Legislative Bulletin — Friday, March 19, 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

H.R. 6

American Dream and Promise Act of 2021

The bill would provide immigration status to eligible Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) holders. It would also provide a pathway to status for certain individuals who came to the U.S. legally as children but have “aged out” of status while their parents remain on nonimmigrant visas or in the green card backlog.

Sponsored by Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (175 cosponsors — 175 Democrats, 0 Republicans)

03/03/2021 Introduced by Representative Roybal-Allard

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

03/18/2021 Passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 228-197

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) (23 cosponsors — 12 Republicans, 11 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

03/18/2021 Passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 247-174

H.R. 1883

The Protect America First Act

The bill would enact a series of provisions restricting immigration and immigrants in the U.S. The bill would impose a four-year moratorium on all immigration to the U.S., and would attempt to revoke Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protections for Dreamers. The bill would also restrict funding for jurisdictions with “sanctuary” policies, provide additional funding for a border barrier, reinstitute the Trump administration’s Zero Tolerance Policy at the border, and call for the rescission of several Biden administration executive orders related to immigration.

Sponsored by Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) (1 cosponsor — 1 Republican, 0 Democrats)

03/12/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Greene

03/12/2021 Referred to the House Committees on Homeland Security, Ways and Means, Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, Armed Services, Energy and Commerce, House Administration, Science, Space, and Technology, and the Judiciary

H.R. 1897

Requiring Every Alien Receive a COVID-19 Test (REACT) Act

The bill would require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to test all migrants who are apprehended upon crossing the border without authorization to test negative for COVID-19 before being released on alternatives to detention. The bill would apply to all individuals who are released within 30 days of entry into the United States.

Sponsored by Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa) (2 cosponsors — 2 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

03/16/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Miller-Meeks

03/16/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 1901

Stopping Border Surges Act

The bill would allow DHS to detain unaccompanied migrant children for longer than the current maximum-allowable 20 days. The bill also makes a number of other changes to the asylum system.

Sponsored by Representative Andy Biggs (R-Arizona) (26 cosponsors — 26 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

03/16/2021 Introduced by Representative Biggs

03/16/2021 Referred to the House Committees on Foreign Affairs and the Judiciary

H.R. 1909

Citizenship for Essential Workers Act

The bill would create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers in America who have determined to be “essential” by the Department of Homeland Security. The bill would provide a pathway to status for an estimated 5 million undocumented workers and their families. The Senate companion bill is S.747.

Sponsored by Representative Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) (52 cosponsors — 52 Democrats, 0 Republicans)

03/16/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Castro

03/16/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 1935

The Guard Our Border Act

The bill would call for the reassignment of 95% of the National Guard currently deployed in the Washington, D.C. region to the southern border to assist with securing the border and managing and caring for crossing migrants.

Sponsored by Representative Gregory Murphy (R-North Carolina) (3 cosponsors — 3 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

03/16/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Murphy

03/16/2021 Referred to the House Committee on Armed Services

H.R. 1941

To waive certain naturalization requirements for United States nationals.

Sponsored by Representative Auma Amata Coleman Radewagen (R-American Samoa) (3 cosponsors — 1 Republican, 2 Democrats)

03/16/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Radewagen

03/16/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 1958

To amend the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 to provide for the expedited removal of unaccompanied alien children who are not victims of a severe form of trafficking in persons and who do not have a fear of returning to their country of nationality or last habitual residence.

Sponsored by Representative John Carter (R-Texas) (0 cosponsors)

03/17/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Carter

03/17/2021 Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs

H.R. 1995

Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act

This bill seeks to prohibit gang members from entering the U.S., allows for their deportation if they are already in the U.S, and disqualifies them from receiving asylum or temporary protected status.

Sponsored by Representative Lee Zeldin (R-New York) (1 cosponsor — 1 Republican, 0 Democrats)

03/17/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

03/17/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative

S. 747

Citizenship for Essential Workers Act

The bill would create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers in America who have determined to be “essential” by the Department of Homeland Security. The bill would provide a pathway to status for an estimated 5 million undocumented workers and their families. The House companion bill is H.R. 1909.

