Legislative Update: 3/07/2017
Trump Unveils New Order to Protect National Security
By: Robert Law
President Donald Trump has signed a new executive order that ensures foreign nationals are properly vetted before they gain entry to the country. The administration was forced to issue the new order after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an activist judge’s temporary restraining order (TRO) that blocked the implementation of several key provisions of the original January 27 executive order. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Feb. 14, 2017) The new executive order, like the original is titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” becomes effective on March 16 and at that point will revoke and replace the January 27 order. (President Trump's National Security Executive Order, Mar. 6, 2017)
The revised executive order imposes a temporary freeze on entry by individuals from six countries that are hotbeds for terrorism. Section 2 suspends the entry into the U.S. for 90 days for aliens from the following countries: Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, and Sudan. (Id.) This travel freeze differs from the original one in several ways. First, Iraq has been dropped from the list of countries subject to the travel freeze. (Id.) More importantly, Section 3 of the new order makes clear that the travel freeze only applies to individuals who “do not have a valid visa on the effective date of this order” and expressly does not apply to green card holders (lawful permanent residents) or anyone with dual citizenship with one of the six nations, among a number of exemptions. (Id.) The new executive order maintains the discretionary authority for the Secretaries of State and DHS to admit nationals from the list of countries during the freeze on a case-by-case basis when deemed in the national interest. (Id.)
Section 6 reestablishes the 120-day temporary suspension of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) that was blocked by the courts. (Id.; see FAIR Legislative Update, Feb. 7, 2017) Unlike the original order, the revised one does not indefinitely suspend the resettlement of Syrian refugees nor does it prioritize the resettlement of refugees on the basis of religious persecution upon resumption of the program. (President Trump's National Security Executive Order, Mar. 6, 2017; see FAIR Legislative Update, Jan. 31, 2017) The revised executive order keeps the Fiscal Year 2017 refugee resettlement cap at 50,000—an aspect of the original executive order that was not blocked by the TRO. (President Trump's National Security Executive Order, Mar. 6, 2017) The 50,000 refugee cap is aligned with historical levels and reverses the reckless policy of the Obama administration to admit 110,000 refugees in the current fiscal year. (Id.; see FAIR Legislative Update, Jan. 31, 2017)
The revised executive order also retains several other important national security changes existing in the January 27 order. First, Section 8 directs the DHS Secretary to “expedite the completion and implementation of a biometric entry-exit tracking system.” (President Trump's National Security Executive Order, Mar. 6, 2017) Congress has repeatedly passed legislation since 1996 mandating entry-exit (and biometric since 9/11) but the program has inexplicably never been finalized. Section 9 immediately suspends the visa waiver program, which allows nationals from 38 countries to enter the U.S. without applying for a visa or facing in-person screening. (Id.) Instead, the executive order calls for establishing uniform vetting procedures for all aliens.
Predictably, open borders advocates immediately criticized the revised executive order. Gang of Eight leader, and current Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer (D-NY) claimed, “This dangerous executive order makes us less safe, not more, it is mean-spirited, and un-American.” (BGov, Mar. 6, 2017) House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) described it as “immoral, unconstitutional, and dangerous.” (Id.)
By: RJ Hauman
President Donald Trump, in his first address to a joint session of Congress, laid out his vision for key immigration policy changes. (Remarks by President Trump in Joint Address to Congress, Feb. 28, 2017) In the hours leading up to the speech, speculation mounted that Trump would call for some kind of amnesty for illegal aliens who have not committed serious crimes. (The Blaze, Feb. 28, 2017) These rumors started after Trump hosted a luncheon for journalists who started tweeting that the president told them he wants a “compromise” immigration bill. (Id.) However, those rumors proved untrue as Trump spent much of his speech calling for immigration policies that strengthen national security, improve wages, and restore the rule of law. (Remarks by President Trump in Joint Address to Congress, Feb. 28, 2017) After Trump completed his speech, the official Democratic response was given by former Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear who only briefly mentioned immigration—defending President Obama’s unconstitutional Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) amnesty program and criticizing President Trump’s decision to limit the number of refugees resettled in the country. (Official Democratic Response to President Trump's Address, Feb. 28, 2017) The Democrats also tasked illegal alien Astrid Silva to provide the party’s Spanish-language response. (Democratic Spanish Language Response to President Trump’s Address, Feb. 28, 2017) However, instead of repeating the same speech given by Gov. Beshear—the standard procedure for Spanish-language responses—Silva’s entire address focused on a call for mass amnesty. (Id.)
Below are highlights from President Trump’s address organized by policy area.
