Legislative Bulletin – Friday, December 1, 2017

Policy and Advocacy Associate

December 1, 2017

BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED
LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR
UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS
THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK
GOVERNMENT REPORTS
SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED

S. 2145

No Ban on Refugees Act

The bill would prohibit the U.S. government from stopping refugees from entering the U.S. based on their country of origin.

Sponsored by Senator Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) (7 cosponsors)

11/16/2017 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Murphy

11/16/2017 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 4427

Protecting America and American Workers Act     

This bill would eliminate the Diversity Immigrant Visa program by removing 26,000 visas altogether and converting the remaining 24,000 visas to employment-based visas, specifically EB1, EB2 and EB3 visas.

Sponsored by Representative Martha McSally (R-Arizona) (5 cosponsors)

11/16/2017 Introduced in the House by Representative McSally

11/16/2017 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 4488

Preserving Opportunity for Childhood Arrivals Act

The bill would create a renewal ten-year conditional permanent resident status for current Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients that would allow them to live and work in the U.S. with protection from deportation.

Sponsored by Representative Steve Pearce (R-New Mexico) (o cosponsors)

11/30/2017 Introduced in the House by Representative Pearce

11/30/2017 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate will be in session on the week of Monday, December 4, 2017.

The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Tuesday, December 5, 2017 to Friday, December 8, 2017.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

There are no immigration-related hearings or markups scheduled for the week of Monday, December 4, 2017.

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

Republican Leaders to Propose Two-Week Spending Measure, as Possible Shutdown Looms

Republican leaders in Congress are reportedly planning to pursue a short-term continuing resolution to fund the federal government from December 8 to December 22 to avert a government shutdown.

The two-week continuing resolution would give Congress more time to finish work on tax reform legislation and reach an agreement on a spending bill for the remaining months of fiscal year (FY) 2018. Democrat in Congress have refused to commit to help Republicans pass a spending bill without protections for Dreamers. On November 28, Representative Carlos Curbelo (R-Florida) became the first Republican in Congress to announce that he would not vote for a spending bill without voting on legislation to protect Dreamers before the end of the year. In addition, an increasing number of House Republicans and some Senate Republicans are calling on Congress to pass a permanent, legislative solution before the end of the year. A two-week spending deal in Congress would require bipartisan support in the Senate, where Democrats could leverage to demand protections for Dreamers. Senators Lindsay Graham (R-South Carolina) and Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) said on November 26 that the Senate can reach a consensus on immigration policy as part of a year-end government funding bill.

In the Senate, Democrats reportedly rejected an offer from Senate Republicans, led by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), to pair border security legislation with an immigration fix that excluded an earned path to citizenship for Dreamers. Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Republicans will look “at other ways forward,” while Durbin said he was still trying to negotiate with Republicans.  On December 1, Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) said he received a commitment from the Senate’s Republican leaders and the Trump administration to work in part “on a growth-oriented legislative solution to enact fair and permanent protections for DACA recipients” in exchange for his support for tax reform legislation.

On November 28, hours before a scheduled meeting with congressional leaders from both parties, Trump attacked Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) over Twitter, exclaiming “I don’t see a deal!” Schumer and Pelosi withdrew from the meeting following the tweets, prompting criticism from Ryan. According to a report in the Washington Post, Trump has  told confidants that a government shutdown could be politically good for his administration and that he is poised to take a hardline on immigration issues in the spending negotiations. Trump also asked friends how a shutdown would affect his administration and told several individuals that he would put the blame on Democrats. White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short said the president does not want a shutdown and wants to make sure the government is funded.

Republican House Members Preparing Letter Urging DACA-Fix before Year’s End

More than two dozen House Republicans are reportedly preparing a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan urging for legislation to protect Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients before the end of the year. The letter, organized by Representatives Scott Taylor (R-Virginia) and Dan Newhouse (R-Washington), reportedly has over 20 signatories and could reach more than 30 by the time it is sent. Representative Rodney Davis (R-Illinois) said that the letter is not an ultimatum to Ryan, but is meant to show “strong support for solving the DACA issue and that [the signatories] believe the House should address it now, rather than later.” Davis said that the signatories want a solution to help DACA recipients as soon as possible. The letter could be sent to Ryan as early as next week.

