Legislative Bulletin – Friday, July 17, 2020

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. 7608 

Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2021

This bill makes appropriations for the Department of State, foreign operations, and related programs, for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2021. The bill outlines certain eligibility requirements for services for foreign-born nationals who wish to enter or live in the U.S.

Sponsored by Representative Nita Lowey (D-New York) (0 cosponsors)

07/13/2020 Introduced in the House by Representative Lowey

07/13/2020 The House Committee on Appropriations reported an original measure H. Rept. 116-444

H.R. 7614 

Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2021

This bill makes appropriations for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and Education, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2021.  This bill allows appropriated funds to be used for career services that are part of immigration programs, services provided by the Refugee Education Assistance Act, and allows HHS to accept funding to care for unaccompanied alien children (UACs).

Sponsored by Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut) (0 cosponsors)

07/15/2020 Introduced in the House by Representative DeLauro

07/15/2020 The House Committee on Appropriations reported an original measure
H. Rept. 116-450

H.R. 7612 

Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2021

This bill makes appropriations for the Department of the Interior, Environment, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2021. The bill allows for related agencies to accept funds from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) for land acquisition related to the construction of the border wall.

Sponsored by Representative Betty McCollum (D-Minnesota) (0 cosponsors)

07/14/2020 Introduced in the House by Representative McCollum

07/14/2020 The House Committee on Appropriations reported an original measure H. Rept. 116-447

H.R. 7499 

Social Security COVID Correction and Equity Act

This bill is to prevent a drop in Social Security benefits due to COVID-19 and improve Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits on an emergency basis. It includes an amendment on the incomes not included as related to foreign-born nationals and their eligibility.

Sponsored by Representative John B. Larson (D-Connecticut) (46 cosponsors)

07/09/2020 Introduced in the House by Representative Larson

07/09/2020: Referred to the Committee on Ways and Means, and in addition to the Committee on Energy and Commerce

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives will be in session the week of Monday, July 20, 2020.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

There are no upcoming immigration-related hearings or markups in the U.S. Senate or the U.S. House of Representatives.

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

Trump Seeks “Merit-Based” Immigration Overhaul, Hints at New DACA Rescission as Federal Court Orders Administration to Accept New DACA Applicants

In an interview with Telemundo on July 10 and in the White House Rose Garden on July 14, President Trump stated that he is seeking major changes to the immigration system, including unspecified actions impacting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.

In the Telemundo interview, the President said that, “I’m going to be signing a major immigration bill as an executive order,” and that, “one of the aspects of the bill is going to be DACA. We’re going to have a road for citizenship.” Days later, President Trump told reporters in the Rose Garden that, “We’re going to take care of DACA. . . .  I’m going to be signing a new immigration action – very, very big merit-based immigration action.”

It was not immediately clear whether the President was referring to a presidential executive order, a potential piece of legislation, or both. While the Trump administration has previously floated various proposals that would overhaul the legal immigration system to prioritize high-skilled workers and reduce family-based migration, it has yet to publicly release any legislative text and Congress has yet to formally consider any such proposal, making a legislative overhaul of the legal immigration system in 2020 unlikely. Trump’s comments follow reports of the administration’s plans to rescind DACA again, just weeks after the Supreme Court struck down its 2017 rescission attempt, suggesting that Trump was hinting at an upcoming executive order that would seek to end DACA once again.

U.S. business and faith leaders have publicly warned against a second DACA rescission, urging the administration to preserve protections for Dreamers. More than 140 companies and trade associations signed on to a July 11 letter to President Trump urging him to leave DACA in place. On July 7, a group of evangelical leaders wrote a letter urging President Trump to “leave DACA in place until such time as Congress has passed legislation to permanently protect Dreamers.”

While the administration has yet to issue a second DACA rescission, it has continued to reject new, first-time DACA applicants, even as the Supreme Court’s ruling went into full effect on July 13. On July 17, a federal court in Maryland ordered the administration to accept new DACA applicants, consistent with the Supreme Court’s ruling voiding its rescission. Previously, when the White House failed to return DACA to the pre-September 2017 status quo ex ante, legal experts noted that the legal basis to reject new applications was dubious. An estimated 300,000 people are eligible for DACA but are prevented from applying due to the administration’s failure to process new applications.

