BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED
Restoring Northern Border Travel Act
The bill would require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to implement a plan to restore nonessential cross-border travel at the U.S.-Canada border within 20 days of enactment. The bill would also require DHS to begin broadening eligibility requirements for border crossers within 10 days of enactment, including for certain family members of U.S. residents and for those crossing the border to attend to business meetings or to visit property they own. The bill is a companion to H.R. 4105.
Sponsored by Senator Steve Daines (R-Montana) (0 cosponsors)
06/23/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Daines
06/23/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs
Save Our Afghan Allies Act
The bill would require the State Department and the Department of Defense to develop an evacuation plan for Afghan interpreters and other allies who supported the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. The departments would be required to submit the plan to Congress within thirty days after passage of the bill.
Sponsored by Senator John Kennedy (R-Louisiana) (0 cosponsors)
06/22/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Kennedy
06/24/2021 Brought to the Senate Floor to be advanced via unanimous consent, blocked by Senator Rand Paul
The Nuclear Family Priority Act
The bill would reduce the overall number of visas allocated for family-based pathways, and it would replace all existing family-sponsored visa pathways with a single category for the spouses and children of lawful permanent residents. The bill would also create a new nonimmigrant pathway for the parents of U.S. citizens.
Sponsored by Representative Jody Hice (R-Georgia) (0 cosponsors)
06/22/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Hice
06/22/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary
To reimburse the states for border wall expenses
Sponsored by Representative Troy Nehls (1 cosponsor — 1 Republican, 0 Democrats)
06/22/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Nehls
06/22/2021 Referred to the House Committees on Oversight and Reform and on the Judiciary
Transparency of Migration Act
The bill would require DHS and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to publish weekly information concerning the daily number and demographics of individuals encountered by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), as well as the states to which such individuals are sent and whether the individuals in question have a criminal record.
Sponsored by Representative Nicole Malliotakis (R-New York) (5 cosponsors — 5 Republicans, 0 Democrats)
06/23/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Malliotakis
06/23/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary
Restoring Northern Border Travel Act
The bill would require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to implement a plan to restore nonessential cross-border travel at the U.S.-Canada border within 20 days of enactment. The bill would also require DHS to begin broadening eligibility requirements for border crossers within 10 days of enactment, including for certain family members of U.S. residents and for those crossing the border to attend to business meetings or to visit property they own. The bill is a companion to S. 2196.
Sponsored by Representative Elise Stefanik (R-New York)
06/23/2022 Introduced in the House by Representative Stefanik
06/23/2021 Referred to the House Committees on Homeland Security, Ways and Means, and on the Judiciary
LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR
The U.S. Senate will not be in session the week of Monday, June 28, 2021.
The U.S. House will be in session from Monday, June 28, 2021 to Thursday, July 1, 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
Senate Budget Proposal Includes Pathway to Status for Some Undocumented Immigrants
According to a June 22 Los Angeles Times report, Democrats are considering including immigration-related provisions in upcoming infrastructure legislation. An outline of a 2021 budget proposal drafted by Senate Budget Committee Democrats includes funding for a pathway to permanent status for Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, farmworkers, essential workers, and other undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. The document, backed by Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), reportedly would set aside $150 billion for immigration provisions addressing legalization and certain border security provisions. Senator Sanders said the committee is still determining the specifics of the plan, including which groups would qualify for the path to legal status.
The budget proposal is the first step towards setting up a Democratic-sponsored reconciliation package, which would allow Democrats to avoid the Senate filibuster and pass legislation with a simple majority. Some Democrats have previously floated including immigration reforms in the package as a way to pay for infrastructure improvements.
U.S. Planning to Evacuate Afghan Allies Prior to Troop Withdrawal
On June 23, Biden administration officials announced their intention to begin relocating thousands of Afghan interpreters, contractors, and other allies who have assisted U.S. efforts and who may be under threat as troop withdrawal in the country continues. 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, which was only exacerbated when the U.S. embassy in Kabul halted processing amid an outbreak of COVID-19.
