National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America

Blog & Updates

Legislative Update for March 5, 2009

March 05, 2009 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

Omnibus Appropriations:  As you may recall, the best Congress could manage last year for funding the government this year was a bill to fund most agencies through the first six months of the fiscal year, ending this month.  Congress is now in the middle of passing another “omnibus” appropriations bill (where funding for several agencies is wrapped up in one big package).  That bill will fund the government through the end of the fiscal year (September 30).  The House has already passed its version.  Among other things, the bill contains $730 million for English language Acquisition (through Fiscal Year 2010) and nearly $68 million for “integrated English literacy and civics education” services is earmarked from the pot that goes to state Adult education grants.  The existing E-Verify and Employment-Based fifth preference programs are extended until the end of the Fiscal Year. (They would otherwise expire this month.)  In a separate action, the House voted to extend  to the end of the Fiscal Year two additional programs: religious workers  visas and visas for doctors in underserved areas and to provide doctors for underserved medical areas.  The Senate may take that bill up separately or may add it in to the omnibus.

The Senate is considering the omnibus, and may vote on it on Thursday.  Technically, failure to adopt the omnibus and sign it into law by Friday, March 6 would lead to a government shutdown or a series of resolutions to keep the government limping along until the Omnibus is completed.

Detention Conditions: On February 26, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard introduced H.R. 1215, the Immigration Oversight and Fairness Act.  The Act would give ICE’s detention standards the force of law.  It would also provide special protections for unaccompanied minors.  You can read more about the bill in Rep. Roybal-Allard’s Press Release.

Text of the bill can be found here

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security held a hearing on health services for ICE detainees on March 3.  Although ICE has plans to detain 100,000 more immigrants, witnesses from ICE said they were not asking for additional funds for health services.

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