Strip it out!
Readers, I’ve mentioned previously that the Senate amnesty draft bill has language making it easier for more refugees/asylum seekers to enter the US, but I haven’t had a minute to study the half-a-dozen or so references to refugees scattered throughout the bill.
So, thanks to citizen activist Joanne Bregman of Nashville, TN for sending us a review (below) of how the primary sections of the bill change refugee resettlement.
In light of what happened in Boston it is my contention that the whole refugee title and other sections relating to refugees/asylum seekers should be stripped from the “comprehensive reform” and come under separate Congressional review.
We are long overdue for oversight hearings on the whole Refugee Act of 1980—something virtually never done to my knowledge (at least in the 5-plus years I’ve followed the program).
You should also know that the federal contractors are lobbying in support of the Gang of Eight bill. Why, when 11 million illegal aliens will then be competing with legal refugees for jobs? Because there is a new grant program authorized in the Amnesty bill just for them!
Marco Rubio yesterday asked for citizen input into his Gang of Eight draft. Tell him to take out all references to refugees/asylum seekers and hold separate hearings on “reforming” Refugee Resettlement. Go here and help Marco!
The following is the first of several reports we will file on the Gang of Eight’s inclusion of refugees in the amnesty bill now before the US Senate. From Joanne Bregman:
S.744 – “Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act”
Refugee resettlement has for several years, been the subject of its own bill – The “Refugee Protection Act of 2010, 2011 & 2013”. Each time it is introduced, the bill has sought to expand the refugee resettlement program in several ways but has never sought to address the increasing federal encroachment that the federal refugee program brings to state budgets and community resources.
S.744 includes some provisions addressing asylum seekers and refugees. While S.744 does not go as far as the Refugee Protection Act (RPA) bills, S.744 will strengthen the infrastructure of political advocacy for immigrants and refugees.
I. “Integration” v. “assimilation”
A general but important observation about S.744 is its use throughout of the term “integration” as opposed to “assimilation.”
“Assimilation means absorbing minorities into the ways of the majority – requiring them to adopt the majority’s language, customs and ‘values’.
Integration, by contrast, requires acceptance of a country’s laws, of human rights such as freedom of speech, and of basic democratic rights, but does not require the eradication of all cultural differences or group-identities; it is conceived of as a two-way process, through which both the majority and the minorities influence and change one another, and in which differences can be peacefully accommodated as long is there a common commitment to living together.”
In other words, hyphenated American identities, American in name only and for generous public benefits only. In other words, no requirement to meaningfully commit to the country that provided refuge, freedom and economic opportunity.
S.744 at its core perpetuates a philosophically flawed system. Even as an alleged comprehensive overhaul of our immigration laws, S.744 continues the misguided acceptance and support for the self-destructing approach of “integration” instead of “assimilation” for those lawfully admitted to the U.S. and includes a definition in Section 2501 of “immigrant integration” that is divorced from reality on the ground.
II. Chapter 1 – Citizenship and New Americans – starting at p. 372
The bill renames the existing Office of Citizenship in the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) to “Office of Citizenship and New Americans” (OCNA).
The term “new Americans” is typically used by immigrant and refugee advocacy groups and refugee resettlement agencies to describe individuals who have not yet adjusted their status to become a citizen and/or who have arrived as resettled refugees.
This Chapter of S.744 will apply to anyone entering the U.S. and who seek a path to citizenship, including refugees. Refugees are admitted to the U.S. with work authorization, and may enroll into any public assistance program for which they meet the eligibility requirements. Within one year, refugees must apply to adjust their status to LPR (green card holder) and after 5 years can apply for citizenship.
Section 2551 (p.393) in Chapter 4 – “Reduce Barriers to Naturalization” revises the existing law regarding naturalization (the process by which immigrants attain U.S. citizenship), and waives the requirement to be able to speak and understand even rudimentary English under certain circumstances. The exemption applies to people with mental and developmental disabilities. It also applies to people over 65 who have been living in the U.S. for at least 5 years after being admitted for permanent residence (such as a refugee) or is older than 50 and has been living in the U.S. for at least 20 years as a LPR and a few other like age and presence combinations.
