Legislative Bulletin – Friday, February 15, 2019



S. 326

Restrictions Against Illegitimate Declarations for Emergency Re-Appropriations (RAIDER) Act of 2019

The bill would prevent the president from utilizing the National Emergencies Act of 1976 to construct a physical barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border without specific statutory authorization from Congress.

Sponsored by Senator Tom Udall (D-New Mexico) (14 cosponsors – 0 Republicans, 14 Democrats)

02/04/2019 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Udall

02/04/2019 Referred to the Senate Committee on Appropriations

H. J. Res. 31

Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019

The bill provides funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other federal government agencies for the remaining months of fiscal year (FY) 2019. This bill is the result of the 17-member bipartisan, bicameral conference committee negotiations to fund the federal government.

Sponsored by Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-California) (0 cosponsors)

01/22/2019 Introduced in the House by Representative Roybal-Allard

01/30/2019 Conference committee held

02/13/2019 Conferees agree to file conference report

02/14/2019 Conference report agreed to in Senate by an 83 to 16 vote

02/14/2019 Conference report agreed to in the House by a 300 to 128 vote

02/15/2019 President Trump signed the legislation into law

H.R. 1190

A Bill to Prohibit an Alien who is Not in a Lawful Immigration Status in the United States from Being Eligible for Postsecondary Education Benefits that are Not Available to All Citizens and National of the United States

Sponsored by Representative Paul Gosar (R-Arizona) (7 cosponsors –7 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

02/13/2019 Introduced in the House by Representative Gosar

02/13/2019 Referred to the House Committees on the Judiciary and on Education and Labor

H.R. 1214

A Bill to Prohibit Certain Funds from Being Transferred or Reprogrammed to Plan, Develop, or Construct a New Physical Barrier Along the Southwest Border, and for Other Purposes

Sponsored by Representative Nydia Velazquez (D-New York) (10 cosponsors – 0 Republicans, 10 Democrats)

02/13/2019 Introduced in the House by Representative Velazquez

02/13/2019 Referred to the House Committees on Transportation and Infrastructure and on Financial Services


The U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives will not be in session the week of Monday, February 18, 2019.


The Way Forward on Border Security

Date: Wednesday, March 6, 2019 at 10:00 a.m. (House Homeland Security Committee)

Location: 310 Cannon House Office Building


Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary, Department of Homeland Security (DHS)



President Trump Declares National Emergency at the Border, Signs Bills to Avert Shutdown 

President Trump declared a national emergency on February 15 to build portions of a wall along the Southern border. Circumventing Congress, President Trump plans to pull together up to $8 billion in funds for border barriers, mostly from other government accounts. On the same day, President Trump signed a spending bill to fund the federal government for the remaining months of fiscal year (FY) 2019 and avert another government shutdown.

President Trump’s emergency declaration on border security will divert about $6.7 billion from elsewhere in the government to construct 234 miles of steel bollard wall. Of that amount, $2.5 billion is expected to come from the Department of Defense’s (DOD) counter-drug efforts and $600 million from the Treasury Forfeiture Fund. The remaining $3.6 billion will come from military construction funds, which can only be accessed through the emergency declaration. The White House is reportedly reviewing which military construction projects will be affected and which projects to repair facilities “might be able to wait a couple of months into next year.”

Many Republican lawmakers reacted to the emergency declaration with concern. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) said the Constitution is “pretty clear: spending originates and is directed by Congress.” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) noted the declaration is a “dramatic expansion” of the emergency powers, while Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-Washington) warned fellow Republican lawmakers that it could set a precedent for a Democratic president to declare a national emergency on climate change. Democratic lawmakers vowed to fight the emergency declaration, with Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) announcing that he would introduce a resolution to terminate the national emergency declaration. The emergency declaration is also expected to result in numerous lawsuits.

Earlier in the week, on February 14, Congress passed a spending bill to fully fund the federal government for the remaining months of fiscal year (FY) 2019. The bill includes $1.375 billion for additional border security, including 55 miles of border barriers, similar to the amount of funding Democratic lawmakers were willing to give President Trump before the government shutdown in December 2018. President Trump reportedly threatened not to sign the legislation passed on February 14 because it did not include, in his view, sufficient border security funding. Eventually, President Trump agreed to sign the legislation, with the caveat that he would declare a national emergency to construct the border wall. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) reportedly promised President Trump he would encourage others to support the declaration if he signed the spending bill.

