Legislative Bulletin — Friday, December 17, 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. 3347

Masih Alinejad Harassment and Unlawful Targeting (HUNT) Act of 2021

The bill would prohibit the issuance of any type of visas to individuals who are engaged in abuses toward dissidents of the Government of Iran.

Sponsored by Senator Patrick Toomey (R-Pennsylvania) (2 cosponsors— 2  Democrats, 0 Republicans)

12/08/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Toomey

12/08/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

S. 3406

To amend section 214(c)(8) of the Immigration and Nationality Act to modify the data reporting requirements relating to nonimmigrant employees

Sponsored by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) (3 cosponsors— 2 Republicans, 1 Democrat)

12/15/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Blumenthal

12/15/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 6155

No Tax Dollars for the United Nation’s Immigration Invasion Act

The bill would prohibit the U.S. government from funding the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Sponsored by Representative Lance Gooden (R-Texas) (11 cosponsors— 11 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

12/07/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Gooden

12/07/2021 Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs

H.R. 6177

Protecting Ballot Measures From Foreign Influence Act

The bill would prevent non-U.S. citizens from donating money to fund ballot initiatives and referendums. This is a companion bill of S. 3136.

Sponsored by Representative Jim Banks (R-Indiana) (1 cosponsor— 1 Democrat, 0 Republicans)

12/08/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Banks

12/08/2021 Referred to the House Committee on House Administration

H.R. 6206

American Tech Workforce Act

The bill would create a wage floor for H-1B visas set at the higher of the annual wage last paid to an American worker who filled the position or $110,000 (adjusted for inflation). It would also eliminate the Optional Practical Training program that allows certain immigrants that come to the U.S. under a student visa and have graduated to work in the U.S. for up to three years if they have a STEM degree. The bill would also limit the ability of employers to fill vacancies with H-1B recipients sponsored by third-party companies. It would also limit the maximum validity period of the visas to 1 year.

Sponsored by Representative Jim Banks (R-Indiana) (14 cosponsors— 14 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

12/09/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Banks

12/09/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 6222

Protecting Immigrants from Legal Exploitation Act

The bill would create penalties for those who provide fraudulent immigration legal services. It would also allow immigrants who are victims of fraud to have their immigration cases reconsidered under certain circumstances. The bill would also create grant programs to educate immigrants on how to avoid legal service fraud and to assist qualified non-profit organizations in providing immigrants with legal services.

Sponsored by Representative Bill Foster (D-Illinois) (12 cosponsors— 12 Democrats, 0 Republicans)

12/09/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Foster

12/09/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 6239

Upholding the Law at Our Border Act

The bill would require the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to investigate and submit a report on the screening and processing of migrants apprehended along the southwest border, the total number of undocumented migrants who were processed and released into the interior of the United States, the number of undocumented migrants who received parole, and the total number of undocumented migrants who have been placed in removal proceedings. This is a companion bill of S. 3263.

Sponsored by Representative Elise Stefanik (R-New York) (42 cosponsors— 42 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

12/09/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Representative Stefanik

12/09/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 6242

Family Unity Act

The bill would clarify that limitations on judicial review of certain removal proceedings apply only in the case of discretionary determinations. The clarification would strengthen the right to due process of immigrants facing deportation. The bill would bring the law in line with the Supreme Court ruling in Reno v. American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in 2000.

Sponsored by Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) (2 cosponsors— 2 Democrats, 0 Republicans)

12/09/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Tlaib

12/09/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 6243

To prohibit Federal public benefits for or naturalization of any alien who receives a payment pursuant to an agreement to settle certain civil actions

Sponsored by Representative Randy Weber Sr. (R-Texas) (9 cosponsors— 9 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

12/09/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Weber

12/09/2021 Referred to the House Committees on the Judiciary and on Oversight and Reform

H.R. 6256

Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act

The bill would prohibit the issuance of any type of visas to individuals engaged in gross violations of human rights in Xinjiang, China.

Sponsored by Representative James McGovern (D-Massachusetts) (1 cosponsor— 1 Republican, 0 Democrats)

12/14/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative McGovern

12/14/2021 Referred to the House Committees on Foreign Affairs, Ways and Means, and the Judiciary

12/14/2021 Bill agreed to by voice vote

12/15/2021 Received in the Senate

H.R. 6275

To prohibit the use of Federal funds to administer a COVID-19 vaccine to officers and employees of the U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or certain Department of the Interior officers and employees or require that such officers and employees receive such a vaccine as a condition of employment.

