Last night, the House passed the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2013, and with it, eight amendments with the intent to increase interior enforcement and secure the border were approved and added to the final bill. Under House Leadership of the last few Congresses, it's been tough to get recorded votes from the full House, but the DHS spending bill is annual measure we can count on!
In total, there were eight immigration amendments that we supported, and you helped support with your phone calls to Congress on Thursday. We were only able to get roll call votes on three of the eight, but those three votes will have an impact on our Congressional Grade Cards.
The first amendment to pass with a roll call was offered by Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) and Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.). The amendment would reallocate $10 million from the Office of the Under Secretary of Management to Border Patrol for the sole purpose of building cell phone towers on the Southwest border with Mexico.
The need for cell phone towers along the border came during the aftermath of the murder of Arizona rancher Robert Krentz who was killed by an illegal alien on his property that runs adjacent to the border in early-2011. Kretnz's wife, Sue, believes that her husband was trying to call for help when he encountered the illegal alien on his property, but he was in a cell phone dead spot. Krentz was represented in Congress by former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords who authored a bill to build the cell phone towers. Reps. Poe and Altmire wrote the amendment based on the concept of the Giffords' bill. It was approved by the House on Wednesday night by a 302-to-113 margin with 81 Democrats voting with the GOP majority.
The second amendment to pass with a roll call vote was offered by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and would prohibit the implementation and execution of the Morton Memos. ICE Director John Morton wrote three separate memos in 2011 that instructed immigration agents to use prosecutorial discretion when they came in contact with illegal aliens. The memos prioritized criminal illegal aliens over non-criminal aliens and specifically protected illegal aliens that could benefit from the DREAM Act. The memos, in effect, offered an administrative amnesty to certain illegal aliens. The amendment passed the House on Thursday by a 238-to-175 margin. The vote was split along party lines, but did receive support from 10 Democrats, including Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania, John Barrow of Georgia, Dan Boren of Oklahoma, Ben Chandler of Kentucky, Larry Kissell of North Carolina, Dan Lipinski of Illinois, Collin Peterson of Minnesota, Nick Rahall of West Virginia, and Tim Walz of Minnesota.
The final amendment to pass with a roll call vote was offered by Rep. John Sullivan (R-Okla.) and would prohibit the Department of Homeland Security from terminating 287(g) agreements with local law enforcement agencies. The 287(g) program allows local law enforcement to partner-up with ICE and facilitates the training of agents so they can enforce federal immigration laws. In Pres. Obama's 2013 proposed budget, he removed all funding for 287(g), but the DHS spending bill added the funding back in. Rep. Sullivan's amendment was offered to prevent the Administration from ending the program by simply terminating all the contracts. The amendment passed by a 250-to-164 margin with support from 18 Democrats.
The other amendments to pass without a roll call vote include:
- Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) and David Schweikert's (R-Ariz.) amendment to prevent funds from going to sanctuary cities. As the former mayor of Hazleton, Pa., one of the first cities to pass immigration-enforcement ordinances, ending sanctuary cities is a priority for Rep. Barletta and he also has offered legislation in Congress to prevent federal funding from going to sanctuary cities. It's important to note that this amendment would only prevent DHS spending from going to these cities.
- Rep. Diane Black's (R-Tenn.) amendment to prohibit the funding for a Public Advocate position within ICE. In February, the Obama Administration announced plans for this new position that would speak on behalf of illegal aliens. We believe that funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement should be used to enforce immigration laws instead of being used to advocate on behalf of illegal aliens.
- Rep. Chip Cravaack's (R-Minn.) amendment would keep criminal illegal aliens in jail until they're deported. Rep. Cravaack also offered this amendment last year, and it was approved by the House. Certain criminal illegal aliens who are awaiting execution of their deportation orders are, by federal law, required to be detained until deported. But two years ago, a criminal illegal alien who had been convicted of multiple drunk driving charges and had deportation orders was released. He got behind the wheel under the influence of alcohol and caused an accident that killed one and injured two in Northern Virginia.
- Rep. Sam Graves' (R-Ga.) amendment would prohibit funds from being used to implement or execute the "Provisional Unlawful Presence Waivers of Inadmissibility for Certain Immediate Relatives" rule proposed by DHS. The proposed rule was entered into the federal register earlier this year and proposes to allow immediate relatives of U.S. citizens to remain in the country while they await a waiver decision from DHS. Because the process to receive a green card for immediate family members can often be a lengthy one, some family members decide to enter the U.S. illegally and wait it out, however, they must apply and get processed for their green cards outside of the United States. When their number is called, they risk being detected by immigration agents when they leave the country, and that could result in either a 3-year or 10-year bar from entering the United States. In special cases, DHS will offer a waiver to the 3-year and 10-year bar, but this proposed rule would make most illegal aliens that fall under this category eligible for the waiver.
- Rep. Tom Price's (R-Ga.) amendment would prohibit funds from being used to circumvent the enforcement of immigration laws. This amendment was actually combined with two other amendments to create an En Bloc Amendment. These amendments are usually grouped together because they receive unanimous support from the House.
CHRIS CHMIELENSKI is the Director, Content & Activism for NumbersUSA