Legislative Bulletin – Friday, September 2, 2016
Policy and Advocacy Associate
September 2, 2016
BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED
There were no immigration bills or workforce related bills introduced or considered in the week of August, 29, 2016.
LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR
The U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate will be in session from Tuesday, September 6, 2016 through Friday, September 9, 2016.
UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS
Date: Tuesday, September 13, 2016 at 10:00 a.m. (House Homeland Security)
Location: 311 Cannon House Office Building
Mark Morgan, Chief of U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Peggy Davis, Private Citizen
Gary Brasher, Private Citizen
Dr. Elyse Golob, Executive Director of the National Center for Border Security and Immigration, the University of Arizona
Date: Wednesday, September 14, 2016 at 10:00 a.m. (House Homeland Security)
Location: 311 Cannon House Office Building
THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK
Trump Reiterates Immigration Positions
After Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump met privately with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in Mexico City on August 31, where they cordially touched on immigration, border security and trade issues, he then traveled to Phoenix, Arizona and delivered a major speech on immigration. Despite earlier reports that Trump may be open to modifying his positions on immigration, Trump’s speech reiterated his support for building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, opposing legal status for undocumented immigrants, and announced new policy positions such as requiring undocumented immigrants to self-deport before re-entering the United States to gain citizenship and requiring that authorizations for visa levels sunset.
Congress Prepares for Debate on Continuing Resolution, Possible Shutdown
The House and Senate return from recess on September 6, leaving Congress just three weeks to pass a spending bill before the fiscal year ends on September 30. Democratic leaders and some Republicans support passing a short-term continuing resolution that funds the government until after the November election, which would allow lawmakers to negotiate the rest of the fiscal year’s budget in the lame-duck session.
However, on August 29, 33 conservative organizations sent a joint letter to lawmakers pushing for a spending bill that would keep the government open at the current funding levels until early next year, potentially through March. A number of conservative House Republicans support the longer-term continuing resolution. They are concerned that Democrats would use a year-end negotiation to force Republicans to choose between voting for more spending or threatening a government shutdown during the holidays. On September 1, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D – Nevada) stated that Democrats will not support a continuing resolution that lasts until early next year and warned Republican leaders that there could be a government shutdown if they attempted to pass such a bill.
Polls Show Positive Views of Undocumented Immigrants, Strong Support for Reform
New polls by Fox News and the Pew Research Center reveal generally positive views about undocumented immigrants and strong support for a pathway to legal status or citizenship. A Fox News poll released on August 31 found that voters support setting up a system for undocumented immigrants currently working in the United States to become legal residents over deporting as many of them as possible by 77 to 19 percent. Earlier on August 25, the Pew Research Center released its results from a poll that found most Americans (45 percent) say that border security and a path to citizenship should be give equal priority rather than favor either approach individually and a significant number (29 percent) say that a pathway to citizenship should be given priority over border security. It found that 61 percent of Americans oppose building a wall in the U.S.-Mexico border. The survey also found that a large majority of people think undocumented immigrants are as hard working and honest as U.S. citizens (76 percent), no more likely than citizens to commit crimes (67 percent) and mostly fill jobs U.S. citizens do not want (71 percent).
DHS to Review the Use of Privately Run Immigration Detention Facilities
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on August 29 that it will review the practice of using private contractors to run its immigration detention facilities. DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson stated that he directed his advisory council to evaluate whether DHS should continue to use private contractors for immigration detention facilities. William Webster, chairman of the Homeland Security Advisory Council, will create a council subcommittee to review relevant policies and practices and to consider all factors, including cost. The advisory council will make a recommendation by November 30.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) currently uses 46 detention facilities operated by private contractors, out of the roughly 180 facilities in which ICE holds immigrants. About 73 percent of detainees held by the agency are in privately operated facilities. Opponents of privately run immigration detention facilities often argue that they have substandard medical care and conditions.
The announcement comes after officials at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said they will phase out the use of private prisons. DOJ officials concluded that the privately-run facilities are less safe and less effective than those operated by the government.
U.S. Meets Goal of Resettling 10,000 Syrian Refugees
This week, the Obama administration reached its goal of admitting 10,000 refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria, almost exactly one year after President Barack Obama announced his plan to admit more Syrians seeking refuge in the U.S.
