Legislative Bulletin — Friday, July 9, 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

H.R. 4361

People’s Liberation Army Visa Security Act

The bill would prohibit the issuance of student or research visas to individuals affiliated with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The bill would also require the U.S. government to develop a list of scientific and engineering institutions affiliated with the PLA.

Sponsored by Representative Mike Gallagher (R-Wisconsin) (1 cosponsor — 1 Republican, 0 Democrats)

07/06/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Gallagher

07/06/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary and the Committee on Foreign Affairs

H.R. 4373

Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2022

The bill includes no less than $60,000,000 to protect and strengthen the rights of Afghan women and girls. The bill would also make appropriated funds available to carry out the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009, including for additional personnel necessary for eliminating any processing backlog and expediting the adjudication of Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) cases.

Sponsored by Representative Barbara Lee (D-California) (0 Cosponsors)

07/06/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Lee

07/06/2021 Referred to the House Committee on Appropriations

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate will be in session the week of Monday, July 12, 2021.

The U.S. House will be in session for committee work the week of Monday, July 12, 2021.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

Hearing to examine the nomination of Ed Gonzalez to be an Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security

Date:  Thursday, July 15, 2021, at 10:15 am E.T. (House Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs)

Location: Dirksen Senate Office Building Room SD-342, Washington, D.C.

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

President Biden Promises to Relocate Afghan Allies

On July 8, President Joe Biden committed to relocate thousands of Afghan interpreters, contractors, and other allies who have assisted U.S. efforts and may be under threat as troop withdrawals from Afghanistan continue. Most of these Afghan allies are eligible for a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV), but approximately 18,000 applicants—as well as their families—remain stuck in the backlog.

President Biden highlighted that the U.S. has approved 2,500 Afghan SIVs since January. Only half of the visa holders, however, have exercised their prerogative to travel to the United States. Biden also said that he is working closely with Congress to change the SIV legislation to accelerate the processing time of those visas.

Biden shared few specifics on the evacuation plans, but noted that the U.S. is beginning relocation flights for Afghan SIV applicants and their families who wish to continue their visa process outside of Afghanistan. He also indicated that his administration had identified military facilities outside the continental United States and third countries (possibly Qatar and the United Arab Emirates) that could host our Afghan allies for the remainder of their visa process.

“There is a home for you in the United States if you so choose,” President Biden said to Afghan allies. “We will stand with you, just like you stood with us.”

Biden Administration Announces Effort to Return Deported Veterans to the United States

On July 2, the Biden administration announced that it will act on a campaign promise to return deported veterans and their immediate families to the United States.

In a joint statement on the decision, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) promised to support deported veterans in obtaining benefits they have earned and receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. DHS will also establish a “Military Resource Center” to assist families with their immigration applications. The announcement followed media reports that the administration was considering plans to reverse certain Trump-era deportations.

“It’s our responsibility to serve all veterans as well as they have served us — no matter who they are, where they are from, or the status of their citizenship,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has deported non-citizen veterans for going back several years, with the precise number of deportees uncertain due to inadequate government record-keeping. Immigrant advocates have called on the Biden administration to revisit many of these removals following an increase in deportations of service members during the Trump administration. Many were deported because of post-service criminal convictions, which veteran advocates note can result from conduct related to post-traumatic stress disorder arising from their prior military service.

Reports: Biden Administration Plans to Lift Health-Related Border Restrictions under Title 42

The Biden administration is reportedly planning a phased rollback of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) health-related border restrictions in the coming weeks, with plans to end the application of those restrictions – known as Title 42 – against migrant families by the end of July. Previously, in November 2020, a federal judge halted the use of Title 42 to expel unaccompanied children. Title 42, ordered by the Trump administration to curb the spread of COVID-19, authorized the immediate expulsion of asylum-seekers who had entered the United States illegally.