The June 23 announcement stated that the Afghan allies in the SIV backlog would not be immediately evacuated to the U.S. but relocated to third countries for visa processing. The announcement did not specify details of the relocation, including where the individuals would be taken, when they would be evacuated, or how many would qualify.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and in both the House and the Senate have repeatedly urged the Biden administration to take action and to evacuate and protect Afghans who have assisted the U.S. On June 24, Senator John Kennedy (R-Louisiana) attempted to hotline a bill that would require the administration to create an evacuation plan and submit it to Congress within 30 days. The effort was blocked on the Senate floor by Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), who said the U.S. should not protect Afghan allies and that these “most westernized” individuals who assisted U.S. troops should instead “stay and fight” as the U.S. withdraws. According to a June 23 Wall Street Journal report, U.S. intelligence officials currently estimate that the Afghan government could fall to the Taliban as soon as six months after American troops leave.
SIVs are provided to individuals and their dependents who have worked for at least two years for the U.S. government, who have received a letter of recommendation from a U.S. citizen supervisor, and who can demonstrate a threat to their life or livelihood on the basis of their assistance to the U.S. government.
Vice President Harris Visits Border as Texas Lawmakers Call for Solutions
On June 25, Vice President Kamala Harris visited the southern border as part of her ongoing diplomatic efforts to address increases in migration at the border. Harris visited El Paso, Texas at the invitation of Representative Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), and traveled with DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Illinois).
Harris reportedly spoke with Customs and Border Protection officers and took particular interest in the technology used to process migrants as they arrive. During the trip, she said that most migrants, “don’t want to leave home and when they do it’s usually because they are fleeing some kind of harm or they cannot take care of the simple and basic needs of their family.”
The visit followed criticism from conservatives that the Vice President had not visited the border in person in 2021. On June 30, former President Trump announced plans to visit the border with several House Republicans and Governor Greg Abbott (R-Texas).
U.S. to Reopen Cases for Asylum Seekers Rejected Under Migrant Protection Protocols
On June 22, the Department of Homeland Security said it would expand the number of asylum seekers eligible to be processed into the U.S. who had been returned to Mexico under the Trump-era Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP). On February 19, the administration had set up a process to allow approximately 25,000 individuals who had been subject to MPP back into the U.S. for their pending cases in U.S. immigration court. The new announcement expanded eligibility to those who had their asylum cases terminated while they were waiting in Mexico, potentially benefiting an additional 34,528 migrants.
Under MPP, which was also known as “remain in Mexico,” more than 70,000 migrants seeking asylum at the border were returned to Mexico to wait for the duration of their asylum proceedings. A regularly updated Human Rights First report has documented over 1,500 instances of publicly reported murder, rape, kidnapping, and other violent assaults experienced by those forced to wait in MPP. Asylum seekers in MPP also faced additional challenges proceeding with their immigration court cases, with just 7.5% able to access legal assistance and a lack of clarity about how and where to appear for their court dates. Less than 2% of all applicants ultimately received some form of protection in the U.S. while MPP was in place, far below the average success of asylum claims made from within the interior. Approximately 81% of individuals who had their cases rejected were in absentia removals because they were unable to appear for at least one of their court dates.
The June 22 policy would allow applicants to reopen those terminated cases and return to the U.S. under the process already in place for those with pending cases. That process has already resulted in the admittance of more than 11,000 asylum seekers at various ports of entry along the border. The administration has worked with the Mexican government, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and other international organizations to process the asylum seekers and test for COVID-19 prior to entry into the U.S.
According to a June 20 Axios report, the administration is also planning to stop immediately expelling arriving migrant families under a pandemic-era Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rule called Title 42. The administration plans to end the use of Title 42 for families by July 31, although it has already begun phasing out the procedure for all arriving migrants other than single adults. Only 20% of migrant families were returned under Title 42 in May. According to a June 24 report, the administration is considering ending the use of Title 42 entirely by the end of the summer.