Sponsored by Senator Alex Padilla (D-California) (1 cosponsor — 1 Democrat, 0 Republicans)

03/15/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Padilla

03/15/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 772

Responsibility for Unaccompanied Minors Act

The bill would provide additional protections for unaccompanied migrant children (UACs), including by making the Office of Refugee Resettlement responsible for continuing to oversee the care of UACs even after their placement with a sponsoring family.

Sponsored by Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) (3 cosponsors — 2 Democrats, 1 Republican)

03/16/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Portman

03/16/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate will be in session the week of March 22, 2021

The U.S. House of Representatives will not be in session the week of March 22, 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

Federal

House Passes Immigration Reform Legislation for Dreamers, TPS Holders, Agriculture Sector

On March 18, the U.S. House of Representatives passed two pieces of bipartisan immigration reform legislation that would provide relief to Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients, and workers and farmers in the agriculture industry.

The House first passed the Dream and Promise Act in a 228-197 vote, with 9 Republicans joining all 219 House Democrats in supporting the measure. The bill would provide protection from deportation and an eventual path to permanent legal status for Dreamers, or those who came to the U.S. as children without authorization. The bill would also provide a path to legal status for TPS holders, resulting in more than 3 million people who would be eligible for legal status under the bill.

The House also passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act in a 247-174 vote, with 30 Republicans joining 217 Democrats in support of the bill. The bill would streamline and reform the H-2A agricultural guestworker program, provide a pathway to legal status for eligible undocumented farmworkers, and require agriculture employers to implement a reformed “E-Verify” program to ensure workers are authorized.

Versions of both bills passed the House in 2019, but neither were acted on by the Senate. Now, the Senate will have a new opportunity to take up immigration legislation addressing Dreamers, TPS holders, and the agricultural sector. President Biden released two statements expressing his support for the bills upon their passage in the House. On the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, he wrote that, “my Administration is ready to work with leaders on both sides of the aisle” to move the legislation forward in the Senate.

Biden Administration Opens Additional Intake Facilities to Care for Arriving Unaccompanied Children

As part of its continued efforts to respond to an increase in unaccompanied children arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, on March 16 the Biden administration announced that it would be opening two new intake facilities in Midland, Texas and Dallas, Texas. Together, the new shelters will be able to host up to 3,700 children and will primarily be used to house teenaged boys when there is not enough room in state-licensed Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) shelters.

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 ORR shelters, where they are then processed on to family members and other vetted sponsors as their immigration court cases proceed. According to numerous recent reports, the recent increase in arriving children has caused ORR shelters to reach operational capacity, resulting in a backup of children in CBP holding centers, which are not designed to care for or house children. Children are spending an average of 117 hours in CBP holding centers, significantly longer than the maximum-allowable 72 hours. Legal service providers and other nongovernmental organizations have been denied access to the CBP facilities.

The Biden administration previously reopened an influx facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas, that holds up to 700 children under ORR care while they wait to be processed on to a sponsor. FEMA is assisting with setting up the two new intake facilities, which will also be operated under the care of ORR and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Local nonprofits will assist these agencies in staffing the temporary shelters, and all children who are housed in them will first be screened for Covid-19.

According to a March 17 report, there are a total of 13,000 unaccompanied children currently in U.S. custody. Most families and other adults arriving at the border, including asylum seekers, continue to be summarily expelled to Mexico or their home countries under the Title 42 rule implemented under the Trump administration. Civil society organizations on the Mexican side of the border have worked to house and protect arriving migrants who are turned away, but their capacity is stretched thin.

Recently, at the encouragement of the U.S. government, the Mexican government has begun ramping up the deportation of migrants back to their home countries. Mexico has also increased enforcement at its southern border with Guatemala to prevent migrants from traveling north.

DHS Secretary Mayorkas Testifies on Situation at the Border

On March 17, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testified before the House Homeland Security Committee, focusing his testimony on the Biden administration’s response to the increase in migration at the southern border. On March 16, Secretary Mayorkas also released a statement regarding the situation at the border and the steps DHS has taken to address it.

