By Jessica Vaughan
This analysis is based on an initial read of the bill summary provided to the author by the U.S. House Judiciary Committee staff, and a review of certain sections of the 677-page bill. It focuses on the provisions that are likely to have a direct effect on LEAs nationwide. It is meant to highlight the most obvious initial concerns. Further analysis will be forthcoming at www.cis.org.
TITLE I – Border Security, Detention, and Enforcement
Subtitle A – Border Security
- In general, the bill weakens border security by imposing restrictions on federal agencies for fencing and patrol in vast stretches of border territory (under the guise of environmental protection).
- It encourages federal-local partnerships on drug, weapons and currency smuggling problems, but not on other transnational crime problems, such as human smuggling and gangs, which also generate kidnappings, violence and other crimes in communities near and far from the border.
- Suspends Operation Streamline, which was a zero tolerance program along the southern border, where violators were routinely detained and prosecuted for federal immigration offenses, rather than immediately released back to their home country to try again. Although it requires an infusion of resources, LEAs in the affected area believe the program has been effective in deterring illegal entry in those areas and leads to fewer illegal entries over time.
Subtitle B – Detention.
These provisions speak for themselves, and are intended to add new “rights” for illegal and criminal aliens, severely limit who may be detained, and make interior immigration law enforcement operations more cumbersome and difficult.
- Establishes new, more expansive, minimum requirements for detainee treatment regarding medical care and treatment, access to telephones, etc.
- Limits transfers of detainees, which could increase releases in areas with limited bed space and reduce opportunities for areas with excess capacity to assist ICE in housing detainees.
- Detainees must be screened within 48 hrs to determine if they are a member of a “vulnerable population” as defined in the bill, including anyone who claims fear of persecution, is disabled, is a victim of crime or violence, pregnant women, and anyone who helps support family members. Anyone deemed “vulnerable” generally must be released OR within 72 hours, and may not be subjected to electronic monitoring.
- Social services agencies, translators and legal services must be provided at all enforcement operations.
- Apprehensions are prohibited at or near a wide variety of specified locations, such as near community centers, churches, schools, courthouses, hospitals, day care centers, bus stops, funeral homes, etc. These areas essentially become “sanctuary sites” where illegal aliens can flee or remain in to avoid arrest.
- Agencies must provide access to “legal orientation programs” and access to counsel during all enforcement operations.
- Detainers may only be issued on aliens confirmed to be removable.
- Immigration judges may overrule decisions to detain aliens.
- The bill provides no additional resources for detention or prosecution, or for additional immigration judges that would increase the efficiency of the immigration court process; instead, it makes it more difficult to actually remove illegal aliens. This could have profound public safety consequences for every U.S. community.
Subtitle C – Enforcement
- Offers U visas to illegal workers who accuse their employers of exploiting them, violating their civil rights, or preventing them from joining a union. Currently, U visas provide status and eventual green cards to victims of certain serious crimes who agree to help prosecute the perpetrator. Currently there are some problems with fraud and frivolous accusations, but these are sure to escalate if the rules are relaxed.
- Prohibits states and localities from enacting laws that “discriminate” against individuals based on immigration status. This seems to prohibit laws that deny bail to illegal aliens, for example, or other local measures to support enforcement of immigration laws.
- Repeals 287(g).
TITLE II – EMPLOYMENT VERIFICATION
- Replaces the highly effective E-Verify system that has been in place for 14 years with a less efficient system, making it harder to reduce the jobs magnet that currently attracts illegal workers.
TITLE III – VISA REFORMS
- Creates new visa programs for workers and ends numerical limitations on the admission of family member, which will greatly accelerate immigration rates.
- Makes it easier for those who have been ordered removed to qualify for relief. This will make it more difficult to remove criminal aliens who have family ties in local communities.
- Almost any illegal alien with US-born children may qualify for relief from removal.
TITLE IV – EARNED LEGALIZATION PROGRAM FOR THE UNDOCUMENTED
- This section provides amnesty to almost any illegal alien present as of December 15, 2009 (or anyone who claims that). Only those with “particularly serious” criminal convictions resulting in incarceration for 12 months or more, here or abroad, or those who have persecuted others, will be disqualified. It essentially voids any previous orders of removal or voluntary departure. Judging from past experience, this provision is certain to spur increased illegal migration and deter current illegal aliens from departing on their own, as people position themselves to take advantage of this amnesty.