Legislative Bulletin – Friday, March 17, 2017

Policy and Advocacy Associate

March 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. 608

This bill would rescind President Trump’s executive order from March, 6, 2017, barring travel from six Muslim-majority countries and suspending the U.S. refugee program.

Sponsored by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D – California) (38 cosponsors)

3/13/2017 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Feinstein

3/13/2017 Referred to Senate Judiciary Committee

S. 630

This bill would amend the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009 to make 2,500 visas available for the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program. This is the companion bill to H.R. 1544.

Sponsored by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D – New Hampshire) (5 cosponsors)

3/15/2017 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Shaheen

3/15/2017 Referred to Senate Judiciary Committee

S. 668

This bill would nullify the effect of the recent executive order regarding border security and immigration enforcement.

Sponsored by Senator Thomas Carper (D – Delaware) (23 cosponsors)

3/15/2017 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Carper

3/15/2017 Referred to Senate Judiciary Committee

H.R. 1463

Equal Protection for American Workers Act

This bill would prohibit the Secretary of Homeland Security from granting a work authorization to an alien found to have been unlawfully present in the United States.

Sponsored by Representative Michael C. Burgess (R – Texas) (0 cosponsors)

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

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

H.R.1471

This bill would suspend assistance to countries denying or delaying accepting aliens ordered removed from the United States.

Sponsored by Representative Glenn Grothman (R – Wisconsin) (0 cosponsors)

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

3/9/2017 Referred to the House Committee on the Foreign Affairs

H.R.1477

No Taxpayer Funding for the Wall Act

This bill would prohibit the use of Federal funds to build a wall along the southern border.

Sponsored by Representative Gwen Moore (D – Wisconsin) (27 cosponsors)

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

3/9/2017 Referred to the House Committees on the Foreign Affairs and Homeland Security

H.R. 1497

This bill would require all deportation officers of U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to wear body cameras when engaged in field operations and removal proceedings, and for other purposes.

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

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

3/10/2017 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 1544

This bill would amend the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009 to make 2,500 visas available for the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program. This is the companion bill to S. 630.

Sponsored by Representative Adam Kinzinger (R – Illinois) (15 cosponsors)

3/15/2017 Introduced in the House by Representative Kinzinger

3/15/2017 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate will be in session the week of March 20, 2017.

The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Monday, March 20, 2017, through Thursday, March 23, 2017.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

Nomination of the Honorable Neil M. Gorsuch to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States

Date: Monday, March 20, 2017 at 11 a.m. (Senate Judiciary)

Location: 216 Hart Senate Office Building

Nomination of Alex Acosta to serve as Secretary of Labor

Date: Wednesday, March 22, 2017 at 9 a.m. (Senate HELP)

Location: 430 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Perspectives from the DHS Frontline: Evaluating Staffing Resources and Requirements

Date: Wednesday, March 22, 2017 at 10 a.m. (Senate Homeland Security)

Location: SD-342, Dirksen Senate Office Building

Witnesses: TBA

Budget Hearing – Department of Education

Date: Wednesday, March 22, 2017 at 10 a.m. (House Appropriations)

Location: 2358-C Rayburn House Office Building

Witnesses: The Honorable Betsy DeVos, U.S. Secretary of Education

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Legal

Federal Judges Block Trump’s Travel and Refugee Ban

Federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland have blocked President Trump’s new executive order banning travel from six Muslim-majority countries, which was supposed to go into effect on March 16. The federal district court in Maryland issued a preliminary injunction halting only the 90-day ban on travel from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The federal district court in Hawaii issued a temporary restraining order halting the travel ban, but also blocking the portion of the executive order that would suspend new refugee admissions into the U.S. for 120 days. Both orders apply nationwide, with the Maryland court’s preliminary injunction applying through a trial on the merits and the Hawaii court’s temporary restraining order applying for 14 days, at which point the judge will reevaluate it.

In the Hawaii ruling, the court highlighted a number of Trump’s own comments and those of his close advisers to indicate that the executive order was meant to discriminate against Muslims and that there was a strong likelihood that the plaintiff states challenging the order would be able to demonstrate that it violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment. The federal court in Maryland also pointed to Trump’s comments, determining that the President’s executive order was “the realization of the long-envisioned Muslim ban.”

President Trump signed the revised executive order on March 6. Unlike the original order from January, which was blocked by a unanimous decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the new travel ban did not include travelers from Iraq and did 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 revised order also suspended the entire refugee admissions program for 120 days and limited refugee admissions to 50,000 for fiscal year 2017.

In a separate lawsuit, the federal court in Washington State that blocked the first executive order declined to extend its original ruling to apply against the updated travel ban. The court is still considering whether it will issue a separate ruling to block the new executive order.

On March 13, Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and more than 30 Democratic cosponsors introduced legislation to rescind the executive order.

Federal

Trump Releases Budget Outline to Fund the Government for 2018

The White House unveiled President Trump’s so-called skinny budget, or “budget top-lines,” for fiscal year (FY) 2018 on March 16. The budget includes approximately $2.6 billion to plan, design and build a physical wall or fence along Southern border, $1.5 billion in funding above FY 2017 levels for detention, transportation and removal of undocumented immigrants, $314 million to hire 500 new Border Patrol agents and 1,000 new ICE officers, and $15 million to invest in a mandatory E-Verify program. At the same time, the budget cuts funding on various non-defense discretionary programs, including offsetting the increases in immigration enforcement funding by eliminating or reducing $667 million in Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grants for state and local agencies and scaling back spending on security at airports and other transit hubs. The budget would also cut funding for the Labor Department and Department of Education by 21 percent and 9 percent, respectively.