In the hearing, Mayorkas responded to Republican committee members’ claims that the influx of migrants at the border was the result of the Biden administration policy to take in unaccompanied children. Mayorkas stated that the decision by the prior administration to immediately expel and deport unaccompanied children was “deplorable and absolutely unacceptable,” arguing that “sometimes the tools of deterrence defy values and principles for which we all stand.”

The situation at the border has become a touchpoint in the public and political conversation. Over the course of the week, a series of Democratic and Republican lawmakers have taken trips to the border to observe and comment on the situation. On March 19, Mayorkas himself visited the border along with a bipartisan group of Senators to receive a closed-door briefing on the processing of unaccompanied children.

In his statement on the border, Secretary Mayorkas concluded, “I came to this country as an infant, brought by parents who understood the hope and promise of America. Today, young children are arriving at our border with that same hope. We can do this.”

In the context of the Biden administration’s policy changes at the border, including a pause in the construction of border barriers, a group of 40 Senate Republicans sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office accusing the administration of violating federal law by refusing to spend congressionally appropriated funds on border wall construction.

House Republicans Announce Comprehensive Immigration Reform Platform

On March 17, a group of 12 Republican members of Congress, led by Representative Maria Salazar (R-Florida), announced a comprehensive immigration reform approach that included a lengthy path to citizenship for the undocumented population, border security and asylum system reform provisions, and changes to the H-2A and H-2B temporary guestworker programs. The platform, which Representative Salazar is calling the “Dignity Plan,” is framed as a response the Biden administration’s own comprehensive immigration reform platform, the U.S. Citizenship Act, which has been introduced in both the House and Senate but has not been acted upon in either chamber.

The proposal, currently released in the form of a draft one-page document, includes five titles, broadly covering border security, Dreamers, the broader undocumented population, guest worker reform, and the creation of a small business stimulus fund. Dreamers would be offered immediate legal status under the plan, but other undocumented individuals would be required to spend 10 years on a new work visa status before they would be able to transition to a five-year path to eligibility for citizenship. The border security provisions, which include additional resources for new technology at the border and asylum system reforms, would be required to be completed before the legalization reforms are implemented.

Representative Salazar was joined in support of the proposal by Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Florida), John Curtis (R-Utah), Burgess Owens (R-Utah), Fred Upton (R-Michigan), Dan Newhouse (R-Washington), David Valadao (R-California), Claudia Tenney (R-New York), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pennsylvania), Peter Meijer (R-Michigan), Blake Moore (R-Utah), and Carlos Giménez (R-Florida), as well as Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina).

“No party holds a monopoly on compassion,” Salazar said at a press conference announcing the platform. “We want for those 11 million undocumented who are here in this country to be treated with dignity.”

White House Chief of Staff Says Refugee Ceiling Will be Raised “Soon”

In a March 17 meeting with the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), White House chief of staff Ron Klain stated that the Biden administration will be signing a new presidential determination to increase the number of refugees admitted into the U.S. “soon,” according to CPC Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington).

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. 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 18, 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 canceled in the coming weeks if a determination is not signed.

Lawmakers and faith leaders have expressed concern that the determination has not yet been signed. Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) said, “They have consulted with us, talked about the numbers and their dramatic change in the Trump era. But in terms of the actual implementation of that, I don’t know their timetable.”

Administration Opens Registration Period for Syrians to Extend or Apply for TPS

On March 19, DHS opened the registration period for Syrians to apply for or extend their Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

On January 29, DHS had announced an extension and redesignation of TPS for Syria for 18 months, stating that the decision was made after review of conditions in the country, which include “ongoing armed conflict” and “severe humanitarian crisis” resulting from the continued civil war.

With the registration period now open, 6,700 Syrians currently benefiting from TPS will be able to re-register and stay on TPS through September 2022. The re-registration period will last 60 days and end on May 18. In addition, 1,800 recently arrived Syrians will be able to receive TPS protections for the first time. The registration period for these individuals will last 180 days and end on September 15.

