|June 11, 2010|
I want to devote this newsletter to a discussion about illegal immigration, particularly in the context of Arizona’s recent immigration law, S.B. 1070. First let me thank those who have forwarded your thoughts on what should be done.
As many of you know, I came to Texas as a legal immigrant. Not everyone is lucky enough to be born in this great country, but everyone must respect the rule of law. Our citizens recognize that legal immigrants bring skills and contributions, but resent the fiscal and social costs wrought by uncontrolled illegal immigration as well as the threat to national security. Although illegal immigrants are ineligible for Medicaid, Health and Human Services (HHS) estimates that it costs Texas $678 million per year to provide for their health care such as emergency room services.
Arizona, also beset by crime, has particularly suffered from the Federal Government’s failure to curb illegal immigration. At 8.3 percent of the state’s population, Arizona is estimated to have the highest percentage of illegal aliens of any state, closely followed by California (7.8 percent) and Texas (7.1 percent), altogether more than 5 million among the four states bordering Mexico. While some aspects of Arizona’s recent immigration reform raise important constitutional questions, I feel that the Texas Legislature could use parts of the legislation as a guide for enacting responsible state-level reforms to tackle the problems posed by illegal immigration.
Arizona’s S.B. 1070:
It is lengthy, but here are some key aspects:
The Arizona legislation establishes new requirements for law enforcement officers to inquire as to the immigration status of individuals they come into “lawful contact”, whenever “reasonable suspicion” exists that the person may be unlawfully present in the United States.
An example of “lawful contact” is contained in Arizona’s existing statute pertaining to traffic stops: “A peace officer or duly authorized agent of a traffic enforcement agency may stop and detain a person as is reasonably necessary to investigate an actual or suspected violation of this title.” However, the new legislation also provides that “a law enforcement officer, without a warrant, may arrest a person if the officer has probable cause to believe that the person has committed any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States.” This section allows law enforcement personnel to arrest individuals who they suspect are unlawfully present in the U.S., since entering the nation illegally is cause for deportation.
The legislation also establishes that it is a crime for a non-citizen to be present in the State of Arizona without the necessary documentation confirming legal immigration status. Under the new law, a person arrested for such an offense would serve the prison term or pay the fine and then be “transferred immediately to the custody of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement” for deportation.
Texas – Some Recent Legislation:
HB 1196 (80R) required businesses convicted of employing illegal aliens to repay any state subsidies received during the period of the alien’s employment, in order to ensure that lawbreaker businesses do not enjoy the benefits of public subsidies.
HB 126 (80R) increased penalties for document fraud in an effort to crack down on identity theft and fraudulent identity documents that are often used by illegal aliens.
SB 11 (80R) and HB 4009 (81R) increased penalties related to human trafficking and improved the assistance provided to victims of human trafficking.
Since 2007, the state budget has provided more than $274 million specifically for border security operations in co-operation with local law enforcement agencies in border regions.
Texas – Going Forward:
My colleagues and I are working on legislation for the upcoming session. Along with the Texas Conservative Coalition, we are currently discussing the following proposals:
Since this problem begins as a consequence of lax border security, we should provide law enforcement personnel in border areas with resources to combat the unique challenges that they face. Funding the required resources will be challenging. Recovery of HHS outlays and asset forfeitures of illegal immigrants may not net much money, but legislation should facilitate whatever Texas can do to mitigate costs. Across Texas, we should better police Day Labor sites, deploy traffic checkpoints for problem areas, and vigorously pursue hand-offs to ICE through the federal 287(g) and CAP programs.
Of note, the city of Irving’s Criminal Alien Program (CAP), under which illegal aliens who are arrested for other offenses are turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agents, has transferred 8,500 illegal aliens to ICE since 2006.
As a practical matter, the Driver’s License defaults as our first-line enforcement tool. Legislation is needed to strengthen Department of Public Safety (DPS) administrative rules limiting issuance to citizens or clearly designating the status of legal immigrants within the license.
We must ensure that voting is tied to a secure state-issued identification document, such as a Driver’s License. Without an upfront citizenship validation in voter registration and without a Photo ID voting requirement, the integrity of our voting system is at risk. Dallas County did remove 1,889 non-citizens from voting rolls between 1999 and 2007, but who knows how many more should be removed.
It is also important to pursue employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. By expanding the use of the E-verify program among employers in Texas, we can take steps toward accomplishing this objective. E-Verify is an Internet-based, free program run by the United States government that compares information from an employee's Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 to data from U.S. government records. If the information matches, that employee is eligible to work in the United States. If there's a mismatch, E-Verify alerts the employer. The program is operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in partnership with Social Security Administration.
According to the DHS website, more than 196,000 employers now use E-Verify. Over 1,400 companies enroll in the program every week.
As we continue to work through this problem, please continue to forward your comments.
Around the District
I have had such a fun time around the district the past few weeks. Below are some photos of the events I have attended recently.
Representative Button attending the dedication ceremony of the Family Place's new Safe Campus in Dallas. From left to right: George Shuler, Feriale Millen, Representative Angie Button, Paige Flink, and Keenan Delaney.
Representative Button attending the Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce of DFW's 2010 Board of Directors Installation Ceremony. From left to right: U.S. Congressman Pete Sessions, Carrollton Mayor Charles Branson, Representative Angie Button and Addison Mayor Joe Chow.
Representative Button attending the Grand Opening of Igor Finkler's 7-Eleven, located at 700 E. Campbell Road in Richardson. Mr. Finkler, a legal immigrant, received his store after impressing 7-Eleven CEO Joseph DePinto with his innovative mind and work ethic on the popular CBS show Undercover Boss.
Representative Button speaking at the Pista Sa Nayon Celebration, a Filipino Community Heritage and Cultural Festival, at Trader's Village.
It is a great honor to represent the fine people of House District 112 in the Texas Legislature. I look forward to continuing our work together to make Texas an even better place to live and do business. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can ever be of assistance.
Angie Chen Button