Senate Immigration Bill Would Create $150 Million Slush Fund for Pro-Amnesty Groups

Among the criticisms of the new Senate immigration bill is the secretive manner in which it was written. And given the details, it’s hardly any wonder that the eight senators overseeing the proceedings – the “Gang of Eight” – refused to hold hearings or debates until after the bill’s release. Case in point: Tucked away in the measure are two sections that would route a combined $150 million or more to “public or private, non-profit organizations” that are “community, faith-based or other immigrant-serving.” Recipient groups could use funds to aid potentially tens of millions of illegal immigrants and family members to obtain lawful permanent resident status and eventual citizenship. In other words, the grantees would consist heavily of the sorts of people who have been pushing for amnesty all along! This appears to be another case of the Left funding their campaigns at taxpayer expense.

National Legal and Policy Center, here and here, has taken the bipartisan Gang of Eight to task for the 844-page immigration bill they finished on April 16 and unleashed during the wee hours of the following morning. The senators and their staffers since have expanded this document to 867 pages. The legislation, as NLPC noted at length, is egregious on a procedural as well as a substantive level. The main players – Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., John McCain, R-Ariz., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla. – went to great lengths to shield themselves from criticism until the final draft was made public. They sensed that hiding the details was arguably the only way of enacting them. The hand-picked committee regularly interacted with top figures from the worlds of business, labor, ethnic activism, state/local politics and the Obama White House, all of them committed to keeping immigration at high levels and legalizing the resident status of unauthorized residents. Yes, they had disagreements. But these disagreements were over how to create amnesty, not whether to create it. By contrast, the lawmakers made themselves virtually unavailable to anyone likely to object to the bill’s numerous immigration-boosting features.

The legislation, known as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (S.744), is a dream come true for supporters of unlimited mass immigration, especially from the Third World. Among key features, it would expand dramatically the number of work visas available to skilled workers from abroad even though many native-born engineering and information technology specialists are either unemployed or underemployed. It would enact the DREAM Act, allowing an estimated nearly 1.5 million persons who illegally entered this country as minors to remain here permanently so long as they finish high school and either enroll and stay in college or serve in the military. And it would end the possibility of deportation (i.e., provide amnesty) for virtually all of the current estimated 11 million illegal immigrants who arrived here prior to January 1, 2012, and would make available green cards for millions more spouses and other family members. Yet the bill also some less publicized features that could wind up ramping up immigration, legal or otherwise, over the long run. Two of them are known as Section 2106 and Section 2537. Each would be run by the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, with the DHS secretary retaining broad discretionary powers.

A new paper by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) reveals Section 2106 and Section 2537 to be potentially far more expensive over the long run than even their initial five-year combined cost ceiling of $150 million would indicate. That’s in large measure because the statutes would inject extreme partisan politics into immigration policy – as if immigration policy weren’t partisan enough already. The report, prepared by CIS legal policy analyst Jon Feere and titled “Immigration Bill Contains Slush Funds for Pro-Amnesty Groups,” argues that these measures would create a windfall for the sorts of radical nonprofit organizations that have created so much of the impetus for amnesty in the first place. These programs also would make available money to state and local agencies sympathetic to the goals of such groups and thus who might hire them as contractors or subcontractors. “Considering that millions of dollars will go to groups like La Raza, Casa de Maryland and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, it’s not surprising that these groups are cheerleaders for the Schumer-Rubio bill,” notes Feere. The term “slush funds” isn’t out of place. These are politically-driven programs. And each of these three groups he cites helped draft the Senate legislation.

Section 2106 would create the “Grant Program to Assist Eligible Applicants.” Put simply, it would promote amnesty. The law authorizes up to $50 million in federal funds to be diverted from the new Comprehensive Immigration Reform Trust Fund and toward public and nonprofit organizations to aid in the transition of an immigrant’s resident status from legal to illegal. Grants could be used to establish and run public information campaigns, and perform paperwork for applicants, especially those with limited English-language comprehension. Funds also could be used to provide “any other assistance” that the grantee agency “considers useful.” That kind of language covers a lot of territory. Defenders of the program note that funds would be generated by visa application fees. Yet the $50 million spending line indicates that they anticipate such fees as being insufficient to cover all operating costs.

