Skip to content

Legislative Bulletin — Friday, July 14, 2023

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 Group of Lawmakers Introduce Legislation Offering Path to Permanent Status for Afghan Evacuees

On July 13, a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers announced the reintroduction of the Afghan Adjustment Act, a bill that would provide a path to permanent status to tens of thousands of Afghans who were evacuated to the U.S. following the fall of Kabul in August 2021. The bill also includes provisions to ensure that eligible Afghan evacuees have been subject to rigorous vetting and screening procedures, and it would improve and expand pathways to protection for those left behind and at-risk in Afghanistan.

The bill was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), who was joined by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Chris Coons (D-Delaware), Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Jeanne Shahin (D-New Hampshire), Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), Thomas Tillis (R-North Carolina), and Richard Durbin (D-Illinois). An identical version of the Afghan Adjustment Act was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa), who was joined by 23 cosponsors – 12 Democrats and 11 Republicans.

In the announcement, Sen. Klobuchar said that the bill would “help provide Afghans who have sacrificed so much for our country with the legal certainty they deserve as they rebuild their lives.” In addition, Sen. Graham stressed that “it is imperative that America assist those Afghans who supported our country and that fled the oppressive regime of the Taliban. We must let the world know that we do not abandon those who aid America. This bill works toward that goal while ensuring strong vetting to protect America’s own security.”

Biden Administration Debuts New Family Reunification Parole Processes  for Central Americans, Colombians 

On July 10, the Biden administration launched new family reunification parole processes for Central Americans and Colombians so that certain family members of American citizens and lawful permanent residents can reunite with their loved ones in the United States while they await their visas. 

The invitation-only processes are for Salvadorans, Guatemalans, Colombians, and Hondurans outside of the U.S., who are the beneficiaries of approved family-based initiator I-130 petitions to eventually receive an immigrant visa. For some of these would-be immigrants, the wait times for a visa are more than 15 years, threatening a prolonged separation from their families. But now, those who are invited to participate in the new programs could be considered on a case-by-case basis to travel to the U.S. and reunite with their loved ones, long before a visa becomes available.

According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), approximately 73,500 people from the four qualifying countries already have an approved Form I-130, including around 32,600 Salvadorans, 17,400 Colombians, 12,800 Guatemalans, and 10,700 Hondurans. In an earlier announcement, the White House had pledged to accept up to 100,000 Central Americans through the new parole processes, though the Biden administration has made clear that not everyone eligible is expected to receive invitations. 

The State Department is planning to start sending out invitations within the next month to petitioning American citizens and lawful permanent residents, who will begin the process on behalf of their family members to seek advance travel authorization and parole into the U.S. If approved, Colombians, Salvadorans, Hondurans, and Guatemalans waiting abroad will receive up to three years of parole, during which they can apply for employment authorization to work legally in the U.S. Then, once their visas become available, they will finally be able to pursue lawful permanent residence. 

“These new processes promote family unity and provide lawful pathways consistent with our laws and our values,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas said in a statement. “The Department has proven that the expansion of safe, orderly, and lawful pathways, combined with strong enforcement, is effective in reducing dangerous, irregular migration to the United States.”

Welcome Corps Launches Expansion of Private Sponsorship Refugee Resettlement to Colleges and Universities

On July 6, The Welcome Corps announced the launch of Welcome Corps on Campus, a new, first-of-its-kind “targeted education sponsorship initiative” that allows U.S. colleges and universities to resettle refugee students.

The initiative will operate under the broader Welcome Corps, a private sponsorship program launched by the State Department in January 2023 so that groups of private individuals could help to resettle refugees admitted through the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). 

Currently, over 145 institutions and organizations with relevant expertise have signaled their support for Welcome Corps on Campus, through which refugee students will be able to enroll in degree programs while campus private sponsor groups support their resettlement. These groups may consist of faculty, students, and staff, who will devise a plan to support the refugees throughout their college careers.  

“Providing day-to-day supports will make a huge difference to the young people we hope to welcome,” said Nele Feldmann, associate director of Welcome Corps on Campus at the Community Sponsorship Hub. “There is such a sense of generosity in communities that is under-deployed. This can become a natural part of what colleges and universities in the U.S. do, providing life-changing opportunities with on- and off-campus supports.”

U.S. Expands STEM Optional Practical Training to Include New Fields as Immigrants Play Increasingly Essential Role in U.S. Workforce 

On July 12, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a notice announcing that eight new fields of study would be added to the DHS Stem Designated Degree Program List, which in turn is used to determine who qualifies for a 24-month extension to their optional practical training (OPT) in the U.S.

With the expansion of eligibility for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) OPT, more international students turned professionals will be able to work in the U.S., at least in the short term. The newly recognized fields include landscape architecture; institutional research; mechatronics, robotics, and automation engineering technology; composite materials technology; linguistics and computer science; developmental and adolescent psychology; geospatial intelligence; and demography and population studies. 

