BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED
Securing the Visa Waiver Program Act of 2023
This bill would codify an agreement between visa waiver program countries to share watch-list information on known or suspected terrorists.
Sponsored by Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) (1 cosponsor— 1 Republican, 0 Democrats)
02/16/2023 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Rubio
02/16/2023 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary
Immigration Parole Reform Act of 2023
This bill would reform the eligibility criteria for parole status. It would also define what qualifies as an “urgent humanitarian reason” or “significant public benefit”.
Sponsored by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) (8 cosponsors— 8 Republicans, 0 Democrats)
02/16/2023 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Grassley
02/16/2023 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary
Stop Taxpayer Funding of Traffickers Act
This bill would prohibit persons charged with drug or human trafficking at the US’s international borders or in its territorial waters from receiving federal benefits. The bill would also define smuggling, transporting, or harboring individuals as a “human trafficking offense. The accompanying House bill is H.R. 1116.
Sponsored by Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) (4 cosponsors— 4 Republicans, 0 Democrats)
02/16/2023 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Blackburn
02/16/2023 Referred to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to eliminate the diversity immigrant program
Sponsored by Representative Bill Posey (R-Florida) (2 cosponsors— 2 Republicans, 0 Democrats)
02/17/2023 Introduced in the House by Representative Posey
02/17/2023 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Accountability and Transparency Act
This bill would withhold United States contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) until it could be certified that no UNRWA employee was a member of a terrorist organization or propagated anti-American, anti-Israel, or anti-Semitic rhetoric; no UNRWA resources are being used by terrorist organizations; and other requirements.
Sponsored by Representative Chip Roy (R-Texas) (27 cosponsors— 27 Republicans, 0 Democrats)
02/17/2023 Introduced in the House by Representative Roy
02/17/2023 Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs
LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR
The U.S. Senate will be in session the week of Monday, February 27, 2023.
The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Monday, February 27, through Wednesday, March 1, 2023.
UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS
Date: Wednesday, March 1, 2023, at 9:00 am E.T. (Senate Judiciary Committee)
Location: 2141 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C.
Date: Tuesday, February 28, 2023, at 10:00 am E.T. (House Homeland Security Committee)
Location: 310 Cannon House Office Building, Washington D.C.
THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK
Biden Administration Publishes Proposed Asylum Rule that Would Restrict Asylum Eligibility
On February 23, the Biden administration published a proposed rule that would severely restrict asylum eligibility — with limited exceptions — for migrants who travel through a third country before crossing the U.S.’s southwest border without authorization.
The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice issued the proposed rule in anticipation of the termination of the Covid-19 public health emergency on May 11, which will end the use of Title 42. Immigration officials expect the new strategy will “discourage irregular migration by encouraging migrants to use lawful, safe, and orderly processes.”
The proposed rule targets would-be asylum seekers and their families who travel through a third country before arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, and who fail to follow a DHS-approved parole process, use a phone app to schedule an appointment at a port of entry, or apply for and be denied asylum elsewhere en route. Those who go to a port of entry and prove they were unable to use the app — whether because of illiteracy, language barriers, technical failures, or other problems — may also qualify for an exception. Unaccompanied children are exempt.
Migrants subject to the rule will face a rebuttable presumption of asylum ineligibility, which they will only be able to overcome if they can prove they crossed under exceptionally compelling circumstances, including an acute medical emergency, imminent threat to life or safety, or victimization from a severe form of trafficking. Those who don’t qualify for exceptions, can’t rebut the ineligibility presumption, and don’t establish a reasonable possibility of persecution or torture will be swiftly removed from the U.S.
The notice of proposed rulemaking had been initially teased back in January, alongside other policies to crack down on migration at the U.S.’s southwest border. Its publication sparked an immediate backlash from advocates, who drew comparisons to similar policies under the Trump administration and expressed concerns about the operational realities of such a complicated system on the ground.
Ukrainians Fear Losing Legal Status in April
A February 18 Wall Street Journal report highlighted that thousands of Ukrainians fleeing war with Russia are staring down an uncertain future come April, when their parole status is set to expire — one year after they arrived in the United States.
Ukrainians forcibly displaced by Russia’s invasion who arrived by April 11, 2022, were offered humanitarian relief through temporary protected status, and by April 21, the executive branch had also debuted a new private sponsorship program, Uniting for Ukraine, that offered two years of safety.
But for about ten days last April — after the cutoff date for TPS and before the creation of Uniting for Ukraine — immigration advocates and attorneys say as many as 10,000 Ukrainians may have entered the country with only one year of protection. Now, an imminent deadline looms for the Biden administration to act.
Otherwise, these individuals and families will have to choose between living undocumented in the U.S. and looking elsewhere for safety while their home country remains a war zone. “Will we be kicked out of America in April?” wrote Olena Malashonok, a Ukrainian living with her husband and children in South Carolina. “We don’t know.”
