May 26, 2009

Right Side News Reports from the Federation for American Immigration Reform in this May 26th Legislative Weekly…

  • White House Amnesty Summit to be Held OUtside of Public View 
  • Schumer Suggests Border Secure, American Peope Ready for Amnesty
  • Obama Administration Annouces Expansion of Secure Communities Program 
  • With Americans Out-of Work, Hotel Industry Spends $350,000 Lobbying for More “Guest-Workers” 
  • Border Patrol Mourns Loss of Dedicated Agent 

White House Amnesty Summit to be Held Outside of Public View

On June 8, President Barack Obama will meet with Congressional leaders to discuss immigration reform legislation.  (Politico, May 20, 2009).  In the past, President Obama has supported “comprehensive immigration reform,” which has included amnesty for the more than 12 million illegal aliens who are living in the United States.  (Luuliyo Online, May 20, 2009). 
During a meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus this past May, President Obama promised to hold a forum on immigration reform.  (WSJ Washington Wire, March 18, 2009).  As FAIR previously reported, “according to senior administration officials, Obama will speak publicly about the immigration issue in May.”  (FAIR’s Legislative Update, April 13, 2009).  Despite President Obama’s statement that “transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing,” and his promise to run a more transparent government, the immigration meeting will not be public.  (Obama Transparency Memorandum).   Instead, it will be held behind closed doors, outside of the view of the American public which has strongly opposed amnesty in the past.  This initial closed-door meeting in June appears to be in lieu of a public forum on the immigration issue.

The meeting will take place at the White House and will include “a small bipartisan group of lawmakers from the House and Senate, including party leaders and people who have worked on immigration issues.”  (Luuliyo).  Among the lawmakers invited to the meeting are two Democratic Members of the House of Representatives from California: Zoe Lofgren of San Jose, who chairs the House Immigration Subcommittee, and Xavier Becerra of Los Angeles, who is regarded as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s point person on immigration matters.  (KPCC Radio, May 21, 2009).  Both Lofgren and Becerra are outspoken supporters of amnesty. (See FAIR’s Congressional Voting Report for the 110th Congress).

The White House meeting comes at a time when nearly 14 million American workers are out of a job and desperately looking for work. (Luuliyo).  The last time that Congress considered amnesty, in June 2007, unemployment stood at 4.6 percent and 7 million Americans were out of work.  However, today’s unemployment rate stands at 8.9 percent, and 13.7 million Americans are out of work.  (See FAIR’s Amnesty & Joblessness Report, May 2009).  Amnesty would allow the estimated 8.3 million illegal aliens who are in the workforce to keep the jobs they never should have had, instead of freeing those jobs up for the American workers who need them.  In addition, amnesty would give those 8.3 million illegal aliens the ability to begin openly competing for other jobs, in a time when America’s labor market is already demonstrating a lack of available jobs.

Schumer Suggests Border Secure, American People Ready for Amnesty

Last Wednesday, May 20, Senate Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee Chairman Chuck Schumer (D-NY) held a hearing entitled “Securing the Border and America’s Points of Entry, What Remains to Be Done.”  The hearing was the second in a series meant to lay the groundwork for the introduction of a massive “comprehensive immigration reform” bill meant to grant amnesty to the approximately 12 million illegal aliens residing in the United States.

Schumer opened the hearing by claiming that the American people would only accept an amnesty “if they can be convinced that their government is serious about drastically reducing the number of illegal immigrants entering the United States.”  The subcommittee chairman stated that true immigration reformers opposed to amnesty for illegal aliens “have continually promised that they’ll engage in conversation about immigration reform once Congress showed it was serious about securing the border.” Schumer then attempted to argue that this “showing has clearly been made,” and claimed that “almost the whole border fence has been built.” (Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Citizenship Hearing, May 20, 2009).

Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (R-AL) agreed with Schumer that “progress has been made” on border security, but added that “we are not there yet.”  Sessions noted that Congress’ original intent was that almost 700 miles of border fence be built, and added that the Border Patrol had constructed two types of fencing to count toward that total: pedestrian fencing and vehicle barriers.  Under questioning from Sen. Sessions, Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar admitted that pedestrians “can get across” the vehicle barriers.  Sessions went on to point out that the Border Patrol had constructed 323 miles of single-layer pedestrian fencing and 303 miles of vehicle barriers, and combined these numbers as they counted toward their ultimate mileage goal. (Id.).

Former Arizona Congressman J.D. Hayworth testified at the hearing, as well. Hayworth argued that it would make more sense for Congress to pursue “comprehensive border enforcement…[and] comprehensive employee verification before we take on comprehensive immigration reform.” In his testimony, the former representative echoed the sentiments of Sen. Sessions, indicating that the border fence has not been built as Congress intended. (Testimony of The Honorable J.D.Hayworth, May 20, 2009).  Sen. Schumer – who was absent from the hearing when Sessions detailed the differences between what Congress had intended to be built and what the Border Patrol had actually built – took offense to Hayworth’s statement about the border fence.  Schumer implied that Hayworth was failing to “stick to the facts,” and then went on to say that their “is a fence, minimum ten foot high, for the vast majority of the non-Rio Grande border” – a statement that directly contradicted the statistics Sessions had presented while Schumer was absent from the hearing.

