Legislative Bulletin — Friday, March 12, 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. 621

The Significant Transnational Criminal Organization Designation Act

The bill would enable the federal government to impose additional sanctions on members of certain Transnational Criminal Organizations, also known as cartels. The sanctions include barring cartel members and their families from entering the U.S. and would seek civil and criminal penalties against individuals found to be assisting or providing resources to a cartel. The House companion bill is H.R. 1687.

Sponsored by Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) (3 cosponsors — 3 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

03/09/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Cotton

03/09/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 676

Stop Higher Education Espionage and Theft Act

The bill would establish a process for designating certain immigrants as foreign intelligence threats to higher education. Specifically, the bill would require the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to designate individuals as foreign intelligence threats if they have committed or conspired to commit espionage, misuse of their visas, or theft of trade secrets in connection to an institution of higher education. The bill would require individuals determined to be intelligence threats to be put in removal proceedings. The House companion bill is H.R. 1777.

Sponsored by Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) (1 cosponsor — 1 Republican, 0 Democrats)

03/10/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Cruz

03/10/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 681

COVID-19 In Immigration Detention Data Transparency Act

The bill would require Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and other agencies responsible for detaining immigrants to collect data and publish weekly reports on the presence of COVID-19 in their facilities. The bill would further mandate that these agencies collect data on the COVID-19 vaccination process and report to Congress on the safety protocols and practices in place at each detention facility. The bill would also require these agencies to report on efforts made to ensure detained individuals have access to legal counsel. The House companion bill is H.R. 1681.

Sponsored by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) (16 cosponsors — 15 Democrats, 1 Independent, 0 Republicans)

03/10/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Warren

03/10/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 1603

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act

The bill would provide undocumented farmworkers and their families with an opportunity to obtain legal status, reform the H-2A temporary agricultural workers program to address employer and worker concerns and impose mandatory employment verification (E-Verify) in the agriculture industry.

Sponsored by Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-California) (21 cosponsors — 11 Republicans, 10 Democrats)

03/08/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Lofgren

03/08/2021 Referred to the House Committees on Ways and Means, Education and Labor, Financial Services, and on the Judiciary

H.R. 1613

Stop the Biden Caravan Now Act

The bill would require the Department of Homeland Security to transfer structures, equipment, personnel, and other barriers currently used to provide additional security to the U.S. Capitol in the District of Columbia to be transferred to the Southwest border to prevent unauthorized immigration.

Sponsored by Representative Lauren Boebert (R-Colorado) (0 cosponsors)

03/08/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Boebert

03/08/2021 Referred to the House Committee on Homeland Security

H.R. 1614

The bill would remove marijuana-related offenses and the “habitual drunkard” clause from grounds for inadmissibility in naturalization and green card processes.

Sponsored by Representative Brendan Boyle (D-Pennsylvania) (0 cosponsors)

03/08/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Boyle

03/08/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 1626

State Border Security Reimbursement Act

The bill would reimburse in full all states that have appropriated more than $2.5 billion on border security and enforcement in support of federal border enforcement efforts in the ten years prior to the date of enactment.

Sponsored by Representative Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) (0 cosponsors)

03/08/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Crenshaw

03/08/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 1681

COVID-19 In Immigration Detention Data Transparency Act

The bill would require Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and other agencies responsible for detaining immigrants to collect data and publish weekly reports on the presence of COVID-19 in their facilities. The bill would further mandate that these agencies collect data on the COVID-19 vaccination process and report to Congress on safety protocols and practices in place at each detention facility. The bill would also require these agencies to report on efforts made to ensure detained individuals have access to legal counsel. The Senate companion bill is S.681.

Sponsored by Representative Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) (5 cosponsors — 5 Democrats, 0 Republicans)

03/09/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Castro

03/09/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 1687

The Significant Transnational Criminal Organization Designation Act

The bill would enable the federal government to impose sanctions on members of certain Transnational Criminal Organizations, also known as cartels. The sanctions include barring cartel members and their families from entering the U.S. and would seek civil and criminal penalties against individuals found to be assisting or providing resources to a cartel. The Senate companion bill is S. 621.

