March 31, 2011 - Posted by Maurice Belanger
Momentum is slowing in the states for advocates of Arizona SB 1070-style legislation. Arizona’s pioneering approach to immigration law is looking to other states like the Donner party’s pioneering shortcut through the Great Salt Desert. While it is too early for opponents to declare victory, Arizona-style laws have so far been defeated in nine states.
A new report released last week from the National Immigration Forum takes a look at what has happened in Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah. The report, “In the States: Stepping into the Federal Void,” is an update to a report released in December, “Deficits, Lawsuits, Diminished Public Safety: Your State Can’t Afford SB 1070.” While SB 1070-style measures have not been ultimately put to rest in all of these states, the enthusiasm for enacting tough local enforcement laws has run in to the harsh fiscal realities states are experiencing.
The reversal of fortune for SB 1070-style legislation is also thanks in part due to the increasingly vocal opposition of business and law enforcement.
What has happened in Arizona is not good for business. According to estimates done for the Center for American Progress, cancelled meetings and conferences have already cost the state more than $150 million, and it is expected to lose another $250 million in lost conference business. If Arizona were to succeed in driving out all undocumented immigrants, the state’s economy would shrink by another $48 billion, and tax revenues would shrink by 10 percent.
In Indiana, two of the state’s largest employers—Eli Lilly and Cummins, Inc.—have come out against an SB 1070-style bill in that state, stating that it will hinder businesses from competing in the global market.
The complaints of law enforcement are both economic and substantive. Many agencies say that an SB 1070-style law will make it extremely difficult for police to carry out their primary duty, keeping the public safe. If police are required to round up immigrants, they will lose the trust they have built up in immigrant communities.
As El Paso’s Sheriff Richard Wiles put it,
"Police departments depend on trust, partnerships and a positive relationship with the communities we serve. I'm concerned that if forced into this immigration issue, we're going to tear down the trust and respect and crime will rise in our cities. There's no reason to go down that road."
El Paso has a lot to lose should the community distrust its police force: Last year, the city had the lowest crime rate of any city in the U.S. with a population of a half million or more.
Police are also concerned about shrinking budgets and increasing responsibilities. Lincoln, Nebraska’s Police Chief Tom Casady is already concerned that his force is the smallest, per capita, in the state and is failing to keep up with Lincoln’s growth. Writing about Nebraska’s LB 48, he said, “I fail to see this as a good return on investment.”
Opponents of these experiments in state enforcement of federal laws are also concerned about the additional burden these laws will place on states already reeling from the Great Recession. In Kansas, Senate Vice President John Vratil (R) would rather wait the outcome of lawsuits pending against Arizona.
“Why would we go down the same road as Arizona until there’s a determination in the federal courts? It’s silly as far as I’m concerned. All we’re going to do is get sued.”
Even in states controlled by conservative legislatures and governorships, there are proponents and opponents of SB 1070-style laws. The debate puts on display a political battle going on within the Republican Party and among conservatives. On the one hand, there are those who would spare no expense to enforce immigration law. On the other, there are those who believe they were elected not to expand the role of government as would be required by state enforcement of federal immigration laws, but instead to cut the size of government. Given the deficits already faced by states, the immigration laws being considered will require more debt, more cuts in other programs, or more taxes.
There is also the battle between the short-term and long-term thinkers within the Party. The harsh rhetoric surrounding the debate over these immigration laws may motivate a certain element of the conservative base, but the cost is alienation of the fastest-growing segment of the electorate—Latino voters. Strategists concerned about the long-term prospects are concerned about the ability of Republican politicians to attract Latino voters, who look at a candidate’s position on immigration as a proxy for respect for their community. In the future, attracting the Latino vote will be key to winning national elections, as it already is in some key states.
Get the report, to read more about what is going on in the states.
Image by Flickr User wwarby.
March 07, 2011 - Posted by Ali Noorani
Ali Noorani was invited to speak on Border Security and Immigration Reform at the American Policy Summit of the Tea Party Patriots, on February 26, 2011. Joining him were Andresen Blom of the American Principles Project and Norman Adams of Texans for Sensible Immigration Policy. Based on his remarks at the Summit, below is an open letter to the Tea Party:
The National Immigration Forum wants to end illegal immigration. Like every member of the Tea Party, we are frustrated by inaction by our federal government, and we worry about the direction of our great country.
