Legislative Bulletin — Friday, July 2, 2021

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. 2261

Healthcare Opportunities for Patriots in Exile (HOPE) Act of 2021

This bill would allow deported veterans who committed non-violent crimes to temporarily re-enter the U.S. to receive medical care from a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facility.

Sponsored by Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) (4 cosponsors – 4 Democrats, 0 Republicans)

06/24/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Duckworth

06/24/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 2265

Veterans Visa and Protection Act of 2021

The bill would prohibit the deportation of veterans who are not violent offenders and establish a visa program that permits certain deported veterans to re-enter the U.S. as lawful permanent residents (LPRs). The bill is a companion to H.R. 4138.

Sponsored by Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) (5 cosponsors – 5 Democrats, 0 Republicans)

06/24/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Duckworth

06/24/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 2268

The Immigrant Veterans Eligibility Tracking System (I-VETS) Act of 2021

This bill would require the Secretary of Homeland Security to identify noncitizens who have served, or are serving, in the Armed Forces of the United States when those noncitizens apply for an immigration benefit or are placed in an immigration enforcement proceeding. This information will enable DHS to “fast track” veterans and service members who are applying for naturalization, while also allowing officials to practice prosecutorial discretion, if appropriate, when adjudicating their cases.

Sponsored by Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) (6 cosponsors – 6 Democrats, 0 Republicans)

06/24/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Duckworth

06/24/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 3385

Honoring Our Promises through Expedition (HOPE) for Afghan SIVs Act of 2021

This bipartisan legislation would waive the requirement for Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants to undergo a medical examination while in Afghanistan.

Sponsored by Representative Jason Crow (D-Colorado) (1 cosponsor — 1 Republican, 0 Democrats)

05/20/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Crow

05/20/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

06/29/2021 Passed the House under Suspension of the Rules by a vote of 336-46

H.R. 4137

Veterans Visa and Protection Act of 2021

The bill would prohibit the deportation of veterans who are not violent offenders and establish a visa program that permits certain deported veterans to re-enter the U.S. as lawful permanent residents (LPRs). The bill is a companion to S. 2265.

Sponsored by Representative Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona) (16 cosponsors – 16 democrats, 0 Republicans)

06/24/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Grijalva

06/24/2021 Referred to the House Committees on Armed Services, Veterans’ Affairs, and on the Judiciary

H.R. 4138

CBP Workload Staffing Model Act

The bill would require Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to develop and prioritize a workload staffing model for Border Patrol officers and requires CBP to develop standard operating procedures for a workforce tracking system.

Sponsored by Representative Clay Higgins (R-Louisiana) (4 cosponsors – 3 Republicans, 1 Democrat)

06/24/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Higgins

06/24/2021 Referred to the House Committees on Foreign Affairs and on the Judiciary

H.R. 4142

The Golden Visa Accountability Act

The bill would direct the State Department to create a database of instances in which EB-5 investor visas were denied on the basis of corruption or human rights abuses.

Sponsored by Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-Illinois) (9 cosponsors – 6 Democrats, 3 Republicans)

06/24/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Kinzinger

06/24/2021 Referred to the House Committees on Foreign Affairs and on the Judiciary

H.R. 4179

Improving Opportunities for New Americans Act

The bill would direct the Secretary of Labor to conduct a study examining the barriers to employment opportunities for immigrants and refugees in the United States who have international degrees or credentials.

Sponsored by Representative John Katko (R-New York) (4 cosponsors – 3 Democrats, 1 Republican)

06/25/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Katko

06/25/2021 Referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor

H.R. 4209

The Illicit Border Tunnel Defense Act

The bill would direct CBP to develop a plan to counteract illegal underground cross-border tunnels under the U.S. – Mexico border.

Sponsored by Representative August Pfluger (R-Texas) (1 cosponsor – 1 Republican, 0 Democrats)

06/28/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Pfluger

06/28/2021 Referred to the House Committee on Homeland Security

H.R. 4288

Workforce for an Expanding Economy Act

The bill would create a new “H-2C” nonimmigrant visa category for non-agricultural, low-skilled workers. The bill would create an initial ceiling of 85,000 visas for primarily construction, hospitality, and hospital workers.

Sponsored by Representative Lloyd Smucker (0 cosponsors)

06/30/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Smucker

06/30/2021 Referred to the House Committees on Ways and Means, Oversight and Reform, and on the Judiciary

H.R. 4331

America’s Cultivation of Hope and Inclusion for Long-Term Dependents Raised and Educated Natively (CHILDREN) Act

The bill would protect dependents of long-term nonimmigrant visa holders who risk deportation after turning 21 and aging out of dependency status. In addition to age-out protections, the bill would provide a pathway to permanent status for those who came here legally as dependent children, have lived in the U.S. for a minimum of 10 years, and who have graduated from an institution of higher education.