The budget also proposes an $80 million increase in funding for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to hire an additional 75 immigration judge teams, bringing the total to 449, and a $171 million increase over FY 2017 for short-term detention to hold federal detainees, including “criminal aliens.” The White House is expected to release a more detailed version of the president’s budget for FY 2018 in May.

White House Releases Supplemental Budget Request; Shutdown Looms

The White House released a budget supplemental request on March 16 to increase funding for the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for the remaining five months of fiscal year (FY) 2017. The $33 billion request includes $3 billion in additional funding for DHS, including $1.4 billion to build a wall or fencing along the Southwest border and $1.15 billion to increase immigration detention.

On March 13, Senate Democratic leaders wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R –Kentucky) and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R – Mississippi) warning that Democrats will oppose any appropriations bill that contains overtly partisan riders, including funding to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Because current government funding for FY 2017 expires on April 28, an impasse could lead to a government shutdown.

Democrats Push Back Against Trump’s EOs

In recent weeks, House and Senate Democrats have introduced legislation to push back against President Trump’s executive orders on immigration. On March 15, Sen. Thomas Carper (D – Delaware) and 23 Democratic co-sponsors introduced bill S. 668, which would override Trump’s executive order on border security and immigration enforcement, which included initial steps of building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. The bill followed Sen. Feinstein’s bill introduced on March 13 that would overturn the travel and refugee ban executive order.

On March 15, 33 Democratic House members signed a letter to President Trump arguing that his interior enforcement executive order, which would withhold federal funds from “sanctuary” jurisdictions, is unconstitutional and should be withdrawn. In addition to seeking the withdrawal of the order, the letter directed a series of questions to the administration regarding the implementation of that interior enforcement executive order.

Earlier, on March 10, Rep. Yvette Clarke (D – New York) introduced  legislation, H.R. 1497, that would provide that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents wear body cameras. According to Clarke, the legislation was prompted by the executive orders’ increased emphasis on immigration enforcement and the potential for abuses.

Canadian Nurses Stopped at Border Due to New Immigration Policies

Last week, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers reportedly barred a number of Canadian nurses employed at Michigan hospitals from entering the U.S., citing policy changes under  President Trump. While Canadian nurses have previously in the U.S. under non-immigrant NAFTA professional (TN) visas, a subset of nurses with specialized skills – advanced practice nurses and nurse anesthesiologists – have had their visa renewals rejected.  The affected nurses have reportedly been advised that they must now apply for H-1B visas.

The TN visa category allows citizens of Canada and Mexico to work in the U.S. as “NAFTA professionals.” There are about 30,000 to 40,000 Canadians with expert knowledge working in the U.S under TN visas in certain fields, including nurses, economists and scientists. The H-1B visa is a separate visas category for specialty occupations that is capped at 85,000 per year for all applicants applying worldwide. Recently, the Trump administration announced it was ending expedited processing of H-1B visas, meaning that even those nurses fortunate enough to be awarded an H-1B visa will wait six months or longer.

ICE Arrests 250 in Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia

ICE announced on March 14 that it arrested approximately 250 undocumented immigrants in the last two weeks in the states of Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia. According to the information provided by ICE, more than half of those arrested do not have a conviction on their record and/or pending charges. ICE said that several of those arrested had were the subjects of detainers that the city of Philadelphia had failed to honor. In recent years, a growing number of jurisdictions have declined to honor immigration detainers over concerns that the requests are unlawful and expose the locality to civil liability.  Critics of ICE’s detainer policies have also complained that the policy can undermine community policing while redirecting scarce resources away from protecting the public to enforcing federal immigration laws. ICE has maintained that localities that fail to honor detainers “put[ ] the public at unnecessary risk,” and that enforcement activities by federal authorities are often necessary in such situations.

CNN/ORC Poll: Most Americans Support Path to Legal Status for Undocumented Immigrants

In a recent survey conducted by CNN/ORC, majority of Americans believe there should be a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants living in the country. Of the 1,025 U.S. adults surveyed, 60% say a pathway to legal residency should be the government’s first priority in terms of immigration, while 26% say stopping border crossings should be the top immigration priority. Fifty-eight percent worry deporting immigrants who have not committed serious crimes would be going too far, compared to 46% who fear deportation efforts would be too lenient, allowing for immigrants with criminal records to remain in the U.S. The survey also reports that 26% agreed that all undocumented immigrants should be deported while 71% disagreed.

In addition, the poll found that 90 percent of respondents — and 87 percent of Republicans — support a pathway to citizenship for immigrants who have resided in the United States for many years, have jobs, speak English and are willing to pay back any taxes they owe.

State & Local

Tennessee Sues Federal Government to Stop Refugee Resettlement in State

Tennessee is suing the federal government over refugee resettlement, claiming that it is violating the Refugee Act of 1980, the U.S. Constitution’s Spending Clause and Tenth Amendment. The lawsuit alleges that the federal government is violating the Refugee Act by forcing states to pay for the federally provided services by threatening to withhold funding for other programs, most notably Medicaid. The lawsuit aims to build off precedents that prevent the federal government from “commandeering” state officials to a carry out federal regulatory programs and place limitations on Congress’s use of its spending power to compel states to participate in a federal initiative.

Because Tennessee has already opted out from directly participating in refugee resettlement efforts – instead leaving those activities to non-governmental organizations – its anti-commandeering claim is likely to be viewed skeptically by the courts. Similarly, the state’s Spending Clause argument, which argues that the state could lose Medicaid funding by refusing to enroll eligible refugees in the program, would significantly expand existing Spending Clause jurisprudence.  A number of immigrant and civil rights groups have criticized the lawsuit.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

There were no immigration or workforce related government reports published during the week of Monday, March 13, 2017.

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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.