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Legislative Bulletin – Friday, May 11, 2018

 

BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED

S. 2793

Afghan Allies Protection Amendments Act

This bill would authorize 4,000 visas for the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program for fiscal year (FY) 2019. The Afghan SIV program allows Afghan allies who served alongside U.S. service members and diplomatic personnel as translators, interpreters, and other support staff during the U.S. missions in Afghanistan and face threats because of their service to apply for refuge in the U.S. This is a companion bill to H.R. 5694.

Sponsored by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire) (6 cosponsors – 3 Republicans, 3 Democrats)

05/07/2018 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Shaheen

05/07/2018 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 5694

Afghan Allies Protection Amendments Act

This bill would authorize 4,000 visas for the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program for FY 2019. The Afghan SIV program allows Afghan allies who served alongside U.S. service members and diplomatic personnel as translators, interpreters, and other support staff during the U.S. missions in Afghanistan and face threats because of their service to apply for refuge in the U.S. This is a companion bill to S. 2793.

Sponsored by Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-Illinois) (6 cosponsors – 1 Republican, 5 Democrats)

05/07/2018 Introduced in the House by Representative Kinzinger

05/07/2018 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate will be in session the week of Monday, May 14, 2018.

The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Tuesday, May 15, 2018 to Friday, May 18, 2018.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

Authorities and Resources Needed to Protect and Secure the United States

Date: Tuesday, May 15, 2018 at 2:30 p.m. (Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs)

Location: 342 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Witness: Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

DOJ Plans to Prosecute Parents, Separate Families Crossing U.S. Border

On May  7, attorney general Jeff Sessions unveiled the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) plan to criminally prosecute parents apprehended with their children while crossing the U.S.-Mexico border without authorization, a policy that will lead to the separation of thousands of families. In the past, most people crossing the U.S. border without authorization were not referred for criminal prosecution.

Sessions stated that the DOJ, in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), plans to prosecute all individuals crossing the U.S. border without authorization, taking as many cases “as humanly possible” until they reach a 100 percent prosecution rate. Sessions noted that parents who cross the U.S. border with their children will not be exempt from criminal prosecution and will be separated from their children, because the children cannot be held in federal prisons. The policy is aimed at deterring unlawful border crossings, with Sessions stating that if parents do not want to be separated from their children, they should not “bring them across the border illegally.”

Once separated from their parents, the children will be treated as unaccompanied children (UAC), the same as if they had arrived in the U.S. without an adult. The children will be placed in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) while their cases are considered by immigration courts. ORR data showed that more than 700 children have already been separated from adults claiming to be their parents since October 2017, including more than 100 children under the age of four. The new policy is expected to result in far more children separated from their parents.

DHS stated on May 7 that it has referred about 30,000 cases for criminal prosecution in FY 2018, up from 18,642 cases during all of FY 2017. The new policy could further inundate the justice system, straining already overburdened federal dockets in border districts, and punish asylum seekers crossing between ports of entry by denying them an opportunity to make valid asylum claims, a problem previously identified by the DHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG) in 2015.

Trump Administration Ignored Warnings in Ending TPS Designations

The Trump administration reportedly ignored warnings from senior diplomats in U.S. embassies in ending Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for about 310,000 immigrants from Central America and Haiti. The officials warned that ending TPS designation for those countries could destabilize them and prompt an increase in unauthorized immigration to the U.S. The warnings were overruled by then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who rejected the advice and officially recommended that DHS end the TPS designations. In recent months, the Trump administration has announced that it is terminating TPS designations for 98 percent of current TPS holders living in the U.S.

On May 10, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly expressed support for a legislative solution for TPS holders. Kelly stated that ending TPS designation for these countries will force Congress to find a solution that includes a path to U.S. citizenship for TPS holders who have lived in the U.S. for “20-plus years.” Kelly made similar public comments on DACA, mentioning that President Trump’s termination of the program would force Congress to find a solution, but reportedly made private comments indicating that he discouraged President Trump from reaching a DACA deal that would have included a wall along the southern border.

A Group of House Republicans File Discharge Petition on “Queen of the Hill”

A group of House Republicans, led by Reps. Carlos Curbelo (R-Florida) and Jeff Denham (R-California), filed a discharge petition on May 9 to bring the “Queen of the Hill” resolution on Dreamers up for a vote in the House. The petition would circumvent House Republican leadership by requiring the House to take up four immigration bills to address the future of Dreamers. By the end of May 10, 18 House Republicans had signed onto the petition.

To force a vote, the discharge petition requires the signature of at least 218 lawmakers. Nearly, if not all, 193 Democrats in the House are expected to add their names, which means at least 25 Republicans are needed to reach 218. Under House rules, the earliest the House could consider the proposal after it reaches 218 signatures is in late June.

Speaker Ryan stated on May 10 that he does not support the petition and would prefer focusing on legislation “that the president can sign.” However, under the “Queen of the Hill” rule, Ryan would be able to propose his own bill, including one that mirrors President Trump’s immigration framework, as one of the four options that get voted on.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana) also pushed back on the discharge petition, arguing that it would give too much power to the minority. Scalise said that he is not actively working against the petition, but the petition is “not the way to legislate.” Rep. Curbelo noted that immigration has been “paralyzed [in the House] for far too long” and Congress “needs to act.” Curbelo said that “we don’t view this in any way undermining House leaders.”

Meanwhile, Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) stated on May 7 that the decision of Texas and six other states to sue the Trump administration to immediately stop processing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) renewals is “not a solution.” Cornyn said “I honestly don’t understand what the state is asking for” in filing the lawsuit and that there is a role for compassion and for pragmatism on finding a solution for Dreamers.

