Immigration Agents Raise Questions on GOP's DREAM Act Efforts

The head of the labor union representing law enforcement officers of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on Tuesday pressed House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, House Budget Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) to answer questions regarding their DREAM Act proposals for young illegal immigrants in America.

In a letter sent to those four lawmakers Tuesday afternoon, USCIS National Council president Kenneth Palinkas wrote that that he wanted to “share several security questions and concerns regarding your drafting of a DREAM Act proposal, as well as the difficulties plaguing USCIS that must be addressed.”

“As you know, the Obama administration has already bypassed Congress to implement a version of the proposal you are now considering,” Palinkas wrote. “Of course, to do so, the administration also had to simultaneously suspend laws previously passed by Congress. My first question, therefore, as a representative of those tasked with following the law, is how you intend to prevent this administration from simply implementing your proposal in a fashion of its own choosing with no regard for Congress’ authority?”

Since Cantor, Ryan, Goodlatte, and Gowdy have put this debate off until after August recess, Palinkas laid out a hypothetical provision for what may become their DREAM Act. “Let’s say you establish in your law that illegal immigrants must be 30 years of age or younger at the time of application, must have entered illegally (or illegally overstayed a visa) at the age of 16 or before, and must have resided in the U.S. for at least five years (it’s only 18 months for the Senate bill),” Palinkas wrote. “Let’s also assume that, unlike the Schumer-Rubio-Corker-Hoeven bill, you do not extend amnesty to those with violent criminal records and gang affiliations.”

Palinkas then asks whether or not Cantor, Ryan, Goodlatte or Gowdy have any answer to the following question: “What is to stop the administration from simply issuing another round of non-enforcement orders (written or oral) that would eviscerate any attempted limitations in your bill?” Palinkas wrote. “For instance, the ICE Council reports that ‘the administration’s DREAM Act is not being applied by ICE to children in schools, but instead to adult inmates in jails. Gang members and other criminal offenders all take advantage of the administration’s DREAM Act orders to evade arrest and deportation.’”

Palinkas followed those facts up with a few more followup questions. “Why would we not expect this policy to not only continue, but be expanded if your bill were to pass?” he asked. “Additionally, what is to prevent the administration from declaring that future illegal immigrants who are DREAM Act-eligible who arrive after your bill passes are likewise not an ‘administrative priority’ and thus exempt from immigration enforcement? And what about people who have missed the cut-off date by a few months or years—won’t the administration just exempt them from enforcement too? I have not heard any solutions proposed to any of these concerns.”

Palinkas argued to Cantor, Ryan, Goodlatte and Gowdy that if those issues are not addressed in their DREAM Act, it “could quickly turn into a permanent feature of U.S. immigration policy with huge unintended consequences.” Such future negative ramifications that could come out of a DREAM Act, Palinkas argues, include a permanent and perpetual amnesty for all illegal immigrants, current and future.

“In practice, it could establish a precedent that would expand birthright citizenship in the future to apply to any new arrivals (and, by extension, their relatives) who claim they came here at a certain age,” Palinkas wrote. “Clearly, this would be an extraordinary magnet for unlawful entry and overstays, and create a massive hole in future enforcement that would be exploited by those with ill intent. Put bluntly: what does your legislation proscribe will happen to DREAM Act-eligible individuals, and their relatives, who inevitably arrive in future months and years? If it is the position of the Judiciary Committee that immigration law should be applied differently, or not at all, to people who simply claim to have entered at a certain age, will this then become the permanent immigration policy of the USA? In other words, the Committee has made the argument that it is improper to apply immigration laws to people who meet this particular set of criteria—if that is the case today, should we also expect that these laws will also not be applied tomorrow?”

Palinkas added in his letter that USCIS agents have lots of concerns at their agency and said that the agency’s “myriad problems are being widely overlooked.” He said the agency is in “dire need of reform” because 99 percent of applications to President Obama’s DREAM Act are automatically approved without scrutiny and that agents are prohibited from actually conducting in-person interviews with applicants for the program. He said agents lack the “resources, staffing and office space to fulfill our agency’s mission.”

Palinkas, like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) National Council president Chris Crane, called on Cantor, Ryan, Goodlatte and Gowdy to work with law enforcement officials while drafting their legislation, unlike the Senate bill, who ignored law enforcement input. 

A spokesman for Cantor has not responded to questions for over more than a week whether he and others involved in this DREAM Act drafting will consult law enforcement in their discussions. 

Spokespersons for Cantor, Ryan, Goodlatte, and Gowdy did not immediately respond to requests for comment in response to Palinkas' letter.


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