Legislative Bulletin – Friday, April 12, 2019

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. 1088

Guaranteed Refugee Admissions Ceiling Enhancement (GRACE) Act

The bill would prevent a U.S. President from setting refugee admissions at a level below 95,000 in a given fiscal year. The House companion bill is H.R. 2146.

Sponsored by Senator Ed Markey (D – Massachusetts) (12 cosponsors – 0 Republicans, 12 Democrats)

04/09/2019 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Markey

04/09/2019 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 1103

Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act

This bill would reduce legal immigration and implement a points-based system that would reduce categories of visas for legal immigrants to come to the U.S. The bill would also eliminate the Diversity Visa program and set an upper limit of 50,000 refugees that can be admitted annually to the U.S. The House companion bill is H.R. 2278.

Sponsored by Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) (2 cosponsors – 2 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

04/10/2019 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Cotton

04/10/2019 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 1117

Gateway to Careers Act

This bill would create a competitive grant program administered by the Department of Education to help native-born and immigrant students complete their educations and fill vacant jobs.

Sponsored by Senator Maggie Hassan (D – New Hampshire) (3 cosponsors – 2 Republicans, 1 Democrat)

04/10/2019 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Hassan

04/10/2019 Referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions

S. 1123

National Origin-Based Antidiscrimination for Nonimmigrants (NO BAN) Act

The bill would repeal the Trump administration’s presidential order proclaiming the travel ban on individuals from certain Muslim-majority countries, a presidential proclamation that aims to bar access to asylum for individuals who crossed the border without authorization, and an executive order that instituted extreme vetting for refugees. The House companion bill is H.R. 2214.

Sponsored by Senator Chris Coons (D-Delaware) (31 cosponsors – 0 Republicans, 31 Democrats)

04/10/2019 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Coons

04/10/2019 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 2124

A Bill to Amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to Permit Certain E2 Nonimmigrant Investors to Adjust Status to Lawful Permanent Resident Status

Sponsored by Representative John Rutherford (R-Florida) (1 cosponsor – 0 Republicans, 1 Democrat)

04/08/2019 Introduced in the House by Representative Rutherford

04/08/2019 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 2146

Guaranteed Refugee Admissions Ceiling Enhancement (GRACE) Act

The bill would prevent a U.S. President from setting refugee admissions at a level below 95,000 in a given fiscal year. The Senate companion bill is S. 1088.

Sponsored by Representative Zoe Lofgren (D – California) (11 cosponsors – 0 Republicans, 11 Democrats)

04/09/2019 Introduced in the House by Representative Lofgren

04/09/2019 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 2173

A Bill to Amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to Reserve EB-5 Visas Each Fiscal Year for Investors in New Commercial Enterprises in Areas with Respect to Which a Major Disaster has Been Declared by the President

Sponsored by Representative Jennifer Gonzalez-Colon (R – Puerto Rico) (1 cosponsor – 1 Republican, 0 Democrats)

04/09/2019 Introduced in the House by Representative Gonzalez-Colon

04/09/2019 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 2203

Homeland Security Improvement Act

The bill would establish an Office of the Ombudsman for Border and Immigration Related Concerns within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), mandate certain training and education requirements for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel, and require DHS to conduct an assessment of ports of entry (POEs), among other provisions.

Sponsored by Representative Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) (3 cosponsors-0 Republicans, 3 Democrats)

04/10/2019 Introduced in the House by Representative Escobar

04/10/2019 Referred to the House Committees on Homeland Security, Judiciary and Ways and Means

H.R. 2214

National Origin-Based Antidiscrimination for Nonimmigrants (NO BAN) Act

The bill would repeal the Trump administration’s presidential order proclaiming the travel ban on individuals from certain Muslim-majority countries, a presidential proclamation that aims to bar access to asylum for individuals who crossed the border without authorization, and an executive order that instituted extreme vetting for refugees. The Senate companion bill is S. 1123.

