Legislative Bulletin — Friday, June 11, 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.___

The Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2021

The bill would increase the number of authorized Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) for Afghans who have assisted U.S. troops and diplomats by 20,000. The bill would also expand SIV eligibility and streamline the SIV process, including by reducing employment eligibility requirements and postponing certain required medical screenings.

Sponsored by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire) (3 cosponsors — 2 Republicans, 1 Democrat)

06/11/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Shaheen

H.R. 3770

Northern Border Reopening Transparency Act

The bill would require the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of State, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to publicize  information relating to internal deliberations and discussions with the Canadian government regarding easing border restrictions on the U.S.-Canada border associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sponsored by Representative Chris Jacobs (R-New York) (0 cosponsors)

06/08/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Jacobs

06/08/2021 Referred to the House Committees on Homeland Security, Ways and Means, Foreign Affairs, and on the Judiciary

H.R. 3798

Break the Chain Act

The bill would eliminate several family-based visa categories, including F1 and F3 visas for the adult children of US citizens, as well as F4 visas for the siblings of U.S. citizens and F2B visas for the adult children of green card holders.

Sponsored by Representative Greg Steube (R-Florida) (0 cosponsors)

06/08/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Steube

06/08/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate will be in session the week of Monday, June 14, 2021.

The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Monday, June 14, 2021 to Thursday, June 17, 2021.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

Hearings to examine H.R.6, to authorize the cancellation of removal and adjustment of status of certain aliens

Date:  Tuesday June 15, 2021 at 10:00 am ET (Senate Committee on the Judiciary)

Location: 106 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C.

Witnesses: TBA

Examining the Policies and Priorities of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Date: Wednesday, June 16, 2021 at 9:00 am ET (House Committee on Education and Labor)

Location: Virtual

Witnesses:  

Xavier Becerra, Secretary, Department of Health and Human Services

Improving Security, Trade, and Travel at Land Ports of Entry at the Southwest Border

Date: Wednesday, June 16, 2021  at 2:30 pm ET (Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs)

Location: Virtual

Witnesses:

Kevin K. McAleenan, Former Acting Secretary (2019), U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Anthony Reardon, National President of National Treasury Employees Union

Samuel Vale, President of Starr-Camargo Bridge Company

Jaime Chamberlain, President of Chamberlain Distributing Inc.

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

Bipartisan Senate Group Continues Discussions on Immigration Reforms

According to a June 10 Punchbowl News report, a bipartisan group of Senators met in a closed-door meeting on June 9 to continue to discuss and negotiate immigration-based legislative reform. The Senators reportedly focused on three pieces of legislation, including two bills that recently passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan support that would provide a pathway to permanent status for Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status holders, and undocumented farmworkers. The group is also reportedly discussing incorporating a proposal introduced by Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) that aims to respond to the increase in migration at the southern border.

Concerning the negotiations, Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) said that “those three bills are under active consideration. We’re trying to find a way to combine them into a bipartisan product that will get at least 10 Republican votes.” After the meeting, attendees reportedly said the discussion went “a lot better” than previous meetings. The group of Senators had most recently met to discuss a potential immigration compromise on May 12 and on April 22.

Bipartisan House Group Calls for Immediate Administrative Action to Protect Afghan Allies

On June 4, Representative Seth Moulton (D-Massachusetts) and 21 other House lawmakers sent a bipartisan letter to the White House calling for “immediate” action to protect Afghan nationals who face threats of violence on account of their work supporting U.S. troops, diplomats, and coalition forces. In the letter, the legislators called for the administration to create an interagency task force responsible for the management and evacuation of these Afghan allies before planned U.S. troop withdrawal, and for the administration to consider using Guam as a temporary evacuation site. Representative Michael San Nicolas (D-Guam) signed on to the House letter.

Also on June 4, 70 immigration and veteran advocacy organizations sent a separate letter to the administration, also advocating for a rapid evacuation to Guam. The letter cited similar evacuations following the Vietnam War and the 1996 Iraqi Kurdish Civil War.

The administration has not yet announced a formal plan to protect Afghans who supported U.S. efforts, but on June 7, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the administration is “considering every option.” Representative Michael McCaul (R-Texas), ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he was “frustrated” by the lack of clarity and action on the issue from the administration.