Schumer concluded the hearing by saying that the subcommittee intends to hold “comprehensive hearings on…every difficult aspect of immigration reform.” (Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Citizenship Hearing, May 20, 2009). It is unclear yet as to what the topic of the next hearing will be and when that hearing will be held.

Obama Administration Announces Expansion of Secure Communities Program

The Obama Administration announced last week that it intends to expand Secure Communities, a program started under President Bush that seeks to identify and deport illegal aliens booked into local jails. While government officials portrayed the announcement as a fulfillment of the administration’s promise to prioritize criminal illegal aliens for deportation, true immigration reformers expressed reservations about the expansion. (The Washington Post, May 19, 2009).

Though last week’s Washington Post article implied that the program was “new” (Id.), the government agency that oversees Secure Communities notes that it actually began on December 26, 2007. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) states that the overarching goal of the program is “to improve public safety by implementing a comprehensive, integrated approach to identify and remove criminal aliens from the United States.” (ICE – Secure Communities Mission and Background Information).

Secure Communities – which was in use in 48 local jails as of April 15, 2009 – works by allowing officials to submit the fingerprints of individuals booked into local jails for screening against DHS and Department of Justice databases. ICE then utilizes a “threat-based approach” to prioritize enforcement actions on criminal aliens who the agency determines to be the most dangerous. (ICE – Secure Communities Home Page). Following the announcement, ICE now expects the program to be deployed “with national coverage” by 2012. (ICE – Secure Communities Fact Sheet, May 14, 2009).

True immigration reformers expressed concern over the announcement, which seemed to reinforce the perception that the Obama Administration intends to abdicate enforcement of immigration laws against certain non-criminal illegal aliens.  House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Lamar Smith (R-TX) noted: “If the Obama administration abandons immigration enforcement in all but the most serious criminal cases, then they will create a de facto amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants and will encourage even more illegal immigration.” (The Washington Post, May 19, 2009).

With Americans Out-of-Work, Hotel Industry Spends $350,000 Lobbying for More “Guest-workers”

An analysis released by the Associated Press (AP) last week revealed that the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) – a special interest group that supports amnesty for illegal aliens and expansion of guest-worker programs – spent $350,000 in the first quarter of 2009 “to lobby mostly on labor and immigration issues.”  According to the AP report, AHLA lobbied on “rules related to employees of federal contractors and seasonal worker visas.” (Associated Press, May 18, 2009). 

AHLA is clearly opposed to the federal government’s rule that seeks to require most federal contractors to use E-Verify to confirm that their new hires and certain other employees are legally authorized to work in the United States.  On its website, the special interest group claims that implementation of the E-Verify requirement would open up “serious labor cost implications,” and goes on to assert that the final rule would be “unworkable if applied to our industry.”  (AHLA E-Verify Issue Brief).  Originally, the E-Verify rule for federal contractors was set to take effect on January 15, 2009. However, the Bush Administration caved to a coalition of special interest groups who sued to prevent the rule from taking effect and delayed the rule’s implementation until February 20, 2009. (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, January 12, 2009). The Obama Administration has further delayed the rule’s implementation until June 30, 2009. (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, April 20, 2009).

In regard to “seasonal worker visas,” AHLA advocates for an expansion of the H-2B visa program, which allows hotels to hire cheap foreign labor to fill temporary work positions. AHLA claims that H-2B workers do not depress wages and that it is impossible to find Americans – such as college students on summer break – to fill these temporary positions. The group explicitly expresses support for legislation that would increase the number of H-2B workers allowed to work in the United States each year. (AHLA H-2B Program Issue Brief).

The AP’s report echoes the findings of FAIR’s January 2009 special report on immigration lobbying. FAIR’s research revealed that the vast majority of organizations who lobby the federal government on immigration issues have “a direct financial or political interest in relaxing immigration enforcement, and/or expansion of existing immigration quotas – positions that are widely rejected by the public.” (See FAIR’s Lobbying Report, January 2009).

Border Patrol Mourns Loss of Dedicated Agent

Late last week, while tracking a group of illegal aliens near Del Rio, Texas, Senior Border Patrol Agent Cruz McGuire, a 47-year-old veteran of the Border Patrol, collapsed and later died. (Del Rio News Herald, May 22, 2009).  Agent McGuire received CPR at the scene but later died after being rushed to Val Verde Regional Medical Center.  Expressing condolences, Del Rio Sector Chief Patrol Agent Randy Hill said: “As emblematic of Cruz’s career dedication, he was working a trail with fellow agents when he collapsed. He was doing exactly what he wanted to do each and every day.”  (Border Patrol Press Release, May 22, 2009).

Agent McGuire was a 25 year veteran of the Border Patrol who began serving in 1984.  He comes from a family with a rich tradition of service to the country and dedication to the protection of the United States.  His father, Cruz McGuire Sr., is a retired 25-year veteran of U.S. Customs and his brother Richard is currently a Border Patrol Agent assigned to the Del Rio Sector. Agent Cruz is survived by three children, Patrick, Marie and Jessica; his father and mother, Gloria; and his three siblings, Scott, Richard and Linda. (Press Release).