The Biden administration has indicated that it is deferring to the judgment of the CDC on the continued need for Title 42. Secretary Mayorkas explained Title 42 “is not an immigration policy,” and will be driven by what is in the interest of public health.

Rollback of the order is expected to coincide with a phased reopening of the Mexican and Canadian borders for non-essential travel. As vaccination rates along the U.S.-Mexico border improve, with vaccination drives completed in the north of Mexico, the Biden administration expects that Title 42 and border closures will soon be unnecessary. A bipartisan delegation of U.S. Senators met with the Mexican President Manuel López Obrador on July  6, to discuss, in part, “opening the border as quickly as possible.”

Biden Administration Extends and Redesignates Yemen for Temporary Protected Status (TPS)

On July 6, DHS renewed and redesignated Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Yemeni currently residing in the U.S. TPS allows work permits and deportation relief to foreign nationals already in the U.S. who cannot safely return to their home countries. The renewal of TPS extends TPS protections for 1,700 Yemenis through March 3, 2023. By redesignating TPS for Yemen, the action allows an estimated 480 additional Yemenis in the U.S. to apply for TPS protections.

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said that the renewal of TPS for Yemen was appropriate due to worsening humanitarian conditions in the country driven by COVID-19, ongoing armed conflict, and persisting shortages of food, water, and healthcare.

Whistleblowers Allege Inadequate Care for Migrant Kids in Emergency Shelter

On July 7, two federal workers filed a whistleblower complaint to House and Senate committee leaders, asserting gross mismanagement at the emergency shelter at Fort Bliss. The complaint highlights threats to the health and safety of migrant children housed at the Texas facility, raising concerns about staff lacking adequate training to interact with migrant children and delayed medical attention.

The whistleblowers alleged that the contractors employed by the base spoke no Spanish, had no relevant experience caring for children and avoided interacting with children under their care. They noted overcrowding in tents, inadequate supervision of the children, and the failure to provide clean bedding and clothing.

The whistleblower complaints come amid growing concerns about shelters for unaccompanied children and adult immigrant detention centers and the risk they carry as vector points for COVID-19 and its Delta variant.  According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) data from May, only 20% of detainees have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Schumer Warns August Recess May Be Cut Short in Laying Out “Two-Track” Approach on Biden Priorities

Warning colleagues that August recess may be cut short, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-New York) laid out a “two-track” strategy to move key parts of President Biden’s agenda in the coming months, including immigration provisions. In a July 9 letter, Schumer stated, “Senators should be prepared for the possibility of working long nights, weekends, and remaining in Washington into the previously-scheduled August state work period.”

Under this “two-track” approach, which has received pushback from Senate Republicans leadership, the Senate would move a bipartisan infrastructure package alongside a Democratic-backed reconciliation bill that would include other Biden priorities left out of the bipartisan package. The reconciliation bill, which under Senate rules requires a bare majority to pass, could include administration priorities health care, child care benefits, and immigration provisions. Earlier, on July 7, reports indicated that Senate leadership was aiming to bring the bipartisan infrastructure agreement to the Senate floor on the week of July 19.

The inclusion of potential immigration provisions in a Democratic reconciliation bill remains uncertain. On July 6, Congressman Jesús “Chuy” García (D-Illinois) said he would only support a budget reconciliation package if it includes provisions to grant a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients, TPS holders, farmworkers, and other essential immigrant workers: “Our country can’t make a full recovery without them, and I can’t support any deal that leaves so many people in my district behind.” García’s position is notable because Democrats have a slim majority in the House and can only afford to lose a handful of votes to pass a reconciliation package. While other Democrats have voiced support for including immigration provisions in the reconciliation package, García is the first to draw a red line on the issue, and the defection of a handful of moderate to conservative House Democrats – or of any single Senate Democrat – could halt the passage of the package.

