Legislative Bulletin — Friday, February 26, 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. 348

The U.S. Citizenship Act

The bill would provide a path to citizenship for the undocumented population, a border management approach that includes a focus on addressing root causes of forced migration, a legal immigration reform platform, a series of humanitarian provisions, and additional protections for immigrants at the worksite. The House companion bill was introduced by Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-California).

Sponsored by Senator Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) (25 cosponsors — 25 Democrats, 0 Republicans)

02/22/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Menendez

02/22/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 382

The Protection of Kids in Defense (PROKID) Act

The bill would create an oversight body within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to ensure that rights afforded to immigrant children under the Flores Settlement Agreement and the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act are protected.  The bill would also require a memorandum of understanding between the body and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to facilitate oversight of DHS facilities which temporarily house immigrant children. The House companion bill was introduced by Representative Jayapal (D-Washington).

Sponsored by Senator Gillibrand (D-New York) (5 cosponsors — 5 Democrats, 0 Republicans)

02/23/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Gillibrand

02/23/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 433

The New Deal for New Americans Act

This bill would create a National Office on New Americans to promote immigrant and refugee inclusion and integration, establish a $50 naturalization application fee, create federally funded programs for English-language learning and workforce development for immigrants and refugees, and set U.S. refugee admissions at a minimum of 110,000, among other provisions

Sponsored by Senator Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts) (3 cosponsors — 3 Democrats, 0 Republicans)

02/24/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Markey

02/24/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 1120

Illicit Arms Trafficking Security Enforcement Act

The bill would establish a separate security unit within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that would reduce the trafficking of weapons across the border.

Sponsored by Representative Mike Gallagher (R-Wisconsin) (0 cosponsors)

02/18/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Gallagher

02/18/2021 Referred to the House Committee on Homeland Security

H.R. 1120

Empowering Immigration Courts Act

The bill would provide immigration judges with additional authority to impose fines on immigrants who do not appear in court or who are held in contempt.

Sponsored by Representative Mike Gallagher (R-Wisconsin) (0 cosponsors)

02/18/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Gallagher

02/18/2021 Referred to the House Committee on Homeland Security

H.R. 1158

Refugee Sanitation Facility Safety Act

The bill would require that international refugee camps that are funded in part by U.S. foreign aid provide safe and secure access to sanitation facilities, with an emphasis on facilities for women, girls, and vulnerable populations.

Sponsored by Representative Grace Meng (D-New York) (28 cosponsors — 27 Democrats, 1 Republicans)

02/18/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Meng

02/18/2021 Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs

H.R. 1177

The U.S. Citizenship Act

The bill would provide a path to citizenship for the undocumented population, a border management approach that includes a focus on addressing root causes of forced migration, a legal immigration reform platform, a series of humanitarian provisions, and additional protections for immigrants at the worksite. The Senate companion bill was introduced by Senator Menendez (D-New Jersey).

Sponsored by Representative Sanchez (D-California) (97 cosponsors — 97 Democrats, 0 Republicans)

02/22/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Sanchez

02/22/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 1183

The Veteran Deportation Prevention and Reform Act

The bill would include a number of provisions designed to protect veterans and their families from removal. The bill would provide a pathway to citizenship for the spouses and children of members of the armed services, direct DHS to establish an advisory committee that would provide recommendations regarding whether to provide relief to veterans in removal proceedings, direct the Attorney General to rescind certain removal orders issued to noncitizen veterans, and establish a training program for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents concerning how to best handle noncitizen veterans.

Sponsored by Representative Mark Takano (D-California) (8 cosponsors — 8 Democrats, 0 Republicans)

02/18/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Takano

02/18/2021 Referred to the House Committees on Veteran Affairs, Armed Services, and the Judiciary

H.R. 1238

The Protection of Kids in Defense (PROKID) Act

The bill would create an oversight body within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to ensure that rights afforded to immigrant children under the Flores Settlement Agreement and the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act are protected.  The bill would also require a memorandum of understanding between the body and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to facilitate oversight of DHS facilities which temporarily house immigrant children. The Senate companion bill was introduced by Senator Gillibrand (D-New York).

