Legislative Bulletin – Friday, April 21, 2017
Policy and Advocacy Associate
April 21, 2017
BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED
There were no immigration-related bills introduced or considered on the week of Monday, April 17, 2017.
LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR
The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Tuesday, April 25, 2017 through Friday, April 28, 2017.
The U.S. Senate will be in session the week of Monday, April 24, 2017.
UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS
There are no immigration-related hearings or markups scheduled for the week of Monday, April 24, 2017.
THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK
Potential Government Shutdown Looms
White House efforts to include funding for a wall along the Southwest border and additional immigration agents threaten to disrupt bipartisan negotiations to fund the government for the remaining five months of FY 2017. Democratic lawmakers have voiced their opposition to include funding for a border wall and additional immigration enforcement as part of the final spending bill package due before current government funding expires on April 28, which could in turn lead to a government shutdown next week. Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), pressed Congress on April 20 to include funding for a wall and additional immigration agents, stating that those items are top White House priorities.
If Congress does not reach a compromise deal before April 28, lawmakers may decide to pass a one or two week spending measure to forestall the shutdown while they continue to finalize their negotiations.
Dreamer Deported Under Trump Administration
Juan Manuel Montes, a 23-year old recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), became the first protected Dreamer, or young undocumented immigrant brought to the United States as a child, deported under President Trump’s administration. Montes’ lawyers filed a lawsuit on April 18 accusing U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents of arresting and detaining Montes on the night February 17 and deporting him to Mexico despite being a DACA recipient. Montes, who is cognitively impaired due to a brain injury he suffered as a child, claims he was beaten and mugged after arriving in Mexico. He chose to re-enter the U.S. without documentation out of fear around February 19, turned himself in to Border Patrol agents, and was deported again. DHS initially disputed whether Montes was a DACA recipient and later agreed he was but stated that the department did not have any record of deporting Montes on February 17. DHS’s rationale for deporting Montes was that because Montes had left the U.S. without advance parole, his DACA was terminated. Montes’ lawyers countered that they stand behind his version of the story.
Recent DHS data shows that the number of former DACA recipients deported was significant. From January 20 to March 25, 2017, about 43 former-DACA recipients were deported. Under President Trump’s January 25 executive order on immigration enforcement, ICE’s enforcement priorities encompass almost all undocumented immigrants.
On April 19, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a Fox News interview that “DACA enrollees are not being targeted,” but cautioned that “the policy is that if people are here unlawfully, they’re subject to being deported.” On April 21, President Trump contradicted Sessions by saying that Dreamers should “rest easy” about his immigration policies, adding that he is “not after the Dreamers” and arguing that Montes’ case is different.
Trump Signs Executive Order on H-1B Visas, Potentially Affecting High-Skilled Workers
On April 18, 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order called “Buy American and Hire American.” The purpose of the order is to give priority to goods made in America and American workers for federal contracts and to reform the H-1B visa program that has been widely used by tech and other companies to bring foreign high-skilled workers to the U.S. While the order does not make any immediate changes to the H-1B program, it calls on Departments of Labor, Justice, Homeland Security and State to examine the existing laws and procedures and recommend possible changes to ensure that the visas are awarded to the most skilled, highest-paid immigrant workers and to prevent fraud and abuse.
In recent years, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) grants H-1B visas to 65,000 high-skilled immigrant workers and 20,000 foreign workers with advanced degrees. Because many more applications are received than available visas, the agency uses a computer-generated lottery process to randomly select applicants, who will obtain the visa.
USCIS Considers Ending TPS, Affecting 50,000 Haitians in U.S.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is considering ending temporary protected status (TPS) for Haiti. Such action would affect about 50,000 Haitians in the U.S., who have been shielded by the program after a series of natural disasters that have hit the Caribbean nation. Reportedly, a letter from the agency’s acting director James McCament, USCIS recommends terminating the country’s TPS, claiming that conditions in Haiti have improved enough that its citizens, who live in the U.S., no longer need the protection. However, the final decision will be made by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly.
