Among developed nations, only the U.S. and Canada still offer automatic citizenship to children born on their soil. Not a single European country follows the practice. We take this right for granted, but the evidence is that this entitlement encourages a booming birth tourism business (which undermines our immigration objectives) and virtually guarantees that the number of people in the country illegally will continue. But not if Donald Trump has anything to say about it. Federal agents recently raided 37 sites in southern California, which appear to have provided thousands of Chinese women the chance to give birth to babies on U.S. soil in exchange for fees of up to $60,000. Enticements included not only the opportunity to acquire automatic citizenship for their children – a package of free schooling, food, health and retirement benefits potentially worth millions of dollars. The New York Times notes that affidavits filed by law enforcement authorities “quote Chinese government sources as reporting that Chinese nationals had 10,000 babies in the United States in 2012, up from 4,200 in 2008.”
Donald Trump is right, it is time we stopped the deplorable pandering and deal with the issue at hand that has continued to plague this country for decades now. Five years ago I wrote in this very space that Congress was considering closing this gaping loophole. The bills went nowhere and the problem is back to haunt us once again.
The constitution grants citizenship to anyone born in the US, except children of foreign diplomats. This has been the case for nearly 150 years. But in recent years the right to U S citizenship by birth--Jus soli-- has come under attack by those who think that it is being abused by illegal immigrants to gain a foothold to U S citizenship.
Last July Senator Lindsay Graham proposed a change to the 14th Amendment which grants American citizenship by right of birth. He proposes to change the long-standing legal tradition because he believes that as the law now stands, pregnant women, so called “baby tourists” travel to the US to give birth for the sole purpose of acquiring US citizenship for their children. ‘Birthright citizenship is a mistake’, goes the mantra, ‘people come here to have babies. They come here drop a child and leave. It’s called drop and leave.’ Valid or not this point of view has been gaining momentum. And although for the past 142 years the fundamental principle of birthright citizenship has been one measure of certain U S citizenship, it is now being seriously challenged. Earlier this month, a group of lawmakers from 15 states launched State Legislators for Legal Immigration, to coordinate efforts to develop legislation to deny birthright citizenship to children of illegal aliens. A review by Think Progress found, based on past votes that 59 % 0f republican legislators support repeal of birthright citizenship. Since 1995, there have been 28 bills introduced in congress seeking to end birthright citizenship. A recent Gallup poll found that immigration is one of the issues on the minds of voters this election cycle, behind only the economy and terrorism.
State Legislators for Legal Immigration, proposes to change the law so that children of foreign nationals will become citizens only if a parent is a US citizen of legal resident. Bills have been introduced in congress seeking to make this the law of the land. Representative Nathan Deal, now a candidate for Georgia governor, introduced H.R.698 in 2005, seeking to limit birthright citizenship in just this manner. Sponsors of the proposed change believe that the current policy of granting US citizenship to children of illegal aliens is an improper application of the 14th Amendment. In the US senate, Senator Mitch McConnell has said that the 14th Amendment is outdated and should possibly be repealed. Senator Chambliss of Georgia is on record as saying that the law should be revisited. And senator Jonny Isaacson, also of Georgia, has said he would support legislation to limit birthright citizenship only to individuals whose parents are legally in the country. The current US policy of birthright citizenship is somewhat unique. Most EU countries, under pressure from increased immigration have modified birthright citizenship so that not everyone born within their borders become citizens. In the UK, Australia,and South Africa, for instance, birthright citizenship is no longer automatic. The same is the case for German and Canadian nationality laws.
While law makers and activists debate removing the economic incentives to illegal immigration, namely jobs, others have turned their attention to birthright citizenship with the avowed purpose of changing it to deny citizenship to children of illegal immigrants and bring US nationality laws in line with those of other countries. But the proposals to change the 14th Amendment raise nettlesome questions of constitutional law. Those who oppose change say that the law covers all aliens regardless of immigration status and is not subject to change except by an amendment to the constitution itself. Yet those who support comprehensive immigration reform have reason to worry. The expected republican takeover of congress next year could move the issue to the top of the congressional calendar. By last count, according to Think Progress, 130 republican lawmakers support the change.
