Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing last week with top Bush Administration officials in attendance to put the President's commitment to 'comprehensive immigration reform' on-record before legislative proposals are released in the coming weeks. Senate Democrats, however, were only partially successful. While Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez stressed that the President is dedicated to enacting an immigration policy overhaul, they were reluctant to sign-off on a guest worker program that gives a path to citizenship for illegal aliens currently in the United States.
"In terms of a path to citizenship, that is something that we need to discuss, that we need to think through," Secretary Gutierrez said. "There is a path today to citizenship. It is not as though we need to create a new path." Chairman Leahy (D-VT) then pressed the officials about last year's bill which provided a path to citizenship, asking, "What's the incentive to come out of the shadows?" Chertoff responded, "I don't think citizenship is what will make them come out of the shadows." According to experts, only about a third of the eligible illegal aliens applied for U.S. citizenship after the 1986 amnesty. Administration officials did note, however, that they felt sending illegal aliens home would also be an unrealistic undertaking. "I think it would be a gargantuan task to locate and detain 12 million people," Chertoff said to Committee Members.
Notably quiet through most of the hearing was Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), one of the principal architects of last year's amnesty bill. Kennedy did face criticism from several corners, including from the Committee's Ranking Member Arlen Specter (R-PA), for keeping his draft legislation under lock and key during this Congress. "I've been concerned about reading what is going on in the newspapers," said Specter. Mirroring Specter's sentiment was Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), who told CongressDaily, "Republicans have been largely frozen out of the process." Kennedy has also come under fire from within his own caucus. In a statement after the hearing, former strong supporter of the McCain-Kennedy legislation, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), signaled a retreat of sorts stating, "We may have reached too far in a comprehensive bill." She then suggested it would be better to tackle the illegal immigration problem in stages, rather than having one be-all-end-all legislative package.

Federal Government Caves in to Reluctant States on REAL ID
The Department of Homeland Security this week finally released its proposed regulations for state-issued identification under the REAL ID Act of 2005 - legislation passed as a result of recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission. The regulations now delay the deadline for implementation of the REAL ID Act from May 2008 to December 2009—a move that is widely seen as an attempt to appease state officials reluctant to implement the driver's license security provisions due to privacy and funding concerns. This opposition to REAL ID has been growing in state legislatures as the May 2008 deadline has approached, leading representatives at the state and federal level to introduce measures opposing or delaying the measure.
The Real ID Act requires the states to adopt a common set of standards for driver's licenses to improve security. These include incorporating "machine readable" technology, physical security features designed to prevent tampering and counterfeiting, a digital photograph, and a common set of driver identification information (full legal name, date of birth, gender, address, signature, etc.). In the official statement accompanying the release, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said, "Raising the security standards on driver's licenses establishes another layer of protection to prevent terrorists from obtaining and using fake documents to plan or carry out an attack. These standards correct glaring vulnerabilities exploited by some of the 9/11 hijackers who used fraudulently obtained drivers licenses to board the airplanes in their attack against America."
Despite Secretary Chertoff's statement on the importance of REAL ID, the released DHS guidelines now allow states to postpone their compliance until December 31, 2009. DHS also announced that up to 20 percent of a state's Homeland Security Grant Program funds can be used to help implement REAL ID. This funding provision will apply to the current 2007 grant cycle. The new regulations issued by Homeland Security have apparently appeased one lawmaker who had been opposing REAL ID, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME). Upon learning of the newly released regulations, the Senator backed off her attempts to amend the 9/11 Recommendations bill (S.4) to delay implementation of the REAL ID Act.

