Legislative Bulletin – Friday, February 2, 2018

BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED

H.R. 4906

Ensuring Full Participation in the Census Act of 2018

This bill would amend title 13, United States Code, to prohibit the use of questions on citizenship, nationality, or immigration status in any decennial census.

Sponsored by Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) (1 cosponsors – 1 D)

1/30/2018       Introduced in House by Representative Norton

1/30/2018       Referred to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate will be in session the week of Monday, February 5, 2018.

The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Monday, February 5, 2018 through Wednesday, February 7, 2018.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: Improving College Affordability

In this hearing, committee members will discuss reauthorization of Higher Education Act, which provides American students, including immigrants, with a number of federal student aid and other programs.

Date: Tuesday, February 6, 2018 at 10 a.m. (Senate HELP)

Location: 430 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Witnesses: TBD

ROUNDTABLE – Reauthorizing DHS: Positioning DHS to Address New and Emerging Threats to the Homeland

Date: Wednesday, February 7, 2018 at 10 a.m. (Senate Homeland Security)

Location: SD-342 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Witnesses:

Elaine C. Duke, Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Claire M. Grady, Under Secretary for Management, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Eugene L. Dodaro, Comptroller General of the United States, U.S. Government Accountability Office

John V. Kelly, Acting Inspector General, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

President Trump Calls for an Immigration Deal as Congress Works to Produce a Compromise

President Trump called on Congress in the State of the Union on January 30 to pass legislation that includes his administration’s “four pillars” of an immigration deal to protect Dreamers in the U.S. President Trump said that his administration “has met extensively with both Democrats and Republicans to craft a bipartisan approach to immigration.” The approach, which was first reported last week, would provide 1.8 million Dreamers the opportunity to earn a 10-to-12-year path to citizenship. The White House’s approach would also include $25 billion for border security, including for building physical barriers in the U.S.-Mexico border; eliminate the Diversity Visa Program and reduce legal immigration to the U.S. by up to 44 percent annually by eliminating visas in several family preference categories. During the State of the Union speech, President Trump said that an immigration deal must be “a fair compromise—one where nobody gets everything they want,” but is supported by both parties.

However, several Senators discussed narrowing the scope of the immigration package. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) said that the two most important things to fix “are to protect the Dreamers and… to strengthen border security.” Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) released a statement saying that the Senate’s primary goal should be to send a bill to President Trump before March 5 that includes border security and a DACA fix, warning that “the more an immigration bill tries to do, the harder it is to pass.” In addition, Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota) noted a “DACA for border security” deal is “probably a deal that will get done.” The Senate is working to produce an agreement by February 8, when funding for the federal government is set to expire but progress is slow. If no agreement is reached by February 8, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell committed to bringing an unspecified bill to the floor with an open amendment process. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) noted that the Senate conversations have so far not produced or moved forward to an agreement.

Meanwhile, the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus in the House unveiled their proposal to protect Dreamers and reform others aspects of the immigration system. The proposal resembles an agreement reached by Senators Durbin and Lindsay Graham (R-South Carolina) but was rejected by President Trump in January. The proposal would provide Dreamers an opportunity to earn legal status, appropriate for $1.6 billion for physical barriers along the southern border and $1.1 billion for border security technology, end the diversity lottery program but allocate the visas to recipients of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and for a new merit-based visa for underrepresented countries.The proposal would also prevent Dreamers from sponsoring their parents for citizenship, but provide those parents with renewable work permits.

On January 26, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a statement expressing support for Dreamers and policies that would allow Dreamers to continue to live in the U.S.

Administration Extends TPS Status for Syrians But Doesn’t Redesignate

On Wednesday, January 31, the Trump administration announced that Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for nearly 6,000 Syrians would be extended for another 18 months. The administration’s decision will allow Syrians currently with TPS to remain in the U.S., but after March 31, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will not allow any more Syrians to apply for the status. The decision comes as the civil war in Syria continues, despite the nearly complete battlefield defeat of the Islamic State. According to a State Department travel advisory, “no part of Syria is safe from violence” and travel to the country is not advised.

The decision to extend but not redesignate Syrian TPS follows several controversial TPS determinations from the Trump administration, including the termination of TPS for El Salvador and Haiti. Syrians are included in several legislative proposals focused on granting TPS recipients permanent residency, but there has been no indication that such proposals will move or ultimately be included in the effort to find a solution for Dreamers..

Processing of Refugees from “High-Risk Countries” Resumes Amid Increased Vetting

On Monday, the Trump administration announced the implementation of new screening procedures for refugees of certain “high-risk” countries following a 90-day review period during which refugee admissions from these countries were halted. The countries reportedly affected by the new screening procedures include: Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The enhanced security measures include more in-depth interviews with refugee applicants, as well as an expanded exploration of refugee backgrounds and claim verification. Refugee admissions have declined dramatically under the Trump administration, falling from 32,000 admitted for fiscal year (FY) 2017 last January to just 6,500 admitted for this fiscal year. Only 332 refugees admitted in FY18 came from the 11 “high-risk” countries, compared to 16,000 from those countries last fiscal year. The Trump administration has set the refugee admission limit for FY18 to just 45,000, a decrease of 40,000 from FY 2016 and 5,000 from FY 2017.

USCIS Taking Action to Reduce the Asylum Case Backlog

On Wednesday, January 31, U.S. USCIS announced that it would begin scheduling asylum interviews for recent applications ahead of older filings. The administration claims the new policy is an attempt to stem growth of asylum case backlog and avoid fraud. Over the past decade, asylum application backlog has grown to over 311,000 cases, making wait times for interviews very lengthy. This change also means that those filing applications for asylum now will have much less time to gather the evidence they need to make their case. With the new policy in place, USCIS will give priority to applicants that had an interview scheduled, but needed rescheduling, followed by applications that have been pending for 21 days or less since filing and by all other pending applications, starting with the newest filings.

State&Local

Florida Senate Postpones Vote on Anti-Sanctuary Cities Bill

Florida Senate postponed vote on an anti-sanctuary city bill after it became clear that its sponsor and state Senator Aaron Bean (R-Fernandina Beach) lacks votes to pass it through the Senate Judiciary Committee. Bean’s SB 308would strictly prohibit “sanctuary city” policies and penalize local officials who don’t comply with federal immigration authorities. The bill had earlier passed in the Florida House as a top priority of House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

There were no immigration or skills and workforce development related government reports released in the week of Monday, January 22, 2018.

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

USA Act Bill Summary: A Bipartisan Solution for Dreamers

This is a summary of the Uniting and Securing America Act (USA) Act, H.R. 4796, which was introduced by Reps. Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Pete Aguilar (D-California) on January 16, 2018, with 48 bipartisan original cosponsors. The bill would provide Dreamers who have lived in the U.S. for at least four years, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, with the opportunity to earn permanent legal status if they pursue higher education, enlist in the military or are gainfully employed, and meet other requirements. It would also strengthen America’s border security through the use of technology, investments in ports of entry, and development of a comprehensive southern border strategy, among other effective border security measures.

Fact Sheet: Family-Based Immigration

This is a factsheet explains family-based immigration that is called by some “chain migration.” It provides overview of the family visas, information about who is eligible and process of obtaining them, while highlighting benefits of family-based immigration system.

 

* * *

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

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