Enforcement and Border Security
From the outset, President Trump focused on immigration enforcement and border security. (Remarks by President Trump in Joint Address to Congress, Feb. 28, 2017) “By finally enforcing our immigration laws, we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions and billions of dollars, and make our communities safer for everyone,” Trump declared. (Id.) “We want all Americans to succeed, but that can't happen in an environment of lawless chaos. We must restore integrity and the rule of law at our borders.” (Id.) Trump then addressed two of his key campaign promises—building a wall on the southern border and immediately removing dangerous criminal aliens. (Id.) “We will soon begin the construction of a great, great wall along our southern border [and] as we speak tonight, we are removing gang members, drug dealers, and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our very innocent citizens,” he said. (Id.) Trump then spoke directly to the lawmakers before him, telling them that they must play a key role in implementing his border security and immigration enforcement agenda. (Id.) “To any in Congress who do not believe we should enforce our laws, I would ask you this one question: What would you say to the American family that loses their jobs, their income, or their loved one because America refused to uphold its laws and defend its borders?” (Id.)
Noting that “[his administration’s] obligation is to serve, protect, and defend the citizens of the United States,” Trump pledged to continue taking strong measures to ensure that terrorists are unable to exploit our immigration system. (Id.) After rattling off notable terrorist attacks carried out within our borders, as well as recent attacks in Europe, Trump declared that, “those given the high honor of admission to the United States should support this country and love its people and its values.” (Id.) He added, “We cannot allow a beachhead of terrorism to form inside America [and] we cannot allow our nation to become a sanctuary for extremists.” (Id.) Trump then hinted at an upcoming executive order to replace the one currently blocked by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that attempted to temporarily freeze the admissions of people from countries that are hotbeds for terrorism. (Id.; see FAIR Legislative Update, Feb. 14, 2017) “My administration has been working on improved vetting procedures and we will shortly take new steps to keep our nation safe and keep out those who will do us harm,” he said. (Remarks by President Trump in Joint Address to Congress)
The president also discussed his vision of a legal immigration system that is merit-based and serves the interests of taxpaying American workers. (Id.) “The current, outdated [legal immigration system] depresses wages for our poorest workers, and puts great pressure on taxpayers,” Trump said. (Id.) He also noted that other nations, such as Canada and Australia, already have a merit-based system. (Id.) “It's a basic principle that those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially,” Trump went on to say. (Id.) “Yet, in America, we do not enforce this rule, straining the very public resources that our poorest citizens rely upon.” (Id.) Trump’s willingness to switch away from the current system of lower-skilled immigration was a tacit endorsement of Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue’s (R-GA) RAISE Act (S. 354). (See FAIR Legislative Update, Feb. 14, 2017) This important piece of legislation would take the first crucial step in moving the immigrant selection process to a more merit-based system while returning immigration to more historic levels. (See FAIR's RAISE Act Bill Summary)
Obama Administration Ignored Millions of Visa Overstays
By Shari Rendall
A recently released Government Accountability Office (GAO) report revealed that more than 1.6 million foreign nationals overstayed the authorized duration of their visas during Obama’s second term and became part of the illegal alien population in the United States. (See GAO Report at p. 30, February 2017) The GAO report, which was sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee, concluded that these foreigners who were granted temporary admission into the country on a B- visa (business or pleasure) were able to disappear into the interior of the country because the Obama administration refused to take action against anyone who did not meet the administration’s “enforcement priorities” based on nation security or public safety. (Id.) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) justified the Obama administration’s decision to ignore these 1.6 million illegal aliens, saying they “do not have the criminal convictions required to classify as a DHS enforcement priority.” (Id. at 32)
The report also found that foreign nationals are routinely failing to depart the country at the end of their authorized stay. According to the report, between fiscal years 2013 and 2015 approximately 2.7 million foreigners on a B- visa failed to depart when required to do so. (Id. at 30) Of those, 871,463 overstays eventually departed or got some other legal status; 26, 982 were flagged as security risks; and 155,182 are being continuously monitored. (Id.)
Importantly, the GAO report only sheds light on part of the visa overstay problem. First, the report only considers the number of overstays of the B- visa and does not calculate the overstay numbers of other visa categories, including the F-1 student visa; H- and L- visas; or the J-1 exchange visa. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Jan. 26, 2016) Additionally, the report only counts the B- visa overstays of nonimmigrants that entered the United States through air or sea ports-of-entry without accounting for those who enter via land ports-of-entry because that biographic information is not being captured. (Id.)
This report highlights the illegal immigration problems that persist with the government’s failure to fully implement biometric entry-exit screening at all ports-of-entry. Despite Congress requiring the federal government to implement an entry-exit system since 1996 and, requiring it to be biometrically based since 2004, it remains only partially done. (SeeFAIR Legislative Update, Apr. 19, 2016) While the entry segment has been in place for nearly a decade, the exit part has been neglected and there is no biometric system currently in place for any port of exit out of the U.S. by land, air or sea. (Id.) This failure of the federal government to implement a biometric entry-exit system at all ports-of-entry has resulted in the huge visa overstay issue that also poses significant national security implications. It is estimated that 40 percent of the illegal alien population are visa overstays. (Id.)
