Legislative Bulletin — Friday, July 22, 2022

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. 4567

Equal Access to Green Cards for Legal Employment Act (EAGLE ACT)

The bill would phase out the 7% per-country limit on employment-based immigrant visas and raise the 7% per-country limit on family-sponsored visas to 15%. The bill also includes provisions to reform and modernize the H-1B visa program and provides flexibility for those already in the U.S. but stuck in the green card backlog. The bill is a companion to H.R. 3648.

Sponsored by Senator Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota) (1 cosponsor— 1 Democrat, 0 Republicans)

07/20/2022 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Cramer

07/20/2022 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 4570

Transnational Criminal Organization Illicit Spotter Prevention and Elimination Act

The bill would increase penalties for those who aid cartels in illegal activity by transmitting information about the positions of Border Patrol or destroying Border Patrol communication devices.

Sponsored by Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) (3 cosponsors— 3 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

07/20/2022 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Ernst

07/20/2022 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 4572

A bill to require U.S. Customs and Border Protection to expand the use of non-intrusive inspection systems at land ports of entry

Sponsored by Senator Gary Peters (D-Michigan) (1 cosponsor— 1 Republican, 0 Democrats)

07/20/2022 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Peters

07/20/2022 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 8356

Flores Settlement Update and Establishment Act of 2022

The bill would require the Department of Homeland Security to hold a minor in custody for 120 days before being transferred to the Secretary of Health and Human Services. It would also require DNA testing of family units to establish a genetic relation. The bill would also require the detention and segregation of minor children and adults in a family unit until evidence of a familial relationship is established.

Sponsored by Representative Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) (12 cosponsors— 12 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

07/13/2022 Introduced in the House by Representative Crenshaw

07/13/2022 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 8371

Border Bonds for America Act of 2022

The bill would establish a Border Trust Fund within the Treasury Department. It would also require the Treasury Department to issue bonds, known as Border Bonds. The proceeds of the Border Bonds would be required to be transferred to the Border Trust Fund to construct reinforced fencing and provide for the installation of additional physical barriers, roads, lighting, cameras, and sensors to gain operational control of the southwest border.

Sponsored by Representative Steven Palazzo (R-Mississippi) (1 cosponsor— 1 Republican, 0 Democrats)

07/14/2022 Introduced in the House by Representative Palazzo

07/14/2022 Referred to the House Committees on Ways and Means and Homeland Security

H.R. 8382

Migrant Protection Protocols Act of 2022

The bill would codify the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also known as the Remain in Mexico program. Under MPP, certain migrants seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border were returned to Mexico after making an asylum claim in the U.S. and expected to wait near the border for the duration of their immigration proceedings.

Sponsored by Representative Carlos Gimenez (R-Florida) (7 cosponsors— 7 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

07/14/2022 Introduced in the House by Representative Gimenez

07/14/2022 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 8393

Puerto Rico Status Act

The bill would enable eligible voters of Puerto Rico to choose a permanent, non-territorial, fully self-governing political status for Puerto Rico. Among the many provisions, the bill would require the Elections Commission of Puerto Rico to carry out a nonpartisan voter education campaign about citizenship and immigration as a consequence of their potential independence. If granted independence, Puerto Ricans would be subject to the same U.S. immigration laws that apply to foreign nationals.

Sponsored by Representative Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona) (18 cosponsors— 13 Democrats, 5 Republicans)

07/15/2022 Introduced in the House by Representative Grijalva

07/15/2022 Referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources

H.R. 8420

To direct the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security to add questions to visa application forms, applications to register permanent residence or adjust status, and applications for naturalization, related to affiliation with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, including any Basij organizations

Sponsored by Representative Jim Banks (R-Indiana) (14 cosponsors— 14 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

07/19/2022 Introduced in the House by Representative Banks

07/19/2022 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 8433

Renewing Immigration Provisions of the Immigration Act of 1929

The bill would update the registry provision by moving the eligibility cutoff date so that an immigrant may qualify if they have been in the U.S. for at least seven years. Registry is a provision of immigration law that allows individuals to apply for lawful permanent resident status provided they entered the United States before a particular date – the “registry date –” and have continuously resided in the United States.

Sponsored by Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-California) (48 cosponsors— 48 Democrats, 0 Republicans)

07/20/2022 Introduced in the House by Representative Lofgren

07/20/2022 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate will be in session the week of Monday, July 25, 2022.

The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Tuesday, July 26, through Friday, July 29, 2022.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

There are no immigration-related hearings scheduled for the week of July 25, 2022.

