On Capitol Hill, a Strong Indictment of Administrative Amnesty Policies

By Janice Kephart on June 12, 2012

Immigration was finally at the top of the agenda on Capitol Hill this week. While the House leadership has refused to take up any real immigration measures this session, individual representatives showed some political will on immigration enforcement via the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appropriations bill. Perhaps encouraged by some harsh words from Supreme Court justices on the Obama administration's arguments against Arizona's S.B. 1070, the House passed measures by large voting margins to prohibit funding of the administration's "amnesty by any means" programs.

The House DHS appropriations bill included amendments refusing to fund measures supporting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton's "prosecutorial discretion" memos (Morton himself has twice been given a no-confidence vote by his agents' union); prohibiting the termination of the immigration training of state and local law enforcement under 287(g); assuring that criminal aliens are not released back into communities; and not allowing cities and towns providing sanctuary to illegal aliens to obtain federal Homeland Security funding. A measure that failed House passage would have cut DHS spending by 2 percent across the board, another indication that the House is not in favor of less homeland security.

Interestingly, reporting by The Hill only listed these measures, while the headline was about TSA screeners being allowed to continue wearing their uniforms and badges despite a House bill restricting the practice. Taken as a whole, however, the House indictment of the Obama administration's non-enforcement and amnesty policies is clear and decisive and should be making headlines.

The specific vote results listed by The Hill are as follows:

  • From Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), to prohibit funds to enforce an executive order that mandates the Department of Homeland Security communicate in a language other than English in certain cases. Passed 224-189.

  • From King, to prohibit funds to enforce "Morton Memos" concerning administrative amnesty. Passed 238-175.

  • From Rep. John Sullivan (R-Okla.), to prohibit funds from being used to terminate the 287 (g) program under which state and local law enforcement is delegated authority for immigration enforcement activities within their jurisdictions. Passed 250-164.

  • From Rep. Robert Turner (R-N.Y.), to prohibit more than $20 million from being made available for surface transportation security inspectors. Exempts National Explosives Detection Canine Training Program and Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response Teams. Failed 101-314.

  • From Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), to cut accounts by 2 percent across the board, with some exceptions. Failed 99-316.

The following additional amendments were accepted by voice vote:

  • From Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.), to prohibit funds for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release or to provide alternative forms of detention for criminal aliens.

  • From Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.), to prohibit funds from going to cities and towns that do not enforce federal immigration law.

  • From Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.), to bar the purchase of unmanned aerial vehicles.

  • From Rep. David Price (D-Ga.), to bar the use of funds in contravention of immigration laws.