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Legislative Bulletin — Friday, February 9, 2024

Welcome to the National Immigration Forum’s weekly bulletin! Every Friday, our policy team rounds up key developments around immigration policy in Washington and across the country. The bulletin includes items on the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, as well as some coverage at the state and local levels. 

Here’s a breakdown of the bulletin’s sections:

DEVELOPMENTS IN IMMIGRATION THIS WEEK

BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

DEVELOPMENTS IN IMMIGRATION THIS WEEK

Immigration policy is a dynamic field subject to constant change. Here, we summarize some of the most important recent developments in immigration policy on the federal, legal, state, and local levels. 

Content warning: This section sometimes includes events and information that can prove disturbing. 

Federal

Bipartisan Senate Compromise Buckles Under Political Pressure, Biden Considers Executive Action 

On February 7, the Senate quickly blocked a bipartisan compromise on immigration and border policy changes months in the making, with only four Republicans voting to advance the package that the GOP had initially called for as a trade-off for Ukraine aid. 

“I cannot imagine why any Republican supports this atrocious proposal,” wrote Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio), echoing public statements from some in the caucus.

The deal included significant changes to border security in the United States, such as a new expulsion authority at the U.S.-Mexico border and provisions to heighten the standard for people to qualify for asylum. But with the House showing no appetite to take up the bill — and amid pressure from the former president, Donald Trump, to oppose the package — the vast majority of Republican senators voted “no” on the compromise they had once demanded. 

“Start putting your country before yourself,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) said after the motion to proceed on the deal failed by a 49-50 vote. “Quit worrying about being a Democrat or Republican getting reelected. If you have to do this to get reelected, then you shouldn’t want to serve.”

Now that the border proposal has fizzled, the Senate has moved on to a narrower potential $95.34 billion piece of legislation that would provide long-awaited aid to the U.S.’s foreign allies. At the same time, President Biden is reportedly considering executive action to address unauthorized migration at the border, according to NBC News

House Fails to Impeach DHS Secretary Mayorkas Amid Widespread Opposition from National Security Leaders, Legal Scholars

On February 6, the House of Representatives failed to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas after three Republicans crossed party lines to oppose the effort, which has been criticized by legal scholars, national security leaders, and other experts as a specious misapplication of the Constitution over policy disagreements. 

The House GOP was angling to impeach a member of the Biden administration, and they honed in on Mayorkas as migrant encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border  became an increasingly salient political issue. But even some of the most outspoken critics of current border policies couldn’t get behind their colleagues’ arguments to support the second impeachment ever of a Cabinet member. 

“The problem is that they fail to identify an impeachable crime that Mayorkas has committed,” Rep. Tom McClintock (R-California) wrote in a memo to House Republicans on the two articles of impeachment against Mayorkas. “In effect, they stretch and distort the Constitution in order to hold the administration accountable for stretching and distorting the law.”

McClintock was joined by Reps. Ken Buck (R-Colorado) and Mike Gallagher (R-Wisconsin) — alongside the Democratic caucus — in voting against the impeachment effort. Rep. Blake Moore (R-Utah) changed his vote to “no” as part of a procedural move to allow the legislation to return to the floor later. Republicans plan to try to impeach Mayorkas again, likely once House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana) is in attendance to cast his vote. 

Yet the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is urging the House GOP to abandon the effort. Among supporters, Mayorkas is known as a “Boy Scout” who has worked hard to help vulnerable people seeking safety and opportunity in the U.S. much like his own family did. 

“This baseless impeachment should never have moved forward; it faces bipartisan opposition and legal experts resoundingly say it is unconstitutional,” a DHS spokesperson said in a statement. 

January 2024 Refugee Numbers Highest Monthly Total in Nearly Eight Years

The U.S. resettled 9,200 refugees in January 2024, an increase of 2,236 refugees from the 6,964 resettled in December 2023. This is a significant monthly uptick and a large total for any one month. In fact, the last time the U.S. refugee program saw more than 9,000 arrivals in one month was back in October of 2016. The four month total of refugee arrivals for FY 2024 is 30,993.

Overall, FY 2024 is shaping up to be a strong year for refugee resettlement. If the U.S. refugee pipeline can push the monthly arrivals even higher, we could reach over 100,000 refugees and potentially come close to the 125,000 cap for FY 2024. 

Legal

GOP Governors, Anti-Migrant Convoy Show Support for Texas Amid SCOTUS Razor Wire Decision 

It’s been nearly three weeks since the Supreme Court’s emergency ruling — through what’s often referred to as the shadow docket — gave U.S. Border Patrol agents the green light to cut and remove razor wire along stretches of Texas’s border with Mexico. Yet fallout from the decision continues, amid widespread confusion about its confines and loud support on the right for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star campaign. 

