Right Side News Reports from the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in this January 31 2011 Legislative Weekly. FAIR tracks pending immigration laws in the United States which can impact homeland security in positive or negative ways and are a valued resource.

  • House Immigration Subcommittee Focuses on Worksite Enforcement
  • Lawmakers Introduce Birthright Citizenship Bills
  • Mexican Teen’s Family Sues U.S. Border Agent
  • Obama Promotes Defunct Immigration Legislation in State of the Union Address


House Immigration Subcommittee Focuses on Worksite Enforcement

The House Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement held its first hearing of the 112th Congress last week to discuss the importance of worksite enforcement.  The hearing, titled “Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Worksite Enforcement – Up to the Job?” focused on the effectiveness of worksite enforcement programs, such as I-9 audits, E-Verify, and the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers (IMAGE) program.

In their opening statements, several members criticized the administration’s failure to enforce the laws. “The Obama administration’s strategy clearly does a grave disservice to American workers,” declared Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA), the new Chairman of the Subcommittee. (Ventura County Star, Jan. 26, 2011)  Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), the new Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee (the Committee that oversees the Subcommittee) described how worksite enforcement has “plummeted under the Obama administration,” with administrative arrests of undocumented workers falling by 77 percent and criminal arrests falling by 60 percent over the past two years. (Id)

ICE’s Deputy Director, Mr. Kibble, however, was quick to defend the Obama administration’s approach to enforcing federal immigration law.  “Our approach is working,” he testified.  “The success of our approach to worksite enforcement is evident in the statistics.  In fiscal year (FY) 2010, ICE initiated a record 2,746 worksite enforcement investigations, more than doubling the 1,191 cases initiated in FY 2008,” Mr. Kibble declared. (CQ Committee Testimony, Jan. 26, 2011)

Four witnesses testified before the Subcommittee: Kumar C. Kibble, Deputy Director of ICE; Mark Krikorian, Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS); Michael Cutler, former senior special agent for the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)(now the Department of Homeland Security); and Daniel Griswold, Director of the Center for Trade Policy Studies at the Cato Institute.

Most of these witnesses said the Obama administration should go even further in investigating and prosecuting employers and employees breaking federal immigration law.  Mr. Krikorian of CIS testified that ICE needs to take a more robust and comprehensive approach to worksite enforcement. “[A]udits and fines are by no means a bad thing, as far as they go.  But they don’t go very far. By limiting worksite enforcement to the personnel office, the current strategy forgoes the benefits of full-spectrum enforcement that includes both audits and raids, both fines and arrests, focused on both the employers and the employees,” he said.  (Id.) Mr. Cutler, a former INS agent, agreed: “Our nation’s immigration laws can only be effectively enforced if all elements of the enforcement program and the immigration benefits program are made to operate as components of a unified system.” (Id.)

The remaining witness, Mr. Griswold of the Cato Institute, agreed that worksite enforcement programs are a step in the right direction, but argued that the immigration system needs to be reformed to admit more foreign workers.  “[F]ocusing primarily on worksite enforcement,” he said, “will continue to be an expensive and damaging distraction until we reform our immigration laws to reflect the underlying realities of America’s 21st century labor market.” (Id.) Instead, Mr. Griswold suggested that “[t]he best approach to reducing illegal immigration would be to expand opportunities for legal immigration while targeting enforcement against terrorists, criminals and others who continue to operate outside the system.”  (Id.)

The House Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement’s next anticipated hearing will focus on E-Verify. Stay tuned to FAIR for more details . . .

Lawmakers Introduce Birthright Citizenship Bills

Federal and state lawmakers introduced legislation last week that tackles the issue of birthright citizenship.  In Arizona, state Senator Ron Gould and state Representative John Kavanagh introduced two bills to change how Arizona defines state citizenship.  (Arizona Central, January 27, 2011) The first bill seeks to define an Arizona citizen as someone lawfully domiciled in Arizona who is born in the U.S. and is subject to the jurisdiction thereof.  (SB 1309; HB 2561)  The second bill directs the State of Arizona into a state compact, subject to Congressional approval, under which the member states will issue different birth certificates for those who qualify as citizens of the state.  (HB 2562; SB 1308) In developing the legislation, Gould and Kavanagh worked with Senate President Russell Pearce, who has been active on this issue for years and led the effort to pass SB 1070 in Arizona last year.  (Arizona Central, January 27, 2011)  These bills are part of an agreement made between state legislators from numerous states to work together to eliminate the practice of granting birthright citizenship regardless of the immigration status of the parents.  (See FAIR Legislative Update, January 10, 2011)

