Legislative Bulletin – Friday, February 8, 2019

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. 386

Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act

The bill would remove per-country caps for employment-based green cards. It would also increase the per-country caps for family-sponsored green cards from seven percent to 15 percent. The House companion bill is H.R. 1044.

Sponsored by Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) (14 cosponsors – 6 Republicans, 8 Democrats)

02/07/2019 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Lee

02/07/2019 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 388

Families Not Facilities Act

This bill would limit Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from using information obtained in the process of placing unaccompanied immigrant children to take immigration enforcement actions against prospective sponsors and/or individuals who reside with them.

Sponsored by Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) (10 cosponsors – 0 Republicans, 10 Democrats)

02/07/2019 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Harris

02/07/2019 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 415

A Bill to Provide Immigration Status for Certain Battered Spouses and Children

Sponsored by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) (2 cosponsors – 0 Republicans, 2 Democrats)

02/07/2019 Introduced in Senate by Senator Klobuchar

02/07/2019 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 1011

Protecting Sensitive Locations Act

The bill would limit immigration enforcement actions at sensitive locations, including hospitals, churches and schools.

Sponsored by Representative Adriano Espaillat (D-New York) (5 cosponsors – 0 Republicans, 5 Democrats)

02/06/2019 Introduced in the House by Representative Espaillat

02/06/2019 Referred to the House Committees on the Judiciary

H.R. 1013

ICE and CBP Body Camera Accountability Act

This bill would require Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers to wear body cameras.

Sponsored by Representative Adriano Espaillat (D-New York) (5 cosponsors – 0 Republicans, 5 Democrats)

02/06/2019 Introduced in the House by Representative Espaillat

02/06/2019 Referred to the House Committees on the Judiciary, Homeland Security, and Ways and Means

H.R. 1044

Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act

The bill would remove per-country caps for employment-based green cards. It would also increase the per-country caps for family-sponsored green cards from seven percent to 15 percent. The Senate companion bill is S. 386.

Sponsored by Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-California) (116 cosponsors – 42 Republicans, 74 Democrats)

02/07/2019 Introduced in the House by Representative Lofgren

02/07/2019 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 1106

Protecting Our Communities from Gang Violence Act

The bill would enable the government to denaturalize individuals who were members or supporters of criminal gangs.

Sponsored by Representative Lee Zeldin (R-New York) (3 cosponsors – 3 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

02/07/2019 Introduced in the House by Representative Zeldin

02/07/2019 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate will be in session the week of Monday, February 11, 2019.

The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Monday, February 11, 2019 to Thursday, February 14, 2019.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

Oversight of the Trump Administration’s Family Separation Policy

Date: Tuesday, February 12, 2019 at 10:00 a.m. (House Judiciary Committee)

Location: 2141 Rayburn House Office Building

Witnesses:

Nathalie R. Asher, Acting Executive Associate Director, Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

Joseph Edlow, Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Policy, Department of Justice (DOJ)

Scott Lloyd, Senior Advisor, Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

Carla Provost, Chief, U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

Commander Jonathan White, U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

Failure of DOJ, DHS, and HHS to Produce Documents on Child Separation Policy

Date: Tuesday, February 12, 2019 at 10:00 a.m. (House Oversight and Reform Committee)

Location: 2154 Rayburn House Office Building

Witnesses: TBD

Committee Business Meeting

This committee business meeting includes consideration of the nomination of Ronald D. Vitiello to serve as Assistant Secretary for ICE

Date: Wednesday, February 13, 2019 at 10:00 a.m. (Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs)

Location: 342 Dirksen Senate Office Building

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

Witness:

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

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

Congressional Negotiators Aim for Deal on Border Security Funding

Congressional negotiators in the bicameral conference committee reportedly aim to finalize a deal to fund the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in time to unveil the plan on February 11, providing sufficient time for the Senate and House to pass the compromise before funding runs out on February 15. According to a report from the Washington Post, negotiators are discussing two remaining sticking points –funding to construct barriers on the U.S.-Mexico border and funding to detain individuals in immigration detention facilities. Democratic negotiators indicated on February 6 that they may support some types of barriers along the Southern border.