Trump Administration Rescinds Rule Preventing International Students from Staying in the U.S. for Online-Only Coursework

On July 14, the Trump administration rescinded a rule that would have required international students in the U.S. to leave the country if their school moved to online-only coursework in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The rule, which had been announced on July 6, would have required students to take some form of in-person coursework in order to remain in the United States. Institutions like Harvard had already declared it would be online-only this fall, and many other institutions had yet to determine whether they would be able to hold safe in-person classes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The reversal comes following legal challenges brought by universities and backed by major tech companies, 17 states and the District of Columbia, and academic associations. The universities, among them Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, argued that ICE issued the policy without any justification and without allowing the public to respond. The universities also contended the rule was intended to pressure universities to re-open for in-person classes in the fall semester. International students contribute $41 billion to the economy each year and are responsible for supporting over 458,000 jobs.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has said that it still intends to issue a subsequent regulation affecting international students. The agency is reportedly still deciding whether to treat students already in the U.S. differently than students looking to enter the country for the first time.

Coronavirus Continues Rapid Spread in ICE Detention Facilities 

According to congressional testimony, more than 930 private contractors staffing United States immigration detention centers have tested positive for COVID-19, contributing to the increasing spread of the virus in immigration detention facilities. Leaders of four private companies who detain immigrants under contract with ICE provided the information to Congress on July 13, adding to the  growing number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) employees and detainees who have tested positive for the coronavirus. The hearing followed growing concern over detention center outbreaks, poor implementation of preventative measures, and the significant numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the facilities.

As of July 10, results from COVID-19 tests of every detainee in the Farmville Detention Center in Virginia showed that 93% of detainees whose results had been reported tested positive for the virus, with 80 tests still pending. Previously, detainees and advocacy groups disputed claims from the leadership of the Farmville center that the facility was implementing proper preventative COVID-19 measures, citing frequent transfers of detainees from other facilities and failures to release medically vulnerable detainees.

GAO Faults CBP Failures to Follow Health Guidelines for Detained Migrant Children

On July 15, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report finding that, in 2019, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) routinely detained immigrants for extended periods of time and that CBP failed to consistently follow U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) health guidelines. The report also criticized CBP for ignoring a CDC recommendation to administer flu vaccinations to all migrant children, issued after the deaths of several detained children from flu-related symptoms. Additionally, the GAO report found that CBP misused a portion of its $4.6 billion of emergency humanitarian funding in 2019, improperly using emergency funds for its canine program and to purchase vehicles unrelated to medical purposes.

Separately, in testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee on July 15, the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General stated that his office did not consult with any medical professionals while auditing CBP’s care of two migrant children. This audit ultimately absolved CBP of culpability for the children’s December 2018 deaths in custody, finding no “malfeasance” on CBP’s part. At least six migrant children have died in CBP custody since August 2018.

Administration Plans to Continue and Expand International Travel Restrictions

According to a July 13 report, the Trump administration is expected to extend restrictions on non-essential travel across the U.S.-Canada and U.S.-Mexico borders for an additional 30 days until August 21. The restrictions, first implemented on March 21, 2020, had been extended four times but were set to finally expire on July 21. Numerous other COVID-19-related international travel restrictions continue, including policies blocking certain travelers from Europe, Brazil, and China.

In addition, according to multiple reports, the administration is considering a proclamation banning travel to the United States by members of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC). The restrictions reportedly may also authorize the President to revoke the visas of CPC members currently living in the U.S., a step not taken under previous travel bans.

Legal

Federal Judge Extends Deadline for ICE to Release Children

On July 16, Judge Dolly Gee extended the deadline she had previously set for the release of migrant children held in ICE custody. Citing the coronavirus, Judge Gee previously ruled that all children held for over 20 days in the three ICE family detention facilities must be released by July 17. After the government and representatives for the children asked for more time to negotiate how the children would be released, Judge Gee agreed to move the deadline to July 27.

