Welcome to the National Immigration Forum’s weekly bulletin! Every Friday, our policy team rounds up key developments around immigration policy in Washington and across the country. The bulletin includes items on the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, as well as some coverage at the state and local levels.
Here’s a breakdown of the bulletin’s sections:
DEVELOPMENTS IN IMMIGRATION THIS WEEK
Immigration policy is a dynamic field subject to constant change. Here, we summarize some of the most important recent developments in immigration policy on the federal, legal, state, and local levels.
Content warning: This section sometimes includes events and information that can prove disturbing.
U.S. Supreme Court Allows Biden Administration to Prioritize Certain Immigration Enforcement Efforts
On June 23, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that the Biden administration has the authority to instruct U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials to follow immigration enforcement guidelines.
The case, United States v. Texas, stems from a 2021 lawsuit that Texas and Louisiana filed against the federal government’s enforcement guidelines, which had prioritized using immigration enforcement resources on those who were deemed national security threats, those who recently crossed the border without authorization, and those who have been convicted of aggravated felonies or other violent crimes.
Because ICE does not have the capacity to target, detain, and deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., immigration officials – like other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies – have long used prosecutorial discretion to direct limited resources toward effective enforcement.
Canadian Supreme Court Upholds Safe Third Country Agreement With the U.S.
On June 16, Canada’s Supreme Court unanimously decided that the third country agreement between the United States and Canada was constitutional, dashing refugee advocates’ hopes of putting an end to the controversial practice that forcibly returns asylum seekers across the U.S.-Canada border.
For nearly two decades, Canada and the U.S. have enforced an agreement requiring asylum seekers to ask for protection in the first of the two “safe” countries where they arrive, with limited exceptions. This policy allows U.S. officials to turn away asylum seekers crossing south from Canada and vice versa, and although originally it only applied to official ports of entry, the two countries expanded its parameters earlier this year to encompass the entire length of their shared border.
Meanwhile, back in 2020, the Canadian federal court found the agreement unconstitutional for violating refugees’ rights to life, liberty, and security — because those returned to the U.S. might be detained or deported to danger. Then, in an attempt to uphold the border policy, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government appealed.
Now, amid the Supreme Court’s decision in support of Trudeau’s position, Gauri Sreenivasan, a Canadian Council for Refugees leader, warned that the agreement endangers the “lives of people seeking protection and tarnishes Canada’s identity as a compassionate and welcoming nation.”
Canada’s Supreme Court has still left open the possibility of future challenges, referring the case to a lower court to examine people’s constitutional right to equality in Canada.
U.S. Supreme Court Rules Against Noncitizens in Case Involving Deportation Proceedings
On June 22, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that dissuading a witness from reporting a crime constitutes an aggravated felony “relating to obstruction of justice” under the Immigration and Nationality Act, even if the offense does not require that an investigation or proceeding be pending.
The case, Pugin v. Garland, stems from two immigration proceedings where noncitizens Fernando Cordero-Garcia and Jean Francois Pugin were determined removable from the United States on the ground that they had convictions for aggravated felonies related to obstruction of justice.
Pugin and Cordero-Garcia argued that their removal was improper because their actions did not constitute an aggravated felony. They argued that at the time Congress adopted the term “obstruction of justice,” there was an understanding that it required a pending proceeding. The majority of the court, however, held that Pugin’s and Cordero-Garcia’s arguments lacked merit.
U.S. Rejects High Rates of Asylum Seekers at U.S.-Mexico Border Amid New Restrictions
Screen-in rates for single adults who express a fear of persecution have plummeted in recent weeks amid new restrictions at the United States-Mexico border, including the Biden administration’s “Circumvention of Lawful Pathways” rule that renders people ineligible for asylum based on how they entered the U.S.
In a June 16 court filing, Blas Nuñez-Neto, the assistant secretary for border and immigration policy at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), said that only 46% of single adults who made a credible fear claim and were processed under the new federal regulation during its first month received a positive determination. That marks a dramatic decline from roughly 83% who passed this initial hurdle in the years immediately pre-pandemic.
Credible fear interviews are a first screening that asylum seekers undergo if they are placed in a rapid form of deportation called expedited removal. In order to avoid a relatively quick repatriation, humanitarian migrants have historically needed to prove that they have a credible fear of persecution or torture back home and that there’s a significant possibility they will ultimately qualify for protection.
But because of the new “Circumvention of Lawful Pathways” rule, many of those seeking refuge in the U.S. now face a presumption of asylum ineligibility, with a limited number of exceptions. Those who are presumed ineligible for asylum in turn must meet a much tougher standard to be screened into the U.S. based on other, lesser forms of humanitarian relief, like withholding of removal or protections under the Convention Against Torture.
Out of nearly 8,200 asylum seekers who were subject to the “Circumvention of Lawful Pathways” rule and interviewed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) between May 12 and June 13, 88% were determined to be ineligible for asylum. Only about 3% were able to establish an exception, while roughly 8% could rebut the presumption of asylum ineligibility.
