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Legislative Bulletin — Friday, April 14, 2023

Welcome to the National Immigration Forum’s weekly bulletin! Every Friday, our policy team rounds up key developments around immigration policy in Washington and across the country. The bulletin includes items on the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, as well as some coverage at the state and local levels. 

Here’s a breakdown of the bulletin’s sections:

BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

DEVELOPMENTS IN IMMIGRATION THIS WEEK

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED

It can be challenging to keep up with the constant barrage of proposed legislation in Congress. So every week, we round up a new list of bills here. This section includes federal legislative proposals that have recently been introduced and that are relevant to immigration policy. 

S.1068

Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act

This bill would authorize local law enforcement to work with federal immigration enforcement and pull funding from sanctuary cities. Sanctuary jurisdictions are those which limit state and local officials’ involvement in federal immigration enforcement functions.

Sponsored by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) (19 cosponsors — 19 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

03/30/2023 Introduced in the Senate by Sen. Ted Cruz

03/30/2023 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 2494

Protect Our Law Enforcement with Immigration Control and Enforcement (POLICE) Act of 2023

This bill would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to make explicit that assaulting law enforcement officers is a deportable act. 

Sponsored by Rep. Andrew R. Garbarino (R-New York) (8 cosponsors — 8 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

04/06/2023 Introduced in the House by Rep. Andrew R. Garbarino

04/06/2023 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R.2557

CBP Workload Staffing Model Act

This bill would direct the CBP commissioner to come up with and implement a staffing model.

Sponsored by Rep. Clay Higgins (R-Louisiana) (0 cosponsors)

04/10/2023 Introduced in the House by Rep. Clay Higgins

04/10/2023 Referred to the House Committee on Homeland Security

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate will be in session from Monday, April 17, through Friday, April 21, 2023.

The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Monday, April 17 through Thursday, April 20, 2023.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

Here, we round up congressional hearings and markups happening in the field or in Washington. 

Budget Hearing — Fiscal Year 2024 Request for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency

Date: Tuesday, April 18 at 10:00 a.m. EST (House Appropriations Committee)

Location: 2362-A Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C.

Witnesses:

Tae Johnson, Acting Director, Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Oversight of the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s Unaccompanied Alien Children Program

Date: Tuesday, April 18 at 10:00 a.m. EST (House Committee on Oversight and Accountability)

Location: 2247 Rayburn, Washington, D.C.

Witnesses: TBA

The Homeland Security Cost of the Biden Administration’s Catastrophic Withdrawal from Afghanistan

Date: Tuesday, April 18 at 10:00 a.m. EST (House Committee on Homeland Security)

Location: 310 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, D.C.

Witnesses:

The Honorable Nathan A. Sales, former Ambassador-at-Large and Coordinator for Counterterrorism

Simone Ledeen, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Combating Terrorism

Christopher J. Douglas, Colonel (Ret.), United States Marine Corps

The FY24 DHS Budget: Resources and Authorities Requested to Protect and Secure the Homeland

Date: Tuesday, April 18 at 10:00 a.m. EST (Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs)

Location: Senate Dirksen Building, SD-562, Washington, D.C.

Witnesses:

The Honorable Alejandro N. Mayorkas, Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Insights from the HHS Inspector General on Oversight of Unaccompanied Minors, Grant Management, and CMS

Date: Tuesday, April 18 at 10:30 a.m. EST (House Energy and Commerce Committee)

Location: 2322 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C.

Witnesses: TBA

The Biden Administration’s Disastrous Withdrawal from Afghanistan, Part I: Review by the Inspectors General

Date: Wednesday, April 19 at 10:00 a.m. EST (House Committee on Oversight and Accountability)

Location: 2154 Rayburn, Washington, D.C.

Witnesses: TBA

A Review of the Fiscal Year 2024 Budget Request for the Department of Homeland Security

Date: Wednesday, April 19 at 10:00 a.m. EST (House Committee on Homeland Security)

Location: 310 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, D.C.

Witnesses: 

The Honorable Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Budget Hearing — Fiscal Year 2024 Request for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency

Date: Wednesday, April 19 at 2:00 p.m. EST (House Committee on Appropriations)

Location: 2008 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C.

Witnesses: 

Troy Miller, Acting Commissioner, U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Nomination of Julie Su to Serve as Secretary of Labor

Date: Thursday, April 20 at 10:00 a.m. EST (Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions)

Location: 430 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C.

