Has the House Judiciary Committee Majority Lost Its Mind?

On the odd chance that you’re looking for a case study in how to ignore facts and turn a heartbreaking situation for millions of American families into a juvenile BuzzFeed rip-off, you’re in luck. Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee showed everybody just how out of touch with reality they are by posting this asinine “press release,” which relies on tired misrepresentations about the Obama administration’s track record on immigration, wrapped in adorable gifs from your favorite teen movies.

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A screen shot of the House Judiciary Committee website.

Sound the alarm, because according to the post, President Obama has stopped enforcing immigration laws. This is, of course, the same president who has spent more on immigration enforcement than any other president in history. The same president was prompted to act and bring sanity to the immigration system only after giving Congress ample time to deliver bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform, which passed in the Senate and stalled in—wait for it—the House of Representatives.

The House Judiciary Committee says we need “innovative solutions” to fix the country’s immigration system, and it’s prepared to tackle them one at a time. What do those solutions look like? They look like another version of the SAFE Act, a bill that would essentially make racial profiling the law of the land, allowing state and local authorities to pick up, arrest, and detain people who “look illegal.” If you think that sounds like a law that would lead to civil rights violations, you’d be right. Just ask Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the poster child for these policies, who was slapped with a court ruling determining that this approach produces widespread patterns of racial profiling and discrimination.

The House Judiciary Committee also says that we need to tackle the matter of asylum seekers from other countries, like the pressing issue of children fleeing violence from Central America. Showing unwavering empathy for these victims of violence, their solution is, naturally, to make it more difficult for children who are trying to escape violent countries to seek haven in the United States. They did, however, have time to pass a bill that would allow families being persecuted for homeschooling their children to seek asylum here. Let’s hope the countries around the world we chastise for unfair treatment of asylees and refugees weren’t watching.

These issues may be funny to the House Judiciary Committee, so much so that they wasted part of their day finding their favorite Bring It On gifs to illustrate their amusement. But to Latinos in this country, the committee’s combined inability to put forward viable solutions on immigration reform, and penchant for passing bills that deliberately target our community, is downright offensive. One in six people in this country are Latino. And one in 10 Latinos, including citizens and legal immigrants alike, report being stopped each year based on suspicion of immigration status. Are we a nation that tolerates laws that will legitimize and expand racial profiling and trample on all Americans’ civil liberties? Are we a nation that simply ships scared children straight into the throes of violence? Are we a nation that would rather continue to tear families apart needlessly, when we have a clear path forward in our hands?

To the majority leading the show in the House Judiciary Committee, we suggest that if you indeed want to “preserve the rule of law and protect the integrity of our generous immigration system,” then maybe it’s time to get to work on comprehensive immigration reform, rather than cobbling together insulting lists that mock the heartbreak that millions of American families, particularly the Latino community, feel every day thanks to the nation’s broken immigration system.

Weekly Washington Outlook — March 16, 2015

White House at Night

What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

House:

On Monday evening, the House will consider legislation under suspension of the rules:

1)   H.R. 639 – Improving Regulatory Transparency for New Medical Therapies Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Joe Pitts / Energy and Commerce Committee)

2)   H.R. 647 – Access to Life-Saving Trauma Care for All Americans Act (Sponsored by Rep. Michael Burgess / Energy and Commerce Committee)

3)   H.R. 648 – Trauma Systems and Regionalization of Emergency Care Reauthorization Act (Sponsored by Rep. Michael Burgess / Energy and Commerce Committee

4)   H.R. 284 – Medicare DMEPOS Competitive Bidding Improvement Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Patrick Tiberi / Ways and Means Committee)

5)   H.R. 876 – Notice of Observation Treatment and Implication for Care Eligibility Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Lloyd Doggett / Ways and Means Committee)

6)   H.R. 1191 – Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Lou Barletta / Ways and Means Committee)

The balance of the week, the House will consider the following:

  • R. 1029 – EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2015, Rules Committee Print (Structured Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Frank Lucas / Science, Space, and Technology Committee)
  • R. 1030 – Secret Science Reform Act of 2015, Rules Committee Print (Structured Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith / Science, Space, and Technology Committee)
  • J. Res. 8 – Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by the National Labor Relations Board relating to representation case procedures (Sponsored by Sen. Lamar Alexander / Education and the Workforce Committee)
  • Res. 132 – Providing for the expenses of certain committees of the House of Representatives in the One Hundred Fourteenth Congress (Sponsored by Rep. Candice Miller / House Administration Committee)

Senate:

On Monday evening, the Senate will vote on two executive nominees. On Tuesday, Majority Leader McConnell has scheduled a procedural vote to end debate on S. 178, a bill to prevent human trafficking. He has also indicated that the Senate will stay on this bill until it is passed, which could possibly postpone planned floor consideration of Loretta Lynch’s nomination to be Attorney General.

