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Legislative Bulletin — Friday, April 5, 2024

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:








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. 


USCIS Extends Work Authorizations to Avoid Lapses During Processing 

On April 4, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced it would automatically extend the work permit validity period for certain noncitizens, to avoid lapses in coverage that could unnecessarily harm employers and workers while the agency processes renewal requests. 

Eligible applicants must have a still-pending renewal application for employment authorization, filed on or after October 27. Work permits will be extended for up to 540 days, providing much-needed stability for almost 800,000 workers and tens of thousands of employers. 

“I have been so worried about losing my job I had managed to successfully secure in order to survive and make ends meet. I am so grateful that the government extended work permits so we can continue to survive and not have the stress and pressure of losing our jobs as that is very worrisome,” one asylum seeker told The Hill

New USCIS Fee Rule Takes Effect After Judge Denies Restraining Order 

On April 1, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) new fee rule went into force as the mostly fee-funded agency tries to cover its operational costs while tackling large backlogs of already pending cases. 

The new fee framework — adjusted for the first time since 2016 — in some instances imposes dramatically higher filing costs, especially on employers looking to hire noncitizen workers. It also includes a new Asylum Program fee for employers, which the agency has justified by saying that “when we have a more fully funded corps of asylum officers, our non-asylum officers can concentrate more exclusively on adjudicating cases from employers and other filers, bringing down processing times for everyone.”

Some of the filing fees for lower income noncitizens — including the work authorization fee — also saw an increase, even as the agency expanded exemptions for particularly vulnerable populations. 

A legal challenge to the rule argued it was unlawful because of arbitrary fee impositions and a lack of adequate opportunity for notice and comment. But a U.S. district judge overseeing that case declined to put the new rule on pause before it went into effect at the beginning of this month. 

USCIS Completes H-1B Selection Process and Opens Petition Process

On April 1, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it had randomly selected enough registrations to fill the 85,000 H-1B visa cap for Fiscal Year 2025. Now, petitioners with registrations for selected beneficiaries will have 90 days – from April 1 – to file their H-1B petitions and pay the new $780 filing fee.

While USCIS has not published the number of applications it received this year, demand for these valuable visas has vastly outpaced supply for years. For instance, the number of H-1B applications for the previous fiscal year reached a record high of 780,884 registrations for 2024, an increase of 61% over the 483,927 registrations for FY 2023.

The H-1B visa allows U.S. employers to hire noncitizen workers for “specialty occupations” requiring a bachelor’s degree in various fields. Specialty occupations include IT professionals, engineers, university professors, healthcare professionals, psychologists, scientists, accountants, lawyers, architects, journalists, and publicists, among other professions. In addition, fashion models are also eligible to apply for H-1B visas.

Most H-1B visas are subject to a strict numerical cap each fiscal year. 65,000 spots are filled by skilled professionals whose positions require a bachelor’s degree, while an additional 20,000 are granted to professionals with a U.S. master’s or higher. Skilled professionals who work for institutions of higher education, nonprofit research, and government research organizations are excluded from these caps. 


Migrants Can Proceed With Lawsuit Against Private Company That Flew Them to Martha’s Vineyard

In September 2022, two flights originating near San Antonio, Texas — chartered by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) administration and filled with confused, mostly Venezuelan migrants — arrived in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. 

Now, over 18 months later, a federal district court judge in Massachusetts has issued a 77-page decision in a class action lawsuit filed by those migrants against DeSantis, several top administration aides, and Vertol, the company that Florida paid to charter the flights.

 The ruling allows the lawsuit to continue against Vertol but dismisses claims against the Florida officials. The judge found there were “insufficient facts” to tie specific administration aides to alleged wrongdoing within the court’s jurisdiction in Massachusetts. Notably, however, the claims were dismissed “without prejudice,” meaning the Martha’s Vineyard migrants are not foreclosed from bringing the DeSantis administration back into the lawsuit at a future date.

The decision condemned the flights’ organizers for “rounding up highly vulnerable individuals on false pretenses and publicly injecting them into a divisive national debate.”

Lawyers for Civil Rights, the nonprofit legal group representing the migrants, celebrated the ruling as “a major victory” that “sends a crucial message: private companies can—and will—be held accountable for helping rogue state actors violate the rights of vulnerable immigrants through illegal and fraudulent schemes.” 

Children Must Be Expeditiously Moved from Poor Conditions at ‘Open Air Detention Sites’

On April 3, a federal district judge in California ruled that border officials must “expeditiously” move migrant children to safety instead of allowing them to languish in what advocates are calling “open air detention sites,” where they are subjected to the elements and squalid conditions while they await processing by immigration authorities. 

