Legislative Bulletin – Friday, July 19, 2019

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

S. 2113

Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act

The bill seeks to protect the health and safety of children in immigration detention by ending family separations, setting minimum health and safety standards, expanding alternatives to detention ensuring unaccompanied children have access to counsels and other initiatives.

Sponsored by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) (39 cosponsors – 37 Democrats, 2 Independents)

07/15/2019 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Merkley

07/15/2019 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S.2162

Securing America’s Borders Act of 2019

The bill would require the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to annually hire at least 600 new Border Patrol agents, to report quarterly to Congress on the status of the Border Patrol workforce, and to conduct a comprehensive staffing analysis.

Sponsored by Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) (0 cosponsors)

07/18/2019 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Johnson

07/18/2019 Referred to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

S. ____

Border Zone Reasonableness Restoration Act of 2019

The bill seeks to strengthen privacy protections in the United States by limiting the U.S. “border zone.” A companion bill to this legislation was introduced in the House.

Sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) (1 cosponsors)

07/18/2019 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Leahy

H.R. ____

Border Zone Reasonableness Restoration Act of 2019

The bill seeks to strengthen privacy protections in the United States by limiting the U.S. “border zone.” A companion bill to this legislation was introduced in the Senate.

Sponsored by Representative Peter Welch (D-Vermont) (0 cosponsors)

07/18/2019 Introduced in the House by Representative Welch

H.R. 3239

Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in Customs and Border Protection Custody Act

This bill seeks to support the people of Central America and strengthen United States national security by addressing the root causes of migration from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

Sponsored by Representative Raul Ruiz (D-California) (153 cosponsors – 153 Democrats)

06/12/2019 Introduced in the House by Representative Ruiz

06/12/2019 Referred to the Committees on the Judiciary and on Homeland Security

04/17/2019 The Judiciary Committee advanced the bill in a 18-13 vote

H.R. 2615

United States-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act

This bill would require U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to perform an initial health screening on detainees.

Sponsored by Representative Eliot Engel (D-New York) (38 cosponsors – 24 Democrats, 14 Republicans)

05/09/2019 Introduced in the House by Representative Engel

05/09/2019 Referred to the Committees on the Judiciary and on Foreign Affairs

07/15/2019 Passed the House by a voice vote

H.R. 3748

Providing Justice for Asylum Seekers Act

This bill seeks to end mandatory in absentia, while absent, removal orders for asylum seekers by providing immigration judges discretion in the use of such orders.

Sponsored by Representative Jimmy Panetta (D-California) (4 cosponsors –4 Democrats)

07/12/2019 Introduced in the House by Representative Panetta

07/12/2019 Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 3740

To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to Simplify and Rename the H-2C Worker Program, and for Other Purposes.

Sponsored by Representative Rick Crawford (R-Arkansas) (0 cosponsors)

07/12/2019 Introduced in the House by Representative Crawford

07/12/2019 Referred to the Committees on the Judiciary, Energy and Commerce, and Education and Labor

H.Res. 489

This resolution condemns President Trump’s racist comments directed at Members of Congress.

Sponsored by Representative Tom Malinowski (D-New Jersey) (187 cosponsors – 187 Democrats)

07/15/2019 Introduced in the House by Representative Malinowski

07/15/2019 Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

07/15/2019 Passed the House in a 240-187 vote

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate will be in session the week of Monday, July 22, 2019.

The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session Tuesday, July 23, 2019 through Friday, July 26, 2019.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

Business Meeting

This meeting will include consideration of Senator Ron Johnson’s (R-Wisconsin) Securing America’s Borders Act of 2019, or S. 2162.

Date: Wednesday, July 24, 2019 at 9:30 a.m. (Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs)

Location: SD-342, Dirksen Senate Office Building

Witnesses: TBD

Oversight of the Unaccompanied Children Program: Ensuring the Safety of Children in HHS Care

Date: Wednesday, July 24, 2019 at 10 a.m. (House Appropriations Committee)

Location: 2358-C Rayburn House Office Building

Witnesses:

Jonathan Hayes, Director, Office of Refugee Resettlement

Lynn Johnson, Assistant Secretary, Administration for Children and Families

U.S. Customs and Border Protection – Border Patrol Oversight Hearing

Date: Wednesday, July 24, 2019 at 2 p.m. (House Appropriations Committee)

Location: 2359 Rayburn House Office Building

Witnesses:

