Legislative Bulletin – Friday, November 21, 2014
Assistant Director for Immigration Policy and Advocacy
November 21, 2014
Bills Introduced and Considered
Providing for authority to initiate litigation for actions by the President or other executive branch officials inconsistent with their duties under the Constitution of the United States with respect to the implementation of the immigration laws.
Sponsored by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) (9 co-sponsors: Reps. John Culberson (R-TX), Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Steve Stockman (R-TX), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Lee Terry (R-NE), F. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Steve King (R-IA), and Paul Broun (R-GA))
11/17/2014 Introduced in House by Rep. Brooks
11/17/2014 Referred to House Committees on Rules and House Administration
To prohibit the use of funds for granting deferred action or other immigration relief to aliens not lawfully present in the United States.
Sponsored by Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) (1 cosponsor: Rep. Diane Black (R-TN))
11/20/2014 Introduced in House by Rep. Poe
11/20/2014 Referred to House Committee on the Judiciary
To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to expand the definition of an unauthorized alien to include aliens who have not been admitted to and are not lawfully present in the United States, and for other purposes.
Sponsored by Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA)
11/20/2014 Introduced in House by Rep. Barletta
11/20/2014 Referred to House Committee on the Judiciary
To establish a rule of construction clarifying the limitations on executive authority to provide certain forms of immigration relief.
Sponsored by Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) (5 co-sponsors: Reps. Mo Brooks (R-AL), Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Billy Long (R-MO), and Steven Palazzo (R-MS))
11/20/2014 Introduced in House by Rep. Yoho
11/20/2014 Referred to House Committee on the Judiciary
Nominations and Confirmations
By voice vote on November 12, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee voted to advance the nomination of Sarah Saldaña as Assistant Secretary of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Saldaña’s nomination has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee until December 4, where committee Republicans are hoping to schedule an unofficial sit-down meeting with her to discuss the president’s announcement of administrative action on immigration. The committee met to discuss her nomination on November 20.
Senate Republicans are seeking answers on President Obama’s executive action on immigration from Loretta Lynch, who was nominated to serve as Attorney General earlier this month. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) indicated that he was not intending to fast-track her nomination during the lame-duck session of Congress, pushing consideration of Lynch to the Republican-controlled Senate next year.
Legislative Floor Calendar
The U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate will be in recess for Thanksgiving the week of Monday, November 24.
Upcoming Hearings and Markups
Date: Tuesday, December 2, 9:00 am
Place: 311 Cannon (House Committee on Homeland Security)
Witnesses: The Honorable Jeh Johnson (Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security)
Date: Tuesday, December 2, 1:00 p.m.
Place: 2141 Rayburn (House Judiciary Committee)
Witnesses: To be announced
Themes in Washington This Week
Obama Announces Executive Action on Immigration
President Obama announced that he is taking broad executive action to reform the broken immigration system this week in a prime time speech on November 20, followed by an event the following day in Las Vegas.
Under the broad-based reforms, as many as five million people will be shielded from deportation through the use of deferred action, including the parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents through the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program. In conjunction with the president’s executive action, DHS issued a new department-wide enforcement and removal policy and announced that it is replacing the Secure Communities program with the Priority Enforcement Program.
The president’s executive action also will expand eligibility under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, create a Southern Border and Approaches Campaign Strategy, and set up a Task Force on New Americans.
The president’s announcement was met with praise from the immigration advocacy community, as well as the backing of Democratic congressional leadership. Many, however, continued to press for congressional action on immigration reform.
Republicans Decry Executive Action
President Obama’s announcement received fierce condemnation from Republicans, who asserted that it was unlawful, dictatorial, and illegitimate. On November 21, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) said that the executive action was “damaging the presidency” and that the House would take action to oppose it. The previous day, incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) condemned the president’s action and pledged a forceful congressional response.
While some Republican activists and officials have urged a fight with the president over government appropriations – which many have noted could lead to a government shutdown – Republican leadership has sought to tamp down shutdown talk. Leading Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee have noted that Congress has limited ability to defund the president’s executive actions, because much of the existing immigration system is fee-funded. Republicans have floated a number of alternative responses, including bringing a legal challenge, blocking the president’s nominations, or even impeachment.