“This newly released data confirms that the new asylum restrictions are as harsh as advocates warned,” Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy director at the American Immigration Council, told the Los Angeles Times. “The data contradicts conservative attacks on the rule for being too lenient. Less than 1 in 10 people subject to the rule have been able to rebut its presumption against asylum eligibility.”
At the same time, the conditions that migrants and asylum seekers are experiencing in U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody are raising serious concerns, both in terms of adequate medical care and access to counsel.
A memo from DHS Acting Chief Medical Officer Herbert O. Wolfe warned that — in the aftermath of an 8-year-old girl’s death while she was held at a Texas Border Patrol station last month — the agency needs to revamp its system of care for better communication, accountability, and treatment.
Meanwhile, in a new report, the National Immigrant Justice Center explains that asylum seekers lack any meaningful legal process during credible fear interviews in CBP custody, citing barriers to representation such as restricted phone access and bureaucratic difficulties for securing an attorney-client relationship.
Report: Biden Administration to Debut Pilot Program for Workers to Renew Visas Within the U.S.
On June 22, Reuters reported that the Biden administration will make it easier for some workers to renew their H-1B and L-1 visas by allowing them to do so from within the United States, instead of having to travel abroad.
The program was first announced in February of this year. The administration reiterated the plans of the pilot program during the state visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose citizens account for 73% of the roughly 442,000 H-1B workers in the U.S. as of 2022. These high-skilled Indian professionals often bear the brunt of the U.S.’s visa backlogs and bureaucratic failures, leading to frustration over a broken system.
So, for Indian workers hoping to continue living and working in the U.S., the new renewal process could spell much-needed relief.
“The pilot would begin with a small number of cases with the intention to scale the initiative over the following one to two years,” a State Department spokesperson said.
World Commemorates Refugee Day Amid Record 110 Million Displaced Globally
On June 20, as the world commemorated World Refugee Day, the number of globally displaced people fleeing violence, instability, persecution, and other dangers had risen to a staggering 110 million — an all-time high.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) Global Trends report, the number of forcibly displaced people increased by 19 million last year, the largest annual jump on record. More than one in every 74 people is now displaced, a situation U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi associated with “conflict, persecution, discrimination, violence, and climate change.”
UNHCR’s theme for this year’s World Refugee Day, “Hope Away From Home,” called for collective action to support refugees in rebuilding their lives, becoming self-reliant, and joining their new communities.
In line with this theme, the Biden administration stressed the importance of rebuilding and modernizing the U.S.’s refugee resettlement program, including by welcoming 125,000 refugees next year — a perennial goal President Joe Biden has not yet achieved.
The administration also pointed to efforts in the last year to expand refugee resettlement, including through its new Welcome Corps, a private sponsorship opportunity that allows Americans to support refugees arriving through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.
On World Refugee Day, the first refugees to be sponsored through the Welcome Corps arrived in Minnesota, per State Department release.
“Welcoming refugees is part of who we are as Americans — our nation was founded by those fleeing religious persecution. When we take action to help refugees around the world, and include them, we honor this past and are stronger for it. And together, we create a more hopeful and better future — one that embodies our highest values,” Biden said in a statement.
State and Local
Nevada Law to Grant In-State Tuition to DACA Recipients
Nevada has enacted a bill granting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients equal access to in-state tuition at the state’s colleges and universities.
In a pivotal move, Nevada lawmakers unanimously passed the bill, which was then approved by Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo (R-NV). The new law is set to take effect in July.
Now, DACA recipients will be eligible to attend Nevada institutions for in-state tuition rates, as long as they establish one year of residency.
BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED
It can be challenging to keep up with the constant barrage of proposed legislation in Congress. So, every week, we round up new bills. This list includes federal legislative proposals that have recently been introduced and that are relevant to immigration policy.
Please follow this link to find new relevant bills, as well as proposed legislation from past weeks.
LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR
The U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives will not be in session from Monday, June 26 through Friday, June 30, 2023.
UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS
Here, we round up congressional hearings and markups happening in the field or in Washington.
There are no relevant hearings or markups announced for the week of June 26, 2023.
Reports by bodies such as the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the Congressional Research Service, and the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General provide invaluable information on immigration policy and practice. Here, we give brief summaries of new immigration-related reports, with links to the resources themselves in case you want to learn more.
There are no new relevant reports this week.
SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES
The Forum is constantly publishing new policy-focused resources that engage with some of the most topical issues around immigration today. Here are a few that are particularly relevant this week:
This is an explainer of the DHS immigration enforcement guidelines that the Supreme Court approved in United States v. Texas. The guidelines provide flexibility to DHS personnel, who are advised to balance aggravating and mitigating factors when making enforcement determinations.
This bill summary details provisions in the Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act, including key differences between the House and Senate versions.
This blog post offers a general overview of the private sponsorship opportunities for individuals and groups across the United States to support refugees and others fleeing unlivable situations around the world.
* * *
*This Bulletin is not intended to be comprehensive. Please contact Alexandra Villarreal, Policy and Advocacy Associate at the National Immigration Forum, with comments and suggestions of additional items to be included. Alexandra can be reached at email@example.com. Thank you.