BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer Retirement Technical Corrections Act
The bill would provide access to enhanced retirement and annuity benefits to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers who entered into duty on or after July 6, 2008.
Sponsored by Senator Gary Peters (D-Michigan) (3 cosponsors— 1 Republican, 0 Democrats)
03/17/2022 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Peters
03/17/2022 Referred to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
A bill to add Ireland to the E-3 nonimmigrant visa program
The bill would add Ireland to the E-3 nonimmigrant visa program, which currently only allows Australian nationals to work in the U.S. in occupations that require theoretical and practical highly specialized knowledge and the attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree.
Sponsored by Senator Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) (1 cosponsor— 1 Republican, 0 Democrats)
03/17/2022 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Durbin
03/17/2022 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary
Border Patrol Pay Security Act of 2022
The bill would require U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to compensate border patrol agents with premium payments for overtime hours for work periods of 14 consecutive days.
Sponsored by Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) (3 cosponsors— 1 Republican, 2 Democrats)
03/17/2022 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Cornyn
03/17/2022 Referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
A bill to require the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to establish procedures for conducting maintenance projects at ports of entry at which the Office of Field Operations conducts certain enforcement and facilitation activities.
Sponsored by Senator James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) (0 cosponsors)
03/22/2022 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Lankford
03/22/2022 Referred to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
Visit America Act
The bill would formally authorize the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board and create an assistant secretary position within the Department of Commerce to coordinate America’s travel and tourism industry across federal agencies.
Sponsored by Representative Dina Titus (D-Nevada) (2 cosponsors— 1 Republican, 1 Democrat)
03/17/2022 Introduced in the House by Representative Titus
03/17/2022 Referred to the House Committees on Energy and Commerce, Foreign Affairs, and the Judiciary
Sanctioning Putin’s Enablers Act
The bill, among various provisions, would revoke and prohibit the issuance of any type of visas to government officials of Russia and Belarus who directly enabled Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022.
Sponsored by Representative Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Missouri) (0 cosponsors)
03/18/2022 Introduced in the House by Representative Luetkemeyer
03/18/2022 Referred to the House Committees on Foreign Affairs, Financial Services, and the Judiciary
LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR
UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS
Date: Tuesday, March 29, 2022 at 10:00 am E.T. (House Committee on the Budget)
Location: 210 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, D.C.
Witness: The Honorable Shalanda Young, Director of the Office of Management and Budget
Date: Wednesday, March 30, 2022 at 11:00 am E.T. (Senate Committee on the Budget)
Location: 608 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C.
Witness: The Honorable Shalanda Young, Director of the Office of Management and Budget
Date: Thursday, March 31, 2022 at 10:00 am E.T. (Senate Committee on the Budget)
Location: Virtual hearing
Witness: The Honorable Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services
THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK
Biden Administration Announces Plan to Resettle 100,000 Ukrainian Refugees in the US
On March 24, the Biden administration announced that it intends for the U.S. to accept 100,000 forced migrants from Ukraine and will provide $1 billion in humanitarian assistance for those displaced by the Russian invasion. The administration has stated it is considering a range of legal pathways to welcome Ukrainians, reportedly including the refugee resettlement program, expedited visa pathways, and humanitarian parole. The administration did not provide a timeline for resettlement or a breakdown of the intended pathways to be used in its announcement.
The announcement comes as the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program has struggled to quickly resettle even those Ukrainians already in the resettlement pipeline. According to a Reuter’s report just seven Ukrainians have been resettled in the U.S. between March 1 and 16. This is partially because resettlement operations in the region needed to be quickly moved out of Ukraine, but also because the entire system remains decimated from COVID-19 and Trump-era restrictions. Despite an overall resettlement ceiling set at 125,000 for Fiscal Year 2022, the administration is currently on track to resettle approximately 16,000 refugees.
Since the start of the invasion, over 3.4 million Ukrainians have fled to find refuge outside of the country. On March 20, the high commissioner for the U.N. Refugee Agency stated that “The war in Ukraine is so devastating that 10 million have fled—either displaced inside the country or as refugees abroad.”
Recent polls have found a large degree of support for the U.S. to take in Ukrainian refugees, with a March 4 Ipsos poll showing 74% of Americans in favor, a March 21 AP poll finding that 67% of Americans are in favor, and a March 24 Premise poll finding 79% in favor.
