Legislative Bulletin – Friday, October 27, 2017

Policy and Advocacy Associate

October 27, 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. 3711

Legal Workforce Act

This bill would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to make mandatory and permanent requirements relating to use of an electronic employment eligibility verification system.

Sponsored by Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) (38 cosponsors)

09/08/2017    Introduced in House by Representative Smith

09/08/2017    Referred to the Committees on the Judiciary, Ways and Means, and Education and the Workforce

09/27/2017    Referred to the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.

10/25/2017     Committee Consideration and Mark-up Session Held.

10/25/2017     Ordered to be Reported (Amended) by the Yeas and Nays: 20 – 10.

H.R. 4092

Agricultural Guestworker Act (AG Act)

This bill would create a nonimmigrant H–2C work visa program for agricultural workers.

Sponsored by Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) (10 cosponsors)

10/23/2017     Introduced in House by Representative Goodlatte

10/23/2017     Referred to the Committees on the Judiciary, Education and the Workforce, and Ways and Means

10/25/2017     Committee Consideration and Mark-up Session Held.

10/25/2017     Ordered to be Reported (Amended) by the Yeas and Nays: 17 – 16

H.R. 4115

PARTNERS Act

This bill seeks to promote registered apprenticeships and other work-based learning programs for small and medium-sized businesses within in-demand industry sectors, through the establishment and support of industry or sector partnerships.

Sponsored by Representative Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) (1 cosponsor)

10/25/2017     Introduced in House by Representative Bonamici

10/25/2017     Referred to the Committees on Education and the Workforce and the Judiciary

H.R. 4145

Protect Victims of Crime Act

This bill would increase the yearly cap on the U visa program, created to protect victims of crime, from 10,000 to 40,000.

Sponsored by Representative Julia Brownley (D-CA) (14 cosponsors)

10/26/2017     Introduced in House by Representative Brownley

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Tuesday, October 31, 2017 through Friday, November 3, 2017.

The U.S. Senate will be in session the week of Monday, October 30, 2017.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

Oversight of the Executive Office of Immigration Review

Date: Wednesday, November 1, 2017 at 2:00PM (House Judiciary)

Location: 2141 Rayburn House Office Building

Witnesses: TBD

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

U.S. to Accept Refugees from All Countries after Tougher Vetting

A new executive order signed this week will allow the admission of refugees to the U.S. to resume with increased vetting. The Department of Homeland Security, Department of State and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a memorandum stating that they would be prioritizing refugees who are not from 11 unidentified countries. Although the information is not public, most of the countries that will be affected by the additional 90-day delay are reportedly in the Middle East and Africa.

The new order was released shortly after the Supreme Court dismissed the final appeal on President Trump’s travel ban. Refugee advocates expressed their disapproval of the new order, citing that refugee applicants are already subjected to a meticulous screening process.

USCIS Rescinds Guidance on Deference

On October 23, 2017, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a memorandum rescinding the guidance that allowed the agency to give deference to prior adjudications that found eligibility for a nonimmigrant visa when the petitioner was seeking an extension of that visa. Previously, if a petitioner was found eligible for nonimmigrant visa, their extension was almost guaranteed and cumbersome reapplication steps were avoided. Among the visas impacted are the H-1B and L1 visas. With the rescission of this guidance, USCIS officers will now review each extension request as if it were an initial application. In the memorandum, USCIS notes that it will be issuing guidance that is more consistent with the agency’s current priorities and will advance policies that protect the interests of U.S. workers.

Policymakers Eager to Find Legislative Solution for Dreamers

Speaker Paul Ryan revealed to a group of conservative House members this week that he plans to include a legislative fix for Dreamers as part of a year-end spending deal.  The Speaker also reportedly said additional border security measures would be included but not necessarily a wall.  Other legislators including Sen. Schumer spoke out this week to express a desire and intent to find a resolution for Dreamers before the end of the year.

