Legislative Bulletin — Friday, January 21, 2022

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. 3463

Coronavirus Origin Validation, Investigation, and Determination (COVID) Act of 2022

The bill would prohibit the issuance of any type of visas to individuals who concealed the initial outbreak of COVID–19 in the People’s Republic of China.

Sponsored by Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) (19 cosponsors— 19  Republicans, 0 Democrats)

01/10/2022 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Rubio

01/10/2022 Placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar

S. 3469

Multilateral Aid Review Act of 2022

The bill would establish the United States Multilateral Aid Review (USMAR). The USMAR would assess U.S. investments in multilateral entities such as the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), among others.

Sponsored by Senator James Risch (R-Idaho) (0 cosponsors)

01/10/2022 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Risch

01/10/2022 Placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar

S. 3488

Defending Ukraine Sovereignty Act of 2022

The bill would prohibit the issuance of any type of visas to Russian officials engaged in or knowingly supporting a significant escalation in hostilities against Ukraine.

Sponsored by Senator Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) (41 cosponsors— 40 Democrats, 1 Independent)

01/18/2022 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Menendez

01/18/2022 Placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar

H.R. 6383

National Security Moratorium on Foreign Purchases of U.S. Land

The bill would require the President of the United States to take all necessary actions to prohibit noncitizens from purchasing public or private real estate located in the U.S.

Sponsored by Representative Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) (11 cosponsors— 11  Republicans, 0 Democrats)

01/12/2022 Introduced in the House by Representative Gohmert

01/12/2022 Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives will have district work periods the week of Monday, January 24, 2022.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

There are no immigration-related hearings scheduled for the week of January 24, 2022.

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

Covid Infections Inside US Immigration Detention Centers Surge to 11.7% of Total Population

On January 19, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), released data on Covid-19 infections and deaths among the immigrant detainee population. The numbers show that out of the 21,805 immigrants currently detained, there are 2,544 positive cases of Covid. That number represents around 11.7% of the total population, a sharp increase from the start of 2022. Moreover, according to the released data, more than 34,000 immigrant detainees have tested positive since the beginning of the pandemic, including 11 detainees who have died from Covid-19 complications while in ICE custody.

The recent surge in cases at ICE detention sites comes amid the rapid nationwide spread of the Omicron variant. It also comes four months after the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General (DHS OIG) published a report highlighting that DHS needed to improve its Covid-19 policies and protocols at the southwest border and in detention centers across the country.

US Immigration Court Backlog Reached Nearly 1.6 Million Cases in December 2021

On January 18, a Syracuse University report stated that the U.S. immigration court backlog has reached 1,596,193 cases as of December 2021 — the largest backlog on record. The report also shows that immigration courts, which fall under the Department of Justice (DOJ), have been increasingly overburdened over the years as more cases are added to the docket than can be addressed.

On January 20 — amid a House Judiciary Committee hearing on immigration courts — Mimi Tsankov, President of the National Association of Immigration Judges, stated that “to fix the backlog, Congress should remove the immigration courts from the DOJ and create an independent immigration court.” She noted that the independent immigration courts could more effectively manage their dockets and tackle their caseloads, noting that independence would separate the politics of a given administration from the needs of immigration adjudication.

Other witnesses during the hearing, including a representative for the Federal Bar Association, emphasized that DOJ’s political influence over immigration courts led to a lack of impartiality and accentuated backlogs.

According to expert testimony in the hearing, individuals wait an average of over 900 days between receiving initial charging documents and the final hearing on their cases in immigration court. The backlog also affects the Board of Immigration Appeals, where over 91,000 cases are pending.

Biden Administration Unveils Plan to Attract and Retain STEM Talent

On January 21, the Biden administration unveiled a new plan to help attract and retain global talent in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The new policy will expand and enhance the efforts to retain international students earning Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorates in STEM fields to remain in the United States for up to three years after earning their degrees from American universities. The new plan also aims to make more accessible the O-1A nonimmigrant status for immigrants of extraordinary ability in STEM fields. Additionally, the new policy clarifies the use of national interest waivers for persons with advanced STEM degrees and entrepreneurs.

Legal

Biden Administration Defends Use of Title 42 in Court

On January 19, the Biden administration defended in court the use of Title 42 as a necessary means to avoid the transmission of Covid-19 in border facilities. Title 42 is a public health order based on a 1944 statute that both the Trump and Biden administrations have used during the Covid-19 pandemic to rapidly expel arriving migrants without providing them the opportunity to seek asylum. Recent estimates suggest that over one million migrants have been deported under Title 42 during the Biden administration.

Advocacy groups and international organizations have widely criticized the policy. They argue that deportations under Title 42 are inconsistent with international norms and fail to uphold the fundamental human rights of migrants. Moreover, public health experts, including the President’s Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, have stated that policies like Title 42 are “not the solution to an outbreak.” However, the DOJ argued — amid the Huisha-Huisha v. Mayorkas case — that Title 42 is rooted in “scientific expertise.” The DOJ also warned that the sudden termination of the policy could increase coronavirus transmission inside Border Patrol facilities and pose a “serious danger” to public health.

The case stems from an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawsuit arguing Title 42 violates longstanding immigration statutes which guarantee asylum seekers a full and fair proceeding to determine their right to protection in the United States.

Local

Poor Working and Living Conditions of Operation Lone Star Troops Raise Concern Among Texas’ Lawmakers

On January 13, thirteen Democratic members of Congress from Texas expressed their concern over the conditions of Texas’ National Guard troops participating in Operation Lone Star (OLS). After two Army Times stories reported that four OLS troops had ended their own life, the lawmakers called for an inspector general investigation. They wrote that OLS is disrupting the lives of over 10,000 service members without adequate compensation or oversight. In addition, they highlighted that OLS troops lack cold-weather equipment, body armor, first aid kits, and adequate sleeping facilities. Moreover, the lawmakers added that OLS is severely eroding the readiness of Texas’ National Guard and their ability to be deployed on other federal orders.

Operation Lone Star is a controversial enforcement strategy that Texas Governor Abbott launched on the Texas-Mexico border on March 6, 2021 that includes a number of efforts to use state resources to restrict and apprehend migrants. The rationale for the operation is to “combat the smuggling of drugs and people into Texas,” although OLS has run into legal and logistical challenges as border management and enforcement is generally the responsibility of the Federal government.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

There were no immigration-related government reports the week of January 17, 2022.

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

One Year In: The Biden Administration’s Treatment of Vulnerable Migrants

The report focuses on three separate pathways to protection: Asylum at the border, refugee resettlement, and Afghan evacuation. The report also makes a series of recommendations for how the administration should approach year two.

Explainer: What’s Happening at the U.S.-Mexico Border

This regularly updated explainer breaks down what is happening at the U.S.-Mexico border, analyzing CBP data on recent apprehensions, describing the impact and use of Title 42 expulsions as well as the treatment of arriving UACs, and providing additional context on reports of increased migration to the U.S. and releases of migrant families into the interior. The explainer also includes a Facebook live discussion covering recent developments at the border.

Bill Summary: Veteran Deportation Prevention and Reform Act

The bill aims to prevent the deportation of noncitizen veterans, improve the pathway to citizenship for noncitizen military service members, and grant deported noncitizen veterans an opportunity to return to the United States.

* * *

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

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