Meanwhile, on July 6, the Los Angeles Times reported that immigrant women in the U.S. are experiencing record levels of employment, some of which is driven by the arrival of Ukrainians fleeing war and violence at home.

These highly motivated workers are legally entering the country through emergency programs, and their presence is helping to address labor shortages in key industries such as hospitality and retail. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, foreign-born workers over the age of 16 accounted for 64% of the nation’s labor force growth in the past two years, with women playing a significant role. 

The increase in Ukrainians living and working in the U.S. can be attributed in part to the Biden administration’s “Uniting for Ukraine” initiative, while other similar humanitarian programs have allowed people from Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Venezuela to reach the U.S. through a safe, orderly process. Refugees and those entering under parole programs are eligible for work permits, and they usually have permission to stay in the U.S. for at least two years. 

Many of these newcomers possess college degrees, while others are filling essential but lower-paying positions in restaurants, hotels, and other sectors. The high number of job vacancies in these industries along with the limited pool of available workers have made immigrants a crucial part of the U.S. workforce, and some companies like Marriott International have recognized their value by committing to hire refugees. 

Legal

Texas Plan to Use Buoy Barriers in the Rio Grande Faces Legal Challenge 

On July 7, Jesse F. Fuentes, the owner and operator of Epi’s Canoe and Kayak Team, filed a lawsuit against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), claiming that Abbott’s plan to use large orange buoys as a floating barrier in the Rio Grande to deter irregular migration could negatively impact his business.  

Fuentes is seeking an injunction against the installation of the buoys, arguing that they will threaten his livelihood and the well-being of the Rio Grande. In response to Fuentes’s lawsuit, Abbott tweeted, “We will see you in court. And don’t think Travis Co. Court will be the end of it. This is going to the Supreme Court. Texas has a constitutional right to secure our border.” 

Meanwhile, Abbott has not stalled his plans to set up the floating barriers, which also began on July 7. According to Chris Olivarez, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Public Safety, the barriers could take up to two weeks to set up, will likely cover 1,000 feet (about the height of the Empire State Building), and will cost less than $1 million. 

Already, in an effort to deter potential border crossings, Texas has strung razor wire along the Rio Grande. But the wire is blocking Border Patrol agents from reaching at-risk migrants, including families and unaccompanied children, the Houston Chronicle reported on July 11. The spools of thick, sharp wire — some of which has been placed in the river, where it isn’t even visible — increase the likelihood of drownings and injuries, according to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) document. 

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) said that Abbot has gone too far by “interfering with Border Patrol’s ability to do its job and save people’s lives.” A number of border-related fatalities have already been reported in Texas this month, including four people — one of whom was an infant — who drowned in back-to-back incidents along the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass over the July 4 holiday weekend.

Fifth Circuit: Texas University Can Charge Out-of-Staters More Than Undocumented Texans

On July 10, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the University of North Texas (UNT) may charge out-of-state U.S. citizens higher tuition than undocumented students who live in Texas, reversing the federal district court’s decision.

The lawsuit began when the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) claimed that a 2001 Texas law — which permits undocumented students who lived in Texas for at least three years and graduated from a Texas high school to pay in-state tuition — violated the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. TPPF, on behalf of the Young Conservatives of Texas at UNT, argued that out-of-state students should not pay more than undocumented Texas students. As of 2022, the average in-state cost of tuition at UNT was just below $12,000, and the average out-of-state cost of tuition was about $24,000.  

The Fifth Circuit held that the lower court misinterpreted the 1996 federal law and that U.S. District Judge Sean Jordan abused his discretion by relying on incorrect legal analysis when he barred UNT from charging higher tuition to out-of-state students than to in-state undocumented students.  

State and Local

Texas, California Officials Call for DOJ Investigation into Florida’s Migrant Transport Scheme 

On July 6, officials from Texas and California sent a letter to the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) calling for an investigation into the Florida program that has transported beguiled migrants from Texas to California and Massachusetts in recent months. 

The letter by Bexar County, Texas, Sheriff Javier Salazar, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), and California Attorney General Rob Bonta details how the migrants were lured under false pretenses, and it asks the DOJ to investigate whether Florida’s actions were unlawful. 

While local jurisdictions and non-governmental organizations will often help to relocate migrants, the letter’s authors contend that “[t]his scheme is different: according to news reports, recruiters deceived migrants into taking flights to these particular locations based on promises of jobs and shelter.”

Last year, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) flew migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard under the promise of aid and dropped them off on the island without coordinating with local authorities. This prompted an investigation from the Bexar County Sheriff’s Department, which concluded that all migrants on board had been led to believe that they would be provided with housing, education and employment — none of which was accurate at the time. Salazar referred the case to the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office.

Meanwhile, Bonta recently opened criminal and civil investigations into two more recent flights orchestrated by DeSantis’s administration, where 36 people were transported from Texas to Sacramento. 

