A Crucial Balancing Act: DACA and Enhanced Border Security

President Trump has invited an explosion in Congress with his recession of the 2012 Obama Executive Order that protected undocumented aliens who were brought to the United States by their parents when they were still children and before 2007.

There is majority public support for legislation to protect the “DACAs” (Deferred Action [for] Childhood Arrivals). https://today.yougov.com/news/2017/09/05/most-americans-supports-daca-trumps-base-opposes/

Three bills have been entered into Congressional hopper – the bi-partisan Senate Dream Act 2017, the House Recognizing America’s Children Act and the House Dream Act.

Nancy Pelosi, embolden by her meeting with President Trump, insists House Democrats will settle for nothing less than their Dream Act – which broadens the categories of eligibility beyond President Obama’s Executive Order and offers Dreamers a direct path to American citizenship. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/democrats-trump-dream-act_us_59bad3aee4b0edff971a6735

The two other bills take a more measured approach — offering at first provisional legal status to work, travel, go to school, etc. Only after serving several years of provisional status would “Dreamers” earn a right to apply for permanent residency and eventually citizenship — hardly a “get out of jail free” card. http://nypost.com/2017/08/31/dont-end-daca-the-immigration-program-trump-must-save/

Initial reaction on Capitol Hill suggests that there is broad support, in Congress, for DACA-fix legislation – limited in scope and purpose.

After sixteen years of bi-partisan failure to pass such a bill what is different this time?

Passing a small, targeted immigration bill will benefit both political parties going into the 2018 mid-term elections.

Politics Makes Strange Bedfellows

Does President Trump think he can trade a DACA law for his often promised southern “border wall”? It’s possible but not realistic.

More realistically — the Republican majority in Congress knows it cannot afford to lose this opportunity to partially rebuild its relationship with Hispanic voters. But the GOP must also be responsive to its own base – which has used its votes repeatedly to demand enhanced border security first and granting legal status second.

Democrats will seek political advantage in the mid-term elections by supporting a “clean DACA law” (effectively an amnesty) that would attract more Hispanic support from the US citizen brothers and sisters of the Dreamers — even at the expense of further erosion of their traditional organized union, blue collar base in the mid-west.

Representatives and senators in the center of both parties have a clear common interest. The majority want a bill they can pass, the President will sign, and that they can defend to their constituents during the 2018 primary and general elections.

Senators as philosophically opposed as Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Diane Feinstein (D-California) have both acknowledged that only a DACA Fix that includes steps to strengthen our border security meets all three conditions.

Effective Border Security Doesn’t Mean Walls

A wall on our southern border — even if Mexico or Congress was willing to pay for it – will not secure our borders.

Fact is every year since 2007 more than half of the illegal immigrants to the USA have been airport arrival “visa overstays”. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/visa-overstays-outnumber-illegal-border-crossings-trend-expected-continue-n730216

Technology, not concrete, is the solution to our 360 degree land, air, and sea border security problem. https://www.wsj.com/articles/white-house-wont-insist-on-wall-funding-in-dreamer-bill-1505240723?mod=itp&mod=djemITP_h

  1. Strengthen E-Verify

The 1986 Immigration Reform Act (aka Simpson Mazzoli) attempted to balance compassion for some two million illegal aliens who had been in the country for many years with stronger border security and enforcement measures. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_Reform_and_Control_Act_of_1986

The 1986 legislation defined as a crime any USA employer hiring/employing a person who could not prove they had the legal right to work (and live) in the United States.

To help employers stay “on the right side of the law”, Congress mandated the development of an electronic verification system – E Verify — every employer would need to use to verify every new employee’s “work authorization status”.

The bureaucracy took a different approach than the law required while subsequent Congresses just looked the other way.

Participation in the E-Verify System is voluntary unless the employer is a federal contractor – or in some states a state contractor. There is only limited enforcement even for federal contractors. http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-na-immigration-e-verify-20170911-story.html

Any other employer can enroll to use the system on a voluntary basis with little risk of being subjected to enforcement action by Homeland Security.

