- Not enactedThe President has not signed this bill
- The house has not voted
- The senate has not voted
Committee on the JudiciaryIntroducedMay 22nd, 2019
- senate Committees
What is Senate Bill S. 1591?
Cost of Senate Bill S. 1591
In-Depth: Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) introduced this bill to rescind President Trump’s s Executive Order on Interior Enforcement, which directs the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to prioritize the deportation of a vast majority of undocumented immigrants living in the United States. In a press release upon introducing this legislation, she said:
“President Trump’s divisive and racist executive order is a threat to the safety and security of our hardworking families and immigrant communities, and must be rescinded. As the proud granddaughter of immigrants who came to America for the opportunity to succeed, I know firsthand how essential it is that we continue to provide that same opportunity for hardworking families who come to America from all over the world. Every new generation of immigrants further enriches the fabric and culture of our nation, and without them this country would not be what it is today. President Trump is carrying out an unprecedented massive deportation agenda, without regard to the American values of family unity and fairness. This approach is wrong. Instead of instigating fear through insensitive and ill-suited executive orders, we should be working together to find a permanent solution to our serious immigration problems.”
In a Senate floor speech urging her colleagues to support this bill, Sen. Cortez Masto added:
“This administration is targeting immigrants who are deeply woven into our communities, and this inhumane approach must end… [A]s a native of Nevada—a state where one in 5 schoolchildren have an undocumented parent—I know how deeply communities are hurt when we drive out longtime members. That’s why I’m introducing the End Mass Deportation Act to… make sure we’re not indiscriminately targeting people for deportation who have contributed to their communities for decades. The End Mass Deportation Act would make the administration focus our law enforcement resources where they should be: on people who pose a legitimate threat to our communities. Historically, prosecutorial discretion was used to take into account the compelling circumstances of an individual’s case, like parents who have US citizen children and strong ties to the community, or individuals who have served in our military. As a former prosecutor, I understand what an important law enforcement tool this is. The President’s mass deportation order ends prosecutorial discretion in our immigration system, taking valuable time and resources away from pursuing criminals and other security threats. Even worse, the order makes us all less safe, because it discourages people without documentation from turning to police to report crime.”
When he threatened mass deportations of unauthorized immigrants in June 2019, President Trump said Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would soon begin deporting millions of unauthorized immigrants. He tweeted, “Next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States. They will be removed as fast as they come in.” Trump doubled down on his comments in person, saying, “[W]hen people come into our country and they come in illegally, they have to go out.”
In response to Trump’s pronouncements, John Sandweg, former head of ICE under President Obama, told NPR that logistically, “it’s just impossible” to begin mass deportations. He added, “[t]here's no unreserved capacity over at ICE that this president's going to suddenly unleash” to carry out mass deportations.
A few days after his original announcement, Trump announced via Twitter that he’d delayed plans to deport unauthorized immigrants en masse by two weeks. He said the announcement was to allow lawmakers to create a plan to tackle issues at the border.
This legislation has 24 Senate cosponsors, including 23 Democrats and one Independent.
Of Note: President Trump’s January 25, 2017 “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States” executive order made broad changes to immigration enforcement in the U.S. interior. It significantly broadened the categories of unauthorized immigrants who are priorities for removal, revived the controversial Secure Communities program, and reinvigorated a federal-local partnership (287(g)) under which state and local law enforcement agencies can sign agreements to enforce certain aspects of federal immigration law. It also outlined the administration’s intent to limit funding for sanctuary cities, take on countries that refuse to accept return of their nationals ordered deported from the U.S., and to seek funding for an additional 10,000 Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers (more than doubling their ranks from the 8,000 ERO officers in FY 2016).
Under the “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States” executive order, the following categories of noncitizens are prioritized for deportation:
- Those who have been convicted of any criminal offense;
- Those who have been charged with any criminal offense, where the charge has not been resolved;
- Those who have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense;
- Those who have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a government agency;
- Those who have abused any program related to the receipt of public benefits;
- Those who are subject to a final order of removal but have not departed; and
- Those who in the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security.
