Legislative Bulletin — Friday, March 26, 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. 863

Asylum Abuse Reduction Act

The bill would require asylum applicants to go through credible fear screenings conducted by an asylum officer via telephone or at a U.S. embassy or consulate before being considered for admittance into the United States for asylum purposes.

Sponsored by Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) (4 cosponsors — 4 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

03/18/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Inhofe

03/18/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 884

Stopping Border Surges Act

Among a number of asylum system restrictions, the bill would require asylum seekers in the U.S. to have already applied for and have been denied asylum in at least one country they traveled through en route to the U.S. Those passing through a third country without seeking asylum in that third country would not be eligible for asylum in the U.S. The bill would also limit asylum eligibility to those who apply at a port of entry, and it would allow migrant children to be held with their parents for longer than the 20-day limit currently set by the Flores settlement agreement.

Sponsored by Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) (6 cosponsors — 5 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

03/22/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Lee

03/22/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 858

The Preventing Visa Overstays Act

The bill would impose criminal penalties on those who overstay their visas. The bill would require individuals pay a fine of up to $500 per day that they remain in the U.S. past the expiration of their visas, or face a jail sentence of up to one year, or both.

Sponsored by Senator John Kennedy (R-Louisiana) (0 cosponsors)

03/18/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Kennedy

03/18/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 859

The Visa Lottery Repeal Act

The bill would eliminate the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program.

Sponsored by Senator John Kennedy (R-Louisiana) (0 cosponsors)

03/18/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Kennedy

03/18/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 875

Ending Sanctuary Cities Act

The bill would withhold federal grants from jurisdictions with “sanctuary” policies. It would also give additional legal protections to local law enforcement officers who cooperate with federal immigration officials.

Sponsored by Senator John Kennedy (R-Louisiana) (0 cosponsors)

03/18/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Kennedy

03/18/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 903

The End Child Trafficking Now Act

The bill would mandate DNA testing for migrants crossing the Southern border. The bill would require DHS to deport migrant adults if they refused a DNA test, and would establish criminal penalties, including up to a 10-year prison sentence, for adults who misrepresent their familial ties to a minor.

Sponsored by Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) (3 cosponsors — 3 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

03/23/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Blackburn

03/23/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 959

The Secure and Protect Act of 2021

This bill would modify the Flores settlement agreement to allow for children to be detained for up to 100 days and would amend the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) to allow for expedited deportations of unaccompanied immigrant children (UACs) from noncontiguous countries. It would also require asylum seekers to apply only at refugee processing centers in Northern Triangle and Mexico and add 500 new immigration judges.

Sponsored by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) (2 cosponsors — 2 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

03/24/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Graham

03/24/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. ___

The Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2021

This bill would close a loophole in the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (CCA), which has prevented internationally-adopted children, who are now adults, from receiving U.S. citizenship despite being raised by American parents.

Sponsored by Senator Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) (5 cosponsors — 3 Democrat, 2 Republicans)

03/26/2021 Introduced by Senator Blunt

H.R. 2003

Secure the Southern Border Act

The bill would enact into law several immigration-related executive orders and actions that were implemented during the Trump administration. These include actions related to building barriers on the Southern border, instituting the Migration Protection Protocols, and implementing restrictions to the asylum system.

Sponsored by Representative Lauren Boebert (R-Colorado) (10 cosponsors — 10 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

03/18/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Boebert

03/18/2021 Referred to the House Committees on Homeland Security, Armed Services, Oversight and Reform, Foreign Affairs, and on the Judiciary

H.R. 2004

No Amnesty Act

The bill would seek to defund a series of immigration-related executive orders and actions taken by the Biden administration in its first months in office. These actions include the February 18 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) memorandum setting agency priorities, the January 25 DHS memorandum expressing support for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and the February 5 executive order establishing a plan to create a regional framework for addressing the root causes of migration

Sponsored by Representative Lauren Boebert (R-Colorado) (10 cosponsors — 10 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

03/18/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Boebert

03/18/2021 Referred to the House Committees on Foreign Affairs, Armed Services, Intelligence, Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means, Homeland Security, and on the Judiciary

H.R. 2064

The bill would provide for certain protections for aliens granted temporary protected status or deferred enforced departure, and for other purposes.

Sponsored by Representative Chris Smith (R-New Jersey) (0 cosponsors)

03/18/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Smith

03/18/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 2086

The bill would simplify and rename the H-2C worker program.

Sponsored by Representative Rick Crawford (R-Arkansas) (2 cosponsors — 2 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

03/19/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Crawford

03/19/2021 Referred to the House Committees on Energy and Commerce, Education and Labor, and the Judiciary

H.R. 2162

The Criminalize Fleeing from Immigration Enforcement Act

The bill would make it a federal crime to flee from law enforcement officials when being pursued for improper entry and other immigration related infractions.