Last Wednesday, by a vote of 236 to 191, the House of Representatives passed a bill, which funds the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through fiscal year 2015 and blocks Federal money for the President’s executive amnesty. Two Democrats joined 234 Republicans to vote for the bill. Ten Republicans joined the 181 Democrats to vote against funding DHS.
Before final passage of the bill, the House approved five amendments addressing President Obama’s executive amnesty, including two defunding amendments blocking the President’s November 2014 executive amnesty and barring the expansion of the DACA program. If enacted, H.R. 240 would provide $39.7 billion in discretionary funds for DHS, an increase of $400 million from the level of funding from fiscal year 2014.
Several key agencies and programs would receive more funding under this increase. The bill provides $8.46 billion for salaries and expenses of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, (CBP), an increase of $360 million The bill provides $5.93 billion to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). (Id. at 10) It maintains the current minimum 34,000 detention beds.
• The bill provides $252 million for the Office of Biometric Identity Management, which is responsible for implementing the biometric entry-exit system, an increase of $25 million, and $124 million for the E-Verify program, an increase of about $10 million. The House did not restore language prohibiting DHS from using funds to hire individuals not verified through the program after Congress removed such language last year.
H.R. 240 moves to the Senate for consideration. However at least six Democratic Senators must join the Republican Senators to pass procedural barriers before the bill can make it through the senate. The Democrats are expected to push to fund DHS without constraints on the President’s executive amnesty programs. In all likelihood this bill is not likely to become law. The President is certain to veto it should it make it through the senate ________________________________________
“2014 Breaks Heat Record, Challenging Global Warming Skeptics”. This is how the New York Times led with the story that 2014 was the hottest year ever, since records have been kept. The headline caught my eye. I read through the story and found that there was not even a hint as to what the actual global temperature was in the 2014. For a paper as highly regarded as the New York Times, I thought the omission glaringly strange. Why bellow about 2014 breaking the record for the hottest year on record with no mention of the actual temperature for that year? I thought the omission so curious , my skepticism compelled me to seek the information on line.
What I learned led me to conclude that the Times has an agenda and has tortured the data to bolster its point of view. Was 2014 truly the hottest year on record? “There are four major temperature series relied upon. There are two land and sea based series: The Had CRUT series produced by the Hadley centre in the UK (dating back to 1850) and the GISTEMP series produced by the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (back to 1880). There are two lower troposphere temperature series, both dating from 1979: The UAH series produced by the University of Alabama in Huntsville and the RSS series sponsored by NOAA”
The GISTEMP series has 2014 as the hottest year with 2010, 2005 and 1998 close behind in that order. Neither the UHA nor the RSS shows 2014 as the hottest year. In fact, the UAH series has 2014 sixth behind 2007, 2009, 2005, 2010 and 1998. The RSS series (which recall is sponsored by NOAA) has 2014 fourth behind, 2005, 2010 and 1998. (Had CRUT does not give and absolute number but gives loads of raw data well beyond the limited range of this writer)
The source the Times relies on reports the average temperature for the year 2014 was 0.69°C (1.24°F), a fractional part of one degree above the 20th century average of 13.9°C (57.0°F), 0.04°C (0.07°F). The media’s publicizing one temperature series while ignoring others, and placing emphasis on something being a record when it was well inside the margin of error, is scientifically unwarranted and dishonest. What is clear is that the Times has cherry-picked its information. It is not clear whether 2014 was the hottest year on record. Both satellite temperature series – which are almost certainly more reliable that land and sea based measurements – support a different conclusion.Moreover, recorded temperatures using land and sea gauges are subject to sampling, measurement, adjustment, and compilation errors as to render reliance on small differences well within the margin of error and essentially moot.
President Obama repeated the misleading information in his state of the union address on January 20. Whether you believe in global warming/climate change, or if you are undecided, we all deserve to have the best scientific information on which to make a decision that could profoundly change the way we live on this planet. An error in reporting facts is understandable, but selective reporting and torturing information to bolster the paper’s viewpoint, as is apparent in the Times piece, is a journalistic felony.
With only 13 legislative days remaining on the House calendar after this week, an increasing number of House Members are saying the lower chamber will wait until 2014 to take up immigration legislation.
