Right Side News Reports from the Federation for American Immigration Reform in this February 16th, 2010 Legislative Weekly
Reid Jobs Bill Gives Tax Breaks for Hiring Illegal Workers
Enforcement Plays Key Role in Declining Illegal Alien Population
Virtual Fence Plagued by Technical Failures and Delays; Now Faces Budget Cuts
Reid Jobs Bill Gives Tax Breaks for Hiring Illegal Workers
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) unveiled his jobs bill last week that proposes tax exemptions and tax credits for employers who hire and retain workers-regardless of their immigration status. Senator Reid introduced his bill, entitled the “Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act,” immediately after shelving a more extensive bill authored by Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the Chair and Ranking Member of the Finance Committee.
In doing so, Reid said he wanted to focus clearly on the “jobs message” he thought the Senate should be sending to the American people. (Roll Call, Feb. 16, 2010).
The Reid bill has two primary tax provisions that are intended to spur employment. The first would exempt employers from payroll taxes for new employees hired before January 1, 2011. (§101) A qualifying employer is virtually any employer except government bodies, although an exception is created for colleges and universities. To be a qualifying employee, the worker must:
(1) Begin employment with a qualified employer after February 3, 2010, but before year end;
(2) Sign an affidavit stating that he/she was not employed for more than 40 hours during the 60-day period prior to beginning employment with the qualified employer;
(3) Not displace another of the qualified employer’s workers; and
(4) Not be a relative, broadly defined, of the employer. (See §101)
Nowhere in Section 101, however, is there a requirement that the individual be legal. Nor does the language require that the employer use E-Verify to verify work authorization. The language appears to allow employers to receive tax breaks for hiring illegal workers or for importing foreign workers.
The second major tax provision of the bill provides employers with a $1,000 tax credit for each “retained worker” hired in 2010. (§102) To qualify as a “retained worker,” the individual must:
(1) Meet the definition of a qualified employee under §101 (see above);
(2) Be employed during the taxable year;
(3) Be employed by the employer for no less than 52 consecutive weeks; and
(4) Maintain wages at a certain threshold during the 52-week period.
Like Section 101, this tax credit does not require the employee to be legal or require that the employer use E-Verify to establish the employee’s work authorization.
Action on the Reid Jobs Bill is expected next week and Senate sources have told FAIR that the Senate Majority leader has already taken steps to block amendments to the bill. Stay tuned to FAIR for more information as the Reid Jobs Bill moves forward.
Last week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released an estimate of the illegal alien population residing in the United States as of January 2009. According to the new report, the illegal alien population dropped seven percent, from 11.6 million in January 2008 to 10.8 million in January 2009. (DHS Report, January 2010). While anti-enforcement advocates claim that the decrease has been brought about entirely by the recent economic downturn, there is strong evidence indicating that stepped-up enforcement of our immigration laws is a significant force behind the reduction.
Following the defeat of amnesty legislation in 2007, the Bush Administration – which had previously been lobbying hard for passage of an amnesty – announced “a package of initiatives” aimed at “significantly strengthen[ing] our hand with respect to immigration enforcement.” Specifically, former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff indicated that the administration was planning to ramp up worksite enforcement and allocate resources toward strengthening electronic employee verification through E-Verify. (DHS Press Release, August 10, 2007). The Bush Administration also significantly increased the fenced portion of the U.S. border in 2007 and more than doubled the number of detention beds used to hold aliens to over 30,000. (CIS Report, July 2008).
These expanded enforcement efforts produced striking results. Immigration and Customs Enforcement made 863 criminal arrests and 4,077 administrative arrests in 2007-more than five times the number ICE arrested in 2004. These numbers grew even more in 2008, to 1,103 criminal arrests and 5,184 administrative arrests. (ICE Fact Sheet, April 30, 2009). The number of businesses screening workers through E-Verify also exploded. In 2007, just 16,000 employers were enrolled in E-Verify. That number jumped to 66,000 in 2008 (DHS Leadership Journal, May 21, 2008), and is now at more than 184,000. (DHS E-Verify Fact Sheet, February 3, 2010).
