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Legislative Bulletin — Friday, March 15, 2024

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

BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

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. 

Federal

Biden Administration Releases Immigration Requests for Fiscal Year 2025 Budget

On March 11, President Joe Biden announced his budget for Fiscal Year 2025, including requests to shore up support for immigration processing and enforcement. 

His administration touted having already “secured more resources for border security than any President before him, … deployed the most agents and officers ever to address the situation at the southwest border, seized record levels of illicit fentanyl at our ports of entry, and brought together world leaders on a framework to deal with changing migration patterns that are impacting the entire Western Hemisphere.” 

In the Fiscal Year 2025 budget request, the Biden administration continued to focus on channeling large flows of money and personnel into the United States’ admittedly antiquated immigration system.

According to the White House, President Biden hopes to increase the budget for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by $1.9 billion compared to 2023. The package includes $405 million for 1,300 additional Border Patrol agents and $239 million for 1,000 additional CBP officers. The administration also wants to fund 34,000 ICE detention beds. 

In addition, Biden wants to hire much-needed asylum officers and provide resources to the immigration court system, with the aim of decreasing the growing case backlog. 

Notably, President Biden has also included a request for $4.7 billion as a “contingency fund” for DHS “for surge-related functions only.”

Biden Administration Expedites Issuance of Work Permits for Refugees

On March 12, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a streamlined process to provide Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) to refugees within 30 days after they enter the United States. Under the new process, USCIS will automatically fill out the employment authorization application forms for refugees. In addition, the agency will provide the Social Security Administration with the information required to assign them a Social Security number and card.

Under current law, refugees are allowed to work as soon as they enter the United States. However, obtaining EADs and SSNs was a cumbersome bureaucratic process that could delay refugees’ ability to work in the country for several months. 

Report: New Facial Recognition Requirement at Airports Causes Confusion for Migrants, Advocates

On March 14, the Associated Press reported that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has implemented a new mandatory screening through facial recognition technology for migrants who do not have proper photo identification, such as a passport. 

Before, migrants and asylum seekers could fly if they presented documents from U.S. Border Patrol. But now, their likeness is being cross-checked with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) information, and “if TSA cannot match their identity to DHS records, they will also be denied entry into the secure areas of the airport and will be denied boarding,” the agency told AP.

When migrants told advocates that they had been turned away at an airport in South Texas, confusion ensued over the new policy. 

“It caused a tremendous amount of distress for people,” Rev. Brian Strassburger, the executive director of Del Camino Jesuit Border Ministries, told AP. 

Legal 

El Paso Judge Rejects Texas’s Attack on Annunciation House, SCOTUS Extends Temporary Halt on S.B. 4 Amid New Lawsuit and Protests

On March 11, a state judge effectively blocked Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s efforts to subpoena the El Paso migrant shelter network, Annunciation House, in a case that has raised eyebrows nationwide for its threat to religious freedom and nonprofit services. 

The state gave Annunciation House a single day to turn over records about its clients, and when the shelter network asked a judge to provide clarity around which documents it could legally turn over, Texas officials counter-sued to shutter the operation.

“The Attorney General’s efforts to run roughshod over Annunciation House, without regard to due process or fair play, call into question the true motivation for the Attorney General’s attempt to prevent Annunciation House from providing the humanitarian and social services that it provides. There is a real and credible concern that the attempt to prevent Annunciation House from conducting business in Texas was predetermined,” Judge Francisco X. Dominguez said. 

Annunciation House’s founder and director Ruben Garcia said the state’s attack on his organization “kind of sends a shiver through all incorporated entities in the state of Texas, because people are going to ask, does this mean that the attorney general feels that they have the authority to arrive at any institution, any business, any entity, and just walk up and say, we are submitting a request to examine.”

“We’ve had volunteers leave because they’ve been concerned that they could somehow get caught up in this legal process,” Garcia added. “I’m sure it’s going to make other people who might consider volunteering think twice about wanting to volunteer.”

Meanwhile, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito extended his temporary pause on Texas’s Senate Bill 4 being implemented, with the law now on hold until at least Monday, March 18. At the same time, S.B. 4 — which imposes new state criminal penalties for unauthorized border crossings — is facing another legal challenge from an organization and several noncitizens who fear they could be negatively affected.

Over the weekend, hundreds of people protested the new law in front of the Texas Capitol, decrying it as “racist, degrading, and aggressive.”

“It has always been, you know, celebrated and cherished that we share a border with Mexico, that we’re vital to the community,”said Sarah Cruz, a policy and advocacy strategist for the ACLU of Texas. “This is us, you know, showing what our communities really are about, what we look like.”