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

DOL Delays of Wage Rule Targeting Employment-Based Immigration

On March 12, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced it would delay the implementation of a rule that would made it much more expensive for employers to hire certain types of high-skilled immigrants and visa holders. The Trump-era rule would have required employers hiring immigrants on H1-B specialty occupation visas and employment-based green cards to pay significantly higher salaries to immigrant workers than under the current system of employment sponsorship. Under the current system, employers must pay a “prevailing wage” determined by DOL to sponsor foreign nationals as skilled workers. The wage rule, issued first by the Trump administration in October but then re-issued on January 14, would have required wages paid to foreign workers to increase between 23% to 41% relative to the current system.

On February 1, the Biden administration implemented a regulatory freeze on the wage rule, along with a number of other Trump-era regulatory actions, pending further review. The March 12 delay also includes an additional public comment period on the issue, giving the Biden administration further opportunity to reconsider the rule.

State and Local

Arizona Senate Approves Legislation Allowing Undocumented Students to Pay In-State Tuition

On March 16, the Arizona state Senate passed a resolution that would let Arizona voters decide whether undocumented students will be able to pay in-state tuition and receive financial aid from state universities. The resolution, which was supported by a bipartisan coalition, partially repeals Proposition 300, a 2006 state law that prevents undocumented Arizonans from accessing a number of public benefits. Arizona is one of just three states that deny undocumented students access to in-state tuition.

The resolution will now be voted on by the Arizona House, where passage would set it on a path to go before Arizona voters in 2022.

Utah Governor Signs Law Allowing Noncitizens to Serve as Police Officers

On March 16, Utah governor Spencer Cox signed into law a bill that allows certain qualified noncitizens with work authorization to become police officers. The bill removes the previous requirement that law enforcement officers be U.S. citizens, permitting otherwise qualified lawful residents who have been in the United States for at least five years and have employment authorization to be eligible. The bill originally required that noncitizens be green card holders in order to be eligible, but this provision was later removed via amendment in the Utah state house.

State Representative Paul Ray (R-Utah), who sponsored the bill in the Utah House, noted that allowing noncitizens to become police officers would help resolve a “huge shortage” in Utah police departments.

Personnel and Nominations

Xavier Becerra Confirmed as Secretary of Health and Human Services

On March 18, the Senate voted to confirm Xavier Becerra as the secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) in a 50-49 vote, with Susan Collins (R-Maine) joining 49 Democrats in support of his nomination. Relevant to immigration, HHS plays a key role in overseeing the housing and treatment of arriving unaccompanied children. Becerra will also be broadly responsible for overseeing the administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Becerra previously served as in the U.S. House of Representatives for 24 years and as attorney general of California. The son of Mexican immigrants, he will be the first Latino to lead HHS.

The Senate has now confirmed 20 of 23 Cabinet-level positions. Former Boston Mayer Marty Walsh, who has been nominated to lead the Department of Labor, has a confirmation vote scheduled on the Senate floor for March 22.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

Congressional Research Service: Do Warrantless Searches of Electronic Devices at the Border Violate the Fourth Amendment; March 17, 2021

This Congressional Research Service analysis describes the “border search exception” to the Fourth Amendment requirement that government searches and seizures be reasonable and be the result of a warrant based on probable cause.  The report focuses specifically on whether warrantless searches of an arriving individuals’ electronic device qualifies under this border search exception. It discusses Alasaad v. Mayorkas, a recent case in which 10 U.S. citizens and one green-card holder had their cell phones searched by CBP and ICE officials upon their return to the United States following trips abroad.

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. The explainer also includes a Facebook live discussion covering the latest state of play at the border.

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.

Bill Summary: Farm Workforce Modernization Act

This is a bill summary of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H.R. 1537), which seeks to reform the process by which temporary foreign workers come to the United States to work in agriculture. The bill includes a pathway to legalization for certain undocumented agricultural workers and reforms to the existing H-2A temporary agricultural workers visa program.

* * *

*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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