Unauthorized immigrants without any criminal history can fall under the third bullet because entering without inspection is a chargeable criminal offense (illegal entry or re-entry). Additionally, as the order also states that unauthorized immigrants are a risk to public safety and national security, the final bullet becomes a catch-all category.
The Center for Migration Studies (CMS) criticized the order for being overly broad:
“[T]he executive order is so broad that anyone who committed even a minor offense, such as a traffic violation or jaywalking, could be deported. The order also applies to those who may have misrepresented their status to obtain work. In order to carry out the president’s pledge to deport 2-3 million persons he deems as criminals, the Trump administration would need to significantly increase the number of ICE agents and conduct nationwide raids and sweeps.”
Additionally, the Center for Migration Studies notes that both Secure Communities and Section 287(g) have been criticized for eroding cooperation between local law enforcement officials and immigrants and their communities. When immigrants are hesitant to report crimes to local law enforcement for fear of detainment and deportation, communities become less safe. The Center for Migration Studie adds that immigrants have been deported for minor offenses, such as loitering, under the Secure Communities program; and local enforcement officials, who are untrained in immigration law, have repeatedly violated legal residents’ civil rights.
The Trump administration’s immigration policy, as expressed in the three executive orders (on border security, interior enforcement, and “extreme vetting” that Trump signed in his first week in office) is a significant departure is a significant departure from the Obama administration’s immigration policy. During the Obama administration, a 2014 memo focused on national security threats, immigrants convicted of serious crimes, and recent border crossers.
The 2014 Obama memo also laid out factors to be considered while executing prosecutorial discretion to deprioritize or not take action against otherwise removable persons, including strong family or community ties and length of time in the United States. Under the Obama administration, ICE attorneys were encouraged to request the dismissal or indefinite suspension of deportation cases for immigrants who weren’t serious criminals or national security threats. To carry out this directive, ICE attorneys looked for qualifying cases and encouraged immigration attorneys to email ICE with requests for “prosecutorial discretion.”
Under the current administration, the new priorities for removal rescind all previous policy related to priorities for removal and target what the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) concludes is “a much broader set of unauthorized persons.” The BPC concludes that the Trump administration’s “bottom-up system of prioritization” will probably mean that removal “will be determined only by whom ICE can practically and easily apprehend (“low hanging fruit”) and the discretion of individual ICE officers.” The BPC also theorizes that the Trump administration’s adherence to “less strict priorities” will lead to an increase in overall deportations.
In an August 15, 2017, memo, the Trump administration effectively ended prosecutorial discretion as a practice. In the memo, Tracy Short, ICE’s principal legal advisor and head of the attorneys who handle deportation cases in court, wrote, “Prosecutorial discretion is an act of administrative leniency, it is not an entitlement.” Short also told attorneys they were no longer required to check the email inbox used to receive requests for leniency from immigration attorneys and clarified that ICE attorneys could consider prosecutorial discretion for immigration in very limited circumstances, including: a relative of a military member, those with obvious claims to status, with an “extraordinary humanitarian factor,” or for assets to state or federal law enforcement. Even in such cases, ICE attorneys must receive written approval from senior leadership in Washington for their requests.
David Leopold, an immigration attorney at Ulmer and Berne in Cleveland, Ohio, said the memo “changed prosecutorial discretion by all but forbidding ICE prosecutors from using their common sense or showing any compassion.” Sarah Pierce, a senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, agreed with Leopold’s assessment, saying the memo was “in line with the broader interior enforcement goal of the administration: Enforce immigration laws against everyone.”
The Center for Migration Studies estimates that a mass deportation program would have a number of major consequences for the U.S. economy:
- Removing unauthorized immigrants from mixed-status households would reduce median household income from $41,300 to $22,000 — a $19,300 (or 47%) drop that would plunge millions of families into poverty;
- If only 33% of U.S.-born children of undocumented residents remained in the U.S. following a mass deportation program, the cost of raising those children through their minority would be $118 billion;
- A high percentage of the 1.2 million mortgages held by households with unauthorized immigrants would be imperiled, putting the entire U.S. housing market in jeopardy; and
- GDP would decline 1.4% in the first year, and cumulative GDP would decline $4.7 trillion over a 10-year period.