A combination of politics, bureaucratic incompetence, and a failure to listen to common sense has stood in the way creating a national immigration strategy that meets our nation’s needs. The taxpayer, the small business owner, the family working hard to make ends meet, all of us, are watching our tax dollars disappear into an immigration money pit where federal waste, mismanagement and government intrusiveness are the standard operating procedure.
As a result, our deficit bankrupts our present and our future. Our neighbors struggle to find jobs while our economy sputters along. Meanwhile, our tradition of liberty is threatened by an archaic immigration system that is almost half a century old and cannot maintain the rule of law for the 21st century.
Instead of fostering the free market, supporting small businesses, rewarding good employers who play by the rules, and preserving the sanctity of the family, our immigration system fails to meet our nation’s needs and the vision and tradition of our forefathers.
· We want a secure border but Washington allows our tax dollars to be spent on gimmicks not solutions.
· We want a secure border, but Washington hasn’t created the right policies to prevent guns going south and drugs coming north.
· We train the best and brightest students in the world, and then our immigration system promptly sends them overseas to create companies that take American jobs.
· We encourage employers to create good paying jobs, but our immigration system allows unscrupulous employers to exploit workers of all backgrounds.
· We believe in family values, but our immigration system takes mothers from their children.
Today I write in the interests of developing smarter enforcement and smarter solutions that create a national immigration strategy in line with our values.
Let me begin here: The National Immigration Forum wants smarter immigration enforcement that keeps our nation and our communities secure, ensures our long term economic prosperity and honors America’s heritage as a nation of laws. We stand alongside sheriffs and mayors in recommending immigration policies and laws that increase public safety and prioritize scarce resources – our taxpayer dollars - towards stopping those who threaten to harm our communities and families. We have supported bi-partisan immigration reform bills that required serious measurements and accounting of border security.
Security benchmarks, identified in 2007, have been met. Yet our immigration system remains in need of repair. Here’s why:
Beginning in 1994, the federal government began to invest enormous resources into border security along the southwestern border. Since then, we have spent over $75 billion on border security and at least $50 billion on interior security. Even as we spent and continue to spend billions and billions of tax dollars the number of people here illegally grew from 4 million to nearly 12 million.
If our federal immigration system were a private enterprise, it would have gone out of business a long time ago. Clearly, enforcement alone has not solved and will not ever solve the problem; a different kind of solution is needed.
But, before we talk about what we need to do, let’s talk about what we have done:
· Border patrol has more than doubled its force on the Southwest border. Going from 8,580 in 2000 to over 17,500 agents in 2009.
· 1,200 National Guard troops patrol the southwest border, as well as thousands of federal law enforcement agents from nearly every federal law enforcement agency.
· There are over 649 miles of border fencing, 139 Border Patrol stations, 21 Border Enforcement Security Teams, and 37 Border Patrol checkpoints.
· On the lookout for unlawful traffic are electronic surveillance and communications equipment, including 10,000 ground sensors, as well as sensor towers, mobile surveillance systems, and thousands of cameras with infra-red night vision.
· A total of 290 aircraft are deployed daily for surveillance, along with mobile surveillance systems and remote video surveillance.
This massive outlay of resources continues in spite of the fact the border has seen fewer illegal crossings in 2010 than any year since 1972 – due in large part to a faltering economy.
While illegal crossings are lower than ever, threats still exist. Today we face powerful cartels that smuggle money, guns and drugs across the border, often preying on immigrants seeking a better life.
After examining Department of Justice data, the Texas Border Coalition found that the probability of a person involved in criminal activity crossing the border between the ports of entry being apprehended is 70 percent; but the probability of a person involved in criminal activity crossing at the ports of entry being apprehended is about 30 percent. This glaring difference exists despite overwhelming evidence that most criminal activity takes place at ports of entry. They estimated that 90% of illegal drugs enter the U.S. at ports of entry, which also serve as the conduit for the bulk of cash and guns being smuggled into Mexico.
