AUGUST 06, 2010
August 6, 2010
From the Desk of Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton:
Obama to Bypass Congress and Grant Amnesty through Executive Fiat?
Over the last month, conservatives have speculated that President Obama might bypass Congress and grant blanket amnesty to millions of illegal aliens currently residing in the United States by way of executive fiat. According to a controversial new “draft” report crafted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), this lawless Obama administration scheme is more than mere rumor. It is a detailed and well-thought-out strategy.
According to FoxNews.com:
Sen. David Vitter, R-La., on Sunday said he and his colleagues are still looking for answers on whether the administration has seriously considered mass legalization for illegal immigrants, after an administration memo surfaced outlining ways to grant legalization without going through Congress.
The draft memo, first obtained by Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley’s office from the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services, outlines ways the administration was exploring to legalize swaths of illegal immigrants “in the absence of Comprehensive Immigration Reform.” The memo describes how to, “reduce the threat of removal for certain individuals present in the United States without authorization.”
Of course the Obama administration is trying to downplay the significance of the memo. But these denials ring hollow. And no one can deny the intent of the memo.
You don’t even have to read past the subject header of the memo to get a clue as to what the USCIS is up to: “Administrative Alternatives to Comprehensive Illegal Immigration Reform.” Is there any way to misread the objective here? Clearly the USCIS expended a considerable amount of effort trying to sneak this past Congress in order to implement the President’s illegal alien amnesty plan.
But even if you’re someone who believes you can’t judge a memo by its title, let’s take a look at some excerpts from the USCIS document so you can judge for yourself. (You can also read the entire memo for yourself by clicking here).
The following items – used alone or in combination – have the potential to result in meaningful immigration reform absent legislative action.
- Allow TPS [Temporary Protected Status] Applicants Who Entered Without Inspection to Adjust or Change Status
…Thus, USCIS should no longer adhere to the 1990 General Counsel opinions, and instead permit individuals in TPS to adjust or change status. Opening this pathway will help thousands of applicants obtain lawful permanent residence without having to leave the U.S.
- Expand the Use of Parole-in-Place
USCIS has the discretionary authority under [federal law] to parole into the U.S. on a case-by-case basis for “urgent humanitarian reasons” or “significant public benefit” any applicant for admission…Granting parole to aliens in the U.S. who have not been admitted or paroled is commonly referred to as “parole-in-place” (PIP). By granting PIP, USCIS can eliminate the need for qualified recipients to return to their home country for consular processing, particularly when doing so might trigger a bar to returning.
- Lessen the Standard for Demonstrating Extreme Hardship
…By statute, DHS has discretion to waive these grounds of inadmissibility for spouses, sons and daughters of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents if the refusal to admit these individuals would result in extreme hardship for their qualifying relatives. Generally the “extreme hardship” standard has been narrowly construed by USCIS. To increase the number of individuals applying for waivers, and improve their chances for receiving them, CIS could issue guidance or regulation specifying a lower evidentiary standard for “extreme hardship.”
- Increase the Use of Deferred Action
…USCIS has previously allowed the use of deferred action to provide relief to non-immigrants whose period of admission had expired, or otherwise had failed to maintain lawful immigrant status…While it is theoretically possible to grant deferred action to an unrestricted number of unlawfully present individuals, doing so would likely be controversial, not to mention expensive…Rather than making deferred action widely available to hundreds of thousands and as a non-legislative version of “amnesty,” USCIS could tailor the use of this discretionary option for particular groups….
The memo goes on for about 11 pages with other recommendations that I cannot adequately cover in this space, so do consider taking the time to read the document for yourself. I’ve reviewed tens of thousands of government documents in my 12-plus years here at Judicial Watch. So it is not insignificant for me to say that this memo is about the most brazen and shocking government document I’ve ever reviewed.
Republicans and, eventually, even Democrats are unlikely to let this matter drop. In fact, according to Fox News, Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have written to Chairman Leahy demanding the matter be investigated by the Committee: “We are very concerned about the options outlined in the memo and are troubled that the executive branch could be engaged in an effort to inappropriately expand its authority to ensure illegal immigrants are not removed from the United States and are given access to various immigration benefits, including potential green card status,” the Senators wrote.
Let’s sum up. Obama’s top political appointees in the agency charged with enforcing our immigration laws are spending their time thinking of ways not to enforce the law and how to bypass the elected representatives of the people to grant mass amnesty through a raw abuse of executive power.
Obama and his appointees are obviously impatient with the niceties of the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law. We already knew they’re against the rule of law with their coordinated and dishonest attack on Arizona’s SB 1070. This latest memo shows they’d be happy to throw the rule of law out entirely when it comes to immigration.