Sponsored by Representative Jayapal (D-Washington) (0 cosponsors)

02/23/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Gillibrand

02/23/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. ___

Citizenship for Essential Workers Act

The bill would create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers in America who have determined to be “essential” by the Department of Homeland Security. The bill would provide a pathway to status for an estimated 5 million undocumented workers. The Senate companion bill is sponsored by Senator Alex Padilla (D-California).

Sponsored by Representative Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) (1 cosponsor — 1 Democrat, 0 Republicans)

02/26/2021 announced by Representative Castro

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate will be in session the week of Monday, March 1, 2021.

The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Monday, March 1, 2021 to Thursday, March 4, 2021.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

Health and Safety Protections for Meatpacking, Poultry, and Agricultural Workers

Date: Tuesday, March 2, 2021 at 10:00 AM ET (House Appropriations Committee)

Location: TBA

Witnesses:

Deborah Berkowitz, Worker Safety and Health Program Director, National Employment Law Project

Dulce Casteñeda, Founding Member, Children of Smithfield

Iris Figueroa, Director of Economic and Environmental Justice, Farmworker Justice

Carmen Rottenberg, Managing Director, Groundswell Group

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

Administration Revokes Immigration Ban, Leaves Temporary Worker Ban in Place

On January 24, President Biden revoked one of the Trump administration’s June and July proclamations suspending immigration from outside of the U.S. The Biden administration revoked Presidential Proclamation 10014, which had suspended the entry of a number of immigration categories, including diversity visas and certain family visas. Presidential Proclamation 10052 remains in place, which suspends entry for those on a number of temporary nonimmigrant visa categories. Those restrictions are currently set to expire on March 31.

The Biden administration proclamation states that the legal immigration ban “harms the United States, including by preventing certain family members of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents from joining their families here. It also harms industries in the United States that utilize talent from around the world.”

While the State Department will begin again to process petitions for all green card categories, reduced processing due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the long delay in categories affected by the ban mean that there are likely to be long delays in scheduling interviews and processing and issuing visas.

Business groups and immigration advocates celebrated the revocation of the legal immigration ban, but called for the rescission of the nonimmigrant guestworker ban as well. On February 5, over 170 business and immigration advocacy groups had sent a letter to the Biden administration expressing concern over both sets of restrictions.

U.S. Opens Overflow Facility for Unaccompanied Children

On February 22, the U.S. reopened a temporary facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas, designed to house 700 unaccompanied migrant children (UACs) arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. The administration opened the facility because Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) permanent shelters — designed and staffed to provide age-appropriate care to migrant children — are operating at significantly reduced capacity during the Covid-19 pandemic. With the number of UACs arriving at the border rising to pre-pandemic levels, over 90% of beds in ORR shelters are filled.

With fewer beds available in ORR shelters, an increasing number of UACs have been held for extended periods in CBP facilities that are not meant to house minors. By law, children can only be housed in CBP facilities for 72 hours before they must be transferred to ORR custody, but recent reports found that some children are being held for over a week at some CBP stations.

The emergency Carrizo Springs facility is not state licensed and not required to meet the same standards set for ORR shelters, which have caused some immigration advocates to raise concerns about its reopening. A White House spokesperson stated that reopening the facility was a “tough choice,” and argued that without the facility the administration would be forced to choose between either sending children back to their home countries or releasing them to sponsors that have not yet been fully vetted.

Biden Administration Begins Admitting Asylum Seekers in Matamoros Camp Turned Back by Migrant Protection Protocols

On February 24, the Biden administration began admitting asylum seekers in the Matamoros, Mexico camp across the border from Brownsville, Texas. The asylum seekers in Matamoros had been returned to Mexico under the Migration Protection Protocols (MPP), which required them to wait in areas near the border while their asylum hearings continued in the U.S. The U.S. began admitting the 25,000 asylum seekers with active cases under MPP on February 19, beginning with the San Ysidro port of entry near San Diego but expanding to ports near Brownsville on February 24 and El Paso on February 26.