Notably, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told amnesty activists protesting at his district office that the House would wait until next year to address immigration reform. Angelica Salas, Chairwoman of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles who took part in the protest said the Congressman told her that there simply was not enough time to address immigration in 2013. (Associated Press, Nov. 8, 2013)
Salas described her conversation with the third-ranking GOP Congressman in a conference call with reporters on Friday: "What he said was, there's 13 days left, it's very hard to do anything in 13 days." (Id.) McCarthy's office confirmed his conversation with her, but added that the Majority Whip "supports fixing our broken immigration system." (Id.)
Additionally, rank-and-file Republicans who support amnesty have been saying that immigration reform is dead until next year. For example, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), a Member of the now defunct House Gang of Eight, acknowledged that the Congressional calendar seemingly prevents the House from passing immigration legislation before the end of 2013. "I don't see the math. There are only 16 days, legislative days, for the floor," Diaz-Balart told the Miami Herald last week. (Miami Herald, Nov. 7, 2013) "Unless someone has some magic potion, I don't see how there's time to go through the committee process and through the floor with what could ultimately be six or nine bills." (Id.)
Similarly, fellow former Gang of Eight Republican Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) told reporters that he does not think immigration legislation is "going to happen this session unless we start seeing some more good-faith efforts on the part of the president to negotiate." (The Spokesman-Review, Nov. 2, 2013) Representative Labrador, who was the first member to walk away from the House Gang of Eight negotiations, now says "it's not the time" for House Republicans to work with President Obama on immigration because the fight to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling "just exacerbated the lack of trust between the two sides." (Id.)
Even pro-amnesty House Democrats are beginning to recognize that "comprehensive" immigration reform is unlikely in 2013. "It looks difficult now because of how many days we have left," pro-amnesty Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) acknowledged in a phone interview on Friday. (The Monitor, Nov. 10, 2013) "The last time I talked to my Republican friends…I think they were telling me they don't think it's going to happen," he said. (Id.)
There is, however, at least one key player still holding out hope for this year: Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. In an interview with Bloomberg Television's Al Hunt last week, Priebus argued there is still time for the GOP-led House to pass "comprehensive" immigration reform before the year's end. "The idea that either a comprehensive approach or a multi-tiered approach is not going to happen by the end of the year, I don't think that's necessarily true. I think that it can happen, and I think people like Paul Ryan and others still want something like that to happen," Priebus said. (See Bloomberg Transcript, Nov. 8, 2013) "It could happen next year…I don't think there's any sort of midnight hour here." (Id.)
Underscoring that at the end of the day GOP leaders are determined to pass some form of comprehensive immigration legislation, Priebus concluded by saying his "gut" feeling is that the House will pass an immigration overhaul before the current Congress ends in 2014, emphasizing that it is only a matter of — when, not whether — House Speaker Boehner brings immigration legislation to the floor, be it this year or the next... Stay tuned
President Obama and other supporters of immigration reform see an open road on Capitol Hill toward passing legislation and have stepped up efforts with less than 20 working days left in this legislative session.
The White House confirmed Monday that Obama will hold a Roosevelt Room meeting on immigration reform, after a Republican senator influential in getting such legislation passed in his chamber expressed optimism that the Republican-led House could be poised to follow.
The administration has not released the names of the meeting attendees. But Press Secretary Jay Carney, in confirming the session, suggested the White House will continue to tout reform support from both political parties and big business, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“Immigration reform will reduce the deficit by $850 billion over the first 20 years,” Carney told reporters. “It’s good for the economy and the right thing to do. We hope the House will follow the Senate and take action.”
A Senate Budget Committee spokesman said Carney delivered the talking points used by the business lobbyists pushing this immigration plan.
"But what does the Congressional Budget Office’s report actually show?" he asked. "The immigration plan would increase on-budget deficits, spike unemployment and slash workers’ wages. The White House is offering its full-throated endorsement of a plan to displace millions of low-income U.S. workers at a time of crippling joblessness.”
