Legislative Bulletin – Friday, September 15, 2017

Policy and Advocacy Associate

September 15, 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. 3354

Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act, Fiscal Year (FY) 2018

This bill provides discretionary funding for the federal government’s non-military responsibilities for fiscal year (FY) 2018, including for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Sponsored by Representative Ken Calvert (R-California) (0 cosponsors)

07/21/2017 Introduced in the House by Representative Calvert

07/21/2017 Marked up and Passed by the House Committee on Appropriations

09/06/2017 Debated and Amended by the U.S. House of Representatives

09/14/2017 Passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a 211 to 198 vote

H.R. 3697

Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act

This bill would define the term “criminal gang” as an ongoing group or association of five or more persons involved in certain criminal offenses and prevent individuals designated as belonging to a criminal gang from entering the U.S. and receiving immigration benefits, such as asylum, and help remove those present in the U.S.

Sponsored by Representative Barbara Comstock (R-Virginia) (6 cosponsors)

09/07/2017 Introduced in the House by Representative Comstock

09/07/2017 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

09/13/2017 Passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a 233 to 175 vote

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate will be in session from Monday, September 18, 2017 to Wednesday, September 20, 2017.

The U.S. House of Representatives will not be in session the week of Monday, September 18, 2017.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

There are no immigration-related hearings or markups scheduled for the week of Monday, September 18, 2017.

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

Confusion Mounts after Trump, Democratic Leaders Appear to Agree on Basic Outline to Move Forward on Dreamers

Confusion mounted after Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) announced on September 13 that they had reached a basic outline with President Trump to pursue legislation that would protect Dreamers from deportation and enact border security measures that would not include a physical wall. The subject of Dreamers, young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, was discussed during a dinner at the White House about one week after President Trump ended Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

The announcement of a potential deal outline generated out pushback from immigration critics, and was denied by President Trump who stated on the morning of September 14 that “no deal” had been finalized on DACA and that he would want “very, very powerful” border security in any package that comes forward. However, seemingly supporting the Schumer-Pelosi version of events, Trump seemed to indicate that his demand for a physical wall could come later. He also tweeted in support of Dreamers, expressing support for a deal that would support Dreamers and achieve increased border security.

While Trump maintained Republican leadership was “on board” with his Dreamer strategy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) released a statement that made clear he had not seen the legislative proposal discussed by Trump and the Democratic leaders. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) denied that Trump had reached an agreement with Schumer and Pelosi and is reportedly creating an informal working group of House Republicans to find a legislative solution for DACA recipients. The working group consists of Speaker Ryan, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) and Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Florida), Martha McSally (R-Arizona), Will Hurd (R-Texas), John Carter (R-Texas), Michael McCaul (R-Texas), Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia), Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) and Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) and is geared towards finding a proposal that the majority of House Republicans can support. Speaker Ryan and other Republican leaders in the House will also continue to hold conversations with Democratic leaders.

Pope Francis Says President Trump Should Reconsider Decision to End DACA

Pope Francis said on September 12 that President Trump should reconsider his decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) if he considers himself “a good pro-lifer,” noting that family is the “cradle of life” and its unity must be protected. Pope Francis argued that allowing DACA recipients to remain in the U.S. is important for family unity. Catholic Bishops in the U.S. also spoke out in opposition to the president’s decision to end DACA, with Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York noting that ending DACA is the “wrong way” to approach immigration and that penalizing Dreamers is “certainly not Christian, and…not American.”

Trump Administration Considers Lowering Number of Refugees Allowed into the U.S.

The Trump administration is reportedly considering reducing the number of refugees permitted to enter the U.S. to less than 50,000 a year, the lowest number since at least 1980. President Trump’s executive order banning travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries already caps the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. at 50,000, less than half of the 110,000 refugees President Obama agreed to admit in 2016. However, as October 1 nears – the annual determination deadline for the number of refugees admitted to the country set by the Refugee Act of 1980 – the Trump administration has started to consider lowering the number of refugees allowed in the U.S. even further. While the White House, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the State Department have stated that a final decision has not been made, DHS officials reportedly recommended a ceiling of 40,000 refugees a year.

Proponents of refugee resettlement argue that refugee resettlement is a core American value and have advocated against reducing this number.

