Monday, April 16, 2007

Bush Travels to Border to Renew Call for Guest Worker Amnesty Legislation
Last week, President Bush traveled to the border city of Yuma, Arizona to tout his border security credentials while renewing his call for guest worker amnesty legislation. Speaking to a gathering of Border Patrol Agents, the President once again beat the drum for "comprehensive immigration reform", saying:

You cannot fully secure the border until we take pressure off the border. And that requires a temporary worker program. It seems to make sense to me that if you've got people coming here to do jobs Americans aren't doing, we need to figure out a way that they can do so in a legal basis for a temporary period of time.

The President also argued that the government must resolve the status of the estimated 11-12 million illegal aliens currently in the U.S., but said that those illegal aliens should not be given amnesty. "Amnesty," the President said, "is the forgiveness of an offense without penalty." To read the President's speech in full, click here.

Interestingly, President Bush's speech made no mention of the recently leaked White House proposal that would create three new guest worker programs—one intended to grant illegal aliens amnesty, and the other two intended to bring in hundreds of thousands of foreign workers, both high and low-skilled. President Bush, however, did say he was working closely with Republicans and Democrats to find a compromise position and that he intended to sign comprehensive immigration reform legislation into law before the end of the year.

At this point, it is unclear whether President Bush's attempt to sell Congress on guest worker amnesty legislation will be successful. Nearly 100 members of the House of Representatives recently sent a joint letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urging her not to bring guest worker amnesty legislation to the floor. And it seems that Speaker Pelosi is beginning to feel pressure, as the Washington Post reports that Pelosi informed the White House that the President must produce at least 70 Republican votes for comprehensive immigration legislation before she will bring it to the House floor. Getting those votes may prove difficult as the public is putting increasing pressure on Members to oppose amnesty.


Illegal Aliens Face IRS but Evade Homeland Security
A growing number of illegal aliens are rushing to beat the April 17 deadline for filing their taxes as they ready themselves for guest worker amnesty to be passed in Congress. Illegal aliens, using individual taxpayer identification numbers (ITINs) in lieu of Social Security numbers, are looking to make things right in hopes that "filing a tax return will eventually boost their chances of securing a green card," according to the Wall Street Journal.

ITINs, which are given out regardless of immigration status, were created by the IRS in 1996 to accommodate taxpayers ineligible for a Social Security number, such as foreign nationals with tax reporting requirements in the U.S. Since 1996, the agency has issued nearly 11 million ITINs, including roughly 1.5 million issued in 2006 alone. According to the Wall Street Journal, the government does not know how many of those taxpayers were illegal aliens, but most people who use the numbers are believed to be in the U.S. illegally.

The Wall Street Journal argues that the increasing use of ITINs by illegal aliens filing tax returns shows how some of the workers who are here in defiance of one arm of the U.S. government - the Department of Homeland Security - are filing federal tax returns with the aggressive encouragement of another - the Internal Revenue Service. "If someone is working without authorization in this country, he or she is not absolved of tax liability," IRS Commissioner Mark Everson stated in testimony before Congress. And during a National Press Club event, the IRS Commissioner expressed it this way: "We want your money whether you are here legally or not and whether you earned it legally or not."

The IRS estimates that between 1996 and 2003, the government has collected approximately $50 billion from individuals who filed with a taxpayer number; however, using ITINs to file tax returns also allows low-wage illegal immigrants to receive substantial refunds paid for by the taxes of American workers. "It makes illegals seem more embedded in U.S. society," said Steve Camarota, Director of Research at the Center of Immigration Studies. "It just creates a greater contempt for immigration law."

To compound the problems, federal law prevents the IRS from disclosing taxpayer information to the Department of Homeland Security, essentially requiring the IRS to look the other way when it receives tax information that suggests fraudulent activity (either by employers or illegal aliens). These roadblocks have created frustration by concerned citizens and organizations alike. Mark Krikorian, Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies told the Wall Street Journal, "A major organ of the U.S. government is saying it's OK to be illegal as long as you send in your return."


Study Shows Illegal Aliens Given a Free Pass for Crossing the Mexican Border
A recently released Syracuse University study added further support to the notion that most illegal aliens cross into the United States without punishment. According to the analysis of federal data, 98 percent of illegal aliens who crossed the border between October 1, 2000, and September 30, 2005 (nearly 5.3 million illegal aliens) were not prosecuted after being apprehended. Although nearly a million illegal alien arrests are made every year, virtually all of the arrested aliens are escorted to the border and freed without consequence. Commenting on the study to the Associated Press, Kathleen Walker, President-Elect of the American Immigration Lawyers Association said that the likelihood of an illegal immigrant being prosecuted is "to me, practically zero."

The struggle to punish illegal border crossers has been noted by numerous other sources. Last year, for example, a publication for the federal courts described the courts along the southwest border as in "crisis mode," contending with criminal caseloads that have skyrocketed since the late 1990s. It states: "A person who enters the United States illegally to look for work and has no other criminal charge pending typically may be "voluntarily returned" to Mexico more than a dozen times before facing the charge of illegal entry. Some did not get into federal court until they amassed 60 voluntary returns." (emphasis added). To read the full newsletter article, click here.

Justice Department officials defend this practice by asserting that if every illegal immigrant were prosecuted, it would drain department resources as well as overshadow more important investigations. "When you consider the other high-priority laws that the department is charged with enforcing, such as drug trafficking, firearms offenses, violent crime, national security, child pornography, and corporate fraud, the department is achieving a balance of immigration enforcement with other important areas," said Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd to the Associated Press. Under current law, a first offense is considered a misdemeanor - punishable by a fine and up to six months in prison, and a subsequent offense is supposed to carry up to two years of imprisonment.


Poll Shows Americans Want More Enforcement of Immigration Laws
Last week, Zogby released the results of a poll conducted March 22-26 to gauge Americans' attitudes toward issues related to illegal immigration, such as enforcement and government-run day labor sites for illegal aliens. Overall, the poll shows that most Americans favor increased enforcement of U.S. immigration laws.

Specifically, the results of the nationwide poll show that a 66 percent majority of voters believe that more emphasis should be placed on law enforcement with regard to illegal immigration, while 24 percent feel that current enforcement levels should remain the same. In addition, 72 percent of respondents said they believe local law enforcement officers should help enforce federal immigration laws - including 40 percent of Hispanics. Finally, 79 percent of respondents said they feel public officials should not utilize taxpayer funds to operate day labor sites that aid illegal aliens, including 71.9 percent of Hispanics.

"The American people speak with one voice on the topic of illegal immigration. Virtually every voter demographic - even those supposedly most sympathetic to illegal aliens - want our illegal immigration laws to be strictly enforced," said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. "Overwhelmingly, the American people want local officials to help address illegal immigration through law enforcement, not taxpayer subsidies and 'sanctuary' policies."