Exactly how House leaders will address immigration reform has re-emerged as one of the biggest questions in Washington, with just 17 working days remaining on their legislative calendar.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz, says the big Capitol Hill lobbying effort last week by business, religious and law-enforcement leaders appears to have jump started a purported House plan that could get support from the chamber’s small-but-powerful conservative caucus because it would not provide a “special” path to citizenship for the country’s estimated 11 million illegal residents.
“I think that we’ve got a good shot at a breakthrough there,” Flake told the Arizona Republic. “The House can move this as fast as they want if they decide to do this. There is time and space on the calendar between now and the end of the year, if we decide we can do it.”
The Senate passed legislation this summer that creates a new -- or special -- 13-year path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants that includes background checks and paying back taxes and penalties while not having to first return to their native country for a waiting period.
However, many conservatives say living in the United States illegally and being allowed to stay until achieving citizenship is “amnesty.”
Flake says the House’s step-by-step plan would allow so-called “dreamers” -- young people brought to the United States illegally as children -- to stay. And the older illegal population could try to achieve citizenship through existing or non-special channels such as their children or employer sponsors, according to the newspaper.
A Senate GOP staffer said the concern is whether incremental House measures -- starting with border security -- get passed and implemented in succession or simply passed and packaged in a way that would make them essentially tantamount to the Senate’s comprehensive bill.
Some of that concern was belied last week when Texas GOP Rep. Michael McCaul said he would not let chamber negotiators meet with their Senate counterparts in conference, amid concerns they could get steam rolled by upper chamber leaders like Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
“I am not going to go down the road of conferencing with the Senate bill and I told [House Speaker John] Boehner that he needs to stand up and make that very clear,” McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told conservative radio talk show host Laura Ingraham. “We’re not going to conference with the Senate period.”
Still, critics fear the bills could be combined through other legislative tactics and that anything given Senate approval would have enough support from rank-and-file Republicans to get a floor vote and enough Democratic support for passage.
GOP Leaders Plan Immigration Push after Debt Ceiling Debate
While the rest of the country is fixated on Congressional budget battles, House Republican leaders continue to negotiate immigration legislation behind the scenes, preparing for what appears to be an amnesty debate in the House as soon as late October.
Only days ago, Rep. Mike McCaul Chairman of the House Homeland Security expressed confidence immigration will soon be on the House agenda. "I would think that [immigration] would be the next agenda item in the queue after we're done with this mess," Rep. Michael McCaul told reporters this past week, referring to clashes over government funding and the pending debt ceiling debate.
Likewise, House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte , recently said he anticipates swift movement on immigration following the debt ceiling debate. During an interview with NPR's Kojo Nnamdi last month, Goodlatte told listeners the House could move on immigration legislation shortly. "[M]y best estimate is that we will be ready to take up immigration bills very soon. It may be October, but in my opinion, the five bills that have been passed out of [committee]…are ready to go to the floor of the House. And it's my hope that they will come to the floor of the House as soon as possible."
Other Members have pushed the date back until closer to the Thanksgiving recess, which takes place the week of November 25. According to true immigration reformer Rep. Steve King "[L]eadership is looking to a date near Thanksgiving to try to move something."
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Doug Heye, has confirmed immigration remains on the House agenda, but has refused to say when it may be addressed. "Moving immigration forward remains a priority, but right now there's no firm timetable," he said. (Fox News Latino, Sept. 30, 2013)
When the House acts, it is widely expected that Speaker John Boehner will first take up Rep. McCaul's border bill, co-sponsored by fellow Texan and longtime amnesty advocate Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee Unfortunately, H.R. 1417 shares many of the same problems with the Senate amnesty bill For example, H.R. 1417 requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to submit a plan for apprehending 90 percent of illegal border crossers, but fails to require that DHS actually achieve that goal. Many anticipate House Leadership intends to use H.R. 1417 as a vehicle to conference with the Senate bill.