Judicial Watch is hard at work. We already had a Freedom of Information Act request in place on the secret amnesty plan, and we plan to expand our investigation in light of the new memo.
Rep. Maxine Waters on Ethics Hot Seat
The House Ethics Committee, dormant for years, has now sputtered to life twice in two weeks. Last week the committee announced multiple charges against beleaguered New York Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel in what is being called “one of the most politically explosive cases in years.”
This week Maxine Waters took her turn in the ethics hot seat. According to The Associated Press:
California Democrat Maxine Waters faces a House trial this fall on three charges of ethical wrongdoing, setting the stage for a second election-season public airing of ethics problems for a longtime Democratic lawmaker.
The charges focus on whether Waters broke the rules in requesting federal help for a bank where her husband owned stock and had served on the board of directors. She denied the charges Monday.
Like Charlie Rangel, Waters is unapologetic and will fight the charges. The Committee’s statement and report on Rep. Waters is available here.
Judicial Watch has been all over the Waters/OneUnited Bank scandal for months. In fact, we successfully sued the Obama Treasury Department to get documents. As a result, we uncovered explosive emails four months ago from the Treasury that provide documented evidence to support the charges against Waters.
For instance, a January 13, 2009, email from Brookly McLaughlin, Treasury’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, expressing surprise at Waters’ apparent conflict of interest:
Further to email below, WSJ [Wall Street Journal] tells me: …Apparently this bank is the only one that has gotten money through section 103-6 of the EESA law. And Maxine Waters’ husband is on the board of the bank. ??????
And then there was this October 17, 2008, email from former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Banking and Finance King Mueller to former Assistant Treasury Secretary Neel Kashkari and other Treasury officials referencing the contact between Waters and Treasury:
Just spoke w/ Jim [Segel] in BF’s [Barney Frank’s] office. This is about One United Bank (a minority owned bank in BF’s district). Maxine Waters is interested in the bank as well, Treas[ury] and others met w/ them (minority bankers assoc) last month per the Water’s request. They were a big holder in f/f preferred. BF is interested and may call HMP [Henry Paulson] again about this. FDIC is their primary federal regulator.
Waters, in mounting her public defense, claims she did nothing wrong and had no influence over Bush administration officials. The evidence doesn’t quite bear this out. OneUnited got the funding. And, as I’ve pointed out in this space before, the bank was a very unlikely candidate to receive TARP funding without intervention from Waters and Frank.
Speaking of Barney Frank, he’s all over the Waters report from the Ethics Committee (he’s described as “Representative A”). To quote from the report (footnotes omitted):
…Representative Waters told Representative A that she was in a predicament because her husband had been involved in the bank, but “OneUnited people” were coming to her for help. According to Representative A, she knew she should say no, but it bothered her. It was clear to Representative A that this was a “conflict of interest problem.”
…Representative A’s advice to Representative Waters was to “stay out if it”—OneUnited was a Boston bank and he had a commitment to minority banks. He would address the problem. Representative A then asked his staff to take over the OneUnited issue from Representative Waters.
…Representative A had at least two conversations with Representative Waters in which he told her to not get involved in the OneUnited matter. The conversations likely occurred in September 2008, but he could not recall any specific dates.
Waters has outrageously suggested that she’s being unfairly targeted because she’s black. Rather than cynically playing the race card, she’d be on stronger ground to ask why it would be improper for her to contact Treasury because of a conflict of interest but OK for Frank to do it for her knowing this same of conflict of interest.
Frank seems to be getting a pass. And the media is noticing. The Boston Herald picked up on this point, and I appeared on Fox News Business Channel to discuss the scandal. Barney Frank, incredibly, defends himself by saying he approached Treasury not because of Waters, but for another corrupt politician with an interest in the bank!
Your Judicial Watch worked hard to push for a new ethics process in the House. In non-partisan fashion, we worked closely with the Democratic majority to establish the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) and strengthen the ethics process generally. The result is far from perfect but is certainly not what both Democrats and Republicans expected (politicians hate a robust ethics process). Either way, there is a bit more accountability in the House of Representatives cesspool.
So we’re pleased the Ethics Committee was forced to take concrete action to hold Waters and Rangel accountable. But let’s not go overboard. The powerful Barney Frank is being provided cover, and we still don’t know how weak or strong the punishments might be for Waters and Frank. You can be sure we’ll keep the pressure on.