For politicians in Washington, pictures of bridges and roads at ports of entry aren’t as exciting as pictures of fences and Border Patrol in the desert. As a result, our ports of entry have been neglected.
This misallocation of border resources has economic implications.
A 2006 study estimated that wait times at the border due to insufficient lanes, inspectors, and technology at ports of entry results in about $2 billion in lost economic output in the San Diego region alone, every year. Each additional 15 minutes of wait time at ports of entry represents an additional $1 billion loss in productivity and a loss of 134,000 jobs in the bi-national border region.
In summary, the border security benchmarks that Congress identified in 2007 as a prerequisite for an immigration overhaul have been met at the expense of security and trade at our ports of entry.
Meanwhile, the Obama Administration has broken every record for arrests, deportations, and worksite audits and just like the border, at an enormous cost to the taxpayer. Last year, more non-citizens were deported than ever before – almost 400,000 people, making for 1,100 people per day removed from our country. But, more than half of them had no criminal history.
Most American taxpayers would be stunned to learn that the Administration spends $23,000 to deport a single immigrant. Thus, removing 400,000 a year comes at an enormous social and fiscal cost to our country. Studies show it would cost $285 billion over 5 years to remove the entire undocumented population – without accounting for lost economic activity in cities and towns across the country. Just to hold immigrants in detention now costs the taxpayers an average of $122 per detainee per day, for a grand total of $2 billion a year—and this money is feeding a growing for-profit prison industry.
We should not be wasting enormous sums of our tax money detaining and deporting landscapers and dishwashers who want to pay taxes, learn English and contribute to their new home.
Spending our way out of illegal immigration is not sustainable. Our taxes will increase, and our government will find new ways to intrude in our lives in their effort enforce outdated immigration laws.
Now is the time to fix the underlying problem – the absurd laws that masquerade as an immigration “system.”
But Congress – whether it is led by Democrats or Republicans – has failed, time and again, to successfully grapple with the problem of our broken immigration system. If this Congress is serious about reigning in out of control Washington spending and trimming the deficit, they need take a different approach and create a national immigration strategy that:
· Creates a functional system for immigrants to go through and not around;
· Allows us to focus enforcement resources on threats to our safety and security.
· Allows small businesses to focus on creating jobs and rebuilding our economy, not forced to act as unfunded immigration enforcement agents electronically “patting down” each and every one of us.
· Requires those here illegally to pass a criminal background check, learn English, pay a penalty and register for legal status before waiting up to 15 years to become a citizen, saving taxpayers more than $4.5 billion per year along the way.
This kind of national immigration strategy would create $1.5 trillion in economic growth and output over 10 years (leading to over 750,000 jobs).
Meanwhile, the broken status quo will cost us $2.5 trillion over 10 years in lost growth. That $4 trillion swing makes for 4 trillion reasons why Democrats and Republicans need to stop the bickering and get to work on fixing our broken immigration system.
I close this letter with Article II, Section 8 of the United States Constitution, “The Congress shall have Power to establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization.”
Our nation’s fiscal health, our free markets and our liberty depend on Congress coming together to fix our broken immigration system so, we have a uniform rule of naturalization that adheres to our nation’s values and moves us forward together.
The Tea Party, whose adherents love America and her liberty, have a home in the movement to reform our broken immigration system. Join us in creating a system that honors our great American tradition of the melting pot while staying true to the founders’ vision of America as a nation of laws.
March 07, 2011 - Posted by Maurice Belanger
Unfinished Business: The activity around the budget and appropriations is more confusing than normal this year, because the previous Congress never passed a final spending bill for the fiscal year that ends September 30, 2011. Instead, they passed a temporary spending bill that expired March 4. Thus, even as Congress begins its consideration of the President’s budget for Fiscal Year 2012, released on February 14, it is still working on a spending bill to fund the government for the remainder of this fiscal year (2011).
Funding for 2011: On March 2, the Senate approved, and the President signed, a short-term spending bill to continue funding the federal government for two additional weeks, until March 18. That bill came from the House, which approved it on March 1. This will give the House and Senate more time to come up with a compromise measure to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year.
The House has passed its bill, H.R. 1. The bill would take $100 billion off the President’s Fiscal Year 2011 request (released a year ago last month), or approximately $60 billion below 2010 levels. The major immigration-related concerns are related to refugee assistance and to immigrant integration.
