Legislative Bulletin – Friday, March 10, 2017

Policy and Advocacy Associate

March 10, 2017

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

BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED

H.R.____

Recognizing America’s Children (RAC) Act

This bill would provide immigrants that have been vetted by The Department of Homeland Security with three pathways toward legalization: higher education, service in the armed forces, or work authorization. Following a 5-year conditional status, these immigrants would be able to reapply for a 5-year permanent status.

Sponsored by Representative Carlos Curbelo (R – Florida) (9 cosponsors)

3/10/2017 Introduced in the House by Representative Curbelo

H.R. 1470

The Restoring Respect for Immigrant Service in Uniform Act

This bill would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to limit the grounds of deportability for certain alien members of the United States Armed Forces.

Sponsored by Representative Ruben Gallego (D – Arizona) (0 cosponsors)

3/9/2017 Introduced in the House by Representative Gallego

3/9/2017 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 1435

This bill would amend the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to remove citizenship and immigration barriers to access the Exchanges under such Act.

Sponsored by Representative Luis V. Gutierrez (D – Illinois) (1 cosponsor)

3/8/2017 Introduced in the House by Representative Gutierrez

3/8/2017 Referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and in addition to the Committee on Ways and Means

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate will be in session from Monday, March 13, 2017, through Wednesday, March 15, 2017.

The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Tuesday, March 14, 2017, through Friday, March 17, 2017.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

Business Meeting

This meeting will include consideration of Honorable Elaine C. Duke’s nomination to serve as the Deputy Secretary of U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Date: Wednesday, March 15, 2017 at 10 a.m. (Senate Homeland Security)

Location: 342 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Vows for Visas: Investigating K-1 Fiancé Fraud

Date: Wednesday, March 15, 2017 at 10 a.m. (Senate Judiciary)

Location: 226 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Witnesses: TBA

Nomination of Alex Acosta to serve as Secretary of Labor

Date: Wednesday, March 15, 2017 at 1:30 p.m. (Senate HELP)

Location: 430 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Immigration Benefits Vetting: Examining Critical Weaknesses in USCIS Systems

Date: Thursday, March 16, 2017 at 9:30 a.m. (House Homeland Security)

Location: House Capitol Visitor Center (HVC) Room 210

Witnesses: TBA

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

Trump Signs New Travel Ban, Spurring Unease among Advocates, Businesses

On Monday, March 6, President Trump signed a revised executive order banning travel from six Muslim-majority countries and freezing refugee resettlement. The scaled-back policy also revokes the President’s initial executive order, which was signed at the end of January and then blocked by the Ninth Circuit Court’s unanimous decision.

The new version, which will go into effect on March 16, suspends entry of citizens and nationals from six Muslim-majority countries — Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia and Yemen — for 90 days. Unlike the previous order, this ban does not include those from Iraq and does not apply to lawful permanent residents, dual nationals with passports issued by countries that are not banned, and those already approved for travel to the U.S. The order also suspends the entire refugee admissions program for 120 days and limits refugee admissions to 50,000 for fiscal year 2017. Refugees that the State Department has already scheduled for travel are not expected to be affected by the order.

The revised executive order spurred objections among a number of Silicon Valley technology companies, such as Uber and Airbnb, as well as immigration advocates across the country. Although the new policy is narrower than the original travel ban, many businesses, advocates and legal experts continue to insist that the ban is not the right approach.

State Attorneys General File Legal Challenges against the White House’s New Travel Ban

In response to the Trump administration’s introduction of the new travel ban, state attorneys general from Hawaii, New York, Oregon, and Washington State filed lawsuits against the executive order on March 9. The lawsuits mark the first legal challenges to the revised ban. New York State, Oregon, and Washington State are requesting that judges apply the Ninth Circuit Court’s decision against the previous ban to the new executive order. In the case of Hawaii’s lawsuit, the state has asked the court to grant an injunction against the new ban because it harms its businesses and universities while discriminating against Muslims. Massachusetts and Minnesota later announced they will join lawsuits against the executive order as well.

Experts have noted that the new travel ban’s revisions make it difficult to assess the lawsuits’ chances of success in securing a temporary restraining order. Because the new order clarifies its national security concerns and creates exceptions for individuals from the six affected countries on a case-by-case basis, the plaintiff states will likely find it more difficult to establish that it discriminates against Muslims.