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Legal

Supreme Court Rejects Stay of Court Order Blocking Immigration Enforcement Priorities

In a 5-4 vote on July 21, the Supreme Court declined to lift an injunction blocking the Biden administration’s immigration enforcement guidelines meant to prioritize threats to national security and public safety.

In June, a federal judge in Texas had enjoined the policy, with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals subsequently declining to stay the injunction. The Supreme Court will hear the merits of the case in December, but in the meantime, the guidance is not in effect.

Critics panned the one-page order, arguing that DHS authority to set immigration priorities is longstanding, provided by statute, and undermines prosecutorial discretion. Presidential administrations of both parties have long set their own immigration enforcement priorities.

In a July 8 request for an emergency stay, Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar warned that enjoining the enforcement priorities will have a negative impact on DHS operations, “thwarting the Secretary’s direction of the Department he leads and disrupting DHS’s efforts to focus its limited resources on the noncitizens who pose the gravest threat to national security, public safety, and the integrity of our Nation’s borders.”

The case represents the latest of several in which Republican-led states have blocked significant parts of the Biden administration’s immigration agenda.

Federal

June Border Data Reveals Decrease in Migrant Arrivals

On July 15, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released official data on the number of migrants the agency had apprehended or encountered at the southwest border in the month of June. The data showed a 14% decrease in overall monthly encounters as arrivals fell to 207,416 in June from May’s total of 239,416.

The encounter data continues to be inflated by a high number of repeat crossers, with CBP reporting recidivism rates at 26%. Taking this repeat crosser rate into account, reported the total number of “unique” crossers encountered in June was 153,379 — also a 14% decrease from May. The continued use of the Title 42 policy, which carries no penalties for repeat crossers, may be one reason for the increase in recidivism. Title 42 was used 92,273 times in June to rapidly expel migrants without providing them a chance to seek protection under U.S. law.

The overall decrease in encounters was driven in part by a sharp decline in arrivals from Cuba. Cuban arrivals declined to 16,447 in June, down 36.7% from May and 53.1% from April. Even as other encounters fell, the month of June saw a sharp 153% increase in arrivals of Venezuelans, reaching 13,350 encounters. In addition, the number of unaccompanied children arriving at the border continued to rise, up another 4% in June to 15,271.

Migration at the border peaked in May in five of the last eight years, and the June decline could be a sign of seasonal patterns in which arrivals slow during the hotter summer months. However, recent reporting suggests a July spike in encounters, particularly in the historically quiet Del Rio sector. Del Rio has been getting higher-than-usual traffic since March.

ICE Expected to Run Out of Money by October; DHS to Shift Millions From Other Programs

According to a July 13 Axios report, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is expected to run out of money by October, unless the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) shifts millions of dollars from other programs. According to the report, the federal agency’s $345 million budgetary deficit is due to recent policy reforms, court decisions, and responding to record encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border. Among the changes impacting ICE’s budget are recent investments in alternatives to detention programming the court order to restart the Trump-era Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), which reportedly cost $100 million. According to Axios, DHS will shift approximately $100 million from the Coast Guard’s budget, while $80 million could be freed up by moving around existing ICE funds.

Some advocacy organizations have opposed the transfer or reprogramming of funds to salvage ICE’s looming budget deficit, alleging the agency has a record of misusing funds. DHS officials stated that reprogramming actions are a normal function of a federal agency to meet its priority needs.

ICE has an overall annual operating budget of $8.1 billion. Notably, there has not been a Senate-confirmed director of ICE since the Obama administration.

Biden Administration Simplifies Application Process for Afghan SIV Applicants

On July 18, the Biden administration announced plans to simplify the application process for Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants. The U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a statement that new Afghan applicants will need to file only a single, revised form (DS-157) in order to petition for an SIV. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas stated that this change “will help to eliminate barriers for applicants and reduce application times,” but will not “reduce or remove any of the robust security vetting processes required before the benefit is granted.”

The SIV program was created to provide protection for certain Iraqis and Afghans who worked for the U.S. government in support of military efforts. The program is currently heavily backlogged and applications often take years to process. Administration officials believe the simplified application process may reduce wait times by about one month.

As of July 2022, there are approximately 74,274 principal applicants with pending Afghan SIV applications. Of that number, only about 10,000 principal applicants have chief of mission (COM) approval – a critical phase in the application process.  A senior administration official stated that about 40-50% of applicants in the pre-COM phase are denied for either not having the right documentation or not being otherwise eligible for the SIV program.