Many of the Afghans who have assisted U.S. efforts can access humanitarian status in the U.S. through the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program, but extensive screening and vetting protocols and a lengthy backlog mean that the SIV process takes an average of over three years from start to finish. Approximately 18,000 applicants are currently waiting in the SIV backlog in Afghanistan after receiving initial approval from the State Department. Since 2016, at least 300 interpreters have been killed in Afghanistan, and those who have helped U.S. troops fear they will be at far greater risk after U.S. military withdrawal.

On June 11, a bipartisan group of Senators, including Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), introduced legislation that would increase the number of authorized SIVs, as well as streamline the process and increase the number of individuals who may be eligible.

CBP Border Data Shows Total Arrivals Continue to Plateau, Demographics Change

On June 9, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released official data on the number of migrants the agency had apprehended or encountered in May. The data showed a marginal increase in overall monthly arrivals as the numbers continue to plateau after steep increases in February and March. CBP encountered 180,034 total individuals at the border in May, up from 178,622 the month prior. While overall numbers remained about the same, the demographics of migrants encountered at the border have begun to change. Arriving single adults are increasing markedly, rising to 121,082 in May from approximately 100,000 back in March. Meanwhile, arriving individuals in family units and arriving unaccompanied children continue to decline, falling to 44,794 and 14,158 respectively. The overall numbers, particularly of arriving single adults, remain inflated due to a high number of repeat crossers, with recidivism rates reportedly at 38%.

According to the CBP data, a majority of all arrivals — even those seeking humanitarian protection — continue to be sent back immediately under a pandemic-era Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rule called Title 42. However, an increasing proportion of arriving families (approximately 80%) were exempted from Title 42 in May, after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced clarified exceptions to the rapid expulsion process for vulnerable migrants on May 12.

Texas Governor Announces Plan to Arrest Migrants at the Border for “Aggravated Trespassing”

On June 10, Governor Greg Abbott (R-Texas) announced that he would be taking a series of additional actions to restrict migrants and asylum seekers at the Texas-Mexico border. In his announcement, Abbott stated that he had created a “comprehensive border security plan” that would include “working collaboratively with communities impacted by the crisis to arrest and detain individuals coming into Texas illegally.” Abbott stated that he planned to order state troopers to arrest arriving asylum seekers and other migrants “for aggravated trespassing” and that the state would work to continue wall construction along the border. The governor further announced the creation of a state Task Force on Border and Homeland Security that would include representatives from eight different state agencies and would work on additional strategies to “stem the flow of unlawful immigrants and contraband into Texas.”

Concurrent with the announcement, Abbott held a summit with local law enforcement leaders and other officials at the border. However, several law enforcement leaders on the border — including some who attended the summit — have expressed concern about the governor’s plans and noted that there is not a security crisis in their border jurisdictions. Hidalgo County judge Richard Cortez noted that, “I’m very concerned that he wants not only the state of Texas but all municipalities and counties to take on the duties of the federal government with respect to immigration and border enforcement.” Advocates and legal experts also questioned the legality of the governor’s plan to use state authority and personnel to arrest border crossers.

The announcement came less than a week after Abbott instructed the state Department of Public Safety (DPS) to revoke the childcare licenses of Texas shelters housing unaccompanied migrant children who have recently arrived at the border seeking protection. On June 7, the Biden administration announced it was preparing to sue the state of Texas if Abbott moved forward with the plan.

USCIS Rolls Back Red Tape on Legal Immigration Processes

On June 9, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued three policy changes to ease application processes for green cards, legal immigration visas, and employment authorization documents (EAD).

The first update instructed USCIS officers to request additional evidence from immigrant visa applicants before denying their applications. Applicants will now have the opportunity to correct mistakes and unintentional omissions before receiving a denial. The second policy change seeks to clarify when an applicant qualifies for expedited processing, making it easier for immigration officers to adjudicate requests for faster processing. The new policy will also create a novel process by which nonprofit organizations can request expedited processing for their employees if they can demonstrate the applications would further the cultural and social interests of the United States. The third policy increases work authorization for certain applicants from one to two years.

