Legislative Bulletin – Friday, December 5, 2014

Assistant Director for Immigration Policy and Advocacy

December 5, 2014

Bills Introduced and Considered

H.R. 5759

Executive Amnesty Prevention Act

This bill would bar the Department of Homeland Security from granting deportation relief, including work permits, to any “category” of immigrants unlawfully in the United States.

Sponsored by Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) (17 co-sponsors: Reps. Mo Brooks (R-AL), Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Billy Long (R-MO), Steven Palazzo (R-MS), Lou Barletta (R-PA), Lee Terry (R-NE), Bradley Byrne (R-AL), Tom McClintock (R-CA), John Duncan, Jr. (R-TN), David Jolly (R-FL), Robert Pittenger (R-NC), Richard Nugent (R-FL), Harold Rogers (R-KY), Ann Wagner (R-MO), David McKinley (R-WV), and John Kline (R-MN))

11/20/2014   Introduced in House by Rep. Yoho

11/20/2014   Referred to House Committee on the Judiciary

12/4/2014     Adoption of rule (H. Res. 770) to allow floor consideration

12/4/2014     Motion by Rep. Murphy (D-FL) to recommit failed by Yeas and Nays, 194-225

12/4/2014     Passed House by Yeas and Nays, 219-197

The National Immigration Forum opposed H.R. 5759 as “a step in the wrong direction that only further divides Congress instead of uniting both parties around the need to fix our broken immigration system.” Instead, the Forum urged Congress to pass broad common sense immigration reforms.

H.R. 5774

No Social Security Numbers and Benefits for Illegal Aliens Act of 2014

This bill would prohibit the assignment of social security account numbers to recipients of deferred action under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Deferred Action for Parental Accountability programs.

Sponsored by Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX)

12/1/2014      Introduced in House by Rep. Johnson

12/1/2104      Referred to House Committee on Ways and Means

S.2953

Keeping America Safe from Ebola Act of 2014 

This bill would bar alien nationals from countries  with widespread Ebola outbreaks from obtaining visas to the United States.

Sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) (5 co-sponsors: Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Pat Roberts (R-KS), John Thune (R-SD), Mark Kirk (R-IL), and Ron Johnson (R-WI))

11/20/2014   Introduced in Senate by Sen. Rubio

11/20/2014   Referred to Senate Committee on the Judiciary

Nominations and Confirmations

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 10-8 along party lines to advance the nomination of Sarah Saldaña as Assistant Secretary of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on December 2. Republican opposition to Saldaña to head ICE materialized after the president announced executive action on immigration last month. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee advanced Saldaña’s nomination on November 12 by voice vote. Democrats may seek a floor vote on her nomination before the full Senate prior to the end of the year.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has threatened to cancel December recess if the Senate does not pass an appropriations bill or advance long-stalled nominations. Democratic control over the Senate ends in January 2015.

Legislative Floor Calendar

The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session  from Tuesday, December 9 until Friday, December 12.

The U.S. Senate will be in session the week of Monday, December 8.

Upcoming Hearings and Markups

The Impact on Local Communities of the Release of Unaccompanied Alien Minors and the Need for Consultation and Notification

Date: Wednesday, December 10, 2:00 pm

Place: 2141 Rayburn (House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security)

Witnesses: To be announced

Keeping Families Together: The President’s Executive Action on Immigration and the Need to Pass Comprehensive Reform

Date: Wednesday, December 10, 2:30 pm

Place: 226 Dirksen (Senate Judiciary Committee)

Witnesses: To be announced

Themes in Washington This Week

Republicans Respond to Executive Action

House Republicans voted on December 4 to rebuke President Obama’s announced executive action on immigration, voting largely along party lines, 219-197, in support of H.R. 5759, a bill proposed by Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) that would block the president from carrying out the program. The vote represents the first part of a two-step process House Republican leadership formulated to object to the president’s actions on immigration without provoking a government shutdown. The second part of the process, a vote on the so-called CROmnibus that is slated for early next week, would keep the government open through an omnibus appropriations bill funding the entire government — with the exception of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) — for all of fiscal year 2015. DHS would instead be funded until February or March by a short-term continuing resolution, allowing the 114th Congress to revisit funding the agency in early 2015.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and other anti-immigration conservatives opposed GOP leadership’s plan, instead demanding that the Congress condition government funding on the repeal of the president’s executive action program — a condition that would make a government shutdown likely. Additionally, several analysts have noted that a shutdown — even a DHS-only partial shutdown — would not halt the president’s immigration action. As noted by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY),  U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the key agency that would process applications of those seeking deferred action, is fee-funded and would continue to operate in the absence of government funding. While Congress could theoretically restrict USCIS’s use of fees to bar it from processing deferred action applications, such restrictions would require a change in law. Because President Obama had pledged to veto any bill undoing executive action (aside from a congressional immigration reform bill), and because congressional Republicans lack a two-thirds majority needed to override a veto, opponents of executive action will be unable to pass such a bill restricting USCIS’s use of fees. If opponents of executive action are able to convince GOP leadership to condition passage of fiscal year 2015 appropriations on the passage of such legislation restricting USCIS, the resulting impasse would lead to a shutdown in which USCIS would continue to be able to rely on fees to operate and process applications for deferred action.