Wait Times for Visa Interviews Significantly Increased in 2022

According to a July 19 CATO report, wait times for non-emergency visa interviews have grown significantly since 2021. According to the report, it may take over six months for a tourist or a business traveler to schedule an interview at most consulates. Among consulates responsible for conducting interviews, 52% have interviews scheduled for at least six months or longer and 27% have interviews scheduled for a year or longer. Interviews for student visas and temporary work visas are backlogged forty-nine and seventy-five days, respectively. In addition to non-immigrant visa applications, immigrant visa applications are backlogged by 433,819 cases. Based on the 42,096 immigrant visas issued in May, the average wait for an immigrant visa interview might be ten months.

The report notes that in 2012, President Obama signed an executive order which mandated that 80% of all temporary visas be issued in less than twenty-one days in response to an increase in visa wait times. This order was rescinded under the Trump Administration and has not been re-issued thus far under the Biden Administration.

USCIS Backlog Reaches 8.6 Million Pending Applications

On July 18, U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) released data on the number of applications received, approved, denied, and pending as of March 2022. The data showed that the agency’s total backlog grew from 8.4 million in December 2021 to almost 8.6 million in March.

Notably, pending employment authorization applications increased from 1.5 million in December to 1.6 million in March, with the number of pending asylum applications increasing from 432,341 in December to 468,080 in March.

The USCIS also included information on the average processing times for various categories of employment authorizations. Current median wait times are as follows:  8.8 months for asylum seekers, 6.5 months for people adjusting status, two weeks for DACA holders, and 5.7 months for all others.

Despite growing backlogs in many areas, USCIS reported progress on temporary protected status (TPS) application backlogs, which decreased from 313,309 in December to 295,511 in March.

USCIS Announces Second Phase of Premium Processing for Certain Employment-Based Green Card Petitions

On July 15, U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced the second phase of premium processing for petitioners who have a pending green card petition under the EB-1 and EB-2 classifications. Premium processing provides — for an additional fee — expedited processing for certain categories of applicants by guaranteeing some adjudicative action on the case within 15 to 45 calendar days.

This phase only applies to applicants who have already filed Form I-140 under an E13 multinational executive and manager classification or E21 classification as a member of professions with advanced degrees or exceptional ability seeking a national interest waiver. The agency announced that petitioners who wish to request a premium processing upgrade must file a Request for Premium Processing Service (Form I-907).

In the announcement, USCIS highlighted that the expansion of premium processing is part of the agency’s efforts to increase efficiency and reduce burdens to the overall legal immigration system.

State & Local

NYC and DC Mayors Ask Federal Government to Provide Support for Migrants Bused from Border States

Following the busing of thousands of asylum-seeking migrants from Texas and Arizona to Washington, D.C., Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and New York City Mayor Eric Adams called on the Biden administration to provide assistance to their cities. The requests, which prompted pointed reactions from some congressional Republicans, followed Texas and Arizona state government initiatives to bus migrants to Washington, D.C. According to reports, reports, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R-Texas) busing initiative had transported over 5,200 people out of the state, with Arizona’s similar program busing 1,100 asylum seekers out of Arizona.

On July 17, D.C. Mayor Bowser said in an interview that she had “called on the federal government to work across state lines to prevent people from being tricked into getting on (these) buses.” She also highlighted that she had worked “with the White House to make sure that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provided a grant to a local organization that is providing services” to these migrants.

On July 19, New York City Mayor Adams argued that the city was experiencing a marked increase in the number of asylum seekers arriving from neighboring states after being bused out of Arizona and Texas, after previously stating incorrectly that the migrants had been bused directly to New York. Adams called on the federal government to partner with NYC to provide high-quality shelter and services for the 2,800 people who had recently entered into NYC shelter system.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

Congressional Research Service (CRS); “Citizenship and Immigration Statuses of the U.S. Foreign-Born Population;” July 18, 2022

This CRS brief provides information about the U.S. foreign-born population. According to the 2020 American Community Survey, the total number of foreign-born people residing in the United States reached 44.1 million, representing 13.5% of the total U.S. population.

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

Explainer: DHS Immigration Enforcement Guidelines

This is an explainer on the new DHS immigration enforcement priorities issued on September 30. The new guidance provides flexibility to DHS personnel, who are advised to balance aggravating and mitigating factors when making enforcement determinations.

Bilateral Labor Agreements: A Beneficial Tool to Expand Pathways to Lawful Work

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, managing the irregular migration flow at the U.S. southern border, and reaffirming the United States’ hemispheric leadership.

Bill Summary: The EAGLE Act

The bill would phase out the 7% per-country limit on employment-based immigrant visas and raise the 7% per-country limit on family-sponsored visas to 15%. The bill also includes provisions to reform and modernize the H-1B visa program and provides flexibility for those already in the U.S. but stuck in the green card backlog.

* * *

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

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