BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED
Eritrean Nationals’ Safety from Unjust Removal or Expulsion (ENSURE) Act
The bill would place a two-year stay on removals of Eritrean nationals if they meet certain requirements. The bill would also prohibit the detention of Eritrean nationals during removal procedures and require reporting on the number of Eritreans facing deportation.
Sponsored by Representative Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) (30 cosponsors – 0 Republicans, 30 Democrats)
02/05/2020 Introduced in the House by Representative Omar
02/05/2020 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary
Operation Stonegarden Authorization Act
The bill would authorize the Operation Stonegarden program through 2024 at $110 million annually. The program aims to increase cooperation between U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies to secure U.S. borders. Under the program, CBP provides grants to state, local, and tribal law enforcement to cover the cost of overtime, salaries, and equipment.
Sponsored by Senator Martha McSally (R-Arizona) (2 cosponsors – 0 Republicans, 2 Democrats)
10/30/2019 Introduced in the Senate by Senator McSally
10/30/2019 Referred to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
02/04/2020 Placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar
LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR
The U.S. Senate will be in session on the week of Monday, February 10, 2020.
The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Monday, February 10, 2020 through Thursday, February 13, 2020.
UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS
Date: Wednesday, February 12, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. (House Judiciary Committee)
Location: 2141 Rayburn House Office Building
THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK
President Trump Praises Border Security, Immigration Enforcement in State of the Union Address
President Trump called the United States borders “secure” at his State of the Union address on February 4 and supported stringent immigration enforcement. The address, which primarily focused on the U.S. economy, highlighted several of the Trump administration’s immigration policies. President Trump said his administration has led “an unprecedented effort to secure the southern border.” He misleadingly stated that the administration has “completed over 100 miles” of physical barriers and is in the process of completing “over 500 miles” by early next year. Almost all the completed construction is to replace existing border fencing.
President Trump also credited the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy, and asylum-related agreements with the Governments of Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras with stemming the flow of migrants coming to the U.S. Immigration and asylum experts have criticized the policies for blocking most Central American migrants from requesting asylum in the U.S., saying it deprives them of proper due process and leaves them subject to cartel and/or gang violence. In addition, President Trump criticized so-called sanctuary cities and states, which limit state and local officials’ involvement in federal immigration enforcement functions, and called for the creation of a merit-based immigration system.
After the State of the Union, a group of 20 Democratic Senators – led by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) – sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other Trump administration officials requesting more information about the administration’s asylum-related agreements with Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. The letter raised concerns over the agreements’ legality, the lack of asylum capacities in the three countries, and the dangerous conditions faced by asylum seekers who are sent to Central America.
CBP Data Reportedly Shows Apprehensions Along Southern Border Declined in January
CBP data reportedly shows migrant apprehensions along the U.S.-Mexico border dropped in January, continuing a downward trend for the eighth straight month. CBP apprehended an estimated 29,200 people at the southern border in January 2020, an 11% decrease from December 2019 and a sharp 78% decline from the 13-year high of 132,000 in May 2019. CBP’s data reportedly shows there were 13,084 non-Mexican migrants apprehended, a 28% decrease from the previous month. However, the number of Mexican migrants apprehended along the southern border increased from 14,570 in December to 16,116 in January, a 10% increase. The demographics shift towards more Mexican migrants started in fall 2019.
The decline in border arrests come as CBP continues to carry out restrictive policies on the border. The Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy, has come under increasing criticism for returning asylum seekers to wait in dangerous conditions in Mexico while their asylum applications are processed in the U.S. Experts credit MPP for contributing to the decline in border apprehensions. However, a report released on December 6 details at least 636 instances of violent attacks against asylum seekers as they wait in Mexico. In addition, a separate report released on February 5 found that at least 138 people have been killed in El Salvador since 2013 after being deported there by U.S. immigration officials.
High Skilled Workers from India Choosing Canada
According to a February 3 report, issuance of Canadian permanent residency visas to nationals from India have more than doubled since 2016. Data released by the Canadian government revealed that 80,685 Indians became permanent Canadian residents in 2019, a sharp rise from the 39,705 who achieved the same status in 2016. The number of Indian international students enrolling in Canadian universities also rose dramatically, from 76,075 in 2016 to 172,625 in 2018. Some analysts have noted that increasingly restrictive U.S. legal immigration policy may have motivated the increase in immigration to Canada. The denial rates for the U.S. H-1B specialty occupation visas, for example, have risen dramatically since 2015. Indians have traditionally made up the majority of all H-1B visa filings.