In addition, Representative Mark Amodei (R-Nevada) became the second House Republican to support a discharge petition to force a floor vote on the Dream Act. The discharge petition, which currently has 196 signatures, needs 218 signatures to be considered.

Report Finds Dreamers Would Sponsor One or Fewer Relatives Over Lifetime

A new report found that a permanent, legislative solution for Dreamers that includes an earned path to legal status and eventually citizenship, such as the Dream Act, would result in so-called chain migration of an average of one person or fewer over a lifetime.  The report estimates that each Dream Act recipient, at most, would sponsor between 0.65 and 1.03 family members over his or her lifetime. The results stem from the fact that Dreamers have very different characteristics than most green-card holders. For example, since they arrived in the U.S. as children, they are less likely, as adults, to have had children born outside the country or to have married someone in need for a green card sponsorship. The estimate is much lower than numbers cited by immigration critics, who have asserted that Dreamers could each sponsor as many as six or seven family members under a permanent, legislative solution.

New Requirement for Child Tax Credit Could Affect Low-Income Immigrant Families

Republican tax reform proposals under consideration in the House and Senate include provisions to limit the use of the Child Tax Credit (CTC) by undocumented parents with families. Under the House proposal, families claiming the CTC must provide a name and Social Security number for each child. The Senate proposal also requires families to provide a child’s Social Security number to qualify for the CTC. Currently, undocumented families who pay taxes can qualify for the CTC by using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), which allows undocumented families without a Social Security number to file taxes. Opponents of the policy change note that requiring a Social Security number to qualify for the CTC would unfairly harm working immigrant families that pay taxes, including those who have U.S. citizen relatives.

Jury Acquits Garcia Zarate in Kate Steinle Case

On November 30, 2017, after several days of deliberation, a jury in San Francisco acquitted Jose Ines Garcia Zarate on the charges of murder and manslaughter for the killing of Kathryn Steinle on July 1, 2015. The acquittal followed the defense’s contention that the shooting was accidental. The verdict was condemned by President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who linked the killing to San Francisco’s “sanctuary” policies.

The jury convicted Garcia Zarate of a lesser offense of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Following the verdict, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released a statement that they will work to take custody of Garcia Zarate and deport him to Mexico and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a warrant for his arrest on the grounds that he violated his supervised release. DOJ is also reportedly considering federal charges against Garcia Zarate related to Steinle’s death.

The defense contended that Garcia Zarate found the gun wrapped in a T-shirt or cloth under a bench on the pier, which accidentally discharged when Garcia Zarate picked it up to inspect it. The defense theory was supported by ballistics evidence that suggested the bullet ricocheted off the ground before hitting Steinle. Prosecutors disputed the defense contentions, arguing that Garcia Zarate brought the gun to the pier and intentionally fired at Steinle.

Trump Administration Ends TPS Designation for Haiti

Acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Elaine Duke announced on November 20 that the department will terminate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for approximately 50,000 Haitians in July 2019, giving the recipients 18 months to leave the United States. Conditions in Haiti remain poor following the 2010 earthquake and more recent natural disasters, including a cholera epidemic and Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Noting the important contributions Haitians have made to the U.S. economy, especially in states such as New York and Florida, several business and faith groups have called for an extension of their protections.

In recent weeks, lawmakers from both parties have introduced bills to provide legal status for TPS recipients, including two bipartisan House bills, one by Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida) and Yvette Clarke (D-New York) and one by Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Florida). El Salvador and Syria are the next countries to face a potential expiration of TPS. The DHS decision on those two TPS designations is due in January 2018. Earlier this year, the administration terminated TPS designations for Nicaragua and Sudan.

Inspector General Accuses DHS of Blocking Public Release of Travel Ban Report

The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) sent a letter to three Senators on November 20 expressing concern that DHS is preventing the public release of a report about the implementation of President Trump’s travel ban earlier this year. The letter from Inspector General John Roth said his offices’ 87-page report was sent to DHS leadership on October 6, but DHS has declined to authorize its release. DHS has reportedly asserted that, due to ongoing litigation, the report is under review for information that may be subject to attorney-client privilege or to a privilege protection relating to the agency’s deliberative processes. Roth said he is “very troubled by this development” and that it was his first time as Inspector General that the department indicated it may assert these privileges for a report. In response to Roth’s letter, DHS stated that the material within the report is covered by such “privileges afforded by well-recognized law.”

