Right Side News Reports from the Federation for American Immigration Reform in this June 29th Legislative Weekly…

  • As E-Verify’s Use Grows, House Rules Committee Blocks Debate on E-Verify Amendments
  • Amnesty Bill This Year? White House, Congress Send Mixed Messages
  • California Soft on Criminal Illegal Alien
  • As Americans Struggle with College Costs, State Gives Discounted Tuition to Foreign Students

As E-Verify’s Use Grows, House Rules Committee Blocks Debate on E-Verify Amendments

On Tuesday, June 23, the House Rules Committee met to determine which amendments would be considered when the full House of Representatives debated the Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 Homeland Security spending bill.  The Committee voted to block the House from even debating and voting on five key amendments related to E-Verify – the free, voluntary, electronically operated system that allows employers to quickly and easily check the work authorization status of their new hires.

The committee’s actions occurred even as a national newspaper reported that usage of E-Verify is “on the rise” and that the program is growing in popularity.  (USA Today, June 24, 2009).  The five E-Verify amendments that were submitted to the committee for consideration, but were blocked, included:

  • Amendments submitted by Reps. Ken Calvert (R-CA), John Fleming (R-LA), and Harold Rogers (R-KY) that sought to prohibit any of the funding in the FY2010 Homeland Security spending bill from being used to further delay the implementation of a final rule that would require most federal contractors to participate in E-Verify. (House Rules Committee Summary, June 22, 2009; See FAIR’s Legislative Update, June 8, 2009, to learn about how the implementation of this rule has been delayed four times.).  Rep. Fleming’s amendment also sought to prohibit any changes to a federal rule that provides a method to the Department of Homeland Security to notify employers when there are mismatches between names and Social Security numbers provided by their employees and to instruct employers on how to deal with these so-called “no-match” letters.
  • A similar amendment submitted by Reps. Jack Kingston (R-GA) and Dean Heller (R-NV) that sought to require entities who contract with the federal government to use E-Verify as a condition for receiving government funding. (House Rules Committee Summary, June 22, 2009).
  • Another amendment submitted by Rep. Heller that sought to extend E-Verify for three years, to 2012. (Id.). The FY2010 Homeland Security spending bill contains only a two year extension of the program. (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, June 15, 2009).

Ultimately, the Rules Committee rejected each of these common-sense amendments, as well as thirteen other immigration enforcement and border security initiatives.  House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Lamar Smith (R-TX) decried the Rules Committee’s opposition to these eighteen amendments, calling the move “undemocratic.”  Rep. Smith argued that if Members of Congress “disagree with these border security and immigration enforcement measures, they should be willing to cast on-the-record votes against them.” (Rep. Smith Press Release, June 25, 2009).

On the morning following the Rules Committee’s decision to block the E-Verify amendments, a USA Today report highlighted the rapidly growing popularity of the program. According to the report, “approximately 129,000 participating employers, representing half a million business locations” now use E-Verify.  USA Today further noted that “more than 1,000 employers are signing up each week on average, and employment checks are approaching 200,000 a week.”  CEO David Dominguez told USA Today that he uses E-Verify at his construction company, and that “the system works.”  House Immigration Reform Caucus Chairman Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA) added that E-Verify “protects the legitimate employer.” (USA Today, June 24, 2009).

Following debate on the Homeland Security Appropriations bill, on June 24, the House passed the bill by a vote of 389 to 37 (Roll Call Vote 450).  The bill will now move to the Senate for consideration.

Amnesty Bill This Year?  White House, Congress Send Mixed Messages

Several officials and policymakers last week issued conflicting statements about the timing for “comprehensive immigration reform” – a euphemism for legislation that would grant amnesty to the approximately 12 million illegal aliens living in the United States. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Immigration Subcommittee Chairman Chuck Schumer, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and President Obama all offered statements indicating varying levels of confidence as to whether Congress will pass an amnesty bill at some point this year.

On Monday, June 22, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs responded to a question about the prospect of passing amnesty in 2009: “I can see the president’s desire for it to happen but understanding that currently where we sit the math makes that real difficult.” Gibbs went on to downplay the likelihood of any major immigration legislation making it to President Obama’s desk before the end of 2009, noting only that he was hopeful that “later this year…we can have the beginning of a formal debate on [immigration].” (Roll Call, June 22, 2009).

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), however, offered up a radically different statement on the “math” concerning amnesty legislation.  On Tuesday, Reid told reporters “we have the floor votes” to pass a bill this year, and implied that the only roadblock to passing amnesty in 2009 would be finding time to debate the legislation on the Senate floor.  Senate Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee Chairman Chuck Schumer (D-NY) echoed Reid’s comments during a speech at Georgetown University on Wednesday, claiming that “all the fundamental building blocks are in place to pass comprehensive reform this session, and even possibly later this year.” (Politico, June 24, 2009; Roll Call, June 24, 2009).

The convention of a twice-delayed amnesty summit at the White House on Thursday (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, May 26, 2009 and Legislative Update, June 8, 2009) prompted several officials to comment on the prospects for amnesty in 2009. President Obama’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel told reporters Thursday morning that amnesty supporters do not have the votes to push “comprehensive immigration reform” through Congress: “If the votes were there, you wouldn’t need to have the meeting. You could go to a roll call.” (The Washington Post, June 25, 2009).  Later that day, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) reiterated her support for amnesty, but added a caveat: “The plan has always been for the Senate to go first.” (MarketWatch, June 25, 2009). 