As part of the spending bill, congressional negotiators agreed to fund Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain an average daily population (ADP) of 45,274 immigrants. The figure is an increase from the 40,520 ADP authorized last year, but below the more than 48,000 individuals currently in ICE custody. Congressional aides said that the new 45,274 ADP will force ICE to reduce the number of immigrants in detention, though the agency could request transfer authority to maintain high levels of detention.

President Trump’s Rally in El Paso Prompts Criticism from Local Officials

President Trump held a rally in El Paso, Texas on February 11 to build support for building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, telling the crowd that the wall “has to be built” and making a number of misleading claims that physical barriers in El Paso made “a big difference” in improving the city’s safety.  Before the rally, Mayor Dee Margo, a Republican, said President Trump’s claims that a border fence made the city safer are “wrong.” El Paso County officials passed a resolution stating that they were “disillusioned by President Trump’s lies regarding the border and our community,” noting that the county’s violent crime rate dropped 62 percent from 1993 to 2007, and a fence was not built until 2008.  Officials also noted that “no crisis exists” at the Southern border.

On the same day, in a dueling rally less than a mile away, Beto O’Rourke, a former Democratic Senate candidate in Texas, denounced President Trump’s assertions that physical barriers reduced violent crime in El Paso and argued the city is safe because of its immigrant heritage.

Record Number of Immigrants Detained in ICE Immigration Facilities

More than 48,000 individuals were in ICE custody as of February 10, a record high number. A former ICE official under the Obama administration noted that the record high figure stems from new policies by the Trump administration that make nearly all undocumented immigrants a priority for deportation, not just those with criminal convictions. As a result, the portion of individuals with criminal records arrested by ICE has reportedly dropped from 86 percent in FY 2016 to 66 percent last year.

The average daily population detained by ICE for fiscal year (FY) 2019 so far is about 45,000 individuals, which is 5,000 more than the number Congress authorized in its funding bill. ICE increased the number of individuals in immigration detention in part by requesting and receiving a $200 million transfer from other government funding accounts.

Rep. Kinzinger Deployed to the Southern Border As Part of the Military’s Support Mission

Rep. Adam Kinzinger’s (R-Illinois) office announced on February 13 that the congressman was deployed to the Southern border earlier in the week as part of the military’s ongoing border support mission. Kinzinger, as a lieutenant colonel in the Air National Guard, will serve along the Southern border for an undisclosed period of time. Kinzinger’s deployment comes after the Department of Defense (DOD) announced it planned to send an additional 3,500 active-duty troops to the Southern border, increasing the total number of deployed active-duty and National Guard troops to close to 5,900.

Senate Confirms William Barr as Attorney General

On February 14, the Senate confirmed William Barr to serve as the U.S. Attorney General by a 54 to 45 vote. Barr, who served as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush from 1991 to 1993, replaces acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker.

Barr, a proponent of a strong executive authority, has historically taken a hard approach on immigration. Barr previously co-authored an op-ed by three former Republican attorneys general praising former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ tenure as “outstanding.” The op-ed noted that Sessions increased prosecutions of immigrants who re-entered the U.S. without documentation by 38 percent, calling such numbers “impressive.” Back in 1992, Barr also advocated for a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Senate Committee Postpones Vote on Vitiello Nomination

On February 13, the Senate Homeland Security Committee postponed a vote on Ronald D. Vitiello nomination to permanently lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The committee’s decision came one day after the National ICE Council, a union representing ICE agents, urged lawmakers to block Vitiello’s confirmation, reportedly due to his previous “unacceptable” racially-tinged  and controversial comments on social media. The union stated in a letter that Vitiello’s prior offensive tweets shows he “lacks the judgement and professionalism to effectively lead a federal agency.” The committee was scheduled to vote on Vitiello’s nomination on February 13.

The committee previously delayed a vote on Vitiello’s nomination in November 2018, after a coalition of unions criticized Vitiello’s past tweets comparing President Trump to a cartoon character.