Is the Federal Government Encouraging Illegal Immigration? Federal Reserve Facilitates Low-Cost Money Transfers to Mexico
In the wake of the Bank of America scandal, another upsetting revelation regarding government assistance to illegal aliens has come to light - a Federal Reserve program that helps illegal aliens send billions of dollars a year in remittances to from the U.S. to Mexico at minimal costs.
This program, informally called Directo a Mexico, is a Federal Reserve-sponsored service that allows customers without social security numbers to electronically transfer money through the Federal Reserve system to Mexico's central bank at the cost of $0.67 per transaction - markedly less than such individuals would otherwise pay. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Federal Reserve developed the program with counterparts at Mexico's central bank after President Bush announced it with then-Mexican President Vicente Fox in 2003. About 150 banks and credit unions participate, including 20 in California.
Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, Representative Brian Bilbray (R-CA), Chairman of the House Immigration Reform Caucus, said that Directo a Mexico and programs like it should be stopped and that participating banks were 'profiteering from illegal immigration'. Congressman Bilbray said legislators were working on proposals that would prevent financial institutions such as the Federal Reserve and Bank of America from catering to illegal aliens, and are calling on the Bush administration to address the issue.
In response to the barrage of criticism, Elizabeth McQuerry, Assistant Vice President for the Federal Reserve Retail Payments Office, stated that the Directo a Mexico program was not breaking any laws, and that the program complied with the Patriot Act, the Bank Secrecy Act and other laws against money laundering. This was the same line of defense that Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis used when defending the bank's credit card program for illegal aliens.

9/11 Relative Barred from Democratic Event after Voicing Visa Waiver Disapproval
During an event held by leading Senate Democrats publicizing their 9/11 Commission Recommendations bill, one speaker was excluded at the last minute due to his opposition to the expansion of the visa waiver program included in the legislation. Bruce DeCell, a retired New York City police officer whose son-in-law died in the World Trade Center attack, was invited to speak at the news conference to represent 9/11 families. However, during a preliminary meeting, Mr. DeCell unnerved guests including Senate Homeland Security Chair Lieberman and Senator Debbie Stabenow by voicing his concerns over the visa waiver program expansion included in the bill. The expansion would potentially allow nationals from many additional countries to travel to the U.S. without a visa.
"I explained that I had some problems with the legislation that I hope could be worked out in committee," he said to Hill newspaper CongressDaily, "I guess I said too much." After making the statement, Mr. DeCell - Vice President of 9/11 Families for a Secure America - was ushered out of the room, told to take a seat in a hallway and await a staff member to escort him to the press conference. But no one ever came. While deeply disappointed by his obvious exclusion from the press conference, Mr. DeCell remains firm in his beliefs, "The day after 9/11 happened, they should have done away with visa exemptions," he said to the Washington Times, noting that several of the 9/11 hijackers were in the U.S. on expired visas.
According to CongressDaily, a Democratic spokesman said DeCell's exclusion from the news conference was the result of a "miscommunication." He said he was not aware DeCell was waiting outside and noted "I feel terrible about it."

FAIR To Hold Anti-Illegal Immigration Rally in April; Members and Activists are Urged to AttendFAIR announces its annual Hold Their Feet to the Fire Talk Radio Rally in Washington DC will be April 23rd to the 25th. Dozens of radio talk hosts from across the country will broadcast with a unified voice against illegal alien amnesty, live from Capitol Hill. In conjunction with hundreds of listeners, activists, and congressional supporters, the event is expected to be the largest media/activist immigration reform event of the year. FAIR is urging its members to join this national grassroots effort in Washington and counter the expected renewed round of illegal alien marches and boycotts. For more information, please see our website at fairus.org.

Recent Floor Statements
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords(D-AZ) commented on Cross Party Lines To Pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform (March 1, 2007)
Presiding Officer commented on Improving America's Security Act Of 2007 (February 28, 2007)
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee(D-TX) commented on Immigration Concerns (February 28, 2007)
Rep. Steven King(R-IA) commented on Immigration Reform (February 28, 2007)
Rep. Steven King(R-IA) commented on Immigration Reform (February 27, 2007)
Rep. Marsha Blackburn(R-TN) commented on Illegals Using Fed To Wire Money (February 27, 2007)
Rep. Ted Poe(R-TX) commented on The Trucks Are Coming, The Trucks Are Coming (February 27, 2007)