Immigration Provisions of America COMPETES Act Clear Their First Hurdle in the US Senate
On March 23, the U.S. Senate voted to move forward with resolving differences between two bills drafted by the House of Representatives and the Senate, respectively, to spur American competitiveness and innovation. The final, reconciled bill, which has gone by a number of different names (“USICA” in the Senate, “America COMPETES” in the House, and recently the Bipartisan Innovation Act), could contain a number of immigration provisions that initially passed the House iteration.
Among other provisions, the language from the House bill would establish a new class of nonimmigrant visas (W) for international entrepreneurs and essential employees affiliated with start-up entities. The bill would also exempt from annual green card limits individuals with PhDs in STEM fields. The bill also includes provisions designed to protect refugees from Hong Kong and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) who have been persecuted in China. Moreover, the bill provides access to citizenship for certain individuals adopted by a U.S. citizen.
On March 23, Senators Todd Young (R-Indiana) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) expressed openness to keeping such immigration provisions in the final bill as long as there is broad bipartisan support.
Biden Administration Posts New Interim Final Rule to Enhance Asylum Process
On March 22, the Biden administration posted a new interim final rule intended to improve and expedite the processing of asylum claims made by noncitizens subject to expedited removal at the border. The rule will allow U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) asylum officers to adjudicate asylum applications of certain recent border-crossers, alleviating the immigration court case backlog and lessening the wait time for families to have their cases heard.
The final rule also includes several changes from a version that was first proposed in August 2021, including alterations that address some due process concerns. For example, the rule allows asylum seekers more room to request reconsideration and to provide additional evidence for their cases. The rule also clarifies the expedited timeline for asylum claims under the new process, which may make it difficult for asylum seekers to access legal representation.
Under the rule, asylum seekers at the border who pass initial “credible fear interviews” will be placed into a non-adversarial, timely asylum adjudication process conducted by USCIS asylum officers.
The rule will go into effect 60 days from its publication in the federal register, scheduled for March 29.
New Report Shows that At Least 9,886 Migrants Expelled Under Title 42 Have Been Victims of Violent Attacks
On March 17, a Human Rights First report — published three days before the second anniversary of the implementation of Title 42 — revealed that at least 9,886 migrants expelled at the U.S.-Mexico border under Title 42 had been victims of kidnapping, torture, rape, and other violent attacks. Title 42 is a pandemic-era order that both the Trump and Biden administrations have used to rapidly expel arriving migrants without providing them the opportunity to seek asylum.
A March 24 CBS report highlighted that the Biden administration had launched a deportation operation to Colombia — which had not been previously reported — amid a sharp increase in arrivals of migrants from that country to the U.S.-Mexico border. According to the report, before the operation — which started on March 4 — the vast majority of Colombian migrants were allowed to stay and seek asylum in the U.S.
Advocacy groups and international organizations have widely criticized the policy. They argue that deportations under Title 42 are inconsistent with international norms and fail to uphold the fundamental human rights of migrants. According to numerous reports, the Biden administration is considering rolling back or ending Title 42 when it next comes up for CDC reauthorization in early April. On March 24, Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) and Mark Kelly (D-Arizona).
Report: March Border Data Reveals Seasonal Increase in Encounters
According to a March 24 Washington Post report, leaked data from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) show that the agency is on pace to encounter more than 200,000 migrants along the Southwest border in March. If confirmed, the number would represent a significant 18% increase from the 164,973 reported encounters in February.
According to the report, the uptick of migrant encounters has resulted in CBP border stations and tent facilities reaching capacity. They now hold more than 15,000 migrants per day. Last month, CBP averaged fewer than 7,500 in custody per day, according to the latest agency records.
The increase of migrant encounters across the border may be driven in part by seasonal trends, as the warmer spring months typically result in increased numbers at the border. Another factor could be a high number of repeat crossers — in February recidivism rates reached a months-long high of 30% across all encounters. The high recidivism rate is driven in part by the immediate expulsion of migrants under a pandemic-era rule called Title 42, which denies migrants access to the asylum system.
DHS Inspector General Calls for Immediate Relocation of Detainees from ICE Facility, Citing Unsanitary Conditions
On March 16, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) recommended the immediate relocation of all U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees located at the Torrance County Detention Facility in Estancia, New Mexico, citing staffing shortages that have led to “excessive and avoidable unsanitary conditions.”