Alejandro Mayorkas, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said the updates were intended to “eliminate policies that fail to promote access to the legal immigration system.”

Harris Travels to Guatemala and Mexico to Discuss Root Causes and Regional Migration Enforcement

On the week of June 8, Vice President Kamala Harris made her first international trip to meet with the presidents of Guatemala and Mexico to discuss possible collaboration on addressing the root causes of migration from Central America. While in Guatemala, Harris announced that the U.S. will support an anti-corruption panel tasked with reviewing the conduct of the Guatemalan government. In Guatemala, Harris also pledged to support job creation, assist women in the country to start businesses, and help to address national security concerns.

While in Mexico, Harris signed an agreement with Mexican President Lopez Obrador that called for collaboration on strategies to deter migration from the Northern Triangle and to address poverty, persecution, and corruption in migrant-sending communities. In Mexico, Harris also stated that the U.S. plans to provide housing and infrastructure loans to support the Mexican economy, and she said the U.S. will invest $130 million to support labor protections for Mexican workers and forensic training to help local officials find missing persons.

On June 8, Canada’s Immigration Minister said the country is prepared to welcome some Central American migrants to assist the United States in managing the large numbers of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Biden Family Reunification Task Force Releases Report with Update on Progress

On June 8, the Biden administration’s Family Reunification Task Force published a report detailing the progress of the administration’s efforts to account for and reunite children separated from their families under the Trump administration. The report finds that at least 3,913 children were separated from their families between July 2017 and January 2021 that fall within the purview of the task force, with another 1,723 potential cases that are still under review. Of those 3,913 children, about 1,800 have since been reunited with their families, leaving over 2,100 in need of reunification. Seven families were reunited by the task force in the month of May.

Many of the parents who were separated under the Trump administration have already been deported even as their children remain in the U.S., and the administration’s task force is planning to provide humanitarian parole to certain vulnerable individuals to allow families to safely reunite in the U.S. According to the progress report, parole has already been granted to individuals in 29 families, which are set to be reunited in the coming weeks. The task force has identified an additional 62 individuals to be considered for parole.

DHS Secretary Mayorkas said the agency is committed to “the relentless pursuit of reunifying families who were cruelly separated by the previous Administration.”

Legal

Supreme Court Rules Certain TPS Recipients Cannot Adjust Status

On June 7, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders cannot become eligible for green cards if they initially entered the country without authorization. The case revolved around whether TPS holders should be classified as nonimmigrants under the Immigration and Nationality Act, and as such should be considered “inspected and admitted,” regardless of whether they initially entered the country without authorization.

In the opinion, written by Justice Kagan, the Court agreed with the Biden administration’s arguments that those with TPS who entered the U.S. without authorization are not lawfully inspected and admitted, and therefore they cannot lawfully apply for green cards. Justice Kagan noted that while TPS does not eliminate the “disqualifying effect of an unlawful entry,” there is a way for all TPS holders to receive permanent legal status: “Legislation pending in Congress would do just that,” she wrote, referring to the American Dream and Promise Act, which recently passed the House of Representatives and would provide a path to permanent status for Dreamers and TPS holders.

TPS is granted by the Secretary of DHS to eligible foreign-born individuals who are unable to return to their country of origin safely due to violence or other circumstances in that country.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG): ICE Faces Challenges in Its Efforts to Assist Human Trafficking Victims; June 4, 2021

The report describes an audit conducted by OIG which examines how U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) tracks human trafficking crimes. The report found that ICE has not accurately investigated human trafficking tips and leads and has not maintained accurate data and case files concerning trafficking crimes. The report concludes that ICE has missed opportunities to assist and save victims of human trafficking.

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

American Dream and Promise Act: Bill Summary

This is a summary of the American Dream and Promise Act, which would provide Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders and individuals with Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) with protection from deportation and an opportunity to stay in America if they meet certain 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 the latest state of play at the border.

Fact Sheet: Temporary Protected Status

This fact sheet provides an explanation of what Temporary Protected Status is and who is eligible to receive it and includes a summary of how many immigrants living in the U.S. have TPS. The fact sheet also provides an overview of current ongoing litigation and policy changes surrounding TPS.

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*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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