Legislative Bulletin – Friday, March 3, 2017

Policy and Advocacy Associate

March 3, 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. 1236

PROTECT Immigration Act

This bill would rescind the statutory authority for the federal government’s 287 (g) program, which permits the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to enter into agreements with state and local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration laws.

Sponsored by Representative Mike Quigley (D – Illinois) (13 cosponsors)

02/27/2017 Introduced in the House by Representative Quigley

02/27/2017 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 1303

The H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2017

The bill would reform the H-1B and L-1 visa programs to reduce fraud and require more transparency in the recruitment of foreign workers.

Sponsored by Representative Bill Pascrell (D – New Jersey) (3 cosponsors)

03/02/2017 Introduced in the House by Representative Pascrell

03/02/2017 Referred to the House Committees on the Judiciary and on Education and the Workforce

H.R. 1334

Assuring Law Enforcement Requests are Timely Evaluated by DHS (ALERTED) Act

The bill would require U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) to promptly respond to a local law enforcement official’s inquiry about suspected undocumented immigrants in their custody for a violation of any law.

Sponsored by Representative Buddy Carter (R – Georgia) (19 cosponsors)

03/02/2017 Introduced in the House by Representative Carter

03/02/2017 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 1342

Federal Immigration Law Campus Compliance Act of 2017

This bill would withhold reimbursement for “indirect” or overhead costs associated with research and developments grants from any institutions of higher education that do not comply with a request for information or detainment of an undocumented immigrants made by a Federal government officer or employee.

Sponsored by Representative Andy Harris (R – Maryland) (26 cosponsors)

03/02/2017 Introduced in the House by Representative Harris

03/02/2017 Referred to the House Committees on the Judiciary and on Science, Space and Technology

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Tuesday, March 7, 2017 through Friday, March 10, 2017.

The U.S. Senate will be in session the week of Monday, March 6, 2017.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Deputy Secretary Nomination

Date: Wednesday, March 8 at 9:30 a.m. (Senate Homeland Security)

Location: 342 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Witness:

Elaine C. Duke, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Nominee

The Department of Homeland Security’s Proposed Regulations Reforming the Investor Visa Program

Date: Wednesday, March 8 at 10:00 a.m. (House Judiciary)

Location: 2141 Rayburn House Office Building

Witnesses: TBD

U.S. Supreme Court Nomination

Date: Monday, March 20, 2017 (Senate Judiciary)

Location: TBD

Witness:

Neil M. Gorsuch, Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, Nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

Trump Reiterates Immigration Stance in First Joint-Session Speech

On February 28, President Donald Trump addressed a joint-session of Congress, where he called for stronger border security, reaffirmed his plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, and argued that the country needs “improved vetting procedures.” President Trump also advocated for a “merit-based immigration system,” similar to Canada, because he believes some immigrants are costing taxpayers money and jobs. At one point, the president asserted that federal immigration authorities are removing only the “bad ones,” though some noted that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s recent actions suggest otherwise.

The speech’s themes seemed contrary to the more positive tone the President took while hosting news reporters at a White House luncheon, where he allegedly said, “the time is right for an immigration bill, as long as there is compromise on both sides.” According to a senior administration official, Trump was also “open to the legalization of undocumented immigrants who have not committed serious or violent crimes.”

Trump Delays Revised Travel Ban, Will Possibly Exclude Iraq from Banned Countries

Once again, the White House has delayed the release of a revised executive order banning all entry into the United States from seven Muslim-majority nations and pausing the entire United States refugee program, possibly until sometime in the week of Monday, March 6. The revised executive order is expected to exclude Iraq from the list of countries whose citizens will be banned from entering the United States, following pressure from the Pentagon and State Department, which had been stressing Iraqis’ key role in fighting terrorism. In addition, the rewritten order will no longer impose an indefinite refugee ban on Syria and instead includes the country as part of a general 120-day halt of new refugee admissions. Further, the order is not supposed to include any exceptions for religious minorities in the countries targeted by the travel ban and will allow green card holders from the seven banned countries to re-enter the United States. The original executive order was blocked by a federal court, so the White House wants to tailor the revised executive order to comply with court rulings.

White House Announces Plan to Release Skinny Budget, Supplemental Bill to Pay for the Border

The White House announced on March 1 that it plans to release a budget outline, or “skinny budget,” for fiscal year (FY) 2018 by March 15. The outline is expected to call for an additional $2.7 billion for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which would bring the department’s total budget to roughly $44 billion. This would include nearly $2 billion more for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) office, which is responsible for apprehending and removing undocumented immigrants in the United States. ERO’s budget would increase about 60 percent from $3.1 billion to roughly $5 billion. The remaining $700 million for DHS would most likely fund parts of a wall along the Southwest border and other efforts to find, apprehend, and deport undocumented immigrants in the country. The White House noted that it plans to release a more detailed President’s Budget for FY 2018 in May, which would jump-start the appropriations process for FY 2018 in Congress.

