BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED
LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR
The U.S. Senate will be in session on Monday, January 9, Tuesday, January 10, and Friday, January 13, 2023.
The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Monday, January 9, through Thursday, January 12, 2023.
UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS
THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK
Biden Administration Announces Expansion of Parole Programs and Border Enforcement Actions
On January 5, President Biden announced measures to expand legal migration pathways, increase the use of fast-track removal mechanisms, surge resources and personnel to help manage the border, and tackle the root causes of irregular migration. Among the policies announced, the Biden administration expanded the recently-launched Venezuela parole program to Nicaraguans, Haitians, and Cubans. The program will now allow up to 30,000 individuals per month from these four countries to apply to come to the United States under parole.
Under the new parole program, any individual with lawful status in the U.S. will be able to serve as a sponsor for nationals of these countries as long as they file declarations of financial support for prospective beneficiaries and pass required background checks. In order to be eligible for the parole program, both parties — parolees and sponsors — must pass screening and background checks. The parole status will last for an initial period of two years. Parolees will be able to apply for work authorization but will be ineligible for other benefits and will have no clear path to permanent status. The administration announced that those who travel unlawfully into Panama, Mexico, or the U.S. after the announcement of the program will not be eligible.
In conjunction with the launch of the parole program, the Biden administration also expanded Title 42 expulsions to Nicaraguan, Haitian, and Cuban nationals who arrive at the border. Title 42 is a pandemic-era order that has been used to rapidly expel arriving migrants to Mexico or their countries of origin without providing them the opportunity to seek asylum. Prior to the announcement, asylum seekers from these countries were among the nationalities exempted from Title 42, in part because Mexico had refused to accept them. However, Mexico has now agreed to accept returns of nationals from countries in the program. That, along with a proposed transit ban against those traveling through third countries, raised significant objections from advocates and a number of Democratic lawmakers.
In addition, the administration reiterated its commitment to resettle 20,000 refugees from Latin America and the Caribbean during Fiscal Years (FY) 2023 and 2024. However, with just 351 total refugees resettled from the region in the first two months of FY 2023, the U.S. is on track to resettle fewer than 10,000 total from the region over the next two years — less than half of the administration’s commitment.
Moreover, the administration announced an additional $23 million dollars for humanitarian assistance in Mexico and Central America. According to the administration, the funds aim to tackle the root causes of irregular migration by investing in shelters, health, legal assistance, mental health, psychosocial support, water, sanitation, hygiene products, gender-based violence response, livelihoods, and other protection-related activities.
Among the other measures presented to prevent and deter border crossings, the administration announced that it would increasingly utilize expedited removal proceedings for individuals who attempt to enter the United States without permission, do not have a legal basis to remain, and cannot be expelled pursuant to Title 42. It also announced new efforts to combat human smuggling and smuggler misinformation, as well as additional coordination and resources for border cities, receiving communities, and non-governmental organizations.
Biden Administration Issues Proposed Rule to Increase USCIS Fees
On January 3, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to adjust multiple immigration and naturalization benefit request fees. Among the most notable provisions of the proposed rule – which is open for comments until March 6 – the agency would raise the application fee for naturalization by a modest 5% (from $720 to $760, including the biometric services fee) and proposed to preserve existing fee waivers.
However, the new proposed rule provides for significant increases in many work visa categories. For example, employers hiring high-skilled foreign nationals would pay 41% more for beneficiaries on H-1B petitions (from $460 to $780), 66% more for employees on L-1 petitions (from $460 to $1,385), and 56% more for individuals on O-1 petitions (from $460 to $1,055.)
The proposed increased fees are part of the agency’s requirement to review its fee structure every two years. Notably, USCIS receives roughly 96% of its funding from filing fees, and hasn’t introduced new fees since 2016. According to USCIS Director Ur Jaddou, the new fees would allow the agency to “improve customer service operations and manage the incoming workload.”