DHS Implements Visa Sanctions on Four Countries

DHS and the State Department announced on September 13 they will no longer issue certain visas to Cambodia, Eritrea, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, as punishment for those countries to accept deported nationals from the U.S. In making the announcement, DHS noted that the countries “delayed or refused to issue travel documents to their citizens” that the U.S. wishes to remove. The severity of sanctions differs from country to country.  The sanction on Eritrea prevents issuance of any business or tourist visas, while Cambodian sanctions deny access to business and tourism travel specifically for high-level government officials and their immediate family members. Guinea will not be able to issue student and cultural exchange visas to certain government officials and family members, among other visas. Sanctions in Sierra Leone deny business and tourist visas to officials in the country’s foreign ministry and immigration offices.

DHS warned that a lack of an appropriate response could warrant “the scope of these sections may be expanded to a wider population” and that sanctions would continue until cooperation “improved to an acceptable level.” The U.S. has used visa sanctions as a punishment twice in the past decade and a half, pursuant to Section 243(d) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

U.S. Army Cancels Contracts for Hundreds of Immigrant Enlistees

Recruiters from the U.S. Army have reportedly canceled enlistment contracts for hundreds of immigrant military recruits since last week, leaving some without legal status and susceptible to deportation. The recruits reportedly enlisted in the military through Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI), which allows individuals who are not permanent residents but have medical training or critical language translation skills to serve in the military and eventually obtain U.S. citizenship. Although the Department of Defense (DoD) has not decided to end MAVNI, U.S. Army recruiters have seemingly started to cancel their contracts with MAVNI enlistees to free themselves from an onerous enlistment process and focus on individuals who can more quickly enlist. The contract cancellations could leave immigrant military enlistees susceptible to deportation despite their desire to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces.

MAVNI was created during the administration of George W. Bush in order to mitigate critical gaps among personnel in the military. However, after the DoD changed its security standards for MAVNI recruits in September 2016, MAVNI recruits became ineligible for security clearances until after the completion of their first enlistment, which severely limited the ability of many MAVNI service people to move forward with their military careers and created a significant backlog of applications. MAVNI was temporarily suspended in late 2016 and is currently not accepting new applications for fiscal year (FY) 2017. In June 2017, the DoD considered scaling back or ending the MAVNI program, including cancelling enlistment contracts for 1,800 MAVNI enlistees.

House Passes Bill on Immigrant Gang Members

The House voted on September 14 to pass the  Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act (H.R. 3697) by a 233 to 175 vote.

H.R. 3697, was introduced by Representative Barbara Comstock (R-Virginia) on September 7. The bill would expand the authority of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to remove or detain immigrants who are suspected of gang activity. Opponents of the bill argued that it would give DHS wide latitude in designating groups of people as gangs, potentially including religious workers, and seeking to deport or detain them before a crime has been committed. The bill would also block people who are gang affiliated or suspected of gang activity from requesting asylum in the U.S. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus stated that the bill “broadly overreaches and puts Americans and immigrants at risk of being unjustly profiled.” However, the White House released a statement on September 14 applauding the House for considering the bill and encouraging the Senate to also pass the bill.

Homeland Security Appropriations Bill Gains House Passage

On September 14, the House passed the Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act (H.R. 3354), which would fund most of the federal government’s non-military responsibilities for FY 2018, by a 211 to 198 vote. The spending bill contains approximately $49.5 billion in discretionary funding for DHS, including $12.2 billion for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a $55 million increase from FY 2017, and $7 billion for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a $620 million increase from FY 2017. Since the Senate has not released its DHS spending bill for FY 2018, it remains unclear whether the House’s funding levels will become law. Congress passed a continuing resolution last week to maintain the government funded at the current spending levels until December 8.

Legal

Supreme Court Overturns Part of Ninth Circuit’s Ruling on the Travel and Refugee Bans

On September 11, the Supreme Court granted the Trump administration’s request to temporarily lift some restrictions on the president’s travel and refugee bans while the court case moves forward. The Supreme Court’s order reverses part of a decision by the U.S.  Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which held last week that certain refugees qualify as having a “bona fide relationship” to come to the U.S. The appeals court had affirmed a lower court’s decision that refugees abroad with sponsorship form U.S. resettlement agencies could enter the U.S. because they meet the standard of a “bona fide relationship with an entity in the U.S.” Without the Supreme Court’s intervention, the appeals court’s decision on refugees would have taken effect on September 12. An estimated 24,000 refugees are now expected to be stopped from entering the U.S. while the court considers broad legal challenges to the Trump administration’s travel and refugee bans.