States also increased their enforcement of immigration laws in 2007 and 2008 by expanding participation in the 287(g) program. Prior to 2007, just seven state and local law enforcement agencies had entered into agreements with ICE to participate in 287(g) – the federal program that allows ICE agents to train state and local police officers in the enforcement of federal immigration law. (ICE Fiscal Year 2007 Annual Report). At the end of 2008, ICE had expanded the program to a total of 67 local law enforcement agencies. (ICE Fiscal Year 2008 Annual Report).
As a consequence of these increased enforcement efforts, the number of aliens removed from the United States increased dramatically in 2007 and 2008. In 2004, 203,000 foreign nationals were formally removed from the United States. (DHS Annual Report, November 2005). This number increased to more than 319,000 in 2007 (DHS Annual Report, December 2008) and rose even further, to nearly 359,000, in 2008. (DHS Annual Report, July 2009).
Moreover, the deterrence created by increased enforcement, combined with the recession, encouraged more illegal aliens to leave the U.S. and discouraged illegal aliens from coming to the U.S. in the first place. In fact, the number of southwest border apprehensions dropped from 1,171,428 in 2005 (DHS Annual Report, May 2006) to 705,022 (DHS Annual Report, July 2009) in 2008. FAIR Media Director Ira Mehlman commented on the new DHS numbers: “Whether jobs dry up because the government is doing enforcement or because of the recession, illegal aliens react in a rational manner: They either will not come or they’ll go home. It certainly shows that illegal immigration is a controllable phenomenon.” (LA Times, February 11, 2010).
The future of the virtual fence is uncertain in the face of a new threat of slashed funding coupled with ongoing performance issues and implementation delays. The $6.7 billion virtual fence project was started in 2005 as a component of the Secure Border Initiative (SBInet), and consists of cameras, ground sensors, and radar aimed at stopping illegal immigrants, drug smugglers, and terrorists on our southern border. (USA Today, February 4, 2010). The program has shown little success over the years and is now in serious jeopardy following Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano’s January decision to order a reassessment of the entire initiative and the president’s proposal for a significant cut in funding. (The Washington Times, February 4, 2010). President Obama’s recently released budget proposes a $225 million cut in border security funding for the virtual fence program. (USA Today, February 4, 2010; For more information on Obama’s proposed cuts to immigration enforcement programs see FAIR’s Legislative Update, February 9, 2010).
Since its inception, the virtual fence has been plagued with technical failures that continue to delay its completion. Boeing Corporation was contracted in 2006 to implement a series of nine security towers equipped with night vision cameras, radar and sensors, along with a variety of communications systems and software to monitor activities along large stretches of the border. The technology was supposed to have been in place by June 2007, but the software system failed to distribute the information gathered by the detection devices. But as one problem was solved, others arose, including a radar system that confused vegetation for humans in inclement weather and cameras that were too slow to respond. (The Hill, February 10, 2010). In February 2008, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported to Congress that the virtual fence had fallen short of expectations as it failed to meet the goals and strategic needs of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). (GAO Report, February 2008; See FAIR’s Analysis, April 2008).
This January, Boeing was supposed to turn over the first permanent segment of virtual fence to Border Patrol for testing, but that has been delayed by problems with the video recording equipment. (The Washington Times, February 4, 2010). After three years and over a billion dollars, Boeing is still working on the first 28 miles of the surveillance system. (CBS News, January 10, 2010). With 1,972 miles to go, the virtual fence is not expected to be completed until 2014 at the earliest.
As a result, on January 8, Napolitano ordered a reassessment of the whole project, saying that the delays are unacceptable and the government must consider more efficient and economical options. (The Washington Times, February 4, 2010). She stated, “Americans need border security now – not 10 years down the road.” Id. A few weeks later, President Obama proposed cutting the funding for SBInet. To date, American taxpayers have spent more than a billion dollars on a virtual fence that has yet to become a reality.
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.