The Urban Institute finds that U.S. citizen children whose parents have been deported also experience numerous emotional and behavioral challenges. These include heightened fear, anxiety, anger, aggression, withdrawnness, and clinginess. A majority of children experienced four or more of these behavioral changes.
There are also broader societal costs to mass deportation: the Society for Community Research and Action, Division 27 of the American Psychological Association (APA), reports that raids and deportations make community members more fearful and mistrustful of public institutions. This curtails their public engagement and crime reporting behavior. In her research, Emily Ryo, a professor of law and sociology at the USC Gould School of Law, finds that enforcement actions perceived to be arbitrary, discriminatory, or unjust also breed governmental distrust and undercut immigrants’ confidence and the legitimacy of the law and legal authorities.
There have been several high profile cases of U.S. citizens and residents being physically hurt — and even killed — by unauthorized immigrants. For example, Alexander Mazin, 27, was shot and killed in a San Diego parking lot in February 2018. The suspected shooter, Ernesto Castellanos Martinez, was reported to be the ex-boyfriend of the women Mazin had recently started dating and a twice-deported unauthorized immigrant. After killing Mazin, he fled to Mexico.
In another case in Houston in 2015, Spencer Golvach was shot and killed by an unauthorized immigrant at a traffic light. His mother, Julie Golvach, said in a January 2019 on "Fox & Friends" that the unauthorized immigrant crisis only seems "manufactured" to Democratic leadership because "they are sitting safely behind walls." She said that "for those of us out in regular America, we are victims, we are prone to the victimization of illegal aliens and crime."
The Center for Immigration Studies, an organization that advocates for reduced immigration rates, reports that non-citizen households, including unauthorized immigrant households, access public services at a higher rate (63%) than native households (35%). Using Census Bureau data, the CIS noted that compared to native households, non-citizen households have much higher uses of food programs (45% vs. 21% for natives) and Medicaid (50% vs. 23% for natives) in particular.
However, the National Immigration Forum observes that both authorized and unauthorized immigrants pay more into public benefit programs than they take out. In 2017, thhe Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) reported that undocumented immigrants contribute an estimated $11.74 billion to state and local economies each year. However, as they don’t qualify for many of the federal or state benefits (such as means-tested benefits like SNAP, regular Medicaid, SSI, and TANF) that their tax dollars help fund, they take out less money than they pay in via taxes.
More broadly, statewide studies in Arizona and Florida have found that immigrants overall pay more in taxes than they receive in government services and benefits. In Arizona, a study by the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy at the University of Arizona found that the state’s immigrants contribute about $2.4 billion (about $860 million for naturalized citizens plus about $1.5 billion for non-citizens) in tax revenue. Balanced against incremental fiscal costs of $1.4 billion for education, health care, and law enforcement, immigrants in Arizona generated a net contribution of about $940 million toward services such as public safety, libraries, road maintenance, and other government services in FY 2004. In Florida, a 2007 study by the Research Institute for Social and Economic Policy (RISEP) of the Center for Labor Research and Studies (CLR&S) at Florida International University (FIU) estimated that immigrants in the state contributed about $1,500 more in taxes per capita than they received in public benefits.
Based on available data, Econofact concludes that “[d]espite scapegoating in public discourse, the drain that [unauthorized] immigrants place on government benefit programs is small.” As they represent only proportion of the overall low-income population and can’t participate in most federal assistance programs, low-income unauthorized immigrants don’t cost the federal government much. However, Econofact does note that due to the low amount of available federal assistance, “some states and localities bear a disproportionate burden” for unauthorized immigrants.
- Sponsoring Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) Press Release
- Sponsoring Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) Senate Floor Speech
- Migration Policy Institute (MPI) (Context)
- American Immigration Council (Context)
- Center for Migration Studies (Context)
- Government Executive (Context)
- The Intercept (Context)
- National Immigration Forum (Context)
- Econofact (Context)
- Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) (Context)
- BuzzFeed News (Context)
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / anouchka)