In addition to H.R. 1417, Speaker Boehner is also expected to bring to the floor one or more immigration bills authored by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte . Chairman Goodlatte recently met with leading pro-amnesty Democrats about reaching a consensus on an amnesty scheme for the current 11-12 million illegal aliens in the country. According to news reports, Goodlatte sat down with Reps. Luis Gutierrez and Henry Cuellar to discuss how to move forward legislation. According to Rep. Cuellar, Chairman Goodlatte expressed willingness to work with the pro-amnesty representatives and to support some of their amendments to his immigration bills. (Roll Call, Sept. 26, 2013)
Pro-Amnesty Groups Plan October Push
Pro-amnesty groups announced last week plans to increase pressure for "comprehensive" immigration reform this fall. First, pro-amnesty activists are planning a so-called "National Day for Dignity and Respect" on October 5, with rallies and protests in dozens of cities calling for the end of all deportations of illegal aliens in the country. (Washington Post, Sept. 26, 2013) Then, on October 8 there will be a rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to pressure House Republicans to pass "comprehensive" reform. (Id.; USA Today, Sept. 26, 2013) "We will see an outpouring from the community demanding a serious effort by Republicans to get immigration reform moving in the House," said long-time amnesty advocate Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL). (USA Today, Sept. 26, 2013) "I think the call will be so loud it will be hard to continue stalling." (Id.) Congress "should understand we're not going away," he added. (Washington Post, Sept. 26, 2013)
However, since Congress rarely addresses hot-button issues — such as amnesty — during an election year, pro-amnesty groups have acknowledged time is of the essence if Congress is to approve a legalization program. "We really need the House to take action to have floor votes this fall," said Frank Sharry, executive director of the pro-amnesty America's Voice. (USA Today, Sept. 26, 2013) "If they don't, it's going to be — not impossible — but much tougher as we move into an election year." (Id.) Indeed, the House has fewer than 30 working days remaining in 2013, leaving current efforts to pass amnesty up in the air. "I think it's the conventional wisdom that immigration reform is dead in the House," speculated Stephen Yale-Loehr, an "immigration scholar" at Cornell Law School. (Id.) "But I think there could still be a surprise," he opined. (Id.)
White House Sees "Positive Signs" from House GOP that Senate Amnesty Bill Will Become Law
At a Georgetown University symposium entitled "Implementing Immigration Reform: Imagine the Possibilities" last Wednesday, a high level Obama administration official expressed optimism about the possibility that S. 744, the Senate comprehensive amnesty bill, would become law.
Obama's Senior Policy Director for Immigration, Felicia Escobar, said the White House has received "positive signs that Speaker Boehner and the Republican caucus do want to find a solution." (The Daily Caller, Sept. 25, 2013). Escobar based her statement on conversations held with House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), and Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA). Moreover, Escobar suggested the White House was not fixated on the House passing a comprehensive amnesty bill. If the House brings to the floor a bill that is not comprehensive, Escobar said, it was "OK if we can get to a place and sit down and negotiate a final product" that incorporates amnesty. (Id.)
Refusing to take up an immigration bill before Congress' annual August recess, House Leadership left the American people wondering when it would bring legislation to the floor for a vote. However, recent comments from GOP leadership aides indicate Republicans are now considering bringing immigration-related legislation to the House floor this fall. Indeed, an aide to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) told reporters last week that GOP leaders "hope to consider [immigration] legislation" in October.
The aide's remarks appear to confirm statements made by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), a leading amnesty proponent, who told constituents at a town hall in late-July that House leaders planned to take up immigration in October. This surprised some, as House Leadership had been evasive in setting a timetable. In fact, when specifically questioned about Ryan's timeline a week later on Fox News Sunday, Leader Cantor dodged the question, telling host Chris Wallace, "We will have a vote on a series of bills at some point..."
However, despite the Majority Leader's Office's sudden willingness to confirm an October vote, the growing number of issues that the House must also address this fall is already threatening the recently announced timeline. These priority legislative items include the need to pass a budget for the new fiscal year the pending debt ceiling debate, and possible resolutions on whether to take military action in Syria.
Underscoring the possibility that these items may push immigration to the sidelines, Speaker Boehner told reporters last week that the President would be in for a "whale of a fight" over the debt limit. "If we have to deal with the debt limit earlier, it doesn't change the overall dynamics of the debate, but — just in terms of timing — it might make it harder to find time for immigration bills in October," confirmed one House Republican leadership aide. Indeed, the House is in session only 14-days that month, and less than 40 House working days remain before the year ends. (Id.)