Sponsored by Representative Deborah Ross (9 cosponsors – 7 Democrats, 2 Republicans)

07/01/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Ross

07/01/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives will not be in session the week of July 5, 2021

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

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

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

Trump, GOP Lawmakers Visit Texas-Mexico Border

On June 30, former President Donald Trump and over twenty Republican lawmakers visited the Texas-Mexico border at the invitation of Governor Greg Abbott (R-Texas). Abbott, Trump, the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, and two local county sheriffs spoke at a meeting among the group that was open to the press. The speakers highlighted recent increases in unauthorized border crossings and discussed security vulnerabilities at the southern border. According to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data, apprehensions of unauthorized migrants has plateaued in recent months after rising sharply in February and March.

During the meeting and border visit, Trump touted his administration’s efforts to construct barriers on the border and claimed that the Biden administration ending certain border policies has resulted in an increase in unauthorized migration. The former president referenced a policy to return asylum seekers to Mexico while they continued their immigration court proceedings in the U.S. called the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), as well as planned agreements to send asylum seekers to Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras to pursue claims there. President Biden has terminated both programs, although neither were in effect during the majority of 2020 after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Governor Abbott has continued his plans to initiate a series of actions on the border. These include attempts to construct additional border barriers, encouraging local law enforcement officials to attempt to charge and prosecute migrants with trespassing and other state offenses, and attempting to revoke the licenses of shelters housing unaccompanied migrant children in Texas.

Legislation to Expedite Visas for Afghan Allies Passes House as Administration Clarifies Plans for an Evacuation

On June 29, the House of Representatives voted 366 to 46 to pass legislation that would expedite the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) process for thousands of Afghans who have assisted U.S. efforts and who may be under threat as troop withdrawal in the country continues. The HOPE for Afghan SIVs Act would waive the requirement that applicants complete an in-person medical exam in Afghanistan, instead requiring the exams be conducted within 30 days of their entry into the U.S.

Approximately 18,000 applicants – as well as their families – remain stuck in the SIV backlog, which can take over three years from start to finish and was recently exacerbated when the U.S. embassy in Kabul halted processing in June amid a COVID-19 outbreak. Representative Jason Crow (D-Colorado), who introduced the legislation in May, said the bill would save applicants about 30 days in processing time, noting that, “A month will save many, many lives.” The bill was moved quickly to the House floor under an agreed suspension of the rules due to the increasing urgency of the situation.

A July 2 Bloomberg News report revealed additional details about the Biden administration’s plans to evacuate some of those waiting in the SIV backlog from Afghanistan as the troop withdrawal accelerates. The administration has asked Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan to take in approximately 9,000 SIV applicants and their families while the U.S. continues military withdrawal from the region.

Other pieces of legislation that would further expedite the process and add SIV visa slots have been introduced and are pending in committee in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Biden Administration Planning to Review and Reverse Some Trump-Era Deportations

According to a June 29 Politico report, the Biden administration is planning to review and reverse thousands of deportations that occurred under the Trump administration. According to DHS officials cited in the report, the White House is working to review deportations of individuals who may have been removed despite retaining strong ties to the U.S., including those who previously served for the U.S. military.

The administration is working on a “rigorous, systematic approach” to review the deportations and planning an “orderly process” for deported persons to present their claims. It is not clear how those who have been determined to be unjustly deported will be allowed back into the U.S., although the administration may make use of parole as a temporary solution.

Lawmakers Express Concern Over DACA Application Backlog

According to data recently released by USCIS, just 763 of 50,000 new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) applications filed from January to March 2021 have been approved. The average wait time for a DACA application currently sits at 10 months. In a statement, the agency said the slow rate of processing is due to several factors, including continuing effects from the COVID-19 pandemic, a recent increase in the number of petitions, and difficulty scheduling in-person biometrics appointments. A USCIS spokesperson said, “we are committed to clearing out backlogs and minimizing processing delays to help facilitate access to benefits and restore confidence in the system.”

The slow application approval process has elicited concern from legislators and immigration advocates, particularly given a federal court in Texas could rule on the legality of the program at any time. In a statement, Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) said that “DACA processing delays are harming Dreamers, as well as their families, livelihoods, and security.” Durbin urged the Biden administration to work “expeditiously” to reduce the backlog.

