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Legislative Bulletin — Friday, January 26, 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

Senate Negotiations Struggle With Presidential Politics 

This week, negotiations to trade immigration policy changes for more Ukraine aid took a new turn as some Republicans are now backing down from supporting a potential package amid pressure from the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, Donald Trump, to maintain the status quo at the United States-Mexico border as a campaign issue. 

“Politics on this have changed,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) reportedly told Republican senators, adding that they did not want to “undermine” Trump. McConnell later clarified that he still personally backs a border security-Ukraine compromise. 

“There are some people that oppose the bill, based on the presidential politics issue, rather than the crisis that’s actually occurring at the border,” Sen. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) — who has spearheaded negotiations for the GOP — said candidly. 

The idea that the presidential race is playing such an outsized role in a rare border deal — where Democrats are showing a willingness to trade immigration restrictions without any major legalization provisions for other immigrants already here and contributing — has irked some in the Republican conference. 

“I think the border is a very important issue for Donald Trump. And the fact that he would communicate to Republican senators and congresspeople that he doesn’t want us to solve the border problem because he wants to blame Biden for it is really appalling,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said Thursday

While bill text has not yet been publicly released, reports indicate a deal would make it harder for people to seek asylum, create a new expulsion authority much like the Title 42 public health order, and make changes to the executive branch’s parole authority, with very few sweeteners for pro-immigrant individuals and groups. Still, it’s unclear that these restrictions would have their intended effect of improving conditions at and control over the U.S.’s southern border.

Mayorkas Impeachment Push Proceeds

On January 30, the House Committee on Homeland Security will consider impeachment articles against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, after just two hearings earlier this month as part of the proceedings to remove the Biden administration official for “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

“The final remedy for dealing directly with Secretary Mayorkas’ willful and systemic disregard for the rule of law is impeachment,” House Homeland Security Chairman Mark E. Green (R-Tennessee) said in a statement. “After three years of this crisis and a year of investigations and proceedings, we must move forward with accountability.”

Yet legal scholars, conservative commentators, and other experts have thrown cold water on some lawmakers’ arguments for impeachment — a punishment that has not been used against a cabinet member since the 1870s, and which is usually reserved for misbehavior far beyond simple policy disagreements. 

“Initiating such proceedings not only threatens to undermine national security but sets a perilous precedent that could have dire implications for the stability of our government,” over two dozen national security leaders said in a letter last week. 

Legal 

Abbott Remains Defiant After SCOTUS Sides With Biden Administration on Concertina Wire

On January 24, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) argued that his “invasion” declaration from last fall “is the supreme law of the land and supersedes any federal statutes to the contrary,” raising concerns over a potential constitutional showdown two days after the Supreme Court sided with federal officials in one of several legal battles between the Lone Star state and the Biden administration. 

In a 5-4 decision, the high court approved the federal government’s emergency request to empower border agents to remove dangerous concertina wire placed along the Rio Grande by Texas, even as the state’s leadership complained that such actions amounted to destruction of property. The case is headed for arguments next month in front of the Fifth Circuit, which had previously issued an injunction to keep Border Patrol from cutting through the barriers as litigation proceeded. 

“This is not over,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) wrote on social media, while the Texas Military Department posted an image online of Texas National Guard soldiers blocking the international crossing with concertina wire. 

The court decision comes after a Mexican mother and her two children drowned trying to reach the U.S. near Shelby Park in Eagle Pass — and after the Texas National Guard reportedly denied Border Patrol access to that area of the border, preventing them from trying to save the vulnerable family. The state has seized the section of Eagle Pass around the park and has started arresting migrants for criminal trespassing, all while allegedly keeping Border Patrol from entering. 

On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) insisted in a letter for Texas to stop restricting U.S. Border Patrol’s access to Shelby Park. But reports indicate that Texas National Guard members and state troopers are still blocking Border Patrol from reaching most of it, while the Texas Military Department’s leader has said that Texas’s troops will repair any barriers federal officials remove.

Meanwhile, in a separate court case, the Fifth Circuit has said it will rehear the Department of Justice’s challenge against Texas’s controversial border buoys through en banc consideration in May. In the meantime, the floating barriers may remain in place. 

The mounting conflicts between the Biden administration and the Texas government come as Abbott’s Operation Lone Star reaches a fever pitch, with a new state law creating criminal penalties for irregular migration set to take effect in March. Earlier this month, Abbott came under fire for saying that “the only thing we are not doing is we’re not shooting people who come across the border, because, of course, the Biden administration would charge us with murder.”

State and Local

Chicago Warns of Unsafe Weather, New York Implements Curfews as Cities Ask for Funding Flexibility

In recent weeks, newcomers have continued to go to Chicago as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has rejected pleas to discontinue migrant transports to the city, despite icy winter weather that officials have warned puts people’s safety at risk. 

