Legislative Bulletin – Friday, April 14, 2017

Policy and Advocacy Associate

April 14, 2017

BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED
LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR
UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS
THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK
GOVERNMENT REPORTS

BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED

H.R. 1985

Justice for Children Now Act of 2017

This bill would direct the Attorney General to appoint 70 additional immigration judges and authorize appropriations to carry out the directive.

Sponsored by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D – Texas) (0 cosponsors)

04/06/2017 Introduced in the House by Representative Jackson Lee

04/06/2017 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 2004

A Bill to Modify the Provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act Relating to Nonimmigrant Visas Issued Under Section 101(a)(15)(H(ii)(b) of Such Act, and for Other Purposes.

Sponsored by Representative Steve Chabot (R – Ohio) (4 cosponsors)

04/06/2017 Introduced in the House by Representative Chabot

04/06/2017 Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means

H.R. 2070

FAFSA for All Act

The bill would instruct the Department of Education to provide guidance on how students with legal or undocumented immigrant parents without social security numbers may obtain federal financial aid.

Sponsored by Representative Marc Veasey (D – Texas) (4 cosponsors)

04/06/2017 Introduced in the House by Representative Veasey

04/06/2017 Referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce

H.R. 2071

American Dream Promise Act

This bill would prohibit institutions of higher education from denying students admission on the basis of their immigration or naturalization status.

Sponsored by Representative Marc Veasey (D – Texas) (o cosponsors)

04/06/2017 Introduced in the House by Representative Veasey

04/06/2017 Referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce

H.R. 2072

Fairness in Financial Aid Act

This bill would permit students with non-citizen parents to submit their parents’ Tax Identification Number (TIN) in place of a social security number to apply for federal financial aid.

Sponsored by Representative Marc Veasey (D – Texas) (0 cosponsors)

04/06/2017 Introduced in the House by Representative Veasey

04/06/2017 Referred to the House Committees on Education and the Workforce and on Ways and Means

H.R. 2073

A Bill to Amend Section 287 of the Immigration and Nationality Act to Prohibit Immigration Officers or Agents of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from Wearing Clothing or Other Items Bearing the Word “Police.”

Sponsored by Representative Nydia Velazquez (D – New York) (16 cosponsors)

04/06/2017 Introduced in the House by Representative Velazquez

04/06/2017 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 2087

Defending the Agricultural Industry’s Requirements Year-round (DAIRY) Act of 2017

This bill would expand the H-2A worker program to include persons performing agricultural labor or services as a dairy worker and extends the admittance period for dairy workers to 18 months.

Sponsored by Representative Sean Duffy (R – Wisconsin) (0 cosponsors)

04/12/2017 Introduced in the House by Representative Duffy

04/12/2017 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. House of Representative and the U.S. Senate are out of session until the week of Monday, April 24, 2017.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

There are no hearings or markups scheduled for the week of Monday, April 17, 2017.

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

Sessions, DOJ Call for Criminal Prosecutions of Immigration Offenses

In a statement to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents and officers on April 11 in Nogales, Arizona, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) would be prioritizing the prosecution of individuals who have committed immigration-related offenses, effectively criminalizing the treatment of many such violations as it implements stricter enforcement practices. Sessions told CBP personnel, “Under the President’s leadership and through his Executive Orders, we will secure this border and bring the full weight of both the immigration courts and federal criminal enforcement to combat this attack on our national security and sovereignty.”

While touting significant reductions in unlawful border crossings in early 2017, Sessions explained the new enforcement posture was necessary to combat human traffickers, transnational gangs, and cartels. Sessions issued a warning to “those that continue to seek improper and illegal entry into” the United States: “This is a new era. This is the Trump era. The lawlessness, the abdication of the duty to enforce our immigration laws and the catch and release practices of old are over.”

Sessions’ comments coincided with the release of a DOJ policy memorandum for federal prosecutors on April 11. The memorandum called for prioritizing immigration offenses, such as crossing the border multiple times without proper documentation, as an effort to “reduce illegality[,] . . . disrupt organizations and deter unlawful conduct.”

DOJ has faced extensive criticism about the effort to criminalize immigration offenses.

