Legislative Bulletin – Friday, April 5, 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

H. Res. 287

This resolution condemns President Trump’s threats to close the U.S.-Mexico border.

Sponsored by Representative Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) (4 cosponsors – 0 Republicans, 4 Democrats)

04/03/2019 Introduced in the House by Representative Cuellar

04/03/2019 Referred to the House Committees on the Judiciary, Foreign Affairs, and Ways and means

H.R. 2049

Unaccompanied Alien Children Assistance Control Act

The bill would reduce foreign aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras based on the number of unaccompanied migrant children from those countries that are placed in U.S. federal custody because of their immigration status.

Sponsored by Representative Michael Burgess (R-Texas) (o cosponsors)

04/03/2019 Introduced in the House by Representative Burgess

04/03/2019 Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs

S. 1004

Securing America’s Ports of Entry Act of 2019

The bill would require U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to hire at least 600 additional port of entry officers a year until staffing needs for the Office of Field Operations (OFO) are met.

Sponsored by Senator Gary Peters (D-Michigan) (1 cosponsor – 1 Republican, 0 Democrats)

04/03/2019 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Peters

04/03/2019 Referred to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

S. 1040

Immigrant Veterans Eligibility Tracking System (I-VETS) Act of 2019

The bill would require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to identify immigrants serving in the military when they apply for an immigration benefit or when placed in immigration enforcement proceedings.

Sponsored by Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) (6 cosponsors – 0 Republicans, 6 Democrats)

04/04/2019 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Duckworth

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

S. 1041

Veterans Visa and Protection Act of 2019

This bill would prohibit the deportation of veterans who are not violent offenders and establish a visa program that permits certain deported veterans to re-enter the U.S. as lawful permanent residents (LPRs).

Sponsored by Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) (4 cosponsors – 0 Republicans, 4 Democrats)

04/04/2019 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Duckworth

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

S. 1042

Healthcare Opportunities for Patriots in Exile (HOPE) Act of 2019

This bill would allow deported veterans who committed non-violent crimes to temporarily re-enter the U.S. to receive medical care from a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facility.

Sponsored by Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) (3 cosponsors – 0 Republicans, 3 Democrats)

04/04/2019 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Duckworth

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

S.____

American Dream Employment Act

The bill would permit Dreamers – young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children – to work or secure paid internships in congressional offices.

Sponsored by Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) (2 cosponsors – 0 Republicans, 2 Democrats)

04/03/2019 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Harris

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate will be in session the week of Monday, April 8, 2019.

The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Tuesday, April 9, 2019 to Friday, April 12, 2019.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

Department of Justice Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2020

Date: Tuesday, April 9 at 9:30 a.m. (House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies)

Location: 2359 Rayburn House Office Building

Witnesses:

William P. Barr, Attorney General, Department of Justice

Lee J. Lofthus, Assistant Attorney General for Administration, Department of Justice

Unprecedented Migration at the U.S. Southern Border: Perspectives from the Frontline

Date: Tuesday, April 9 at 10:00 a.m. (Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs)

Location: 342 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Witnesses:

Greg Cherundolo, Acting Chief of Operations, Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Department of Justice

Randy Howe, Executive Director for Operations, Office of Field Operations (OFO), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

Rodolfo Karisch, Rio Grande Valley Sector Chief Patrol Agent, Border Patrol, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

Timothy Tubbs, Deputy Special Agent in Charge-Laredo, TX, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

Commander Jonathan White, Deputy Director for Children’s Programs, Office of Emergency Management and Medical Operations, Office of Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

Member Day Hearing

Date: Tuesday, April 9 at 2:00 p.m. (House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security)

Location: 2008 Rayburn House Office Building

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Date: Wednesday, April 10 at 9:30 a.m. (House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security)

Location: 2008 Rayburn House Office Building

Witness:

Ronald D. Vitiello, Deputy Director and Senior Official Performing the Duties of Director, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Department of Homeland Security (DHS) (as of April 5, 2019)

Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: Strengthening Accountability to Protect Students and Taxpayers

Committee members will discuss the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, which provides American students, including certain immigrants, with federal student aid and other higher education programs.

