While Gang of Eight Senators enjoy their last vacation before their amnesty bill (S. 744) hits the Senate floor, the rest of America is digesting yet another version of the legislation. In fact, the Senate Judiciary Committee added over 200 pages worth of amendments to the bill during its marathon markup of the legislation this month, leaving it to total more than 1,000 pages. Although most of the amendments the Committee adopted are damaging to public safety, border security, and jobs for American workers, the “mainstream media” refuses to report on them. To help inform the public, FAIR put together this Top 10 list of the worst amendments to the Gang of Eight bill:
1. BLUMENTHAL #8
This amendment severely limits enforcement of federal immigration laws by prohibiting enforcement actions—including arrests, surveillance, searches, or interviews—by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents or Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers in “sensitive locations.” While the amendment makes an exception for “exigent circumstances” and instances where prior approval for specific targeted enforcement is obtained from designated officials, it no doubt will have a severe chilling effect on enforcement efforts. Sensitive locations are broadly defined by the amendment to include hospitals and health clinics; public and private schools of all educational levels including vocational and trade schools; organizations assisting children, pregnant women, victims of crime or abuse, or individuals with mental or physical disabilities; churches, synagogues, mosques, and other places of worship; and any other location the DHS Secretary determines to be “sensitive.” This broad grant of discretion to the DHS Secretary, though comporting with the Gang of Eight’s overall acquiescence of Congressional authority over immigration to the Obama Administration, is ripe for abuse by an executive branch unwilling to enforce current law.
2. HATCH #10
This amendment does the impossible: makes the bill’s H-1B provisions even worse for U.S. workers. To be sure, Sen. Orrin Hatch’s (R-UT) amendment—as amended per his backroom deal with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)—alters the bill in the following negative ways:
- Changes the formula that determines how many H-1B workers are admitted annually in order to admit H-1B workers at a faster pace. Originally, S.744 increased the cap from 65,000 to a range of 110,000 – 180,000, with the specific number calculated through a formula based on the number of petitions filed during the previous year and certain unemployment rates. The Hatch amendment changed the range of H-1B workers that may be admitted each year to 115,000 – 180,000, with the specific number determined by how quickly the cap is reached during the year and an increase contingent on certain unemployment data.
- Allows DHS to grant work authorization to spouses of H-1B workers regardless of whether the worker’s home country offers reciprocal treatment. Originally, S.744 allowed DHS to grant work authorization to spouses only if the sending country permitted reciprocal treatment.
- Eliminates the requirement placed on all H-1B employers in S.744 that they attest that they have not and will not displace U.S. workers beginning 90 days before to 90 days after the visa petition is filed. Instead, the Hatch Amendment provides that only “H-1B skilled worker dependent employers” and “H-1B dependent employers” must attest that they have not displaced U.S. workers within 90 days before and after, or 180 days before and after, respectively.
- Eliminates the requirement placed on all H-1B employers in S.744 that they attest they have offered the job to any U.S. workers who applies and is equally or better qualified. Instead, the Hatch Amendment provides that only H-1B dependent employers must satisfy this requirement.
- Allows non H-1B dependent employers to outsource their H-1B workers for a $500 fee per worker. It also allows certain H-1B dependent employers that are universities, nonprofit research organizations, or health care businesses to outsource their H-1B workers for a $500 fee per worker.
In effect, the Hatch amendment creates even more competition for unemployed Americans in high-tech fields, and makes an already bad economy even worse for native-born students seeking employment in these industries.
3. BLUMENTHAL #12
This amendment undermines national security by fast-tracking to citizenship illegal aliens granted “registered provisional immigrant” (RPI) status who join the military. Specifically, Blumenthal #12 allows amnestied aliens (aliens with RPI status) who have served in the Armed Services for one year to become U.S. citizens. Current law, however, prohibits illegal aliens and temporary aliens (guest workers, visitors, foreign students, etc.) from joining the military. In fact, only U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents are eligible for the Armed Services (10 U.S.C. 504). Thus, the amendment undercuts national security and the integrity of our military by using it as a means to reward lawbreakers with expedited citizenship.