 “It is unconscionable to use people as political props by persuading them to travel to another state based on false or deceptive representations,” the officials wrote in the letter. “We urge USDOJ to investigate potential violations of federal law by those involved in this scheme. We stand ready to provide additional information about these flights and look forward to working with the USDOJ on this issue.” 

Oregon Expands Access to Medicaid-Like Program Regardless of Immigration Status 

On July 1, Oregon expanded its free health insurance program to residents regardless of their immigration status, building upon a Medicaid-type program that was introduced last year for immigrants who did not qualify for the Oregon Health Plan.

The expansion was made possible through a $460 million allocation during the state’s most recent legislative session. The Oregon Health Authority has estimated that around 55,000 people will be covered through the program, even as other states like Connecticut, Minnesota, and Nevada have been actively debating whether to expand Medicaid to undocumented immigrants. 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Targets Driver Licenses From Four States 

Florida has stopped accepting certain types of driver licenses from a number of states as part of Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) plan to crack down on unauthorized immigration.  

Driver licenses from Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, and Vermont that are marked as “drive only” or “limited purpose” — or are otherwise differentiated, generally for specific immigrant populations — are now invalid in Florida. News reports had also said that some driver licenses from Rhode Island would be included on the list, but the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles currently does not list Rhode Island documents as invalid on its official website. 

Back in May, DeSantis signed SB 1718 into law, invalidating certain out-of-state licenses for immigrants, creating harsher punishments for transporting undocumented individuals into Florida, and requiring employers with 25 or more employees to use a government program to verify their workers’ legal status. Now, a coalition of immigrant rights advocates has filed a federal lawsuit against the new law on behalf of several individuals and the Florida Farmers Association, specifically challenging its  transportation provisions.

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 will be in session from Tuesday, July 18 to Friday, July 21, 2023.

The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Monday, July 17 to Thursday, July 20, 2023.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

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

H.R. 3941 – Schools Not Shelters Act

Date: Monday, July 17, 2023 at 4:00 p.m. EST (House Rules Committee)

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

Opening the Flood Gates: Biden’s Broken Border Barrier

Date: Tuesday, July 18, 2023 at 2:00 p.m. EST (House Homeland Security Committee)

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

Witnesses: TBA 

Why Expanding Medicaid to DACA Recipients Will Exacerbate the Border Crisis

Date: Tuesday, July 18, 2023 at 2:00 p.m. EST (House Oversight Committee)

Location: 2247 Rayburn, Washington, D.C.

Witnesses: 

Dr. Ellen Montz, Deputy Administrator and Director, Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service

Business Meeting

Date: Wednesday, July 19, 2023 at 9:30 a.m. EST (Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs)

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

Related Items: PN441, S.1253, S.1332, S.1444, S.1524, S.1973, S.2032, S.2248, S.2251

Biden and Mayorkas’ Open Border: Advancing Cartel Crime in America

Date: Wednesday, July 19, 2023 at 2:00 p.m. EST (House Homeland Security Committee)

Location: 310 Cannon House Office Building, 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. 

There are no relevant reports this week.

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: 

Bill Summary: The Afghan Adjustment Act

The bill — which got a bipartisan intro in the House and Senate this week — would provide a path to permanence for Afghan evacuees (and some others). The bill also establishes rigorous vetting and criminal inadmissibility requirements to access this new path, and it includes provisions that would improve and expand pathways to protection for those left behind and at-risk in Afghanistan.

Five Solutions to Reverse the Declining Popularity of the U.S. Among International Students

This paper delves into five policy solutions that would reverse declines in U.S. popularity as a destination for international students and solidify the leading position of the U.S. as a welcoming scholastic destination.

Statement for the Record U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary Hearing on “The Biden Border Crisis: Part III” — May 23, 2023

This Statement for the Record explores the current situation at the U.S.-Mexico border as a symptom of our country’s larger broken immigration system, with an eye toward solutions.

Essential Workers for Economic Advancement Act: Bill Summary

This bill summary details the Essential Workers for Economic Advancement Act (H.R. 3734), introduced by Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-Pennsylvania) and co-sponsored by Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas). This bipartisan bill would create a new “H-2C” nonimmigrant visa for individuals coming to the United States to work in nonagricultural, less-skilled positions.

* * *

*This Bulletin is not intended to be comprehensive. Please contact Alexandra Villarreal, 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.

Learn More

Read more about Legislative Bulletin — Friday, July 7, 2023

Legislative Bulletin

Legislative Bulletin — Friday, July 7, 2023

Read more about Legislative Bulletin — Friday, June 30, 2023

Legislative Bulletin

Legislative Bulletin — Friday, June 30, 2023

Read more about A New Opportunity for Congress to Engage in an Honest Discussion on Immigration Challenges

Press Release

A New Opportunity for Congress to Engage in an Honest Discussion on Immigration Challenges