Biden Administration Considers Green Card Pathway for Agricultural and Seasonal Workers
A February 18 Fox News report revealed that the Biden administration is considering a rule that would allow workers on H-2A and H-2B visas to apply for permanent residency in the United States.
H-2A and H-2B visas are considered nonimmigrant visas for temporary workers because they do not allow their recipients to regularize their status to lawful permanent residents. Instead, recipients receive the visa for a limited amount of time and are expected to return to their home country following their term of work.
However, some nonimmigrant visas do allow their recipients to simultaneously pursue a green card in what is known as dual intent. This proposed rule would apply dual intent to H-2A and H-2B visas. Accordingly, H-2A and H-2B visa holders would be allowed to hold this nonimmigrant visa without abandoning their nonimmigrant intent or foreign residence, which would normally lead to a revocation of these visas.
The proposed rule is still undergoing the consideration process and has not yet been published for notice and comment.
State & Local
Migrant Women Face Arrests Amid Texas’s Operation Lone Star
Law enforcement officials in Texas have started arresting dozens of women as part of the state’s controversial Operation Lone Star (OLS). OLS is an immigration and border enforcement strategy that Governor Greg Abbott (R-Texas) launched in March 2021 that utilizes state resources to attempt to deter and restrict arriving migrants. OLS has cost $4.4 billion over the first two years.
Before last fall, the Texas Department of Public Safety had focused on arresting men as part of the operation, often for misdemeanor trespassing charges in a state where roughly 95% of the land — including much of the area near the border — is private property.
But defense attorneys have portrayed the male-only arrests as equal-protection violations that are ultimately unconstitutional, convincing judges to toss dozens of cases. As that argument has proven successful, some women have now also become targets for OLS.
According to a February 17 Wall Street Journal report, 24 migrant women have faced arrest and charges in recent months. Yet so far, some judges remain unconvinced that arresting women now solves past issues with equal protection.
“I thought that actually cut against the state, that they recognized they were doing something wrong,” said Judge Linda Yanez, from South Texas’s Jim Hogg County.
Minnesota Lawmakers Pass Bill Allowing Undocumented Immigrants to Get Driver’s Licenses
On February 22, the Minnesota Senate passed a bill that would give undocumented residents access to driver’s licenses, a state-level policy that has won national support through its promise to improve road safety and help immigrants live with less fear.
The bill now heads back to the Minnesota House of Representatives, where lawmakers are expected to concur with small changes made by the Senate. Then, it will go to Governor Tim Walz’s (D-Minnesota) desk, where he has said he’ll sign it into law.
“Today we sent a message to Minnesota’s undocumented community: we hear you, we see you, and you are a part of our beloved community,” said State Senator Zaynab Mohamed (D-Minnesota), the bill’s author.
If the bill is enacted, Minnesota will join 18 other states plus Washington, D.C. in granting undocumented residents driving privileges.
Florida Governor DeSantis Announces Sweeping Immigration Proposal
On February 23, Governor Ron DeSantis (R-Florida) unveiled a sweeping legislative proposal to crack down on unauthorized immigration to the state.
DeSantis wants to prohibit out-of-state college tuition waivers for undocumented students, bar undocumented attorneys from practicing law, require all Florida employers to use E-Verify, and make Floridians affirm — under penalty of perjury — that they are US citizens when registering to vote.
His plan would also trump up penalties for human smuggling, make it a felony to use fake IDs for employment eligibility and invalidate out-of-state licenses issued to undocumented residents.
Senator Rick Scott (R-Florida) — DeSantis’s predecessor — reacted to the proposal by expressing continued support for in-state tuition fee waivers for undocumented students, a measure he signed into law as governor.
“I believe in it,” Scott told the Florida Phoenix. “I believe that these individuals ought to have the opportunity to live in this country. It’s a bill that I would sign again today.”
Congressional Research Service (CRS); FEMA’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP); February 22, 2023
This report gives information about the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program, including how it has been funded to provide supplemental humanitarian relief for migrants.
SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES
This paper explains how the Biden administration’s announcement that the Covid-19 public health and national emergencies will end on May 11 may, in turn, affect the Title 42 policy.
This bill analysis summarizes legislation that was recently introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina). The Secure and Protect Act of 2023 would make significant changes to the asylum process, remove limits on the length of time children can be held in family detention, limit the ability of the executive branch to use humanitarian parole, and try to mitigate the immigration court backlog by providing additional funding for staff, among other reforms.
This paper explores the reasons behind the increased migration from Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua. While irregular migration from these three countries ruled by autocratic governments is not new, the situation in these countries has worsened in recent years. Commonalities include domestic political crises, weakening economies, Covid-19, natural disasters, and strict U.S.-led economic sanctions. Facing precarious conditions and the threat of political persecution, a growing number of people from these nations have opted to seek safety in the United States.
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*This Bulletin is not intended to be comprehensive. Please contact Arturo Castellanos-Canales, Policy and Advocacy Manager at the National Immigration Forum, with comments and suggestions of additional items to be included. Arturo can be reached email@example.com. Thank you.