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Legislative Bulletin — Friday, April 7, 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

Both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have been in recess the week of April 3, 2023. So, instead of rounding up new immigration bills this week, the Forum has used this space to flag a number of especially noteworthy pieces of legislation from past weeks. This list is not intended to be comprehensive, but it may provide a glimpse into the current legislative landscape surrounding immigration policy. 

S.255

Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act of 2023

This bill would allow individuals seeking asylum at ports of entry to be eligible for work authorization starting 30 days after they apply for asylum, provided their applications are not frivolous, they are not detained, and their identities have been verified.

Sponsored by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) (2 cosponsors— 2 Independents, 0 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

02/02/2023 Introduced in the Senate by Sen. Susan Collins

02/02/2023 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S.365

Dream Act of 2023

This bill would allow Dreamers to earn lawful permanent residence and eventually become American citizens. A Dreamer is an undocumented immigrant who came to the United States as a child.

Sponsored by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) (1 cosponsor— 1 Republican, 0 Democrats)

02/09/2023 Introduced in the Senate by Sen. Richard Durbin

02/09/2023 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S.637

Child Labor Prevention Act

This bill would increase civil penalties and create criminal penalties for violations of child labor laws. It would also protect all working children under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). In addition, the bill would index penalties to the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers.

Sponsored by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) (10 cosponsors — 0 Republicans, 10 Democrats)

03/02/2023 Introduced in the Senate by Sen. Brian Schatz

03/02/2023 Referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions

H.R.29

Border Safety and Security Act of 2023

This bill would grant discretionary authority to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to suspend the entry of foreign nationals to the United States at ports of entry whenever DHS deems necessary that such a measure would help to achieve operational control over the border. The bill would further mandate the suspension of the entry of foreign nationals at ports of entry if certain conditions are not met.

Sponsored by Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) (68 cosponsors— 68 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

01/09/2023 Introduced in the House by Rep. Chip Roy

01/09/2023 Referred to the House Committees on Homeland Security and the Judiciary

H.R.319

Legal Workforce Act

This bill would require employers to check the work eligibility of all future hires through the E-Verify system. E-Verify, operated by USCIS, checks the social security numbers of newly hired employees against Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security records to help ensure that they are eligible to work in the U.S.

Sponsored by Rep. Ken Calvert (R-California)  (9 cosponsors — 8 Republicans, 1 Democrat)

01/12/2023 Introduced in the House by Rep. Ken Calvert

01/12/2023 Referred to the House Committees on the Judiciary, on Ways and Means, and Education and the Workforce

​​H.R.1183

The Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act

This bill would heighten the credible fear standard to require that asylum seekers demonstrate that persecution is more probable than not, allow the Department of Homeland Security to remove asylum seekers to third countries absent bilateral agreements, and terminate asylum for those who return to their home country unless there’s a change in country conditions.

Sponsored by Rep. Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) (0 cosponsors)

02/24/2023 Introduced in the House by Rep. Mike Johnson

02/24/2023 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R.1325

Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act

This bill would shorten waiting periods for asylum seekers to be eligible for work authorization, allow asylum seekers to apply for authorization once they’ve filed an asylum claim, and do away with the two-year renewal schedule.

Sponsored by Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) (6 cosponsors — 0 Republicans, 6 Democrats)

03/01/2023 Introduced in the House by Rep. Chellie Pingree

03/01/2023 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R.1535

Eliminating Backlogs Act of 2023

This bill would provide greater flexibility around existing allotments of employment-based visas. 

Sponsored by Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-Indiana)  (1 cosponsor — 0 Republicans, 1 Democrat)

03/10/2023 Introduced in the House by Rep. Larry Bucshon

03/10/2023 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R.1698

American Families United Act

This bill would provide greater access to existing waivers for spouses and children of U.S. citizens who are inadmissible.

Sponsored by Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) (20 cosponsors — 1 Republican, 19 Democrats)

03/22/2023 Introduced in the House by Rep. Veronica Escobar

03/22/2023 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

Neither the U.S. Senate nor the U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Monday, April 10, through Friday, April 14, 2023.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

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

There are no upcoming hearings or markups concerning immigration policy the week of April 10.