Nielsen Defends Policies in Senate Hearing, Takes Criticism from President Trump

On May 8, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee on the department’s budget request for FY 2019. During the hearing, Nielsendefended the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement policies, including the increased placement of asylum-seekers and pregnant women in immigration detention. Nielsen argued that the reason these individuals are detained is because they were apprehended “because they illegally crossed our border.” Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington) pushed back on the assertion, noting that placing pregnant women in detention is “inhumane,” since there are concerns over whether detention centers are safe for expectant mothers and their children.

One day later, on May 9, President Trump reportedly upbraided Nielsen during a Cabinet meeting because he did not think DHS has been doing enough to lower the number of unauthorized border crossings. According to news reports, Nielsen considered resigning. On May 10, Nielsen released a statement noting that she shared President Trump’s “frustration” on border security and that she will continue to “do all we can to implement the president’s…agenda.”

Trump Administration Attempts to Change Rules for Detaining UACs

The Trump administration is reportedly attempting to rewrite rules for detaining immigrant children apprehended at the border. The draft regulations would grant immigration agents more flexibility over the children’s asylum applications that could lead to increased scrutiny and make it easier to deport UAC. The draft rules would also allow DHS to separate parents and children if holding them together would place an “undue burden” on government operations. In addition, the draft regulations would allow immigration agents to delay snacks and regular meals in an emergency, such as a hurricane. Advocates note that the proposal could give the government wide latitude to define what constitutes an emergency.

The draft guidance would effectively replace the Flores Settlement Agreement, a 1997 consent decree that currently guides the treatment of detained children including UACs.

USCIS, DOJ Announce Partnership to “Protect U.S. Workers” Over Foreign Workers

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the DOJ announced on May 11 that they will enter into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to expand their ability to share information and help identify, investigate and prosecute employers who may be “discriminating against U.S. workers and violating immigration laws.” This new effort is part of the Trump administration’s Buy American and Hire American Executive Order. USCIS has also created tip lines for reporting H-1B and H-2B visa fraud and abuse, and expanded its site visit program to further scrutinize U.S. employers who hire foreign workers.

Congressional Members Seek Investigation into Politicized Hiring of Immigration Judges

Congressional Democrats, led by Senator  Dianne Feinstein (D-California), sent a letter on May 8 requesting that the DOJ Office of the Inspector General (OIG) investigate allegations of politicized hiring practices for immigration judges. The allegations concern the hiring of judges in the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) positions. The letter details whistleblower accounts substantiating the allegations and notes that, in multiple cases, the DOJ appears to have withdrawn offers of employment based on political or ideological considerations. Democratic lawmakers previously sent a letter to attorney general Sessions and raised these concerns with EOIR director James McHenry during a hearing in April. The lawmakers say that they have not received “a substantive response to date,” and have since reviewed additional information by whistleblowers contradicting McHenry’s testimony.

Legal

New Hampshire Court Finds Border Patrol Checkpoint Arrests Unconstitutional

A New Hampshire state court ruled on May 4 that the arrests of sixteen people last year charged with drug possession at a Border Patrol checkpoint about 90 miles from the Canadian border were unconstitutional under state and federal law. In his ruling, Judge Thomas Rappa found that the Border Patrol’s use of dogs to search for drugs without a warrant or reasonable suspicion violated the state’s Constitution. In addition, while the Fourth Amendment allows federal agents to set up interior checkpoints within 100-miles of any land or coastal border for immigration inquiries, Judge Rappa found the Border Patrol checkpoint unconstitutional because its primary purpose was to detect drugs, not immigration enforcement.

The Border Patrol maintained that the checkpoint was set up to search for individuals entering and living in the U.S. without documentation, but no arrests on immigration charges were made.

State & Local

Immigration Enforcement Continues to Impact Local Communities

The Trump administration’s implementation of its executive order on interior immigration enforcement continues to manifest in local communities across the country. In Michigan, the number of people from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) housed in the Calhoun County jail has more than doubled from 98 immigrants in 2015 to 220 this year, with a reportedly notable increases in the number of undocumented mothers without criminal histories.

Meanwhile, an ICE raid that resulted in the apprehensions of 97 people at a meatpacking plant in Bean Station, Tennessee reportedly upended and separated dozens of families, leaving 160 children without a parent and causing fear in the community. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a law enforcement conference he was “not shedding tears” over the immigration raid in Tennessee because the plant depended on undocumented workers.

In Iowa this week, ICE arrested 32 people on immigration violations in a pre-stressed concrete plant in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. State Rep. Dave Heaton (R-Mt. Pleasant) stated that he is worried about the children of those arrested, noting that “they play on our soccer and baseball teams like any normal student” but now their life “has been totally disrupted.”

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

There were no immigration-related government reports published on the week of Monday, May 7, 2018.

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

The Math of Immigration Detention, 2018 Update: Costs Continue to Multiply

This paper examines the current cost to American taxpayers of detaining hundreds of thousands of immigrants annually, as well as highlights the increase in the “bed rate” and the detention bed quota from FY 2010 to FY 2018. This is an update to the 2013 Math of Immigration Detention paper.

Fact Sheet: Temporary Protected Status

This fact sheet provides an overview of Temporary Protected Status (TPS), including the process for designating a country for TPS, who is eligible, how many individuals are currently granted TPS, and updated information on when TPS designations expire.

Fact Sheet: What is the Perkins CTE, and How Does it Serve Immigrants?

This fact sheet provides an overview of the Perkins Act, the main federal funding source for career and technical education (CTE) programs, and examines how immigrants gain from programs funded by the Perkins CTE.

H. Res. 774: “Queen of the Hill” Resolution on Dreamers

This document provides a summary of the “Queen of the Hill” resolution on Dreamers that would require the U.S. House of Representatives to consider four immigration bills to address DACA recipients.

* * * *

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.

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