Impact on Refugee Assistance: The House spending bill proposes to cut the budget for the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration by 45%, or $830 million. Among other things, these funds are used to provide assistance to refugees overseas, and for admission and initial resettlement of refugees to the U.S. The House bill also would make a 67% cut in spending for the account used to assist internally displaced persons.
Immigrant Integration: In his FY 2011 budget request, the President asked for $18 million for the Office of Citizenship. That amount would fund the operations of the Office and it would provide approximately $11 million for its Immigrant Integration Initiative, including approximately $8.5 million in grants to organizations to help immigrants prepare for citizenship. The House bill would provide no appropriations for the Office of Citizenship, and language in the bill prohibits spending for immigrant integration grants.
The Senate has yet to reveal its plans, but it will draft a separate bill that will likely be very different from the House bill.
More information on our Web site: House Spending Bill Proposes to Reverse Government Initiative to Integrate Immigrants.
The President’s Budget: On February 14, the President released his budget for Fiscal Year 2012, which begins October 1, 2011. The Forum has produced two documents that summarize the immigration-related parts of the budget. You can get those documents from the Forum’s Web site: The President’s FY2012 Budget - Department of Homeland Security and The President’s FY2012 Budget - Department of Justice.
Congress has begun a series of hearings on the President’s FY 2012 budget, as a prelude to drafting its own appropriations bills. That process will continue through the summer, at least.
Fiscal Responsibility? Let’s Start with Enforcement: The new Congress is preoccupied with cutting government spending. In coming up with a budget for the next fiscal year, Congress will be looking to trim budgets. The Forum recently released a paper that shows how Congress’ failure to fix the broken immigration system, and its insistence on more and more spending on immigration enforcement, has come at a tremendous cost to the taxpayer. The paper documents the record enforcement that is now being conducted, and the diminishing returns to the taxpayer. We suggest that there is plenty to cut in the enforcement budget, and if Congress would actually fix the immigration system, many billions of dollars could be saved annually. You can get the paper, “Immigration Enforcement Fiscal Overview: Where are We, and Where are We Going?” from our Web site. Also available is a one-pager with recommendations on border security spending, “Securing the Border without Breaking the Bank: Border Security Spending Principles for the 112th Congress.”
March 07, 2011 - Posted by Maurice Belanger
The Immigration Subcommittee in the House, Chaired by Elton Gallegly (R-CA) has held a series of hearings, and will be holding more. The Republican majority controls which topics the Subcommittee will consider. A major theme threading through all of the hearings has been that undocumented workers take jobs from Americans. Perhaps because the hearings have been so predictable, not much attention has been paid in the press (except in Spanish-language media).
The first hearing was ICE Worksite Enforcement - Up to the Job? In this hearing, Republican members of the Subcommittee complained that ICE was not conducting enough worksite raids of the kind that devastated the community of Postville, Iowa, in 2008.
In the second hearing, “E-Verify- Preserving Jobs for American Workers,” Republicans tried to make the point that, if only the E-Verify electronic worker verification system were mandatory and universally used, undocumented workers would be thwarted from gaining employment and American workers would have their jobs. (Of course, it’s not that simple, particularly in Agriculture. Read more in this blog post about the unintended consequences of E-Verify without immigration reform.)
The next hearing, held on March 1, was an example of Congress at its most cynical. The hearing was entitled “Making Immigration Work for American Minorities.” There were three majority (Republican) witnesses to tell us about how much undocumented immigrants are hurting American minorities. One was a board member of the anti-immigrant group Federation for American Immigration Reform. Another also has had a history of collaborating with various anti-immigrant groups. The third was a representative of the San Antonio Tea Party. [Read more in this article from the Center for New Community.]
It’s perhaps not surprising that the Committee and Subcommittee Chairs could not come up with better witnesses. Their voting records, according to organizations that actually represent minorities, are, um, less than stellar. For example, in the 111th Congress (2nd session), both the Judiciary Committee Chair Lamar Smith and the Immigration Subcommittee Chair Elton Gallegly received a rating of 18% in the NAACP’s Legislative Civil Rights Report Card, voting against, for example, an anti-wage discrimination bill, a bill to expand health insurance for low- and middle-income children, and a bill to extend unemployment benefits during the recession. [Read more in this paper from America’s Voice.]