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 

U.S. Resettled Highest Monthly Number of Refugees in March Since FY 2017

The United States resettled 6,122 refugees in March, a 99% increase over the 3,069 refugees resettled in February and a promising sign for the U.S.’s recently beleaguered refugee program. 

The last time more than 6,000 refugees were resettled in one month was in fiscal year 2017. Since then, the U.S.’s refugee program has struggled with significant instability, resource depletion, and logistical obstacles amid the Trump administration and the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Six months into fiscal year 2023, the U.S. has resettled 18,429 refugees out of President Joe Biden’s annual determination of 125,000. At the current rate, the U.S. is on target to resettle approximately 36,858 refugees this fiscal year. Or, if officials were to resettle 6,122 refugees for the next six months, the U.S. would instead welcome 55,161 refugees in fiscal year 2023 — a major improvement over the past five years, but still far short of the cap set by the Biden administration.

To achieve the goal of 125,000 refugees in fiscal year 2023, the U.S. would now need to resettle 17,762 refugees every month for the next six months. Such a high monthly goal has not been achieved in the past 20 years of U.S. refugee resettlement, let alone consecutively over an extended period of time.

USCIS Staffs New Virtual Service Center to Target Humanitarian Backlogs 

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has begun to staff a new virtual service center intended to reduce immigration backlogs by processing four types of requests for humanitarian relief. 

The Humanitarian, Adjustment, Removing Conditions and Travel Documents Service Center (HART) will focus on requests that currently have longer processing times, including those by crime victims for U visas and by domestic abuse survivors under the Violence Against Women Act. The center will also process refugee applications to bring relatives from abroad, as well as requests to waive unlawful presence and become permanent residents for certain undocumented immigrants.

“We took a look at what was going on, and we realized we need greater focus here,” USCIS Director Ur Jaddou said. 

Immigration advocates believe the new center — which is expected to be nearly fully staffed by the end of fiscal year 2024 — and its trained and dedicated workforce will have a major impact on abuse survivors awaiting immigration relief. 

News of the center follows years of financial constraints at USCIS, which is primarily funded by immigrants and their employers through immigration application fees. Although the agency has received more money from Congress in recent years, House Democrats recently called to double President Joe Biden’s fiscal year 2024 budget request in order to efficiently continue reducing backlogs. 

8 Migrants Dead After Trying to Cross the Canada-U.S. Border

Last week, two migrant families — including young children, ages 1 and 2 — died while trying to cross the Canada-U.S. border by boat. 

Canadian authorities recovered eight bodies of Romanian and Indian migrants in the St. Lawrence River on Thursday and Friday. Among them were Cristina (Monalisa) Zenaida Iordache, Florin Iordache, and their two toddlers Evelin and Elyen, who had risked the dangerous journey south after learning their Canadian refugee claim had been denied and they would be deported on March 31. 

The family’s attorney, Peter Ivanyi, said that Florin had been desperate to raise his children in Canada where they would be safe, instead of returning to “the misery”  members of the Roma minority like them experience in Romania. 

“Everything he did in Canada was for his kids,” Ivanyi told the National Post. “He made it crystal clear that this was the most important thing for him, to be able to raise his Canadian children in Canada.”

Pravin Chaudhary, his wife Diksha, and their two adult children Meet and Vidhi were also among the dead. BBC Gujarati reported that “the sounds of wailing women could be heard in the distance” as news of the tragedy shocked family and friends of the deceased in their native Manekpur Dabhala village back in India. 

Pravin was a farmer whose neighbors thought he was doing well, with a friendly family who led a life that was both happy and decent. The Chaudharys had gone to Canada on visitor visas in February, and even their relatives did not know they had planned to travel onward to the U.S.

“We are just waiting for their bodies to reach here so that we can see all of them one last time,” Jasubhai Chaudhary, Pravin’s cousin, told BBC Gujarati. 