The Syrian refugees who have arrived since 2012 are situated throughout 231 towns and cities across the United States. While a number of Syrian refugees were sent to large cities such as Chicago and Houston, most were resettled in smaller, more affordable communities like Boise, Idaho. Overall, Boise has accepted more Syrian refugees than New York and Los Angeles combined.
Latin American Governments Seek Dialogue on U.S. Policy on Cuban Migrants
The foreign ministers of nine countries in Central and South America called on the United States this week to host a high-level meeting to discuss its policy on Cuban migrants. In a public letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, the ministers said that the “wet foot, dry foot” policy is fueling “disorderly, irregular and unsafe” migration of Cubans through their countries and financing illicit human smuggling networks in the region. The ministers also said that the policy is discriminatory.
More than 125,000 Cuban migrants have resettled in the United States over the past four years. The increase in Cuban migrants entering the U.S. is partly due to concerns in Cuba that the normalizing relations with the United States will end the “wet foot, dry foot” policy. Under the policy, which was established in the 1990s, Cubans who reach United States soil are generally allowed to become permanent residents within one year and to apply for citizenship in six. In contrast, those who are apprehended at sea are turned back to Cuba. Cuban migrants to the United States often fly to other countries in Latin America, including those that admit Cubans without entry visas, and then make their way to Mexico’s northern border.
USCIS Proposes New Rules for Immigrant Entrepreneurs
On August 23, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) proposed new immigration rules that would allow foreign-born entrepreneurs with a significant stake in a start-up company to remain in the United States for up to five years. To qualify the rule proposes that immigrant entrepreneurs must hold an ownership interest of at least 15 percent of the company, have an active and central role in its operations and raise at least $345,000 from qualified U.S. investors or receive $100,000 in grants from select government agencies. The proposed rule aims to address complaints that existing laws force many highly educated immigrants to return to their countries of origin every year, who then start companies abroad that compete with U.S. firms instead of building those companies in the United States.
New Developments in Texas v. U.S.
After a hearing on August 31, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen kept in place a stay of his order requiring the release of the personal information of about 50,000 DACA recipients and sanctioning attorneys from the Department of Justice who he said misled him in Texas v. U.S. In May 2016, Hanen handed down an unprecedented order alleging that lawyers in the Justice Department misled him in Texas v. U.S. regarding the implementation date of DACA expansion and ordered the government to turnover the personal information of around 50,000 DACA recipients who received 3-year work authorization grants as part of President Obama’s November 2014 executive actions.
On September 1, Martin Batalla Vidal, a DACA recipient from New York, filed a federal lawsuit on September 1 alleging that Hanen’s injunction in Texas v. U.S., which barred the implementation of DAPA and DACA expansion throughout the country, is too broad to be legal. Batalla Vidal’s effort aims to narrow the scope of the original order, since Hanen’s decision stopped the implementation of these executive actions in the 24 states that did not join Texas’ law suit to stop the executive actions. Since Batalla Vidal would have benefited from the implementation of expanded DACA, legal analysts believe there likely is standing in the case.
Justice Department Provided Incorrect Data to the Supreme Court
On August 24, the Department of Justice announced in a letter to the U.S. Supreme Court that it made “several significant errors” that understated the time certain immigrants with criminal records spend in no-bail detention in Demore v. Kim, which involved a challenge to the government’s practice of holding immigrants without bail. The Supreme Court’s 2003 decision that the very limited time of detention such immigrants face while their appeals are pending is too short to trigger a constitutional right to a hearing to argue for bail was based on that erroneous government data. The new estimate by the Justice Department finds the average detention period is more than one year, which is three times the four-month estimate originally submitted to the Supreme Court.
State & Local
Phoenix City Council Approves ID Cards for Undocumented Immigrants
On August 31, the Phoenix City Council approved by a 5 to 4 vote a resolution to create an identification card issued by the city for residents facing barriers in receiving a valid government-issued identification card, including undocumented immigrants. The city ID card is expected to serve as a secondary form of identification, listing certain biometric information, but will not be considered a primary ID card, such as driver’s license or birth certificate.
The program, which is expected to help the immigrant, homeless and transgender populations, is projected to start at the beginning of February 2017. Potential applicants will be allowed to sign up as early as December. Experts estimate that about 10,000 people will register for the card during the first year of the program’s existence.
There were no pertinent immigration or workforce related government reports published in the week of August 29, 2016.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.