Legislative Bulletin – Friday, February 17, 2017

Policy and Advocacy Associate

February 17, 2017

BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED
LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR
UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS
THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK
GOVERNMENT REPORTS

BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED

 S. 354

Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act

This bill would reduce the annual number of legal immigrants who can obtain green cards and other visas to come to the United States. The bill would eliminate immigration preferences for certain categories of extended and adult family members, including adult parents, adult siblings and adult children of U.S. citizens and unmarried adult children of LPRs. The bill would also eliminate the Diversity Visa Lottery and limit the number of refugees offered permanent resident status to 50,000 a year.

Sponsored by Senator Tom Cotton (R – Arkansas) (1 cosponsor)

02/13/2017 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Cotton

02/13/2017 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 361

Expatriate Terrorist Act (ETA) of 2017

The bill would revoke the citizenship of American citizens who knowingly join or provide material support to foreign terrorist organizations. The House companion bill is H.R. 1021.

Sponsored by Senator Ted Cruz (R – Texas) (2 cosponsors)

02/13/2017 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Cruz

02/13/2017 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 1006

Access to Counsel Act

This bill would guarantee individuals held or detained while attempting to enter the United States, whether at a border crossing or a port of entry, access to legal counsel. The companion bill in the Senate is S. 349.

Sponsored by Representative Pramila Jayapal (D – Washington) (43 cosponsors)

02/14/2017 Introduced in the House by Representative Jayapal

02/14/2017 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 1010

Defense of Legal Workers Act

The bill would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to state that undocumented immigrants cannot be issued work permits through an executive order.

Sponsored by Representative Lou Barletta (R – Pennsylvania) (0 cosponsors)

02/14/2017 Introduced in the House by Representative Barletta

02/14/2017 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 1014

Haiti Emergency Relief Act of 2017

This bill would permit a national of Haiti to be eligible for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) under section 244 of the National Immigration Act (INA).

Sponsored by Representative Yvette Clarke (D – New York) (18 cosponsors)

02/13/2017 Introduced in the House by Representative Clarke

02/13/2017 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 1021

Expatriate Terrorist Act

The bill would revoke the citizenship of American citizens who knowingly join or provide material support to foreign terrorist organizations. The Senate companion bill is S. 361.

Sponsored by Representative Steve King (R – Iowa) (1 cosponsor)

02/13/2017 Introduced in the House by Representative King

02/13/2017 Referred to the House Committees on Judiciary and Foreign Affairs

H.R. 1036

A Bill to Amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to Promote Family Unity, and for Other Purposes

Sponsored by Representative Beto O’Rourke (D – Texas) (2 cosponsors)

02/14/2017 Introduced in the House by Representative O’Rourke

02/14/2017 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate will not be in session on the week of Monday, February 20, 2016.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

U.S. Supreme Court Nomination

Date: Monday, March 20, 2017 (Senate Judiciary)

Location: TBA

Witness:

Neil M. Gorsuch, Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, Nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

New Enforcement Priorities Lead to DACA Arrests, Raise Questions About Arrests in Sensitive Locations

President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration enforcement, “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” significantly broadened immigration enforcement priorities, leading U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to arrest multiple individuals over the last week who do not appear to be national security threats or public safety risks.

On February 10, ICE agents arrested and held Daniel Ramirez Medina, a 23-year-old DACA recipient with no criminal record, at his father’s house in Seattle, Washington. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a statement alleging that Ramirez-Medina is a gang member, but his lawyers called the allegations “unsubstantiated” and unequivocally false,” while noting that Ramirez Medina filled out a form when he was admitted to an immigration detention facility that appeared to be doctored. On February 17, a federal magistrate ruled that Ramirez Medina will remain in ICE custody for the moment.

Josue Romero, a 19-year-old DACA recipient from San Antonio, Texas, was also arrested and held by ICE agents on February 15. Romero was transferred to ICE custody after being booked by local law enforcement for possession of two ounces or less of marijuana, a Class B misdemeanor. On February 16, ICE released Romero from immigration detention.

In addition, ICE agents arrested and held an undocumented woman on February 9 who had just received a protective order alleging that she was a victim of domestic violence. ICE arrested the woman in the El Paso County Courthouse after allegedly receiving a tip from her abuser. El Paso County officials said they do not want ICE to arrest undocumented immigrants in the courthouse.

Furthermore, ICE agents arrested at least two men leaving a church shelter in Alexandria, Virginia. The men had just left the hypothermia shelter at Rising Hope mission Church in Fairfax County, when ICE agents stopped and questioned them about their immigration status.

ICE Conducts Immigration Raids Across Country, Over 680 Arrested

U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) officers arrested more than 680 undocumented immigrants during the week of Monday, February 3, 2017, after conducting immigration raids in at least a dozen states across the country. The raids follow the implementation of new enforcement priorities, laid out on January 25 under Trump’s executive order on interior enforcement, which broaden immigration enforcement priorities by categorizing 8 million or more undocumented immigrants as a priority for deportation. ICE admitted that 25 percent of the immigrants arrested did not have a criminal record. Reports of the arrests heightened fears in immigrant communities across the country.

Trump Will Unveil Rewritten “Travel Ban” Executive Order Next Week

In a press conference on February 16, President Trump said that the White House has been working on revised version of his executive order barring nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries and all refugees from entering the United States. The White House plans to release the revised executive order as early as next week. Trump said that the revised policy will be tailored to comply with court rulings from U.S. District Judge James Robart and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Among other changes, the new order is expected to expressly exempt green card holders from the travel ban.