Non-English speakers eligible for the English exemptions must still take the civics test. Currently they can take civics test in their native language but must bring their own interpreter. In other words, a meaningless pro forma at best.
This means that some can become citizens even if they don’t speak enough English to be able to say the Pledge of Allegiance. While the exemptions are not new ones, shouldn’t we be questioning what the ultimate implications are for our civic processes and shouldn’t this be addressed by the current immigration system overhaul? Many governmental communications are already translated into multiple languages (for example, as of 2010, Tennessee’s Department of Human Services provides translated assistance for information about Food Stamps, TANF, and Medicaid in the following languages: Spanish, Bosnian, Somali, Arabic, Kurdish-Badinani, Kurdish-Sorani). Are we headed to a voting booth required to be translated into multiple languages as well?
Importantly, S.744 proposed as comprehensive immigration reform being premised on “integration” rather than “assimilation” does not reinforce the need to speak English. We should not be surprised that a 2010 America Institute for Research report on English Language Learners cites that “57 percent of adolescent ELL students were born in the United States, while 43 percent were born elsewhere (National Council of Teachers, 2008). Of these students, 27 percent are members of the second generation, and 30 percent belong to the third generation. These data demonstrate that many ELL students who have been educated exclusively in the U.S. are still not adequately proficient in English to be reclassified as fluent English speakers (Balatova, 2007).”
The OCNA will also provide information to state and local governments “on the demand for existing Federal and State English acquisition and citizenship education programs and best practices….” likely resulting in more state and local dollars being spent for ELL instruction.
In FY2012 for example, Tennessee ELL public school services totaled 1,278.5 ELL teaching positions and 124 translators. Total funding was $70,005,437. In the aggregate, the state paid 70% of that total or $49,003,806 and the required local share was 30% or $21,001,631.
III. Sec. 2511(b)(2)(H) – OCNA will help State and local governments and other entities “in establishing local goals, task forces and councils to assist in introducing immigrants into the U.S. and promoting citizenship education…”
This is reminiscent of when the Office of Refugee Resettlement handed out grant money under the “Building the New American Community” pilot program, a focus of which was to develop refugee and immigrant leadership. The Southeast Immigrant Rights Network and the TN Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) are two examples of what the former ORR program helped to establish in Tennessee. TIRRC is an example of state and local refugee and immigrant leadership that has been successful in increasing state expenditures for ELL instruction by $30 million, opposing legislation that would have disclosed the cost shift to the state for the federal refugee program, radicalizing college students to advocate for illegal DREAMERS and is now hammering away for amnesty for illegal aliens.
TIRRC reported over $1 million in 2011 revenue and employs a staff lobbyist and an outside lawyer lobbyist. Another example of the federally sought after local immigrant leadership operating in Tennessee is Conexcion Americas, representing Latino. This organization reported revenue of $1,013,483 for 2010-2011.
IV. Subchapter B – Task Force on New Americans (p.377)
Section 2521 continues the Task Force on New Americans begun by a 2006 executive order. The restated purpose is to “establish a coordinated Federal program and policy response to immigrant integration issues”, the issues impacting new immigrants and receiving communities, including youth and adult education, workforce training and health care.
V. Chapter 2 – Public-Private Partnership – The U.S. Citizenship Foundation
Section 2531 establishes a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation called the U.S. Citizenship Foundation (USCF), which may “solicit, accept and make gifts of money and other property.” The Office of Citizenship and New Americans can conveniently accept gifts from this newly established nonprofit foundation.
The stated purposes of the Foundation are to “expand citizenship preparation programs for permanent residents, provide direct assistance to those seeking to get into the U.S. and on a path to citizenship and to
coordinate immigrant integration with state and local entities.”
