Legislative Bulletin – Friday, December 22, 2017

Policy and Advocacy Associate

December 22, 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. 2245

KIWI Act

This bill seeks to include New Zealand in the list of foreign states whose nationals are eligible for admission into the U.S. as E–1 and E–2 nonimmigrants if United States nationals are treated similarly by the Government of New Zealand.

Sponsored by Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) (6 cosponsors – 4 R, 2 D)

12/18/2017      Introduced in Senate by Senator Hirono

12/18/2017      Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 4508

Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act

This bill seeks to support students, including immigrants, in completing an affordable postsecondary education that will prepare them to enter the workforce with the skills they need for lifelong success. It would make changes to federal student aid and other programs under the Higher Education Act.

Sponsored by Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC) (1 cosponsor – 1 R)

12/1/2017        Introduced in House by Representative Foxx

12/1/2017        Referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

12/13/2017      Marked up by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce in a 23–17 vote.

H.R. 4680

Korematsu-Takai Civil Liberties Protection Act of 2017

This bill seeks to ensure due process protections of individuals in the United States against unlawful detention based solely on a protected characteristic such as race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, and others.

Sponsored by Representative Mark Takano (D-CA) (0 cosponsors)

12/19/2017      Introduced in House by Representative Takano

12/19/2017      Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate will be out of session until Tuesday, January 2, 2018.

The U.S. House of Representatives will be out of session until Monday, January 8, 2018.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

There are no immigration or skills and workforce development related hearings or markups scheduled in the weeks leading up to Tuesday, January 2, 2018.

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

Congress Passes Continuing Resolution without DACA Fix

On December 21, Congress approved a four-week continuing resolution (CR) that will fund the federal government until January 19, but did not include a DACA fix. Although advocates and members from both parties had demanded that any funding bill include a legislative solution for Dreamers, the short-term agreement to keep the federal government open through the holidays passed the House 231 – 188 and passed the Senate 66 – 32. With the passage of the CR, discussions on finding a permanent legislative solution for Dreamers will continue into January as Congress continues to work on agreement to fund the government for the remainder of FY 2018. On December 19, nearly a dozen Senators from both parties met with White House chief of staff John Kelly as the administration prepares to present what it would like to see as part of a DACA fix.

In a showing of bipartisan support, 11 governors led by John Kasich (R-Ohio) and John Hickenlooper (D-Colorado) sent a letter to Congress urging for a legislative solution to be adopted quickly. The letter notes that over 100 DACA recipients are losing their protected status each day and calls on Congress to find a bipartisan legislative solution.

On December 19, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said that a DACA fix would not be brought to the floor until January as negotiations continue. Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) tweeted that Sen. McConnell committed to him that a DACA bill would be brought to the floor in January in a free-standing vote. The commitment did not include any guarantees that the House would follow the Senate in voting on a free-standing Dreamer bill.

DOJ and DHS Release Report on Immigrants in Federal Prisons

On December 21, the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice released a report on immigrants in the federal prison system. The report, issued pursuant to the Trump administration’s executive order on interior enforcement, was touted by administration officials as supporting the need for more immigration enforcement measures.

But critics noted that the numbers only reflect that the federal government has increasingly prioritized the criminal prosecution of non-violent immigration offenses and that immigration offenses account for approximately half of all federal prosecutions, not that immigrants are prone to crime.

Trump Administration Sets New Rules for Visa Waiver Program

Trump administration officials announced on December 15 that new requirements are being placed on the 38 countries currently participating in the Visa Waiver Program, which allows for their nationals to travel visa-free to the United States.

The administration has asked participating countries to improve their terrorism screening procedures using U.S. terrorism data, and disseminate information intended to dissuade their nationals from staying in the United States beyond their departure dates. The information campaign requirement would only apply to countries with an overstay rate above two percent, including Hungary, Greece, Portugal, and San Marino. However, the average Visa Waiver Program overstay rate is only .68 percent, which is nearly 69 percent lower than the overall overstay rate. The new rules would also require that airport workers undergo additional scrutiny aimed at preventing security breaches. Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security has asked Congress to codify foreign terrorist information sharing with international organizations into law.

