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Legislative Bulletin — Friday, March 3, 2023

 

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.580

CCP Visa Ban Act

This bill would bar the issuance of B-1 and B-2 nonimmigrant visas to members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). 

Sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) (3 cosponsors — 3 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

03/01/2023 Introduced in the Senate by Sen. Marco Rubio

03/01/2023 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 584

North Korean Human Rights Reauthorization Act

This bill would reauthorize the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004 and require the State Department to try to increase the participation of North Korean refugees in U.S. and South Korean resettlement programs.

Sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) (1 cosponsor — 0 Republicans, 1 Democrat)

03/01/2023 Introduced in the Senate by Sen. Marco Rubio

03/01/2023 Referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

H.R. 1183

The Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act

This bill would heighten the credible fear standard to require that asylum seekers demonstrate that persecution is more probable than not, allow the Department of Homeland Security to remove asylum seekers to third countries absent bilateral agreements, and terminate asylum for those who return to their home country unless there’s a change in country conditions.

Sponsored by Rep. Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) (0 cosponsors)

02/24/2023 Introduced in the House by Rep. Mike Johnson

02/24/2023 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 1203

To withhold Federal financial assistance from each country that denies or unreasonably delays the acceptance of nationals of such country who have been ordered removed from the United States and to prohibit the issuance of visas to nationals of such country

Sponsored by Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) (0 cosponsors)

02/27/2023 Introduced in the House by  Rep. Brian Babin

02/27/2023 Referred to the House Committees on Foreign Affairs and the Judiciary

H.R. 1223

Diverting IRS Resources to the Exigent Crisis Today (DIRECT) Act

This bill would rescind balances from the Internal Revenue Service and redirect those funds to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Sponsored by Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-New York) (1 cosponsor—1 Republican, 0 Democrats)

02/27/2023 Introduced in the House by Rep. Claudia Tenney

02/27/2023 Referred to the House Committees on Appropriations and Ways and Means

H.R. 1325

Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act

This bill would shorten waiting periods for asylum seekers to be eligible for work authorization, allow asylum seekers to apply for authorization once they’ve filed an asylum claim, and do away with the two-year renewal schedule.

Sponsored by Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) (0 cosponsors)

03/01/2023 Introduced in the House by Rep. Chellie Pingree

03/01/2023 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate will be in session from Monday, March 6 through Thursday, March 9, 2023.

The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Tuesday, March 7 through Friday, March 10, 2023.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

During and After the Fall of Kabul: Examining the Administration’s Emergency Evacuation from Afghanistan

Date: Wednesday, March 8 at 10 a.m. ET (House Committee on Foreign Affairs)

Location: 210 Capitol, Washington, D.C.

Witnesses:

Francis Q. Hoang, Executive Chairman, Allied Airlift 21

 Lt. Col. (Ret.) David Scott Mann, Founder, Task Force Pineapple

Force Multipliers: Examining the Need for Additional Resources to Disrupt Transnational Crime at the Border and Beyond

Date: Wednesday, March 8 at 10 a.m. ET (House Committee on Oversight and Accountability)

Location: 2247 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C.

Witnesses: TBA

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

Unaccompanied Migrant Children Experience Labor Exploitation Across the US

On February 25, a New York Times report uncovered rampant child labor law violations affecting migrant kids across the country, who — after a clear breakdown of government operations and oversight — are working hazardous jobs in factories connected to some of the United States’ most common household brands. 

The Times investigation described “a new economy of exploitation” stretching across the country, including 12-year-old roofers, 13-year-old hotel cleaners, and 14-year-old construction workers. Many of the children are helping to make products that form part of the supply chain for major retailers.

As these children take on an adult workload, they struggle to keep up with school, and some of them ultimately drop out. Injuries are also regular occurrences, with migrant kids having their legs torn off or spines shattered on the job. 

Many of the exploited migrant children came to the U.S. without a parent or guardian, which makes them the responsibility of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) — and more specifically, the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Yet amid intense political pressure to expedite the transfer of unaccompanied migrant children to adult sponsors who could care for them, HHS had started cutting corners for quicker results. 

“If Henry Ford had seen this in his plants, he would have never become famous and rich. This is not the way you do an assembly line,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra told staffers last summer, pushing for faster discharges.

Soon, managers were raising flags that labor trafficking seemed to be on the rise as the Biden administration focused on quick rather than safe releases. The Times found out about a man in Pennsylvania who applied to sponsor over 20 kids, including a boy who eventually disappeared. In Texas, another man was allowed to sponsor 13 children, after convincing impoverished Guatemalan families to send their kids his way in a get-rich scheme. 

After the Times article was published, the Biden administration announced a slew of policies to crack down on child labor exploitation, including an interagency task force, efforts to hold employers accountable, mandated follow-ups with unaccompanied migrant children who report safety concerns, expanded post-release services for migrant kids, an audit of vetting processes for potential sponsors who have already sponsored a migrant child, and other steps.

Mexico Reconsiders Fast-Track Asylum Denials Amid US Proposed Rule

The week of February 20, Mexican officials launched a pilot program to consider expedited asylum denials for migrants expected to abandon their claims in Mexico and head north instead. 

