Legislative Bulletin – Friday, February 9, 2018
Policy and Advocacy Associate
February 9, 2018
BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED
USA Act of 2018
This bill would provide Dreamers who have lived in the U.S. for at least four years and meet certain requirements with the opportunity to earn permanent legal status, as well as strengthen America’s border security through the use of technology, investments in ports of entry and other border security measures. This is a companion bill is H.R. 4796.
Sponsored by Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) (1 cosponsors – 1 Democrat, 0 Republicans)
2/05/2018 Introduced in the Senate by Senator McCain
2/05/2018 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary
Criminal Alien Gang Removal Act
The bill would define the term “criminal gang” as an ongoing group or association of five or more persons involved in certain criminal offenses and prevent individuals designated as belonging to a criminal gang from entering the U.S. and receiving immigration benefits, such as asylum, and help remove those present in the U.S. This is a companion bill is H.R. 3697.
Sponsored by Senator Dean Heller (R-Nevada) (0 cosponsors)
2/06/2018 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Heller
2/06/2018 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary
Reuniting Families Act
The bill makes a number of changes to the legal immigration system to reduce the current backlog in the family immigration and increase family reunification.
Sponsored by Representative Judy Chu (D-California) (45 cosponsors – 45 Democrats, 0 Republicans)
2/06/2018 Introduced in the House by Representative Chu
2/06/2018 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary
A Bill to Amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to Render Overstaying a Visa a Criminal Offense, and for Other Purposes.
Sponsored by Representative Lloyd Smucker (R-Pennsylvania) (o cosponsors)
2/07/2018 Introduced in the House by Representative Smucker
2/07/2018 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary
A Bill to Amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to Provide that Individuals who Naturalized Under Title III of that Act, who are Affiliated with a Criminal Gang, are Subject to Revocation of Citizenship, and for Other Purposes.
Sponsored by Representative Lee Zeldin (R-New York) (0 cosponsors)
2/08/2018 Introduced in the House by Representative Zeldin
2/08/2018 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary
LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR
The U.S. Senate will be in session the week of Monday, February 12, 2018.
The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Tuesday, February 13, 2018 to Friday, February 16, 2018.
UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS
The meeting agenda includes a mark-up of the Department of Homeland Security Authorization Act (H.R. 2825).
Date: Wednesday, February 14, 2018 at 10:00 a.m. (Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee)
Location: 342 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Date: Thursday, February 15, 2018 at 11:30 a.m. (House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security)
Location: 2141 Rayburn House Office Building
THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK
Congress Passes Spending Bill As Senate Prepares to Debate Immigration
Congress passed a six-week spending bill with a two-year budget deal on February 9 without reaching a compromise on a permanent, legislative solution for Dreamers. The spending bill, which funds the government until March 23, passed the Senate and House with both Republican and Democratic support. In Congress, conversations about what do about immigration remain divided, with the White House and some Republican lawmakers stating that any bill must fully address the White House’s immigration framework, while Democratic and some Republican lawmakers calling for a narrow solution that includes a permanent fix for Dreamers and investments in border security.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) indicated on February 6 that the Senate will pursue an immigration debate with an open amendment process next week. McConnell said that the process will be structured “in a way that’s fair to everyone” with a “level playing field at the outset,” noting that “whoever gets to 60 wins.” McConnell also said he will not use an immigration bill as the starting point for the debate, instead he will use an unrelated “shell” bill to allow the debate to start from scratch. At this time, it is unclear what the open amendment process will look like, which amendments will come up for consideration and whether the final product will have the 60 votes needed to pass in the Senate. Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) is reportedly preparing a last-resort measure that would temporarily extend Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) paired with border security funding.
Meanwhile, in the House, Speaker Paul Ryan noted that there is “real commitment to solving the DACA challenge in both political parties” and that he will “bring a solution to the floor, one the president will sign.” Ryan’s comments followed an eight-hour speech on the House floor on February 7 by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi during which she requested that Ryan commit to bring up a bill to protect Dreamers. Ryan’s office said he has repeatedly stated the House will vote on an immigration reform bill the president supports.
At the White House, Chief of Staff John Kelly said on February 6 that President Trump will likely not extend the March 5 deadline for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Even if the White House extended the March 5 deadline, advocates have noted that the process to renew DACA takes four to five months, which would result in thousands of DACA recipients becoming susceptible to deportation while they wait for their application to be renewed. As discussions continued in Congress, Kelly said that some Dreamers were “too afraid” or “too lazy” to sign up for DACA.
White House Creates Vetting Center for New Immigrants
President Trump issued a memorandum on February 6 establishing a National Vetting Center to investigate new immigrants entering the U.S. The vetting center, which will be led by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with assistance from the intelligence community and other federal departments, will “collect, store, share, disseminate, and use” information about people entering the U.S. to identify those who may be a threat to national security or public safety. The administration states that the memorandum will streamline immigrant vetting and improve the flow of information between federal agencies. The focus of the vetting center is expected to be on visa applicants, immigrants and others looking to enter the U.S., though the administration says the center will also look at certain individuals who are already in the U.S. The memorandum does not establish any new authorities or call for new funding to establish the vetting center, and it is unclear how this effort will change the manner immigrants to the U.S. are vetted.