The OIG report reportedly found that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) leadership was “caught by surprise” by President Trump’s travel ban executive order and were unsure if the order applied to lawful permanent residents at the time of implementation. The report also found that although most officers complied with orders that were quickly issued by the courts, CBP defied two court orders in their implementation of the travel ban by issuing “no board” instructions to airlines abroad.

The third iteration of President Trump’s travel ban was partially blocked by federal judges in Maryland and Hawaii. On November 29, President Trump shared anti-Muslim videos on Twitter posted by a far-right British activist. President Trump’s retweets may complicate his administration’s efforts to defend the travel ban, as federal judges have previously cited President Trump’s remarks as they blocked versions of the ban. Oral arguments in both federal appeals court cases are scheduled for next week.

Father Claims Border Patrol Separated Him from Infant Child

A father who is seeking asylum in the U.S. with his one-year-old son alleges that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents pressured him and three other parents to separate themselves from their children. The father, Jose Demar Fuentes, said he expected Border Patrol agents to transfer him and his son to a detention center for fathers in Pennsylvania, but the agents told him it would not be possible and pressured him to “do it the good way and avoid using force in front of the kids.” Fuentes claims he was removed from the Border Patrol holding cell and separated from his son, who is now in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). CBP said that it will continue to maintain family unity to the greatest extent operationally feasible and argued that the agency did not separate the families. CBP argued that any separation would have occurred after the fathers and children had been transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody.

In March, reports emerged that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was considering separating parents and children who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border as was a way to deter families from coming to the U.S.

State & Local

Atlanta’s ICE Field Office Increases Immigration Arrests by Nearly 80 Percent

A new report by the New York Times notes that immigration arrests by Atlanta’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) field office have increased nearly 80 percent in the first six months of 2017 compared the same period last year. The office made 7,753 arrests from January to June 2017, the second highest of any field office, behind only the Dallas, Texas field office. Sean Gallagher, the ICE Atlanta field office director, warned immigrants that if they were undocumented, “we’re probably going to come knocking at some point.” The report notes that thousands of undocumented immigrants in Georgia have been arrested for driving without a license, in part because Georgia’s state legislators have empowered local law enforcement to question suspects about their immigration status. In addition, three county jails near Atlanta participate in the 287(g) program, which allows law enforcement departments to identify undocumented immigrants that they detain, even for non-violent crimes, and pass them to ICE custody. Gallagher called the 287(g) program “huge” and a “force multiplier.” The spike in immigration arrests by the Atlanta ICE field office follows the Trump administration’s decision to revoke Obama administration guidelines prioritizing the deportation of criminals, making virtually any individual without documentation a target for arrest and deportation.

Legal

Washington State Prohibits Disclosing Immigration Status in Certain Court Cases

The Washington state Supreme Court approved a new rule that makes disclosing an individual’s immigration status “generally inadmissible” in the state’s civil and criminal trials unless it is “an essential fact to prove an element of, or a defense to [the claim or charge].” The new rule, Rule of Evidence 413, is the first in the country to include criminal cases in part to encourage undocumented immigrants to report crimes and be witnesses in crimes. Attorneys and scholars argue that disclosing a person’s immigration status in a trial can be prejudicial, even in cases where the person’s immigration status may not be significant to the case. Rule of Evidence 413 takes effect in September 2018, though some courts in the state are reportedly already using it as a judicial guide.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), Southwest Border Security: Border Patrol Is Deploying Surveillance Technologies but Needs to Improve Data Quality and Assess Effectiveness, November 30, 2017

This report examines the Border Patrol’s deployment of surveillance technology along the southwest border. The report found that the Border Patrol is limited in its ability to determine the mission benefits of its surveillance technologies and use that information to inform resource allocation decisions.

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

Why Congress Needs to Fix DACA Before March 5

This infographic highlights why Congress must pass a DACA-fix before March 5 by showing how long it will take to implement legislation that would protect Dreamers.

Fact Sheet: The Math of Immigration Enforcement

This infographic illustrates how increased immigration enforcement proposals will harm the federal budget, employers and ultimately the American people.

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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.