Happenings in Immigration Policy (May/June 2016)

Director of Policy and Advocacy

June 17, 2016

United States v. Texas

All eyes are on the Supreme Court waiting for a decision in U.S. v. Texas with only two more announced decision days left in the term. In U.S. v. Texas, Texas and other states are challenging Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and the expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA),

Meanwhile, the U.S. District Court Judge who first considered the case issued an unusual 28-page order rebuking the federal government in Texas v. U.S. on May 19,2016. In this order, Judge Andrew Hanen demanded that the federal government provide a list of all DACA recipients from the 26 plaintiff states who received the three-year extensions after November 2014, including “all personal identifiers and locaters including names, addresses, ‘A’ file numbers and all available contact information, together with the date the three-year renewal or approval was granted.”

Hanen determined that the government’s lawyers purposely sought to mislead his court regarding the implementation date of DACA expansion, leading to the wide-ranging order. After the DOJ and civil rights organizations challenged the order, Judge Hanen has stayed the order until after a hearing scheduled for August 22.

Federal Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2017

The U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives have been actively working to pass bills to fund federal government agencies for the 2017 fiscal year that begins on October 1.

House Appropriations

The House has passed two bills while other bills are in various stages of consideration. The Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Act of 2017 is awaiting a floor vote. The version that passed the Committee includes an increase of $34 million over last year’s funding to $457 million for the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) which is the agency that considers and adjudicates immigration cases.

The House passed the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act of 2017 on June 10 by a 233 to 175 vote which includes language that would require the Library of Congress to use the term “illegal alien” to describe undocumented immigrants, overturning a March 2016 announcement by the Library that it would no longer use the term in its subject headings. Amendments by Representatives Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D – Florida) and Joaquin Castro (D – Texas), which would have stricken the “Illegal Alien” language from the bill, ultimately were not considered.

The House also passed the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs spending bill which contains language that would restrict funds from being used to modify military installations to house unaccompanied minor children. This provision is designed to ensure that refugees from Central America are not temporarily housed on military bases.

Senate Appropriations

The Senate has passed three bills that did not contain any notable language related to immigration. The Senate Appropriations Committee passed the Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2017, which provides the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) $48.07 billion. The bill also includes $5.96 billion in funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a $132 million increase from last year, which would fund 34,000 detention beds in immigration detention facilities, similar to the number of detention beds funded last year. This bill is awaiting a vote on the floor.

Updates on Department of Homeland Security Activities

USCIS Proposes New Fee Schedule

On May 4, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a new proposed fee schedule for the first time since 2010. Under the proposed fee schedule, the naturalization application fee would increase by $45, or about eight percent from $595 to $640, and naturalization applicants with household incomes between 150 and 200 percent of the poverty level would receive a 50% reduction in fees. The overall average increase in fees is 21 percent.

These fees could impact the number of people who naturalize. A recent analysis by the Pew Research Center shows that the number of legal permanent residents applying for U.S. citizenship has reached the highest level in four years.

USCIS Announces Parole Policy for Family Members of WWII Filipino Vets

On May 9, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced it will be implementing a new parole program for family members of Filipino veterans of World War II. Currently, there are an estimated 2,000 to 6,000 Filipino-American World War II veterans living in the United States. The policy is aimed at allowing the family members of these aging veterans to come to the United States to help care for them, on the condition that the veterans are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents

DHS Reiterates Its Strict Stance Against Central Americans Seeking Refuge

U.S. immigration officials are conducting a month-long series of raids targeting unauthorized Central American mothers and children in May and June. The focus of these actions would be on mothers and children who have already received final orders of removal from U.S. immigration courts and on young people from Central America who entered the United States as unaccompanied minors, but have since “aged-out” by turning 18.

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson repeated the Department’s strict stance on the border crossings of Central Americans. After his trip to Central America, Secretary Johnson issued a statement warning that “if you have been apprehended at our border, have a final order of removal, and have no pending claim for asylum or other humanitarian relief under our laws, we must send you home.”

DHS has deported over 11,000 El Salvadorians and Hondurans since October. That is ten times more than the 1,100 individuals who have been permitted to stay in the country through the Central American Minors Program (CAMP), which focuses specifically on asylum-seekers from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

From the Forum

Our recent response to the Orlando tragedy and blog by Executive Director, Ali Noorani.

The Trouble With Detainers. This paper provides an overview of immigration detainers, describes the legal and policy concerns that make them controversial, and reviews instances where localities have faced civil liability as a result of honoring them.