Under current Homeland Security policy, even if a new hire is “non-compliant” – determined not to have work authorization – termination is not required only strongly suggested. https://www.uscis.gov/e-verify/publications/manuals-and-guides/e-verify-user-manual

Congress should give Homeland Security twelve months from date of passage of new Border Security legislation to deliver an E-Verify System that is tested, proven and works.

Once tested and proven, the system must be made mandatory for all newly hired workers – every employer, everywhere – with significant civil and criminal penalties for employers that violate it.

Restricting the E-Verify mandate to new hires will protect those working without papers in the USA today – i.e. DACA’s parents – from termination because of status.

No DACAs could move from provisional status to permanent resident status until E-Verify is successively implemented, rolled out nationally and demonstrated to work – including employer enforcement.

  1. Discourage Illegal Entry with Improved Tracking Technology at Every Border

Simultaneously, Customs and Border Security must
improve its ability to electronically track arrivals and departures of tourists and other foreign nationals with temporary (time fenced) visas.

Currently, a photo is taken of every airport arrival and stored with passport information collected prior to and upon arrival.

  • Sharing photos with a modernized E-Verify System — capable of rapid facial recognition — would prevent the presentation of counterfeit identification documents to potential employers. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/08/education/edlife/fake-ids-or-why-would-a-student-order-a-tea-set.html

Today, Homeland Security has no way to track where a “visitor” goes once they cross the border or walk out of the airport. It’s just too easy to blend in and stay – get a job, rent an apartment, or buy a car.

  • Congress should authorize the Attorney General to determine the Constitutionality of attaching a GPS tracking device to all foreign passports in the United States to ensure timely departures.
  1. Eyes in Sky

High tech surveillance is part of 21st century life – at the mall, the airport, the stop light, on the freeway – rendering walls historic artifacts.

Congress needs to increase funding for technology already used by Border Patrol including satellites, in the ground sensors, and drones to patrol remote stretches of both the southern and northern borders.

  • More drone operators, for example, to spot irregular arrivals faster and guide border patrol agents to apprehend them.
  • Ground level sensor technology can be more effective than walls.
    • Tunneling under the sensor will “set-it-off” while the wall just stands there. http://www.foxnews.com/world/2016/04/28/us-looking-to-israel-for-technology-to-undercover-drug-tunnels.html
  1. A Tamper-proof Internal Identification System

Homeland Security must be given a deadline to negotiate a plan with the states to issue technically sophisticated drivers’ licenses and other internal identification documents.

  • Congress first mandated a tamper-proof “National ID” following 9/11 but it has never been implemented.
  • Adding technical sophistication to our (state issued) internal identity documents will prevent the possibility of unauthorized immigrants using our air travel system – reducing the terrorist threat as well.
    • Some states currently issue Driver’s Licenses to undocumented aliens but those licenses must meet federal guidelines that insure TSA can quickly identify them as not authorized for air travel.

Tamper-proof national identification documents are, also, a defense against the growing national threat from counterfeiting and identity theft. https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2017/09/15/equifax-data-breach-what-you-need-know-hacking-crisis/670166001/

None of these four steps would deny sanctuary to anyone currently in the United States.

Build Public Confidence for Immigration Reform

If the public saw each step implemented, tracked and succeeding — public confidence in the government’s ability to secure our borders would grow.

Simultaneously, Congress could use the two or three years required to implement and assess the effectiveness of these first border security steps to develop a thoughtful set of next steps to fairly resolve the status of DACA’s parents and other undocumented immigrants.

Securing the border along with resolving the legal status of those who have been living in the shadows of America for many years would
build public confidence in the government’s ability to manage our immigration system.

Public confidence is the necessary pre-requisite to a comprehensive 21st century immigration reform plan.

Graphic courtesy of iconfinder.com

 

Compassion Combined with Enforcement Can End DACA Crisis

The decision of the Trump Administration to rescind the Obama era executive order on DACA without a Congressional agreement to fix the problem is baffling.

