April 13, 2009
Right Side News Reports from the Federation for American Immigration Reform in this April 13th Legislative Weekly…

  • Obama Administration Signals Amnesty Push This Year; Strategy Still Unclear
  • DREAM Act Amnesty Bill Generating Flurry of Activity
  • Illegal Alien Commits Identity Theft; Receives Health Care Services Worth Half Million

Obama Administration Signals Amnesty Push This Year; Strategy Still Unclear

In spite of a deteriorating economy and rising unemployment, The New York Times reported last Wednesday that the Obama Administration intends to “push” an immigration bill that would grant amnesty to the more than 12 million illegal aliens living in the United States.  White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Cecilia Muñoz – who was appointed to this position by President Obama despite having previously lobbied the government for a large-scale amnesty as the former Senior Vice President for the National Council of La Raza’s (NCLR) Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation (See FAIR’s Immigration Issues) – told The Times that Obama “intends to start the debate this year” on amnesty legislation. (The New York Times, April 8, 2009).

While The Times report indicated that Obama Administration officials are still debating the precise timing and strategy for their amnesty push, it appears that the White House has come to a general agreement on how to move forward in the near future. According to senior administration officials, Obama will speak publicly about the immigration issue in May.  Over the summer, Obama plans “to convene working groups, including lawmakers from both parties and a range of immigration groups, to begin discussing possible legislation for as early as this fall.”  Some White House officials told The Times that an amnesty bill would take a backseat to health care and energy overhauls, both of which President Obama has identified as priorities.  (Id).

Questions remain as to whether Obama will have the political capital to shepherd a massive amnesty through Congress, especially in light of the battle Democrats expect to face over the proposed effort to completely overhaul America’s health care system.  According to the New York Times, “Democratic legislative aides said that opening a full-fledged debate this year on immigration… could weigh down the president’s domestic agenda” and that “no serious [talks about immigration] are expected until after some of Mr. Obama’s other priorities have been debated.”  (Id). 

True immigration reformers noted that it would be a mistake for Obama to attempt to push an amnesty bill with unemployment at a 25-year high.  Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, described President Obama’s approach as “nearly identical to the amnesty proposals that the American people roundly rejected just two years ago.”  Smith went on to state that “seven million [illegal aliens are holding] jobs rightfully belonging to out-of-work citizens and legal immigrants” and that “[n]o nation should force its citizens and legal workers to compete with illegal immigrants” for jobs, which would happen under the amnesty bill that the American people continue to oppose.  FAIR’s President Dan Stein told The Times that it would be “politically disastrous” for Obama to take up an amnesty bill in the midst of the current economic recession. (Id).

Anticipating widespread public opposition, President Obama has sought to shift some of the burden for gaining public approval to various amnesty advocates in Congress, including Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), from the president’s hometown of Chicago, Illinois.  Gutierrez recently wrapped up a nationwide tour, in which he visited 16 American cities in an effort to build support for a massive amnesty bill. (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, March 2, 2009).  When asked if the timing for an amnesty push is right, Gutierrez rejected the idea that the slumping economy and other White House priorities should take precedence: “There is never a wrong time for us.” (The New York Times, April 8, 2009).

DREAM Act Amnesty Bill Generating Flurry of Activity

The reintroduction of the DREAM Act last month (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, March 30, 2009) has brought about a firestorm of activity surrounding the legislation.  In just a few short weeks, two U.S. senators have flip-flopped from opposing the legislation to supporting it; a DREAM Act measure in the Colorado state legislature has been defeated; and Microsoft has sent a letter of support to two of the bill’s senate sponsors.  Authored by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Representative Howard Berman (D-CA), the DREAM Act grants amnesty to a broad range of individuals who meet certain minimal educational requirements and permits states to give taxpayer subsidized in-state tuition to illegal aliens. (See FAIR’s Legislative Analysis of the DREAM Act, March 2009). 