The Trump administration has recently touted other restrictive policies that affect high-skilled Indian immigrants, including upcoming plans to limit the Optional Practical Training program for foreign students and to prevent the spouses of H-1B visa holders from obtaining work authorization.
The administration’s January 31 decision to expand the travel ban to six additional countries could also drive more immigration to Canada. Past policies targeting specific countries for restriction have led to a subsequent rise in immigration from those countries to Canada.
DHS Suspends New York from Enrolling in Trusted-Traveler Programs Over Driver’s License Law
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on February 6 that it is suspending enrollment in Trusted Traveler Programs (TTP) like Global Entry, NEXUS and SENTRI for all residents in the state of New York. Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf said the suspension is in response to the state’s new Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act, also known as the “Green Light Law,” which permits certain undocumented immigrants living in New York to legally obtain driver’s licenses. The bill also prohibits the disclosure of an applicant’s immigration status to federal immigration authorities. Wolf said DHS will immediately stop accepting applications from New York residents to enroll or re-enroll in the programs. Wolf stated the Green Light Law limits access to driver’s license records that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) needs to verify the identifies and eligibility of people applying for the agency’s trusted-traveler programs. An aide with the office of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-New York) said the suspension was “political retaliation by the federal government” and that the office would review its legal options. On February 7, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced the state would sue the federal government over the suspension.
CBP estimates that up to 150,000 to 200,000 New York residents will be affected by the suspension. New York residents will still be able to enroll or re-enroll in TSA PreCheck.
Former FAIR Official to Oversee Office in Charge of Civil Rights Complaints
According to a January 30 report, acting DHS Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli has appointed Julie Kirchner, a former Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman, to serve as the new Office of the Immigration Detention Ombudsman. In the most recent DHS spending bill, Congress designated $10 million to be used to set up an independent immigration detention watchdog, which would oversee Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and CBP detention practices. Kirchner, who has been appointed to help set up and run the office, will be responsible for tracking concerns related to detention standards and for fielding any civil rights complaints from detainees. Kirchner is the former Executive Director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), an organization that supports restricting immigration to the U.S.
Federal Court Permanently Blocks USCIS Rule on International Students’ “Unlawful Presence”
A federal court in North Carolina issued a nationwide injunction on February 6 permanently blocking the Trump administration from implementing a policy memo that would modify when international students start to accrue “unlawful presence” in the United States. U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs ruled that the policy “impermissibly conflicts” with current immigration law and violates the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), because it was not subject to a public notice and comment period. Judge Biggs previously issued a temporary injunction in May 2019 blocking the policy while the case proceeded on the merits.
The policy, which was announced by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in August 2018, directs immigration officers to consider an international student’s unlawful presence to start accruing on the date a status violation of their F-1, J-1 or M-1 visa
occurred. Under the current policy, an international student’s unlawful presence does not start to accrue until the time he or she is formally found to be out of status, such as when they are issued a deportation order by an immigration judge. Under U.S. immigration law, a foreign national who has been unlawfully present for more than 180 days is barred from entering the U.S. for three years. Individuals who accumulate more than 365 days of unlawful presence are barred from entering the U.S. for ten years. Immigration experts and institutions of higher education argued that the policy would bar international students from entering the U.S. for potentially minor administrative or unintentional errors, including some errors that they may not be aware of until after the fact, such as failing to register for the required number of credit hours.
There were no immigration-related government reports published on the week of February 3, 2020.
SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES
This is a bill summary of the State Sponsored Visa Pilot Program Act of 2019 (H.R. 5174), introduced in the House on November 19, 2019 by Representative John Curtis (R-Utah). The bill would pilot a new temporary visa allowing states to establish and implement their own unique nonimmigrant visa criteria. The bill would allow each state a baseline of 5,000 “W” visas to create a program regulating the employment and residence of potential recipients.
This fact sheet provides an overview of border security resources and migration trends along America’s southern border. The fact sheet also includes recommendations about how border security infrastructure could be better focused to reduce drug smuggling and improve overall efficacy at U.S. Ports of Entry.
This fact sheet examines the current state of the U.S. immigration court system and provides information on the total number of immigration judges and cases. The fact sheet also addresses the cause and extent of the current immigration case backlog. It also includes a webinar, “Challenges in the Immigration Court System,” with former Immigration Judge Traci Hong.
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*This Bulletin is not intended to be comprehensive. Please contact Christian Penichet-Paul, National Immigration Forum Policy and Advocacy Manager, with comments and suggestions of additional items to be included. Christian can be reached at email@example.com. Thank you.