Sponsored by Representative Judy Chu (D – California) (63 cosponsors – 0 Republicans, 63 Democrats)

04/10/2019 Introduced in the House by Representative Chu

04/10/2019 Referred to the House Committees on the Judiciary, Foreign Affairs, Homeland Security, and Intelligence

H.R. 2217

A Bill to Reduce the Ability of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to Engage in Inappropriate Civil Immigration Enforcement Actions that Harm Unaccompanied Alien Children and to Ensure the Safety and Welfare of Unaccompanied Alien Children

Sponsored by Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D – Florida) (27 cosponsors – 0 Republicans, 27 Democrats)

04/10/2019 Introduced in the House by Representative Wasserman Schultz

04/10/2019 Referred to the House Committees on the Judiciary and on Appropriations

H.R. 2278

Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act

This bill would reduce legal immigration and implement a points-based system that would reduce categories of visas for legal immigrants to come to the U.S. The bill would also eliminate the Diversity Visa program and set an upper limit of 50,000 refugees that can be admitted annually to the U.S. The Senate companion bill is S. 1103.

Sponsored by Representative Francis Rooney (R – Florida) (5 cosponsors – 5 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

04/10/2019 Introduced in the House by Representative Rooney

04/10/2019 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 2289

Notario Victim Relief Act

This bill would eliminate the 90-day time limit to refile immigration-related evidence for victims of legal misrepresentation or negligence, allowing the victims an opportunity to reopen their cases without time constraints.

Sponsored by Representative Marc Veasey (D-Texas) (15 cosponsors – 0 Republicans, 15 Democrats)

04/10/2019 Introduced in the House by Representative Veasey

04/10/2019 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives will be in recess until Monday, April 29, 2019.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

There are no immigration-related hearings or markups scheduled for the week of Monday, April 15, 2019.

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

Nielsen Resigns as White House Plans DHS Leadership Changes; McAleenan to Serve as Acting Secretary

Kirstjen Nielsen resigned on April 7 as the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as part of an effort engineered by the White House to change DHS leadership amidst an increase in Central American migrants coming to the U.S.-Mexico border. The effort, led in part by senior White House adviser Stephen Miller, aimed to move the administration to go in a more draconian direction on immigration.  President Trump reportedly prompted Nielsen, who came prepared with a list of proposals on border security, to resign from her position. Following the meeting, President Trump thanked Nielsen for her service and named Kevin McAleenan, the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), to serve as Acting DHS Secretary. Nielsen’s resignation became effective on April 10. That same day, Nielsen announced that Claire Grady, the Acting Deputy Secretary of DHS, offered her resignation, paving the way for McAleenan to become the acting head of the department. DHS announced on April 10 that John Sanders, Chief Operating Officer at CBP, will be the agency’s Acting Commissioner.

Nielsen’s resignation followed the White House’s decision on April 5 to withdraw Ronald Vitiello’s nomination to serve permanently as the Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). President Trump said that he withdrew Vitiello’s nomination because the White House wants, “to go in a tougher direction.” Vitiello, who served as the Acting Director of ICE, said he would leave his position on April 12. On April 11, ICE announced that Matthew Albence, Acting Deputy Director of ICE, would serve as Acting Director following Vitiello’s resignation.

Following Nielsen’s resignation, reports emerged that the White House was considering firing other officials in DHS leadership positions, including John Mitnick, DHS’ general counsel, and Francis Cissna, the Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said he was “very, very concerned” with reports that Cissna could be fired. Grassley said Cissna, who worked for him, is “the intellectual basis for what the president wants to accomplish in immigration.”

The sudden changes in DHS leadership prompted Republican lawmakers to express their concerns, creating a rift with the White House. Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) said he is “concerned with a growing leadership void within the department.” In addition, Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) called the situation “a mess”  and noted that the moves show “frustration of not being able to solve a problem…[but] I don’t know if there’s anybody who’s going to be able to do more.” Lawmakers also voiced concern with the involvement of Stephen Miller in the DHS leadership changes. Senator Cornyn said Miller appeared to be “the guy behind the curtain.”