Section 2537 would authorize $100 million in grants for activities grouped under “Initial Entry, Adjustment and Citizenship Assistance.” The money would be routed to public and private nonprofit entities that assist amnesty seekers in “completing applications,” “gathering proof of identification” and “applying for any waivers.” Here, again, recipient organizations have enormous discretion. They can use funds for “any other assistance” that the grantee “considers useful” to persons applying for amnesty. And $100 million wouldn’t be the end. Once the initial five-year period expires at the end of Fiscal Year 2018, the law would authorize additional “sums as may be necessary for Fiscal Year 2019 and subsequent fiscal years.”

Given the highly overlapping nature of the two sections, one wonders why they couldn’t have been combined into one, thus saving taxpayers money. But an even more troubling reality is the lack of accountability over the money. For the Senate bill does not include any audit or oversight provisions. Grantees effectively would be receiving a blank check from the government. The CIS report points to the irony that immediately following Section 2537 is Section 2538, “Pilot Program to Promote Immigrant Integration at State and Local Levels.” The latter contains a portion requiring each grant recipient to submit a description of activities undertaken over the past year and how well they met program goals. So why don’t Sections 2106 or 2537 have something like this? The Gang of Eight isn’t talking.

Nonprofit group applicants for funds under Sections 2106 and 2537 aren’t exactly clamoring for oversight. Indeed, oversight is probably the last thing they want – which is pretty much why the section doesn’t contain such a feature. Advocates of bringing as many immigrants here as possible while keeping those here illegally in the country no doubt are relishing the prospect of tapping into a new federal funding pipeline to anything they want. These organizations aren’t really so much liberal as radical. That is, they’re driven not by fairness or openness, but by an intense commitment to mass immigration, especially from nonwhite nations, for its own sake. By their way of thinking, the term “illegal immigrant” is offensive, since immigrants, by their very presence, have a right to remain. Anyone who understands what these groups stand for and how they operate – I’ve publicly debated their representatives, so I know first-hand – knows they will use the money as an opportunity to step up their perpetual campaigns for mass immigration and another “final” amnesty.

Let’s have a look at the three nonprofit groups cited above by Feere – the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Casa de Maryland, and the National Council of La Raza. Each of these organizations played a role in shaping the Senate bill. And their leaders embody exactly the kind of thinking that pervades immigration enthusiasts.

American Immigration Lawyers Association. Representing more than 12,000 immigration lawyers and law professors, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, or AILA, is dedicated to making it impossible for federal authorities to deport anyone here illegally and to bringing in as many new immigrants as possible. That’s not the way they would put it, of course. But that’s their de facto mission. They don’t simply defend individual immigrants from deportation; they also believe that deportation itself is a moral injustice. Toward this end, the Washington, D.C.-based AILA takes on class-action as well as individual cases. And there is no such thing as “enough.” As for the Senate bill’s grant of legal status to as many as 30 million immigrants over the next decade – AILA calls that “a good start.” Real reform, argues AILA President Laura Lichter, must address needs that go beyond the bill in its current form. They include: “offering a wide and inclusive legalization program that provides a path to citizenship after a reasonable and definite period of time”; “ensuring that immigration enforcement is done humanely, proportionately, and in a way that guarantees due process”; “ensuring all families can reunite with their loved ones, including adult sons and daughters without regard to age, and the siblings of U.S. citizens”; “including LGBT/same-sex families in the definition of the American family”; and “ensuring businesses of all sizes have access to the workers they need through an efficient and workable process.” In substance and tone, this is the language of immigration without limits.

Casa de Maryland. As its name implies, Casa de Maryland is one of the most outspoken boosters of Hispanic immigration in the country. It was founded in 1985 and is currently based in Langley Park, Md. Its original headquarters, significantly, was Takoma Park, Md., the nation’s first locality to pass a “sanctuary” law, by no coincidence also in 1985, to thwart efforts by federal authorities to locate and arrest illegal immigrants within its jurisdiction. The group has done everything imaginable to create amnesty for illegal immigrants in Maryland – and can be guaranteed to do far more if it gains access to additional federal funds. It has attracted national attention lately because for a period during the last decade it was headed by the current civil rights enforcer at the U.S. Department of Justice, Thomas Perez, a hardcore radical lawyer nominated in March by President Obama as the next Secretary of Labor. In addition to private donations, Casa de Maryland has received millions of dollars from state and local agencies in Maryland, especially under current Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley, and a $1.5 million grant from oil refiner/gasoline retailer CITGO, which though nominally based in Houston, has been for more than 20 years a ward of the Venezuelan government. The group’s leadership also played a key role in President Obama’s decision last June to suspend deportations of illegal immigrants eligible for permanent resident status under the DREAM Act.