White House:

On Monday, the president will host a meeting with the Council of the Great City Schools Leadership to discuss efforts to strengthen educational opportunities for students in city schools.

On Tuesday, President Obama will welcome Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Enda Kenny of Ireland to the White House. In the morning, the president and the vice president will meet with the Taoiseach in the Oval Office to discuss issues of mutual concern. In the evening, the President will host a reception to celebrate his seventh St. Patrick’s Day at the White House.

On Wednesday, the president will travel to Cleveland, Ohio to deliver remarks on the importance of middle class economics to the City Club of Cleveland.

On Thursday, President Obama will host Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall for a meeting in the Oval Office; Vice President Biden will also attend. The Prince and The Duchess will visit the United States March 17-20 to engage in activities to promote the United Kingdom’s partnership with the United States in such key areas as combatting climate change, creating opportunities for youth, encouraging corporate social responsibility, and preserving historical and cultural links.

On Friday, the president will host the second-annual White House Student Film Festival. Highlighting President Obama’s call to mentorship, in particular mentorship in the arts and film industries, this year’s competition was an opportunity for K-12 students to produce short films on the idea of service and helping your community. As part of the event the president will deliver remarks on the goal of his My Brother’s Keeper initiative to ensure all young Americans can reach their full potential.

Also this Week:

Immigration – House and Senate Committees have scheduled at least six hearings this week on immigration issues, including:

  • The Senate Judiciary Committee will meet Tuesday for a hearing on labor issues in immigration reform, “Immigration Reforms Needed to Protect Skilled American Workers.”
  • The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee will also meet Tuesday for a hearing “Security the Southwest Border: Perspectives from Beyond the Beltway.” This hearing may address companion legislation to Congressman McCaul’s border legislation marked-up earlier this year.
  • The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s Subcommittees on National Security, and Healthcare Benefits and Administrative Rules will address immigrant benefit issues on Tuesday at “The Fiscal Costs of the President’s Executive Actions on Immigration.”
  • The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday will continue its mark-up from before the recess of legislation related to interior enforcement, including a reintroduced version of the SAFE Act.
  • The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a second part of its hearing “A Review of the Department of Homeland Security’s Policies and Procedures for the Apprehension, Detention, and Release of Non-Citizens Unlawfully Present in the United States” on Thursday.
  • Finally, also on Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Oversight, Agency Action, and Federal Courts Subcommittee will hold a hearing “Reining in Amnesty: Texas v. United States and Its Implications.” This hearing will be chaired by Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Kansas’ Secretary of State Kris Kobach has been invited to testify.

Budget – It is budget week! The House Budget Committee will release its budget on Tuesday and has scheduled a mark-up on Wednesday. In the Senate, the Budget Committee will release their budget on Wednesday during the first day of a two-day mark-up that will continue into Thursday. The House version is expected to balance the budget within ten years by cutting spending by $5 trillion with no increases in revenue. Similar to previous House budgets, cuts to SNAP, Medicaid, and a Medicare voucher system are all likely to be included. In contrast, the Senate budget reportedly does not explicitly change Medicare in the long-term. Both documents will adhere to spending caps set by sequestration.

Appropriations – A number of Administration officials will appear before House Appropriations Committee subcommittees this week. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew will testify to the Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee on Wednesday; OMB Director Shaun Donovan will testify to the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee on Monday; Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen will also testify to the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee on Monday; and Labor Secretary Thomas Perez will testify to the Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee on Tuesday (note: he will also testify on Wednesday to the House Education and Workforce Committee).

Nominations – It is possible that Loretta Lynch may be confirmed this week as Attorney General. However, her consideration is contingent on completing work on a stalled human trafficking bill. This bipartisan legislation has been held up over an abortion-related provision and its path forward remains highly uncertain.