Relating to the option of challenging the president’s executive action in court, on November 21, House Republicans filed their long-promised lawsuit against President Obama over the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. While that legal challenge does not address the administration’s actions on immigration, it could be amended to include immigration-related claims, or supplemented by a second lawsuit.
Some GOP voices have called for a more measured response to the president’s announcement, including passing alternative Republican immigration reform proposals. Reportedly, Republican leadership has been privately examining piecemeal immigration bills that would touch on a handful of issues with widespread support within the Republican conference – border security and guest worker programs – but would not address the status of the 11 million currently residing in the United States.
The announcement of administrative action has led to much commentary, both favoring the policy and opposing it. While some have claimed that the action is without precedent, others have noted that it resembles executive action taken by prior administrations and is consistent with legal precedent. Many have asserted that the policy is a departure from President Obama’s earlier stance on administrative reforms, while others have weighed in on the politics of the situation for both parties. Several experts have also noted that the policy will boost the economy.
Detention and Enforcement News
On November 18, ICE announced that it will be ending family detention in Artesia, NM, shifting detainees to the newer, larger facility opening next month in Dilley, TX. The announcement was criticized by several advocacy groups, who noted that the administration was continuing a fundamentally flawed family detention policy.
In a hearing on November 18, Republican members of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere criticized a September Presidential Memorandum from the Obama Administration that would allow some Central American children to obtain refugee status. The guidance, which was issued in response to the influx of unaccompanied children at the southern border, would permit immigrants legally residing in the United States to request access to refugee interviews for unmarried children under 21 years of age in their countries of origin. The children would receive in-country processing and, if approved, join their relatives in the United States.
In response to the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on November 20 that eligible nationals of Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone currently residing in the United States may apply for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The TPS designation will be in effect for 18 months.
On November 14, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed two new laws limiting the city’s cooperation with federal immigration detainers. Under the laws 486A and 487A, city authorities will not honor Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) requests absent a warrant establishing probable cause to hold the person. Only individuals with previous violent or serious felony convictions within the past five years or possible matches on a terrorism watch list may be held. New York joins a growing number of states and localities limiting cooperation with ICE detainer requests.
Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General: Major Management and Performance Challenges Facing the Department of Homeland Security, November 14, 2014
The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) released this report identifying the major challenges faced by DHS in a variety of areas, one of which is border security and immigration enforcement. The report found that, in general, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) suffered from insufficient communication, both within the agencies and with DHS. This led to ineffective monitoring of decisions, including ICE’s decision to release certain immigrant detainees without notifying DHS leadership, and programs, including ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, the Employment-Based Fifth Preference visa program, and the status of CBP’s temporary holding facilities for unaccompanied children. There were additional problems with CBP’s Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection program that made it possible for participants to partake in illegal cross-border activities. The report acknowledged that CBP, ICE, and USCIS have each made efforts to improve their processes and procedures, but that the agencies must do more to improve communication and coordination.
Congressional Research Service: U.S. Family-Based Immigration Policy, November 19, 2014 (by William A. Kandel)
CRS released this report detailing family-based immigration. Family-based immigrant visas are subject to numerical and per-country limits. The visas are separated into five different categories, including immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and four family preference categories ranked according to the applicant’s relationship to their U.S. citizen or LPR relative. There are an unlimited number of visas available to immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, while the other four categories have been limited to 226,000 visas in recent years.
Family-based immigrants accounted for approximately 66 percent of the 990,553 lawful permanent immigrant (LPR) admissions to the United States in fiscal year 2013, and more than half of those people became LPRs by adjusting their status while living in the United States. Of the total number of family-based immigrants, 68 percent were immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. The remaining 32 percent of family-based visas were granted to those in the four family preference categories.
Because there are far more individuals who apply for family-based visas through the four family preference categories than there are visas available, there is a significant backlog of people awaiting visas. As of November 1, 2013, there were 4.2 million people who had been approved for visas but were waiting for a visa to become available. On average, people wait between 1.5 and 12.5 years for their visas to become available, however, those who come from countries that send a large number of immigrants generally have to wait between 2 and 23 years for their visas. As a result, there have been various proposals to overhaul the family-based immigration system.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.