Sponsored by Representative Nancy Mace (R-South Carolina) (0 cosponsors)

12/14/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Mace

12/14/2021 Referred to the House Committees on Homeland Security, Natural Resources, and the Judiciary

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate will be in session the week of Monday, December 20, 2021.

The U.S. House of Representatives will not be in session the week of Monday, December 20, 2021.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

There are no immigration-related hearings scheduled for the week of Monday, December 20, 2021.

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

Senate Parliamentarian Rules Against Immigration Relief in Budget Reconciliation Bill

On December 16, the Senate Parliamentarian — the chamber’s nonpartisan rules referee — ruled against the inclusion of immigration provisions in the budget reconciliation bill, commonly known as the Build Back Better Act. She was asked to determine whether providing temporary parole protection for millions of undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. before 2011 is budget-related and consequently germane to the reconciliation process. While the Parliamentarian recognized the fiscal benefits of providing parole to almost 6.5 million immigrants in the United States, she argued that “these are substantial policy changes with lasting effects, just like those we previously considered, and outweigh the budgetary impact.” Therefore, she ruled that the proposal is not appropriate for inclusion in a reconciliation bill.

This is the third time that the parliamentarian has ruled against the inclusion of immigration provisions in the Build Back Better Act. On September 19, the Parliamentarian first ruled against the Democrats’ initial plan to include a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, and essential workers in the bill. Then, on September 29, the parliamentarian gave an informal ruling against a proposal to update the registry date.

Senate Democrats can disregard the parliamentarian’s ruling, but they would need all 50 Senate Democrats to overrule her decision and survive subsequent Republican objections. However, Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), among other Senate Democrats, has raised concerns about disregarding the parliamentarian’s guidance and the bill’s structure in general.

On December 16, Senator Richard Durbin (D-Illinois), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he was disappointed by the Parliamentarian’s ruling and expressed that Democrats are “considering what options remain.”

Biden Administration Halts Settlement Negotiations for Families Separated at the Border

On December 16, the Department of Justice (DOJ) pulled out of negotiations to pay monetary damages to families who were separated at the border under the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance policy.” The negotiations were part of a legal strategy to settle a class-action lawsuit that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed against the U.S. government in 2019, “seeking damages on behalf of thousands of traumatized children and parents who were forcibly torn from each other.” More than 940 claims have been filed to date regarding Trump-era family separation at the border. An October 24 Wall Street Journal report revealed that the Biden administration was considering settling the lawsuit by paying approximately $450,000 per person.

The report on the potential settlement sparked criticism from Congressional Republicans, who called the payments unwarranted. The DOJ did not provide details on the reasons that motivated the agency to break off negotiations. In a statement, however, the DOJ said the parties had been unable to settle, but “we remain committed to engaging with the plaintiffs and to bringing justice to the victims of this abhorrent policy.” Now that a settlement agreement is no longer on the table, the courts will have to decide the amount that each person deserves, which could potentially be higher than $450,000.

The zero-tolerance policy, which was met with widespread criticism from members of Congress, faith groups, and the general public, resulted in the separation of more than 3,900 children from their parents in 2017 and 2018. The Trump administration failed to properly keep records of those that were separated, and, as of December 6, more than 1,443 separated migrant children have yet to be reunited with their parents.

November Refugee and SIV Data Reveal Moderate Increase in Admissions

On December 16, the Biden Administration released refugee resettlement data for the month of November.  The U.S. resettled 1,639 refugees in the second month of the new fiscal year (FY), a sharp increase from the 402 refugees resettled in October. However, even after this increase, the current resettlement pace would lead to a total of only 12,046 refugees resettled in all of FY 2022. That number continues to lag far behind the refugee ceiling of 125,000 announced by President Biden in September.

The increase in November resettlement was driven in large part by a steep increase in Syrian refugees, rising to 452 in November from 71 in October. the Biden administration has resettled more Syrian refugees in the past two months than during all of FY 2018 or 2020.