90-Day Report Shows Trump Administration’s Plan to Build Up Immigration Enforcement

An internal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report indicates that the White House is planning to expand infrastructure used to detain and deport undocumented immigrants, hire more Border Patrol agents and begin construction on a wall or fence along the Southwest border. The report, which is required by President Trump’s executive order on border security, outlines the progress DHS has made on the implementation of each provision at the 90-day mark. The report states that DHS is developing contingency options to temporarily hold up to 12,500 undocumented immigrants in short-term Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody at the border, in the case of a migration surge. Meanwhile, the report notes that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has expanded immigration detention by 1,100 beds and has identified 27 potential detention facilities capable of providing 21,000 additional bed spaces, contingent on funding from Congress.

In addition, the report states that CBP is working to reduce the overall time-to-hire for Border Patrol agents from an average of 469 days in March 2016 to as low as 160 days. CBP is required by President Trump’s executive order to hire an additional 5,000 Border Patrol agents. The changes under consideration to expedite the hiring process include waiving the polygraph examination test for law enforcement officers or veterans, removing the Spanish language proficiency test and eliminating one of the two required physical fitness tests.  The report notes that CBP has requested an additional $100 million in fiscal year (FY) 2018 to hire 500 new Border Patrol agents.

The report also shows that CBP has reprogrammed $20 million to support prototype construction and initial planning efforts to build a wall or other physical barriers along the Southwest border. CBP plans to begin construction of approximately 34 miles of levee wall and/or a border barrier system in the Rio Grande Valley Sector and 14 miles of border barrier system in San Diego Sector, pending funding availability from Congress. DHS is also looking to direct ICE to shift more resources toward the investigation and prosecution of immigration fraud cases and develop a CBP-wide agency plan to expand the 287(g) program to encourage collaboration between state and/or local law enforcement offices and federal immigration officers, among other proposals.

ICE Temporarily Suspends Weekly “Declined Detainer” Report Over Accuracy Concerns

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced on April 11 that it is temporarily halting the release of the weekly Declined Detainer Outcome Report (DDOR) after several jurisdictions questioned the veracity of the report’s information. The report, which is required by President Trump’s executive order on interior immigration enforcement, highlights cities and counties that decide not to honor federal immigration detainers, which are voluntary requests to detain individuals suspected of being in the U.S. unlawfully beyond the time they would otherwise have been released. ICE decided to temporality stop issuing the report after its first report contained misleading or inaccurate information that prompted confusion and criticism among several law enforcement officials. For instance, Nassau County, New York was listed as non-cooperative, even though it has agreed to honor immigration detainers accompanied by ICE-issued administrative warrants. ICE said the temporary suspension would allow it to “analyze and refine its reporting methodologies.”

Federal immigration detainers are voluntarily and not usually accompanied by a warrant, a judicial order or probable cause determination. Accordingly, multiple federal courts have questioned their legality, leaving state and local law enforcement agencies to face significant legal liability for honoring a detainer.

ICE Looks to Relax Protections for Immigrants in Detention

According to a report in the New York Times, the Trump administration is relaxing federal requirements governing immigration detention facilities that will result in the elimination of existing protections for immigrants in detention. New contracts to detain immigrants in “non-dedicated” detention facilities, which are primarily county or municipal jails that house both immigration and criminal detainees, are set to contain a far less detailed set of requirements. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will evaluate jails signing new contracts based on an 18-page checklist used by the United Marshal Service for the inspection of jails, instead of current standards that span 455 pages. The shorter 18-page standards provide open-ended questions, such as “Is the facility kept clean and in good repair?” with little to no guidance on what qualifies as appropriate. In addition, ICE is closing its Office of Detention Policy and Planning, which developed detailed detention regulations and implemented policies to help detainees interact with their lawyers and families. While the office’s policies remain in place, they are under review to ensure they do not conflict with President Trump’s executive orders on immigration. In general, the new standards indicate that the jails will be generally evaluated based on standards set for criminal inmates, despite the fact individuals held on immigration violations are civil detainees. The criminal standards contain fewer protections and experts have expressed concern for the health and safety of immigration detainees under the lower standards.

Approximately 25 percent of ICE inmates are detained in “non-dedicated” facilities. These facilities are paid on average $127 daily per detainee. ICE has not determined whether existing jail contracts will be renegotiated to remove the more detailed standards.