The White House Considers Cuts to Security Agencies as Border Apprehensions Decline

As a part of the effort to provide funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall and increased enforcement against undocumented immigrants, the White House is considering cutting funding for the Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The White House would cut the Coast Guard’s $9.1 billion budget to $7.8 billion while decreasing the TSA and FEMA budgets by 11 percent to $4.5 billion and $3.6 billion, respectively. As Politico reports, these cuts would impact the Coast Guard’s budget for new helicopters, vessels, and other equipment. In response, a bipartisan group of 23 senators have written a letter requesting the Office of Management and Budget to restore the Coast Guard cuts.

The White House’s proposed budget cuts arrived at the same time that Customs and Border Protection (CPB) released data indicating that apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border fell by 40 percent between January and February 2017. These figures are significant since apprehensions have historically increased during this period. Although Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly credited this trend to the Administration’s enforcement policies, former DHS officials have suggested that other factors, such as seasonal trends, economic conditions in immigrants’ home countries, and increased fees by smugglers, also could have impacted these numbers.

Pew: Immigrants Expected to Account for All Growth in Working Age Population through 2035; Republicans Closer to Border More Likely to Oppose Wall

In a recent report, the Pew Research Center projects that the working-age (25 to 64 years old) population will grow by 10 million from 173.2 million to 183.2 million between 2015 and 2035. With Baby Boomers beginning to enter retirement, the report shows that this increase will be entirely due to immigration. The share of working-age, native-born adults  with U.S.-born parents is predicted to decline while the share working-age, native-born adults with foreign-born parents is expected to increase over the next two decades. New immigrant arrivals are also expected to increase from 33.9 million in 2015 to 38.5 million in 2035. Pew concludes that without these new immigrants, the total number of working-age adults would actually decrease by 2035.

In a separate report, Pew states that Republicans living within 350 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border are less likely to support construction of a border wall when compared with Republicans living more than 350 miles away. Of Republicans living further away, 76 percent support construction of the wall while 21 percent oppose, but closer to the border, only 63 percent support construction, and 34 percent oppose. For Democrats, the reverse is true. Closer to the border, Democrats are more likely to support wall construction (12 percent) while those farther away (7 percent) oppose it. Another Pew report showed that about 62 percent Americans continue to oppose building a wall along the entire U.S. border with Mexico, while 35 percent is in favor of the construction.

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Holds Confirmation Hearing for Department of Homeland Security Deputy Secretary

On March 8, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a confirmation hearing for Elaine C. Duke to serve as deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Senators Maggie Hassan (D – New Hampshire) and Claire McCaskill (D – Missouri) pressed Duke on the cost of the administration’s proposed border wall and its proposal to cut Coast Guard to free up wall funding. In response, Duke stated that she would consider technological alternatives to the wall if early evaluations showed that it failed to strengthen security along the Southern border. She also revealed that the DHS has been working on a cost-benefit analysis of the U.S.-Mexico border wall, which has been one of the main pillars of the White House’s immigration strategy.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

U.S. GAO: Immigrant Investor Program: Proposed Project Investments in Targeted Employment Areas, March 8, 2017 (by Rebecca S. Gambler)

This report examines the Employment-Based Fifth Preference (EB-5) immigrant visa category, which is meant to encourage capital investment in the U.S. by foreign investors. Specifically, the study provides information regarding the proportion of EB-5 petitioners investing in a rural or high unemployment targeted employment area (TEA); the proportion of applicants basing a TEA on the unemployment rate for various types of geographic areas; and the types of petitioners’ TEA projects and EB-5 investment as a proportion of total project investment. The GAO did not make any recommendations.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security – Office of Inspector General: DHS’ Pilots for Social Media Screening Need Increased Rigor to Ensure Scalability and Long-term Success, February 27, 2017 (by Inspector General John Roth)

This report is a review of DHS’ pilot programs that expand social media screening of immigration applications during the visa issuance process. The report stated that these pilots lack criteria for measuring performance to ensure they meet their objectives, and thus may provide limited information for future planning and implementing of an effective social media screening program. The Office of Inspector General (OIG) made a recommendation to help ensure that DHS develops an effective social media screening program.

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