The OIG conducted an unannounced inspection in early February 2022 to the Torrance Detention Facility. The inspection found that while the facility should be staffed with at least 245 people, only 133 staff members were present while the visit occurred. In addition, the OIG report highlights that 53% of detainee cells contained sinks and toilets that were out of service, clogged, moldy, and filled with human waste. Such inconveniences resulted in detainees sourcing drinking water from a communal faucet meant to be utilized for filling mop buckets.
In response to the report, ICE Acting Chief of Staff Jason Houser disagreed with the OIG conclusions and stressed that the agency is “fiercely committed to ensuring that noncitizens in its custody reside in safe, secure, and humane environments.”
Report Finds Population Loss in Two-Thirds of U.S. Counties
On March 24, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that more than 73% of U.S. counties experienced a population loss in 2021. According to the agency, the population loss can be attributed to decreased net international migration, decreased fertility, and increased mortality due in part to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The U.S. Census Bureau also reported that in 2021 the United States’ population only grew by 392,665, or 0.1% — the lowest rate since the nation’s founding. Additionally, 2021 represented the year with the lowest net immigration levels in decades. Even at reduced levels, immigration made up a majority of the population growth. The latest report from the Census Bureau showed a net gain of 244,000 new residents from immigration in 2021. In other words, immigrants represent around 62% of the latest annual population growth.
Ohio Federal Court Partially Blocks Biden Administration’s Immigration Enforcement Priorities
On March 22, a federal judge in Ohio blocked some provisions of the Department of Homeland Security’s Guidelines for the Enforcement of Civil Immigration Law. The guidelines — which took effect on November 29, 2021 — instruct U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers to exercise prosecutorial discretion and prioritize enforcement against immigrants who pose threats to national security, public safety, and border security.
The Ohio Federal Court argued that immigrants subject to mandatory detention and those with pending orders to be deported within 90 days could not be exempted from enforcement. In the Court’s opinion, DHS’s immigration enforcement guidelines ran afoul of congressional intent, violated federal policymaking rules, and placed an unfair burden on state budgets.
The breadth of the order’s impact was not immediately clear, but it did not appear to make all undocumented immigrants in the United States an equal target for arrest. Instead, the judge laid out specific instances in which the priorities may not apply.
As Part of Court Settlement, USCIS Agrees to Restore Path to Permanent Residency for TPS Holders
On March 21, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agreed to reopen and dismiss removal proceedings against certain Temporary Protected Status (TPS) beneficiaries and restore a path to permanent residency for TPS holders with immediate relatives and who meet the requirement to have been “inspected and admitted” into the U.S.
The agreement results from a new settlement in CARECEN v. Cuccinelli, a lawsuit filed in August 2020 by seven TPS holders and the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN), who sued the Trump administration for denying certain TPS beneficiaries the opportunity to adjust their immigration status and become permanent residents.
Department of Homeland Security – Office of the Inspector General (OIG): Management Alert – Immediate Removal of All Detainees from the Torrance County Detention Facility; March 16, 2022
This OIG report recommends the immediate relocation of all U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees located at the Torrance County Detention Facility in Estancia, New Mexico, due to unsafe, insecure, and unsanitary conditions.
SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES
This explainer focuses on humanitarian parole, a tool that allows certain individuals to enter the U.S. and temporarily stay without an immigrant or non-immigrant visa due to urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefits.
This paper explores the U.S. system for tracking entries, exits, and visa overstays, and discusses why — although it has been federally mandated for 26 years — we have been unable to fully implement a comprehensive entry/exit tracking system. The paper also describes some of the pros and cons of biometric data collection and issues a series of recommendations for the entry/exit system moving forward.
This resource analyzes the report from the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS), Office of Inspector General (OIG), issued on January 6, 2022, which raises concerns about USCIS’s management of the U-visa program and questions whether the program is fulfilling its intended purpose.
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*This Bulletin is not intended to be comprehensive. Please contact Arturo Castellanos-Canales, National Immigration Forum Policy and Advocacy Associate, with comments and suggestions of additional items to be included. Arturo can be reached at email@example.com. Thank you.