Border Encounters in November Remained High and Continued to Increase for Fifth Consecutive Month
On December 23, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported that the agency encountered 233,740 migrants at the southwest border in November. This marks a slight 1.3% increase above October’s total of 230,678 encounters. The November increase represents the fifth consecutive month of increasing encounters. While the monthly increase was minimal, November’s numbers represent a 24% increase from the same month last year (178,845) and an increase of almost 90% from November 2020 (71,929).
The high number of encounters in November was driven by single adults, who represented 68% of the total encounters, followed by 26% of family units, and around 5% of unaccompanied minors. About 30% (78,834) of border arrivals were immediately expelled under Title 42.
Biden Administration Extends and Redesignates Yemen for Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
On December 30, the Biden Administration announced the extension and redesignation of Yemen for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). The 18-month extension – effective March 4, 2023 – will allow over 1,700 Yemeni TPS holders to retain their status through September 3, 2024. It also extends the protection to Yemeni nationals residing in the United States as of December 29, 2022.
In the announcement, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said that the renewal of TPS for Yemen was appropriate in light of the difficult conditions in the country, including socioeconomic challenges and political instability that flow from the roughly eight years of civil war in the country.
TPS is granted by DHS to eligible foreign-born individuals who are unable to return home safely due to violence or other circumstances in their home country.
Biden Administration Resumes Immigrant Visa Services in Cuba for First Time Since 2017
On January 4, the U.S. Embassy in Cuba resumed immigrant visa processing and consular services for the first time since 2017. Since the embassy’s closure in 2017, obtaining a visa in Cuba had been an expensive and nearly impossible process that forced many to seek irregular methods of entry to the United States. In FY 2022, over 220,000 Cubans were encountered at the U.S. border with Mexico, far more than the previous record for Cuban encounters.
In addition, the resumption of operations will allow the Biden administration to fully reinstate the Cuban Family Reunification Program (CFRP), as announced on May 16, 2022. Initially created in 2007, the CFRP allows certain eligible U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) to apply for parole for their family members in Cuba. If granted parole, these family members may come to the United States without waiting for their immigrant visas to become available. Once in the United States, CFRP beneficiaries may apply for work authorization while waiting for lawful permanent resident status.
The resumption of operations comes at a critical time for Cuban migration, as the country is currently facing one of its worst economic crises in the last 30 years and is still recovering from the damage of Hurricane Ian. It will allow for higher efficiency and expanded coverage for the significantly increased number of Cubans seeking resettlement. Additionally, it reinforces the U.S.’s longstanding commitment to legally receive a minimum of 20,000 Cubans per year.
President Biden Will Meet with Canadian and Mexican Leaders to Discuss Labor Mobility
On January 10, President Biden will meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico City for the Tenth North American Leaders’ Summit. The summit, which seeks to foster regional economic integration and development, will provide an opportunity for the leaders to discuss various trilateral priorities, including labor mobility, economic growth, and regional cooperation.
The summit will take place amid a severe labor shortage affecting the United States – where there are nearly two job openings per unemployed worker – and Canada – where the unemployment-to-job vacancy ratio is at a historic low of 1.4. On the other hand, Mexico has a considerable proportion of its population willing to find labor opportunities abroad. Accordingly, President López Obrador has consistently proposed to enter into new multilateral labor agreements with the United States and Canada to provide temporary work visas to Mexican and Central American workers.
U.S. Supreme Court Rules to Keep Title 42 in Place for Now
On December 27, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to allow Title 42 expulsions, set to end on December 21, to remain in effect. Over 2.4 million people have been expelled under Title 42 since the pandemic began.
The case, Huisha-Huisha v. Mayorkas, stems from a lawsuit spearheaded by the ACLU against the Trump administration in 2020 over Title 42, the pandemic-era health policy limiting the admission of asylum seekers and others. After hitting an impasse in negotiations with the Biden administration, the plaintiffs went back to court in July 2021 to seek an immediate termination of the policy. On November 15, a D.C.-based federal judge found the use of Tile 42 to be “arbitrary and capricious” and unlawful and gave the Biden administration until December 21 to end it.
On December 12, nineteen Republican-led filed a request to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to intervene in the case to suspend the lower court order terminating the policy. The D.C. Circuit court rejected the appeal on procedural grounds, and the states appealed to the Supreme Court. The Biden administration and the ACLU had both filed responses arguing against the states’ intervention. The Supreme Court will hear arguments on the narrow issue of state intervention on March 1.