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

Location: 430 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Witnesses: TBD

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

President Trump Appears to Back Down from Threat to Close U.S.-Mexico Border

On April 4, President Trump appeared to back down from his threat to close the U.S.-Mexico border, explaining that he would give Mexico “a one-year warning” to stop the flow of drugs (and presumably migrants) into the U.S. President Trump also said he would consider leveling tariffs on Mexican cars coming into the U.S. in the future before resorting to closing down the Southern border, explaining that the U.S. would “start with the tariffs and see what happens.”

Prior to April 4, President Trump threatened to close the Southern border if Mexico did not restrict the flow of migrants, including asylum seekers, from coming to the U.S. He stated that the border was “absolutely maxed out” and he was “totally ready” to close the border. President Trump’s threats sparked economic and trade worries, with avocado prices jumping nearly 50 percent in just one week. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reportedly provided information to the White House on the importance of two-way trade with Mexico. On April 2, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) noted that closing the U.S.-Mexico border would potentially have a “catastrophic economic impact on our country.” In addition, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said on April 3 that it would be “devastating to Texas” if President Trump closed the U.S.-Mexico border.  Business associations also stressed the importance of keeping the U.S.-Mexico border open, with the Texas Association of Business arguing that closing the border would be “economically devastating to Texas.” On April 2, President Trump acknowledged that closing the U.S.-Mexico border would have a negative economic impact in the U.S., but argued that protecting America’s security was more important than trade.

More than $1.5 billion in goods move across the U.S.-Mexico border every day.

Trump Administration Plans Measures to Respond to Increase of Migrants along the Southern Border

As the influx of Central American migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border remained at elevated levels, the Trump administration planned a series of immigration policy measures to combat the increase.

One aspect of the response is a continuation of the expansion of the “Remain in Mexico” plan, officially known as the Migrant Protection Protocols. Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), reportedly ordered U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents and officers to start reviewing the cases of hundreds of migrant asylum-seekers a day to see if they should be returned to Mexico while their cases moves through the U.S. immigration court system. Nielsen also ordered CBP to expand the program, which has already been launched at and between certain ports of entry in California and Texas, to additional ports of entry.

Nielsen also sent a letter to Congress on March 28 to request legislative changes to the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) and the Flores settlement agreement to address what she called the “root causes of the emergency” along the U.S.-Mexico border. The letter’s legislative proposals would permit DHS, in part, to deport unaccompanied migrant children from Central America more quickly and allow the department to hold families in detention until their cases are decided. Nielsen reportedly met with members of Congress on April 2 to press for the changes. A group of House Democratic lawmakers responded in a letter published on April 2 calling Nielsen’s proposal “ill-advised, ineffective” and pushed for DHS to engage with Congress on policies to “promote safe and orderly migration flows.”

On April 2, DHS announced that Manuel Padilla, a 30-year Border Patrol veteran, will lead a coordinated response to the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border. Padilla will be responsible for improving the sharing of information and coordinating support among ICE, CBP and other DHS agencies. Padilla’s selection comes after reports that the White House was considering bringing on an “immigration czar” to coordinate immigration policy.

In addition, the National Border Patrol Council said on April 1 that CBP will start a pilot program in two weeks to deputize Border Patrol agents to act as asylum officers and hear “credible fear” claims from asylum seekers. The policy is intended to help speed up the processing of asylum seekers at the border. Immigration advocates noted such a program will prevent asylum seekers from properly explaining their fear of persecution or violence to a trained asylum officer. The announcement came shortly before the administration cancelled a nearly $300 million federal contract with a private consulting firm to locate candidates to serve as Border Patrol agents on April 4. The cancellation followed reports that the firm only managed to fill a few dozen Border Patrol positions out of the targeted 7,500.

U.S. Plans to Cut Foreign Assistant to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala

The Trump administration announced on March 30 that it will cut U.S. foreign aid to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala in response to an increase in the number of Central American migrants coming to the U.S. Southern border. The decision could affect more than $600 million in aid that Congress has already appropriated for Central America.

The Trump administration has reportedly provided few details on how much funding would be cut and has declined to clarify how the president has the authority to end or cut foreign assistance. On March 31, White House chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney argued that if the U.S. is “is going to give these countries hundreds of millions of dollars, we would like them to do more” to reduce migration to the U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) criticized the decision, stating that the U.S. should focus on the humanitarian situation in Central America and noting that cutting off assistance “will not solve that problem.” The decision to cut foreign aid to the three Central American countries reportedly took some State Department officials by surprise and came one day after Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen signed what the administration called a “historic” memorandum of cooperation on border security in Central America.