CBP Electronic Device Searches Almost Double in First Half of FY 2017

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers searched the electronic devices of 14,993 international travelers entering the U.S. during the first six months of fiscal year (FY) 2017, almost double the 8,383 devices searched during the same period in FY 2016. CBP said the searches were necessary to “protect the American people” and affected about 0.008 percent of the 189.6 million travelers entering the U.S. during this period. By statue, CBP is permitted to inspect electronic devices at ports of entry because of the government’s compelling interest in national security. However, lawmakers and critics of this policy argue that the searches are invasive and violate Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches.

In FY 2016, CBP officers processed a total of about 390.6 million travelers, out of which 19,033 – or 0.005 percent – had their electronic devices searched.

Mulvaney Urges Congress to Restrict Government Funds for “Sanctuary Cities,” Which Threatens Government Shutdown

Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), pressed Republican lawmakers to include language in a must-pass government funding bill to restrict federal grants for cities that limit their involvement in federal immigration enforcement activities. Mulvaney also said on April 9 that it is important that President Trump’s priorities, including border wall funding, be reflected in the final spending bill.

The efforts threaten to disrupt bipartisan negotiations on a bill to fund the government for the remaining five months of FY 2017. Current government funding is set to expire on April 28. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D – New York) said on April 11 that negotiations with Republican lawmakers are “going pretty well right now,” but urged Republicans to not “insist on things that will cause a government shutdown.” Schumer also reiterated that Senate Democrats will not support the White House’s budget supplemental request for an additional $1.4 billion to construct a wall or fence along the Southwest border.

Previously, on April 7, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R – Kentucky) and Speaker Paul Ryan said that there will not be a government shutdown.

Trump Nominates Cissna for USCIS Director; DHS Hires Former CIS, FAIR Staffers

The White House announced on April 8 that President Trump nominated Lee Francis Cissna, Director of Immigration Policy in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Policy, to serve as Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Cissna previously served in the Office of the Chief Counsel at USCIS and at one point was detailed to the office of Senator Chuck Grassley (R – Iowa).

In addition, DHS recently hired two critics of immigration reform to high-level advisory positions at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Jon Feere, a former legal policy analyst for the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), has been hired as an adviser to ICE Acting Director Thomas D. Homan. Julie Kirchner, former executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), has been hired as an adviser to Kevin McAleenan, the acting commissioner of CBP.

Meanwhile, President Trump selected Kevin A. Hassett, an economist who has argued immigration spurs economic growth, to lead his Council of Economic Advisers.

State & Local

Texas Federal Immigration Enforcement Bill Moves Closer to Approval

On April 12, the Texas House Committee on State Affairs approved by a 7 to 5 vote a “scaled-back” version of a bill to ban so-called sanctuary jurisdictions, which limit their participation in federal immigration enforcement activities. The new version of the bill, known as Senate Bill 4, requires law enforcement agencies to allow their officers to ask about an individual’s immigration status if the individual has already been arrested. The bill also includes a provision that would make it a criminal offense for elected officials or law enforcement leaders to decline to honor federal immigration detainers, which are voluntary requests to detain undocumented immigrants in local jails beyond the period they would otherwise have been released. By refusing to honor federal immigration detainers, local agencies could face fines from $1,000 to $25,000, while elected officials could face up to one year in jail and lose their posts if convicted of official misconduct. The new version of the bill no longer threatens local governments with losing all state grant funding for not participating in federal immigration enforcement activities.

Municipalities across the state have voiced their opposition to the bill, arguing that their police departments should be building trust with local immigrant communities, rather than spreading fears of deportation by acting as federal immigration officers. In addition, with multiple federal courts have questioning the legality of detainers, many localities fear incurring civil liability for honoring them. The bill now moves for consideration in the Texas State House.

The vote on the Texas bill took place days before a federal court in California heard oral arguments over challenges to the Trump administration’s threats to end federal grants to so-called sanctuary jurisdictions on April 14. The Texas vote also occurred only hours before the Iowa Senate passed a similar bill targeting so-called sanctuary jurisdictions, also on April 12.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

There were no immigration-related government reports published on the week of Monday, April 10, 2017.

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*This Bulletin is not intended to be comprehensive. Please contact Christian Penichet-Paul, National Immigration Forum Policy and Advocacy Associate, with comments and suggestions of additional items to be included. Christian can be reached at cpenichetpaul@immigrationforum.org. Thank you.