April 27, 2009

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

  • Senate Begins to Lay Groundwork for Amnesty
  • After a Series of Missteps, Lawmakers Question if DHS Secretary Napolitano is up to the Job
  • College Board Backs DREAM Act Amnesty Bill
  • Ohio Identification Scam Reveals Holes in System

Senate Begins to Lay Groundwork for Amnesty

This Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Refugees is scheduled to hold a hearing on so-called “comprehensive immigration reform,” legislation that would grant amnesty to the estimated 12 million illegal aliens living in America.  The hearing, entitled “Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2009, Can We Do It and How?”, will be chaired by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who as a Member of the House of Representatives was also an strong advocate for the 1986 amnesty. 

Many big business interests that want to import cheap foreign labor and others in the open borders lobby praised the hearing, noting that Congress was taking the first step towards consideration of an amnesty bill.  Douglas Rivlin of the National Immigration Forum, an organization that supports amnesty, hailed the hearing saying, “You’ve got to start somewhere.”  (NewsDay, April 24, 2009).  Angelo Amador, Director of Immigration Policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said his organization was “cautiously optimistic.” (Bloomberg, April 24, 2009). 

Despite President Obama’s promise to push amnesty and to create a new guest worker program, lawmakers, lobbyists and advocates suggest that the fragile state of the economy may derail immigration reform this year.  (Id.). Earlier this month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announced unemployment stood at 8.5 percent, the highest in more than 25 years.  (Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 3, 2009).  According to BLS, an additional 663,000 jobs were lost in March, and 13.2 million Americans are currently out of work.

Rogan Kersh, a dean at New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service, noted that “[r]ising unemployment rates, coupled with continuing dismal economic news, are battering the public’s inclination to back a change in illegal immigrants’ status, which was never that strong to begin with.”  (Bloomberg.).  Rep. Steve King (R-IA), ranking member of the House Immigration Subcommittee, echoed the sentiment, saying that proponents of amnesty will have to face the reality, that in tough economic times, “illegals are taking jobs Americans now want.” (Id.).  Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who sits on the subcommittee that will hold the hearing this week, noted that the economy has changed the debate.  Sessions said: “I don’t think it’s going to be a pleasant discussion because the American people won’t be happy about it.” (Id.).

Despite the economy and despite the lack of availability of jobs for American citizens, Senator Schumer said he was undeterred by “difficult economic conditions,” and that he would press ahead with the hearing, noting that there was “a real chance of passing comprehensive reform this year.”  (Bloomberg).

After a Series of Missteps, Lawmakers Question if DHS Secretary Napolitano is up to the Job

A series of recent missteps by Secretary Janet Napolitano have caused several Members of Congress and true immigration reformers to question if she is up to the task of running the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In the past few weeks, Napolitano: (1) approved the release of a DHS report labeling some veterans and other Americans who are concerned about immigration, oppose amnesty, or who support securing the border as possible “rightwing extremists”; (2) erroneously claimed crossing the border illegally was not a crime; (3) wrongly asserted that the 9/11 terrorists “entered our country… across the Canadian border”; and (4) said that she intends to work with governors to repeal the REAL ID Act of 2005.

The release of the DHS report, entitled “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment,” “prompted angry reactions from lawmakers” and other groups.  (FOX News, April 17, 2009).  The assessment claimed that “[r]ightwing extremism…may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as… immigration.”  The report also listed “returning veterans” as possible recruitment sources for rightwing extremists, prompting an angry response from many Americans and veterans groups, such as the American Legion.  Following the release of the report to the public, Napolitano admitted that she had been briefed on the assessment and had decided to issue it anyway.  (DHS Report, April 7, 2009; The Washington Times, April 16, 2009). FAIR President Dan Stein commented on the release of the report on CNN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight: “When House Speaker Pelosi said immigration enforcement was ‘un-American,’ and then you see a document like this published by the Department of Homeland Security, you see what is fusing into a modern day version of the un-American Activities Committee.” (See YouTube Video, April 17, 2009; For more on Pelosi’s comments, see FAIR’s Legislative Update, March 24, 2009).