Officials did not set any specific deadline for meeting these requirements and said the U.S. will help the participating countries to fulfil the criteria.

Southwest Border Apprehensions Rising After Substantial Decline

The Trump administration announced that through November, southern border apprehensions had increased for the seventh straight month. The increase came after a precipitous decline in border apprehensions that began early this year. Fiscal year (FY) 2017 closed with near-record lows in apprehensions, dating back to 1960. Experts have identified that comparable declines have occurred in the past, and that the FY2017 figures are part of a larger downward trend in southern border apprehensions. It has been noted that monthly apprehensions have risen to a level that were typical for October and November during the Obama administration, but it is unclear whether the recent increases will be sustained in the near future.

USCIS Reaches H-2B Cap for First Half of FY2018

On December 15, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reached the congressionally mandated cap of 33,000 H-2B nonagricultural temporary worker visas for the first half of FY2018. Current H-2B workers petitioning to extend their stay or change the conditions of their employment or their employers are not counted against the cap. Workers involved in fish roe processing, as well as workers in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands or Guam, were also exempted from the cap. USCIS is continuing to accept petitions for workers for the second half of FY2018, whose work start dates must be on or after April 1, 2018.

In July, then-Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly made available an additional 15,000 H-2B visas because many U.S. business were facing “irreparable harm” as a result of a lack of workers. Kelly said that the increase was a one-time measure taken to support American businesses.

Legal

Supreme Court Sets Guidelines for DACA Termination Suits

On December 20, the Supreme Court unanimously set guidelines for lower courts to follow in five pending California lawsuits over the Trump administration’s decision to end DACA. In an unsigned opinion, the Supreme Court instructed lower courts to first resolve the “threshold arguments” of whether the administration’s motion to dismiss five pending lawsuits in California would succeed before compelling the disclosure of additional documents.

This decision comes after a 5-4 ruling on December 8 in which a divided Supreme Court halted a lower court order requiring the federal government to turn over extensive records regarding the decision to terminate DACA.   In that decision, the majority said that the lower court could not compel the federal government to provide documents without providing an opportunity to argue the issue if the documents are considered privileged.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a statement in support of the decision, saying “The discovery order in the DACA cases was dramatically intrusive and premature, and I am pleased with tonight’s decision that the district court’s order was ‘overly broad.’” But California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who brought the lawsuits, also expressed support for the decision, explaining that the ruling is actually a defeat for the administration because it does not bar plaintiffs in DACA suits from being entitled to additional information.

Deportation of 92 Somalis Held in Inhumane Conditions Halted

A federal district court judge in Florida halted deportation of 92 Somalis on December 19 after they had reportedly been held for 48 hours in “inhumane conditions.” Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers have been accused of physically and verbally assaulting deportees, some of whom were held in full-body restraints. The judge’s order protects the 92 individuals, some of whom have lived in the United States for decades, from deportation for two weeks. In the lawsuit, the deportees have said they fear persecution from al-Shabaab, a militant Islamist group aligned with al-Qaeda. The plaintiffs assert that the increased media attention their case has received has made their deportation to Somalia significantly more dangerous than it otherwise may have been. ICE has denied all allegations of abuse and misconduct.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice: Alien Incarceration Report Fiscal Year 2017, Quarter 4 , December 21, 2017

This report was published as directed by President Trump’s executive order on interior enforcement released earlier this year. It examines immigration status of all immigrants incarcerated under the supervision of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) or as federal pretrial detainees under the supervision of the United States Marshals Service (USMS); as well as all convicted immigrants imprisoned in state prisons and local detention centers across the U.S.

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

Polling Update: Public Support Grows For Providing Legal Status For Undocumented Immigrants

This polling update analyzes public opinion surveys to gauge Americans’ attitudes towards proposals for finding a solution for Dreamers and other relevant immigration issues.

Impact of a Point-Based Immigration System on Agriculture and Other Business Sectors

This paper examines the current legal immigration system, proposals for a point system, and whether the point systems in Canada and Australia would be workable in the U.S. It concludes that current point system proposals would not be helpful in addressing the needs of the agricultural and other industries that do not rely on high-skilled workers.

 

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