The administration has worked with the Mexican government, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and other international organizations to process the asylum seekers and test for Covid-19 prior to entry into the U.S. UNHCR has launched an online registration portal for asylum-seekers with cases pending to sign up for a date to cross the border. The U.S. is admitting about 25 individuals per day, with plans to admit 300 people per day once the program is fully operational at San Ysidro, Brownsville, and El Paso.

USCIS Returns to 2008 Version of the Citizenship Test 

On February 22, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will be reverting to the 2008 version of the civics test required during the U.S. citizenship process, scrapping changes made by the Trump administration in 2020. Those changes included removing questions, adding new questions, modifying answers to existing questions, expanding the question pool from 100 to 128, and increasing the total number of questions applicants would be asked and have to answer correctly from 6 out of 10 to 12 out of 20, among other changes. USCIS stated that these alterations “may inadvertently create potential barriers” to citizenship.

USCIS will offer both versions of the test until April 19 for applicants who have been preparing to take the 2020 version.

Parents of 105 Separated Children Located

On February 24, a committee of lawyers appointed by a federal judge in California to reunite immigrant parents and children who were separated during the Trump administration announced that they have found the parents of 105 children since January 14. According to the committee, 506 children remain separated from their parents. This committee is independent from an interagency task force established by the Biden administration to identify children separated from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border during the Trump presidency between January 20, 2017 and January 20, 2021 and facilitate the reunification of those families.

It has been difficult for the lawyers to find the children’s parents, and the committee believes that the parents of over 300 children were deported. Some of these parents may have agreed to be deported in order to allow their children to remain in the U.S. and claim asylum.

Legal

Judge Bans Enforcement of DHS Deportation Moratorium 

On February 23, a federal judge in the Southern District of Texas issued a preliminary injunction blocking the Biden administration’s 100-day deportation moratorium, finding that it likely violated federal law and risked imposing additional costs on the state of Texas. The preliminary injunction does not require deportations to resume at their previous rate and would still allow the Department of Homeland Security to make changes to deportation priorities. The moratorium, originally issued on January 20, was initially temporarily suspended by the judge following the filing of a lawsuit by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Federal Lawsuit Alleges Bail Bond Corporation Misled Detained Immigrants

On February 22, The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) filed a lawsuit against a company for misleading detained immigrants into paying thousands of dollars under false pretenses. The suit alleges that the company, Libre by Nexus, had been “preying on vulnerable [immigrants]” by convincing them to wear fake electronic tracking bracelets and then charging them thousands of dollars for the trackers’ removal. According to the suit, the company has targeted immigrants in federal detention since 2014, offering to pay their bond as they await trial while charging a monthly fee of $420 for their services. The suit alleges that immigrants were led to believe these payments would be put towards their original bond payment, while instead they accumulated thousands of dollars of debt to the company. The suit further alleges that Libre by Nexus threatened to “re-detain or deport [immigrants] for non-payment,” when in fact, the corporation had no authority to do so.

A CFPB official told reporters Monday that the suit demonstrates that “financial scams that target immigrants and increase the ethnic and racial divide in America will not be tolerated.”

State and Local

Utah State Legislature Passes Law Allowing Noncitizens to Become Police Officers

On February 17, in a 65-4 vote, the Utah House of Representatives passed a bill allowing certain noncitizens to become police officers. This bill stipulates that eligible noncitizens must be lawful residents, have been in the United States for at least five years, and have employment authorization. The bill originally required that noncitizens be green card holders in order to be eligible, but this provision was later removed via amendment. The bill will now go to the Utah Senate for agreement before heading to Governor Spencer Cox’s desk.