The President and the Attorney General have created yet another legislative crisis for a Congress already overwhelmed by seemingly irreconcilable differences ranging from how to increase and manage the national debt ceiling to passing a 2018 federal budget (for the first time in 8 years) as a pre-requisite for any meaningful discussion of tax reform.

After years of promises, Congress does not yet have any reasonable plan to repeal, replace or repair the Affordable Care Act.

They’ve not passed a Defense Authorization Appropriation in the face of worrisome aggressive actions and threats against the United States by nuclear capable North Korea. Not to mention the ongoing military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and so forth.

In the face of the well documented philosophic splits inside and between both political parties represented in the 115th Congress – it is unlikely that meaningful tax reform can muster any combination of the required 60 votes in the Senate.

Adding a legislative “DACA-fix” to Congress’ already impossible 2017 to-do-list is akin to throwing a match into a house with a gas-leak so you can enjoy the fiery explosion.

DACA is a Result of 2012 Presidential Politics

President Obama insisted for four years that he “lacked the Constitutional authority” to intervene on behalf of undocumented aliens living in the United States – arguing only Congress could change the law.

But in the run up to the 2012 Presidential Election, President Obama changed his mind about the extent of his executive power to protect undocumented (“illegal”) aliens living in the United States.

Facing a tougher than expected 2012 re-election challenge from Mitt Romney, he used Executive Orders to protect two classes of illegal immigrants from deportation proceedings and grant them temporary work permits – a total of more than three point six (3.6) million people.

  • Deferred Action (for) Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
  • Deferred Action (for) Parents (of) Americans (DAPA)

The Supreme Court agreed with President Obama’s first position — ruling DAPA and some parts of DACA to be unconstitutional in 2015 but left limited DACA protections in place.

While some might ascribe cynical political motives to President Obama we can all agree that, as a parent himself, he believed it is unfair to punish children for the sins of their parents.

The 600,000 to 800,000 young people who remained eligible for deferred action are between 18 and 30 years of age, originally brought to the United States illegally by their parents when they were children. They’ve grown up in the United States. Many have siblings born in the United States who are citizens.

These young people know no other country than the United States. There are, except for their immigration status, indistinguishable from their classmates, neighbors, work place colleagues or citizen spouses.

Some don’t even speak the language of the country of their birth.

The young people who have “come out of the shadows” by applying for a two year renewal work permit under DACA are contributing members of society.

They are caught in the limbo of Congress’ bi-partisan failure to frontally address a United States Immigration System that is completely broken and politicized – an impasse that has existed continuously since 2004 through majority Republican and majority Democratic congresses.

Immigration Reform Begins One Small Step (Bill) at a Time

As soon as Attorney General Session announced a planned end to the deferral program, members of both parties in Congress rushed to find a camera to promise a quick bi-partisan legislative solution to the DACA problem.

The White House press secretary even urged Congress to immediately pass comprehensive immigration reform.

But, if it were so easy – wouldn’t Congress have done it in 2004 or 2007 or 2010, 2012? The devil is in the details.

The history of comprehensive immigration reform – last enacted in 1986 – does not inspire confidence in the American people.

The 1986 “carrot” — amnesty to some two million undocumented aliens — was implemented right away but the “sticks” of stronger border control and stepped-up interior enforcement – E Verify (Employment Eligibility Verification) – have never been fully implemented.

The result is an estimated 11 million more undocumented immigrants today who point to 1986 Simpson-Mazzoli as evidence they have a “right” to legal status.

As a nation we just don’t do comprehensive well. Instead of one big omnibus bill that will never be fully understood or implemented, Congress should start with several, more modest, single purpose bills that can be fitted together in an interlocking immigration reform package — implemented, measured, tracked and enforced one step at a time over several years – starting with DACA.

Bi-Partisan Incremental Deal

The American people have shown in recent Politico polling support for – and our economy needs — more skilled and younger immigrants who can assimilate into American culture – the definition of a Dreamer (DACA).

