Legislation to Give States Reins on Refugee Resettlement in 2017

State & Local Legislation from FAIRLawmakers around the country are introducing legislation to give states more control over refugee resettlement in the United States.  Opposition to mass refugee resettlement soared this year following recent terrorist attacks globally by extremists posing as Syrian refugees. The most notable attack occurred in Paris, France, in November 2015, resulting in 130 fatalities.  Such legislation underscores the need for reform on the federal level of its Refugee Resettlement program and need for greater consultation and cooperation with state and local officials in the placement process.

Legislators from two states joined in the efforts to facilitate state and local leaders’ participation in refugee resettlement, as already required by federal law. Missouri Representative Jeff Pogue (R-143) introduced a measure to the General Assembly last month to help give Missourians a say in refugee resettlement in their state. Under House Bill 203, the Missouri General Assembly must approve refugees before they can be relocated into the state. Representative Pogue has yet to provide additional information regarding how this process will be implemented.

Georgia Senator Josh McKoon (R-29) also announced his plans earlier this month to introduce a measure to allow the state to withdraw participation from the federal Refugee Resettlement Program. If passed, Georgia could become the fifteenth state in the country to refuse participation.  Currently, fourteen states refuse participation in the Refugee Resettlement program. States that withdraw from the program, often referred to as “Wilson-Fish” states, do not participate in the placement process or administer aid to refugees, unless specifically required by state or federal law. Often, the federal government gets around states that refuse to participate with the program by contracting with third party organizations to facilitate placement of refugees into those states. Withdrawal from the Refugee Resettlement program, however, will ensure state taxpayer resources are not spent in the resettlement process.

Additionally, federal legislation introduced by U.S. Representative Scott Perry (R-Pa.) last year sought to require state governments’ approval over the resettlement of refugees.  H.R. 6119, also known as the Allow State Sovereignty Upon Refugee Entry (ASSURE) Act, would have required the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), to submit a detailed plan to each state where refugees are to be resettled.  This plan would require a list costs expected by the state for housing, education, health care, and any other subsidies. In addition, vaccination records, health records, criminal history, and possible terrorist ties of refugees would have to be disclosed in the report. After submittal of the plan to the state government, it must be ratified by the state legislature and signed by the governor in order for refugee resettlement to proceed. A similar version of this bill is expected to be reintroduced this year if the upcoming Trump administration fails to reform the federal program.

DC to Use Taxpayer Money to Pay for Illegal Alien Legal Defense Fees

washington-dc-flag-rotator720x480Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) announced this week that the District of Columbia will begin awarding taxpayer-funded grants to defense lawyers and nonprofit organizations to represent illegal alien residents facing immigration or other law enforcement proceedings. The $500,000 fund was created in a response to the election of Donald Trump, whose platform promised increasing border security and enforcing federal immigration law, despite a federal law prohibiting the expenditure of government money on legal representation for aliens in immigration matters. Trump’s platform energized American voters largely because of his pledges to enforce  immigration laws  and  combat sanctuary cities.

The city will contribute part of the fund to help illegal alien residents obtain representation to apply for asylum or other forms of relief currently available under the Obama Administration’s policies. Removal proceedings, as well as asylum and other adjustment of status proceedings, are civil proceedings. Publicly funded legal representation for civil proceedings is generally something that is not provided to U.S. citizens who face civil legal issues, such as foreclosures, evictions proceedings, child custody cases, or divorce proceedings. Aliens that wish to be represented by legal counsel are free to do so, but federal law stipulates that it must be at no cost to the government.

The $500,000 fund is another piece to the city’s efforts to obstruct the enforcement of federal law. Despite being home to the federal government, the DC City Council passed legislation in 2012 to prohibit law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration officials and force officers to release criminal aliens back onto the streets instead of transferring them to federal custody. The City Council also passed legislation in 2013 to allow illegal aliens to receive driver’s licenses without meeting minimal documentary standards set under the federal REAL ID Act.

Mayor Bowser’s announcement marks a trend amongst sanctuary cities to increase aid to illegal aliens following the victory of President-elect Donald Trump. Last month, the Chicago City Council approved a $1.3 million fund to help illegal aliens pay for legal services. California Senator Ben Hueso (D-40) also introduced a measure to the California State Legislature last month to provide taxpayer-funded legal representation to illegal aliens. Additionally, a plan by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is already in the works to provide at least $10 million for legal representation of illegal aliens.