During an April 19, 2009 appearance on CNN’s State of the Union, Napolitano was asked to respond to Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s statement that he hopes the federal government will prosecute all aliens who cross the border illegally.  Napolitano, who is the United States’ top immigration enforcement official, called Arpaio’s statement “very political,” and went on to erroneously summarize America’s immigration laws by saying that “crossing the border is not a crime, per se. It is civil.”  (Transcript, April 19, 2009).  One of the first to comment on Napolitano’s error was FAIR’s own Executive Director Julie Kirchner, who noted online that “crossing the border illegally is a crime – a misdemeanor for the first offense and a felony for the second and subsequent offenses.” (The Stein Report, April 19, 2009).  Since then, several media personalities and elected officials have weighed in, including Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) who said: “It is breathtaking that a cabinet secretary, bestowed by the public with the responsibility to protect our nation’s borders, could be ignorant of the undisputable fact that it is a violation of the criminal code to enter our country illegally. 8 U.S.C. 1325(a), which has been in effect for decades and codified in its current form since 1991, is unambiguous that doing so is a crime.  This is one of the most baffling statements from a high government official I have ever heard.”  (Sessions Press Release, April 21, 2009).

The day after Napolitano’s misstatement on CNN, the DHS Secretary seemingly reinforced the misconception that the 9/11 hijackers entered the United States through Canada. During an interview with CBC’s Neil Macdonald, Napolitano was asked why there was a “need for [the] same level of security on the Canadian border as on the Mexican border, given two drastically different realities?”  During her response, Napolitano stated that “to the extent that terrorists have come into our country or suspected or known terrorists have entered our country across a border, it’s been across the Canadian border.” Macdonald then specifically asked Napolitano if she was “talking about the 9/11 perpetrators,” to which Napolitano responded, “Not just those but others as well.”  (CBC News, April 20, 2009).  The statement prompted outrage from several Canadian officials.  The next day, Napolitano backtracked on her remarks, claiming that she “know[s] that the September 11th hijackers did not come through Canada to the United States.” (CTV.ca News, April 22, 2009).

Finally, last Tuesday, Napolitano told an Anti-Defamation League conference that she is working with governors “to look at a way to repeal REAL ID.”  The REAL ID Act, which became law in 2005, seeks to prevent illegal aliens from obtaining driver’s licenses and identification cards by requiring all states to enforce specific identification requirements in order to obtain these documents.  Congressman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), who sponsored REAL ID, said he was “angered” by Napolitano’s comments: “REAL ID is a necessary program for keeping America safe. It is the will of Congress and also a recommendation of the 9/11 Commission.” Sensenbrenner added, “When the Democrats took over the majority in the 110th Congress, they said they wanted to implement all of the 9/11 Commission recommendations. I am highly disappointed that they are going back on their word.” (CNN, April 22, 2009).

This series of missteps has caused several elected officials on Capitol Hill to question whether Napolitano, who has been on the job at DHS for less than 100 days, is up to the task of running the Department.  On April 16, 2009, seven Republican Senators sent Secretary Napolitano a letter which questioned the basis for the conclusions of the DHS extremism report.  In the House of Representatives, Rep. John Carter (R-TX) said, “Janet Napolitano should resign or be fired.”  Another legislator, Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN), called on Napolitano to come before Congress to answer questions and then asked: “Has this homeland security secretary gone absolutely stark raving mad?”  (Associated Press, April 24, 2009).

College Board Backs DREAM Act Amnesty Bill

Last week, the College Board – the organization that administers the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and counts about 5,000 institutions of higher education as members -‘ announced that it will lend its support to the DREAM Act. Authored by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Representative Howard Berman (D-CA), this legislation grants amnesty to a broad range of individuals who meet certain minimal educational requirements and allows states to give taxpayer subsidized in-state tuition to illegal aliens.  (See FAIR’s Legislative Analysis, March 2009).  This is the first time the College Board has taken an official position on the DREAM Act. (U.S. News & World Report, April 22, 2009).

