Legislative Bulletin – Friday, April 19, 2019



There were no immigration-related bills introduced or considered during the week of Monday, April 15, 2019.


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


There are no immigration-related hearings or markups scheduled for the week of Monday, April 22, 2019.



White House Reviewing Plan to Release Migrants into “Sanctuary Cities”

The Trump administration is reportedly still reviewing a proposal to release migrant detainees apprehended along the Southern border into so-called sanctuary cities and jurisdictions after President Trump said on April 12 he was giving “very strong consideration” to the idea. The administration had previously discarded the proposal due to budgetary and liability concerns, with senior Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials telling ICE’s leadership that the plan to bus migrants to “small-and mid-sized sanctuary cities” was inappropriate and lacked a legal basis. The White House, including senior advisor Stephen Miller, reportedly pressured the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to release migrant detainees twice in six months to retaliate against President Trump’s political opponents on immigration.

After the White House efforts became public on April 11, a number of U.S. mayors said that their cities would welcome the migrants, while criticizing the administration for using migrants as “pawns.” On April 14, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended the proposal, saying it would “spread out some of that burden” and “put it in some of those other locations if that’s what they want to see happen.”

Meanwhile, Representative Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland), Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, requested on April 16 that Stephen Miller appear before the committee in May to discuss his part in the administration’s immigration policies, including his role in pressuring DHS to release migrants in so-called sanctuary cities. In addition, Cummings and the Chairmen of the House Judiciary Committee and the House Homeland Security Committee wrote to Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Kevin McAleenan requesting e-mails and other documents related to the plan to release migrants.

President Trump Reportedly Vowed to Pardon McAleenan Amidst Increase in Central American Migrants Coming to the U.S.

President Trump reportedly told Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan, then serving as the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner, that he would pardon McAleenan if he faced legal consequences for blocking asylum seekers from entering the U.S. The exchange came as President Trump visited the border at Calexico, California in early April. New reports stated it was unclear whether it was a joke. On April 12, following reports of the incident, President Trump denied that he offered pardons to DHS personnel in “case they broke the law.” On April 16, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-New York), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, requested that McAleenan testify before Congress about the reports and provide the names of all DHS employees who were in the room when the comments were allegedly made.

President Trump’s alleged comments came amidst an increase in Central American migrants, including asylum seekers, coming to the U.S.-Mexico border. DHS announced on April 17 that it will spend nearly $40 million to build and operate two new tent cities to hold migrant families and children apprehended along the U.S.-Mexico border. CBP is also expected to send Office of Field Operations (OFO) officers from the Canadian border and airports to the Southern border. This follows CBP’s decision to reassign 750 port of entry officers from the Southern border to help process migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso and other areas. This re-deployment ultimately caused long delays at ports of entry along the Southern border. In addition, Matthew Albence, Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), stated on April 17 that the agency is arresting and deporting fewer immigrants in the U.S., because they are devoting more resources to process Central American migrants apprehended along the Southern border.

Attorney General Barr Issues Rule to Prevent Release of Certain Asylum Seekers on Bond

Attorney General William Barr issued a ruling on April 16 that would deny certain asylum seekers who established a “credible fear of persecution or torture” in their home country from being released on bond by immigration judges. The ruling, which is intended to go into effect in 90 days, could result in asylum seekers spending more time in immigration detention while their cases are being decided. The decision reversed a previous ruling from 2005 that said asylum seekers should have a right to bond hearings once they are in the U.S. Barr stated that the case was “wrongly decided.”

The ruling will impact asylum seekers who were apprehended between ports of entry or after entering the U.S. without authorization. Immigration advocates expressed concern that the order could set a major precedent, permitting the government to deny bond hearings for an even broader group of migrants. They also claimed that Barr is “stripping judges of the most basic operational authorities and judicial independence.” Advocacy groups are expected to challenge the ruling, also known as Matter of M-S, in courts, saying it violates asylum seekers’ basic rights.

The ruling comes as the administration tries to discourage migrants from coming to the U.S. and claims to have no more space and resources to detain additional migrants.

Trump Administration Proposes New Federal Housing Rule, Weighs Other Rules to Curb Immigration

The Trump administration proposed a new rule on April 17 that would require the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to screen all residents in federal housing under the age of 62, potentially preventing households with family members who are undocumented from receiving federal housing assistance. Under the proposal, HUD would screen residents through the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program, which helps verify an individual’s immigration status. Families living with members who are undocumented may subsequently lose their housing assistance after 18 months. Current rules already prevent undocumented immigrants from receiving federal housing assistance, but they permit families of mixed-immigration status to live in federal housing if one person is eligible, such as a U.S. citizen child. Housing experts note that federal housing subsidies are pro-rated to account only for legal eligible residents, so mixed-status families pay at nearly the market rate and receive lower subsidies than low-income families where everyone is a U.S. citizen. HUD estimates there are about 32,000 mixed-immigration status households receiving federal housing assistance.

In addition, the Trump administration is reportedly weighing travel restrictions for countries with high overstay rates of short-term visitor visas in an effort to curb unauthorized immigration to the U.S. The prospective action would  put the countries “on notice,” informing the countries’ governments that if visa overstay rates do not decrease, then future visas could be shorter or more difficult to obtain. A White House spokesperson said that reducing overstay rates remains a priority for the administration. Some of the countries with the highest rates of overstaying short-term visas include Nigeria, Chad, Eritrea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. In fiscal year (FY) 2017, DHS counted 701,900 visa overstays, about 1.3 percent of all short-term visitors to the U.S. However, the figure includes visitors who unintentionally overstayed their visa for short periods of time, even less than 24 hours.