Aware that DACA recipients will begin losing their work permits and protections in a little over two months, many members of Congress are pushing for a legislative fix. Top Republican Senators are working to propose a permanent solution for Dreamers that would support Democrats and that President Trump would be willing to sign.

GOP senators who are part of this working group indicated some ideas still being considered include increased border security provisions, limiting some chain migration, and moving immigration law towards a merit-based system.  The working group is also taking suggestions from other Republican senators on how to address the root cause of illegal immigration, Sen. Durbin stated that it would be unfair to tie comprehensive immigration reform to a DACA deal. While certain elements such as E-Verify would unlikely gain bipartisan support, Sen. Cornyn pointed out that there are other interior enforcement provisions that could. Although a bipartisan DACA deal still has a ways to go, top Republican lawmakers remain optimistic about finding a solution.

Democratic Senators Call TPS Renewal

On Thursday, October 26, a group of 22 Democratic Senators sent a letter to Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke, asking for a renewal of the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Honduras and El Salvador. The group was led by Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Tim Kaine (D-VA). The Secretary’s decision on TPS for the 57,000 Hondurans and 195,000 El Salvadorians in the U.S. is due on November 5, 2017 and January 1, 2018, respectively. Advocates have also been concerned about TPS for Haiti, which is set to expire on January, 22, 2018; the Secretary is set to make that decision on November 22, 2017. About 50,000 Haitians in the U.S. are currently shielded by TPS.

TPS is granted by the DHS Secretary to eligible foreign-born individuals who are unable to return to their home country safely due to conditions or circumstances preventing their country from adequately handling their return. The conditions may include an ongoing armed conflict such as civil war, an environmental disaster, an epidemic, and other extraordinary and generally temporary circumstances. The program has been in place since 1990.

10-year Old Detained on Her Way to Surgery

Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents detained ten-year old Rosamaria Hernandez suffering from cerebral palsy on her way from a medical facility in Laredo, Texas to a hospital in Corpus Christi. She was being transported to undergo an emergency gall bladder surgery. After stopping the ambulance, the agents allowed her to continue to the hospital but followed the ambulance the rest of the way and stood outside her room the entire time, including during surgery, until she was released. Rosamaria was then taken to a detention facility in San Antonio.

The agents tried to persuade Rosamaria’s cousin to take Rosamaria to a Mexican hospital and pressured her family to sign a voluntary departure form on her behalf. Her doctors have recommended that she be released to a relative due to her illness but the immigration agency has not consented to her release. Representative Henry Cuellar has called for Rosamaria to be released back to her family further stating that CBP should be devoting its resources on bigger threats.

Citizenship Applications on Track to Surpass FY16 Levels

More than 783,000 individuals applied for U.S. citizenship during the first three quarters of fiscal year (FY) 2016. That is nearly 60,000 more than the nearly 726,000 that submitted their application during the same time period last year. If this pace continues, the figure could exceed a total of 971,000 applicants in FY2016. For the first time in 20 years, the number of applications has not slipped after a presidential election and analysts expect the rising trend to continue as immigrants react to the administration’s tough rhetoric and enforcement.

The surge in application has resulted substantially increasing the processing backlog.  At the end of June, there were over 708,600 pending applications. That is much more than the 522,500 at the end of FY2016. In 2010, the backlog accounted for about 291,800 applications. The average wait time has doubled over the years as well, rising from four months to 8.6 months this year. Applicants in Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas and Miami generally wait a year or longer. Approximately 8.8 million permanent residents are currently eligible for citizenship after having the green card for at least five years. Mexicans and Central Americans have generally lower naturalization rates than Southeast Asians and Russians. The desire to naturalize has often been prevented by the $725 application fee or concerns about the civics test and losing some privileges in the home country.

Legal

Hawaii Judge Expands Halt on Trump’s Travel Ban

U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson expanded his block of the latest travel ban by converting his temporary restraining order, which went into effect this week, into a preliminary injunction. The preliminary injunction applies only to the six Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and Chad.

