Today, Democratic Party candidates for the 2016 presidential election are holding their first debate on CNN. This is the second half of a two-part op-ed offering 10 questions on immigration that will help make for an informative debate. The questions are designed to get the candidates' thoughts on the impact of immigration policy and also drill down into their philosophical arguments behind their positions on key issues like sanctuary cities, refugee resettlement and executive action.
Questions No. 1 through 5 can be read here. The following are questions No. 6 through 10:
6. President Obama recently proposed increases in the number of refugees the United States takes in each year. He has also ordered the U.S. government to admit no fewer than 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next fiscal year. Some have suggested this could create a national security threat if the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or other terrorist groups are able to slip into the refugee population. In fact, recent testimony from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) indicates the agency has difficulty doing background checks, doesn't have the ability to send an investigator to Syria, and that Syria itself doesn't have any databases U.S. officials can look through. The FBI director testified last week that there are "gaps" in the screening process and that "There is risk associated of bringing anybody in from the outside, but specifically from a conflict zone like that."
Is it possible to do background checks on these individuals? Are you prepared to assure the American people that zero terrorists will slip through the refugee resettlement process? Finally, will any of you pledge to open your home to a Syrian refugee family? Why or why not?
8. According to new government figures obtained by the Associated Press, "deportations of criminal immigrants have dropped to the lowest numbers since President Barack ObamaBarack ObamaMcConnell: TPP not coming up this year Politicians can’t afford to ignore Latinos Poll: Clinton up 7 on Trump in Michigan MORE took office in 2009, despite his pledge to focus on finding and deporting criminals living in the country illegally." Last year, CBS reported that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had released 36,007 convicted criminal aliens with records, including 193 homicide convictions, 426 sexual assault convictions, 303 kidnapping convictions, 1,075 aggravated assault convictions, and convictions for many other crimes — nearly 88,000 crimes, in fact. The Obama administration argued that some of these releases were required under a Supreme Court ruling that generally requires criminal aliens to be released after six months if their home countries refuse to take them back.
Secretary Clinton, in instances where a country won't take back its citizen, federal law requires the State Department to stop issuing visas to people in that country until the country cooperates. Specifically, the law states that "the Secretary of State shall order consular officers in that foreign country to discontinue granting immigrant visas or nonimmigrant visas, or both, to citizens, subjects, nationals, and residents of that country" until the Department of Homeland Security notifies the secretary of State that the country has accepted the alien.
When you were secretary of State, why didn't you stop issuing visas in these countries? Why did you instead choose to release these dangerous individuals into American neighborhoods?
9. Secretary Clinton, you are on record supporting legalization of illegal immigrants, and it is estimated that around half of the illegal immigrant population is made up of people who came legally but then broke the promises made to our State Department officials and overstayed their visas. Why do you think visa overstayers are entitled to citizenship? Doesn't that undermine the efforts of visa adjudicators in the State Department? Why should the State Department continue vetting applicants to look for likely overstayers if you think overstaying a tourist visa is a legitimate pathway to U.S. citizenship?
10. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), over 600,000 employers use the free, online, governmental program known as E-Verify to determine whether the person they're hiring is legally employable. All federal contractors are required to use it. USCIS reports that people "love" using E-Verify and their customer satisfaction index is well above the average for a government program. Republican front-runner Donald Trump has promised to mandate E-Verify nationwide if elected president.
Mr. Lincoln Chafee, within hours of being sworn in as governor of Rhode Island, you repealed an E-Verify mandate in your state. Why do you believe employers should be able to hire illegal immigrants and ignore the statutes prohibiting such hiring set forth in the comprehensive immigration bill of 1986, and would you rescind the federal order requiring federal contractors to use the program should you become president?
To all candidates: Would you sign a stand-alone bill mandating E-Verify nationwide? Or, if you think it would have to be part of a comprehensive legalization bill, please explain why employers should be allowed to continue illegal hiring practices until a comprehensive bill gets passed.
Feere is the legal policy analyst at the Center for Immigration Studies.