Because 2014 is an election year, many see the end of the 2013 calendar year as the unofficial deadline for Congress to pass an amnesty. As the calendar moves closer to Election Day, political observers predict that legislative leaders will not have the appetite for such a divisive debate.
Even so, GOP Leaders in the House still suggest they intend to vote on at least one immigration bill in an effort to conference with the Senate amnesty legislation. For example, House GOP Policy Chair James Lankford (R-OK) told reporters he was convinced that his fellow Republicans were prepared to vote down any piece of legislation emerging from conference committee with which they did not agree, insinuating that a House-Senate conference committee was a done deal. When the Senate and House pass different bills, they must resolve the differences in the legislation through a "conference committee." After the conference committee reaches agreement on identical bill language, the newly-agreed upon legislation goes back to each chamber to vote for final passage.
Whenever House leaders decide to bring up immigration, they will lead with "border security" and enforcement-style legislation. However, the "border security" bill currently making its way through the House, the Border Security Results Act (H.R. 1417) authored by Homeland Security Committee Chair Michael McCaul (R-TX) is nothing more than a repeat of the Senate amnesty bill's weak border provisions. H.R. 1417 does not require that DHS actually obtain situational awareness or operational control of any part of the border; it merely requires DHS to submit a plan for doing so.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez Frustrated Amnesty Push Stalled
Long-time amnesty advocate and Gang of Seven leader Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) is frustrated that "comprehensive" immigration reform has stalled in the House of Representatives. "I was hopeful we would be in a better place today," Gutierrez conceded to reporters during a town hall event in House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte's (R-VA) district last week.
After four years of behind-the-scenes negotiations, the bipartisan group has yet to release an amnesty bill. While Gutierrez claims the group has drafted a 500-page "comprehensive" bill, he is unable to articulate the path to final passage because the Gang's three GOP members have not yet officially endorsed the legislation. "I will be very clear and succinct: I have already signed off," Gutierrez stated. "It is now time for my Republican colleagues to step forward and to announce a date. If they give me a date, I'll be there and we'll present legislation and present it to the public."
Gutierrez casts the blame for the Gang's inability to produce a bill squarely on House leadership. "I think it is very, very important to understand, that unlike the Senate, the group has not received any support," Gutierrez said "In the Senate," he continued, "it was clear that the group of eight was going to have the support [of leadership], and that there would be hearings and theirs was going to be the main bill."
In a desperate attempt to guilt the House into passing amnesty legislation, Gutierrez has resorted to fear mongering. "[S]omeone's going to lose a finger, a hand, an eye, a life today because an unscrupulous employer is going to put them in harm's way, someone's going to die; there's a woman that's going to be raped in a field somewhere in America today" because the House has not passed the Senate's massive amnesty bill, Gutierrez audaciously declared at an event in Rep. Frank Wolf's (R-VA) district.
Senator Menendez (D-N.J.) said Friday that the “Gang of Eight” immigration bill doesn’t have enough votes to pass the Senate.
The bill won approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee in a 13-5 vote, but Menendez said it lacks the 60 votes necessary to clear the Senate — despite the bill's four Republican co-sponsors.
“We don’t currently have 60 votes identified in the Senate,” Menendez said in an interview with Univision. “We need to add more votes on the floor. That means that the community in your state, in every state, should be contacting your state’s two U.S. Senators saying that they want comprehensive immigration reform, that they are going to judge their political future based on this vote.”
Supporters of the bill are pushing for a strong bipartisan vote of 70 or more to put pressure on the House to take up the legislation.
In addition to the four GOP co-sponsors, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) voted for the bill in committee, though he has not committed his support in the floor vote.
Menendez said he was “optimistic” that the bipartisan coalition could cobble together the super-majority the bill will need to get through the Senate. The New Jersey Democrat said he expected a lengthy debate period, likely starting when Congress reconvenes the week of June 10 and potentially stretching to the Fourth of July break.
“I believe that in those three weeks we can get the necessary votes and we will have the community,” he said. “We are expecting that and working for that.”
The Hill reported on Friday that the “Gang of Eight” plans to meet daily when the bill is up for debate to discuss where lawmakers stand on proposed amendments.
