Legislative Bulletin — Friday, January 22, 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

H.R. 355

The Chinese Communist Party Visa Disclosure Act

The bill would require F, J, or M student visa-holders and their families to disclose to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) whether they have received funds from the Government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), or any entity owned or controlled by either the PRC or the CCP.

Sponsored by Representative Greg Steube (R-Florida)

01/19/2021 Introduced in the House by Representatives by Representative Steube

01/19/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate will be in session the week of Monday, January 25, 2021.

The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Monday, January 25, 2021 to Thursday, January 28, 2021.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

Hearings to Examine the Expected Nomination of Alejandro N. Mayorkas, to be Secretary of Homeland Security

Date: Tuesday, January 26, 2021 at 11:00 a.m. (Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee)

Location: 342 Dirksen Senate Office Building

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

President Biden Announces Comprehensive Immigration Platform on First Day in Office

On January 20, soon after he was sworn in, President Joe Biden announced an expansive immigration bill, the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, which he immediately sent to Congress. According to an administration fact sheet, a public briefing, and several news reports, the bill would provide an 8-year path to citizenship for most of the undocumented population, a border management approach that includes a focus on addressing root causes of migration from Central America, some legal immigration reforms, a series of humanitarian provisions, and additional protections for immigrants at the worksite. The bill is set to be introduced in the Senate by Senator Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) and in the House by Representative Linda Sanchez (D-California).

While most of the undocumented population would have to spend at least five years on a temporary status before being able to apply for green cards and eventually citizenship under the proposal, the bill reportedly would immediately provide access to green cards for Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients, and farmworkers, provided they meet certain criteria. The legal immigration reforms in the bill include the elimination of both employment-based and family-based green card backlogs and a series of provisions designed to value family unity. The bill does not include significant reforms to the structure of the immigration visa system, although it would increase the number of annually available work and diversity immigrant visas.

The text of the bill has not yet been made public, and it is not yet clear when either Senator Menendez or Representative Sanchez will introduce it in the Senate and House. In order to pass the Senate and avoid a potential filibuster, proponents of the bill would need to find a bipartisan group of senators in favor of the reforms. On January 21, Menendez said his “door is always open” to further negotiate the substance of the sweeping proposal.

Biden Administration Takes Immigration-Related Executive Actions

Upon taking office on January 20, President Biden signed various proclamations, executive orders, and memoranda related to immigration to reverse and review Trump administration policies.

Among the executive actions taken on January 20 was a memorandum “preserving and fortifying” Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a proclamation revoking the Trump administration’s travel bans particularly impacting individuals from African and majority-Muslim countries, a proclamation pausing border wall construction and ordering agencies to come up with a plan to reallocate associated funds, and an executive order “resetting” interior immigration enforcement policies.

Biden has also reversed the Trump administration’s order to exclude undocumented immigrants from the census apportionment count, and reinstated Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) that protects approximately 3,600 Liberians from deportation while they continue to adjust to permanent status under legislation passed in December 2019. On January 22, a State Department official announced the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan will resume processing several thousand Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applications for Afghans who have assisted U.S. military efforts.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has also issued a statement suspending new enrollments in the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also known as the “Remain in Mexico” program, which required migrants to wait in Mexico while their asylum claims are processed. The statement did not provide a solution to the roughly 25,000 individuals currently in Mexico under MPP. The Biden administration has also called for a moratorium on deportations for 100 days, starting by January 22. The moratorium will not apply to those who arrived in the U.S. on or after November 1, 2020, as well as certain individuals who have opted out or who have been determined to be a national security threat.

On January 22, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit in response to the planned moratorium. The complaint, which is the first major lawsuit filed against the Biden administration, argues that “prior Executive pledges” prevent the White House from making significant changes to immigration policy. The suit references a series of legally-questionable deals signed by former DHS second-in-command Ken Cuccinelli with at least five states and localities, including Texas, that would require DHS to provide six months of notice before implementing immigration policy changes. Under well-established legal precedent, the federal government possesses “broad, undoubted power over the subject of immigration.”

The White House is expected to issue several more immigration-related executive actions within the first 10 days of the new administration, including a series of executive orders scheduled for January 29 on refugees, family reunification, and border processing.

President Trump Approves Protections for Venezuelans

On his last full day in office, President Trump authorized work permits and deportation protections for Venezuelans living in the U.S. without legal permission through a designation known as Deferred Enforced Departure (DED). The move, one that has long been advocated for by both Republicans and Democrats, would apply to Venezuelan nationals present in the U.S. for at least 18 months as of January 20, 2021, estimated to be up to 200,000 people.

According to the January 19 memo, the action is in response to the corruption of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s administration and the resulting economic crisis and shortage of basic goods that have “forced about five million Venezuelans to flee the country, often under dangerous conditions.”

Newly-elected House Representative María Elvira Salazar (R-Florida) responded to the Venezuelan DED policy by stating, “we have a fundamental obligation to provide safe-haven for those fleeing tyranny and oppression. This act of solidarity provides our Venezuelan exile community with much-needed assurance during these unprecedented times.”

New Migrant Caravan Halted En Route to U.S. as Biden Administration Prepares for Additional Arrivals

On January 15, a group of about 7,000 migrants from Honduras were halted at the Guatemalan border while attempting to eventually reach the U.S. and seek asylum. Most of the migrants were fleeing violence, persecution and poverty in their home country, conditions that have worsened considerably during the coronavirus pandemic and after two hurricanes devastated parts of Honduras in November.

