegal alien minors crossing the border meet up with their parents who are already in the United States illegally. (Id.) Second, he reported that Border Patrol agents say the best way to stop this crisis is deterrence. Finally, Goodlatte reported that one of the most significant obstacles to enforcement and deterrence in the Rio Grande Valley Sector is the difficulty Border Patrol agents have accessing federal lands along the border due to stringent environmental rules. (Id.) Goodlatte said the current Administration caused the border crisis by establishing little, if any, consequences for illegal immigration. (Id.) He said, “This trip has confirmed that this is a disaster of President Obama’s own making.” (Id.)
Only two days before the visit by Members of Congress, Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson also visited the McAllen Border Patrol station. This was Secretary Johnson’s third visit to Texas within two months. (KVEO, June 30, 2014) After touring the McAllen Border Patrol Station on Monday, Johnson said, “I’ve had bipartisan conversations with members of Congress who I believe all recognize the need to address this situation and address it forcefully.” (Id.) Johnson also announced the transfer of 150 Border Patrol agents from other areas of the country to the Rio Grande Valley region facing the influx of unaccompanied minor border crossers. (Id.)
Then, on Sunday, Johnson appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press to address the border crisis. (NBC News, July 6, 2014) He declined to say whether unaccompanied alien minors would likely be deported or permitted to stay in the United States. (Wall Street Journal, July 6, 2014; Fox News, July 6, 2014) When asked what the Administration’s priorities are in the crisis, Johnson answered, “We have to do right by the children…” (NBC News, July 6, 2014)
While Secretary Johnson and Members of Congress made the trip to the border last week, one person who apparently will not be visiting the border is President Obama. Currently, the President is scheduled to travel to Texas this week for fundraising events, but he continues to refuse to visit areas along the Texas-Mexico border experiencing the surge in illegal alien minors arriving from Central America. (See, e.g. Washington Examiner, July 7, 2014)
New York City Council Grants Illegal Aliens ID Cards
On Thursday, June 26, the New York City Council passed Introduction (“Intro.”) 253, which establishes the New York City identity card program and provides city-issued identification cards to illegal aliens. (Wall Street Journal, Jun. 26, 2014)
The New York City illegal alien ID program will be the largest municipal identification program in the country. Under the new ordinance, all residents of New York City, including the estimated half-million illegal aliens residing in the city, would be eligible for the municipal identification card. (Int. 253) The identification card will, at a minimum, display the cardholder’s photograph, name, date of birth, address, and an expiration date. (Id.) Intro. 253 also requires all city agencies to accept the card as proof of identity and residency for access to city services. (Id.)
To promote the New York City ID card, Intro. 253 requires the city to create incentives to encourage use of the identity card by those other than illegal aliens and expand the benefits associated with the card, including encouraging eligible persons to apply for the card and promoting the acceptance of the card by banks and other public and private institutions. (Int. 253; NY 1, Jun. 26, 2014) The measure also extends taxpayer-money to provide language assistance services in the administration of the identity card program. (Int. 253) These services include, but are not limited to, staff training, community outreach, and language assistance tools, to address the needs of limited English proficient individuals. (Id.)
Both provisions were included by proponents of the card who feared it could become a “scarlet letter” for illegal aliens, as citizens and legal residents have no incentive to obtain the card considering they already possess driver’s licenses or state identification cards. “If this card does not gain widespread voluntary acceptance, I fear that it will serve the opposite purpose of what is intended, namely, that it will, in fact, simply identify the undocumented for the government,” said Council member Daniel Garodnick of Manhattan. (NY 1, Jun. 26, 2014)
New York City’s illegal alien ID program is expected to cost taxpayers over $8.4 million in fiscal year 2015 and $5.6 million each subsequent year. (Id.; Newsday, Jun. 26, 2014) These figures do not include the costs associated with allowing illegal aliens access to more taxpayer-funded services as a result of carrying the card.
Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who supports the measure, explained, “The message is that the city belongs to everyone, regardless of who you are.” (NY 1, Jun. 26, 2014) While Congress contemplates immigration reform, “we can take steps to help our own right here,” said Speaker Mark-Viverito. (Newsday, Jun. 26, 2014) Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, also supported Intro. 253. (New York Post, Feb. 11, 2014) “Such an ID expands opportunities for greater civic and economic integration for all New Yorkers,” he said. (Id.)
However, opponents of the measure expressed concern that these identification cards will increase the potential for fraud and abuse, and pose security risks that will put citizens in danger. (Capital New York, Jun. 27, 2014) “I believe there are legitimate security concerns that have not been adequately addressed in it,” said Council member Vincent Ignizio of Staten Island, who voted against the bill. (NBC New York, Jun. 26, 2014) New York state Senator Greg Ball, member of the New York state Veterans, Homeland Security, and Military Affairs Committee, labeled the legislation the “de Blasio Terrorist Empowerment Act.” (OZY, Apr.29, 2014) Senator Ball noted, “These non-ID cards will be used as breeder documents, not just by illegal alien workers, but by criminals and terrorists looking to open bank accounts, board planes and trains, execute lease agreements, and ultimately harm New Yorkers.” (Id.)Council member Steve Matteo of Staten Island, opposed Intro. 253 because the cards could allow non-residents to access city services for which they are not eligible. (Chicago Tribune, Jun. 26, 2014)
The Council transmitted the measure to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s desk for signature. The Mayor supports Intro. 253 and has promised to sign it. (Newsday, Jun. 26, 2014; New York Post, Feb.11, 2014) Intro. 253 is expected to go into effect in January 2015. (Newsday, Jun. 26, 2014)