More Heat in Phoenix over Mayor Phil Gordon’s Security Detail
Did Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon misuse his taxpayer-funded security detail to further his romantic relationship with his former chief campaign fundraiser? That is one of the things that Judicial Watch is trying to find out through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, which is now before the Superior Court for the State of Arizona (Judicial Watch, Inc. v City of Phoenix (Civil Action CV2010-015452)). The case is heating up.
The Court set an evidentiary hearing for September, and this week we filed a new memorandum with the Court. The City of Phoenix continues to improperly withhold activity logs related to Mayor Gordon’s security detail, as well as a detailed version of the Mayor’s calendar, citing supposed privacy and safety concerns.
You can read all about this lawsuit on Judicial Watch’s website, including court filings, by clicking here. But let me give you a quick summary of the history.
On December 11, 2009, Judicial Watch requested that the Phoenix Police Department provide access to the following public records:
All activity logs for Mayor Phil Gordon’s Security Detail. The time frame for this request is December 30, 2007 to the present.
…disclosure of the requested logs will help the public to appreciate the size, scope, and duties of the Mayor’s police detail and the activities of the officers assigned to it, including whether the detail has been used for official purposes only or if it also has been used for non-official or personal purposes as well,” Judicial Watch noted in its complaint, filed on May 17, 2010.
In a letter dated January 4, 2010, the City of Phoenix refused to produce the requested records, specifically stating “the City is not disclosing daily logs…” (The City had previously refused to release these same documents to The Arizona Republic newspaper as well.) Instead, the City offered to release the Mayor’s publicly available calendar from August 2009 to the present, which was obviously an inadequate response to our request.
We filed a lawsuit. That’s when things got even more interesting.
During the course of Judicial Watch’s lawsuit, the City of Phoenix disclosed for the first time in a court document that it is in possession of a version of the Mayor’s “public calendar” that is much more than just a calendar. This other version of the calendar actually contains detailed handwritten notes by members of Mayor Gordon’s security detail that might just provide Judicial Watch with the information we’re seeking. (Importantly, the City never mentioned this calendar in its January 4 letter denying our request.)
Nonetheless, the City continues to withhold this version of the calendar, as well as the Mayor’s activity logs described by the City as “Unscheduled Worksheets,” citing alleged privacy and security concerns.
In our memorandum filed this week we state that the City has “failed to establish a proper basis to withhold the requested records.” The records at issue are public records, not private, and are therefore subject to disclosure under Arizona Public Records Law.
Moreover, regarding security concerns, the City has failed to “demonstrate why disclosure of records of past activity is significant when many of the Mayor’s planned locations are announced in advance, sometimes even ‘tweeted’ to any interested party.”
The Court has already turned back the City’s efforts to dismiss the lawsuit and has set an evidentiary hearing for September 27, 2010, which may include live witness testimony.
It certainly appears to me that the City is grasping at straws, trying to explain why these public records should be withheld. This is a simple request for documents that should be readily available to the public. Judicial Watch has done thousands of open records requests, and I can tell you that the City of Phoenix’s response to our simple request has been notable for its histrionics. The question is why is the City going to such extreme lengths to keep these records secret? What is Mayor Gordon trying so desperately to hide?
Well, it is our belief that these records could, among other things, shed light on possible misuse of taxpayer resources to further a personal relationship between Mayor Gordon and his former chief campaign fundraiser Elissa Mullaney. Gordon admitted in December 2009 to a romantic relationship with Mullaney. (Both Gordon and Mullaney are married but separated from their spouses.) Press reports have suggested that Gordon’s security detail was used to transport Mullaney at taxpayer expense, which could be in violation of the law.
(Bloggers at The Phoenix NewTimes have done some excellent and detailed reporting on the Gordon/Mullaney controversy. You can read their coverage of our new court filing here and then surf through the site for their other reports.)
As the NewTimes has reported, since 2005 Mullaney’s company has also received more than $340,000 in fees to raise funds for Gordon’s campaigns and to work on other City initiatives. Mullaney received $200,000 of these funds after she and Gordon initiated their relationship. Former Arizona Supreme Court Justice Thomas A. Zlaket, hired by Gordon to review the matter, unsurprisingly cleared the man who hired him of any wrongdoing in this specific instance, noting the state’s conflict of interest law does not cover girlfriends, only family members. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the Mayor’s ethics, is it?
I’ll be sure to let you know how this lawsuit develops.
Until next week…
Judicial Watch is a non-partisan, educational foundation organized under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue code. Judicial Watch is dedicated to fighting government and judicial corruption and promoting a return to ethics and morality in our nation’s public life. To make a tax-deductible contribution in support of our efforts, click here.
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