The memorandum gives DHS six months to launch the vetting center. To quell concerns about civil liberties, the memorandum will establish a standing privacy and civil liberties panel that will have some oversight of the National Vetting Center. The membership of the panel will be determined during the six-month period.
DHS Draft Rules to Target Potential Immigrants Who Use Public Benefits
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reportedly drafted rules that would permit immigration officers to look at a potential immigrant’s use of public benefits to determine if they could become a public burden. Receiving such benefits, such as enrolling a child in government pre-school programs or receiving subsidies for utility bills, could weigh against an applicant, even if they were benefits going to an immigrant’s U.S. citizen children. The rules would not apply to lawful permanent residents (LPRs), also known as green card holders, applying for citizenship. Instead, they would apply to individuals already in the U.S. who apply for permanent resident status. In 2016, an estimated 383,000 people living in the U.S. applied for permanent residency.
Although U.S. immigration law requires officials to exclude a person likely to become a public charge from permanent residence, guidelines established in 1999 define public charge to be a person primarily dependent on government for subsistence either through direct cash assistance or government funded long-term care.
ICE Release Former DACA Recipient Apprehended in Traffic Court
On February 8, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released Christian Gomez Garcia, a former recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) who has lived in the U.S. since he was four years old. Gomez Garcia was apprehended by ICE agents on February 5 after he went to traffic court in Cook County. Gomez Garcia was previously a beneficiary of DACA, but his status reportedly lapsed because of mistakes on his renewal application. ICE did not state why officers apprehended Gomez Garcia, but said that they decided to release him “after further review of his case circumstances.”
Gomez Garcia’s arrests comes as Congress debates a permanent, legislative solution for Dreamers. Advocates and Dreamers have expressed concerns that if Congress does not find a solution before President Trump’s March 5 deadline, Dreamers could become increasingly susceptible to deportation. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly stated on February 8 that Dreamers would not be a priority for deportation, though ICE Director Tom Homan has said that his agency will detain any immigrant in the country without documentation.
State and Local
Colorado Legislature Aims to Fix Driver’s License Program for Undocumented Immigrants
A bipartisan proposal introduced in the Colorado state legislature would make it more feasible for undocumented immigrants in the state to utilize the state’s driver’s license program. Senate Bill 108 would permit applicants to use a valid Social Security Number when apply for a driver’s license, whereas the current program only allows the use of an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). Allowing only ITINs excludes a number of otherwise-eligible applicants, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) who have valid Social Security Numbers. The bill would also allow current license holders to reapply by mail or online instead of in-person. These provisions are expected to increase the number of people eligible for the program and make it easier to use. Although a similar proposal failed last year in the state legislature, Colorado Senate President Pro Tem Jerry Sonnenberg, a Republican, noted this year that the program could be used as a way to find out who is actually living in Colorado.
Kansas Chemistry Professor Receives Temporary Stay from Deportation
Syed Ahmed Jamal, an undocumented Chemistry professor from Kansas who has lived in the U.S. for more than 30 years, was granted a temporary stay of deportation on February 8 that will allow him to remain in the U.S. for a few more days. Jamal, a father of three young U.S. citizen children, was apprehended by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials on his front lawn on January 24 as he was getting ready to walk his children to school. Jamal came to the U.S. from Bangladesh and, throughout the years, attempted to gain permanent legal status. Jamal held a student visa while pursuing degrees in science and engineering and at one point held an H-1B visa for highly skilled workers. By the time of his arrest, Jamal had overstayed a 2011 voluntary departure notice, but was granted temporary permission to remain in the U.S. under supervision by ICE. Jamal’s case highlights a shift in immigration enforcement since the White House directed DHS prioritize all undocumented immigrants for deportation.
The judge’s temporary stay in Jamal’s case gives DHS until February 15 to respond to a motion to stay the deportation and re-open immigration proceedings. If the federal judge does not grant a longer stay for Jamal, he could be deported immediately.
Congressional Research Service: Termination of Temporary Protected Status for Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador: Key Takeaways and Analysis, February 2, 2018 (by Hillel R. Smith)
This legal sidebar provides key legal takeaways and analyses of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) decisions to terminate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti and El Salvador.
SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES
A summary of Rep. Will Hurd’s (R-TX) Uniting and Securing America (USA) Act, introduced on January 16, 2018, which would strengthen border security and provide Dreamers who meet certain requirements with the opportunity to earn permanent legal status.
This resource provides an overview and list of public bipartisan or center-right statements urging Congress to protect Dreamers as soon as possible.
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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 email@example.com. Thank you.