Legislative Bulletin — Friday, April 23, 2021

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. 1135

The Guaranteed Refugee Admissions Ceiling Enhancement (GRACE) Act

The bill would prevent a U.S. President from setting a refugee admissions ceiling below 125,000 a year. The bill is a companion to H.R. 2237.

Sponsored by Senator Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts) (21 cosponsors — 21 Democrats, 0 Republicans)

04/15/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Markey

04/15/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 1138

Ending China’s Exit Ban for American Citizens Act of 2021

The bill would deny or revoke visas of Chinese officials who are involved in extra-judicial actions against U.S. citizens. The bill specifically revokes visas for Chinese officials participating in “exit bans,” which are used to prevent U.S. citizens who are not suspected of a crime from leaving China.

Sponsored by Senator Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts) (3 cosponsors — 2 Democrats, 1 Republican)

04/15/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Markey

04/15/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 1159

The Counterfeit Goods and Seizures Act

The bill would authorize Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to seize goods or packaging entering the United States that involve design patent infringement.

Sponsored by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) (0 cosponsors)

04/15/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Grassley

04/15/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on Finance

S. 1177

E Visa Integrity Act

The bill would impose additional requirements to acquire an E visa, which are used by foreign investors and traders who are nationals of countries that have certain treaty agreements with the U.S. The bill also requires those seeking E-2 investor visas to invest an “economically impactful” amount of capital into the U.S.

Sponsored by Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) (1 cosponsor — 1 Republican, 0 Democrats)

04/15/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Lee

04/15/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 1186

Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act

This bill seeks to improve conditions in U.S. detention centers and would mandate that all detained immigrants have access to a bond hearing before an immigration judge.

Sponsored by Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) (3 cosponsors — 3 Democrats, 0 Republicans)

04/15/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Booker

04/15/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 1261

Illegal Alien NICS Alert Act

The bill would require the National Instant Criminal Background Check system to notify U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as well as other local law enforcement agencies when an individual who attempts to purchase or transfer a firearm is determined to be without legal immigration status.

Sponsored by Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) (4 cosponsors — 4 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

04/21/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Cotton

04/21/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 1336

Protecting the Rights of Towns Against Federal Enforcement Contrary to Constitutional Tenets for Immigration (PROTECT Immigration) Act

The bill would rescind the 287(g) program, which allows DHS to enter into agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies for the purpose of enforcing federal immigration law. The bill is a companion to H.R. 2805.

Sponsored by Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) (4 cosponsors — 4 Democrats, 0 Republicans)

04/22/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Booker

04/22/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 1358

The Bipartisan Border Solutions Act

The bill would create regional border processing centers, authorize pilot programs to expedite the asylum process, improving access to legal services and detention conditions, and provide additional resources and personnel for border processing.

Sponsored by Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) (1 cosponsors — 1 Democrats, 0 Republicans)

04/22/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Cornyn

04/22/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 1333

NO BAN Act

The bill would prevent the President from barring immigrants from entering the U.S. based on their religion unless there is a statutory basis for such an action. The bill also imposes other restrictions on the President’s 212(f) authority to restrict groups of immigrants.

Sponsored by Representative Judy Chu (D-California) (159 cosponsors — 159 Democrats, 0 Republicans)

02/25/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Chu

02/25/2021 Referred to the House Committees on Homeland Security, Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and the Judiciary

04/21/2021 Passed the House by a vote of 218 to 208.

H.R. 1573

The Access to Counsel Act

The bill would provide access to legal counsel and other protections to certain individuals who are subject to secondary inspections while seeking to enter the U.S. Only U.S. citizens, green card holders, visa holders, returning asylees, and refugees would be eligible for the protections.

Sponsored by Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) (49 cosponsors — 49 Democrats, 0 Republicans)

03/03/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Jayapal

03/03/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

04/21/2021 Passed the House by a vote of 217 to 7

H.R. 2571

Advancing Mutual Interests and Growing Our Success (AMIGOS) Act

The bill would extend E and E-2 trade and investor visas to Portuguese citizens.