While several recent migrant caravans have also been stopped by Guatemalan or Mexican border officials before reaching the United States, the new Biden administration is still reportedly preparing for an increase in migrants arriving at the border. The administration is working with local organizations to build up processing infrastructure at ports of entry, and they are preparing to stand up soft-sided facilities that can temporarily house migrants in a manner that accounts for social distancing and Covid-19 concerns.

The administration has pledged to take a “more humane” approach to the border and has criticized restrictive asylum policies implemented under the Trump administration that have resulted in many asylum seekers being either rapidly expelled or forced to wait in Mexico. However, President Biden is reportedly concerned that his more welcoming approach will result in an increase in arrivals, and the administration has warned that it will take months before it reverses all of the Trump administration’s asylum and border processing policies.

Legal

California Judge Blocks Revamped Third Country Transit Ban

On January 18, a federal court in California issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) blocking a Trump administration rule that aimed to severely restrict asylum claims at the U.S. border. The judge ruled that asylum seekers “are likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of the requested relief.”

The rule, set to take effect January 19, served as a second attempt by the Trump administration to bar asylum claims from people who transited through a third country on their way to the U.S. DHS and the Department of Justice (DOJ) initially issued the third-country asylum rule in July 2019, but it was struck down in July 2020 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which barred the rule from taking effect.

The Trump administration issued a revised version of the rule in December 2020, attempting to address the federal appeals court’s ruling through minor revisions to the text.

Nominations and Personnel Changes

Senate Panel Vets DHS Nominee Mayorkas With Confirmation Delay Likely 

On January 19, President Joe Biden’s nominee to head the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Alejandro Mayorkas, appeared before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee (HSGAC) to begin the confirmation process, answering questions on immigration policy and his past experiences serving in DHS. Mayorkas, who served as the Deputy Secretary of DHS from 2013 to 2016 and has previously been confirmed by the Senate three times, expressed support for President Biden’s immigration agenda while affirming his commitment to the enforcement of federal law and the protection of national security interests.

Senate Democrats had urged that the committee fast-track the confirmation process and bring a vote to the Senate floor as soon as possible, but the objection of Senator Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) will delay a floor vote for at least a week.

Mayorkas, a Cuban American immigrant, would be the first immigrant and first Latino to lead DHS. He was responsible for devising and implementing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) while serving as Deputy DHS Secretary in 2012.

Former Ambassador Roberta Jacobson Expected to Lead Southern Border Policy

President Joe Biden is expected to select career diplomat and Former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Roberta Jacobson, to oversee southern U.S. border policy on the National Security Council (NSC). In this newly created role, Jacobson will assist the administration’s efforts to reform the U.S. asylum system and address national security challenges related to Mexico and Central America. She’ll also be tasked with improving relations with Mexico and other Central American countries.

Jacobson spent over 30 years at the State Department, holding several senior diplomatic posts, including serving as the top State Department envoy for Latin America. Following her resignation as the ambassador to Mexico in 2018, she became an outspoken critic of the Trump administration’s restrictive immigration policies.

Acting Cabinet Leads Named While President Biden’s Picks Go Through Confirmation Process

While the vast majority of President Biden’s Cabinet nominees continue to go through the confirmation process in the Senate, on January 20, the new administration named a number of acting agency and department heads. Concerning agencies that deal with matters related to immigration, the acting DHS secretary will be current TSA administrator David Pekokse; the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will be temporarily led by former HHS Secretary Norris Cochran; the Department of Justice (DOJ) will be headed by career DOJ attorney Monty Wilkinson; and the acting Secretary of State will be Dan Smith, the former Director of the Foreign Service Institute. James McHenry will remain the director of the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR), which oversees immigration court proceedings, while Biden considers his successor.

Within DHS, it was reported that Troy Miller was named as acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Miller was the director of CBP’s field office in New York prior to becoming acting commissioner. As of January 22, the acting head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is Tracy Renaud, who has previously served as acting deputy director of USCIS on multiple occasions.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (DHS OIG): ICE Guidance Needs Improvement to Deter Illegal Employment; January 15, 2021

This report describes an audit conducted by the DHS Office of Inspector General to determine whether the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Worksite Enforcement program effectively deters unauthorized immigration. The audit found that ICE officials did not consistently enforce penalties against employers found guilty of hiring individuals without work authorization. The audit concluded that the Worksite Enforcement program does not effectively prevent employers from violating employment immigration laws. The report contained four recommendations for ICE to update its practices to more effectively prevent the hiring of unauthorized workers.

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

The Biden Administration’s January 20 Executive Actions on Immigration

This explainer summarizes several of the Biden administration’s day one executive actions impacting immigrants. The explainer provides summaries of nine separate immigration-related memoranda, proclamations, and executive orders.

Immigration Priorities for a Biden Administration

This document lists the National Immigration Forum’s immigration reform priorities for the first 100 days of the Biden presidency. The priorities all have strong bipartisan support and are based in the understanding that America needs an immigration system that advances the interests of all Americans.

Fact Sheet: Deferred Enforced Departure (DED)

This fact sheet provides general information about Deferred Enforcement Departure (DED), a temporary immigration benefit that allows certain individuals from designated countries and regions facing political or civic conflict and/or natural disasters to stay in the United States.

* * *

*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.

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