Witnesses: 

Julie Su

DEVELOPMENTS IN IMMIGRATION THIS WEEK

Immigration policy is a dynamic field subject to constant change. Here, we summarize some of the most important recent developments in immigration policy on the federal, legal, state, and local levels. 

Content warning: This section sometimes includes events and information that can prove disturbing. 

Federal 

Biden Signs Legislation Ending National Emergency, Title 42 Remains in Place 

On April 10, President Joe Biden signed a bipartisan congressional resolution ending the national emergency for the Covid-19 pandemic, more than three years after the virus first upended lives across the country. 

But a separate Covid-19 public health emergency remains in place, as does the Title 42 policy that allows federal officials to quickly expel migrants without the opportunity to seek asylum. 

The public health emergency — and with it, the Title 42 order — is set to expire on May 11, a timeline that a White House official said was unaffected by the legislation. 

The national emergency’s end will impact other pandemic-era policies, such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Covid-19 mortgage forbearance program and relaxed Veterans Affairs requirements to determine caregiver assistance eligibility.

Meanwhile, even with Title 42 in effect, high numbers of migrants are trying to cross into El Paso, in part because of false rumors that the U.S. will let them in after a devastating fire at a Mexican immigration detention center last month killed 40 people. Despite no change in policy, migrants say they’re being told that the U.S. will not return them to Mexico in the tragedy’s aftermath, according to Border Report

But “the border is not open for those without authorization or a legal basis to enter,” said Border Patrol spokesperson Fidel Baca. “Migrants not amenable to (Title 42) expulsion but (who) do not have a legal basis to remain in the U.S. will be placed in removal procedures under Title 8. That has not changed.”

Pilot Program Tests Expedited Asylum Screenings

On April 12, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) confirmed to Border Report that asylum officers had begun conducting initial asylum screenings with migrants being held at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) processing facilities, where attorneys aren’t allowed inside. 

The new pilot program aims to expedite credible fear determinations — a first hurdle in the asylum process — by interviewing migrants while they’re still in CBP custody instead of waiting for them to be transferred to detention with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The CBP facilities will be “stocked with phone lines that will be used for the hearings,” and asylum officers will try to complete screenings within 72 hours, the Associated Press reported

The policy change is one of many federal responses to the anticipated increase in migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border after the Title 42 public health order is expected to end on May 11. But immigration advocates have raised significant concerns over the new process, which resembles short-lived initiatives under the Trump administration that saw credible fear grant rates plummet. 

Current officials have tried to distinguish their version of the policy from their predecessor’s, in part by explaining they plan to collaborate with an unnamed legal services provider to ensure asylum seekers have access to counsel. But Rep. Cuellar said that — while migrants will be able to make phone calls — attorneys still won’t be let into the CBP facilities. 

“It matters where the interviews are held. First, for attorney access. Second, for safety and space concerns,” Priscilla Orta, supervising attorney for Lawyers for Good Government’s Project Corazon, told Border Report

“ICE has protocols and procedures that are designed to allow attorneys to have meaningful access to their clients or potential clients. ICE isn’t perfect, but they are designed for this type of detention and for these interviews. CBP is different.”

Meanwhile, the Biden administration has pressed pause on its signature asylum processing rule, which it had been slowly rolling out after initial implementation last May. The rule allows asylum officers to conduct non-adversarial asylum merits interviews for those with positive credible fear determinations instead of routing them into the backlogged immigration court system. Officials said the pause was only temporary, also in preparation for an increase in migration at the U.S.-Mexico border. 

Biden Administration Expands Health Insurance Eligibility for DACA Recipients

On April 13, President Joe Biden announced that his administration would expand healthcare coverage for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, allowing them to apply for Medicaid or insurance exchanges through the Affordable Care Act.

The Obama administration created the DACA program in 2012 to provide deportation protections and work authorization for immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children — a group of people known collectively as Dreamers. But until this week’s announcement, DACA recipients haven’t qualified for government-subsidized health plans, and some have struggled greatly to afford private insurance. 

“I believe health care should be a right,” Biden tweeted. “I’ve worked hard to get more Americans health insurance than ever before – and today’s announcement that we’re expanding health coverage for DACA recipients is about giving Dreamers the same opportunities and support.”

The policy change comes even as DACA itself remains in legal limbo amid a contentious court battle that threatens to upend Dreamers’ lives and livelihoods in the U.S. 

U.S. Citizen Children Separated From Families Under the Trump Administration 

On April 11, the New York Times reported that potentially as many as a thousand U.S. citizen children had been separated from their migrant parents under the Trump administration’s Zero Tolerance policy, which drew ire and condemnation back in 2018 for ripping families apart at the southern border. 