Sponsored by Representative David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island) (4 cosponsors — 3 Democrats, 1 Republican)

04/15/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Cicilline

04/15/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 2579

Eradicate Crossing of Illegal Tunnels (EXIT) Act

The bill would grant DHS the authority to waive federal and local environmental regulations in under to better target border tunnels used by smugglers. The bill also allows CBP to enter into “indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity” contracts related to targeting and filling border tunnels. It would also provide CBP the authority to search for and remediate all cross-border tunnels while patrolling the border.

Sponsored by Representative Vicky Hartzler (R-Missouri) (9 cosponsors — 9 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

04/15/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Hartzler

04/15/2021 Referred to the House Committees on Homeland Security and on the Judiciary

H.R. 2684

Cuban Family Reunification Modernization Act

The bill would allow U.S. citizens and green cardholders to apply for Cuban family members to come to the U.S. and to have access to permanent legal status. The bill would also authorize a naval station in Cuba to help conduct interviews and background checks of potential beneficiaries.

Sponsored by Representative Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Florida) (3 cosponsors — 1 Democrats, 2 Republicans)

04/20/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Diaz-Balart

04/20/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 2729

Finish the Wall Act

The bill would require the administration to resume the construction of barriers along the Southwest border. The bill would also prevent DHS from cancelling any construction contracts related to the border wall system, and it would require DHS to spend all funds appropriated or obligated to the construction of border barriers since Fiscal Year 2017. The bill would also require DHS to comply with existing statute relating to biometric background checks of arriving migrants.

Sponsored by Representative Clay Higgins (R-Louisiana) (52 cosponsors — 52 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

04/21/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Higgins

04/21/2021 Referred to the House Committee on Homeland Security

H.R. 2776

Border Patrol Agent Pay Reform Amendment Act of 2021

The bill would provide Border Patrol agents more flexibility in scheduling their work and in determining how they would receive overtime.

Sponsored by Representative Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) (2 cosponsors — 1 Democrat, 1 Republican)

04/22/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Gonzales

04/22/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Oversight and Reform

H.R. 2802

The American Border Rescue Plan Act

The bill would allow state and local governments to use COVID-19 stimulus funds authorized under the American Rescue Plan Act to cover costs associated with border security. r

Sponsored by Representative August Pfluger (R-Texas) (11 cosponsors — 11 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

04/22/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Gonzales

04/22/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Oversight and Reform

H.R. 2805

Protecting the Rights of Towns Against Federal Enforcement Contrary to Constitutional Tenets for Immigration (PROTECT Immigration) Act

The bill would rescind the 287(g) program, which allows DHS to enter into agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies for the purpose of enforcing federal immigration law. The bill is a companion to S. 1336.

Sponsored by Representative Mike Quigley (D-Illinois) (7 cosponsors — 7 Democrats, 0 Republican)

04/22/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Quigley

04/22/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. ___

The Bipartisan Border Solutions Act

The bill would create regional border processing centers, authorize pilot programs to expedite the asylum process, improving access to legal services and detention conditions, and provide additional resources and personnel for border processing. The bill is a companion to S. 1358.

Sponsored by Representative Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) (1 cosponsor — 1 Democrat, 0 Republicans)

04/22/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Gonzales

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives will be in session the week of Monday, April 26, 2021.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

Harnessing the Power of Immigrant-Owned Businesses to Build Back Better

Date: Wednesday, April 28, 2021 at 12:15 PM ET (House Small Business Committee)

Location: Virtual Hearing

Witnesses:

David Dyssegaard Kallick, Director of Immigration Research Initiative, Fiscal Policy Institute

Daniel Fitzgerald, Acting Regional Director, San Diego & Imperial Small Business Development Center Network

Jaja Chen, Co-Owner & Chief of Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships, Waco Cha, LLC

Jose Ponce, President, Re/Max Gold

Why Don’t They Just Get in Line? Barriers to Legal Immigration

Date: Wednesday, April 28, 2021 at 2:15 PM ET (House Judiciary Committee)

Location: Virtual Hearing

Witnesses:

TBD

Hearings to Examine the Non-Governmental Organization Perspective on the Southwest Border

Date: Wednesday, April 28, 2021 at 2:30 PM ET (Senate Homeland Security and Governemntal Affairs Committee)