Education – As the Senate HELP Committee continues bipartisan negotiations to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (last reauthorized as No Child Left Behind), the President will meet with leaders from the Council of Great City Schools to discuss further. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told the group’s conference on Sunday that Senator Alexander’s discussion draft does not adequately address early childhood education or equity. House action on its ESEA reauthorization, H.R. 5, is not expected again until mid-April as Republican Leadership still does not have enough votes for passage. While much of the education focus in D.C. is on K-12, the House Education and Workforce Committee’s Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee has scheduled a hearing on Tuesday to examine reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

Labor – The House this week will vote on S.J.Res. 8, which would block the National Labor Relations Board from expediting workplace elections in certain circumstances. The Senate passed the measure earlier in March.

Health – It is possible Congressional leadership will introduce legislation at the end of this week for a vote as soon as next week to extend CHIP for two-years. Details are still being negotiated as the extension comes as part of a larger legislative vehicle to also address Medicare reimbursement rates for physicians.

This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending Feb. 13

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Week Ending February 13

This week in immigration: Ready America conference takes place in Virginia; House Judiciary Committee brings back harmful proposals; House Democrats introduce a ‘clean’ DHS funding bill; and Republicans should be wary of the impact of their current DHS funding strategy.

NCLR kept the community informed on immigration with staff quoted in the LA Times and the Baltimore Sun.

Ready America conference helps prepare groups for administrative relief: This week approximately 400 people from across the country gathered for the Ready America conference in Northern Virginia. The conference was an opportunity for organizations from different sectors to be inspired, learn, and coordinate on the implementation of administrative relief with workshops covering policy, community outreach, collaborations, and service delivery models. NCLR Senior Cabinet Advisor, Charles Kamasaki, organized a workshop highlighting research efforts related to administrative relief which allowed researchers to connect with practitioners and for practitioners to share what research would be helpful. 35 NCLR Affiliates were represented by 51 participants at the conference and Lindsay Daniels, Manager of NCLR’s Wealth Building Initiative, organized a workshop on the small dollar lending programs that could help individuals cover application fees. The panel featured NCLR Affiliates doing this work, such as Mission Asset Fund from San Francisco and The Resurrection Project from Chicago. Check out the conference hashtags on Twitter to find out more: #RA15 and #immigrationaction. Read more in our blog.

Also this week, a newly released poll shows a majority of Americans support the president’s executive action on immigration, with 52 percent saying he should have taken action. Additionally, 76 percent of respondents said they supported the provisions of the executive action to allow those undocumented immigrants with a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident child to stay in the U.S. for three years.

RESOURCE: To help people prepare for administrative relief, USCIS published frequently asked questions on expanded DACA and revised instructions for Form I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The forms for expanded DACA will begin to be accepted on February 18.

House Judiciary Committee convenes hearing on harmful bills that failed last Congress: This week the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on three bills that provide a piecemeal response to the complex broken immigration system. One bill, the “SAFE Act,” is particularly harmful to communities and a NCLR blog notes:

In contrast to its name, the “SAFE Act” will make living in America more dangerous for millions of families. This legislation gives state and local authorities the power to create and implement their own immigration laws, throwing an already chaotic immigration system into further disorder. It emphasizes an enforcement-only approach that focuses on locating, detaining, and deporting undocumented immigrants. It encourages racial profiling, which will inevitably lead to wrongful detention because anyone who “looks illegal” can be stopped, arrested, and detained. And it goes so far as to criminalize undocumented status, as well as the mere act of providing assistance to undocumented immigrants. Under this law, a church providing shelter to undocumented immigrants could actually face criminal prosecution.

NCLR continues to oppose the “SAFE Act” and similar bills that focus on enforcement and criminalization rather than a comprehensive solution.

Congresswoman Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) and Lowey (D-N.Y.) introduce a clean DHS funding bill: This week the Ranking Members of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee and of the full Appropriations Committee introduced a DHS funding bill without the harmful amendments ending President Obama’s administrative relief for millions of families. In a press release, Congresswoman Roybal-Allard notes this “clean Homeland Security funding bill will keep our nation safe. Every Democrat has co-sponsored this bill, so we have the votes to pass it with only 30 Republican votes. The Republican leadership should correct their dangerous strategy and stop threatening our national security. I call on my Republican colleagues to join Democrats in living up to our responsibility as Members of Congress, and put the safety of the American people first by immediately passing our bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security for 2015.” NCLR applauds the introduction of a clean bill to fund DHS.