On February 14, Judge Leonie M. Brinkema from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia issued a preliminary injunction against the ban as it would apply in Virginia, claiming that the executive order could violate the First Amendment’s protections for freedom of religion. Brinkema’s injunction applies to Virginia residents, students, and school employees.

Puzder Withdraws, Trump Nominates Acosta to Serve as Secretary of Labor

Andrew Puzder, President Donald Trump’s first choice for U.S. Secretary of Labor, announced on February 15 that he would be withdrawing from consideration. Puzder’s withdrawal followed after several Senate Republicans indicated they could not support his nomination, making clear that he lacked the votes to be confirmed. On February 16, Trump nominated Florida International University Law School dean R. Alexander Acosta as his new nominee to lead the Department of Labor. If confirmed, Acosta, who also served on the National Labor Relations Board and was a former assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s civil rights division, would be the only Latino member in Trump’s cabinet.

DHS Report Estimates Border Wall Would Cost $21 Billion to Build

An internal report presented to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly estimates that building a series fences and walls along the U.S.-Mexico border would cost as much as $21.6 billion and take more than three years to complete. The report also provides guidelines to build new physical barriers along the Southwest border in three phases of construction covering 1,250 miles by the end of 2020. Since the Southwest border already has 654 miles of fencing, the new construction would extend almost the length of the entire border. The report assumes that DHS would get funding from Congress by April or May, giving the department sufficient time to secure contractors and begin construction by September 2017.

The report’s cost estimate is significantly higher than the $12 billion estimate provided by President Donald Trump during the presidential campaign and Republican congressional leaders. The report’s estimate is higher in part because it takes into account that a large portion of the series of fences or walls will need to be built on privately-owned land or land that is not currently accessible by road.

World Relief Announces it Will End 140 Positions, Close 5 Offices

World Relief, an evangelical relief and development agency, announced on February 15 that it will terminate 140 staff member positions and close five offices as a direct result of President Trump’s executive order temporarily barring d all refugees from coming to the United States. Federal courts blocked the portion of the order halting refugee resettlement in early February, but let stand the executive order’s reduction of the cap on refugee admissions from 110,000 to 50,000 per year.  World Relief is one of nine organizations that works with the United Nation’s refugee program to resettle refugees in the United States. Since refugee resettlement agencies are reimbursed by the federal government in accordance with the number of refugees they resettle via grants the reduction in refugee admissions means that the agency will lose a significant portion of its budget.

State & Local

Virginia Senate Votes to Make Immigration Detainers Mandatory

The Virginia State Senate passed a bill on February 15 requiring jails and prisons to make immigration detainers mandatory. Immigration detainers, which are voluntary requests to hold inmates who are suspected to be undocumented past the end of their sentences, are legally dubious and can expose states and localities to civil liability.

The bill, which was supported by the Republican majority in the Virginia Senate, would require local law enforcement to hold people suspected of being undocumented for up to 48 hours while federal immigration authorities investigate their immigration status and/or collect them at the jail or prison. Democratic lawmakers have expressed concern that the bill would sow fear in immigrant communities and present unnecessary costs for Virginia taxpayers if jails are required to hold prisoners longer than planned. Governor Terry McAuliffe (D – Virginia) vowed to veto the legislation, saying that the bill forces localities to play a role in immigration enforcement, which is a federal issue.

Kansas House Introduces Two Kobach-Backed Bills Requiring Local Enforcement of Federal Immigration Law

Kansas lawmakers introduced two bills in the state legislature drafted by controversial Secretary of State Kris Kobach requiring local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration laws. The first bill, Senate Bill 157, would require the Kansas Highway Patrol to partner with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to enforce federal immigration laws. The second would prohibit municipalities and state agencies from adopting so-called sanctuary city policies. Localities defined as having “sanctuary policies” under the bill, including declining to honor federal immigration detainers, would lose state funds. Under the bill, localities are sued for enforcing detainers, would have their legal costs will be reimbursed by the state’s general fund.

Prominent law enforcement groups expressed opposition to the bills, noting that they were not consulted by legislators before the bills were introduced. Kansas’s Highway Patrol and Sheriffs’ Association both oppose the bills because they say the bills would force them to redirect scarce resources away from protecting the public to enforcing federal immigration laws, which, they argue, is not the job of local government. They also fear expensive lawsuits if they wrongfully detain people by honoring detainers. Members of the Latino community and religious organizations opposed the bills during a personal testimony hearing on February 15, in part citing the absence of consensus over the definition of “sanctuary city” as evidence that the second bill is too broad for municipalities to know how to comply with it.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

Congressional Research Service: Plan to Restrict Federal Grants to “Sanctuary Jurisdictions” Raises Legal Questions, February 14, 2017

This CRS legal sidebar provides a description of President Donald Trump’s executive order, “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” and highlights potential questions about how the order could be construed. The sidebar also discusses claims made by jurisdictions challenging the executive order.

U.S. Government Accountability Office: Southwest Border Security: Additional Actions Needed to Better Assess Fencing’s Contributions to Operations and Provide Guidance for Identifying Capability Gaps, February 16, 2017

This GAO report reviews the use of border fencing along the Southwest border, including the fencing’s intended contributions to border security operations.

U.S. Government Accountability Office: Border Security: Additional Actions Needed to Strengthen Collection of Unmanned Aerial Systems and Aerostats Data, February 16, 2017

This GAO report examines U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)’s use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and aerostats for border security activities. The report also examines to what extent CBP has taken actions to assess the effectiveness of its UAS and aerostats use.

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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.