Carla Provost, Chief, United States Border Patrol

Oversight of Family Separation and U.S. Customs and Border Protection Short-Term Custody under the Trump Administration

Date: Thursday, July 25, 2019 at 10 a.m. (House Judiciary Committee)

Location: 2141 Rayburn House Office Building

Witnesses:

Brian S. Hastings, Chief, Law Enforcement Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Jonathan H. Hayes, Director, Office of Refugee Resettlement, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Jonathan White, Commander, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Joseph B. Edlow, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice

Diana R. Shaw, Assistant Inspector General for Special Reviews and Evaluations, Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Oversight Hearing

Date: Thursday, July 25, 2019 at 1 p.m. (House Appropriations Committee)

Location: 2359 Rayburn House Office Building

Witnesses:

Matthew T. Albence, Acting Director, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

Trump Administration’s Rule Prevents Central American Migrants from Receiving Asylum

On July 16, the Trump administration published a new interim final rule requiring migrants who travel to the U.S. southern border by land to apply for asylum in one of the countries they passed through and get denied before they can ask for protections in the U.S. The rule, which came into effect immediately, effectively ended asylum for Central Americans arriving at the U.S. Southern border. Immigration advocates filed a lawsuit against the regulation, arguing it violates U.S. federal immigration laws, which allow migrants to apply for humanitarian protections regardless of where and how they entered the country, as well as regulatory laws since it was issued as a fast-track policy without proper public process. The new measure impacts also the nearly 19,000 migrants who have been following the U.S. immigration procedures, waiting for their turn in a line on the Mexico’s side of the border for months.

On July 18, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Acting Director Mark Morgan said that the agency is starting to implement the new rule as a small pilot program only in Rio Grande Valley of Texas, rather than fully applying the regulation along the entire border. Morgan also stated he expects the courts to block the rule soon.

The rule followed a July 15 decision by Guatemala’s constitutional court preventing the country’s president from signing an agreement making Guatemala a “safe third country” requiring migrants traveling to the U.S. through the country to first apply for asylum there. Critics argued the agreement would hurt Guatemala’s citizens, that Guatemala does not satisfy the requirements of being a safe third country, and that it would violate international laws. The U.S. Department of State’s Overseas Security Advisory Council warns that Guatemala’s homicide rate of 22 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants is one of the highest in Latin America.

Trump Administration Declines to Grant TPS for Venezuelans TPS Amid Plans to Transfer Northern Triangle Funding to Venezuelan Opposition

In a July 11 letter, the Trump administration declined to designate Venezuela for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli, responding to a bipartisan group of 24 U.S. Senators, set out the criteria for a grant of TPS, but stated only that the administration “continues to monitor the situation in Venezuela.” Alluding to court orders that have temporarily blocked the Trump administration from ending TPS grants for nationals of other countries, Cuccinelli argued that “as long as courts continue to displace executive branch authority to terminate TPS status . . .  a decision to exercise the discretion in the first place considerably more complicated.”

The bipartisan group of Senators asked President Trump to grant TPS to Venezuelan nationals already in the U.S. in a March letter, stressing that Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s repressive regime prevents safe return of these individuals. The administration declined the request despite the U.S. State Department’s travel advisory discouraging Americans from travelling to Venezuela and the U.S.’s recognition of opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate acting president January 2019.

The TPS decision was followed by reports that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) plans to divert $41.9 million of humanitarian aid originally destined for Guatemala and Honduras to Venezuela to support Guaidó and the Venezuelan opposition. The money would fund salaries, travel, communications equipment, technical assistance and training for the Venezuelan opposition.

Trump Administration Considers Cutting Refugee Admissions to Zero in 2020

The Trump Administration is reportedly weighing a shutdown of refugee admissions for fiscal year (FY) 2020. During a meeting of security officials during the week of July 8, USCIS representatives suggested setting the refugee cap for FY 2020 at a few thousands refugees or even zero. Immigration advocates expressed concern that such an abrupt restriction would debilitate the resettlement program for years to come, have severe consequences for some of the most vulnerable populations already in the application process, and harm our economy. Federal agencies will submit their recommendations for the annual cap on refugees by August 1 and the presidential must made his final determination by September 30 after consultation with Congress.