The lone minority (Democrat) witness was Wade Henderson, President of the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights, who in his testimony argued for comprehensive immigration reform, discussed policy changes that would improve conditions for low-income minority workers, and addressed efforts to pit one community against another (in this case, immigrants against African Americans). Regarding the impact of immigration on the unemployment of African Americans, he noted that the black unemployment rate in the U.S. has been about twice that of the white unemployment rate since the 1950s—long before the latest post-1965 wave of immigration—and the recent influx of immigrants has not changed that situation. He noted that there are economists who have extensively researched the issue of unemployment in the African American community, but that none were invited to testify at this hearing.
The next Subcommittee hearing will be March 10, “New Jobs in Recession and Recovery: Who Are Getting Them and Who Are Not.” It will be more of the same.
Over in the Homeland Security Committee, Peter King (R-NY) has garnered more attention in the press with his announcement that he will hold a hearing on March 10, “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community's Response.” Announcement of King’s intentions has raised considerable concern in the American Muslim community, for fears King that King is raising suspicions about Muslims in general, and implying they are not cooperating with law enforcement officials. For more information, see this article by the Rights Working Group about a coalition letter sent to King asking him to cancel the hearing.
March 07, 2011 - Posted by Maurice Belanger
Recently, a collaboration of organizations made available excerpts of thousands of pages of government documents pertaining to Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Secure Communities program. Under this program, fingerprints taken by local law enforcement agencies are checked not just against federal criminal databases, but also immigration databases. Many localities with large immigrant communities, and with local policing strategies that rely on gaining the trust of their immigrant population, prefer not to be enrolled in Secure Communities.
Among other things, the released documents reveal that, even within the Department of Homeland Security, there have been conflicting views about whether communities may opt not to participate in Secure Communities.
Read more about what the documents say about participation in Secure Communities in this blog post from the Forum’s Lena Graber.
March 02, 2011 - Posted by Lena Graber
The roll out of Department of Homeland Security’s massive immigration enforcement program, “Secure Communities,” has been an Orwellian rollercoaster since its inception in late 2008.
Is it mandatory or not mandatory?
Does DHS even have the authority to make it mandatory?
Will things be different in 2013?
What choice do communities have in this process?
Does Secure Communities catch “dangerous criminals” or just immigrants? Does the program even distinguish between those?
Ongoing litigation under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has brought a vast number of internal DHS documents to light. Unfortunately, that light really doesn’t illuminate the answers to many of these questions. Much like the public statements that DHS has made about the program, the agency’s internal documents and communications contradict themselves.
Let’s start with the few facts of which we can be fairly certain. Secure Communities operates by sending fingerprints taken by local law enforcement agents for comparison with federal immigration databases, in addition to the standard check against FBI criminal databases. If there is a match with prints in the immigration databases, ICE may respond by investigating the person’s status or pursuing immigration enforcement proceedings against him or her.
Opting out of the Secure Communities Program
Can a town or county or state decide they do not want to participate in Secure Communities?
Here the stories diverge considerably.
Originally, DHS promised that the program was entirely voluntary. In fact, facing criticism over the program, ICE detailed exactly how a jurisdiction could opt-out or delay enrollment in Secure Communities in a document called “Setting the Record Straight.” Furthermore, Secretary Napolitano, and Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich wrote in a September 8, 2010 letter to Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren that, “If a local law enforcement agency chooses not to be activated in the Secure Communities deployment plan, it will be the responsibility of that agency to notify its local ICE field office of suspected criminal aliens.”
But the following month, in October 2010, DHS reversed its position and claimed that no local jurisdiction was allowed to opt out of the program. “We don’t consider Secure Communities an opt in/opt out program,” Napolitano said. ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton stated that ICE would meet with localities, but agreements were between the state and the federal government.