“Local entities” is not defined and would presumably include federal refugee resettlement contractors like Catholic Charities and advocacy groups like TIRRC. The Foundation will provide yet another source of funding for these entities. It would help fund the new shift in the Catholic Charities Memphis office announced in October 2012. This office will now focus on serving the Hispanic community with Catholic Charities of Tennessee (Nashville office) opening a sub-office to assume the Memphis refugee resettlement program.
a. Section 2534 – Authorized Activities of the U.S. Citizenship Foundation includes:
· supporting “innovative and creative solutions to barriers faced by those seeking naturalization”
· administering the “New Citizens Award Program” recognizing 10 awardees each year – (pure feel good propaganda to make taxpayers feel better about how the money is being spent)
· award grants to eligible public or private nonprofits (more money for refugee resettlement agencies and pro-immigrant and refugee advocacy groups like TIRRC and Conexcion Americas)
· the Foundation’s council of Directors includes:
§ Director of USCIS
§ Chief of Office of Citizenship and New Americans
§ 10 directors from national community-based organizations that promote and assist permanent residents with naturalization (ie, VOLAGs and groups like TIRRC)
b. Section 2537 – Initial Entry, Adjustment, and Citizenship Assistance Grant Program (IEACA)
This section provides yet more grant money to public or private nonprofit organizations for programs that provide direct assistance to illegal aliens applying for the new “registered provisional immigrant” (RPI) status. This is the category for illegal aliens physically present in the U.S. since December 2011. This section will help Catholic Charities in Memphis pay for its work assisting Hispanics.
c. Section 2538 – Pilot Program to Promote Immigrant Integration at State and Local Levels
Even more money grants to states and local governments or other qualifying entities collaborating with state and local governments to establish New Immigrant Councils and programs to integrate new immigrants.
Chapter 3 – Funding
In addition to other amounts made available to the Office of Citizenship and New Americans (remember the Foundation with private money donations), the appropriations are $10,000,000 over 5 years and
“such sums as may be necessary for 2019 and subsequent fiscal years” (open ended funding as these groups seek to increase the government funding pipeline). For grants pursuant to Sections 2537 and 2538 and to implement Section 2539 there is appropriated $100,000,000 over 5 years and whatever funds are necessary for 2019 and thereafter.
Subtitle D – Asylum and Refugee Provisions
a. Section 3403 – expands the President’s authority to designate “specifically defined groups of aliens” for resettlement based on either humanitarian reasons or because it “is otherwise in the national interest.” Designation for resettlement because of “race, religion, nationality, and membership in a particular social group or political opinion” may make it easier for asylum seekers and refugees to gain admittance to the U.S.
Annually the President routinely exceeds the current statutory threshold of 50,000 refugees for admission using the work-around statutory language.
Readers! Although everything above is important, I have highlighted this Section (3403) because it is critically important to have it removed. At present refugee and asylum candidates must prove (or are supposed to prove) that they are personally persecuted. This new language would make it possible for whole classes of people to be presumed persecuted just because of who they are. Iraqis, Somalis, Chechens and even gays could say because of who they are they are automatically presumed to be persecuted and eligible for refugee status.
And, this “otherwise in the national interest” is a disaster and it alone is worth making the refugee portions of this bill a poison pill!
So, contact Marco Rubio’s office directly or use his request for comment form and TELL HIM TO STRIP THE ENTIRE REFUGEE PROGRAM CHANGES FROM S.744.
Here is the contact information for Senator Rubio’s staff (I was in DC the week before last and got this info at his Senate office):
So please call (or e-mail) Rubio’s office at 202-224-3041 and ask for these staff people, call three times if you must!
These are Rubio’s chief advisors on immigration.
Tell them to remove refugee/asylee references from the bill!
~Enrique Gonzalez, Special Counsel, firstname.lastname@example.org
(sorry for some reason this blog doesn’t make e-mail links hot, so please copy and paste these e-mail addresses into your browser).
~Hampton G. Ray, Legislative Aide, email@example.com
~Jonathan Baselice, Legislative Assistant, firstname.lastname@example.org