At the makeshift camps near San Diego and Jacumba Hot Springs, kids have been exposed to the worst of nature, from extreme desert heat during the day to windy weather and rain that can cause hypothermia at night. 

All the while, children have had limited access to basics such as food and toilets. The federal government had said it did not owe the migrant kids services because they were not yet in its custody. But U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee took issue with that argument. 

“The ability to exercise discretion over, and make decisions affecting, a child’s health and welfare is indicative of maintaining legal custody of the child, regardless of whether that decision is to provide or withhold care,” the order said. “Juveniles, unlike adults, are always in some form of custody.”

Texas’s S.B. 4 Remains on Pause After 5th Circuit Hearing 

During an hour-long hearing on April 3, Texas Solicitor General Aaron Nielson defended his state’s sweeping immigration law, Senate Bill 4, even as he conceded that perhaps it “went too far” — a question he said a three-judge panel on the conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals would need to decide for itself. 

If allowed to take effect, S.B. 4 would create new criminal penalties for irregular border crossings and allow state judges to effectively deport migrants and asylum seekers. Yet the law remained on pause following Wednesday’s arguments, as advocates and the federal government urged the appeals court to side with Supreme Court precedent and the long-standing notion that immigration is a federal responsibility under the U.S. Constitution. 

Nielson, in turn, said that S.B. 4 represented an attempt to go “up to the line” of what past Supreme Court decisions would seemingly justify, though he struggled to explain how the new law’s approximation of federal deportations would work in practice and how that differed from current procedures. 

Amid such discrepancies between what S.B. 4 seemingly describes on paper and how Nielson explained it, Daniel Tenny, the federal government’s attorney, accused the state of trying “to rewrite Texas S.B. 4 from the podium with regard to the removal provision.”

Even with S.B. 4 now tied up in court, in Travis County, local officials are preparing for its potential enforcement by planning to provide counsel at first appearance, so that immigrants will have access to attorneys during their bail hearings.

Meanwhile, as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) continues to deploy National Guard members and state troopers to the border — another facet of his years-long migration crackdown —  a man identified as a National Guard soldier reportedly with official gear from Abbott’s Operation Lone Star in his vehicle has been arrested and charged with human smuggling, felony evading arrest, and unlawful weapons possession. He was transporting a migrant, who fled by foot and was later captured. 


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

Please follow this link to find new relevant bills, as well as proposed legislation from past weeks. 


The U.S. Senate is expected to be in session from Monday, April 8 through Friday, April 12, 2024. 

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to be in session from Tuesday, April 9 through Friday, April 12, 2024.


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

Budget Hearing — Fiscal Year 2025 Request for the Department of Homeland Security

Date: Wednesday, April 10, 2024 at 10:00 a.m. EDT (House Appropriations)

Location: 2359 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C.


The Honorable Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary, Department of Homeland Security

A Review of the President’s Fiscal Year 2025 Budget Request for the Department of Homeland Security

Date: Wednesday, April 10, 2024 at 2:30 p.m. EDT (Senate Appropriations)

Location: Dirksen Senate office Building 192, Washington, D.C.


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


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 give brief summaries of new immigration-related reports, with links to the resources themselves in case you want to learn more.

Congressional Research Service (CRS); Department of Homeland Security Appropriations: FY2024 State of Play; Updated March 29, 2024

This report has now been updated to reflect the enactment of annual appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on March 23, 2024. 

Congressional Research Service (CRS); Medical Care Standards in Immigrant Detention Facilities; Published April 2, 2024

This report covers the standards applied to medical care in different types of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities and details the kinds of oversight that take place to ensure compliance. It also includes a list of reports that underscore issues at some of the detention centers.


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: 

Explainer: Immigrant and Nonimmigrant Work Visas

This explainer provides a list and brief explanation of various visas available for U.S.-based employers to hire noncitizens in the country.

Environmental Migration: Finding Solutions for the 21st Century

This new paper explores environmental migration as a potential method of adaptation. First, it analyzes environmental migration as a phenomenon, focused on some of the nuances that make weather- and climate-related forces complicated yet influential factors in the decision to move. Then, it considers existing international mechanisms and U.S. laws that could potentially relate to environmental migration. It briefly discusses how immigrant and diasporic communities are especially vulnerable to environmental harms, even after they have already migrated. Finally, it concludes with policy recommendations on how the U.S. (and other countries) could effectively respond to environmental migration in the 21st century.  

Six Actionable Recommendations to Improve Safety and Wellbeing for Asylum-Seeking Families in the Context of the Biden Administration’s Fast-Tracked Deportations

This position paper details realistic policy changes that the Biden administration could make to help ensure asylum seekers enrolled in the Family Expedited Removal Management (FERM) program have access to a process that is as fair, efficient, and humane as possible in the context of fast-tracked proceedings.

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

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