Location: Senate Dirksen Building, SD-342 and virtually

Witnesses:

TBD

Unaccompanied Children at the Border: Stakeholder Perspectives on the Way Forward

Date: Tuesday, April 27, 2021 at 2:00 PM ET (House Homeland Security Committee)

Location: Virtual Hearing

Witnesses:

Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, Policy Counsel, American Immigration Council

Robert Garcia, Mayor, Long Beach, California

Jennifer Podkul, Vice President for Policy and Advocacy, Kids In Need of Defense

Lora Ries, Senior Homeland Security Research Fellow, Heritage Foundation

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

Bipartisan Group of Senators Hold Immigration Talks

According to an April 23 Axios report, a bipartisan group of Senators met in a closed-door meeting on April 22 to further discuss and negotiate immigration-based legislative reform. Democrats reportedly advocated for the Senate to act on two pieces of legislation recently passed by the House of Representatives with bipartisan support that would provide a pathway to permanent status for Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status holders, and undocumented farmworkers. Republicans in the meeting argued for the need to address the southern border with additional border security and asylum reforms.

Following the meeting, Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) said the group agreed to draft a list of incremental reforms, so the negotiations can “build from there.” Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) said, “it was a very positive meeting and bipartisan….We want to pursue a number of elements: the bills that came over from the House as well as border security.”

In addition to Senators Durbin and Cornyn, attendees at the meeting included Republican Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), joined by Democratic Senators Alex Padilla (D-California), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona), Chris Coons (D-Delaware), Michael Bennett (D-Colorado), Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey), Ben Ray Luján (D-New Mexico), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada), and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont).

On April 23, Senators Cornyn and Sinema introduced the Bipartisan Border Solutions Act, which aims to streamline border and asylum processing and improve access to legal services for arriving migrants. Reps. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) and Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

As the bipartisan discussions continue, on April 21 President Biden reportedly told members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that he was open to moving immigration-related reforms through the budget reconciliation process, if Republican support for key reforms is not forthcoming in the Senate. The reconciliation process could allow reforms to pass with a simple majority in the Senate and would not require bipartisan support. However, on April 22, the White House clarified that the President remains focused on working across the aisle on immigration. Press Secretary Jen Psaki said of the President that “his view is that the conversation right now should not be focused on reconciliation. It should be focused on finding a bipartisan path forward.”

Details Emerge Around White House Decision on Refugee Ceiling

A number of reports released the week of April 19 revealed more information about the Biden administration’s issuance and subsequent backtrack of the record-low 15,000 refugee ceiling for fiscal year (FY) 2021 on April 16. According to the reports, President Biden overruled top foreign policy and national security aides, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in his decision to first delay raising the refugee ceiling and then in the signing of an April 16 determination that maintained the historically low cap for fiscal year 2021. Blinken reportedly personally and repeatedly implored the President to raise the ceiling to no avail.

On April 17, President Biden explained that his decision to maintain the ceiling of 15,000 was due in part to capacity issues at the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) under the Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for the care and processing of unaccompanied children at the U.S.-Mexico border. Advocates have noted that while ORR plays a limited role after refugees have already been resettled, responsibility for resettlement lies chiefly with the State Department and resource constraints at ORR would not pose a significant hurdle to a higher refugee ceiling.

Democrats and Republicans alike have criticized the low 15,000 cap. On April 21, a group of  former Trump and George W. Bush administration national security officials sent a letter urging the administration “to move swiftly to admit pre-approved refugees because they are not a security threat.” Representative Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota), who arrived in the U.S. as a refugee, called the April 16 determination “shameful.”

After backtracking on the initial determination, the administration stated it would announce an increased refugee ceiling by May 15 for the remainder of the fiscal year. In a call with advocates on April 16, senior administration officials reportedly said that the ceiling could be officially raised “well before” then.

Administration Allows More Seasonal Guestworkers

On April 20, the Department of Homeland Security announced it would raise the H-2B seasonal nonagricultural guestworker visa ceiling by 22,000 to help meet workforce needs in the coming months. Of the additional visas, 6,000 are set aside to be used for workers from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador to help address the increase in irregular migration from the Northern Triangle region.

