Monday, April 30, 2007

Hold Their Feet to the Fire Immigration Reform Event Called "Electrifying"
Last week, FAIR combined forces with 38 radio talk show hosts and several hundred activists in Washington, D.C. for Hold Their Feet to the Fire, a national drive for immigration reform. The event, which lasted from April 22, 2007 until April 25, 2007, employed the broad reach of talk radio to give voice to millions of Americans who oppose guest worker amnesty legislation. For three days, these top-rated talk show hosts from around the country aired their shows live from Capitol Hill while hundreds of activists walked the halls of Congress urging Members to increase border security, provide employer sanctions, and oppose any legislation that would grant amnesty to illegal aliens. Listeners who were unable to make the trek to the nation's capital also took part by calling in to the radio shows from home and offering their views on the dire need for true immigration reform.
The unprecedented gathering of talk radio in Washington, D.C. garnered national attention and received coverage from the print media, bloggers, and cable news networks, including a live report aired on CNN, in which Correspondent Lisa Sylvester described the energy as "electrifying." Summing up the event, FAIR president Dan Stein declared that Hold Their Feet to the Fire "represents a new age in the battle to control our borders. We are universal in our opposition to amnesty. Every immigrant must comply with immigration laws."
FAIR would like to thank all of the participating talk show hosts and our supporters and activists for making Hold Their Feet to the Fire a tremendous success!

Senators Introduce Legislation to Increase High-Tech Worker Visas
This month, two Senators moved towards expanding our already over-burdened immigration system by introducing legislation that would dramatically increase legal immigration. On April 11, 2007, Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) introduced the "High-Tech Worker Relief Act of 2007" (S. 1092). This legislation aims to significantly increase the number of H-1B visas and employment-based green cards issued each year. H1-B visas allow foreign workers with the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor's degree or higher to be employed on a temporary basis by American companies. The 'High-Tech Worker Relief Act' increases the current H1-B visa cap from 65,000 in 2006 to 115,000 in fiscal year 2007, and increases the level to 195,000 for fiscal year 2008, before returning the cap to 65,000 for fiscal year 2009 and beyond.
In addition to expanding the number of H-1B visas, S.1092 dramatically expands the number of green cards available to foreign workers. The bill eliminates the cap on employment-based green cards for aliens who have a graduate degree in math or science (from a foreign or U.S. university) so long has they have been working in a related field in the United States under a nonimmigrant visa for 3 years preceding their application. S.1092 also exempts immediate family members of employment-based immigrants from the cap.
The same week, Senator Cornyn, (R-TX) introduced S.1083, entitled the "Securing Knowledge, Innovation, and Leadership Act of 2007." The bill, commonly referred to as the SKIL bill, is similar to legislation Senator Cornyn introduced in the 109th Congress. S.1083 would dramatically increase the number H-1B visas, the number of employment-based green cards and would make it easier for foreign students studying math or sciences to permanently stay in the United States and compete with American workers.

ICE Conducts Immigration Raid In the Chicago Area
Last week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers conducted a sweep of the Little Village neighborhood in Chicago, targeting a major document fraud ring that catered to illegal aliens. The raid took place Tuesday, April 23, 2007 when ICE officials received search warrants for four locations and apprehended 22 individuals for producing counterfeit documents—ten of whom were already fugitives. In doing so, ICE put an end to a multi-million dollar business.
According to the complaint filed, the fraudulent document organization originated in Mexico and sources have indicated that the ring may be based in other U.S. cities. "These ICE arrests represent a significant setback to one of the largest and most sophisticated illegal document fraud rings in the United States," said Elissa Brown, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Chicago to The Courier News. Of particular concern to ICE, she added, was that these fraudulent documents assist terrorists and criminals blend into society.
Despite the agency's success, ICE's tactics have come under fire from officials who believe that the federal law enforcement agency is using excessive force while conducting immigration sweeps. "I support our government's efforts to crack down on violence and document fraud," said Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) in a release. "But the 'round-up' fashion in which this raid was conducted is of great concern." Congressman Luis Gutierrez - sponsor of the Flake-Gutierrez guest worker amnesty legislation - added, "Constituents we talked to described a war zone…." Both Gutierrez and Conyers are seeking meetings with ICE officials to discuss the matter further.

House Members Introduce Legislation to Limit Mexican Trucks in the U.S.
Bush Administration officials are moving full steam ahead with a pilot program to allow Mexican trucks to deliver goods all across the United States - possibly within the next few weeks - spurring numerous efforts to stop the program before it begins. Currently, trucks domiciled in Mexico are restricted from traveling beyond 20-25 mile "commercial zones", where they are unloaded and placed on American trucks for final delivery. The Bush Administration's plan to open U.S. borders to up to 100 Mexican trucking companies has been met with stiff opposition from consumer, environmental, labor and immigration groups.
The pilot program has also received criticism on Capitol Hill, where several Members are working hard to narrow its reach. To that end, House Member and Presidential hopeful Duncan Hunter (R-CA) introduced H.R. 1756, entitled "The North American Free Trade Agreement Safety Act". This bill would prohibit the trucking pilot program from commencing until specific safety and security conditions are met. "The NAFTA Trucking Safety Act rightfully applies to Mexican truckers the same rules and regulations applied to American truckers, preventing unqualified and inexperienced motor carriers from traveling the highways and roads within our communities," Hunter said. "If Mexican truckers cannot meet these requirements, then they should not be granted access into the United States."
In particular, the legislation:
Requires the Secretary of Transportation to publish a list of all Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations in the Federal Register, and provide information on how Mexican carriers, trucks and drivers will be required to comply.
Grants law enforcement personnel the ability to access driver, criminal and security databases to verify a cross-border drivers' risk to homeland security.
Requires the Secretary of Transportation to submit plans to Congress on ways to enforce English language proficiency - as already required by law.
Congresswoman Nancy Boyda (D-KS) has also introduced legislation to improve the accountability of the Department of Transportation in implementing the trucking pilot program. The "Safe American Roads Act of 2007" (H.R. 1773) seeks to improve transparency in the program by requiring the Department of Transportation follow existing rules on pilot programs that mandate proposing guidelines and allowing public comment before the program begins. Additionally, the bill seeks to prevent Mexican trucks from traveling beyond the 25-mile commercial zone until such point as a reciprocal program allows American trucks to deliver loads beyond commercial zones in Mexico. H.R. 1773 expressly terminates the pilot program after one year.
Despite this legislative activity in the House, it is unclear whether the Bush Administration's trucking pilot program will be halted in time. Speaking to the San Diego Union Tribune, House Transportation Committee Spokesman Jim Berard said, "At least on the House side, there doesn't appear to be any momentum toward any kind of fast-moving legislation to stop the program." Meanwhile, several organizations, including Public Citizen, the Sierra Club, the Environmental Law Foundation, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Brotherhood of Teamsters' Auto and Truck Drivers Local 70 and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in federal court. The groups are seeking an injunction requiring the these agencies either to provide public notice of the pilot program and an opportunity for public comment - or to set aside the pilot project as unlawful.

Recent Floor Statements
Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-IN) commented on Introduction Of The Legal Employee Verification Act (April 19, 2007)
Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX) commented on Immigration (April 18, 2007)
Rep. Jon Tester (D-MT) commented on Real Id Act (April 17, 2007)
Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) commented on Open Border Chaos (April 17, 2007)
Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) commented on The Farm Labor Recruitment System (April 17, 2007)
Sen. Craig Thomas (R-WY) commented on Working Together (April 17, 2007)