After his amnesty summit wrapped up, President Obama addressed reporters, and noted that his “administration is fully behind an effort to achieve comprehensive immigration reform.” The president remained ambiguous, however, as to when the timing for consideration of an amnesty bill might occur: “We’ve got a responsible set of leaders sitting around the table who want to actively get something done and not put it off until a year, two years, three years, five years from now, but to start working on this thing right now.” (Politico, June 25, 2009).

California Soft on Criminal Illegal Aliens

Critics are concerned that Governor Schwarzenegger’s proposal to release as many as 19,000 criminal illegal aliens in an effort to reduce the state budget deficit will make the people of California less safe.  This proposal comes on the heels of the revelation that San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, a candidate for California Attorney General, is behind a program that helped illegal aliens stay out of jail.

It has recently been revealed that San Francisco’s District Attorney Kamala Harris is behind a program which has allowed “illegal immigrants to stay out of prison by training them for jobs they cannot legally hold.”  (Los Angeles Times, June 22, 2009).  After a year of participating in the so-called “Back on Track” program – a jobs program consisting of a mixture of taxpayer funded community service and career education programs – a participant’s criminal record is wiped clean. (San Francisco District Attorney’s Office – Back on Track).

The intent of the program is to reduce recidivism and help train individuals to enter the workforce.  But San Francisco is spending tax dollars to benefit illegal aliens with job training, even though these aliens are illegally present in the United States and cannot legally hold those jobs.  Aside from the fiscal impact, placing illegal alien felons back on the street puts citizens and legal immigrants across the United States at risk. The dangers of this policy recently came to light after a resident of San Francisco was left with a fractured skull after being brutally attacked by an illegal alien who was a participant in the Back on Track program. (Los Angeles Times, June 22, 2009). 

At the same time, in an attempt to close the $24 billion budget gap, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed releasing as many as 19,000 illegal alien inmates who are serving time in California’s prison system.  It is unlikely that California will be able to turn its illegal alien inmates over to Federal officials for incarceration.  According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Virginia Kice, “33,000 federal detention cells across the country [are] already full, and immigration judges could be overloaded if the number of deportation cases balloons.”  (Associated Press, June 22, 2009). 

While incarcerating illegal aliens poses costs to California taxpayers, those costs are not as great as some of the benefits the state provides to illegal aliens.  As FAIR has previously reported, the state of California provides services to illegal aliens above and beyond what is required by federal law.  (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, June 15, 2009 and Cost Study of Illegal Immigration to California, 2004).  The governor could save money and still protect the people of California by eliminating benefits for illegal aliens.

As Americans Struggle with College Costs, State Gives Discounted Tuition to Foreign Students

Under a new Washington State law, foreign guest workers – and their families who are in the United States – will be allowed to attend college by paying in-state tuition, even though the law does not extend that same benefit to American citizens who are from other states.

The law – which started as H.B. 1487 in the Washington State Legislature – was signed into law by Governor Christine Gregoire on April 25 and will take effect on July 1.  The new law permits foreign workers with certain work visas, including H-1B visas, to access in-state tuition benefits.  The law reduces Washington’s in-state residency requirement from three years to one year for foreign workers and also eliminates the requirement that students must attend a Washington State high school to qualify for in-state tuition.  The new rules also provide reduced tuition to family members of certain visa holders.  (WA Bill Action, 2009 Session; Seattle Times, June 22, 2009; and Bellingham Herald, June 22, 2009).

Critics point out that the law could not have come at a worse time for Washingtonians.  The law is expected to contribute to a loss of revenue for the state university system.  Initial estimates predict that the University of Washington will lose $430,000 in tuition revenue and that Washington State University could lose approximately $215,000.  (Id.).  Beyond revenue loss, others have pointed out that the law also reduces the number of educational opportunities available to Washington State residents at a time when more people are looking to return to school to obtain advanced degrees. 

Critics have dubbed the bill, which was proposed by a former Microsoft executive (State Rep. Ross Hunter (D-Medina)), the “Microsoft subsidy bill,” because the Seattle-based software company will garner the bulk of the benefit from the new law.  Recognizing that this law is nothing more than a corporate welfare bill at the expense of state residents, State Rep. Bob Hasegawa (D-Seattle) said: “We only allow X amount of [admission] slots for resident tuition rates and we are displacing those residents with H-1B visa holders, their families and dependents.  Microsoft can well afford out-of-state tuition for its people.”  (Id.).

At the same time, the new law discriminates against American citizens because it does not extend in-state tuition benefits to U.S. citizens living outside of Washington State.  Accordingly, under the bill, an H-1B visa holder could send a family member to a state university for a total annual cost of $7,677 during the next academic year, compared to the annual out-of-state tuition cost of $24,352 that an out-of-state American citizen would be forced to pay. 

Washington State’s move to reduce college costs for foreign born students comes on the heels of a recent New York Times article which concluded that American college students will have a harder time paying for college this coming school year.  According to The Times, “Students looking for college scholarships are going to have a harder time this year as providers, hammered by falling investment returns and declining philanthropic support.”  (New York Times, June 26, 2009).  The current economic climate has “led foundations, corporations, state governments and colleges themselves to reduce their support of providers of scholarships, and in recent months programs have been reduced or canceled outright. The cuts come as economic conditions make it harder for families to pay for college and as more unemployed people look for financing for retraining.”  (Id.).

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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.