A federal judge in Maryland also halted the nationwide implementation of the Trump administration’s latest travel ban. The judges in both cases stated that government did not establish sufficient evidence to show why national security concerns justify the travel ban.

Court Stops Pentagon From Blocking Citizenship Applications By MAVNI Participants

On October 13, the DoD announced an additional change to policies regarding Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs), or green card holders, and MAVNI enlistees in the military. Under one of the new policies, LPR and MAVNI enlistees must serve at least 180 consecutive days of active duty service before being eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship. Before October 13, LPR and MAVNI enlistees could apply for naturalization after serving at least one day of active duty service.

A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction on October 26 ordering the Department of Defense (DoD) not to block about 2,000 non-citizen U.S. Army Reserve soldiers from applying for U.S. citizenship. U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle said that, as the lawsuit moves forward, the government cannot block certain individuals participating in the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program from completing Form N-426, a request for certification of military service, which is required for them to apply for naturalization. Under MAVNI, vetted non-citizens who are not permanent residents but have needed skills like medical training and critical language translation, may serve in the military and eventually naturalize. However, the DoD temporarily stopped the program and began requiring additional screening requirements of participants already in the program, which put the legal status of more than 1,000 recruits in jeopardy.

Huyelle noted in the court decision that the DoD policy is causing irreparable harm to the MAVNI recruits in the U.S. Army Reserve, since the new screening requirements could delay their applications for naturalization by years. Huyelle said recruits were left wondering whether they will lose their work or student visas, or be discharged and deported. She granted provisional class-action status to the affected U.S. service members. The DoD argued that the additional screening requirements for the MAVNI program were necessary for national security reasons. Advocates argued that the new screening requirements would deprive the U.S. military of recruits skilled in medical training and critical languages.

State & Local

New Hampshire Governor Urges Trump to Halt Deportations of Indonesian Christians

This week, the Governor of New Hampshire publicly requested President Trump’s administration reconsider its decision to deport 69 Indonesian Christians who fled violence two decades ago.  While the majority of the group entered the U.S. legally as tourists, most overstayed their visas and were unable to apply for asylum on time.  Nonetheless, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) made an arrangement with the group in 2010 allowing them to remain in the state in exchange for their passports and agreement to show up to regular check-ins with immigration officials.

The situation shifted in August of this year when during the routine check-ins, ICE officials began to demand these individuals to purchase one-way plane tickets to return to Indonesia. Several members of the group, who fled the country after 1,000 individuals died in the 1998 riots, expressed fear of discrimination or violence upon returning to their country. Immigration advocates, such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), filed lawsuits in Boston on behalf of 47 of the group members. Although a Chief U.S. District Judge halted the deportations, the question as to whether she has jurisdiction in an immigration matter remains.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

Congressional Research Service: Overview of “Travel Ban” Litigation and Recent Developments, October 23, 2017 (by Hillel R. Smith & Ben Harrington)

This Congressional Research Service report provides an overview of the three versions of the travel ban and the litigation related to those executive actions.

Congressional Research Service: Department of Homeland Security Appropriations, FY2018: Current Action, October 18, 2017 (by William L. Painter)

This report discusses the process that went into consolidating the House appropriation bills into one. The House version of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations Act, 2018 passed the house and the Senate version is still pending markups. The version passed now contains all 12 annual appropriations bills.

U.S. Government Accountability Office: Refugees: Federal Agencies and Their Partners Have Implemented Certain Measures, but Need to Further Strengthen Applicant Screening and Assess Fraud Risks, October 26, 2017 (by Rebecca Gambler & Thomas Melito)

This report examined the relationship between the Department of State (State) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in deterring and detecting fraud in refugee applications. It discusses the extent of the policies currently in place to detect fraudulent applications and looks at the integrity of the UNHCR resettlement referral process. The report also contains recommendations for the Department of State and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to strengthen the implementation of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.

 

* * *

*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.