The Ninth Circuit court also affirmed last week that those who qualify for “bona fide relationships” include extended family members of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, including grandparents, grandchildren, brothers- and sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, cousin, nieces and nephews. However, the administration did not challenge that part of the court’s ruling and the Supreme Court did not address it.

The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments on the travel and refugee bans on October 10.

California Challenges Trump Administration’s Decision to Rescind DACA

California and three other states filed a lawsuit on September 11 challenging the Trump administration’s decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) last week. The lawsuit, which was joined by Minnesota, Maryland and Maine, argues that DACA’s rescission is a violation of the Fifth Amendment due process clause because it may lead to the Trump administration using the personal and contact information DACA recipients gave to the government for their participation in the program to deport them or prosecute their employers, despite the federal government’s promise at the time not to use the information for that purpose. In addition, the lawsuit argues that the DACA rescission violates the Administrative Procedure Act, which requires that an agency provide the public proper notice of a policy change and solicit public comments on the suggested changes. The lawsuit also notes that DACA’s rescission will hurt the states’ economies, because DACA recipients will no longer be able to work legally in the U.S. and participate in the states’ workforce.

California’s lawsuit follows a separate, but similar lawsuit filed in New York on September 6 by 15 states and the District of Columbia challenging the Trump administration’s decision to rescind DACA. It also follows a separate lawsuit filed by the University of California (UC) on September 8.

Federal Judge Blocks Department of Justice Guidelines Requiring Notice of Immigrant Releases, Access to Jails

U.S. District Court Judge Harry Leinenweber ruled on September 15 that Attorney General Jeff Sessions cannot withhold public safety grant money to Chicago or other so-called sanctuary cities for refusing to grant federal immigration officials access to local jails and giving federal authorities a 48-hour notice before releasing any individuals wanted for an immigrant violation. Leinenweber granted Chicago’s request for a temporary nationwide injunction, which means that the Department of Justice cannot deny grant requests on this basis for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program until Chicago’s lawsuit is concluded. JAG grants are a leading source of federal funding to state and local jurisdictions to support law enforcement, prosecution and crime prevention, among other initiatives.

Legal experts and law enforcement officials have expressed concern that the 48-hour notice requirement may be impossible to meet in some circumstances, particularly when those detained post bond or have their criminal cases dismissed.

Plaintiffs and Defendants Agree to Voluntarily Dismiss Texas v. U.S.

The plaintiffs and defendants in Texas v. United States ended this week after the partiesstipulated to the voluntary dismissal of the case following President Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) on September 5. The court case which challenged the Obama administration’s never-implemented Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and the expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), both of which were blocked by U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and a deadlocked Supreme Court. On September 8, Texas and the 25 other states that sued the Obama administration over DAPA and expanded DACA requested that thebe dismissed following President Trump’s decision to end DACA, but District Court Judge Andrew Hanen denied the request. However, now that both plaintiffs and defendants have agreed to voluntary dismiss the case, it has effectively ended.

State & Local

California Allocates $30 Million to Support Dreamers

Governor Jerry Brown (D-California) and the California State Legislature agreed to allocate $30 million for legal services and financial assistance to help protect Dreamers from deportation and assist them to obtain a higher education in the aftermath of President Trump’s decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). An estimated $20 million will be set aside for immigration legal services, while $10 million will go to public colleges and universities to provide financial assistance to DACA recipients.

In addition, Brown expressed support this week for an amended version of California’s S.B. 54, which would allow local law enforcement authorities to limit their participation in federal immigration enforcement, though it would permit local officers to transfer immigrants to federal authorities if they have been convicted of one of 800 specified crimes in the law.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Immigration Statistics, Efforts by DHS to Estimate Southwest Border Security Between Ports of Entry, September 2017

This report examines recent and ongoing efforts by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Border Patrol to estimate the level of border security between ports of entry along the southwest border. The report concludes that the southwest border is more difficult to cross illegally today than ever before and that the U.S. currently has the lowest number of unauthorized crossings at least since 2000, and likely since the early 1970s.

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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.