DHS then stated in an internal memo that “opt-out” was being redefined to mean that a local jurisdiction could opt out of receiving the results from the database search, but not that the fingerprints would not be sent to ICE at all. (This position had been floated as early as November 2009, but was evidently not DHS’s final position until late 2010.) On November 5, 2010, ICE told officials from Arlington County, Virginia, that their only way out of Secure Communities was to not send any fingerprints to the FBI or check the criminal history or identity of anyone they arrest.
But even as DHS leadership was telling Arlington County that this was the only way out of Secure Communities, other states and counties were getting completely different messages. In a discussion of news articles about the new DHS position that Secure Communities is not optional, an unnamed ICE Regional Coordinator for Secure Communities wrote: “First, it isn’t precisely true – witness the fact that Chicago and Cook County IL have in fact opted out; and the fact that in New York State, we are required to ask each and every law enforcement organization in the state whether or not they wish to participate before we will be permitted to activate them. How does any of that square with the “no opt-out for locals”? Doesn’t.”
So is opting out technologically possible?
A mostly agreed-upon premise is that Secure Communities will be operational nation-wide by 2013. By that date, the federal government is merging its database searches under “Next Generation Identification.” By 2013, all federal criminal and immigration databases are supposed to be “interoperable,” which more or less means that any search of criminal databases will simultaneously search immigration databases. At that point, choosing not to send fingerprints to ICE may no longer be an option.
Currently, however, emails released by DHS under the FOIA show that it is technologically possible to prevent fingerprints taken at a local jail from going to ICE. The FBI division that conducts fingerprint matching can separate out the fingerprints originating from a single site (i.e. a single jail, even if other jails in the county participate in Secure Communities) and not send them to ICE databases. An email from August 23, 2010 stated, “Under our current infrastructure it is technically possible for a SC participating site (ORI) to be deactivated from the search of IDENT.”
However, jurisdictions asking to be taken out of the program have met significant resistance from ICE. While claiming that “no participating site has officially requested” to opt out, ICE was holding meetings with San Francisco, Arlington County, and others to try to pressure them to stop opposing the program.
DHS’s most recent position is that localities have no choice over participation in Secure Communities, because at the federal level DHS has agreed with the FBI to share the data. However, it is unclear whether DHS has authority to make that decision for any locality. Shouldn’t a city or county have control over who receives information on its residents? Why would that be up to DHS? ICE’s own legal research into the question admits that mandatory participation may be a matter for the courts to decide.
Why would a jurisdiction want to opt out?
Secure Communities is billed as a program to identify and deport dangerous “criminal aliens.” However, like many ICE programs, the results diverge dramatically from the stated intent. According to the data, Secure Communities has resulted in the deportation of more people with no criminal record than people who have committed serious or violent offenses.
Meanwhile, the consequence of Secure Communities is that any encounter with local public safety officers may trigger deportation proceedings. This merging of immigration and police work has a tremendous chilling effect: immigrants or even those with mixed status family members may decline to report crimes or refuse to be witnesses. Their hesitation is reinforced by experience—even victims of domestic violence have been arrested and placed in deportation proceedings as a result of seeking police protection. Jurisdictions where police have carefully cultivated the trust of immigrant communities understand that Secure Communities has the potential of undermining that trust. By contrast, in many communities that have activated Secure Communities, the program has raised racial profiling concerns, as local police may target immigrants and arrest them for minor violations as a pretext to bring them to jail and run their fingerprints through the database.
A California Assemblyman has the right idea. Tom Ammiano has introduced a bill in California that would not only require the program to be voluntary in the state, it would mandate additional safeguards against racial profiling, offer special protection to victims of domestic violence, and most importantly, share fingerprints with immigration officials after someone is actually convicted of a crime, not at the time of arrest.
Let’s recap, just so everything is clear, or at least the lack of clarity is clear.
DHS says Secure Communities is mandatory and there is no opt out.
But in some places they do let jurisdictions opt out.
DHS says they decide whether or not the program is mandatory.
But legally and constitutionally, it may not be DHS’s decision at all.
Opting out is technologically possible.
But by 2013, the government may have merged federal databases so that all fingerprint searches check immigration status.
Secure Communities is supposed to identify dangerous “criminal aliens.”
But so far it has largely captured traffic offenders and individuals without any criminal record.
Image by Flickr user Exercise Tradewinds 2009