White House Considers Kobach, Cuccinelli for DHS Secretary, Kirchner for USCIS Director

Kris Kobach, the former Kansas Secretary of State widely known for his restrictionist stances on immigration, said on April 9 that he has been in conversations with the White House to replace Kirstjen Nielsen as the next DHS Secretary. At the same time, Senate Republicans warned the White House to withhold from nominating Kobach, in part due to concerns that Kobach is unlikely win Senate confirmation. Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), Kobach’s home-state senator, said nominating Kobach would not work because “we can’t confirm him.” In addition, Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) said that Kobach’s rhetoric on immigration is “very damaging to Republicans and would not help us solve what is a very complex problem” and that he “wouldn’t be able to support [Kobach].” Senator Lindsay Graham (R-South Carolina) said he would keep an “open mind,” but noted Kobach “would be a hard guy to confirm… [due to] some of the things he said.” On April 10, President Trump said that he has “respect” for Kobach, but has not “really thought” about nominating Kobach to the position. Other contenders in the running to succeed Nielsen include former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and current Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) signaled to President Trump on April 11 to not pick Cuccinelli, telling reporters he spoke to the White House to show his “lack of enthusiasm” for a Cuccinelli nomination to lead DHS.

The White House is also considering nominating Julie Kirchner, the current USCIS Ombudsman, to replace L. Francis Cissna, the Director of USCIS who is expected to be ousted as part of this week’s DHS leadership purge. Kirchner previously worked at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a controversial restrictionist immigration organization, for nearly 10 years, where she helped advocate for lower levels of immigration. Kirchner was named ombudsman of USCIS in May 2017, a position that does not require Senate confirmation.

Trump Administration Considers Family Separation, Other Enforcement Policies to Deter Central American Migrants

The Trump administration is reportedly moving to more aggressively stem the flow of Central American migrants, including asylum seekers, coming to the U.S.-Mexico border in an effort led by senior White House advisor Stephen Miller. President Trump reportedly urged DHS in the last four months to reinstate the “zero tolerance” policy to prosecute all migrants apprehended along the Southern border, including parents traveling with children, which led to the family separation crisis last year. On April 9, President Trump denied that his administration is planning to separate families again, saying they are “not looking to do that now” but argued that “it brings a lot more people to the border when you don’t do it.” The White House is reportedly considering imposing a revised version of family separation, known as “binary choice,” that would force migrant parents to choose between remaining with their children in long-term immigration detention or being separated allowing their children out of detention. Senior administration officials noted on April 10 that ICE is currently “analyzing the value and efficacy” of the “binary choice” policy, which would again lead to the separation of migrant families after they are apprehended along the Southern border. On April 5 as part of a court case, federal officials said that it could take up to two years to identify thousands of immigrants children who were separated from their families last year.

The White House is also considering policies to restrict remittances from the U.S. to Central America, house migrants in tent cities along the border, increase limits on who can seek asylum, extend the amount of time children can be held in immigration detention beyond the current 20-day limit established by a federal judge, stronger action to close ports of entry, and even an executive order to end so-called birthright citizenship.

On April 5, President Trump criticized the U.S. asylum system, calling it a “hoax” and urging migrants to turn back because “our country is full.” The U.S. is the 146th most densely populated country, with Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota) noting that he does not “think the country’s full…We’ve got a lot of room in North Dakota and there’s even more in Montana.”

White House Considered Releasing Migrants into “Sanctuary Cities” to Retaliate

The White House, including senior advisor Stephen Miller, pressured DHS to release migrant detainees apprehended along the Southern border into so-called sanctuary cities and jurisdictions to retaliate against President Trump’s political adversaries on immigration, according to a Washington Post report published on April 11. White House officials reportedly presented the plan in a November 16, 2018 e-mail, asking officials at several DHS agencies whether migrants traveling in a caravan to the U.S.-Mexico border could be apprehended and bused “to small-and mid-sized sanctuary cities”. One target included Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s district in San Francisco. The White House reportedly told ICE the plan was intended to alleviate detention space and send a message to Democratic lawmakers. ICE officials reacted to the plan by highlighting its budgetary and liability concerns, as well as the plan’s “PR risks.” The White House proposed the plan again in February, as Congress debated funding for President Trump’s border wall. Senior ICE officials reportedly told ICE’s leadership that the plan was inappropriate and lacked a legal basis.