Menendez said the bill would need a strong showing in the Senate “so we can put pressure on the House” to act. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said the “Gang of Eight” bill does not have the votes to make it out of his chamber.
“I don’t know why he said that without looking at the votes, without looking at his own Republican colleagues who will support it,” Menendez said. “But we want to push this bill forward with the most positive votes we can find, more than 60, the 60 we need to be able to pass it here in the Senate, so we can put pressure on the House.”
“Speaker Boehner, will have to decide how he will proceed," Menendez continued. "But I want to have a good vote in the Senate so we send the message that the Republicans and the Democrats are together in favor of immigration reform.”
WASHINGTON — A State Department official “received several million dollars in bribes” from Vietnamese residents seeking visas, according to newly public court documents.
In a previously undisclosed criminal complaint, Foreign Service officer Michael T. Sestak faces charges of conspiracy to commit visa fraud and bribery in an alleged scheme that investigators say spanned several countries. In some cases, investigators say, desperate Vietnamese paid up to $70,000 each for visas granting legal entry to the United States.
The “co-conspirators” advertised that the charge would be between $50,000 and $70,000 per visa but also that they’d sometimes charge less, State Department investigator Simon Dinits said in an affidavit. “They also encouraged recruiters to raise the price and keep the amount they charged over the established rate as their own commission,” the affidavit said.
Investigators say the alleged conspiracy occurred while Sestak was handling non-immigrant visas in the U.S. consulate in Ho Chi Minh City. Sestak served in the consulate until last September, when he left in preparation for active-duty service with the Navy. By then, investigators say, an informant had tipped them to the alleged visa scheme.
An attorney for Sestak didn’t offer comment Thursday.
Sestak, who turns 42 this year, was quietly arrested in Southern California about a week ago. Citing a “serious risk defendant will flee,” authorities secured a judge’s order to hold him without bail until he can be transferred back to Washington, where the complaint was originally filed under seal May 6.
Though it’s since been unsealed, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington declined Thursday to comment on the case until Sestak has been returned to the city. A State Department representative also declined to comment.
Dinits, a special agent with the department’s Diplomatic Security Service, spelled out the allegations against Sestak and five unnamed co-conspirators in a 28-page affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint. The allegations include a close accounting of how the Foreign Service officer, according to investigators, shifted ill-gotten gains across international borders.
“He ultimately moved the money out of Vietnam by using money launderers through offshore banks, primarily based in China, to a bank account in Thailand that he opened in May 2012,” Dinits said. “He then used the money to purchase real estate in Phuket and Bangkok, Thailand.”
Sestak joined the consulate staff in Ho Chi Minh City in August 2010 and served as the chief of the non-immigrant visa staff. It was a busy office and Sestak came to have a remarkably lenient record for granting visa applications, Dinits said.
From May 1, 2012, to Sept. 6, investigators say, the consulate received 31,386 non-immigrant visa applications and rejected 35.1 percent of them. During the same period, Sestak handled 5,489 visa applications and rejected only 8.2 percent of them, according to investigators.
Sestak’s reported visa rejection rate fell to 3.8 percent in August, shortly before he was to leave the office.
According to Dinits, one of Sestak’s alleged co-conspirators was the “general director of the Vietnam office of a multi-national company located in Vietnam.” The four others were friends or relatives of this individual. All live in Vietnam.
Dinits said one co-conspirator “reached out to people in Vietnam, and in the U.S.,” and would advertise that visas could be guaranteed, including for those who wouldn’t otherwise be likely candidates. Other co-conspirators would help prepare the applicant and Sestak would review the application, according to Dinits.
Last July, Dinits said, an informant advised consular officials that 50 to 70 people from one village in Vietnam had illegally paid for their visas. That prompted investigators to start tracing online visa applications using Internet Protocol addresses, the unique numbers used to find particular computers or servers on the Internet. The investigators reported tracing money transfers, including $150,000 allegedly sent to Sestak’s sister in Florida. They also snooped on email accounts
“This opportunity will only last for a few more months, and after that it’s over,” one alleged co-conspirator wrote in a July 5 email quoted by Dinits.