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has recently become a co-sponsor of the DREAM Act.  This marks a change in her position from her time in the House of Representatives when she opposed the legislation.  (Senator Gillibrand’s Press Release, April 2, 2009).  A local news station reported Gillibrand’s co-sponsorship of the bill in an article titled “Sen. Gillibrand Changes Tune on Illegal Immigration” (WROC-TV, April 3, 2009), and Congressional Quarterly (CQ) observed the move as a “sign of [a] shifting stance on illegal immigration.” CQ suggested Gillibrand’s sudden support for amnesty may have come about because “Hispanic leaders and downstate Democrats have objected to tough positions [Gillibrand] took on illegal immigration” while she was a Member of the House of Representatives. (CQ, April 2, 2009).

Gillibrand isn’t the only Senator to flip-flop on her position on the DREAM Act.  At one of her “Kitchen Table Talks” last week, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) announced that she will “probably vote for the DREAM Act.” (St. Louis Beacon, April 7, 2009).  If McCaskill does vote for the legislation, it would represent a complete reversal of her position on the bill.  On October 24, 2007, McCaskill voted to kill a previous – and practically identical – version of the bill. (See FAIR’s Press Release, April 8, 2009; Senate Roll Call Vote #394, October 24, 2007).

Last week, the Colorado legislature defeated a bill that was similar to the DREAM Act.  (The Denver Post, April 7, 2009).  Senate Bill 09-170 would have given taxpayer subsidized tuition breaks to any illegal alien student who had attended a Colorado high school for at least three years and graduated to attend public colleges and universities. (Senate Bill 09-170).

Big business interests have also weighed in on the DREAM Act.  In a letter dated April 3, Microsoft’s Managing Director of U.S. Government Affairs Fred Humphries expressed his company’s support for the DREAM Act.  The letter – sent to Senator Durbin and another sponsor of the bill, Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) – stated that “Microsoft sees great synergy between the DREAM Act and Microsoft’s initiatives to support education and workforce training in the United States.” (Microsoft Letter to DREAM Act Sponsors, April 3, 2009).  Microsoft’s stated support for the DREAM Act is hardly the company’s first foray into immigration policy.  Microsoft has repeatedly sought expansion of programs to import more H-1B visa workers to compete with American workers.  (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, March 12, 2008).

Illegal Alien Commits Identity Theft; Receives Health Care Services Worth Half Million

American taxpayers and health care providers pay a significant cost for the abuses of the American health care system by illegal aliens.  The true cost of these abuses is passed on to American citizens and legal immigrants in the way of higher health care costs.  Americans intuitively understand this fact but a recent piece from The Chicago Tribune reveals just how expensive abuse of the health care system by illegal aliens can be.  (The Chicago Tribune, March 15, 2009).

The Tribune detailed the story of the late Mariana de la Torre, an illegal alien from Mexico who was diagnosed with cancer just a few months after she illegally came to the United States in December 2006.  De la Torre purchased fraudulent identification, including the stolen social security number of a Texas female inmate, to obtain $530,000 worth of medical treatment including two surgical procedures, chemotherapy, radiation treatment, and in Illinois hospitals.  De la Torre’s revelation of her true identity in January 2009 prompted several health care providers that treated her to assess their vulnerability to medical identity theft.  The Tribune noted that the costs associated with de la Torre’s fraudulent claims are being borne by regional health systems and taxpayer-funded Medicaid, to the tune of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars each.

This story should serve as a reminder that increased levels of immigration, both legal and illegal, have a significant impact on America’s health care system.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), 13.7 percent of native-born Americans were without health insurance in 2007 compared to 43.8 percent of foreign-born, non-citizens (a population that includes illegal aliens) and 33.2 percent of the foreign-born population as a whole (which includes naturalized citizens).  (DHS Fact Sheet, February 2009).  DHS reports that while the foreign-born population (which includes naturalized citizens, legal aliens and illegal aliens) represents just “12.5 percent of the total U.S. population, foreign-born individuals accounted for 27.1 percent of the uninsured population.”  In 2007, nearly 10 million foreign-born, non-citizens lacked health insurance.  Amnesty would immediately make many illegal aliens eligible for taxpayer funded health insurance programs.
The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) is a national, nonprofit, public-interest, membership organization of concerned citizens who share a common belief that our nation’s immigration policies must be reformed to serve the national interest.

FAIR seeks to improve border security, to stop illegal immigration, and to promote immigration levels consistent with the national interest-more traditional rates of about 300,000 a year.