The tragedy comes in the immediate aftermath of the U.S. and Canada’s announcement that they have amended their Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) to extend across the entirety of the U.S.-Canada border, including areas between official ports of entry that were not previously covered. Under the long-standing agreement, asylum seekers from third countries who cross from Canada to the U.S. in search of asylum can be sent back across the border, and vice versa. 

In Canada, some advocates are linking the Iordaches’ and the Chaudharys’ deaths to the STCA’s recent expansion, arguing that such policies of deterrence push migrants and asylum seekers into more dangerous crossings. On Tuesday, dozens of protesters outside of the Canadian Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino’s office in Toronto asked for an end to the STCA, backed by a petition with thousands of signatures, Reuters reported. 

“What more evidence do you need to present within days of strengthening the agreement?” said Shalini Konanur, a lawyer with the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario. “Eight people died. We know that this won’t be the last time unless we do something about it.”

U.S. Companies Offshore Jobs Because of H-1B Visa Barriers

Restrictions placed on H-1B visas cause U.S. companies to hire talent abroad, impacting research- and development-intensive jobs the most, a new academic article shows. 

H-1B visas are used by U.S. businesses and organizations to employ foreign nationals who have often attained high levels of education in specialized fields, bringing knowledge and skills that are desperately needed into the U.S. economy. But according to Britta Glennon, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania, restrictions such as limits on the number of visas issued make U.S. firms “go abroad, setting up new foreign affiliates and hiring talent there instead of in the U.S.” 

Glennon’s research also suggests that the movement of jobs and talent abroad has major implications for U.S. competitiveness —  and potentially even the country’s innovative capacity. 

A separate national survey conducted by Envoy Global and Cint supported the study’s results, finding that visa-related uncertainties led 86% of surveyed companies to hire outside the country for roles intended to be U.S.-based. 

H-2B Visa Cap Reached for Returning Workers

On March 31, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released a statement saying it had received enough petitions to reach the 16,500 H-2B visa cap for returning workers during the early second half of the 2023 fiscal year. 

The agency will continue to accept petitions for those who are exempt from the congressionally required cap, as well as for workers from Haiti, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, who have been allocated additional visas for this fiscal year. 

USCIS will start accepting petitions on April 13 for returning workers during the late second half of the 2023 fiscal year.

State and Local

Faith Leaders Speak Out Against Restrictive Florida Bills Targeting Immigrants

On March 30, faith leaders expressed serious concerns that an immigration proposal advancing through the Florida legislature could infringe on their religious freedoms and criminalize churches for providing services to undocumented immigrants. 

Senate Bill 1718, led by Republican state Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, would expose Floridians to felony charges for transporting someone they knew — or reasonably should have known — entered the U.S. unauthorized and without inspection by federal officials. In practice, religious stakeholders say they’re worried the bill could render illegal their regular acts of service, such as driving an elderly neighbor to church, taking a teenager to a church activity, or even driving a bus of Christian school students for sports.

“If this bill were enacted as currently drafted, it would place Florida’s Christians and churches in an untenable decision, having to decide between obeying biblical commands or facing criminal penalties for showing biblical compassion,” said Gary Shultz Jr., senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Tallahassee. 

SB 1718, together with a related bill in the Florida House, would also invalidate the use of driver’s licenses issued to undocumented immigrants by other states, require hospitals to collect data on their patients’ immigration status, and enact other sweeping changes to crack down on unauthorized immigrants in Florida. 

“We’ve heard the same thing over and over again, where we’re demonizing immigrants, we’re demonizing migrants. That is not the case. We are demonizing illegal immigrants,” Ingoglia told a Senate panel last month. 

Myal Greene, President and CEO of World Relief, portrayed the legislation as “a proposal that would criminalize sharing the love of Jesus with some of the most vulnerable people in society.”

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 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); DHS Budget Request Analysis: FY2024; April 4, 2023

This report analyzes the Biden administration’s fiscal year 2024 budget request for the Department of Homeland Security, the third largest federal agency based on civilian personnel.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS); Immigration and Citizenship Data; April 5, 2023

USCIS released a number of useful resources this week, with data on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) classification, and more. 

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. 

* * *

*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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