Sponsored by Representative Mike Gallagher (R-Wisconsin) (7 cosponsors — 7 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

03/09/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Gallagher

03/09/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 1707

The Border Visibility and Security Act

The bill would update requirements for border security technology along the Southwest border, including the use of seismic acoustic detection, surveillance systems, sensors and Vehicle and Dismount Exploitation Radars (VADER). The bill would also require the Secretary of Homeland Security to produce a Comprehensive Southern Border Strategy, which would include a justification for each physical barrier, technology, and tool used at the border. The bill would also provide greater visibility for Border Patrol agents by calling for the eradication of carrizo cane along the Rio Grande river.

Sponsored by Representative Chip Roy (R-Texas) (19 cosponsors — 18 Republicans, 1 Democrat)

03/09/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Roy

03/09/2021 Referred to the House Committee on Homeland Security

H.R. 1777

Stop Higher Education Espionage and Theft Act

The bill would establish a process for designating certain immigrants as foreign intelligence threats to higher education. Specifically, the bill would require the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to designate individuals as foreign intelligence threats if they have committed or conspired to commit espionage, misuse of their visas, or theft of trade secrets in connection to an institution of higher education. The bill would require individuals determined to be intelligence threats to be put in removal proceedings. The Senate companion bill is S. 676.

Sponsored by Representative Elise Stefanik (R-New York) (7 cosponsors — 7 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

03/10/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Stefanik

03/10/2021 Referred to the House Committees on Education and Labor and the Judiciary

H.R. 1319

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021

The bill provides $1.9 trillion in additional relief to address the continued impact of COVID-19 (i.e., coronavirus disease 2019) on the economy, public health, state and local governments, individuals, and businesses. Relevant to immigration, U.S. citizens in mixed-status families would be eligible for $1,400 stimulus checks provided under the legislation.

Sponsored by Representative Yarmuth (D-Kentucky) (0 cosponsors)

02/24/2021 Introduced by Representative Yarmuth

02/27/2021 Passed by the House by a vote of 219-212

03/06/2021 Considered by the Senate

03/06/2021 509 Senate amendments considered, including the following immigration-related amendments, none of which were adopted:

S. Amd. 934, introduced by Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), on diverting funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities to the Office of Refugee Resettlement to provide additional bed spaces for unaccompanied children. The funds would be allocated specifically to house children who are traveling with adults who are suspected, charged, or convicted of a criminal offense.

S. Amd. 953, introduced by Senator Roger Marshall (R-Kansas), which would require funding for higher education to be used only for students lawfully present in the U.S.

S. Amd. 968, introduced by Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), which would require that any recovery rebates in the legislation are not provided to undocumented persons.

S. Amd. 1148, introduced by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), which would provide $300 million to CBP in additional funding for Fiscal Year (FY) 2021.

S. Amd. 1182, introduced by Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-Alabama), which would provide $300 million to ICE in additional funding for the purposes of apprehending individuals charged with certain criminal offenses.

S. Amd. 1208, introduced by Senator Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina), which would prevent undocumented immigrants from receiving unemployment benefits.

S. Amd. 1209, introduced by Senator Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina), which would call for a study to determine the extent to which undocumented immigrants are able to access unemployment benefits.

S. Amd. 1333 introduced by Senator Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina), which would provide $1,000,000 to the Department of Labor Investigator General to conduct oversight and investigate undocumented individuals who improperly received unemployment benefits.

S. Amd. 1383 introduced by Senator Todd Young (R-Indiana), which would provide $300 million for screening devices to be used by CBP.

S. Amd. 1389 introduced by Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin), which would redirect funding from the Emergency Federal Employee Leave Fund to CBP to hire new Border Patrol agents.

