Legislative Bulletin – Friday, October 28, 2016
Policy and Advocacy Associate
October 28, 2016
BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED
There were no immigration or workforce related bills introduced or considered in the two weeks leading up to Friday, October 28, 2016.
LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR
The U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate will be in recess until the week of November 14, 2016.
UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS
There are no hearings or markups scheduled for the two weeks that end on Friday, November 11, 2016.
THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK
ICE Moves to Use Private Prisons Shuttered by DOJ
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that it finalized negotiations to move immigrant detainees into the Cibola County Correctional Center, a for-profit facility formerly used by the Department of Justice (DOJ), while extending a contract with Corrections Corporation of America to continue using the South Texas Family Residential Center. The Cibola facility, which has 1,116 beds, and the South Texas Family Residential Center, with 2,400 beds, will help ICE deal with an unexpected increase in the detained population. ICE is seeking as many as 5,000 beds to help house detained immigrants. As a result, the agency is considering at least three detention centers owned and managed by private corporations and previously used by DOJ, including the facility at Cibola County.
In August 2016, DOJ announced that it would eventually stop using private prisons because it determined private facilities do not maintain the same level of safety and security as government-run prisons. After the DOJ announcement, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it would consider whether to follow suit. DHS has created a subcommittee to study the issue and submit an evaluation on November 30.
USCIS Announces Final Rule Adjusting Immigration Application Fees
U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a final rule published in the Federal Register on October 24 adjusting the fees for most immigration applications and petitions. Overall, most fees will increase for the first time in six years by a weighted average of 21 percent. The fee for the naturalization application will increase by $45 to $640, or about eight percent, not including the $85 biometrics exam fee. USCIS will also introduce a partial fee waiver for the naturalization application for applicants with an income between 150 and 200 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL). The partial fee waiver will reduce the naturalization application fee to $320 for eligible low-income applicants. Other notable fee adjustments include the fee for Form N-600, the Application for Certificate of Citizenship. The fee, which is used by U.S. citizens who adopt children born outside the United States, will increase by more than 100 percent from $550 to $1,170. The new fees will be effective on December 23.
Sessions Voices Openness to Ending H-1B Visa Program
On October 25, Senator Jeff Sessions (R – Alabama) expressed a willingness to eliminate the H-1B visa program, which allows U.S. employers to employ graduate level workers in occupations that require technical expertise in a specialized field. Sessions argued that the H-1B visa depresses wage growth because companies bring in foreign workers instead of raising wages to hire American workers. However, many employers note that they face serious challenges finding qualified technical workers to fill their openings, so they rely on high-skilled workers from other countries to fill the skills gap. The H-1B visa program allows these skilled workers in fields such as IT services, finance, engineering, science and medicine to live and work in the U.S. temporarily. About 173,000 H-1B visas were issued in fiscal year 2015.
Pew Research Survey Shows Strong Support for Legal Status
A survey of registered voters released by the Pew Research Center on October 27 indicates that 80 percent of voters support a way for undocumented immigrants to earn legal status if they meet certain requirements. The survey also shows that less than 15 percent of registered voters support an effort to deport undocumented immigrants from the United States. Overall, the results show strong support for earned legal status by a margin of four to one.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio Charged with Criminal Contempt
Arizona’s Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was officially charged with criminal contempt by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton on October 25. The charges stem from a 2007 case in which Sheriff Arpaio was accused of discriminatory policing practices against Latinos. In 2011, U.S. District Judge Murray Snow had issued an order halting such practices, but Sheriff Arpaio and his deputies defied the order for more than a year.
Sheriff Arpaio could face up to six months in jail if convicted. A December 6 trial has been scheduled in Arpaio’s criminal contempt case.
Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Excessive Force Case at U.S.–Mexico Border
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case looking at the issue of whether civil suits may be filed in U.S. federal courts for certain cross-border shootings committed by U.S. border patrol agents. In the case, Hernandez v. Mesa, the parents of a Mexican child fatally shot by a border patrol agent along the U.S.-Mexico border contend that they have a right to pursue a civil claim for excessive use of force in U.S. federal court. The 15-year-old was shot while in Mexican territory by a border guard standing in American territory after running up to and touching a border fence.
The Obama Administration argued that Mexico should maintain jurisdiction over cross-border shootings which occur on Mexico’s territory and submitted a brief asking that the Supreme Court deny review of the case. The case was dismissed by a trial court and appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, where a three-judge panel found that that part of the case could move forward.
Data Shows that Immigrant Families without Lawyers Face Greater Likelihood of Deportation
New data released by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University on October 18 shows that immigrant families without lawyers face a greater likelihood of deportation than those who are able to obtain legal representation. Analysis of the data revealed that, “just one in 15 unrepresented families were able to file papers claiming asylum or apply for other forms of relief from deportation, compared with 70 percent of families who were able to obtain legal representation.” The data also found that 43.4 percent of immigrant families without a lawyer were subject to deportation, while only 4 percent of families with legal representation were ordered deported.
The data reinforces growing concerns about the importance of legal representation for immigrants in the federal immigration system who must navigate complex immigration laws in order to seek legal relief from deportation.
Illinois DREAMer Files Challenge to Nationwide Injunction in Texas v. U.S.
On October 12, José Lopez, a recipient of relief under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), filed suit in federal court in Illinois challenging the nationwide injunction that blocked key elements of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. The February 2015 injunction in Texas v. U.S. put into place by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen and upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and an evenly-divided (4-4) U.S. Supreme Court, most notably halted Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and the expansion of DACA.
Lopez, who had his three-year work authorization revoked and replaced by a two-year work permit as a result of the injunction, filed suit challenging its nationwide scope. His suit follows a similar suit filed in September by DREAMer Martin Batalla Vidal, a DACA recipient from New York.
State & Local
Louisiana Citizen Files Lawsuit against State Marriage Law
In a lawsuit filed in mid-October, Viet “Victor” Anh Vo challenged the recently-implemented Louisiana law that requires immigrants to show a valid visa and birth certificate in order to obtain a marriage license. Vo, who was born in an Indonesian refugee camp and became a U.S. citizen when he was 8 years old, decided to file the lawsuit after he and his fiancée were denied a marriage license due to his inability to provide a birth certificate, claiming that the law has violated his constitutional rights.
Critics have been warning that the new law, which took effect in January, prevents some legal immigrants from getting married. A number of legal immigrants – namely those who came to the U.S. as refugees, lack the specific documents and/or are unable to retrieve them from their countries of origin. Louisiana lawmakers who support the bill say the law was enacted to prevent fraudulent marriages.
U.S. Government Accountability Office: Immigrant Investor Program: Proposed Project Investments in Targeted Employment Areas, September 19, 2016
This GAO report provides an overview of the 6,652 petitions filed in the fourth quarter of FY 2015 for the Employment-Based Fifth Preference (EB-5) immigrant visa program. The EB-5 program is available to immigrant investors and their families seeking to immigrate to the United States. To be eligible, immigrant investors must invest $1 million in a new business that will result in the creation of at least 10 permanent full-time jobs or a reduced amount of $500,000 if the investment is made in a targeted employment area (TEA). The report notes that in the fourth quarter of FY 2015, about 90 percent of petitioners elected to invest in a high unemployment area. The report was publicly released on October 19, 2016.
Congressional Research Service: DHS Appropriations FY2017: Research and Development, Training, and Services, October 20, 2016
This CRS report discusses FY 2017 appropriations for the components generally included in the fourth title of the homeland security appropriations bill, including U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
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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 email@example.com. Thank you.