The annual H-2B ceiling starts at 66,000 total visas, 33,000 for those starting positions from October through March, and 33,000 for those starting positions from April through September. However, despite strict qualification requirements, visa demand often far outstrips supply, and Congress regularly permits the administration to raise the cap by as much as 64,000 in annual appropriations bills. The Trump administration had raised the H-2B cap each of the past four years, by 15,000 in the spring of 2017 and 2018, by 30,000 in the spring of 2019, and by 35,000 in the spring of 2020.

The H-2B visa program is used by a wide range of U.S. employers who have temporary work needs, including those in the landscaping, forestry, tourism, hospitality, food processing, and construction industries. In order to be approved by the Department of Labor, prospective H-2B employers must prove that no U.S. workers are available to take the job, and they must offer wages comparable to what U.S. workers might be paid.

House Passes Bills to Prevent Future Immigration Bans Based on Religion, Provide Increased Access to Counsel

On April 20, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would prevent the White House from barring immigrants from entering the U.S. based on their religion. The National Origin-Based Anti-discrimination for Nonimmigrants (NO BAN) Act was initially introduced in early 2019 as a response to Trump administration executive actions limiting visas for multiple countries, many with majority-Muslim populations. The bill passed by a vote of 218 to 208, with one Republican joining 217 Democrats.

Representative Judy Chu (D-California), who sponsored the legislation, said that, “we must make sure no president is ever able to ban people from coming to the U.S. simply because of their religion.”

The House also passed the Access to Counsel Act, a bill that would guarantee access to counsel for certain noncitizens who had legal status but have been detained for secondary investigation upon entry into the United States. Versions of both bills passed the House previously in the 116th Congress. The Biden administration issued statements in support of both pieces of legislation.

Lawmakers Call for Expedited Resettlement of Afghan Translators

On April 21, a bipartisan group of lawmakers sent a letter to the White House calling on President Biden to prioritize and expedite resettlement for Afghan translators, contractors and security personnel who have assisted U.S. operations, ahead of the president’s September 11 deadline to draw down remaining U.S. forces in the country. The letter announced the formation of a congressional working group titled the “Honoring Our Promises Working Group,” which would work to “ensure that we are honoring our promises to our friends and partners in the final days of this conflict.”

Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) are available to Afghans who have assisted U.S. military efforts. As of April 2020, more than 7,000 Afghans had resettlement applications pending and 50 percent of cases were taking more than 500 days to process.

Migrants Facing Violence, Separation Due to U.S. Immigration Processes

According to a Human Rights First report published on April 20, there have been 492 public reports of violent attacks against migrants in Mexico near the border with the United States since January 2021. Many of the attacks occurred against individuals returned under Title 42, a public health rule initially implemented by the Trump administration that gives CBP the authority to immediately expel or deport anyone who attempts to cross the border without authorization, including asylum seekers and some families.

Religious leaders and church groups along the U.S.-Mexico border have said they have the capacity to help the government temporarily accommodate migrants who would otherwise be returned to dangerous conditions under Title 42. Sister Norma Pimental, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, said of the migrants, “They’re human beings. They’re here in my community, and they need help.”

According to an April 21 report in The Guardian, the use of Title 42 has led to many expelled families making the difficult decision to send their children alone to the border. Unaccompanied children have not been subject to Title 42 expulsion under the Biden administration, and are instead required by law to be transferred within 72 hours from CBP custody to Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) shelters, and eventually on to vetted family members or sponsors while their immigration court cases proceed. More than 40% of unaccompanied minors released by the government to sponsors have at least one parent already in the U.S. According to an April 20 report, ORR currently takes approximately 22 days to process children who already have a parent in the U.S., and 33 days to process children on to other non-parental family members who are living in the U.S.

Mexico Announces Increased Border Enforcement, Shelters for Children

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador announced on April 21 that the government would begin tightening enforcement along its southern border with Guatemala to stem the flow of migrants reaching the U.S. He also announced the construction of new shelters for children, as the number of unaccompanied children arriving in Mexico now averages 275 per day. Mexico has already increased its number of deportations by 65 percent compared to last year, and the number of Central American migrants held in Mexican detention facilities has more than doubled.