After the White House’s efforts became public on April 11, Speaker Pelosi sharply criticized the plan, calling it an attempt to use “human being-including little children-as pawns…to perpetuate fear and demonize immigrants.” That same day, President Trump said he is giving “strong considerations” to the plan to release migrant detainees into so-called sanctuary cities.

CBP Releases March Apprehension Numbers; Delays at Ports of Entry Increase

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released data on April 9 showing that Border Patrol agents apprehended about 92,000 individuals along the Southern border in March, with an additional 10,800 individuals denied entrance by immigration officers at ports of entry. An estimated 67 percent – or 58,000 – of those apprehended by the Border Patrol consisted of children or people traveling as families, an unprecedented change from past years when apprehensions of individual adults outnumbered those of family members or children. The number of apprehensions by Border Patrol agents in March, the most in any month since 2007, represents a 37 percent increase compared to the almost 67,000 apprehensions in February and an almost 150 percent increase compared to the 37,000 apprehensions in March 2018. Overall, the Border Patrol apprehended about 360,000 individuals in the first six months of fiscal year (FY) 2019.  Apprehensions still remain below historical highs, when they regularly exceeded 1 million per fiscal year during the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s.

Meanwhile, wait times for passenger and commercial traffic at ports of entry have significantly increased following the Trump administration’s redeployment of at least 750 port of entry officers to help process migrants apprehended along the Southern border. The delays, which began on March 29, have particularly affected trucks delivering commercial goods from Mexico to the U.S. through the El Paso; San Diego; Nogales, Arizona; and Laredo, Texas port of entries. In Texas, delays at ports of entry have at times surpassed 10 hours, leading industry leaders to warn of possible produce shortages and interruptions to supply-chain economics. An estimated $1.7 billion in goods cross the U.S.-Mexico border every day.

Defense Department Awards Nearly $1 Billion to Construct Physical Barriers; Expects Troop Deployment to Cost $431 million

The Department of Defense announced on April 9 that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has awarded two military contracts worth $976 million to construct physical barriers along the Southern border. The Army Corps awarded $789 million to a Galveston, Texas-based company for “border replacement wall construction” in New Mexico near El Paso, Texas and $187 million to a Bozeman, Montana-based company for “design-bid-build construction project for primary pedestrian wall replacement” in Yuma, Arizona. The projects will add 46 miles of new fencing in New Mexico and 11 miles in Arizona. Both projects are expected to be completed by fall 2020. On March 25, the Department of Defense notified Congress that it authorized up to $1 billion to be transferred from military personnel funding to construct physical barriers along the border.

The Defense Department also stated on April 9 in a letter to Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Maryland) that it has spent a total of $292 million on deploying U.S. troops to the Southern border. The Defense Department estimates that the cost will reach at least $431 million through the end of fiscal year (FY) 2019.  There are currently about 5,000 troops deployed along the Southern border, including 2,000 members of the National Guard. The National Guard told the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Defense on April 10 that it anticipates a $193 million budget shortfall as a result of deploying National Guard members to the Southern border. As a result, the National Guard will have to cut back on weekend drills, which the National Guard’s Bureau Chief said will affect readiness. On April 10, President Trump said that he would “have to call up more military” to the Southern border after listening to stories about migrants crossing the border while attending a fundraiser in San Antonio, Texas.

Also on April 10, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan approved a request to identify military installations to house up to 5,000 unaccompanied migrant children. In June 2018, the Defense Department identified Goodfellow Air Force Base in Texas as a potential location.

Legal

Federal Judge Issues Preliminary Injunction Blocking “Remain in Mexico” Policy

U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg issued a preliminary injunction on April 8 to block the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), known as the “Remain in Mexico Policy,” which allowed U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers to block asylum seekers from entering the U.S. and required them to wait in Mexico while their requests for asylum proceed. Judge Seeborg said his ruling would take effect on April 12, a move that provided the administration with a few days to appeal the decision. Judge Seeborg found that the U.S. lacked a legal basis under current law for imposing the policy and that it ran contrary to the U.S.’s legal obligations not to remove people to a country where their lives or freedom are threatened. The White House said it would appeal the court’s ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, claiming the order undermines its efforts at the border. However, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has begun to abide by the order, refraining from returning asylum seekers to Mexico even before the order’s effective date.