National Council of La Raza. The Washington, D.C.-based National Council of La Raza (“the Race”), or NCLR, founded in 1968, bills itself as “the largest Latino civil rights and advocacy organization” in the U.S. Over the years, on any immigration-related issue, La Raza has proven itself to be unyielding in its support of mass Hispanic immigration and amnesty. The heavily corporate-funded nonprofit group supports granting driver’s licenses and in-state tuition status for college students illegally residing in this country. It has been a major booster of bilingual education in elementary and secondary schools. And it has gone the distance to prevent deportation of illegal Hispanic immigrants, including those with criminal records. NCLR also has denounced the fence under construction designed to protect our southern border, secure voter ID laws, and E-Verify employment checks. It’s hardly a shock, then, that the group helped write the Senate immigration bill – or that President Obama considers himself a close ally (see photo).

National Council of La Raza President Janet Murguia is launching an all-out blitz to create a deportation-proof final immigration bill. Last week, on the eve of the bill’s markup sessions, she sent a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee members indicating areas of potential improvement while cautioning against any efforts to dilute the amnesty provisions. “The ultimate goal of immigration reform is to preserve and restore the rule of law,” she wrote. With that disingenuous bow to reasonableness out of the way, Murguia got down to the business at hand:

To do that, we must create a fair and affordable legalization process that encourages as many eligible undocumented families as possible to come out of the shadows and begin applying for citizenship. Amendments that deter eligible applicants from coming forward or delay implementation jeopardize our success in achieving the overall objective of this legislation.

In order to preserve the rule of law, this bill must also modernize our legal immigration system. Improving the accuracy of the employment verification system and ensuring that all workers can exercise their labor and employment rights will be crucial elements in this bill. We also strongly back measures that maintain family unity as a cornerstone of our immigration system and that provide much needed funding to integration efforts for newcomers to this country. Finally, we welcome amendments that preempt states’ efforts to create their own immigration laws, which have resulted in racial profiling bills such as Arizona’s SB 1070 and Alabama’s HB 56.”

The language was typical of the deceptive style of mass immigration advocacy. It made no mention of the word “amnesty,” yet it amounted to precisely that. Aside from the usual clichés (“undocumented,” “come out of the shadows”), the letter unambiguously views efforts to restrict immigration as social injustice. “Rule of law,” for her, simply means an orderly, enforceable manner of processing as many immigrant residents as possible, including those living in the U.S. illegally. In other words, it’s the very antithesis of real rule of law. Especially irritating are Murguia’s patently false statements that the Arizona and Alabama immigration laws (for the record, they’re not just “bills”) are about “racial profiling” and that they supersede federal immigration law.

If Congress passes the Senate immigration bill, there are going to be a lot of groups like these coming out of the woodwork to apply for federal funds to reach out to illegal immigrants and counsel them on how to obtain legal resident status and public benefits. They could include any of the more than 130 nonprofit legal groups, with a combined more than 800 offices across the U.S., now funded by Legal Services Corp. They also could include chapters of the now-defunct ACORN that now operate under new names. And they could include any of the countless immigration-enabling storefront paralegal groups that dot the nation such as Chicanos Por La Causa, Diversity Service Center of Iowa, El Centro Hispanoamericano and Filipino Advocates for Justice. Let’s not kid ourselves: A huge portion of the $150 million to be made available by Sections 2106 and 2537 is intended to bankroll these sorts of radical groups. And the recipients will use much of the money to finance their long-range lobbying and public outreach activity, and not just to counsel clients. These organizations, in other words, don’t just see money. They see opportunities to hasten a radical transformation of this country.

This, then, is the real issue: the erasure of all meaningful legal distinctions between American and non-American, so much the better to redefine our nation as headquarters for an ongoing worldwide multicultural gathering. Far from addressing the problems of immigration policy, these programs will exacerbate them. There is a certain sinister self-fulfilling prophecy underlying endless assertions by immigration radicals that our system of immigration law is “broken.” For if the truth be known, it is they, more than anyone else, who advocate the kinds of policies that would break it. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the system still works when it is allowed to do so. Yet the bill before the Senate Judiciary Committee would drive us much closer to the breaking point. About the last thing Congress should be doing is funding organizations whose mission is to drive immigration to unimagined, and unmanageable, heights under the guise of “comprehensive reform.”


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