In FY 2019, the administration cut the number of refugee admissions to 30,000, after previously reducing the cap to 45,000 in 2018. The Trump administration’s refugee resettlement numbers are historically low. In 2016, the U.S. welcomed nearly 85,000 and in 1980 over 200,000 refugees. Moreover, the cap represents the maximum number of refugees that may be resettled in a year and recent resettlement numbers suggest the administration is unlikely to resettle 30,000 people in FY 2019. During the first six months of FY2019, the United States resettled just a little over 12,000 refugees. Overall, the U.S. resettles less than 1 percent of all the 25.4 million refugees worldwide. Studies show refugees are vital to the U.S. labor market by filling needed jobs in various industries such as manufacturing and healthcare.

Little Evidence of Widespread ICE Raids, Contradicting Trump

According to media reports, widely touted ICE immigration raids largely failed to materialize over the weekend of July 13-14. The large-scale ICE enforcement activities targeting unauthorized immigrants in 9 major cities across the U.S., including Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and San Francisco, were expected to start on Sunday, July 14. The operation, which had been previously postponed after resistance from key DHS officials, was expected to target at least 2,000 immigrant families who had been served deportation orders.

Initial reports seemed to show that except for routine removal operations, the agency’s activity did not spike, which would have been expected if the plan for to widescale raids had been carried out. Where enforcement activities did occur, the number of arrests was minimal due to the advanced attention afforded to the raids, which placed many unauthorized immigrants on high alert and educated them about their rights. Many exerted their legal right to refuse to open their doors to the ICE agents who lacked criminal warrants. But advocates and community members noted a palpable increase of fear in the localities that were supposedly going to be targeted, demonstrating the impact that mere threats of widespread raids can have on immigrant communities.

Contradicting these numerous reports, in a speech on July 15, President Trump contended widespread raids occurred and the operation was successful.

White House Announces Immigration Plan as House Voted to Condemn Trump’s ‘Go Back’ Tweets

On July 16, the Trump administration announced it would be unveiling its plan to overhaul the immigration system. The plan is being spearheaded by White House advisor Jared Kushner and reportedly would change the legal immigration system to make it more merit-based, giving preference to high-skilled workers while reducing family-based migration. Unlike previous proposals from the White House, the plan reportedly would not reduce the total number of immigrants allowed to come permanently to the U.S. each year. Other parts of the bill are expected to focus on border security, E-Verify, and restricting asylum. The bill is not expected to include relief for Dreamers or TPS recipients.

The White House stated that the plan was prepared in conjunction with about two dozen Republican Senators and will have about 10 Senate Republican cosponsors. Republican congressional leaders reportedly downplayed the likelihood of the bill’s obtaining 60 votes in the Senate, with Republican officials reportedly viewing it as primarily as a messaging bill that will serve as the Republican immigration platform in 2020.

The White House originally planned to brief GOP congressional leadership on the 620-page bill on July 16 but decided to postpone the official introduction due to the House resolution on “Trump’s Racist Comments Directed at Members of Congress.” That resolution condemned President Trump’s July 14 tweets telling four minority Democratic lawmakers “go back [to countries] from which they came.” The resolution passed the lower chamber in a 240-187 vote on July 15.

USCIS Seeks Volunteers to Assist ICE Even As It Faces Significant Application Processing Backlogs

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) asked its employees on July 17 to volunteer for administrative work in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) field offices across the country. Mark Koumans, USCIS Deputy Director, sent an e-mail to staffers stating that “USCIS has agreed to seek USCIS volunteers to provide ICE with support” due to current conditions that are “placing extreme stress on our colleagues at [ICE].” Immigration advocates criticized the request, arguing that it comes as USCIS is facing significant application backlogs.

The request for USCIS volunteers comes one day after the House Judiciary Committee held a subcommittee hearing to examine policy changes and processing delays at USCIS. Immigration advocates testified at the hearing that USCIS data reveals average case processing time have increased 46 percent in two years, from about six months in fiscal year (FY) 2016 to 9 months in FY 2018. Immigration advocates also noted that USCIS must hire additional staffers to help reduce the agency’s backlogs, in particular for citizenship applications.

USCIS Prepares Changes to Citizenship Test

On July 19, USCIS announced it plans to revise the naturalization civics test and, going forward, establish a decennial revision schedule for the test. While specific details about the proposed changes have been unclear so far, the agency’s officials revealed the administration is considering adding new questions about topics such as World War II and U.S. national holidays as well as removing and rewording questions. USCIS expects a pilot version of the test, which was last updated in 2008, to be available this fall. Immigration advocates expressed concerns that it could be another effort by the administration to make it harder for lawful permanent residents to naturalize. In 2018, USCIS naturalized a five-year high of over 750,000 individuals.