State Representative Paul Ray (R-Utah-13), who sponsored the bill in the Utah House, noted that allowing noncitizens to become police officers would help resolve a “huge shortage” in Utah police departments.

Nominations and Personnel Changes

Senate Committee Meeting to Consider the Nomination of Merrick Garland to be Attorney General

Date: Monday, March 1, 2021 at 1PM ET (Senate Judiciary Committee)

Location: 216 Hart Senate Office Building

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

Government Accountability Office (GAO): ICE Can Further Enhance Its Planning and Oversight of State and Local Agreements; Publicly Released February 26, 2021

This GAO report tracked the use of the 287(g) program, which allows U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to enter into agreements with local law enforcement agencies to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration laws. The report found that ICE has implemented many of the agreements with limited plans for oversight or management in place, and that it has not instituted adequate measures to assess the program’s performance.

Congressional Research Service (CRS): Is Mandatory Detention of Unlawful Entrants Seeking Asylum Constitutional?; Updated January 27, 2021

This report examines the constitutionality of mandatory detention for foreign nationals who entered the country without authorization to seek asylum. Discussing recent developments in federal case law, this CRS Legal Sidebar discusses the interplay between legal limits on mandatory detention for asylum seekers and the limited constitutional protections held by those apprehended at the border making unlawful entries. Following a recent Supreme Court decision in DHS v. Thuraissigiam, unlawful entrants with asylum claims are being detained as they await formal removal proceedings without the opportunity for a bond hearing.

Congressional Research Service (CRS): The Trump Administration’s “Zero Tolerance” Immigration Enforcement Policy; Updated February 2, 2021

This report provides an overview of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance policy” implemented in May 2018. The policy was intended to reduce illegal border crossings and fraudulent asylum claims. Under the policy, the Department of Justice prosecuted without exceptions all adult foreign nationals who crossed the border without authorization, which resulted in thousands of migrant children being separated from their parents. The zero tolerance policy was eventually walked back by Trump in the summer of 2018 and formally rescinded by the Biden administration in January 2021.

Congressional Research Service (CRS): The Law of Immigration Detention: A Brief Introduction; Updated February 17, 2021

This “In Focus” from the Congressional Research Service is an overview of immigration detention. The legal framework for detention comes from the Immigration and Nationality Act, which authorizes the Department of Homeland Security to detain foreign nationals who are subject to formal removal from the country.

Government Accountability Office (GAO): Actions Are Needed to Address the Cost and Readiness Implications of Continued DOD Support to U.S. Customs and Border Protection; February 23, 2021

This GAO report concerns requests made by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for the use of Department of Defense (DOD) personnel and other support at the Southwest border. The report evaluates four requests for assistance made by DHS to DOD, all four of which were accepted. The report found that DOD did not properly evaluate the requests before agreeing to them, noting that they used unreliable cost estimates and did not adequately evaluate the impact of the requests on other DOD priorities.

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

President Trump’s Proclamations Suspending Immigration

This resource explains President Trump’s June 22 proclamation extending and expanding on immigration restrictions initially implemented in April. It describes which categories of immigrants are affected and which are exempt, discusses the additional measures included in the proclamation, and provides information about which groups of immigrants face the most immediate harm.

The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021

This summary describes the expansive immigration bill Democrats in the House and Senate introduced following a framework that was initially sent to Congress by President Biden upon taking office.

Fact Sheet: Unaccompanied Migrant Children (UACs)

This resource provides information on unaccompanied children arriving at the border. It describes why these children come alone to the border, the particular challenges they face, and the legal protections offered to them.

* * *

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

Learn More

Read more about Dreamer Advocacy Resources

Article

Dreamer Advocacy Resources

Picture
Read more about Legislative Bulletin — Friday, February 19, 2021

Legislative Bulletin

Legislative Bulletin — Friday, February 19, 2021

Read more about Legislative Bulletin — Friday, February 12, 2021

Legislative Bulletin

Legislative Bulletin — Friday, February 12, 2021