Legislative Bulletin – Friday, June 26, 2015

Assistant Director for Immigration Policy and Advocacy

June 26, 2015

Bills Introduced and Considered

H.R. 455

The Northern Border Security Review Act

This bill directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to submit a northern border threat analysis, which shall include analyses of: terrorism threats posed by individuals seeking to enter the United States through the northern border; improvements needed at ports of entry along the northern border to prevent terrorists and instruments of terror from entering the United States; gaps in law, policy, international agreements, or tribal agreements that hinder the border security and counterterrorism efforts along the northern border; and illegal cross border activity between ports of entry, including the maritime borders of the Great Lakes.

Sponsored by Rep. John Katko (R-New York) (4 cosponsors)

1/20/2015      Introduced in the House by Rep. Katko.

6/24/2015      Marked up and passed by voice vote in the Homeland Security Committee.

H.R. 1634

Border Security Technology Accountability Act of 2015

This bill requires each border security technology acquisition program of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with a significant lifecycle cost estimate to: (1) have written documentation demonstrating that each such program has an acquisition program baseline approved by the relevant acquisition decision authority; and (2) demonstrate that each such program is meeting agreed-upon cost, schedule, and performance thresholds, in compliance with the Federal Acquisition Regulation.

Directs: (1)  that border security technology acquisition program managers adhere to relevant internal control standards identified by the Comptroller General; and (2) the Commissioner to provide information to assist the Under Secretary in monitoring proper program management of such acquisition programs.

Requires  a plan for testing and evaluation, as well as the use of independent verification and validation resources, for border security technology so that new border security technologies are evaluated through a series of assessments, processes, and audits to ensure the effectiveness of taxpayer dollars.

Sponsored by Rep. Martha McSally (R-Arizona) (13 cosponsors)

3/25/2015      Introduced in the House by Rep. McSally

6/25/2015      Marked up and passed by voice in the Homeland Security Committee

S. 1640

The Michael Davis, Jr. and Danny Oliver in Honor of State and Local Law Enforcement Act

This bill, formerly known as the Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement (“SAFE”) Act includes several interior enforcement measures, including provisions that authorize local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration laws and would prevent DHS from implementing new enforcement guidelines that prioritize serious threats to public safety and national security. A companion bill, H.R. 1148,was introduced in the House.

Sponsored by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) (5 cosponsors)

6/22/2015      Introduced in the Senate by Sen. Sessions.

6/22/2015      Referred to Senate Judiciary.

Nominations and Confirmations

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

Legislative Floor Calendar

The U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate will be in recess for Independence Day the week of Monday, June 29, 2015.

Upcoming Hearings and Markups

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

Themes in Washington This Week

DHS Revisiting Family Detention Policies

On June 24, following a high-profile family detention facility tour by eight House Democrats, U.S. Department of Homeland of Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson announced that the Department will make “substantial changes” to family detention practices. Johnson’s statement highlighted a number of key reforms, including offering reasonable bond to families who fear persecution in their home countries, conducting credible fear and reasonable fear interviews within an equitable timeframe, and ensuring access to counsel. The statement concluded that “[O]nce a family has established eligibility for asylum or other relief under our laws, long-term detention is an inefficient use of our resources and should be discontinued.” The statement represents a departure from Johnson’s previous defense of the family detention program, a position reiterated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as recently as June 23, and paves the way for families seeking asylum to be released on bond.

Johnson’s statement was met with cautious praise from advocates, commentators, and elected officials, who pledged to press DHS on implementing the announced reforms and to continue urging DHS to phase out family detention in its entirety.

House Democrats Call for Ending Detention of LGBT Immigrants

On June 23, more than 30 congressional Democrats, led by Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Arizona) and Michael Honda (D-California), sent a letter to DHS Secretary Johnson calling for an end to the detention of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) immigrants. Citing the unique threats faced by LGBT individuals in detention, including elevated levels of sexual assault and abuse, the letter called on DHS “to use existing discretion to release LGBT individuals from custodial detention and use parole or alternatives to detention to ensure the safety and appearance of this group throughout their immigration proceedings.”

On June 24, President Obama was heckled at a White House event for LGBT Pride Month by an undocumented LGBT activist.

2016 Presidential Campaign Update

Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-Louisiana) announced his presidential bid on June 24, entering a difficult primary campaign with more than a dozen GOP presidential candidates. The son of immigrants, Jindal is a staunch opponent of President Obama’s executive actions who favors a border security-first approach to immigration reform.

More Republican candidates are expected to join the crowded GOP field in the next upcoming weeks, including Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio), a potential GOP candidate who visited Iowa this week to discuss his views on the nation’s economy and immigration policies. Kasich asserted that he is against the deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States, stating “I’m not for putting them on a school bus, driving them to the border, opening the door and just telling them to get out.” Another prominent governor, Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey), is expected to announce his presidential bid next Tuesday.

After attacking Mexico and Mexican migrants in his announcement speech earlier this month, Donald Trump (R-New York) faced harsh criticism from Univision’s Jorge Ramos, NBC, and Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton (D-New York). Additionally, Univision, the largest Spanish-speaking television network, announced that it would end its business relationship with the Trump Company and would no longer broadcast the Trump-owned Miss USA or Miss Universe pageants. In response, Trump promised to sue Univision for “hundreds of millions of dollars“and barred Univision executives from a Trump-owned Miami hotel, including its golf course.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders also addressed immigration in a speech at the annual National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) conference, focusing on the economic inequality faced by immigrant workers in the U.S.

DHS Announces TPS for Nepalese Nationals

On June 24, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson announced that eligible nationals of Nepal may apply for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) after Nepal suffered a devastating magnitude 7.8 earthquake in April. DHS designates a country for TPS following temporary emergencies, including armed conflicts, environmental disasters or other extraordinary circumstances preventing the safe return of that country’s nationals. Qualifying nationals receiving TPS are permitted to temporarily stay in the United States while receiving work authorization.

On June 25, DHS announced that it was extending registration for TPS through August 18, 2015 for nationals of African countries stricken with Ebola: Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.

California to Fund Health Coverage for Undocumented Children

Under its fiscal year 2016 state budget signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown (D-California) on June 24, California will cover approximately 142,500 undocumented children through Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program. California joins New York, Massachusetts, Washington, Illinois and the District of Columbia in providing health coverage to undocumented children.

Delaware Senate Advances Driver’s License Legislation

On June 23, the Delaware Senate, by a 17-1 vote, passed legislation that would permit undocumented residents to receive driver’s licenses. To receive the licenses, which would be marked “Not Valid for Identification” and “Driving Privileges Only,” applicants would have to sign an affidavit confirming their identity, establish proof of foreign nationality, demonstrate at least two years of residency in Delaware, submit fingerprints to police, provide state tax returns, and meet existing driving and licensing requirements applicable to legal residents.

The legislation now moves to the Delaware House of Representatives. Gov. Jack Markell (D-Delaware) has indicated that he supports the bill.

Government Reports

U.S. Government Accountability Office: Better Informed Decision Making Needed on Transformation Program, June 24, 2015

This GAO report reviewed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) Transformation Program. The report highlighted delays and cost overruns in the program, which is an ongoing effort to modernize the service’s electronic adjudication and case management systems. GAO issued a series of recommendations to improve governance and oversight of the program. DHS agreed with the recommendations, but disagreed with the reports criticisms of changes to the program’s acquisition strategy.

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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.