Thursday, March 17, 2016

Federal H.R. 4731 Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act of 2016

March 16, 2016.  The House Judiciary Committee had a markup and hearing on this important bill.  Reform of the Chevron Doctrine was discussed. (The term Chevron doctrine comes from the case Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837 (1984). Basically, it states that if Congress has not addressed a matter, an administrative agency may interpret any regulation of statute it administers to suit its agenda.)

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Last Updated: Mar 14, 2016
Length: 12 pages

7 cosponsors 
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Unfortunately, the news story below is not an isolated incident.  It happens daily.  Due to bureaucratic red tape, our police forces are unable to effectively fight this type of crime.

Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) have pressed the Obama Administration for answers about how a previously-deported criminal known to authorities went on to murder five people.

Pablo Antonio Serrano-Vitorino, an unlawful immigrant, allegedly murdered five people last week in Kansas City, Kansas and Montgomery County, Missouri. According to information provided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), not only did Serrano-Vitorino illegally enter and reenter the United States after being removed, he also has a long history of violent criminal activity, including several assault-related arrests and a conviction based on his threat to kill his wife with a rifle for which he spent two years in prison. On at least two occasions, ICE was notified of Serrano-Vitorino’s arrests, but for various reasons, did not take custody of him, which allowed him to evade deportation by taking advantage of at least one sanctuary jurisdiction and weak immigration enforcement policies.

In their letter to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, Goodlatte and Grassley request information about Serrano-Vitorino’s immigration history, encounters with law enforcement, and if he benefited from President Obama’s executive amnesty program.

March 14, 2016
The Honorable Jeh Johnson
Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528

Dear Secretary Johnson:

Pablo Antonio Serrano-Vitorino, an alien illegally present in the United States, allegedly murdered five people on or about March 8, 2016, in Kansas City, Kansas and Montgomery County, Missouri.  According to information provided to our committees by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Serrano-Vitorino entered the country illegally in 1993, committed a series of crimes, and was removed in April 2004.  The same month he was removed, he illegally reentered, but was voluntarily returned by the Border Patrol.  Serrano-Vitorino illegally reentered the United States again sometime before June 2007 and resumed his criminal activity.

According to ICE, Serrano-Vitorino has been arrested and charged with numerous crimes, including: communicating a threat with intent to terrorize; battery of a spouse; several driving without a license offenses; a subsequent a felony conviction for communicating a threat with intent to terrorize, reportedly based on his threat to kill his wife with a rifle, for which he was sentenced to incarceration for two years; two arrests for driving under the influence, which resulted in one conviction; and a conviction for domestic battery.

On at least two occasions, ICE was notified of Serrano-Vitorino’s arrests, but for various reasons, did not take custody of him.  It appears that there was a systemic failure to effectively communicate between ICE and local law enforcement entities, allowing Serrano-Vitorino to evade removal by taking advantage of at least one sanctuary jurisdiction and weak immigration enforcement policies. As a result, five people in Missouri and Kansas were murdered, allegedly by Serrano-Vitorino, an alien who had illegally entered the United States on multiple occasions and consistently demonstrated his utter disregard for our laws.

For a more thorough understanding of how this violent offender evaded immigration authorities and removal from the United States for many years and was allowed to allegedly murder five people in two states, please provide the following information not later than March 28, 2016:
The alien registration number for Serrano-Vitorino, his complete alien file (A-file), and all reports or notifications generated by DHS or in its possession about him, whether currently in written or electronic form, including, but not limited to, the Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Executive Summary, criminal history, immigration history, immigration benefits applications, detainers or requests for notification, I-213(s), and Notice(s) to Appear or other charging documents created to seek his removal from the United States.

Please identify each and every date on which Serrano-Vitorino was encountered by a law enforcement agency in the United States, to include criminal and civil arrests, the nature of the charge, the jurisdiction where the arrest occurred, the disposition of that charge, the date(s) on which he was released released from the custody of that law enforcement agency, and the reason(s) for the release.  Please provide the arrest and disposition documentation for each encounter.
How and when did Serrano-Vitorino enter the United States? Was he ever issued a Notice to Appear? Please explain.