The TPS was designated to Haiti under the Obama administration after the devastating earthquake in 2010, which displaced hundreds of thousands, and extended several times afterwards. The latest extension is now set to expire in July 22. Organizations and Members of Congress have been asking Secretary Kelly to again extend the status for Haiti as the country now also struggles with aftermaths of Hurricane Matthew, which killed 1,000 people and undermined the ongoing reconstruction work following the earthquake. As a result of the two disasters, the country has also been suffering the worst cholera outbreak in its history, which has so far taken about 9,000 lives. In March, ten Florida lawmakers wrote Kelly a letter, outlining the recent disasters in Haiti and pleading him to extend the TPS.
Immigrants Deported Without a Criminal Record Doubles, Overall Deportations Increase by 32 Percent
New data shows that the number of immigrants with no criminal records arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from January through mid-March 2017 doubled to 5,441, compared to the same period last year. At the same time, the number of all immigration arrests increased 32.6 percent from 16, 104 arrests in January through mid-March 2016 to 21,362 arrests in the same period this year. Meanwhile, the number immigration detainers, which are voluntary requests to hold an individual suspected of being unlawfully in the U.S. beyond the individual’s scheduled released, increased by 75 percent to 22,161.
One example is Maribel Trujillo, a mother of four U.S. citizen children with no criminal record who lived in the U.S. for 15 years, who was deported to Mexico on April 19. ICE said that Trujillo was deported because her case had been reviewed “at multiple levels of the legal system” and she was found to have no legal basis to remain in the U.S. Trujillo was detained by ICE agents on April 5 near her home in Fairfield, Ohio as a result of a deportation order from a 2007 federal immigration raid, when she was arrested while working at a Fairfield Koch Foods plant. In an exercise of discretion, ICE did not pursue Trujillo’s deportation over several years. In 2016, she was granted a yearlong work permit by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that is valid until July 2017. More than 700 faith leaders demanded Trujillo’s release in a letter circulated before her deportation.
Kelly Asks Critics in Congress to Change Laws
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John F. Kelly challenged his critics in Congress by saying they should either change the law or “shut up” and not question the integrity of DHS. During his speech at George Washington University, Kelly covered a wide range of issues, including immigration. Secretary Kelly also defended his department and the Trump administration against criticisms of the president’s travel ban executive order.
State & Local
Texas House Schedules Vote on Federal Immigration Enforcement Bill
The Texas House is scheduled to vote on Senate Bill 4 on April 26. The bill, which passed the Texas Senate on February 8, would ban so-called sanctuary jurisdictions, require law enforcement agencies to allow their officers to ask about an individual’s immigration status if the individual has already been arrested and make it a criminal offense for elected officials or law enforcement leaders to decline to honor federal immigration detainers. Municipalities across the state have argued that their police departments should be building trust with local immigrant communities, rather than spreading fears of deportation by acting as federal immigration officers.
The Florida House Judiciary Committee is set to consider a similar bill, named House Bill (HB) 697, to ban so-called sanctuary jurisdictions. A companion proposal in the Florida Senate appears unlikely to advance.
Supreme Court Rejects Review of Expedited Removal Orders Against Mothers, Children
The Supreme Court rejected an appeal on April 17 by a group of Central American and Ecuadorian asylum-seeking mothers and their children who hoped to have their expedited removal orders reviewed by a federal judge. The 28 mothers and 33 children, ages 2 to 17, were apprehended in Texas after crossing the border without authorization. The mothers and children claimed asylum on the grounds of escaping threats, violence and corrupt police authorities back home, but they were determined to lack “credible fear” of persecution. They were then placed in expedited removal proceedings, which allow immigration authorities to deport individuals without a hearing if they were apprehended within 100 miles of the Canadian or Mexican border and cannot prove they have lived in the U.S. for at least two years. The Supreme Court’s decision left in place a lower court ruling that said the families were not entitled to a federal court hearing to challenge the expedited removal order.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General: ICE Deportation Operations, April 13, 2017
This OIG report examines Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s management of Deportation Officers (DOs) responsible for removing individuals from the U.S. who are not in immigration detention facilities. The report finds that ICE has not clearly and widely communicated DHS deportation priorities to DOs, not issued up-to-date procedures and not provided DOs with sufficient training.
* * *
*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 email@example.com. Thank you.