Lawmakers generally voiced cautious optimism that a compromise is within reach. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would be willing to support any compromise on border security that they produce. Pelosi also predicted there will not be another government shutdown and urged the White House to maintain a “hands-off” approach. At the same time, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) reportedly cautioned on February 6 against passing another short-term spending bill, opting for a longer-term solution. Senate Republican leaders said they want the conference committee to reach a deal.

On February 7, Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), one of the conferees, met with President Trump to brief him on the negotiations. Shelby said President Trump laid out his expectations for a deal and if the conference committee “can work within some of the parameters that [the President and I] talked about today…I think [the president] would sign it.”

President Trump Pushes for Hardline on Immigration in SOTU Address

President Trump pushed a tough line on immigration at his State of the Union address on February 5, calling unauthorized immigration “an urgent national crisis.” For 15 minutes, President Trump made repeated requests for a border wall and several false claims linking undocumented immigrants to crime and drugs. At one point, President Trump ad-libbed a portion of his address to say he wants “the largest numbers ever” of legal immigrants coming to the U.S. to fill the country’s need for additional workers. President Trump’s comment on legal immigration stood in sharp contrast to the Trump administration’s policies, which include actions to limit legal migration to the U.S. and support of legislation to restrict the inflow of family-based migration and other legal immigrants to the country.  In response to the State of the Union, immigration advocates noted that President Trump used the address to “paint an inaccurate picture of our southern border and manufacture a crisis.”

After the State of the Union, President Trump announced that he would visit El Paso to give a speech on border security.

Senate Republicans Warn President Trump on Emergency Declaration Over Border Wall

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) reportedly cautioned President Trump in a private meeting on January 29 about the negative consequences of declaring a national emergency to construct a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, suggesting that the move could result in heavy political blowback and divide Republicans in Congress. McConnell reportedly noted that Congress could end up passing a resolution terminating the emergency declaration, which would force President Trump to issue his first veto. McConnell’s comments echoed concerns among many Republican lawmakers about the consequences of declaring a national emergency. Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota) noted: “there have been lots of concerns expressed about that approach, which have been conveyed by many of our members directly to the president.” Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) noted that an emergency declaration would be “constitutionally dubious.”

Republican aides believe enough Senate Republicans would support a resolution ending a national emergency over immigration that it would pass the Senate. Under the National Emergencies Act (NEA), Congress can immediately pass a resolution of disapproval terminating any presidentially-declared national emergency. The NEA stipulates that if one chamber passes such a resolution the other chamber must consider it within a short period. The resolution would need only a simple majority to pass both chambers.

House Oversight Committee Requests Information from DHS CIS Ombudsman’s Office

On February 6, House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Maryland) sent a letter to Julie Kirchner, the Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) Ombudsman, criticizing CIS for “failing to fulfill” its statutory duties to improve the quality of citizenship and immigration services to the public. The letter states that over the past several months the committee has received reports that CIS may be failing to effectively carry out its functions. The concerns stated in the letter include backlogs in assisting individuals with casework, failure to meet deadlines to requests for assistance, significant reductions in CIS’ advisory duties to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and high staff turnover. The letter also notes Kirchner’s past association with the Federation for Immigration Reform (FAIR), an organization committed to “reducing overall immigration” into the U.S. The letter requests that the agency provide the committee with documents related to casework assistance, backlog, and priorities, as well as documents relating to Kirchner’s past and present association with FAIR.

Trump Administration Claims Limitations on Reuniting Separated Families

The Trump administration claimed that reuniting families separated at the border before its zero-tolerance policy, which took effect in April 2018, could be traumatizing for immigrant children placed with sponsors and potentially destabilize their home environment. Additionally, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) suggested the reunification would not be feasible, since it would require around 100 analysts from the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to work 471 working days in a row to start reconciliation of the agency’s data. The claims came in a court-ordered response to an HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) report that showed thousands more immigrant children might have been separated from their parents at the U.S. border than the government had previously acknowledged.