Lawsuit Filed on Behalf of Honduran, Nepali TPS Recipients

On February 11, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California together with other advocacy groups filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on behalf of roughly 85,000 Honduran and 15,000 Nepali immigrants susceptible to deportation once their Temporary Protected Status (TPS) expires due to the Trump Administration’s decision to terminate the countries’ designation for the protection. The lawsuit argues that the termination was improperly motivated by racial animus and ignores the ongoing unsafe conditions in these countries. In 2018, the same federal court where this lawsuit was filed previously enjoined the termination of TPS for Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador for being “motivated by racism.” TPS is granted by the Secretary of U.S. Department of Homeland Security (Secretary) to eligible foreign-born individuals, who are unable to return home safely due to conditions or circumstances preventing their country from adequately handling the return.

Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Case on Census Citizenship Question

The Supreme Court agreed on February 15 to hear an expedited appeal by the Trump administration on its proposal to include a citizenship question in the 2020 census. The Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case skips over the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, an acknowledgement that the Census Bureau must finalize the census questionnaire for printing no later than June 30. The Supreme Court said the case will be added to the calendar in April for oral arguments.

On January 15, U.S. District Court Judge Jesse Furman blocked the Trump administration’s proposal to include the citizenship question, calling the plan “unlawful” because the Commerce Department failed to adhere to statutory requirements to “acquire and use” data. In addition, Judge Furman found that the decision to include the question was not supported by evidence and was arbitrary and capricious in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act.

ACLU Files Lawsuit over “Remain in Mexico” Policy

On February 14, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a legal challenge to the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, which requires certain non-Mexican asylum seekers to return to Mexico while their asylum cases make their way through the U.S. immigration court system. The lawsuit, brought on behalf of 11 asylum seekers, argues that the policy violates federal and administrative law. The lawsuit also notes that asylum seekers returned to Mexico are likely to “face a heightened risk” of crimes, including kidnapping, trafficking and murder.


California Governor Withdraws Most National Guard Troops from Border

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-California) announced on February 11 the withdrawal of most of the state’s National Guard troops from the U.S.-Mexico border, which numbered 360 before the announcement. Newsom stated he ordered the withdrawal because California would not participate in the Trump administration’s “absurd theatrics” on border security. Newsom said the National Guard troops will be redeployed to fight wildfires and expand the state’s Drug Task Force. About 100 National Guard troops will continue working with the federal government on drug crime issues.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-New Mexico) previously announced on February 5 that she would withdraw most of the state’s National Guard troops from the U.S.-Mexico border. Around a dozen New Mexico National Guard troops will remain at the border to assist with humanitarian needs.

ICE Arrests 200 Undocumented Immigrants in North Carolina

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced it apprehended about 200 undocumented immigrants in targeted efforts across North Carolina between February 4 and February 7, as well as 25 undocumented workers in an unrelated raid on an arms manufacturing plant. Sean Gallagher, an ICE official responsible for the agency’s operations in the state, called the effort the “new normal,” while admonishing officials from Mecklenburg and Wake Counties – the two most populous counties in the state – for recently limiting their cooperation with federal immigration enforcement officials to not go beyond the minimum required by federal law. Many of the apprehensions reportedly occurred at traffic stops by ICE officers in vests that read “POLICE.” Gallagher said that if undocumented immigrants are “in the wrong place at the wrong time, my officers will take an enforcement action.”

Immigration advocates noted the arrests paralyzed immigrant communities in the state, making individuals afraid of law enforcement to the detriment of public safety.


There were no immigration-related government reports published the week of February 11, 2019.


Border Security Along the Southwest Border: Fact Sheet

This fact sheet provides a summary of current border security resources and recent migration trends along America’s Southern border.

Infographic: The Economic Case for Temporary Protected Status (TPS)

This infographic highlights the negative consequences of removing Temporary Protected Status (TPS) workers from the U.S. economy.

The Math of Immigration Detention, 2018 Update: Costs Continue to Multiply

This paper examines the current cost to American taxpayers of detaining hundreds of thousands of immigrants annually, as well as highlights the increase in the “bed rate” and the detention bed quota from fiscal year (FY) 2010 to FY 2018. This is an update to the 2013 Math of Immigration Detention paper.

* * *

*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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