Did Serrano-Vitorino ever apply for any immigration benefits, including deferred action?  If so, was any application approved?  Please provide copies of any applications that he may have submitted.
How many times has Serrano-Vitorino been removed previously?  When?

When and to whom did ICE issue a detainer on Serrano-Vitorino, or request that it be notified of his release from custody?  Please explain.

Was Serrano-Vitorino a member of, or associated with any criminal gang?  Please explain.
If Serrano-Vitorino had been encountered by DHS enforcement officials prior to his arrest in connection with the murders on March 8, would he have met the requirements to be considered a priority for removal under the Administration’s new Priority Enforcement Program?  If so, please provide the exact reason for such consideration.  If not, why not?

As you know, the Privacy Act authorizes disclosure of information to Committees of Congress. If you cannot fully respond to each and every request for documents or information set forth above, please identify the specific item requested to which you cannot fully respond and explain why you cannot respond.

Should you have any questions, please contact Tracy Short at (202) 225-3926 or Kathy Nuebel Kovarik at (202) 224-5225.  Thank you for your cooperation.

Bob Goodlatte                                                   Charles E. Grassley
Chairman                                                           Chairman
House Committee on the Judiciary                   Senate Committee on the Judiciary

 HR 4731 Approved by 18-9 Vote

Washington, D.C.  – The House Judiciary Committee  today approved by a vote of 18-9 the Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act (H.R. 4731). This bill, authored by Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee Vice Chairman Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), reforms the refugee program by curbing fraud and strengthening public safety and national security. It also provides state and local governments the power to decide if refugees are to be resettled within their communities and gives Congress, not the President, the authority to set the overall refugee ceiling for each year.

Key Components of the Refugee Program 

Integrity Restoration Act:

Places the refugee ceiling in Congress’ hands—not the President’s:

The bill sets the refugee ceiling at 60,000 per year. It allows the President to recommend a revision of the ceiling number and Congress can choose to act on that recommendation.  The bill prevents the President from admitting additional refugees without Congress’ approval.

Empowers state and local communities:

Currently, states or localities that do not want refugees resettled within their communities have no recourse.  The bill remedies this issue and prevents the resettlement of refugees in any state or locality that takes legislative or executive action disapproving resettlement within their jurisdiction.

Enhances integrity of refugee program and curbs fraud:

It requires that when processing refugee applications from countries listed as “Countries of Particular Concern” in the annual report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, claims/applications that are based on religious persecution and are made by individuals who practice minority religions in such countries, are prioritized.

The bill requires termination of refugee status if a resettled refugee returns to the country from which they fled, absent a change in country conditions.

It requires the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to implement a fraudulent document detection program for refugee processing, including the placement of Fraud Detection and National Security officials at initial refugee screening, and the creation of a searchable database of scanned and categorized documents submitted by potential refugees at initial screening.

It provides for regular security vetting of each admitted refugee until the refugee adjusts immigration status to lawful permanent resident.

Within one year of the bill becoming law, all U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) interviews, performed during USCIS circuit rides and done with the assistance of an interpreter, are to be recorded and DHS must review a random selection of 20% of the recordings to ensure that the interpreter correctly interpreted the interview. If an interpreter is found to have incorrectly interpreted the interview, the interpreter cannot serve as an interpreter for immigration purposes.
The bill requires USCIS to review open source Internet postings, including social media, for each applicant.

Strengthens public safety and national security:

The bill prevents the Secretary of DHS from unilaterally waiving most grounds of inadmissibility, including criminal convictions, for refugees.

It also prevents the DHS Secretary from waiving most grounds of inadmissibility and deportability, including criminal grounds, for refugees attempting to adjust their status to lawful permanent resident.

The bill requires the Government Accountability Office to issue a report on the security of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (including the screening and processing procedures); the number of refugees who have been convicted of terrorism-related offenses since 2006; and the use of federally-funded benefit programs by refugees resettled in the United States.

Statements and Transcripts:

Democrat John Conyers, Jr.

Mr. Leon Rodriguiz, Director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

(be sure to read the list of organizations)