Separately, on the Republican side, also on July 6, Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) urged a scaled-back approach to immigration issues in the Senate. Following months of bipartisan negotiations on immigration, they wrote a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) asking him to consider a bill that only would give permanent legal status to current DACA recipients, excluding Dreamers who have not currently obtained DACA, as well as TPS holders, essential workers, and others. Cornyn’s and Tillis’s proposal would apply to a much narrower population than the American Dream and Promise Act, which Cornyn and Tillis say has “no clear and politically viable path forward” in Congress, and would be narrower than the bipartisan Dream Act (S. 264), which Durbin cosponsored with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina).

Family Separation under Trump Started Earlier than Previously Reported

Recently released DHS data showed that the separation of migrant families during the Trump administration began earlier than previously reported. In May 2017, Border Patrol agents in Yuma, Arizona, began implementing a pilot program known as the Criminal Consequence Initiative, which prioritized the criminal prosecution of border crossers, including parents who crossed the border with their children. Previously, it was believed that family separation pilot programs began in July 2017, months before the better-known “zero tolerance” policy that led to thousands of separations in 2018.  The new data indicated that the first separations occurred in May 2017, at the start of the Criminal Consequence Initiative pilot program.

Earlier this year, the Biden administration’s family reunification efforts indicated that  234 families were separated in Yuma between July 1 and December 31, 2017. These statistics, however, do not include the numbers of separations in May and June 2017, indicating that the number of 2017 family separations was higher. According to government data, the children separated in Yuma in 2017 were as young as ten months old.

Relatedly, as part of its efforts evaluating the impact of immigration enforcement on families, on July 9, ICE issued a policy memo to avoid detaining pregnant, nursing, and postpartum women. ICE officials said in a statement that the new policy takes into account the “health and safety” of expecting and new mothers, and recognizes “the time needed for infant development and parental bonding.” The new policy reversed a Trump-era policy that permitted the detention of thousands of pregnant women and new mothers.

Legal

Houston and New York City’s Immigration Courts Reopen for Hearings

Immigration courts in Houston and New York City have reopened for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The courts will begin working through backlogs that are among the worst in the country; Houston has approximately 80,000 outstanding cases, and New York state has nearly 150,000. The average waiting period for an immigration case in New York is almost three years.

Many immigration courts held remote hearings during the pandemic, generally prioritizing detained migrants, but courts struggled to keep up with pre-pandemic workloads.

Nominations/Personnel

Confirmation Hearing for ICE Nominee Sheriff Ed Gonzalez Set for July 15

On July 15, the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs will hold a confirmation hearing for Harris County (Texas) Sheriff Ed Gonzalez to serve as the next ICE director.

In an interview on July 6, Sheriff Gonzalez, who was nominated by President Biden in April, expressed gratitude to be going through the process. “Whether I’m here [as Harris County Sheriff] or doing a different job, I’ll always try to make sure that I’m bringing some common sense and compassion to the job.”

Sheriff Gonzalez is a co-chair of the Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force (LEITF), and his nomination received praise from the National Immigration Forum and his fellow LEITF co-chairs, among others.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

There were no immigration-related government reports the week of July 5, 2021.

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

Bill Summary: The EAGLE Act

This summary analyzes the Equal Access to Green Cards for Legal Employment (EAGLE) Act introduced on June 2, 2021. This bill would eliminate per-country caps for employment-based visa categories and raise per-country caps for family-based visa categories, scaling back decades-long green card backlogs for Indian and Chinese workers.

Fact Sheet: Overview of the Special Immigrant Visa Programs

This resource provides an overview of the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) programs, which provide a pathway to status for Afghans who have assisted U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and who face threats based on their association with the U.S. The fact sheet describes the SIV application process and eligibility requirements.

Explainer: What’s Happening at the U.S.-Mexico Border

This regularly updated 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, and providing additional context on reports of increased migration to the U.S. and releases of migrant families into the interior. The explainer also includes a Facebook live discussion covering recent developments at the border.

* * *

*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. Danilo can be reached at acastellanos@immigrationforum.org. Thank you.

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