Legislative Bulletin – Friday, April 29, 2016

Policy and Advocacy Associate

April 29, 2016

Bills Introduced and Considered

S. 2827

Willing Workers and Willing Employers Act of 2016

This bill creates a new guest worker visa (H-2C) through a 10-year pilot program that would expire if not renewed. Qualifying employers have to be in a “full employment area” and the number of H-2C visas expands from 65,000 to up to 85,000 in times of low unemployment. The bill would also provide for job portability by enabling workers to change jobs and work for any employer who has tested the labor market and proved that they are unable to hire an American worker for the position.

Sponsored by Senator Jeff Flake (R – Arizona) (0 cosponsors)

04/20/2016 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Flake

04/20/2016 Referred to Senate Finance

S. 2833

Visa Transparency Anti-Trafficking Act of 2016

This bill amends the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to modify the Department of Labor’s data reporting requirements related to non-immigrant employees in the United States. The changes are intended to reduce the potential for human trafficking.

Sponsored by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D – Connecticut) (0 cosponsors)

4/21/2016 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Blumenthal

4/21/2016 Referred to Senate Judiciary

H.R. 5101

The Zero Tolerance for Illegal Entry Act 

This bill expands the ‘zero tolerance’ program enacted in the Del Rio sector, which requires all United States attorneys in the sector to prosecute offenses under sections 275 and 276 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), to the entire border.

Sponsored by Representative John Culberson (R – Texas) (4 cosponsors)

04/28/2016 Introduced in the House by Representative Culberson

04/28/2016 Referred to House Judiciary

H.R. 5102

The Interior Enforcement Act

The bill amends the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to establish a criminal penalty for an individual who lacks lawful immigration status and is present in the United States.

Sponsored by Representative John Culberson (R – Texas) (6 cosponsors)

04/28/2016 Introduced in the House by Representative Culberson

04/28/2016 Referred to House Judiciary

Nominations and Confirmation

Judge Merrick Garland met with Senators James Inhofe (R – Oklahoma) and James Lankford (R – Oklahoma) on April 27 to discuss his nomination to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1995, Garland helped prosecute Tim McVeigh, the culprit of the Oklahoma City bombing. Inhofe later voted to confirm Garland to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 1997. “I think a lot of him,” said Inhofe after the meeting on the Supreme Court vacancy, “[but] there is absolutely no scenario by which I would participate in a confirmation.”

At least 17 Republican Senators have met or voiced a willingness to meet with Garland. Senators Mark Kirk (R – Illinois) and Susan Collins (R – Maine) are the only Republican Senators who support holding Senate hearings on Garland’s nomination. Republican Senate leaders state that the Senate will not confirm a nominee until next year when a new President is sworn into office.

Legislative Floor Calendar

The U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate will not be in session the week of Monday, May 2, 2016.

Upcoming Hearings and Markups

Oversight of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency

Date: Wednesday, May 11, 2016 at 10:00 a.m. (Senate Finance)

Location: 215 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Witness:

The Honorable R. Gil Kerlikowske, Commissioner, U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Themes in Washington This Week

Trump and Clinton Dominate the “I-95 Corridor” Primaries Along the East Coast

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D – New York) and businessman Donald Trump (R – New York) dominated the five primaries along the I-95 corridor on April 26. On the Democratic side, Clinton came away with comfortable victories in four of the five primaries. Clinton won Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Connecticut over Senator Bernie Sanders (D – Vermont), who won the state of Rhode Island.

For the Republicans, Trump won overwhelming victories in all five states over Senator Ted Cruz (R – Texas) and Governor John Kasich (R – Ohio). Yet, exit polls from the Pennsylvania primary indicate that a majority of Republican voters in the Keystone State believe that undocumented immigrants should be offered legal status granted they meet certain requirements. On April 27, Cruz announced that businesswoman Carly Fiorina (R – California) would be his running mate if he won the Republican nomination.

The next primary election is in Indiana on May 3. Governor Mike Pence (R – Indiana) endorsed Cruz on April 29.

Appropriations Process Slows Down in Congress; Members Hope to Resolve Issues After Recess

The Senate, which appeared to be moving forward with the appropriations process last week, hit a standstill on April 27 after disagreements over the Energy-Water bill cast a shadow on the larger appropriations process and prevented Senators from tackling other appropriations bills. Nonetheless, Senate lawmakers are hopeful to resolve the issue after they return from their scheduled recess during the first week of May. The Senate Appropriations Committee previously adopted its spending allocations for all 12 subcommittees on April 14, including $41.2 billion for the Subcommittee on Homeland Security. In the House, Budget Chairman Tom Price (R – Georgia) met with  House Republican leaders to discuss the chamber’s budget impasse. House conservatives do not support the $1.07 trillion fiscal year (FY) 2017 discretionary spending levels agreed to in last year’s budget deal.

The Appropriations Committees in both the House and Senate have yet to pass a FY 2017 appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security.

Senators Enzi and Casey Rewriting Perkins CTE Act

Senators Mike Enzi (R – Wyoming) and Bob Casey (D – Pennsylvania) have reportedly been working on a bill to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. Career and technical education (CTE) programs prepare students in secondary and post-secondary schools for success in the workforce. More than 680,000 students who are limited English proficient participate in these programs annually.

Policymakers have been discussing rewriting the Perkins CTE Act, which hasn’t been updated since 2006, for years, but it has struggled to gain traction amid other priorities. The bill would address skills training and update an outdated funding formula.

Speaker Ryan Objects to Mass Deportation, Calls for a Solution that Includes Legal Status

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R – Wisconsin) participated in a town hall for millennials at Georgetown University on April 27, where he objected to the idea of mass deportation. Instead, Ryan said that he believes the country must come up with a solution for undocumented immigrants in the United States that includes the opportunity to “get right with the law” and earn legal status. He also said that the solution must include fixing the rest of the immigration system.