A bi-partisan poll of the American political center taken by NBC News and Esquire Magazine in 2013 demonstrated a willingness to grant legal status (even eventual citizenship) to undocumented immigrants living in the United States for many years if the government can demonstrate the border is secured against further unauthorized immigration.

The Trump Administration created a “Dreamer crisis” and then gave Congress six months to “fix” the problem. That’s not constructive.

The Trump Administration must work with Congress to fashion a legislative process which builds the trust of the American people and sets the stage for future legislation to modernize our antiquated immigration system.

A reform bill that conveys legal status to qualifying Dreamers who arrived in the USA before 2007 linked to a companion bill focused on improved northern, southern; land, sea and air border security seems a good place to start.

 

Graphic is courtesy of the Delgado Law Group — with thanks

Importing Cheap Labor Eliminates American IT Jobs

Immigration policy played an important part in the debate before and after the 2016 election.

The debate was focused on whether or not to protect undocumented aliens in the United States because they do “jobs Americans won’t do” – for example agriculture, food processing, and unskilled construction.

But no attention has been paid to protecting jobs Americans are doing from documented alien labor.

Despite the loss of +/- 200,000 US technology jobs, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) proceeded to awarded 85,000 “temporary high skilled knowledge worker” non-immigrant visas (H1-B) to foreign contract worker firms and American technology firms — 85,000 direct competitors for the limited number of IT jobs available in 2016 and 2017.

Why are we not Employing American Workers?

The phenomenon is not new. Computer World estimates that at least 776,000 tech workers have entered the United States to directly compete with American workers between 2007 and 2017.

For the last few years, the majority of these visas (65,000 annually) went to India-based contract labor (outsourcing) firms. The firms, in turn, hire BA graduates from Indian colleges and universities to fill the visas.

The advanced degree quota for H1-B visas (20,000 annually) go to high technology companies — Facebook, Apple, Google, Microsoft and Intel, to name just a few.

In addition, H1-B visas are issued to American college and universities above the annual quota stipulated by Congress.

While, at the same time, the National Institutes of Health spends $11 million a year to help US citizen Ph.D. graduates in STEM to find alternative careers. There are not enough jobs for all the Ph.D. graduates USA universities produce.

Solution: Hire a Made-in-America Worker

The H1-B visa program poses a direct threat to US technology workers – both present and future – as the numbers of these workers have continued to grow despite a general weakening of demand for IT workers in the United States.

In recent years more and more high profile American companies have fired entire departments of American workers and hired H1-B replacements.

  • Southern California Edison
  • Northeast Utilities
  • Toys R Us
  • Disney Company http://www.mercurynews.com/2016/09/06/emmons-when-walt-disney-co-replaces-americans-with-h1b-workers-its-a-small-world-for-sure/
  • University of California San Francisco Medical Center
  • Too many more to name

In all of these situations, the American workers were required to train their replacements as a condition of receiving their severance pay!

Many of the displaced workers had 10, 15 or 20 years of service to the firms that dismissed them in the name of profits. http://fortune.com/2015/12/24/disney-bob-iger-compensation/

Turn-off the Spigot

Despite extensive investigation and numerous hearings before Congressional Committees no action has been taken to correct the abuses of the H1-B program.

Currently there are three bills pending. One in the Senate and two in the House, including one authored by Silicon Valley representative Zoe Lofgren which would require H1-B employers to pay 150 to 200 percent of the current prevailing wage for that job classification – a move that would bring the program back to its original intent. Once, again, the H1-B visa would be reserved for the rare, unusual and uniquely skilled job creator.

In addition, the Trump Administration has issued an Executive Order to “study” the problem but did so without turning off the spigot.

Exactly the opposite should be done.

There is a practice from an earlier time in information technology that applies to the current H1-B situation.

Before every executive had a laptop with a company performance dashboard in the middle of his/her desk, IT departments used to produce volumes of paper reports. Periodically, the queue of reports had to be “cleared” to reduce wasted paper and reduce labor costs.

The IT Department would simply stop printing all the reports one Friday evening and wait to hear on Monday who called and asked for their report. If no one asked for a specific report by the following Friday, it was discontinued.