Legal

Advocacy Groups Seek Sanctions against Administration Officials for Alleged Census Trial Misconduct

On July 16, following the Trump administration announcing it will no longer seek a citizenship question on the 2020 Census, the plaintiff civil rights advocacy groups that successfully sued the administration filed a notice seeking sanctions against several administration officials.  . The filing alleges misconduct by government officials throughout the trial proceedings, including providing “false or misleading” testimony. In their filing, the plaintiffs requested federal Judge Jesse Furman to grant new discovery into the alleged misconduct and financial sanctions against certain government officials from the Department of Commerce, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the Department of Justice who they assert provided false or misleading testimony during the trial.

Ninth Circuit Upholds DOJ’s Denial of Funding Grants to “Sanctuary Cities”

On July 12, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Trump administration’s effort to prioritize federal funding grants for policing in cities complying with ICE detainers, disadvantaging so-called “sanctuary cities”. The split 2-1 ruling held that the Department of Justice (DOJ) was permitted to withhold Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) funding grants from the “sanctuary cities,” overturning a previous district court ruling. COPS funding grants are typically awarded to initiatives to build trust between local communities and law enforcement. Critics of anti-sanctuary policies argue that they undermine trust between immigrant communities and law enforcement, to the detriment of public safety.

Disbursement of COPS funding by the DOJ is decided by a points system that is used to evaluate cities’ applications for funding. Under 2017 rules promulgated by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions which awarded extra points for cities that fully cooperate with federal immigration enforcement authorities, the City of Los Angeles failed to qualify for funding and was denied a $3 million grant. The city then filed a suit against the administration, claiming the DOJ abused its power in basing grant funding on a municipality’s policy regarding cooperation between local police and federal immigration officers. The July 12 ruling holds that the DOJ did not abuse its power and was within its statutory authority in awarding bonus points to applications that indicated a focus on cooperation with federal immigration authorities. The decision was noteworthy in that it followed a string of legal defeats for the Trump administration on sanctuary issues.

State & Local

Philadelphia Will Plan to Provide Lawyers to Immigrants Facing Deportation

On July 16, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney announced that the city will work with a New York-based nonprofit to provide legal counsel to immigrants facing deportation. Philadelphia pledged to dedicate $100,000 to support the program, which currently operates in approximately 18 cities and counties across the country. Access to counsel is crucial to many migrants, since the chance of obtaining asylum is statistically five times greater if the applicant has an attorney. In FY 2017, 90 percent of applicants without an attorney were denied, while almost half of those with representation were successful in receiving asylum.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO): Border Security: Assessment of the Department of Homeland Security’s Border Security Improvement Plan, July 16, 2019

This GAO report addresses the extent to which the CBP’s Border Security Improvement Plan, which sets the agency’s border security goals and objectives along with specific border security initiatives, includes the elements required by the DHS Appropriations Act, 2018.

U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO): Nonimmigrant Investors: Actions Needed to Improve E-2 Visa Adjudication and Fraud Coordination, July 17, 2019

This GAO report reviews the Department of State and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) E-2 visa adjudication process. Specifically, it addresses outcomes and characteristics of foreign nationals who sought or received E-2 status between fiscal years 2014 and 2018, policies and procedures used to ensure that individuals meet E-2 eligibility requirements, and efforts to assess and address potential E-2 fraud.

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

Ali Noorani: Trump restrictions on asylum seekers are wrong way to cut migrant flow

Forum executive director Ali Noorani’s op-ed analyses the Trump administration’s new asylum policy. The policy denies asylum to anyone who arrives at the U.S. border after traveling through another country unless he or she applied and was denied the humanitarian protections there.

Fact Sheet: U.S. Refugee Resettlement

This fact sheet summarizes basic facts and statistics about refugee resettlement in the United States. It describes refugee screening process and provides basic data about refugees in the U.S.

Bill Summary: United States–Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act

This is a summary of the United States–Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act, which was introduced by Representatives Michael McCaul (R- Texas) and Eliot L. Engel (D- New York). The bill which seeks to address the root causes of migration from the three Northern Triangle countries – El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

* * *

*This Bulletin is not intended to be comprehensive. Please contact Zuzana Cepla, National Immigration Forum Policy and Advocacy Associate, with comments and suggestions of additional items to be included. Zuzana can be reached at zcepla@immigrationforum.org. Thank you.

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