After a Georgetown student asked why the House would not address immigration reform until November after the presidential elections, Ryan replied that President Barack Obama “poisoned the well” by issuing an executive order providing temporary deportation relief and employment authorization for approximately five million undocumented immigrants. The executive actions were blocked by a federal judge after 26 states sued the Obama administration.

During the town hall, Ryan noted the important role immigration played in his family’s history: “[look] my name is Ryan, I’m here because the potatoes stopped growing in Ireland.”

House Committee Rejects DACA Amendment on Defense Bill, Accepts Substitute

On April 27, the House Armed Services Committee rejected an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2017 that would allow undocumented immigrants to enlist in the military if they have employment authorization under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Representative Ruben Gallego (D – Arizona) introduced the amendment, which was met with strong opposition by House Republicans.

After the Gallego amendment was defeated, Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R – Texas) proposed a substitute amendment to the NDAA that would reaffirm the defense secretary’s ability to enlist anyone who is determined to be “vital to the national interest.” Thornberry’s amendment clarifies that the secretary of defense has the authority to enlist individuals who are not normally eligible if their enlistment is absolutely necessary to the nation’s security, which could include those who fall under the DACA program. A number of Democrats spoke in favor of Thornberry’s amendment before it passed by voice vote.

ICE Director Saldaña Criticized by House Oversight Committee Republicans

On the morning of April 28, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Sarah Saldaña testified before the House Oversight Committee concerning agency policies governing the releases of undocumented people with prior criminal convictions.

Saldaña faced tough criticism from committee Republicans, who highlighted the release of more than 80,000 criminal aliens between 2013 and the present. Saldaña defended the agency’s practices, noting that the majority of releases are pursuant to court orders, as well as a U.S. Supreme Court decision that bars the federal government from detaining criminal aliens indefinitely after the completion of their criminal sentences. Saldaña also called on Congress to reform a broken immigration system.

A second panel testified before the committee in the afternoon. That panel consistent of family members of individuals who were killed by undocumented perpetrators, as well as testimony from former Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank, who called on Congress to pass immigration reform and warned that increased immigration enforcement by local law enforcement agencies could undermine trust in immigrant communities.

The previous week, on April 19, the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security also held a hearing featuring testimony by family members of victims of crimes perpetrated by immigrants.

U.S. Border Patrol Appears to Prefer “Virtual Border” to Building a Wall

A U.S. government study in the development process indicates that officers and agents in the U.S. Border Patrol increasingly favor creating a “virtual border” through the use of high-tech gear over building hundreds of miles of new fencing. The feedback, which is detailed in internal e-mails examined by Reuters on April 28, include calls for better radios and more aerial drones, in addition to 23 more miles of fencing in the southwest border. Although the extra fences sought by agents would be the first major fencing addition to the southern border in five years, the majority of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)’s $447 million annual budget for fencing, infrastructure, and technology would continue to go toward surveillance towers, unmanned aircraft, retired military blimps, and other advanced technological equipment.

Federal Agencies Seek Comments on Performance Reporting Requirements for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Programs

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has requested comments by May 26, 2016 regarding the proposed performance reporting requirements that affect the “core” employment and training programs under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). These programs are managed by the Departments of Labor and Education and include the Title I Adult, Dislocated Worker, and Youth formula programs; Title II Adult Education programs; Title III Wagner-Peyser Employment Service; and Title IV Vocational Rehabilitation State grants.

OMB has also solicited comments requests comments by May 27, 2016 regarding the Department of Labor’s WIOA performance accountability, information, and reporting system. This reporting system covers the WIOA Adult, Dislocated Worker and Youth; Wagner Peyser Employment Service; National Farmworker Jobs; Trade Adjustment Assistance; YouthBuild; Indian and Native American; Job Corps; and Jobs for Veterans’ State Grants programs.

Applications for the Performance Partnership Pilots for Disconnected Youth (P3) are due by June 27, 2016

The Department of Education is accepting applications for the second round of the P3 program. Pilot sites test strategies that improve the educational and employment outcomes of disconnected youth, including youth who are English language learners and/or immigrants and refugees.  To administer the programs, pilot sites can request certain flexibilities to blend existing federal funds from the Departments of Education, Labor, Health and Human Services, Justice, the Corporation for National and Community Service, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, as well as programmatic waivers.

Kansas, New Jersey Governors Back Out of Refugee Resettlement Program

Governors Sam Brownback (R – Kansas) and Chris Christie (R – New Jersey) announced their states’ withdrawal from the federal Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) program. In both cases, the governors explained that their decision came as a reaction to the November 2015 terrorist attack in Paris.

Although the withdrawal will not prevent the local resettlement agencies, nonprofits and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from placing refugees in New Jersey and Kansas, the organizations will be now managing the process under a contract with federal government rather than the states.

Kansas has taken in more than 2,000 refugees between fiscal years 2012 and 2015. Most of the refugees have come from Burma, with less than 100 arriving to Kansas from Sudan, Iran or Syria. New Jersey resettled 127 refugees between October 2015 and March 2016, out of which 24 came from Syria and 36 from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Analysts have noted that the threat of terrorism or violence by resettled refugees is minimal to non-existent.

Government Reports

Congressional Research Service: EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa, April 22, 2016 (by Carla N. Argueta and Alison Siskin)

This CRS Report reviews the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa, a form of Legal Permanent Residency given to immigrants who invest a specified amount of capital in a new commercial enterprise in the United States and create at least 10 jobs. The report focuses on EB-5 Visa requirements and eligibility, policy issues around the visa, fraud and security issues, and potential areas needing reform.

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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.