Investor Visa Program Expires Despite Last-Ditch Congressional Effort

On June 30, the Immigrant Investor Regional Center Program, also known as the EB-5 investor visa, expired after lawmakers failed to reach a deal on its extension. The program provides a limited number of green cards to immigrants who have invested significant financial sums in certain economically depressed areas, or targeted employment areas (TEAs). The program was first implemented in 1992.

Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) introduced legislation in March that would extend the program for an additional five years. However, lawmakers could not agree on the terms of the extension, with disagreement in particular over whether the TEAs should be determined at the state or federal level.

Grassley attempted to hotline the bill through the Senate just before the expiration of the program, but the effort was blocked by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina).

With the program no longer in effect, it is not clear what will happen to investors who applied before June 30 and continue to have pending applications.

House Appropriators Unveil Homeland Security Spending Bill

On June 29, the House Appropriations Committee released a draft Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 budget for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The legislation would provide funding for a number of immigration-related items, including setting the budget for CBP, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The budget contains several provisions concerning the U.S.-Mexico border, including $20 million for improvements in migrant processing, $132 million for new border security technology, $20 million for body worn cameras for Border Patrol officers, and $655 million for construction and modernization at ports of entry. The bill would rescind approximately $2 billion in previously allocated funding for additional border wall construction. The House DHS budget also includes an increase in funding for USCIS to address visa and naturalization backlogs.

The draft budget was approved by the Homeland Security Subcommittee on June 30, and will now be considered before the full Appropriations Committee. The 2022 DHS budget will still need to be reconciled with priorities from the Senate and the Biden administration before it has a chance to become law.

9,400 People Become U.S. Citizens amid Independence Day Celebrations 

Amid Independence Day festivities, more than 9,400 people across the country will become U.S. citizens in 170 ceremonies between June 30 and July 7. Twenty-two of those naturalization ceremonies will be Independence Day-themed and will take place in various locations, including George Washington’s Mount Vernon and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.

On July 2, the Biden administration announced a new effort to encourage long time U.S. residents to start naturalization proceedings. The actions will call for multiple agencies to promote the citizenship process. President Biden attended a naturalization ceremony on the day of the announcement.

Legal

Supreme Court Rules Certain Immigrants Seeking Protection May be Detained Without Bond Hearings

On June 29, the Supreme Court ruled that certain immigrants seeking humanitarian protection from the U.S. do not have the right to a bond hearing to request release from ICE detention while their court cases continue. The case concerned individuals in “withholding only” proceedings, which are for those who may be ineligible for asylum but still risk facing persecution should they be deported to their home countries. These include immigrants who have been previously deported, faced persecution, and have attempted to return to the U.S. to seek protection.

The Court ruled that ICE can hold these immigrants in detention without the approval of an immigration judge. Justice Samuel Alito wrote that the relevant statute “implicitly allows the Government to deny bond hearings” for these immigrants during a 90-day period.

State and Local

Conservative Donor Funds South Dakota Deployment of National Guard Troops to the Border

On June 29, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem (R) announced she had received a “private donation” that would allow her to deploy up to 50 state National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border to assist with border security efforts. According to an Axios report, the funds came from billionaire conservative donor Willis Johnson. Neither Johnson nor Governor Noem disclosed the amount of the donation.

Noem joins a series of other Republican governors in deploying National Guard troops for brief stints at the border. The troops are forbidden from serving on federal mobilization, meaning they are unable to participate in many CBP border security actions. In the past, troops have been assigned to paint border barriers and have assisted at the border in a reconnaissance and surveillance capacity.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

Government Accountability Office (GAO): Immigration Detention: ICE Efforts to Address COVID-19 in Detention Facilities; June 30, 2021

This report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) summarizes U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) response to COVID-19. GAO reports that despite normal operations being impacted by the pandemic, ICE developed protocols to facilitate facility intake processing, screening and testing, and social distancing. Some ICE facilities did experience challenges appropriately quarantining detainees who tested positive and enforcing mask mandates.

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

What’s Happening at the Southern Border, Explained

This explainer breaks down what is happening at the U.S.-Mexico border, analyzing CBP data on recent apprehensions, describing the impact and use of Title 42 expulsions as well as the treatment of arriving UACs. It also provides additional context on reports of increased migration to the U.S. and the treatment of migrant families seeking entry at the border.

Essentials of Naturalization for Military Service Members and Veterans

This resource provides additional information about special naturalization processes for military service members and their families. It also provides a number of facts about deported veterans.

Fact Sheet: Immigration Detention in the United States

This updated resource provides details about the U.S. immigration detention system. It describes detention by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), and answers a number of frequently asked questions about the detention system.

* * *

*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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