Sponsored by Representative Matthew Rosendale (R-Montana) (9 cosponsors — 9 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

03/23/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Rosendale

03/23/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 2180

Redirecting Resources to the Border Act

The bill would redirect materials and personnel currently dedicated to protecting the U.S. Capitol building to be used at the Southern border. The bill would also require the Secretary of Defense to reassign members of the National Guard deployed to the U.S. Capitol to be moved to the southern border.

Sponsored by Representative Randy Weber (R-Texas) (12 cosponsors — 12 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

03/24/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Weber

03/24/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate and the U.S. House will not be in session the week of March 29, 2021.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

There are no immigration-related hearings or markups currently scheduled for the week of March 29, 2021.

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

Bipartisan Group of Senators Meet to Discuss Immigration Reform

According to a March 24 report in Politico, Senate Democrats and Republicans met for the first significant bipartisan meeting on immigration reform this Congress. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) organized the meeting to assess bipartisan support for immigration legislation, with senators on both sides of the aisle acknowledging that comprehensive reform is unlikely. Democrats advocated for bringing up two pieces of bipartisan legislation recently passed by the House of Representatives that would provide relief to Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients, and workers and farmers in the agriculture industry. Republicans reportedly requested that increased border security funding be included in any reform efforts.

Following the meeting, Senator Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) said, “It was a good first discussion, nobody’s taken themselves out. I thought they were all genuinely interested.”

In addition to Senators Durbin and Tillis, attendees at the meeting included Republican Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota), joined by Democratic Senators Alex Padilla (D-California), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona), Chris Coons (D-Delaware), Michael Bennet (D-Colorado), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada) and Ben Ray Lujan (D-New Mexico).

According to the report, the group plans to meet again to continue negotiations and discuss specific proposals.

Biden Administration Plans Additional Intake Facilities to House Unaccompanied Children

The week of March 22, the Biden administration announced a series of additional measures it is taking to respond to the continued arrival of unaccompanied children at the southern border.

On March 23, the administration announced it plans to open a second influx facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas to care for unaccompanied kids, with an initial capacity of 500 beds but with the possibility of adding semi-permanent additional space. The shelter would be run under the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). According to a March 24 report, HHS officials also requested the use of space in two Texas military bases, Fort Bliss and Joint Base San Antonio, to temporarily house an additional 5,300 children.

According to a March 20 report, the Biden Administration is also working with a Texas nonprofit called Endeavors to house children in private hotels. Private hotels were previously controversially used by the Trump administration to detain and quickly expel children without providing access to lawyers or family members. The Biden administration has stated that children who are moved on to influx facilities or hotels under HHS care will be treated according to applicable state standards of care. However, legal service providers, press, and other nongovernmental organizations have largely been denied access to the CBP facilities.

In addition to increasing ORR capacity by making use of additional intake facilities and hotels, the Biden administration has also announced it will begin expediting the process to release certain minors to family members in the U.S. Under the expedited process, which will free up space in shelters, ORR will allow sponsors who are direct parents or guardians of migrant children to submit photos of required documents and paperwork via text messaging, instead of requiring hard copies to be provided in person.

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. The recent increase in arriving children has caused ORR shelters to reach operational capacity, resulting in a backup of children in overcrowded CBP holding centers, which are not designed to care for or house children. As of March 24, 4,962 unaccompanied children were in CBP custody, while 11,551 have been transferred to ORR. Children are spending an average of five days in CBP custody, two days beyond the legal limit.

While overall apprehensions at the border has risen in recent months, and particularly those of unaccompanied children, a March 25 Washington Post analysis suggested that the increase is largely attributable to seasonal increases in migration, boosted by migrants who delayed their travel in 2020 for pandemic-related reasons.

Biden Taps Vice President Harris to Lead Response to Humanitarian Border Crisis as Administration Plans Bilateral Response

On March 24, President Joe Biden tapped Vice President Kamala Harris to lead the administration’s response to the increase in unaccompanied children (UACs) at the Southern border. In this role, Harris will have additional responsibility for diplomatic engagement with other countries in the region. The announcement comes as the administration develops a bilateral response to the current situation that will address the root causes and push factors driving migration from Central American countries. Vice President Harris said of the assignment that, “the work will not be easy, but it is important work.”

The Vice President will oversee ongoing conversations between the U.S. and Mexico. On March 23, senior U.S. and Mexico officials met to discuss a bilateral response to border situation. Attendees included Roberta Jacobson, an advisor to the Biden administration on border issues, and Juan Gonzalez, senior director for the Western Hemisphere at the National Security Council. The officials met with Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard. According to a statement from the Mexican government, the discussion included a conversation about both short-term and long-term solutions to address the root causes of migration in Central America.