Meanwhile, the White House is expected to request supplemental funding this year to pay for a wall along the Southwest border. DHS has identified only $20 million in its accounts that can be re-directed to pay for a wall and/or fence along the Southwest border, which is projected to cost as much as $21.6 billion. The funds are enough to cover some contracts for wall prototypes but not enough to begin construction of an actual barrier. The White House may request that Congress approve supplemental funding for the border wall as part of the discussions to fund the government for the remaining five months of FY 2017. Congress must pass a spending bill for the remainder of FY 2017 by April 28.

Call for More Border Patrol Agents Raises Concerns about Vetting in Hiring Process

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly’s memorandum calling for the hiring of an additional 5,000 Border Patrol agents and 500 Air and Marine Operations officers has raised concerns about the speed with which new applicants will need to be ushered through the hiring process to meet President Trump’s goal of increased border security. James Tomsheck, the former head of internal affairs at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), whose term coincided with CBP’s last hiring surge, noted on February 26 that if the hiring process is not rigorous and thorough enough, corrupt and criminal applicants can make it through the system. Tomsheck argued that the current vetting process, which includes a polygraph test, is necessary to prevent against hiring people with ties to criminal organizations, including gangs and drug cartels, and who have committed serious felonies.

Jackson, Mississippi Dreamer Apprehended by ICE after News Conference on Immigration

Daniela Vargas, a 22-year-old undocumented immigrant from Jackson, Mississippi, was detained by U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) on March 1 hours after she spoke at a news conference alongside other immigrant rights advocates. Vargas, who was brought to the United States when she was 7 years old, is in the process of renewing her work authorization and deferred action as provided under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Vargas’s DACA lapsed in November 2016 because she could not afford to pay for the renewal, which costs $495, but she was able to eventually submit her renewal application on February 10.

Vargas’s attorney said ICE agents told her on March 2 that they would pursue immediate deportation without a court hearing or bond because Vargas entered the country through the visa waiver program, which allows certain foreign nationals to enter the United States for up to 90 days without a visa, despite the pending DACA renewal application. By entering the United States through the visa waiver program, Vargas waived her rights to a hearing or to contest her removal unless she seeks asylum.

Vargas’s arrest and detention have raised questions about how vulnerable young, undocumented immigrants are for deportation and whether ICE chose to apprehend Vargas because she chose to speak out publicly on immigration.

State & Local

Florida Judge Rules that Miami-Dade Deportation Policy Violates Constitution

Florida Circuit Judge Milton Hirsch ruled on March 3 that the U.S. Constitution was violated when Miami-Dade County agreed to honor federal immigration detainers by holding people in jail on behalf of federal immigration authorities beyond the end of their sentences. Hirsch argued that the policy violated the Tenth Amendment, which limits the reach of the federal government over states. The ruling is a rebuke of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s decision to allow county jails to hold immigrants awaiting deportation on behalf of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Opponents of the Miami-Dade policy argue that it redirects scarce resources away from protecting the public to enforcing federal immigration laws, which, they argue, is not the job of the local government.

The immediate impact of the ruling is unclear because it does not explicitly order Miami-Dade County jails to stop honoring detainer requests by federal immigration. The county immediately filed a notice of appeal with the Third District Court of Appeals.

Santa Cruz’s Police Chief Accuses DHS of Secret Immigration Raid

Kevin Vogel, the Police Chief of Santa Cruz, California, accused Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials of turning an allegedly gang-focused operation into a secret immigration raid. According to Vogel, the federal authorities were not direct about the scope of the February raids that were conducted jointly between the local police and DHS. DHS had stated that the raid was aimed at apprehending MS-13 gang members in Northern California, but non-gang members were among those arrested. DHS denies that they mislead the police department, claiming that local law enforcement knew that others besides the gang members would be temporarily held and asked for their identities and histories. Vogel believes that DHS “acted outside the scope of this operation and…detained and removed a number of individuals from locations based upon their immigration status.” DHS said that besides 10 gang members, it detained 11 others for immigration violations, all but one of whom were released. Santa Cruz has declared itself a “sanctuary city” more than 30 years ago.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

U.S. Government Accountability Office: Border Security: DHS Has Made Progress in Planning for a Biometric Air Exit System and Reporting Overstays, but Challenges Remain, February 27, 2017

This GAO report reviews the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) progress in developing a biometric exit capability.

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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 cpenichetpaul@immigrationforum.org. Thank you.