The Board announced its support for the amnesty bill and released a report on the legislation at a news briefing on Capitol Hill last Tuesday. (College Board Press Release, April 21, 2009).  The report, entitled “Young Lives on Hold: The College Dreams of Undocumented Students,” states that the DREAM Act “would provide 360,000 undocumented high school graduates with a legal means to work and attend college.” (College Board Advocacy Report, April 2009).  Speaking at the College Board news briefing, Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) said it was “un-American” to keep shutting out of college illegal aliens who didn’t have a say in their parents’ choice to come to the United States illegally. (U.S. News & World Report, April 22, 2009).

A Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) report released during the debate on the 2007 version of the DREAM Act, a bill which was nearly identical to the 2009 bill, contradicts the conclusions of the College Board report. CIS estimated that “the total number of potential [DREAM Act] amnesty beneficiaries is 2.1 million (assuming no fraud).” CIS also noted that this figure “does not include 1.4 million siblings and parents of qualifying illegals who may end up receiving a de facto amnesty.”  (CIS, October 23, 2007).   Critics of the DREAM Act point out that there are a limited number of college admissions spots available for incoming freshman each year, and that for every illegal alien who enters college, an American citizen is displaced from enrolling in college. (See, e.g. CNN Newsroom video).     

To learn more about activity on the DREAM Act this year, read FAIR’s Legislative Updates from March 30, 2009 and April 13, 2009.  

Ohio Identification Scam Reveals Holes in System

Last Wednesday, a federal jury in Virginia acquitted Ohio resident Nekeia Mack-Fuller of charges she improperly sold government identification cards to illegal aliens in Ohio and Virginia.  Ms. Mack-Fuller is the former manager of Eastside Licensing Agency, an Ohio based private company licensed by the State of Ohio to issue state IDs and driver’s licenses.  She was charged with three felonies including aggravated identity fraud and two conspiracy charges and faced up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

At trial, Mack-Fuller testified that she had been assured by superiors that the underlying documentation was sound, and further noted that the State of Ohio’s “no-profiling policy” prevented her from making independent inquiries into the legal status of applicants.  (The Columbus Dispatch, April 23, 2009).

But, prosecutors used testimony and other evidence to argue that Mack-Fuller was a primary facilitator of the agency’s fraud.  They argued that she personally received money and other gifts from liaisons who brought illegal aliens to her in order for them to receive identification.  Two of these liaisons, Jose Gutierrez-Ramirez and Edwin Mendez, were credited during trial with selling false documentation and bringing hundreds of illegal aliens from Harrisonburg, Virginia, and elsewhere directly to Mack-Fuller for processing.  Michelle Eckerman, one of seven co-defendants in the case, informed the court that the issuance of Ohio identification to illegal aliens in her office “wasn’t a big secret.  Everybody knew what was going on.”  (The Columbus Dispatch, April 23, 2009; Daily News-Record, April 22, 2009; Lancaster Eagle-Gazette, April 22, 2009; and WHSV-TV, April 21, 2009).

Despite the acquittal, the case is not without a positive outcome.  Seven of Mack-Fuller’s co-defendants, including Eckerman, Gutierrez-Ramirez and Mendez, pled guilty to being involved in the agency-based fraud.  Sources indicate that information from the identification fraud trial led directly to the March 2008 raid of a Cargill Meat Solutions plant in nearby Dayton, where Mendez and hundreds of illegal aliens were working under false identities.  (Daily News-Record, April 23, 2009; Daily News-Record, April 22, 2009; WHSV-TV, April 22, 2009; and WHSV-TV, April 21, 2009).  Despite this case, Darren Lucas, the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) district supervisor for the Columbus area, commented that identity theft was not a “priority” for the BMV.  (RocktownWeekly.com, April 21, 2009).
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.