The Obama administration failed to complete the biometric entry-exit system despite receiving sufficient funding from Congress to do so. Last year, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 which created a dedicated source of revenue of $1 billion to implement the biometric entry-exit system. (See GAO Report, February 2017) Additionally, then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) authored an amendment that was not included in the funding bill that would have allowed DHS and each airport to create a solution that works specific to the needs of each individual airport so long as the entry-exit system is installed and implemented within two years. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Apr. 19, 2016) Yet, as of November 2016, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) had not finalized any partnership agreements with the airports and airlines providing international service and the agency cannot complete its planning process until those agreements are finalized. (Id.)
Currently, FAIR is awaiting the 2016 overstay report by DHS which was supposed to be published at the end of February.
FAIR Releases Legislative Agenda for the 115th Congress
By: Federal Government Relations
FAIR’s Government Relations Team has just released An Immigration Reform Agenda for the 115th Congress. Designed as a resource for policymakers in Congress, the agenda serves as a guide for curtailing legal immigration, ending illegal immigration, and improving/enhancing national security. The thorough list of reforms presented by FAIR stand in sharp contrast to prior immigration reform efforts that sought to reward special interests through amnesty and the expansion of immigrant admissions. Notably, FAIR's recommendations are premised on the idea that the primary stakeholders in U.S. immigration policy are the American people.
Within An Immigration Reform Agenda for the 115th Congress, there are four major areas of true immigration reform: (1) national security and border control, (2) immigration enforcement, (3) taxpayer benefits for illegal aliens, and (4) legal immigration. While the recommendations in these areas are by no means exhaustive, they represent major reforms FAIR considers to be top priorities and the most effective solutions for solving the immigration crisis in the United States.
To access the congressional agenda, click here.
FAIR Study Shows States with Mandatory E-Verify Laws Lead in Economic Recovery
By State & Local Government Relations
Last week, FAIR released a report, The Impact of New and Expanded E-Verify Measures on Unemployment Rates Since the Great Recession, showing that states that require employers to use of E-Verify lead the way in recovery efforts following the worst economic downturn since the great depression. E-Verify is a program that allows employers to electronically confirm the legal work eligibility of prospective applicants. First created by Congress in 1996, the optional program has a 99.7 percent accuracy rate, and has been adopted as mandatory by a number of states.
The study examines 14 states that have created or expanded E-Verify laws since 2009, and found that almost all of the states experienced a drop in unemployment rates as a result, even while the national average increased. Perhaps more impressively, 12 out of the 15 states that passed new E-Verify measures experienced a drop in unemployment greater than the national average. Furthermore, states making E-Verify mandatory experienced the most pronounced decreases in unemployment rates.
Click here to read the report. FAIR encourages its members to contact their lawmakers to stress the importance of enacting mandatory E-Verify legislation.
Oregon Judge Helps Illegal Alien Evade ICE?
By State & Local Government Relations
Officials are investigating a judge’s actions in Oregon after an illegal alien defendant, Diddier Salazar, was allowed to use a side door to evade ICE agents in January. (Daily News, Mar. 3, 2017) Salazar entered a guilty plea for a DUI charge in front of Multnomah County Judge Monica Herranz. (Id.) ICE agents were waiting outside the courtroom to detain Salazar, who was removable from the United States under federal law. (Id.) Salazar was able to escape detention by federal agents by exiting the court room from a door unavailable to the general public. (Id.)
Salazar’s lawyer advised Salazar of the immigration consequences of a guilty plea. (Id.) “After the court appearance, I went out in the hallway and sat. My client never came out. I can't say that I'm surprised he didn't come out, but I gave him his options, and assume he had to have been escorted out some other way.” (Id.) The court room where Salazar appeared has only three doors: the public entrance, the one the judge uses, and one that is used to transport inmates to jail. (Id.)
If Multnomah County Judge Monica Herranz assisted Salazar in evading ICE, she may have violated the law or ethical rules. “I was troubled because, on the face of it, what I heard sounded like potential federal criminal law violations and/or ethical violations,” explained U.S. Attorney Billy Williams. (Id.) “Generally, we're talking about obstruction of justice.” (Id.)
Although ICE detained Diddier Salazar following a later hearing, the judge’s conduct is still under investigation. (Id.) “We are trying to determine what exactly happened and whether any rules or policies were in fact violated,” said Multnomah County Circuit Court Trial Court Administrator Barbara Marcille. (Id.)