State & Local
Texas Continues Controversial Migrant Busing Initiative; Additional Arrivals Depart from Colorado
On the night of Christmas Eve, three buses full of migrants from South Texas, dropped around 130 men, women, and children outside the Naval Observatory – Vice President Harris’s residence in Washington, D.C. The migrants lacked food and proper clothing to deal with the 18-degree weather after a two-day journey, so groups of volunteers had to step in and help them.
Since last April, Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas), has spearheaded the busing of over 16,000 migrants to Washington, D.C. (9,000 people), New York City (4,900 people), Chicago (1,500 people), and Philadelphia (600 people). ), The busing is part of Texas’ controversial Operation Lone Star (OLS), an immigration and border enforcement strategy Abbott launched in March 2021 that utilizes state resources to deter arriving migrants. According to a Texas Tribune report, OLS has cost more than $4 billion so far.
Notably, Colorado – a Democratic-governed state, has started efforts to transport migrants outside the state. On January 3, Gov. Jared Polis (D-Colorado) announced a program in partnership with the City of Denver and local nonprofits. This initiative, provides intake, processing, and transportation coordination to facilitate the voluntary transit of migrants to final destinations outside the state, including New York City. In his statement, Polis said that about 70% of the migrants arriving in Denver do not have Colorado as a final destination. Colorado earmarked $5 million to assist migrants by helping them purchase bus tickets. In response, New York Mayor Eric Adams criticized the Colorado initiative, arguing that New York City is already struggling to deal with the influx of people sent from Texas.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS); 2022 Year in Review: DHS Responded to Wide-Ranging Threats and Challenges, Built Capacity for the Future; December 29, 2022
This report provides an overview of the main actions that DHS conducted in 2022. Among the most relevant immigration-related actions, the report highlights that DHS launched a $60 million campaign to disrupt and dismantle human smuggling networks that led to the arrests of over 6,400 smugglers and the disruption of over 6,700 smuggling operations. It also highlights that DHS added over 3,000 processing personnel to the Southwest border, helping return Border Patrol Agents to the field.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); ICE Annual Report: Fiscal Year 2022; December 30, 2022
This report provides an overview of the main actions that ICE conducted in 2022. The report highlights that the agency carried out 142,750 immigration arrests and 72,177 deportations, increases of 93% and 22%, respectively, compared to the previous fiscal year. The report also notes that more than 96,000, or 67%, of the arrests ICE carried out in fiscal year 2022 involved immigrants without criminal convictions or charges, compared to 39% in 2021. It also highlights that nearly 44,000, or 61%, of the migrants deported in fiscal year 2022 were initially processed by U.S. border officials.
Congressional Research Service (CRS); Department of Homeland Security Appropriations: FY2023 State of Play; December 19, 2022
This report is a quick reference for tracking the status of DHS appropriations from the end of the August 2022 congressional district work period until the resolution of the annual appropriations measure.
SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES
The paper seeks to put the challenges we face at the southwest border in the broader context of growing displacement in the hemisphere, describing how many come to the border because there is no other real alternative — no “right way” to come.
This resource describes mounting backlogs and budget shortfalls at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), describes the impact of recent legislation designed to better fund USCIS, and concludes that additional appropriations will be necessary for USCIS to achieve its mission.
This paper explores the rationale, benefits, and history of bilateral labor agreements (BLAs) in the United States, including the recent labor mobility discussions with the Mexican government. It also highlights how these agreements can benefit the U.S., as they provide U.S. policymakers more control over the size of the temporary migrant workforce, while prioritizing needed skills and experience. It argues that BLAs are useful in addressing U.S. labor shortages, help manage the irregular migration flow at the U.S. southern border, and reaffirm the United States’ hemispheric leadership.
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*This Bulletin is not intended to be comprehensive. Please contact Arturo Castellanos-Canales, National Immigration Forum Senior Policy and Advocacy Associate, with comments and suggestions of additional items to be included. Arturo can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.