The GOP should be wary of the impact their DHS funding strategy could have on Latino voters: As Senate Republicans attempted to move forward with the House-passed DHS funding bill, some are questioning how such an approach is perceived by the Latino community. A Hill article notes that the majority of Latino voters support President Obama’s executive action to temporarily allow qualified undocumented parents to stay in the U.S. While the GOP pushes an agenda to repeal this administrative relief, they have failed to introduce a solution to the problem administrative relief seeks to alleviate. The article cites Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) as saying, “To attempt to use a spending bill in order to try to poke a finger in the president’s eye is not a good move, in my view. I believe that rather than poke the president in the eye we ought to put legislation on his desk, and we ought to use this time — we’ve already used up two weeks trying to attach measures to a funding bill when we could have used this time to actually move actual immigration legislation.”

Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) stated he wants to see a DHS spending bill without the anti-immigrant provisions, “This battle should be ended. When we were given the honor of the majority, we have to govern wisely. Shutdowns are not wise policy for key national security-related departments.”

Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) has stated that the Senate will have a fourth vote to attempt to pass the House-passed version of the DHS spending bill which has failed in the three previous votes and which President Obama has stated he will veto.

“SAFE Act” Redux: A Bill That Encourages Racial Profiling Is the Wrong Approach to Immigration

The president’s executive actions will provide welcome relief for millions of American families who fear losing a loved one to deportation. But while this temporary fix alleviates some of the pain and suffering brought about by our broken immigration system, it is a far cry from the lasting solution that only comprehensive immigration reform can bring.

Heading into the new legislative session, we had hoped that Congress would pursue legislation that addresses the multitude of problems that exist within our outdated immigration laws. Yet in the short time that they have been in office, we have already seen House Republicans backpedal on this issue by attempting to dismantle the president’s deportation relief programs. Now they are considering bringing back the ironically named “SAFE Act,” or “Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act” (H.R. 2278).

In contrast to its name, the “SAFE Act” will make living in America more dangerous for millions of families. This legislation gives state and local authorities the power to create and implement their own immigration laws, throwing an already chaotic immigration system into further disorder. It emphasizes an enforcement-only approach that focuses on locating, detaining, and deporting undocumented immigrants. It encourages racial profiling, which will inevitably lead to wrongful detention because anyone who “looks illegal” can be stopped, arrested, and detained. And it goes so far as to criminalize undocumented status, as well as the mere act of providing assistance to undocumented immigrants. Under this law, a church providing shelter to undocumented immigrants could actually face criminal prosecution.

Using deplorable legislation such as Arizona SB 1070 and the Sensenbrenner bill of 2005 as models for current immigration policy is not the way forward. Making racial profiling the law of the land threatens our civil rights, violates our core American values, and tramples on the constitutional principle of being presumed innocent until proven guilty. Threatening undocumented immigrants also erodes community safety because these individuals will be less likely to report crimes to the police.

We have seen Arizona and Alabama go down this misguided path of pursuing draconian enforcement bills. The results were the same: a slew of lawsuits and the dismantling of these racial profiling laws by the courts.

The House of Representatives has a responsibility to put forward sensible solutions to fix our immigration system, but the “SAFE Act” is not only unwise, it is downright dangerous. If we want to make progress on immigration, then the House should abandon the “SAFE Act” and focus on bipartisan compromise that takes a comprehensive approach to fixing our immigration woes.

Immigration Reform Is Alive and Well

By Laura Vazquez, Senior Immigration Legislative Analyst, NCLR

HouseImmigrationBill_picA colleague recently came back to NCLR from maternity leave and asked me what is happening with immigration reform.  “When I left there was momentum, and now the news reports say it’s dead,” she told me.  I smiled warily.  I’m used to explaining to people that the effort to pass immigration reform legislation is not dead.  I have had to do it often, as reporters seem to love writing the obituary on immigration reform.

The accurate story is that advocates and leaders of immigration reform are building on the momentum created over the August recess and continuing to pressure leadership in the House of Representatives to have a vote on immigration reform this fall.  This week there was a clear message sent by Latinos in Congress from both sides of the aisle that the time is now for a vote on immigration reform with a path to citizenship.  Continue reading