S. Amd. 1394 introduced by Senator Steve Daines (R-Montana), which would modify appropriated funds for refugee assistance to include expenses required to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19 concerns.

03/11/2020 Passed in the Senate by a vote of 50-49

03/10/2021 Resolving differences. House agreed to Senate version by a vote of 220-211

03/11/2021 Signed by President into law

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate will be in session the week of Monday, March 15, 2021.

The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Tuesday, March 16, 2021 to Friday, March 19, 2021.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

The Way Forward on Homeland Security

Date: Wednesday, March 17, 2021 at 9:30 am ET (House Homeland Security Committee)

Location: Livestream Available

Witness: Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Homeland Security

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

CBP Reveals February Data on Migrant Arrivals, More Details Emerge Concerning Treatment of Unaccompanied Children

On March 10, U.S. Customs and Border Protection released data on the number of migrants the agency had apprehended or encountered at the Southwest border in February. The data showed an increase in overall encounters of unauthorized migrants, rising from 78,323 in January to 100,441 in February. Of the 100,441 February encounters, CBP reported that 28,843 were families and unaccompanied children, an increase since January but still far below a previous peak in summer of 2019. The number of arriving unaccompanied children (UACs) rose from 5,871 in January to 9,457 in February, remaining under 10% of overall apprehensions, but representing the highest monthly number since May 2019, when close to 12,000 arriving UACs were reported.

A spokesperson for CBP said the overall numbers for February were inflated by migrants who made multiple attempts to cross into the United States. According to CBP, approximately 25,000 of the encounters represented repeat crossers who had been summarily returned before trying to reenter. High recidivism rates have been a feature of monthly CBP data releases since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the Trump administration issued a rule that gave CBP the authority to immediately expel or deport anyone who attempts to cross the border without authorization, including asylum seekers and families. The expulsions, carried out under Title 42 of the 1944 Public Health Service Act, carry fewer penalties than traditional processing for repeat attempts of unauthorized entry, and have resulted in recidivism rates rising to 37% since March 2020. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2019, the recidivism rate was 7%.

The increasing numbers of unaccompanied children have continued to pose challenges to the Biden administration’s border response. When children at the border are determined to be unaccompanied, they are required by law to be transferred within 72 hours from CBP holding cells to Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) shelters. According to a March 10 report, the increase in arriving UACs has resulted in ORR shelters nearing capacity and a backup of children in CBP holding centers, which are not designed to care for or house children. According to the report, children are spending an average of 107 hours in CBP custody, longer than the maximum-allowable 72 hours.

In February, the Biden reopened a temporary influx facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas, and took additional steps to more effectively house and process arriving children. On March 5, the administration directed existing ORR shelters to return to their full capacity of approximately 13,600 beds, which had previously been reduced due to pandemic-related distancing protocols. As of March 8, there were approximately 8,100 unaccompanied children in ORR care.

White House Designates TPS for Venezuela and Burma

On March 8, the Biden administration designated Venezuela for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 18 months, until September 2022. The Department of Homeland Security said that the designation is due to “extraordinary and temporary conditions in Venezuela that prevent nationals from returning safely.” On January 19, the Trump administration had previously authorized work permits and deportation protection to Venezuelan nationals through a designation known as Deferred Enforced Departure (DED).

Over 320,000 Venezuelans will now be eligible for TPS if they can demonstrate residence in the U.S. prior to March 8, 2021. These individuals will have 180 days to apply for protections. Once they receive TPS, individuals will be able to apply for employment and travel authorization. The Trump administration’s Deferred Enforced Departure designation will remain in effect. Individuals who receive TPS and who are also covered by DED do not need to apply for employment authorization through both programs.

On March 12, the Biden administration also designated Burma for TPS for 18 months. In a statement announcing the designation, DHS Secretary Mayorkas said that, “due to the military coup and security forces’ brutal violence against civilians, the people of Burma are suffering a complex and deteriorating humanitarian crisis in many parts of the country.”