Foreign policy experts and aid workers noted that ending foreign aid to the three Central American countries could spur more migration to the U.S., because the aid goes to programs aimed at preventing violence, extreme poverty and hunger, and strengthening security and the justice systems in the region. U.S. aid to El Salvador is responsible for helping to curb migration to the U.S. and reducing homicide levels in the country in the last three years.

Census Bureau Has Prepared Two Versions of the 2020 Census in Advance of Supreme Court Decision over Citizenship Question

The Census Bureau stated on April 1 that it has prepared two versions of the 2020 U.S. census as it awaits a decision by the Supreme Court on whether the citizenship question should be removed: one version includes the citizenship question and one does not. While the Supreme Court ruling is expected in early summer, the Census Bureau must finalize the census questionnaire for printing soon after and no later than June 30.

That same day, President Trump tweeted that a census without the “the all important Citizenship Question” would be “meaningless” and a waste of money. A federal judge previously blocked the Trump administration from including the citizenship question, calling the plan “unlawful for a multitude of independent reasons” including being in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case through an expedited appeal. The census has not contained a citizenship question since 1950, although surveys of sample populations in the Current Population Survey and the annual American Community Survey have included that question more recently.

On April 2, the House Oversight and Reform Committee voted to provide committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) with the authority to issue subpoenas to certain individuals involved in the Trump administration’s decision to add the citizenship question to the 2020 census. All Democrats in the committee and Rep. Justin Amash (R-Michigan) voted in favor of the measure.

White House Completing Proposal to Expand the Number of Worker Visas; DHS Announces Additional H-2B Visas  

According to a report in Politico, the White House is working on a proposal that could expand the number of low- and high-skilled workers admitted to the U.S. annually. The effort, led by senior adviser Jared Kushner, could be sent to Congress by summer and reportedly would be the product of a series of meetings Kushner led with advocacy groups, including business and agriculture organizations.

The report indicated that the proposal may not lead to a net increase in legal immigration, because Kushner is reportedly being urged by others in the administration to offset the increase in the number of worker with reductions in other types of legal immigration. The proposal may also trade-off an increase in the number of temporary guest worker visas for changes making it more difficult for immigrants on temporary visas to receive permanent visas to stay in the U.S. The report also noted that senior White House adviser Stephen Miller, an immigration hardliner, has not attended most of the meetings led by Kushner, but must sign off any plan before it is sent to President Trump for approval. It also noted that immigration restrictionist groups have urged the White House not to expand legal immigration.

Separately, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will provide an additional 30,000 H-2B visas for temporary non-agricultural workers through September, according to an April 3 statement by Rep. Andy Harris (R-Maryland). The H-2B program provides for 66,000 visas annually, but DHS has statutory authority to issue additional visas. In May 2018, DHS used this authority to issue an additional 15,000 H-2B visas. Employers who rely on seasonal foreign workers, ranging form tourism to amusement parks, have worked to lift limits on H-2B visas to meet the economy’s needs.

White House Withdraws Vitiello Nomination to Lead ICE; Trump Plans to Name “Tougher” Candidate

The White House withdrew the nomination of Ronald D. Vitiello to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on April 4, delivering the announcement to Congress one day before Vitiello was expected to join President Trump on a planned trip to the Southern border. On April 5, Trump explained that he wanted to go “in a tougher direction.”

The decision to withdraw the nomination was unexpected and met with confusion, with one DHS official reportedly wondering whether it was a paperwork error. Vitiello remains acting director of ICE, a position he has held since June 2018.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee postponed votes on Vitiello’s nomination to permanently lead ICE in November 2018 and February 2019. The postponements followed criticism from the National ICE Council, a union representing ICE agents, which urged lawmakers to block Vitiello’s confirmation due to his response to anti-ICE protests and social media comments he made that were critical of President Trump. Democrats also expressed concern over different social media comments that criticized the Democratic Party. Nevertheless, he was expected to be confirmed by the full Senate after the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee advanced his nomination with bipartisan support last month.

ICE Arrests 280 Undocumented Employees in Texas Workplace Raid, the Largest Workplace Raid in a Decade

ICE detained more than 280 people in Allen, Texas on April 3 as part of the largest workplace raid in a decade. ICE said the individuals arrested were working without documentation in CVE Technology Group, a company that refurbishes and repairs electronics. The raid followed an investigation into complaints that the company had been knowingly hiring undocumented immigrants and that many of those workers were using false identification documents.