The November resettlement data also reveals just 309 Special Immigrant Visas were granted to Afghans in November, a slight decrease from the 312 in October. These numbers are still far below the peaks in the summer when the administration granted over 3,000 SIVs a month. Those still in Afghanistan are unable to continue their applications and while many of those evacuated under parole are reportedly eligible for SIVs, very few have been able to complete their applications from within the U.S. Without official SIV or refugee status, evacuated Afghans remain on temporary parole and lack a clear path to permanent residence.

Border Apprehensions Rose in November for the First Time Since July

According to multiple reports on December 16, preliminary data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) show that the overall number of migrant apprehensions at the Southwest border in November rose for the first time since July. CBP made over 173,600 arrests in November, a 5 percent increase from October.

The rise in apprehensions was driven by a sharp increase in arrivals from Venezuela, which jumped to more than 20,000, a 54 percent increase from the month before, according to the reports. Additionally, a steady arrival of Cubans, Mexicans, and Central Americans contributed to the increased apprehension numbers. Approximately half of those arrested were expelled to their native countries or to Mexico under Title 42, but almost all unaccompanied minors and most family members apprehended were allowed into the United States. The data does not yet account for the reimplementation of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), which went back to effect on December 6.

Biden Administration Upholds Flores Settlement Agreement to Protect Migrant Children in US Custody

On December 10, the Biden administration discarded a Trump-era rule designed to replace the landmark Flores Settlement Agreement, which sets the standards of care for children in U.S. immigration custody. For decades, the Flores settlement has allowed advocates and lawyers to inspect facilities housing migrant children, ensure officials are providing adequate care and services to minors in U.S. custody, and seek relief in federal court if they determine the government is violating the terms of the agreement.

The decision was made public after a December 10 CNN report revealed that officials from the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) were alarmed “at the erosion of child-welfare-centered approaches” for the care of unaccompanied children. According to CNN, ORR officials were concerned that the Biden Administration was ditching “even the most basic safety procedures” and setting up facilities “run like disaster camps.” In response to the report, a White House spokesperson stated that “the Biden Administration takes its responsibility to care for and protect unaccompanied children in its custody seriously. We abide by the standards of care applicable to children in shelter settings.”

VP Harris Announces Private Investments in Central America to Tackle Root Causes of Migration

On December 13, Vice President Kamala Harris announced seven private investment commitments to support economic development in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

The investments — aimed at tackling the root causes of migration — include: A PepsiCo promise to spend $190 million through 2025 to improve its plants and expand distribution routes; a Cargill promise to invest $160 million over the next five years to support producers in the protein and animal nutrition supply chains; a Parkdale Mills promise to spend $150 million to build a new yarn-spinning facility in Honduras; a Mastercard committed $100 million to facilitate digital acceleration in the region; and a CARE International pledge to spend $50 million to establish a new Center for Gender Equity to support women and young people in Central America.

The new commitments are part of a call to action that Harris announced on May 27. Since then, businesses and social enterprises have invested more than $1.2 billion in the Northern Triangle.

DHS Announces Commitment to Enhance Protections for Stateless Individuals in the United States

On December 15, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it would adopt a formal definition of statelessness for immigration purposes and it would work to enhance protections for stateless individuals living in the United States. Recent estimates suggest that around 4,000 stateless individuals live in the U.S., but the number could be much higher given that there is no existing mechanism to monitor the population. By adopting a standardized definition of statelessness, DHS aims to identify and catalog barriers encountered by stateless people in the U.S.

Additionally, DHS plans to establish a process to collect additional data on stateless persons in the U.S. and to examine the means through which the DHS can better identify and protect such individuals. In the announcement, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas stated that “statelessness presents significant humanitarian concerns that require a careful and thoughtful response specifically tailored to the distinct and diverse needs of stateless persons.”

Legal

Fifth Circuit Upholds Ruling that Orders Biden Administration to Reinstate MPP

On December 14, the Fifth Circuit rejected the Biden administration’s appeal to allow an end to the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), commonly known as the Remain in Mexico Program. The three-judge panel agreed with the District court that DHS’s termination of MPP violated the Administrative Procedures Act (APA).