Judge Gee oversees the 1997 Flores settlement agreement, which controls how the federal government must treat detained immigrant children, but she does not have jurisdiction over the adults in custody in the family detention facilities. Because Gee cannot order the release of the parents in family detention, it is unclear whether ICE would choose to release families together or release children while continuing to detain the parents – separating families. ICE has indicated it does not intend to release families together when the deadline arrives.

In a July 13 hearing on separate litigation seeking the protection of families in immigration detention, Judge James Boasberg said he would not make a decision until July 22.

Litigation Begins Over Presidential Proclamation Halting Immigration

On July 15, a lawsuit was filed challenging the June 22 Presidential Proclamation suspending certain categories of immigration from outside the U.S. The June proclamation extended green card restrictions which first went into place in April, and included several additional bans on certain categories of temporary guestworkers and their families. The lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of 174 affected persons, including 7 children, argues that the administration does not have the authority to override statutes enacted by Congress, noting that the proclamation “subverts Congress’s legislative compromises” with regards to the H-1B specialty occupation visa category. The complaint further states the proclamation is unlawful because it violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) by not providing a notice-and-comment period before going into effect. The APA requires notice-and-comment for any attempt by the executive to “suspend, revoke or annul a license.”

While this lawsuit focuses on the impact to H-1B recipients and their family members, two separate lawsuits have been filed on behalf of diversity visa recipients challenging the proclamation. The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program allows individuals who meet specified educational and employability standards and who were born in countries with relatively low rates of immigration to the U.S. to enter a computerized lottery which grants 55,000 green cards each year. Successful applicants must act quickly because if their applications are not processed and issued by the end of the following fiscal year, they lose all access to their visa. The two diversity visa lawsuits were filed on behalf of hundreds of winners of the 2020 diversity visa lottery who have been prevented from finishing the application process and risk losing their chance to immigrate to the U.S.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

Government Accountability Office (GAO): CBP Should Improve Oversight of Funds, Medical Care, and Reporting of Deaths, July 15, 2020

This GAO report was prompted by the death of three children in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody between December 2018 and May 2019. The report identifies problems with the implementation of new health screening policies and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) directives designed to reduce the spread of influenza in CBP facilities. The study also reiterates findings from a June 11 GAO report on the misuse of funds Congress appropriated for migrant care in 2019. The report notes that some of these funds were used on items like printers and speakers, computer upgrades, and the CBP canine program.

Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General (DHS OIG): CBP Has Not Demonstrated Acquisition Capabilities Needed to Secure the Southern Border, July 14, 2020

The DHS OIG report details CBP’s attempts to adopt “effective, appropriate, and affordable solutions” required to construct a physical wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, a task given to the agency in a 2017 executive order. CBP was instructed to begin planning, designing, constructing, and maintaining a wall along the land border with Mexico. The report states that in its attempt to follow these directives, the agency relied on “outdated” practices and materials. The OIG recommends that DHS conduct an independent analysis of the issue, revise its methodology, and implement a plan for obtaining and maintaining operational control of the southern border.

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

Impact of the Proclamation Suspending Immigration: Facebook Live Conversation with Immigration Lawyer Greg Siskind

This National Immigration Forum conversation with immigration lawyer and visa expert Greg Siskind highlights the impact of the June 22 proclamation suspending immigration on families, workers and businesses. It also touches on the ongoing litigation challenging the proclamation.

Infographic: Tax Contributions by ITIN Users

This infographic provides information on Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs), which are used by those who do not have a Social Security Number but still need to file a federal tax return. The infographic describes the tax contributions of ITIN filers and highlights how these taxpayers have been excluded from COVID-19 stimulus checks.

Immigration Primer

This resource provides a broad overview of the United States immigration system. It provides information about the history of the immigration system, its current problems, and what reforms are necessary. It also includes a list of key definitions in immigration policy.

* * *

*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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