The “Remain in Mexico” policy was implemented as a pilot program at the San Ysidro border crossing near San Diego since January 2019. The administration  started to expand its implementation to the Calexico, California and the El Paso, Texas ports of entry in March 2019, and planned to implement the MPP at more ports of entry along the Southern border in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and California. About 400 people were returned to Mexico under the policy.

DOJ Prepares Key Changes to the Appellate Immigration Court System  

The Justice Department is preparing to issue a proposed regulation that would likely make it easier for appellate immigration judges to uphold a lower court’s deportation decision and to declare their rulings binding on the entire immigration system, according to a report published on April 12 by the San Francisco Chronicle. The proposed regulation would allow the Board of Immigration Appeals to more easily provide “affirmances without opinion,” which uphold a lower court’s decision on deportation cases without an explanation and are made by a single appeals judge, rather than a three-judge panel. The rule change would also reform the process by which the appeals board can make its decisions public which gives decisions the force of binding precedent for all immigration judges. Currently, a majority of all permanent sitting judges in the appeals board is needed to declare a binding precedent. The rules change would allow a two-judge majority of any three-judge panel to declare it a precedent. It would also provide the U.S. attorney general the power to set any three-judge panel’s decision as precedent. The 21-judge appeals court system currently has 15 permanent judges, but the Justice Department has opened job listings to fill the six remaining seats. Immigration advocates and immigration attorneys argue that the rules change could dramatically reshape immigration law to fit the Trump administration’s goals to limit refugees and immigrants and hamper due process for migrants.

The proposed regulation, which originally initiated in the George W. Bush administration, has been sent to the White House for review. The Justice Department hopes to finalize the rule change this year.

State and Local

Arkansas Governor to Sign Anti-“Sanctuary Cities” Bill

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R-Arkansas) announced on April 10 that he will sign legislation to bar so-called sanctuary jurisdictions by withholding state funding from cities and counties that place limits on local law enforcement’s involvement in immigration enforcement. The bill would also prevent jurisdictions from implementing policies to prevent local law enforcement officers from asking individuals about their immigration status. Arkansas does not have any sanctuary jurisdictions, but supporters of the bill say it is a proactive measure to prevent them in the state.

On April 10, Hutchinson expressed concern that the bill does not allow local jurisdictions to give law enforcement officers guidance on when to ask for proof of citizenship, which he said could “lead to profiling and indiscriminate questioning of citizens…based solely on the officer’s determination that the citizen looks different than what the office thinks a U.S. citizen should look like.” However, Hutchinson said that the concern is not enough for him to veto the bill because Arkansas does not have any sanctuary cities, so it would not “be disruptive to our society.” Opponents of the bill argue that it could also strain relationships between local law enforcement and immigrant communities by undermining trust, making it more difficult for law enforcement to do their job.

The Arkansas state House passed the bill by a 71 to 24 vote on April 10, just one day after the bill failed before a state House committee and appeared dead for the session. The state Senate approved the bill on April 8.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

Congressional Research Service (CRS): The Global Compact on Migration (GCM) and U.S. Policy, April 10, 2019 (by Rhoda Margesson)

This CRS primer provides an overview of the Global Compact on Migration (GCM), which was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly on December 19, 2018. The GCM aims to highlight the economic benefits of migration and resolve the challenges for communities in countries of origin, transit and destination.

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

Working Paper: Addressing the Increase of Central American Migrants

This working paper provides a set of short-term and long-term policy recommendations that can be implemented to better manage and process the increase in Central American migrants at the Southern border.

Border Security Along the Southwest Border: Fact Sheet

This fact sheet provides a summary of current border security resources and recent migration trends along America’s Southern border.

Fact Sheet: International Refugee Protection System

This document describes international refugee and asylum laws, as well as provides an overview of UNHCR refugee processing and global refugee data.

* * *

*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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