Republican governors from 25 states have shown solidarity with Abbott, signing a joint statement on January 25. Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis even offered Florida National Guard and State Guard soldiers to support Texas’s efforts. And around a dozen Republican governors visited the Texas border on Sunday, including Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee. 

Meanwhile, a caravan of Americans concerned with increased migrant arrivals in the U.S. went to Texas and other border states from across the nation to advocate for border enforcement. While the demonstrations were peaceful, concerns about the potential for violence spurred the protest’s organizers to conclude their voyage about 20 miles short of the city of Eagle Pass, which has become a focal point of border activity. 

Even so, a migrant processing facility in Eagle Pass was evacuated after two known extremists threatened to “overthrow it by any means necessary.” They reportedly also had intended to infiltrate the convoy. 

State and Local

Migrant Families in Denver Struggle to Find Housing Amid Shelter Evictions 

On February 5, Denver once again began evicting migrant families from its shelters despite some of them having no long-term housing to shield them from the city’s frigid winter temperatures. 

“It’s as if they think the people will evaporate,” said Candice Marley of All Souls Denver.

Families are receiving written notices with discharge dates when they’re supposed to leave the shelters, and around 450 people were expected to vacate this week. The reactivated eviction policy comes even as Denver is experiencing a lull in arriving newcomers. 

“We aim to live up to our word. We always said we’re a welcoming city. We continue to be a welcoming city,” said Jon Ewing of the city’s Department of Human Services. “Can we do everything for people? No, and I hope nobody expects us to.”

BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED

It can be challenging to keep up with the constant barrage of proposed legislation in Congress. So, every week, we round up new bills. This list includes federal legislative proposals that have recently been introduced and that are relevant to immigration policy. 

Please follow this link to find new relevant bills, as well as proposed legislation from past weeks.

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate is scheduled to be out of session during the week of Monday, February 12, 2024 (though this may change amid consideration of a supplemental foreign aid package).

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to be in session from Tuesday, February 13 through Friday, February 16, 2024. 

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

Here, we round up congressional hearings and markups happening in the field or in Washington. 

The Consequences of Catch and Release at the Border

Date: Thursday, February 15, 2024 at 2:00 p.m. EST (House Oversight)

Location: 2154 Rayburn, Washington, D.C.

Witnesses: TBA

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

Reports by bodies such as the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the Congressional Research Service, and the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General provide invaluable information on immigration policy and practice. Here, we give brief summaries of new immigration-related reports, with links to the resources themselves in case you want to learn more.

U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO); Department of Homeland Security: Additional Actions Needed to Improve Oversight of Joint Task Forces; Published February 7, 2024

This report provides information about the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) joint task forces, with a focus on Joint Task Force-East, which remains active. These task forces allow DHS to fight threats to the U.S. like drug smuggling.

U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO); Artificial Intelligence: Fully Implementing Key Practices Could Help DHS Ensure Responsible Use for Cybersecurity; Published Feb 7, 2024

This report identifies inaccuracies in the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) artificial intelligence systems inventory and explores whether the department has incorporated key practices from GAO’s AI Accountability Framework.

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

The Forum is constantly publishing new policy-focused resources that engage with some of the most topical issues around immigration today. Here are a few that are particularly relevant this week: 

Border Security and Asylum Reform in the Emergency National Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2024: Bill Explainer  

This explainer breaks down the major immigration and border policy changes in the bipartisan compromise that was defeated in the Senate earlier this week. 

Schedule A: The Solution to Expedite the Hiring of Essential Immigrant Workers by Skipping the Burdensome Labor Certification Process

Updating Schedule A is a simple yet valuable alternative for the Biden administration to create a less bureaucratic environment for many employers who are struggling to hire workers. This explainer describes the labor certification process and explains the reasons behind calls to update the Schedule A list to include more occupations. 

Still More Room to Grow: Immigrants Can Reverse the U.S. Population Decline and Its Economic Consequences

In 2024, the United States continues to face significant demographic challenges. Propelled by falling birth rates, the U.S. population is rapidly aging and population growth is steadily declining. In turn, the country is experiencing economic and social pressures caused by labor shortages. This article provides a follow-up to “Room to Grow,” a 2021 white paper where the National Immigration Forum proposed a methodology that showed that the country needed a 37% increase in net immigration levels over those projected for fiscal year 2020 (approximately 370,000 additional immigrants a year) to prevent the U.S. from falling into demographic deficit and socioeconomic decline.

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

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