Instead of waiting for Congress – which has shown no appetite to touch anything related to immigration this year – let’s just turn-off the spigot by Executive Order.

Don’t hold a lottery to award the 85,000 2017 H1-B visas and see if any labor shortage occurs – if any company mounts a court challenge in the name of shareholder profits.

It is more likely that the result would more be more jobs and better wages for American technology workers.

Immigration

Being MADE IN THE USA Doesn’t Mean Your Parents Get to Live Here

Around mid-September 2015, I am expecting a national baby boomlet — focused in California, Texas, Nevada and Arizona – states where the illegal immigrant population is more than 7% of the state’s total.

The baby boom will be a direct result of President Obama’s December, 2014, Executive Memorandum which defers deportation action against any illegal immigrant continuously resident in the US more than 5 years, and – here’s the catch — who is the parent of a baby born in the United States.

President Obama’s executive action will provide an estimated 5 million illegal immigrants with work permits and protection from deportation – the equivalent of permanent residence — simply because they’ve birthed a baby on US soil. These children “anchor” their parents in the United States whether or not the parent would ever have been eligible to immigrate legally.

“Anchor Babies”

But there’s more to the “anchor” than just acting as an argument against deportation. There are significant financial incentives. The little bundle of joy is eligible at birth for US welfare benefits, health care and a free public education.

Tax payers provide food stamps, rental assistance, health care, day care, free school, free school lunches and more. Los Angeles County estimates it spends about $1.6B a year on such benefits to illegal immigrants.  These benefits are paid from local tax receipts that might otherwise be spent on modernizing schools, improving senior centers, housing homeless veterans, additional low cost health care – even street repairs.

Birthright Citizenship is a Permanent “Fast Pass” / an “E Ticket” to the USA

When the birthright citizen child reaches the age of 21, they can “sponsor” their parents’ application for permanent US residency. In other words, the “anchor baby” citizen sponsor jumps his/her parent to the head of the line.

Every year the US authorizes 1,000,000 legal immigrants. 488,000 of the total are classified as family unification immigrants – spouse following husband, for example.

Every illegal immigrant in the US whose status is changed is counted against the 488,000 total allowed.

National Debate to Define Birthright Citizenship Is Long Overdue

The last serious national debate over birthright citizenship took place in 1868 when the Citizenship Clause in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution was passed. The clause was required to remove the barrier to Negro citizenship that had been written into the original Constitution.

Congress did not intend a broad application of this principle. If they had, they would not have specifically excluded Native Americans from the benefits of birthright citizenship!

Thirty years later (1898), the Supreme Court ruled that the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment conferred birthright citizenship to all children born to a lawful permanent resident of the United States. There’s never been a challenge brought to confirm that the same applies to the child of a nonresident alien.

In the century since, at least 80 percent of the legislation and legal opinion has narrowed the grounds for legal immigration to the United States.

During this whole period, bureaucrats have blithely conveyed US citizenship to any child born on US soil regardless of the status of the parents – citizen, legal or illegal immigrant, temporary worker or tourist who just drops in while pregnant.

Several Congressional acts specifically declared large numbers of immigrants to be ineligible for citizenship — but failed to address the issue of birthright citizenship for their children. In almost every case, children born in the US have “anchored” their parents.

Border Security Requires 21st Century Birthright Definition

Since 1910 Congress has tried repeatedly to secure the US Border by paramilitary force and it hasn’t worked.

It is farcical to believe that it is possible to secure any of the nation’s borders as long as the rewards of illegal entry – the “anchor baby” at the end of the rainbow — outweigh the risks posed by the US Border Patrol, TSA, or Customs and Enforcement.

Legislation has been proposed in each of the last six (6) Congresses to limit future birthright citizenship only to children born to one permanent resident or citizen parent.

It’s an approach that is transparent, fair, and equal – the original purpose of the 14th Amendment.

Can such legislation pass Congress as a step toward “comprehensive immigration reform”?

It is certainly past time to have the debate and let citizens decide.

Photo Credit: Google Images