Legislative Bulletin – Friday, June 19, 2015

Assistant Director for Immigration Policy and Advocacy

June 19, 2015

Bills Introduced and Considered

H.R. 2808

To prohibit U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement from negotiating contracts with private detention companies that require a minimum number of immigration detention beds, and for other purposes

Sponsored by Rep. Theodore Deutch (D-FL)

06/17/2015  Introduced in House

06/17/2015  Referred to House Committee on the Judiciary

S. 1619

Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Bill, 2016

Sponsored by Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND)

06/18/2015  Introduced in Senate

06/18/2015  Marked up by Senate Committee on Appropriations

Upcoming Hearings and Markups

There are no immigration-related hearings or markups scheduled this week.

Nominations and Confirmations

There were no significant developments on nominations or confirmations this week.

Legislative Floor Calendar

The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Tuesday, June 23, to Friday, June 26, 2015.

The U.S. Senate will be in session the week of Monday, June 22, 2015.

Themes in Washington This Week

Two New Republican Candidates Announce Presidential Bids

Two new Republican candidates announced their bids for the 2016 presidential race this week, joining a crowded GOP field.

Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) launched his formal presidential campaign on Monday at Miami Dade College, where pro-immigration protesters prompted him to go off script to address his stance on immigration. Bush affirmed that he supports comprehensive immigration reform that increases border security and creates a pathway to legal status for the undocumented.

Donald Trump also announced his GOP bid for presidency on Tuesday, garnering criticism for his comments on immigration when he stated that if elected, he would build “a great wall” along the southern border at Mexico’s expense.

2016 Presidential Candidates Pressed on Immigration

Presidential candidates across party lines fielded questions this week regarding their stance on immigration. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who has not emphasized immigration in his campaign platform, received pressure to discuss his views at a town hall meeting in Marshalltown, Iowa. Sanders indicated that he supports a “rational immigration process” that includes comprehensive immigration reform.

Meanwhile, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) continues to distance himself from the GOP’s position on immigration, telling CBS’s “Face the Nation” that he opposes self-deportation and supports a “hard-earned pathway to citizenship”.

In contrast, Hillary Clinton (D-NY) launched the second phase of her campaign on Saturday with a 45-minute address in New York, reinforcing her view on comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship.

Lone Republican candidate Ben Carson (R-MD), along with Democratic candidates Clinton and Sanders, attended the annual conference hosted by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) this week. Carson called for closing all American borders and a national guest-worker program for undocumented immigrants.

Senate Appropriations Committee Approves Homeland Spending Bill

The Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee approved a $47.09 billion FY2016 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill by a bipartisan 26 to 4 vote. The FY2016 budget is $765 million above the FY2015 budget and $1.02 billion below the president’s budget request. The bill allocates $11.08 billion for Customs and Border Protections (CBP) and $5.81 billion for Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE). The bill also continues to support the funding of 34,000 detention beds.

House Democrats to Visit Family Detention Centers

Eight House Democrats will soon visit family detentions in Karnes City and Dilley, Texas, where hundreds of immigrant women and children are currently detained. The visit comes after Democrats in both the House and Senate expressed concerns about the treatment of families in long-term detention centers.

Celebrating DACA’s Three Year Anniversary

As thousands of immigrants await a final decision from the 5th Circuit on President Obama’s Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, DACA supporters celebrated its three-year anniversary this week.

Since 2012, DACA has allowed more than 664,000 young immigrants the opportunity to live in the United States without fear of deportation. Congressional leaders and advocates took to social media this week to voice their support for the program.

The expansion of DACA hangs on a pending 5th Circuit case in which 26 states are challenging the president’s executive action expanding DACA and establishing the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to hear oral arguments on July 10.

CBP Receives Criticism for Conduct along the U.S.-Mexico Border

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) recently filed a brief finding that border patrol agents have listed work as the reason for children as young as 11 days old coming to the United States. Misreporting initial screening interviews by border patrol agents is problematic because these interviews are crucial in establishing credibility of an asylum claim. “Inconsistencies between border agents’ documents and what individuals later say in court can hurt a person’s ability to obtain asylum,” said Stephen Manning, who co-authored the AILA brief.

CBP has received wide-spread criticism in recent weeks in light of a class-action lawsuit filed against CBP for the mistreatment of immigrants in holding cells. Additionally, an internal investigation absolved border agents of criminal conduct in all but three pending cases in 67 shooting incidents. Advocates are concerned by the use of lethal force against unarmed migrants along the Southwest border.

Supreme Court Rules on Immigration Cases

The Supreme Court delivered a fractured 5-4 decision on Monday, finding that an American citizen has no fundamental right to live with an alien spouse in the United States. In Kerry v. Din, an American woman challenged a consular official’s decision to deny her Afghan husband a visa on the basis of national security concerns. Justice Scalia delivered the opinion, stating that “Din has not been forbidden to enter a marriage…And those right-to-marry cases cannot be expanded to include a right that Din argues for — the right to live in the United States with one’s alien spouse.”

On the same day, the Court delivered an immigration decision finding that federal appeals courts have jurisdiction to review Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) denials of untimely filings. The ruling in Mata v. Lynch would allow immigrants whose attorneys miss filing deadlines to seek relief from a federal court.

Disney Reverses Plans to Employ H-1B Workers

Disney reversed plans to replace domestic employees in technology positions with lower paid immigrant workers holding H-1B visas. This decision comes after The New York Times reported on Disney’s practice of using H-1B visas to cut costs rather than fill skill gaps as the H-1B program intends, prompting Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) to call for DHS to investigate the use of H-1B visas.

Government Reports

U.S. Government Accountability OfficeImmigration Benefits System: Better Informed Decision Making Needed on Transformation Program, June 17, 2015

This report issued by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (U.S. GAO) provides a status update on U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) Transformation Program and analyzes its oversight and governance by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and USCIS. The Transformation Program was initiated in 2005 to update USCIS’ systems for processing millions of visa and immigration applications to an account-based system that includes tools that will allow applicants to apply and track the progress of their applications online.

The report asserts that, due to programmatic changes, the Transformation Program will cost approximately $1 billion more than originally estimated and fully deployed by March 2019, which is over 4 years later than the date initially projected. DHS agreed with GAO’s recommendations to improve data collection and reporting accuracy, but disagreed with GAO’s projected estimates of future costs and date of implementation.

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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.