The Trump administration is also weighing other rules that would increase the requirements to qualify for a foreign investor visa, prevent spouses of some high skilled H-1B visa holders from working in the U.S., and set a maximum length of authorized stay in the U.S. for students’ visas.

Enforcement Priorities Continue to Place Undocumented Immigrants in Deportation Proceedings

The expanded priorities for deportation set in place on February 21, 2017, which make almost all immigrants without legal status in the U.S. a priority for removal, continue to result in cases of individuals who would previously receive reprieve from deportation having to face removal proceedings.

On April 11, ICE deported Jose Gonzalez Carranza, the spouse of a U.S. soldier killed in Afghanistan in 2010, leaving the couple’s 12-year-old daughter in Phoenix, Arizona. Gonzalez Carranza came to the U.S. in 2004. He married U.S. soldier Barbara Vieyra in 2007 and received parole in place, which allowed him to remain in the U.S. without the threat of deportation. However, ICE refiled Gonzalez Carranza’s case in 2018 and an immigration judge ordered him deported after he failed to show up at his immigration court hearing. Gonzalez Carranza said he never received the notice to show up for the court hearing. On April 15, following articles on Gonzalez Carranza’s case and assistance from Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s (D-Arizona) office, ICE reversed course and allowed Gonzalez Carranza to return to the U.S.

Furthermore, on April 11, Laura Maradiaga, an 11-year-old from Houston, Texas, was ordered deported to El Salvador without her family after she was left off a docket for her family’s immigration court appearance. Maradiaga’s attorney said that due to a clerical error an immigration judge signed off on the deportation order under the premise that she missed a court appearance. Maradiaga and her family came to the U.S. in October 2018 to seek asylum after fleeing gang violence in El Salvador. Following reports of Maradiaga’s deportation order, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said the case was “heart-wrenching” and implored the government to keep the family together. On April 16, an immigration judge approved a motion to reopen Maradiaga’s case, essentially halting the deportation order while her family continues the process of requesting asylum in the U.S.


Ninth Circuit Temporarily Halts Judge’s Decision to Block “Remain in Mexico” Policy

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals placed a temporary hold on April 12 on a lower court’s decision to block the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), known as the “Remain in Mexico Policy,” allowing the Trump administration to resume the practice. The MPP allows U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers to prevent asylum seekers from entering the U.S. and requires them to wait in Mexico while their request for asylum proceeds. Previously, U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg issued a preliminary injunction blocking the MPP on April 8, stating 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 MPP policy was implemented as a pilot program at the San Ysidro border crossing near San Diego in 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 MPP at more ports of entry along the Southern border in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and California.

Trump Administration Reaches Settlement on Central American Minor (CAM) Program

The Trump administration reached a settlement on April 12 with plaintiffs representing a dozen Central American families who challenged the administration’s termination of the Central American Minors (CAM) program. Under the settlement, the Trump administration agreed to allow as many as 2,700 children, living in Central America, to be reunited with their parents in the U.S. The settlement requires the Trump administration to finish processing their applications, which were in the final stages when it ended the CAM program. The government expects most applicants will be approved and allowed to travel to the U.S.

The CAM program, an initiative of the Obama administration, allowed parents who legally reside in the U.S. to apply to bring their children or other family members from Honduras, Guatemala or El Salvador into the U.S. The Trump administration announced in August 2017 that it would end the program. On March 1, 2019, a federal court judge ordered the Trump administration to continue to process approximately 2,700 applications submitted under the CAM program, but stopped short of ordering the administration to fully resume the program.

State and Local

Yuma, Arizona Declares State of Emergency Over Lack of Resources to Help Migrants

The city of Yuma, Arizona issued a proclamation of emergency on April 16 to request help and resources from state and federal authorities amidst an increase in Central American migrants coming to the U.S.-Mexico border. Douglas Nicholls, the city’s mayor, said that they are “looking for a FEMA-type response” to deal with the situation posed by “too many migrant releases into our community.” Recently, the Border Patrol has released migrant families into the city with an order to show up later to their immigration court hearing, rather than transferring them into Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody for long-term detention. Nicholls noted that nonprofits are working to provide migrants with shelter, food and assistance to arrange for travel to their final destinations, but the numbers have created a “capacity issue” in the 100,000-person city. He said the city issued the emergency proclamation to ensure “resources could come in and take care of the situation” and so that the “human rights of all the migrants are maintained.” The city only has one migrant shelter, which grew from housing 60 people to more than 200 people in the span of three weeks. Nicholls noted that Yuma faces more challenges than bigger border cities like El Paso and San Diego, which have more resources to help migrant families as they wait to travel to their final destinations.


Homeland Security Advisory Council: Final Emergency Interim Report of the Homeland Security Advisory Council’s CBP Families and Children Care Panel Subcommittee, April 16, 2019

This interim report provides a series of recommendations requesting significant changes to asylum law and to the treatment of migrant children and families who come to the U.S.-Mexico border. The interim report was compiled by a panel formed by the Homeland Security Advisory Council, a group of advisers who provide recommendations to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).


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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