The U.S. delegation also held meetings with the Guatemalan government on March 24.

CBP Releasing Some Migrant Families Without Immigration Court Notices

According to a March 22 report, CBP is releasing certain migrant families with young children without official notices to appear in immigration court. CBP facilities in the Rio Grande Valley are becoming overcrowded, and the move to release some migrants with “To Be Determined” court dates is designed to reduce the amount of time families spend in detention. Customs and Border Protection is reportedly collecting contact information from these individuals.

While some asylum-seeking families who are determined to be vulnerable are being apprehended and then released on alternatives to detention, most continue to be immediately expelled under a Trump-era health rule called Title 42. Over 70% of all arriving migrants, including some families with small children, continue to be expelled under the rule.

More than 200 Organizations Join Democrats in Urging Biden to Approve Revised Refugee Admissions Goal

On March 24, more than 200 local, state, and national organizations sent a letter to President Biden urging him to sign a new Presidential Determination that would raise the refugee ceiling for Fiscal Year (2021). The Biden administration announced on February 6 that it planned to raise the admissions ceiling for the current fiscal year to 62,500, a significant increase from the historic low of 15,000 set by the Trump administration in October 2020. Biden further stated the new ceiling would be returning to a regional allocation model for refugees under the cap based on vulnerability and need. However, as of March 26, Biden has not yet signed the new determination and has not provided reasons for the delay.

The letter urging the President to sign the Determination was spearheaded by Refugee Council USA and joined by a number of faith, business, labor, and advocacy organizations. The letter stated that “we are in an important moment where it is time to restore U.S. global leadership on refugee protection and resettlement.”

According to a March 24 report, Democratic lawmakers are also asking Biden administration to provide an explanation for the delay. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) said, “He has not signed them yet, and I do not know why he has not yet signed those documents. I will be asking the administration.”

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. In a March 17 meeting, White House chief of staff Ron Klain reportedly said that the determination would be signed “soon.”

Legal

GAO Launches Legal Review of Border Wall Construction Freeze

According to a March 23 report, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) is reviewing the legality of the Biden administration’s pause on the construction of a wall along the southern border. The report comes after a group of 40 Senate Republicans sent a letter to GAO accusing the Biden administration of violating federal law by refusing to spend congressionally appropriated funds on border wall construction. The Biden administration has said that the spending freeze is to buy time for officials to create a new plan for the money, and that the pause has been a formal and public process.

The freeze on border barrier construction was part of several immigration-related executive actions President Biden took on his first day in office. The January 20 proclamation included language concerning the “redirection of funds concerning the southern border wall, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law.” The proclamation further stated that it would be “subject to the availability of appropriations.”

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

Congressional Research Service: Asylum Processing at the Border: Legal Basics; March 19, 2021

This report focuses on the legal basics of asylum processing at the border and what the Biden administration is currently doing to handle the number of applicants. Recently, there has been an increase in the arrival of non-US nationals, particularly unaccompanied alien children, who do not have visas or valid entry documents at the southern border. The Biden administration has so far primarily relied on Title 42, a pandemic-related policy evoked by the Trump administration, which permits Department of Homeland Security to turn away undocumented immigrants at the border without processing.

Office of the Inspector General: DHS’ Fragmented Approach to Immigration Enforcement and Poor Planning Resulted in Extended Migrant Detention during the 2019 Surge; March 18, 2021

The Office of the Inspector General conducted this review to identify the issues Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) has faced when complying with requirements for detaining individuals. In 2019, CBP had difficulty transferring detainees in under 72 hours, and was therefore holding individuals for longer than allowed. The review found that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had an insufficient number of beds to provide for the facilities, which meant that ICE could not keep up with CBP apprehensions. Despite the backlogs and poor conditions, CBP did not exercise its authority to release individuals from custody.

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

Experts Discuss Solutions to Address the Situation at the Border

This resource provides recording of a roundtable convened by the Council on National Security and Immigration and the National Immigration Forum focused on pragmatic solutions to addressing the current situation at the southern border. The page also includes links to a number of border-focused resources and reports from the participating organizations and experts.

Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2019: Bill Summary

This is a summary of the Adoptee Citizenship Act, which was recently reintroduced in the House and Senate and which would provide U.S. citizenship to individuals born outside of the United States who were adopted as children by American parents.

Dream Act of 2019: Bill Summary

This is a summary of the Dream Act, which was reintroduced by Senators Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) on February 4, 2021. The bill would provide Dreamers – young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and have lived in the U.S. for most of their lives – with protection from deportation and an opportunity to obtain legal status if they meet certain requirements.

* * *

*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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