ICE stated all undocumented immigrants apprehended in the raid “will be fingerprinted and processed for removal from the United States” and that managers of CVE Technology Group could face criminal charges. ICE did not provide information on the nationalities, ages or any criminal backgrounds of those apprehended. The raid sparked small demonstrations in Allen and Dallas, Texas, with local advocates noting that those apprehended are hard-working individuals and, in many cases, breadwinners for their families.

Legal

House to File Lawsuit to Block the Transfer of Funds for the Border Wall

Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on April 4 that the House will file a lawsuit to challenge President Trump’s decision to transfer funds to construct a wall along the Southern border. Speaker Pelosi stated that the transfer of funds, which comes as a result of President Trump’s national emergency declaration on border security, “clearly violates the Appropriations Clause by stealing from appropriated funds, an action that was not authorized by constitutional or statutory authority.” The Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, which consists of leaders of both parties in the House, voted along party lines to authorize the lawsuit, though it remains unclear when the suit will be filed. Several other lawsuits challenging President Trump’s national emergency declaration, including one by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), have already been filed.

On March 25, the Defense Department notified Congress that it authorized up to $1 billion in military personnel funds to be transferred to construct 57 miles of physical barriers along the Southern border.

State and Local

Republican-led San Diego County Sues Trump Administration Over Treatment of Migrant Families

The Republican-led San Diego County Board of Supervisors filed a federal lawsuit against the Trump administration on April 3 over the administration’s lack of assistance for asylum-seeking families in the county. The county board voted 4 to 1 in February to file the lawsuit, with three of the board’s four Republicans joining in support of the suit.

The county’s lawsuit notes ICE ended its “Safe Release” program in October, which provided asylum seekers with assistance to reach family members or other final destinations in the U.S. while they waited for their immigration proceedings. Now, asylum seekers are processed by ICE and then released into communities in San Diego without any resources or information, except an order to show up later to their immigration court hearing. The lawsuit notes that, following the end of the “Safe Release” program, “large numbers of asylum seekers and accompanying family members are forced to remain in the County…[while] the County has been forced to expend substantial funds and other resources to provide medical screening and care.” The county has had to find shelter for 20 to 30 family units (about 60 to 80 parents and children), as well as provide health screenings, each day. Families stayed an average of 72 hours in the shelters in San Diego. The lawsuit aims to reimburse the county for the cost of assisting asylum seekers, as well as to force the Trump administration to re-implement a “Safe Release” program.

Arkansas Senate Passes Bills to Provide DACA Recipients In-State Tuition, Nursing Certification

The Arkansas Senate approved two separate bills to allow Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients to receive in-state tuition, and to obtain nursing certifications. On April 3, the Arkansas Senate passed a bill that would make DACA recipients eligible for in-state tuition if they have lived in the state for at least three years prior to the admission and have graduated from one of the state’s high schools. The bill provides that DACA recipients, as well as children of people with federally issued I-766 work permits and immigrants from the Marshall Islands, receive in-state tuition at public colleges and universities in Arkansas. The bill is now headed back to the Arkansas House for a procedural vote.

On April 4, the Arkansas Senate passed a bill that would allow DACA recipients to obtain nursing licenses, as part of an effort to address the state’s growing nursing shortage. The bill passed the House on a voice vote with no opposition on March 7, 2019. Although DACA recipients are generally granted work permits, some professions that require postsecondary education do not recognize them as eligible for certifications or licensures in certain states. In Arkansas, the current policies allow DACA students to take courses in nursing but prevent them from taking the state nursing licensing exam.

Governor Asa Hutchinson is expected to sign both bills into the law.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO): Border Security: U.S. Government Efforts to Strengthen Nonimmigrant Visa Security and Address High-Risk Air Travelers, April 2, 2019 (by Rebecca Gambler)

This GAO testimony discusses data and findings on nonimmigrant visa application adjudications and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) programs aimed at preventing high-risk travelers from entering the U.S.

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.

Facebook Live Conversation on Temporary Protected Status (TPS) Recipients

This Facebook Live conversation provides an overview of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and the current debate around finding a permanent, legislative solution for TPS recipients.

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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