Also on March 12, Senators Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) sent a letter to the Biden administration urging Secretary Mayorkas to re-designate Haiti for TPS. The senators wrote that Haiti “lacks the capacity to provide the needed reception and care for tens of thousands of returnees,” and that “a TPS redesignation would provide a much-needed reprieve for upwards of 55,000 Haitians in the United States.”

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

Biden to Restart Central American Minors (CAM) Program

On March 10, the Biden administration announced that beginning on March 15, it will restart the Central American Minors (CAM) program. The CAM program, created under President Obama in 2014, allowed parents with legal status in the U.S. to apply to have their children in El Salvador, Honduras or Guatemala to join them in the U.S. if they faced threats of violence in their home countries. President Trump ended the program in 2017.

Roberta Jacobson, special assistant to President Biden on border issues, stated that the administration plans to reopen the program in two phases, first by reopening all of the cases that were pending when President Trump abruptly ended the program, and later by accepting new cases under new guidance. The announcement also mentioned plans to expand the program but did not specify what such an expansion would entail.

The CAM program was created to address a increase in border apprehensions of unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala in 2014. This increase was largely attributed to a rise in gang-related violence targeting children and teenagers. The CAM program sought to provide “a safe, legal, and orderly alternative to the dangerous journey that some children [were] taking to reach the United States” by offering them either refugee status or parole. From 2014 to 2017, DHS admitted 3,065 children as either refugees or parolees under the CAM program.

In the announcement, Jacobson also provided details about aid the Biden administration had earmarked for Central America. The aid, which is part of the administration’s “four-billion-dollar, four-year plan,” will be conditioned based on anticorruption and good governance indicators. Jacobson also said that more of the resources will go to nongovernmental organizations rather than directly to Central America governments.

ICE Arrests Fall More Than Half in February

According to a March 9 report, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrests fell by more than 60 percent in the month of February. The drop in arrests appears to reflect changes following the issuance of new interim immigration enforcement priorities under the Biden administration. On February 18, acting ICE director Tae Johnson issued guidance clarifying that the agency was focusing enforcement to prioritize national security, border security, and public safety.

The Biden administration has also created a new appeals process that will allow immigrants to more easily challenge arrests, detentions, and deportations. Under the new program, called the ICE Case Review Process, immigrants or their lawyers can request their arrest, detention, or imminent deportation be reviewed to determine whether it meets the administration’s new enforcement priorities.

The February 18 interim enforcement guidance will be in place until DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas issues new guidelines, which are expected sometime in May.

State Department Will Review Visa Applications of Those Denied Under Travel Bans

According to a March 8 State Department statement, the Biden administration has set up a new system for reviewing the applications of certain individuals who were denied visas during the Trump administration. The system, aimed at those negatively impacted by Trump-era country-based travel restrictions, is intended to ensure that visa denials under the bans do not negatively affect applicants’ future chances of receiving a visa. Under the review system, individuals who had their applications denied as a result of the restrictions on or after January 20 will be able to seek re-adjudication without needing to re-apply. Others who were denied before January 20 will also be able to seek reconsideration, but they will have to refile their applications.

A State Department spokesman stated that the review system cannot be used by certain diversity visa lottery winners whose opportunity to immigrate had expired, as these individuals remain “statutorily barred.” Under the annual diversity visa lottery, winners must act quickly to apply for and receive their visas, because if their visas are not issued by the end of the following fiscal year (September 30), they lose all access to their visa and are no longer authorized for a green card. Many diversity visa winners were blocked under country-specific travel restrictions from FY 2017 to FY2020, causing their opportunity to immigrate to elapse.

In his first months in office, President Biden has revoked a number of Trump-era travel restrictions, including bans on several Muslim-majority and African countries and a restriction on a number of family- and diversity-based immigrant categories.