Parole Programs for Four Countries Get Legal Green Light from Texas Federal Judge

On March 11, District Judge Drew Tipton — a Trump appointee — let the Biden administration proceed with its private sponsorship parole programs for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans in a huge victory for the White House and ordinary Americans hoping to welcome vulnerable migrants to safety.

Tipton ruled against Texas and other states, whose leadership had tried to jeopardize the future of the parole processes. “The Court finds that Plaintiffs have not proven that Texas has suffered an injury and therefore do not have standing to maintain this suit,” he wrote. 

Nan Langowitz, who sponsored two Venezuelan families and provided a declaration supporting the programs to the court, responded to the decision with enthusiasm. “I look forward to continuing to welcome other newcomers who can contribute their energy to our country,” she said.

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 are expected to be in session from Tuesday, March 19 through Friday, March 22, 2024.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

Here, we round up congressional hearings and markups happening in the field or in Washington. 

An Assessment of the Biden Administration’s Withdrawal from Afghanistan by America’s Generals

Date: Tuesday, March 19, 2024 at 1:00 p.m. EDT (House Foreign Affairs) 

Location: Rayburn 2172, Washington, D.C.

Witnesses: 

General Mark A. Milley (Retired), Fmr. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Department of Defense

General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. (Retired), Fmr. Commander of United States Central Command, U.S. Department of Defense

Fiscal Year 2025 Budget Request for the Department of Health and Human Services

Date: Wednesday, March 20, 2024 at 10:00 a.m. EDT (House Appropriations)

Location: 2358-C Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C.

Witnesses: 

The Honorable Xavier Becerra, Secretary, Department of Health and Human Services

Hearing with Health and Human Services Secretary Becerra

Date: Wednesday, March 20, 2024 at 2:00 p.m. EDT (House Ways and Means)

Location: 1100 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, D.C.

Witnesses: TBA (presumably Secretary Becerra) 

Strengthening International Cooperation to Stop the Flow of Fentanyl into the United States

Date: Wednesday, March 20, 2024 at 2:45 p.m. EDT (Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs) 

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

Witnesses: TBA

Hearing on the President’s Fiscal Year 2025 Budget

Date: Thursday, March 21, 2024 at 10:00 a.m. EDT (Senate Finance)

Location: 215 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C.

Witnesses: 

The Honorable Janet L. Yellen, Secretary, United States Department of the Treasury

President Biden’s Fiscal Year 2025 Budget Request and Economic Outlook

Date: Thursday, March 21, 2024 at 2:30 p.m. EDT (House Appropriations) 

Location: 2359 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C.

Witnesses: 

The Honorable Janet Yellen, Secretary, Department of the Treasury

The Honorable Shalanda Young, Director, Office of Management and Budget

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

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.

Congressional Research Service (CRS); DHS Border Barrier Funding Through FY2021; Updated March 4, 2024

This report explores the legal history of border barrier construction and looks into funding around such installations through Fiscal Year 2021.

Congressional Research Service (CRS); Measuring Wages in the Agricultural Sector for the H-2A Visa Program; Updated March 5, 2024

This report cross-references data from a variety of sources to demonstrate how wages in the agricultural sector have gone up more quickly than private-sector incomes generally in the United States.

U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO); Central America: USAID Should Strengthen Staffing and Fraud Risk Management For Initiative Addressing Migration to the U.S.; Published March 14, 2024

This report looks at the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Centroamérica Local (CL) program, its relationship to the U.S. Strategy for Addressing the Root Causes of Migration in Central America, its resource constraints, and its potential for fraud risk.

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: 

Border Security and Asylum Reform in the Emergency National Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2024: Bill Explainer

This explainer breaks down the major immigration and border policy changes in the bipartisan compromise that was defeated in the Senate.

A Better Way Forward: 2024 Immigration Principles

These principles reflect our deeply rooted values as a nation. We believe these are vital principles for any leader working for an orderly, secure and humane immigration system — especially amid an election year. 

Six Actionable Recommendations to Improve Safety and Wellbeing for Asylum-Seeking Families in the Context of the Biden Administration’s Fast-Tracked Deportations

This position paper details realistic policy changes that the Biden administration could make to help ensure asylum seekers enrolled in the Family Expedited Removal Management (FERM) program have access to a process that is as fair, efficient, and humane as possible in the context of fast-tracked proceedings.

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*This Bulletin is not intended to be comprehensive. Please contact Alexandra Villarreal, Senior Policy and Advocacy Associate at the National Immigration Forum, with comments and suggestions of additional items to be included. Alexandra can be reached at avillarreal@immigrationforum.org. Thank you.

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