Government funding runs out on December 11 if Congress cannot pass appropriations bills to fund it. Senate Democratic leadership has signaled that it could support the CROmnibus, but will not bring H.R. 5759 to the floor for a vote this year. The White House criticized H.R. 5759 and issued a veto threat on December 4.

Some leading pro-immigration Republicans, including Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), have argued that Congress should respond to the president’s action by passing immigration reform legislation. This argument has been echoed by several commentators, as well as a bipartisan group of state Attorneys General. On December 4, Reuters reported that House Republicans were beginning to prepare piecemeal immigration bills to address border security, electronic verification of workers, and expanding the number of visas available to high-skilled foreign workers, but were not currently considering legislation to address the status of the eleven million undocumented individuals residing in the United States.

Hearings on Executive Action

The House Judiciary Committee and the House Homeland Security Committee both held hearings on the president’s executive action on immigration. Republicans on both committees were deeply critical of executive action. In the Homeland Security Committee hearing, Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) warned that the action will lead to a surge of undocumented border crossings and fraudulent filings for deferred action. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) warned that the action will “let[ ] entire categories of unlawful and criminal aliens off the hook.”

Democrats forcefully supported executive action, defending the policy as lawful, smart, and compassionate, and criticized House Republicans for failing to vote on immigration reform legislation this term. Testifying before the Homeland Security Committee, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson defended the policy, stating it is “well within our existing legal authority.”

The National Immigration Forum released a statement for the record on the hearing in the House Homeland Security Committee.

States Sue Obama Administration Over Executive Action

On December 3, a group of 18 states, led by Texas Attorney General (and Governor-elect) Greg Abbott (R-TX), sued the Obama Administration over the president’s recent executive action on immigration. The suit asserts that the president’s action constitutes an unlawful “unilateral suspension of the Nation’s immigration laws” and violated the violated the “take care” clause of the U.S. Constitution.

In recent weeks, many legal experts have argued that the president’s action, which the White House Office of Legal Counsel defended in a lengthy memorandum, is consistent with legal precedent and resembles executive action taken by prior administrations. Legal experts have already begun to weigh in on the states’ lawsuit, expressing skepticism that the states have standing to sue the administration and doubts about the underlying merits of the suit.

Mayors, Key Archbishop Come Out in Support of Executive Action

On December 1, a coalition of 25 mayors launched Cities United for Immigration Action, a newly-formed group aimed at implementing the president’s executive action on immigration on the local level and pushing for congressional action on immigration reform.

On November 30, newly-appointed Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich endorsed executive action in an interview on CBS’s Face the Nation, noting that the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops has long called for similar measures.

Public Opinion Polling on Executive Action

A poll this week by the Public Religion Research Institute showed that the public overwhelmingly supports the substance of the president’s executive action on immigration, but has misgivings about the president acting without Congress. This is consistent with polling since the roll-out of the president’s action, which has indicated that the American public is comfortable with the substance of the action, but conflicted over the process.

Polling has also indicated a surge in President Obama’s approval rating among Latinos, as well as strong support for the executive action among Hispanic voters.

Economic Benefits of Executive Action

Following the announcement of the president’s executive action on immigration, the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers estimated that the package will boost gross domestic product between $90 billion and $210 billion over the next decade and reduce the deficit by roughly $25 billion in that time span. The White House also estimates that the economic benefits of executive action will lead to a 0.3 percent average wage increase for native workers by 2024.

Government Reports

Congressional Research Service: Department of Homeland Security: FY 2015 Appropriations, November 20, 2014 (by William L. Painter)

This CRS report details the fiscal year (FY) 2015 appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The Obama Administration requested $38.332 billion in adjusted net discretionary budget authority for FY 2015. The request amounted to a 2.4 percent decrease from the FY 2014 appropriations. Of the total amount requested, $10.701 billion is to go to Customs and Border Protection (CBP), $5.014 billion is for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and $135 million was requested for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

On September 19, 2014, the President signed H.J. Res. 124, the continuing appropriations resolution for FY 2015 into law. This allowed for the government to be funded at its current levels through December 11, 2014.

Congressional Research Service: The Obama Administration’s 2014 Immigration Initiatives: Questions and Answers, November 24, 2014 (by Kate M. Manuel)

CRS published this report discussing the executive action plan announced by President Obama on November 20, 2014. The plan includes a number of changes related to the current undocumented population, border security, and legal immigration. The most notable of President Obama’s initiatives involves providing deferred action to qualifying parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents under the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program, as well as additional individuals brought to the United States as children under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. In order to address border security, the president’s plan involves the Department of Homeland Security creating three new taskforces that will focus on the southern maritime border, the southern land border, and the West Coast. The administration also announced a number of specific changes meant to improve the legal immigration system by “support[ing] our country’s high-skilled businesses and workers.”

The report also clarified that the administration’s immigration initiatives were not issued by an executive order, but rather were announced by intra-agency memos and fact sheets.

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