Religious Leaders Send Letter to Biden Expressing Concern Over Delayed Refugee Determination

On March 11, a group of 42 U.S. religious leaders sent a letter to President Biden expressing concern that a new Presidential Determination setting a revised refugee ceiling for Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 has not yet been signed.

The Biden administration announced on February 6 that it planned to raise the refugee admissions ceiling for the current fiscal year to 62,500, up from a historic low of 15,000 set by the Trump administration in October. Biden further stated he would be changing allocations set by Trump on the categories of refugees allowed under the cap, announcing that his administration would be reverting to regional allocations based on vulnerability and need. Following this announcement, the Biden administration began procedures for revising the FY 2021 ceiling, including holding a consultation with Congress over the new cap. However, as of March 12, Biden has not yet signed a new determination and has not provided reasons for the delay.

The delayed Presidential Determination has resulted in the cancellation of over 700 refugee resettlement flights to the U.S., and more flights are expected to be cancelled in the coming weeks if the Presidential Determination is not signed. In their letter, the faith leaders stated they are “deeply concerned” about the flight cancellations, and urged the administration to “honor its commitment to restoring and strengthening the refugee resettlement program.”

Legal

Supreme Court Dismisses Trump-era Public Charge Rule While States Appeal in Ninth Circuit

On March 9, the Supreme Court dismissed multiple pending appeals regarding the Trump administration’s public charge rule, which sought to allow officials to deny admission, visa renewals, or permanent residency to noncitizens based on their use of certain public benefits. The decision follows a joint request filed on March 9 by both plaintiffs challenging the policy and the Biden administration. The Supreme Court’s dismissal of the case leaves several appellate court rulings in place that found that the public charge rule violated federal immigration law.

The decision appeared to end the legal battle over the policy that has been on-going since its introduction in October 2019, which has seen the rule repeatedly go into and out of effect in individual states and across the country. Several immigrant advocacy organizations issued a statement saying that “immigrant families can now access lifesaving healthcare, food and housing assistance for which they are eligible without fear that they will lose the chance to obtain lawful permanent residence.”

However, on March 10, eleven states, including Arizona and Texas, requested that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit allow them to intervene in place of the Biden administration and take up the defense of the Trump-era rule before the Supreme Court.

Nominations and Personnel

Merrick Garland Confirmed as Attorney General in Bipartisan Vote

On March 10, the Senate voted to confirm Merrick Garland as the attorney general in a 70 to 30 vote, with 20 Republicans joining all 50 Democrats in support of the former prosecutor and federal judge. Garland previously served as the Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia from 2013 until February 2020, and was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Obama in 2016. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), who declined to take up Garland’s Supreme Court nomination in 2016, joined Republican supporters of Garland’s confirmation, saying, “I’m voting to confirm Judge Garland because of his long reputation as a straight shooter and legal expert.”

The attorney general leads DOJ, which is responsible for administering immigration courts and adjudicating immigration cases through the interpretation and administration of federal immigration law. In Judiciary Committee hearings before his confirmation, Judge Garland discussed his family’s immigration history.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

There were no immigration-related government reports issued the week of Monday, March 8, 2021.

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

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

This 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.

Bill Summary: American Dream and Promise Act

This is a summary of the American Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6), 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.

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.

Public Charge Regulation Summary

This summary provides an overview of the Trump administration’s final rule that would redefine the meaning of the legal term “public charge.” Under the new, broadened definition of “public charge,” immigrants applying for a green card, an immigrant visa, or a temporary visa may be rejected if they have previously accessed or are deemed likely to rely on certain forms of public assistance.

* * *

*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.

Learn More

Read more about Advocacy Resources Landing Page

Article

Advocacy Resources Landing Page

Read more about Legislative Bulletin — Friday, March 5, 2021

Legislative Bulletin

Legislative Bulletin — Friday, March 5, 2021

Read more about Legislative Bulletin — Friday, February 26, 2021

Legislative Bulletin

Legislative Bulletin — Friday, February 26, 2021