Saturday, October 28, 2006

Immigration Reforms: Conservative proposals

This report comes out of a recent hearing that took place at the Capitol by the Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute (TCCRI) that involves the state's most conservative elected leaders. Among other things, they call for the state to end bilingual education instruction and for not allowing the children of undocumented immigrants (referred to as "anchor babies") to obtain citizenship. To accomplish this, Texas Congressman Ron Paul proposed an amendment to the Constitution restricting "birthright citizenship." This amounts to a loss of benefits available to citizens to U.S.-born children. Read on to see what some of our state leaders are proposing. -Angela

Vol.10 No.415
Friday, October 27, 2006

Immigration Reforms: Conservative proposals
by Christine DeLoma and William Lutz/LSR

Let 'em all in; keep 'em all out – the anguished debate over illegal immigration hasn't been rich in proposals that address the matter of incentives and disincentives to come and stay.

This week, the Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute (TCCRI) – a bipartisan organization run by the state's most conservative elected leaders – took its own crack at
the challenge.

A special task force of the institute, headed by Rep. Linda Harper-Brown (R-Irving) released Oct. 18 a set of proposals that tilt toward control of the circumstances that seem to invite illegal residence in Texas.The task force singles out, among other factors, "lax enforcement of the citizenship requirements to enroll in public benefit programs, abundant employment opportunities for illegal immigrants, a public school system that will teach students entirely in Spanish, and the presence of active political movements that advocate for and on behalf of illegal immigrants." It calls these factors "the basis upon which effective immigration reform should be based."

TCCRI's recommendations include:

Voter identification reforms

The task force recommends voters be required to submit at the polls a driver’s license or Texas ID card, along with a voter registration card. Rep. Mary Denny (R-Aubrey) unsuccessfully tried to pass similar legislation in 2005 that would have required voters to show their driver’s licenses. The main difference is that Denny’s proposal would also have allowed a voter without a photo ID to use two forms of non-photo ID, such as a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, or an official government document showing the voter’s name and address.

Some Democrats called Denny’s measure a sort of "poll tax" that would intimidate voters. Her proposal would have allowed individuals without driver’s licenses to obtain a state photo identification card free of charge.

TCCRI recommends marking the citizenship status on Texas driver's licenses or Texas Identification Cards. The federal government passed the REAL ID Act of 2005 requiring the state Department of Public Safety, beginning in 2008, to verify citizenship status of people who apply for either a driver’s license of Texas ID card. Nonetheless, the federal law does not require states to list citizenship status on the new cards. TCCRI believes listing status would help prevent illegal immigrants from voting.

Other proposals include requiring voters to submit a home telephone number and driver’s license or ID number on an early voting ballot application; and prohibiting state agencies from accepting Matricula Consular cards as evidence of immigration status or identity.

Much of the discussion at an Oct. 18 TCCRI Conference on Immigration centered on ways to prevent voter fraud. The Wall Street Journal’s John Fund, author of Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy, discussed the importance to democracy of fighting voter fraud.
He noted that one of the challenges to stopping fraud is getting local prosecutors to
prosecute it.

After Fund's speech, the TCCRI conference featured a panel discussion with Luis Figueroa of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) and Paul Bettencourt, Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector.

Figueroa said he keeps asking, but in vain, for a proven case of an immigrant wrongfully voting. "In fact," he said, "what we find, if there [are] any cases of voter fraud, it happens with mail-in ballots, which [don’t] require identification… To the extent there is a problem, voter ID wouldn’t solve it." He also said voter ID and proof of citizenship to register laws create a substantial burden on county
election officials.

Bettencourt talked about ways the Harris County Tax Office used technology to clean up voter rolls.

He argued that technology is the key and said he supports a voter database that could be cross-checked against Department of Public Safety and Social Security databases. When the office first audited the voter roll, it found several dead people and incarcerated felons.

One member suggested adopting an idea from Mexico, where voter registration certificates have pictures on it, and clerks at the polling location have access to the pictures.

Limiting access to public programs

One of the most controversial of the proposals to limit immigrant use of public welfare programs would require changing the U.S. Constitution. TCCRI recommends prohibiting children born to non-citizens - called "anchor babies" - in the United States from becoming U.S. citizens.

Texas Congressman Ron Paul (R-Lake Jackson) proposed an amendment to the Constitution, HJR 46 that would restrict birthright citizenship. This change would exclude anchor babies from receiving many welfare benefits that require U.S. citizenship.

Currently, Texas hospitals are required to medically treat all individuals who visit the emergency room without regard to ability to pay or residency status.

This provision, the task force argues, "paves the way for illegal immigrants to receive free health care in American hospitals."

The reports states that 80 percent of all births in two Houston hospitals last year were to illegal immigrant parents. TCCRI supports changing the definition of “emergency medical care” to exclude childbirth that does not threaten the life of the mother.

To determine the cost of educating illegal immigrants, TCCRI recommends requiring students to disclose their residency status to public school districts at the time of enrollment.

The task force did not recommend prohibiting illegal immigrant children from receiving a public education because a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Plyler v. Doe, mandates state provide free education to all children – regardless of citizenship status.

Yet school districts do not even collect data on how many illegal immigrants receive public education.

Other recommendations include denying illegal immigrants access to punitive damages in civil lawsuits; and imposing fees on remittances sent to Mexico or Latin American countries.

Imposing fees on money transfers was a key item in Dan Patrick’s successful campaign for the GOP nomination in the open West Houston Senate seat.

It was a bill filed by two Democrats in 2005. There is, however, some question about whether the state can constitutionally tax money transfers to foreign countries, and opposition has developed in the banking sector. Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) requested an Attorney General’s opinion Oct. 3 on the legality of the idea.

Other measures

* Employer sanctions. The task force supports imposing a monetary penalty on businesses that employ illegal immigrants equal to the amount of the salary paid to the worker.

Other proposed sanctions include: ending property tax exemptions for businesses found guilty of employing illegal immigrants; prohibiting companies repeatedly found guilty of using illegal workers from operating in the state for at least six months; and imposing a 10 percent penalty on a business’ tax liability.

* Removing bilingual education programs in public schools. Currently school districts are required to offer bilingual education to students of limited English proficiency.

TCCRI believes that the state should end the instruction of bilingual education, which costs the Texas Education Agency approximately $1 billion a year.

* Increase public safety. The report calls for increased funding for Border security, enabling local law enforcement to detain illegal immigrants.

* Banning sanctuary cities The TCCRI recommends prohibiting Texas cities from refusing to enforce immigration laws. Some cities have policies that restrict when police officers can ask about a person's immigration status when writing a ticket or making
an arrest.

When pre-filing begins (after election day), expect several conservative legislators to file bills to address the immigration issue.

Rep. Dianne White Delisi (R-Temple) sent out a news release Oct. 17 detailing bills she intends to file.

Delisi plans to file bills b

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