Poor Conditions Reported for Unaccompanied Children Held in Emergency Facilities
On June 21, testimony from 17 migrant children revealed poor living conditions and standards of care at emergency shelters run by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Their testimonials—filed amid an ongoing legal case—described spoiled food, the absence of clean clothes, limited shower access, lack of access to legal counsel, depression, and overcrowding at certain HHS facilities for unaccompanied minors. Some of the children who provided testimony had been held in the shelters for over two months.
On June 23, an investigation from the BBC shed additional light specifically on the conditions at the Fort Bliss emergency shelter in El Paso, Texas. The BBC report documents allegations of sexual abuse, outbreaks of COVID-19 and lice, and children waiting hours for needed medical attention.
The HHS emergency shelters were hastily erected in March and April as an increasing number of arriving unaccompanied children were getting backed up in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) holding cells for prolonged periods. HHS is currently operating 13 emergency facilities across the country, which are not state-licensed and do not meet the same standards of care and oversight as licensed Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) shelters.
While the total number of arriving unaccompanied children declined in April and May, recent data indicates an increasing number of children are arriving at the border. As of June 23, 1,041 children were in CBP holding cells, and 14,894 were in HHS custody, including both licensed shelters and emergency sites.
Federal Court Strikes Down Trump-Era Change to EB-5 Visa Program
On June 22, a federal court in California struck down a rule established by the Trump administration relating to the EB-5 investor visa program. The rule, implemented by DHS in 2019, raised the minimum investment amount required for investors to receive EB-5 visas from $500,000 to $900,000 and limited the kinds of investments that would qualify. The judge found that the rule was invalid because then-acting Secretary of DHS Kevin McAleenan was improperly appointed.
The EB-5 visa pilot program provides green cards to foreigners who agree to invest in U.S. real estate developments or other businesses that create jobs. The EB-5 program is set to expire at the end of June, and lawmakers are currently considering legislation that would reform and reimplement the program.
Nominations and Personnel
Senate Judiciary Committee Advances Nomination of Ur Jaddou to Lead USCIS
On June 24, the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced Ur Jaddou, President Biden’s choice for the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), in a 11-10 vote. The committee voted along party lines to bring Jaddou closer to a confirmation vote on the Senate floor. Senator Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) abstained.
Jaddou served as USCIS chief counsel during the Obama administration and previously had positions on Capitol Hill and in the State Department. If confirmed, she has indicated she would work on addressing USCIS’s many challenges, including reducing lengthy visa and naturalization backlogs and budgetary issues that led to furloughs in the summer of 2020.
U.S. Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott Steps Down at Request of Biden Administration
On June 23, U.S. Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott announced he would be stepping down after the Biden administration told him he would soon be reassigned. Scott said he would remain with the Border Patrol for 60 days to oversee the transition to a new Border Patrol Chief. Scott, a supporter and confidante of former President Donald Trump, has held the position since February 2020 and was widely expected to resign when President Biden assumed office in January.
Current Deputy Chief Raul Ortiz will replace Scott in an acting capacity. Ortiz has served Border Patrol for 29 years and served as chief patrol agent of the El Centro border sector and deputy chief patrol agent of the San Diego border sector.
There were no immigration-related government reports published the week of June 21, 2021.
SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES
This explainer describes the different kinds of shelters and facilities that are currently being used to house unaccompanied children (UACs). The explainer documents the emergency facilities that have recently been opened by the Biden administration to address the increase in UACs at the border.
This resource provides an overview of the Special Immigrant Visa program, which provides 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. military. The fact sheet describes the SIV application process and eligibility requirements.
The bill would respond to increases in arriving migrants by creating regional border processing centers, expediting the asylum process, improving access to legal services, and providing additional resources and personnel for border processing.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.