On the national level, Republican Senators David Vitter (LA) and Rand Paul (KY) proposed a constitutional amendment to restrict birthright citizenship late last week.  (S.J. Res. 2)  The proposal would amend the constitution so that children born in the U.S. are only considered automatic citizens if one parent is a U.S. citizen, one parent is a legal immigrant, or one parent is a non-immigrant active member of the Armed Forces.  (Fox News, January 28, 2011)  Senator Vitter voiced concern that the assurance of children of illegal aliens becoming citizens automatically is continuing to ratchet up illegal immigration numbers.  (Id.)  “Closing this loophole will not prevent them from becoming citizens, but will ensure that they have to go through the same process as anyone else who wants to become an American citizen,” Senator Vitter said.  (Id.)

Mexican Teen’s Family Sues U.S. Border Agent

The family of a Mexican teenager killed by a border patrol agent last summer is suing the U.S. government for $25 million in damages.  (Houston Chronicle, January 17, 2011)  The lawsuit, filed in El Paso earlier last week on behalf of the teenager’s family, accuses the U.S. Border Patrol agent of wrongful death and civil rights violations.  (Id.)

The lawsuit stems from an incident that took place on the border in June 2010 in which the U.S. Border Patrol agent shot and killed 15-yr-old Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca during the arrests of illegal aliens crossing the Rio Grande.  (Id.)  Border Patrol agents reported that Guereca was throwing rocks at them, to which agents are legally permitted respond by using lethal force.   (Id.)  The family’s attorney, however, denies the teenager was throwing anything at the agent, instead claiming that the teen and his friends were running up to the barbed-wire U.S. border fence, touching it, then scampering away when a border agent detained one of the boys.  (Id.)  Federal records reveal that Guereca was arrested four times since 2008 on suspicion of smuggling illegal aliens across the U.S. border with Mexico, but he was never charged with a crime.  (Id.)

FAIR’s sources at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have noted that the rocks thrown at Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents are often large in size and capable of causing serious injury.  The National Border Patrol Council –the union which represents CBP agents—reiterated that “rocks are weapons and constitute deadly force.”  (Washington Post, June 11, 2010)

Obama Promotes Defunct Immigration Legislation in State of the Union Address

Less than a month after the Democratic-controlled Senate rejected the DREAM Act, President Obama used his State of the Union address last Tuesday to renew the call for its passage.  There are “hundreds of thousands of students excelling in our schools who are not U.S. citizens,” he said.  Many of these “live every day with the threat of deportation.”  Urging Congress to tackle illegal immigration “once and for all”, the president said he is “prepared to work with Republicans and Democrats to protect our borders, enforce our laws and address the millions of undocumented workers who are now living in the shadows.”

President Obama’s remarks come at a time when states across the nation are signaling their frustration with federal inaction to protect the nation’s borders and prevent illegal immigration.  As FAIR previously reported, state legislatures nationwide are enacting legislation to deter illegal immigration and prod the federal government into forming a responsible approach to immigration woes.  (See FAIR Legislative Updates, January 10, 2011)  In the first month of 2011 alone, Kentucky and Mississippi have already passed Arizona-style legislation through their respective Senate chambers.  (See FAIR Legislative Updates, January 18, 2011; FAIR Legislative Updates, January 24, 2011)

President Obama’s references to immigration reform in his State of the Union address reveal that the President’s immigration policies have not changed despite the impact uncontrolled immigration has on Americans and the U.S. labor market.  Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said “it’s hard for him to talk about creating jobs and then endorse illegal workers keeping their jobs at the expense of American workers.”  (Houston Chronicle, January 25, 2011)  Congressman Smith says he plans to concentrate on the pressing immigration issues of border security and workplace enforcement throughout the coming session.  (Id.)