Under the practice, thousands of children were taken from their parents as adults were prosecuted for immigration-related offenses. For American kids, their citizenship status did not necessarily provide additional rights to prevent these separations — in fact, it may have been a disadvantage, legal analysts said. 

While foreign-born children were entered into federal databases and eventually allowed to speak with their parents, U.S.-born kids were placed with state foster care systems, which has complicated reconnecting them with their families. As the interagency task force led by the Department of Homeland Security has tried to track these cases and review the files needed to identify separated parents and children, their efforts have been dogged by records that are incomplete, scattered, or nonexistent. 

Some children have yet to be reunited with their parents, lost to the system. 

New Campaign Attempts to Deter Migration Through the Darien Gap

On April 11, the United States, Panama, and Colombia announced that they would begin a 60-day campaign to curb irregular migration through the Darien Gap, one of the most dangerous parts of the transnational route to the U.S.-Mexico border. 

According to Panama’s government, the number of migrants passing through the Darien Gap has increased exponentially, with more than 87,000 people making the journey in the first three months of this year.

Details of the new campaign were sparse, although part of the plan entails “new lawful and flexible pathways for tens of thousands of migrants and refugees as an alternative to irregular migration.” Additionally, the initiative will invest in fighting poverty and creating jobs within the region. 

Changes Announced to Central American Minors Program

On April 12, the Biden administration announced changes to the Central American Minors Program (CAM), with the aim of making it more streamlined and accessible. 

The nearly decade-old program provides a pathway for children from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to reunite with parents or legal guardians already in the U.S. Kids are screened for refugee status, and if they’re ineligible for that, they’re considered for parole.

The changes announced this week will allow applicants who interviewed near the beginning of the Trump administration — which terminated the parole option and later stopped accepting new applications or interviewing candidates for CAM altogether — to now pursue parole. They will also let financial supporters give a sworn statement instead of having to fill out a form to prove financial support, and they will advance cutoff dates to expand parents’ and legal guardians’ eligibility for the program.

USCIS Opens H-2B Petitions for Returning Workers in Late-FY 2023

On April 13, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services started accepting petitions for 10,000 additional H-2B visas available during the final months of the 2023 fiscal year, with spots reserved exclusively for returning workers. 

To qualify for this supplemental allotment, businesses must prove that they are suffering or will suffer irreparable harm without the migrant labor.

Separately, USCIS is also still accepting H-2B petitions for a special allocation of visas for nationals from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Haiti.

State and Local

Illinois Bill Would Allow Dreamers to Become Police Officers

Proposed legislation in Illinois would let DACA recipients be considered for law enforcement positions statewide. 

The bill — which has bipartisan support — would address officer shortages while providing Dreamers with another opportunity to serve their communities. It has already passed the Illinois House and is now before the state Senate. 

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

Reports by bodies such as the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the Congressional Research Service, and the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General provide invaluable information on immigration policy and practice. Here, we provide brief summaries of new immigration-related reports, with links to the resources themselves in case you want to learn more. 

Congressional Research Service (CRS); Asylum Process in Immigration Courts and Selected Trends; April 12, 2023

This report summarizes asylum adjudication processes, focused on the role of the Executive Office for Immigration Review. It also analyzes recent trends in asylum applications and grant rates. 

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

The Forum is constantly publishing new policy-focused resources that engage with some of the most topical issues around immigration today. Here are a few that are particularly relevant this week: 

Bill Analysis: Eliminating Backlogs Act of 2023

This bill analysis details the provisions in H.R. 1535, a bipartisan bill introduced by Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-Indiana) and co-sponsored by Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Illinois) that would recapture unused employment-based green cards and exempt them from per-country caps.

The Relationship Between English Proficiency and Naturalization

This paper details the relationship between English language proficiency and naturalization rates in the United States. It also provides related policy recommendations.

Bill Summary: The American Families United Act

This bill summary has been updated to reflect the 118th Congress’s version of the American Families United Act, H.R. 1698, a bipartisan piece of legislation that would encourage family unity by providing the Attorney General and the Department of Homeland Security with further discretion during certain immigration-related adjudications. 

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*This Bulletin is not intended to be comprehensive. Please contact Alexandra Villarreal, Policy and Advocacy Associate at the National Immigration Forum, with comments and suggestions of additional items to be included. Alexandra can be reached at avillarreal@immigrationforum.org. Thank you.

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