4. HATCH #6
Since passage of the 2001 PATRIOT Act, Congress has required a biometric entry-exit system be in place at all air, sea, and land ports of entry. Yet to-date the federal government still has never implemented this system despite the law. Rather, while Hatch #6 is an improvement over S. 744’s lack of goalposts in implementing an entry-exit system and in making it biometric, the amendment nonetheless weakens current law. For example, instead of simply amending the bill to follow current law, the amendment merely requires the Secretary of DHS establish an exit data system (without any biometric requirement) at air and sea ports of entry by 2016. In fact, it’s not until a full two years after the bill’s enactment (and after the country’s illegal alien population has been granted amnesty) that the Secretary of DHS must establish a biometric exit system. Even then, this system must only be in place at the country’s 10 busiest airports with the highest volume of international travel. And, not until six years after enactment does the amendment require the DHS Secretary to submit a mere plan to Congress for the expansion of the biometric exit system to major sea and land ports of entry. To read more about Sen. Hatch’s amendment, click here.
5. LEAHY #4
Rather than requiring completion of the border fence or improving the border security provisions of S. 744, this amendment hinders the government’s ability to secure the border by requiring if/when the DHS Secretary implements the border fencing strategy, to first consult with an endless list of agencies and stakeholders. Specifically, the amendment requires the Secretary to consult with the Secretaries of Interior, Agriculture, ALL state and local governments, tribes, and property owners to minimize the fence’s impact on the “environment, culture, commerce, and quality of life.” It also gives the DHS Secretary even further discretion by adding a new section to the bill stating that the Secretary is not required to install fencing or infrastructure along the Southern border if he/she determines that the use or placement of fencing is not the most appropriate method of achieving effective border control. Given current DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano’s repeated claims that the border is already secure, and recent congressional testimony stating she would prefer not to spend money on border fencing, this amendment effectively gives the Administration permission to refuse to build any additional fencing. Finally, the amendment expressly clarifies that nothing in the amnesty bill requires the construction of fencing along Northern border, further weakening border security efforts before they’ve even begun.
6. HIRONO #21
This amendment further puts the interests of illegal aliens before legal U.S. students by allowing RPIs who illegally entered the U.S. before the age of 16 and illegal aliens granted blue card status to be eligible for limited federal student loans and work-study programs. Thus, not only does S. 744 authorize states to give in-state tuition to future illegal aliens, but the Hirono amendment allows illegal aliens who receive amnesty to compete with U.S. students for scarce tuition assistance dollars.
7. FLAKE #3
This amendment undermines public safety by eliminating the bill’s requirement that amnestied illegal aliens in blue card status undergo background checks before the Secretary renews their status.
8. COONS #8 & LEAHY #3
Both of these amendments would require DHS to grant work authorization to certain aliens seeking immigrant and nonimmigrant status before they are even admitted to the country. Specifically, Coons 8 requires DHS to give all asylum applicants work authorization within 180 days of filing their application. Likewise, Leahy 3 requires DHS to grant work authorization to VAWA self-petitioners, and T and U visa applicants, within 180 days of applying for such status.
9. SCHUMER #3
This amendment expands legal immigration by creating a special carve-out visa program for aliens from certain African and Caribbean countries. The new E-6 nonimmigrant work visa created by Schumer #3 would grant 10,500 visas annually to aliens from these countries who: 1) have a high school diploma (or its equivalent); or 2) have two years of work experience in an occupation that requires 2 years of training or experience. Because S. 744 already increases the number of guest workers by 50 percent within a decade of enactment, the Schumer amendment is nothing more than another add-on to our immigration system that creates even more competition for the 22 million unemployed and underemployed Americans.
10. COONS #10
This amendment helps illegal aliens work in the United States, even when doing so is in violation of federal law. The amendment prohibits states from denying illegal aliens professional, commercial, or business licenses on the basis of immigration status. This means that states would not be able to deny a law license to an illegal alien, even if they entered the U.S. illegally and it is illegal for them to work in the United States.