President Lopez Obrador’s announcement comes amid Vice President Harris’ new diplomatic efforts to engage with regional governments to curb migration. Part of the negotiations include a discussion of responding to the root causes of migration, including addressing government corruption, reducing violent crime, and stimulating economic growth. Vice President Harris will meet virtually with the president of Guatemala in the coming days and will travel to the region for an in-person summit in June.

Legal

Supreme Court Justices Appears Skeptical on TPS Recipients Adjustment of Status

In oral arguments on April 19, the U.S. Supreme Court appeared skeptical that Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders could become eligible for green cards if they initially entered the country without authorization. The case hinges on whether TPS recipients should be classified as nonimmigrants under the Immigration and Nationality Act, and as such should be considered “inspected and admitted,” regardless of whether they initially entered the country without authorization. Chief Justice John Roberts, along with Justices Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh expressed skepticism that TPS holders could be deemed “inspected and admitted” and therefore eligible to adjust to permanent status.

Lower Court decisions have revealed a circuit split, in which the Sixth, Eighth and Ninth Circuits have rules that all TPS holders should be allowed to adjust their status if they are otherwise eligible, while the Third and the Eleventh Circuits have ruled that TPS holders should not be considered “inspected and admitted” and should not be eligible for green cards.

Based on the April 19 hearing, the Supreme Court seems prepared to rule in favor of the Biden administration, which argued against the TPS recipient petitioners. Such a ruling would not prevent Congress from clarifying the statute to provide additional eligibility for TPS holders.

The Biden administration also modified its argument slightly from the stance taken by Trump’s Department of Justice, potentially intending to leave room for administrative action to allow some TPS recipients to adjust their status even after the case concludes.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

Congressional Research Service (CRS): Citizenship and Immigration Statuses of the U.S. Foreign-Born Population; April 9, 2021

This “In Focus” article from the Congressional Research Service describes the various immigration and citizenship statuses held by the U.S. foreign-born population. As of 2019, foreign-born individuals represent about 13% of the total U.S. population. The resource categorizes individuals as resident nonimmigrants, lawful permanent residents, naturalized citizens, or unauthorized and quasi-legal immigrants.

Congressional Research Service (CRS): Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforced Departure; Updated April 9, 2021

This recently updated report focuses on Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED). Countries are designated for TPS following civil unrest, violence, or natural disasters. There are currently approximately 320,000 individuals from 10 countries with TPS. In March 2021, the Biden administration designated Venezuela and Myanmar for TPS. Litigation is currently ongoing for six countries whose status was revoked during the Trump administration. The report also describes current debates over whether individuals with TPS or DED should be given a path for legal permanent status.

Congressional Research Service (CRS): The Law of Asylum Procedure at the Border: Statutes and Agency Implementation; April 9, 2021

This primer on asylum procedures at the border explains how asylum seekers who arrive without valid entry documents are processed by border officials. Officials must screen each migrant to determine whether they have fled their country of origin with a certain level of “credible fear.” Migrants are detained during the screening process and potentially during the following court proceedings. The primer also describes the use of the Title 42 rule by both the Trump and Biden administrations.

Congressional Research Service (CRS): Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA): By the Numbers; April 14, 2021

This report explains what Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is and describes current debates surrounding it. DACA provides protections from deportation and work authorization to certain unauthorized individuals who arrived in the country as children. There were approximately 636,400 DACA recipients in the U.S., as of December 31, 2020. DACA does not grant recipients legal permanent resident status, but multiple bills establishing such pathways have been introduced in the current Congress.

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

Bill Analysis: The Bipartisan Border Solutions Act

The bill would respond to increases in arriving migrants by creating regional border processing centers, expediting the asylum process, improving access to legal services, and providing additional resources and personnel for border processing.

Fact Sheet: U.S. Refugee Resettlement

This fact sheet summarizes basic facts and statistics about refugee resettlement in the United States. It describes the refugee screening process and provides basic information about refugees in the U.S.

Fact Sheet: Temporary Protected Status

This fact sheet provides an explanation of what Temporary Protected Status is and who is eligible to receive it. It also includes a summary of how many immigrants living in the U.S. have TPS and provides an overview of current ongoing litigation and policy changes surrounding TPS.

* * *

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

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