The Biden administration had stopped enrollment in MPP in January and officially terminated the program in June. However, on August 13, a federal judge in Texas ruled that the termination of MPP violated the APA. After the U.S. Supreme Court declined to stay the ruling on August 24, the Biden administration was required to reimplement the program. On October 29, the Biden administration issued a lengthy, 39-page second memorandum further justifying its decision to terminate MPP and addressing extensively the potential costs and benefits. However, the Fifth Circuit ruling disregarded this memo as “simply typing out a new Word document and posting it on the internet.”

The Biden administration can now appeal the Fifth Circuit’s ruling before the Supreme Court.

The Fifth Circuit ruling came after the Biden administration resumed the implementation of MPP on December 6. The renewed program, which began in the El Paso sector, requires migrants seeking asylum along the southwest border to wait in Mexico while their asylum claims are adjudicated, a process that often takes years. MPP was first implemented by the Trump administration in 2019, and it immediately resulted in significant human rights and due process concerns.

State & Local

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Publishes Rule to Stop Issuing Licenses to Shelters that House Unaccompanied Migrant Children

On December 10, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis published an emergency rule to stop issuing licenses to shelters that house unaccompanied migrant children (UAC) in the state in the event the Biden administration does not agree to a series of demands. DeSantis demands $8 million in federal funds to create a new program that would allow the state to contract with private companies to transport undocumented immigrants, including children, out of Florida. Child welfare professionals criticized the rule, arguing that it undermines children’s need for safe placements, disrupts their connection to family, and disregards what American law codifies as the needs of unaccompanied children. Others argue that DeSantis’s rule would force more kids into unlicensed emergency intake sites at military bases and convention centers, which have received criticism from both Republicans and Democrats for being unsafe and unsuitable for children.

Also on December 10, DeSantis announced a legislative proposal to prevent private entities from assisting in the resettlement of undocumented immigrants, including children, into Florida. The bill would prohibit state and local agencies from doing business with shelters that house undocumented immigrants. It would also bar state agencies from renewing contracts with carriers that transport undocumented immigrants into Florida. Moreover, the bill would force private entities that help undocumented immigrants in Florida to pay monetary compensation to the state for the costs of unauthorized immigration that may fall on the public.

Legislators in Oregon Approve $18.2 Million for Afghan Refugee Resettlement

On December 13, the Oregon Legislature appropriated $18.2 million to aid Afghan refugee resettlement in Oregon with housing, legal services, language, and job training programs. The funding will help up to 1,200 Afghan evacuees expected to be resettled in the state in 2022. The bill was spearheaded by State Senator Kayse Jama, who arrived in the U.S. as a refugee from Somalia 22 years ago, and State Representative Khanh Pham, whose parents fled Vietnam after the war. After the bill passed, Jama said that he did not want anybody fleeing war and persecution to experience what he experienced coming to this country. “I want to make a commitment that all of us will welcome them,” he said.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

Congressional Research Service (CRS): The Biden Administration’s Immigration Enforcement Priorities: Background and Legal Considerations; December 10, 2021

This legal sidebar from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) provides an overview of the Biden administration’s immigration enforcement priorities and the legal considerations that they raise. The Guidelines for the Enforcement of Civil Immigration Law, which took effect on November 29, 2021, emphasize the need to focus on immigrants who pose a threat to national security, border security, or public safety. The guidelines also highlight the need to exercise prosecutorial discretion to achieve justice in immigration enforcement.

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

Explainer: What’s Happening at the U.S.-Mexico Border

This regularly updated explainer breaks down what is happening at the U.S.-Mexico border, analyzing CBP data on recent apprehensions, describing the impact and use of Title 42 expulsions as well as the treatment of arriving UACs, and providing additional context on reports of increased migration to the U.S. and releases of migrant families into the interior. The explainer also includes a Facebook live discussion covering recent developments at the border.

Explainer: Humanitarian Parole and the Afghan Evacuation

This resource explains what parole is, describes the eligibility requirements and vetting procedures currently in place for Afghan parolees, and discusses what benefits parolees receive when they arrive in the US The explainer also discusses the options available for those at risk who have been left behind in Afghanistan, as humanitarian parole can also be accessed by those who are able to escape on their own to third countries.

Explainer: DHS Immigration Enforcement Guidelines

This is an explainer on the new DHS immigration enforcement priorities issued on September 30. The new guidance provides flexibility to DHS personnel, who are advised to balance aggravating and mitigating factors when making enforcement determinations.

* * *

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

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