3 immigration issues unresolved in 2015

Though there are many immigration issues that came into greater focus in 2015 — from the highly controversial H-1B cheap labor agenda, to the H-2B controversies — the following still-unresolved issues were on the forefront of everyone’s mind and must be addressed in 2016:

1. Kate Steinle’s death in sanctuary city San Francisco. On July 1, Steinle was shot and killed, allegedly by an illegal alien with seven felonies who had been previously deported five times. San Francisco’s sanctuary policy had previously allowed for suspect Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez to be released after appearing before police on another charge.

{mosads}As I wrote previously in The Hill, the politicians and activist groups who promote the sanctuary city agenda had little to say about Steinle’s killing, and they still see no need to change the policy. San Francisco recently passed a resolution affirming the policy, keeping it in place. One city supervisor coldly exclaimed, “We cannot allow one event to dictate 25 years of our city’s policies toward [illegal aliens].” Criminal aliens and their advocates cheered in support.

Congress also hasn’t passed any law that would put an end to sanctuary policies (like these) and it seems the Obama administration is not too interested in the issue. In October, Senate Democrats even blocked simple debate on a bill that would have prevented sanctuary cities to some degree. Although some Republican 2016 presidential candidates are in favor of ending such policies, Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have offered nothing.

The next development in the case is likely to be the lawsuit filed by Steinle’s parents against San Francisco and the federal government. In the meantime, is San Francisco going to let another person be harmed by a foreign criminal who doesn’t belong in the country? All too many Americans continue to mourn the loss of loved ones killed by illegal aliens. America does not want more avoidable tragedies in 2016.

2. America’s inability to vet refugees, deter terrorists. Last year, it became abundantly clear — once again — that the government does not have the capacity to adequately vet foreigners arriving here. During a hearing on President Obama’s plan to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees here, officials from his agencies explained that vetting these people for security risks is largely impossible.

As FBI Director James Comey explained to Congress, “If we have a record on somebody, it will surface. That’s the good news. … The challenge we face with Syria is that we don’t have that rich set of data.” He noted that “there are certain gaps … in the data available to us.” In other words, if a refugee (or other intending immigrant) comes from a country without basic recordkeeping (or if their records don’t reflect an act that is legal there, but illegal here), or if the foreign government is uncooperative, our government simply wouldn’t have any dataset to analyze.

A top U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) official who oversees the screening of refugees also testified and his exchange with Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) was as awkward as it was unsettling. It’s difficult to conclude that the government has any sense of who it is allowing into the country.

Many Americans felt the same way after the terror attack in San Bernardino, Calif. by a Muslim couple, one of whom was a Pakistani who entered on a fiancee (K-1) visa, the other born in the U.S. to Pakistani immigrants. The FBI confirmed, post-attack, that the duo had a “joint commitment to jihadism and to martyrdom” at least a year before the wife came to the United States.

The ongoing attacks at the hands of Muslim foreigners invited into the country led Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to call for an end to all Muslim immigration “until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.” A more nuanced approach is detailed by Center for Immigration Studies Executive Director Mark Krikorian, who notes that while some aspects of Islam are problematic, screening foreigners for ideologies that are in conflict with America’s interests is key if more attacks are to be prevented.

Republican leaders like Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and many presidential candidates were quick to slam Trump’s proposal, but few have offered an alternative. Obama remains committed to his plan to admit 85,000 refugees in 2016 and 100,000 refugees in 2017. How many problematic people will slip through is unknown and difficult to predict. My colleague Jessica Vaughan detailed many of the changes that must be made soon. But this concern was not addressed with any seriousness in 2015 and it is likely we will see more “pockets of resistance” — as the Office of Refugee Resettlement termed states’ opposition to refugees — popping up in 2016.

3. Central American border rush. Returning in 2015 was the large wave of illegal aliens from Central America and other regions as word continued to spread that entry into the United States is not frowned upon by the Obama administration and is instead often rewarded with work permits, Social Security accounts, welfare benefits and protection from deportation.

A National Border Patrol Council official testified that the “Notice to Appear” letter given to these crossers is nothing more than a “notice to disappear,” as 80 to 90 percent of those who receive them never show up for their court dates. New data suggest that the U.S. has lost track of most of the youth who have been released.

According to the Border Patrol, fiscal year 2015 was the second worst on record. While Obama’s Deferred Action program is partially to blame for sending the message that border-crossers are welcomed, a court decision in 2016 about Obama’s controversial Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) will determine whether we see a new influx.

This issue is sure to cause headaches for presidential candidates preferring a liberal immigration policy, as they will be forced to address an issue they’d likely prefer to ignore during an election. This is particularly true if there are more reports of border-crossers from countries with ties to terrorism.

The phenomenon of continuously porous borders is not something most Americans want to see continue into 2016.

Feere is the legal policy analyst at the Center for Immigration Studies.

Tags Bernie Sanders Border Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Illegal immigration Jeff Sessions Paul Ryan refugees San Francisco Sanctuary city Shooting of Kathryn Steinle Syrian refugees

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