The HHS OIG report revealed immigration authorities split families long before implementation of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) zero-tolerance policy, which required criminal prosecution of all adult migrants who arrived at the ports of entry without proper immigration documents, including those who arrived with children. The report states that it is unclear exactly how many families were impacted by these policies because the HHS failed to implement an adequate tracking system. An HHS official noted that the number of separated children is certainly larger than the 2,737 listed by the government in court documents.

Trump Organization Fires Undocumented Workers

President Trump’s five golf courses in New York and New Jersey fired at least 18 undocumented workers, following an earlier round of sudden firings of undocumented workers in the Trump Organization. The firings follow a report by the New York Times that profiled Victorina Morales, an undocumented immigrant who worked at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey since 2013. The Trump Organization claims that the workers all presented false documents when they were hired. The workers interviewed by the Washington Post acknowledged they presented false social security numbers and green cards, but stated that their supervisors were aware the documents were false.

Senator Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey), who met with four of the fired employees, sent a request to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and FBI Director Christopher Wray asking to conduct an “appropriate investigation” into the matter.

State and Local

New Mexico Governor Withdraws Most National Guard Troops from Border

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-New Mexico) announced on February 5 the withdrawal of most of the state’s National Guard troops from the U.S.-Mexico border, which numbered 118 before the announcement. She also directed 25 National Guard troops from Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Wisconsin to withdraw from the New Mexico border. Lujan Grisham said she ordered the withdrawal because New Mexico will not participate “in the president’s charade of border fear-mongering.” Around a dozen New Mexico National Guard troops will remain at the border to assist with humanitarian needs in a remote area in the southwestern corner of the state, where Central American migrants and asylum-seekers continue to surrender to U.S. authorities in larger numbers.

Lujan Grisham’s announcement comes after the Pentagon stated it would send 3,750 more troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to place barbed wire and provide support to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), increasing the total number of troops at the border to 4,250. The cost of deploying active-duty troops to the border is expected to cost an estimated $1 billion by the end of the fiscal year.

Legal

Federal Court Blocks Pentagon from Discriminating Against Naturalized Citizens

A federal judge in Seattle ordered the Department of Defense (DOD) on January 31 to stop discriminating against naturalized U.S. citizens who enlisted in the military through the Military Accession Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program. U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Zilly found that the DOD cannot require service members who are naturalized to undergo “continuous monitoring,” which includes National Intelligence Agency Checks (NIAC) every two years, when the same requirements do not apply to non-MAVNI personnel. Judge Zilly held that the DOD policy discriminates against naturalized MAVNI personnel based on their national origin. The order enjoins the DOD from applying NIAC to naturalized MAVNI personnel “in the absence of individualized suspicion.” However, the injunction does not cover MAVNI personnel who are not U.S. citizens.

The MAVNI program, which was put on hold for new recruits in 2016, allowed qualified noncitizens in the U.S. to enlist in the military if they had specialized medical or critical language skills, affording them an opportunity to obtain U.S. citizenship as a result of their military service.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO): Unaccompanied Children: Agency Efforts to Identify and Reunify Children Separated from Parents at the Border, February 7, 2019

This testimony before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce updates an earlier GAO report published in October 2018 on efforts by the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Health and Human Services (HHS) to identify and reunify families separated at the border. The testimony includes new data on the number of children separated from their parents subject to reunification and the number of children in government custody as of December 11, 2018.

Congressional Research Service (CRS): “Migrant Protection Protocols”: Legal Issues Related to DHS’s Plan to Require Arriving Asylum Seekers to Wait in Mexico, February 1, 2019 (by Ben Harrington and Hillel R. Smith)

This legal sidebar examines legal issues related to DHS’ “Migrant Protection Protocols’ (MPP), a new policy which requires certain asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while U.S. immigration courts consider their asylum cases.

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

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 Southwest border.

Map to Success: Identifying Job Opportunities and Career Pathways

The National Immigration Forum’s Map to Success is an interactive tool that provides immigrants and other workers with information on select career paths in the U.S. The map lists jobs with the greatest shortages in states with large immigrant populations, highlighting occupations with potential for career advancement.

Summary: Rule Implementing President Trump’s Asylum Proclamation

This is a summary of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) rule that would implement President Trump’s proclamation limiting certain individual’s access to asylum.

* * *

*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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