Jerry Brown Braces California for a $1.6 Billion Deficit as the State Considers Legal Defense Fund for Illegal Aliens

Map of California StateCalifornia is a fiscal hole again. A deep fiscal hole, like $1.6 billion deep, warns Gov. Jerry Brown as introduced the state budget. That means more cuts in services, benefits, infrastructure repairs, education budgets, and general bad news for Californians.

But one group of California residents seems likely to be spared the pain of the state’s fiscal crisis: The ones who earned their special place in the hearts of California lawmakers by violating U.S. immigration laws. Even with a $1.6 billion deficit looming (and politicians often lowball bad budget numbers), two of the first bills likely to be taken up by the Legislature are Senate Bill 6 and Assembly Bill 3.

Both of those measures would commit state dollars to establish a legal defense fund for illegal aliens who might face deportation under the Trump administration – anywhere from about $10 million and $80 million according to the bills’ sponsors. That would be on top of the $10 million already allocated by the perpetually cash-strapped City and County of Los Angeles and similar funds likely to be set up by San Francisco, San Jose and other localities that pride themselves on placing the interests of illegal aliens ahead of the security and well-being of everyone else in their jurisdictions.

The $10 million to $80 the state is considering using to help illegal aliens flout the law is a pittance compared with the deficit Brown is forecasting but it says a lot about where the priorities of the state’s political leadership lie. Based on their response to Californians who have faced tragedy as a result of the state’s sanctuary policies it was hardly a mystery.

Chicago Creates Legal Fund for Illegal Aliens

chicago-skyline-rotator-720x450Wednesday, the Chicago City Council approved a $1.3 million dollar fund to help illegal aliens pay for legal services, including removal proceedings, using taxpayer money. The fund was created in a response to the election of Donald Trump, whose platform promised increasing border security and enforcing federal immigration law. The Chicago City Council also held a hearing Wednesday on a resolution reaffirming the city’s stance as a sanctuary city for illegal aliens.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a supporter of the fund, also supports the city’s policy to shield criminal aliens from immigration enforcement. Indeed, Mayor Emanuel is one of mayors who promised illegal alien residents last month that city officials will continue to ignore federal law and preserve policies that impede the enforcement of immigration law into President-elect Trump’s term. Trump’s platform energized American voters largely because of his tough position on immigration enforcement and promises to combat sanctuary cities. President-elect Trump supports conditioning federal funding on the city’s willingness to cooperate with federal immigration officials.

NY Educators Alarmed by Growing Population of Limited-English Proficient Students

Many lecture chairs arranged neatly in empty classroom.Education officials from New York State are alarmed by the strain of the growing number of students who lack basic English language skills to the state’s school systems. Most non- or limited-English proficient students in the state are foreign born or children of legal immigrants or illegal aliens. The drain on schools by English language learners has been exacerbated by the surge of unaccompanied minors and family units from Central America, which began in 2012. The surge is largely a result of the Obama Administration’s lax enforcement policies, most notably including President Obama’s deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) program. DACA provides illegal aliens with a temporary deferment of deportation and work authorization if they show that they entered the United States before the age of sixteen, as well as other requirements.

Education officials from New York report that the population of students with limited English skills has grown by at least 39,000 since 2008. This increase is larger than the total number of students enrolled in Buffalo schools, the state’s second-largest school district. Educators also emphasize the complexity of teaching English as a second language to New York’s diverse population, and estimate that students in New York schools speak over 200 different languages, including indigenous dialects from Central America that do not have written components. In Buffalo alone, schools that received refugees provide services to students that speak approximately 85 languages.

Illegal immigration, mass legal immigration, and increasing numbers of refugees resettled into the United States have created tremendous pressure on public school’s budgets and abilities to provide its students with standard educations. The New York State United Teachers union estimates that the language services alone will require an additional $200 million dollars in the upcoming budget.

New York is just one of many states forced to undertake this massive burden imposed by the federal government. In September, FAIR released a report analyzing the impact of mass immigration on public schools. The report estimates that limited English-Proficient students cost taxpayers approximately $59.2 billion annually. Almost the entirety of this cost, 98.9 percent, is borne by taxpayers at the state and local level.