“Here in Illinois, it’s minus-29 degrees outside with the wind chill. We have migrants that arrive from Texas, virtually every day, hundreds, and we don’t have places to put them,” Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) said recently

“When we’ve asked him (Abbott) to stop sending people because of the weather, because of the dangerous nature of this winter storm that we’re experiencing now, he’s refused to stop sending them.”

Instead, a Texas bus company that has faced financial consequences for defying a new Chicago traffic ordinance ensuring a more orderly process for dropping off migrants has sued the city, arguing that the restrictions are unconstitutional because immigration is a federal responsibility — a true sentiment, but one that rings ironic coming from a business working with Abbott’s yearslong campaign to co-opt border security as a state issue. 

Meanwhile, officials in Chicago and New York are asking the federal government for more leniency on reimbursements for migrants’ shelter and care costs, after they failed to collect identification numbers they didn’t know they needed.

“Private information is not necessarily something every migrant is willing to give to us,” Chicago Budget Director Annette Guzman told Politico. “There’s a sense of fear in how it’s going to be used.”

Elsewhere in New York, some migrant shelters have started imposing curfews from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., with exceptions for people who have work, travel, or other specific commitments and needs. 

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 expected to be in session from Tuesday, January 30 through Friday, February 2, 2024.

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to be in session from Monday, January 29 through Thursday, February 1, 2024.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

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

H.R. 5585 – Agent Raul Gonzalez Officer Safety Act; H.R. 6976 – Protect Our Communities from DUIs Act; H.R. 6678 – Consequences for Social Security Fraud Act; H.R. 6679 – No Immigration Benefits for Hamas Terrorists Act

Date: Monday, January 29, 2024 at 4:00 p.m. EST (House Rules)

Location: H-313, Capitol, Washington, D.C.

Related Items: H.R.5585, H.R. 6976, H.R. 6678, H.R. 6679 

The Southern Border Crisis: The Constitution and the States

Date: Tuesday, January 30, 2024 at 10:00 a.m. EST (House Judiciary) 

Location: 2141 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C.

Witnesses: TBA

Res. 863, , Impeaching Alejandro Nicholas Mayorkas, Secretary of Homeland Security, for high crimes and misdemeanors

Date: Tuesday, January 30, 2024 at 10:00 a.m. EST (House Homeland Security)

Location: 310 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, D.C.

Related Item: H. Res. 863

Business Meeting

Date: Wednesday, January 31, 2024 at 10:15 a.m. EST (Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs)

Location: 562 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C.

Related Items: H.R.2379, H.R.292, H.R.3944, H.R.996, S.1524, S.2143, S.2274, S.2367, S.2717, S.3015, S.3139, S.3267, S.3357, S.3419, S.3558, S.3594, S.3613, S.3626, S.3635, S.3639, S.3640

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.

DHS Office of Inspector General (DHS OIG); Summary of Previously Issued Recommendations and Other Insights to Improve Operational Conditions at the Southwest Border; Published January 9, 2024

In response to a dramatic uptick in migrant encounters at the southwest border in recent years, this report summarizes common deficiencies identified by the OIG to inform current and future Department of Homeland Security (DHS) practices.

DHS Office of Inspector General (DHS OIG); Summary of Selected DHS Components That Did Not Consistently Restrict Access to Systems and Information; Published January 11, 2024

This report uses information from previous audits to identify access control deficiencies and security issues with the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) information technology procedures.

Congressional Research Service (CRS); Immigration Legislation and Issues in the 118th Congress; Published January 16, 2024

This report covers legislation related to immigration that has been enacted, passed by the House or Senate, or reported by a committee during the first part of this Congress.

DHS Office of Inspector General (DHS OIG); ICE Major Surgeries Were Not Always Properly Reviewed and Approved for Medical Necessity; Published January 23, 2024

This report describes how U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Health Service Corps (IHSC) sometimes greenlit major surgeries without following the proper process. In particular, the analysis suggests that several hysterectomies were done despite the detainees’ medical files not supporting the procedure. 

U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO); U.S. Ports of Entry: Update on CBP Public-Private Partnerships; Published January 24, 2024

This report details U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) public-private partnerships through the Reimbursable Services Program (RSP) and the Donations Acceptance Program (DAP), including how CBP is using funding from the agreements.

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: 

Statement for the Record — The House Committee on the Judiciary Hearing on “The Impact of Illegal Immigration on Social Services”

First, this statement provides a brief overview of immigrants’ access to federal public benefits — or lack thereof — with a focus on unauthorized immigrants and noncitizens in legal limbo. Then, it discusses how state and local governments — alongside good Samaritans and direct service providers — have carried much of the responsibility for supporting newcomers in their communities. Next, it looks at how unauthorized immigrants contribute to the U.S., in return for the chance to live and work here. Finally, it ends with policy recommendations that lawmakers can implement to more proactively respond to both the U.S.’s needs and the needs of migrants today.  

Explainer: Asylum Backlogs

This explainer details how an ever-shifting policy landscape and extensive backlogs impact the asylum process in the United States. It describes what asylum is, how people apply, why such cumbersome backlogs exist, and what can be done in terms of solutions.   

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. 

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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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