But after the Biden administration proposed a new rule last week limiting US asylum eligibility for those who do not seek protection in a third country first, COMAR — Mexico’s refugee assistance agency — is having to reconsider its strategy.

Andrés Ramírez, the head of COMAR, said a large percentage of migrants are now beginning the asylum process in southern Mexico, only to use a preliminary document they receive in order to travel to the U.S.-Mexico border. 

“They are abusing the system,” Ramírez told CNN. “That shows us that many of these people are not really interested in (Mexico’s) refugee system and the asylum procedure.”

The pilot program was part of an effort to crack down on this perceived abuse. But with the Biden administration’s new proposed rule, asylum seekers traveling through a third country would face a rebuttable presumption of ineligibility unless they met one of several exceptions, including applying for and being denied asylum elsewhere first. 

Amid this expected policy change within the US, Ramírez now fears that attempts to fast track asylum denials in Mexico might counterintuitively encourage even more migration to his country by those trying to end up stateside. 

“The new policy that was recently announced [by the United States] changes the whole thing. We need to rethink it,” he said.

Undocumented Immigrants Are Leaving the U.S. in Large Numbers 

A March 1 New York Times report  revealed that immigrants in the United States have been returning to their home countries at an accelerated pace in recent years, in an effort to build a more comfortable life, reunify with family, and escape the former president Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda.

The US’s Mexican undocumented population declined dramatically between 2010 and 2020, plummeting from an estimated 6.6 million to 4.4 million people. Significant drops also occurred among undocumented immigrants from other countries such as Poland, the Philippines, Peru, South Korea, and Uruguay. 

“It’s a myth that everyone comes here and nobody ever leaves,” Robert Warren, a senior visiting fellow at the Center for Migration Studies, told the New York Times. “There’s a lot of people leaving the country, and they’re leaving voluntarily.” 

USCIS Reaches H-2B Cap for Second Half of Fiscal Year 2022

On March 2, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reported that the agency had received a sufficient number of petitions needed to reach the congressionally mandated 33,000 H-2B visa regular cap for the second half of fiscal year (FY) 2023. The H-2B visa is a nonimmigrant work visa that allows U.S. employers to hire temporary nonagricultural foreign workers.

USCIS also announced that the agency would start receiving petitions on March 14 for the supplemental 64,700 H-2B visas announced in December. Of the supplemental visas, 44,700 will be available for returning H-2B workers, and the remaining 20,000 will be reserved for nationals of Haiti, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

Legal

Immigrant Workers Win Legal Victory After 2018 Meatpacking Plant Raid

Immigrant workers at a Tennessee meatpacking plant that was raided in 2018 have reached an over $1 million settlement in what is likely the first class settlement regarding immigration raids at a work site. 

The lawsuit, brought by representatives from the National Immigration Law Center and the Southern Poverty Law Center, claimed federal agents used racial profiling and excessive force that violated the workers’ rights.  

Armed agents with the Department of Homeland Security and the Internal Revenue Service rushed into the rural Tennessee plant in April 2018 and rounded up nearly 100 immigrants. 

The immigration enforcement operation followed an I.R.S. tax investigation that had found evidence that the company owner was evading taxes by paying workers in cash. A search warrant authorized entry into the plant but did not allow for the arrest of any workers. 

The settlement reached in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee will not automatically allow workers to remain in the US. However, advocacy organizations will now try to obtain immigration relief and lawful permanent residency for class members in the lawsuit. 

The outcome is particularly important because federal agents were held accountable for overreaching and racial profiling,” Cornell Law School professor Stephen Yale-Loehr told the New York Times. 

Class members will receive $550,000, or $5,700 each, while six named plaintiffs will receive $475,000 under the Federal Tort Claims Act. 

Florida Governor DeSantis and Team File Motion to Dismiss Martha’s Vineyard Lawsuit

Governor Ron DeSantis (R-Florida) and other Florida officials are arguing that a Massachusetts federal court lacks jurisdiction over a lawsuit involving two flights they chartered last year that brought 49 migrants from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard in what critics have called a political stunt that verges on human trafficking. 

The case, brought by some of the affected migrants and an advocacy group, concerns claims that the planes’ passengers were induced by fraud and misrepresentation to take the flights. According to the lawsuit — which Florida officials are now seeking to dismiss — migrants were lured with false promises of jobs, housing, and other help in Boston and Washington, D.C.

Defendants also cited a form in an effort to prove the migrants had been told they were in fact going to Massachusetts — but that form’s language does not portray Martha’s Vineyard specifically as the plane’s destination, the Wall Street Journal reported.  

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO); DHS Financial Management: Actions needed to Improve Systems Modernization and Address Coast Guard Audit Issues; February 28, 2023

This report explores the Department of Homeland Security’s financial systems modernization programs, including related efforts at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (OIG); Violations of ICE Detention Standards at Richwood Correctional Center in Monroe, Louisiana; February 28, 2023

This report details standards violations at Richwood Correctional Center in Monroe, Louisiana, including problems with facility conditions, staff-detainee communications, legal visitations, etc. 

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

Alternative Pathways for Arrivals at the Border

The paper seeks to put the challenges we face at the southwest border in the broader context of growing displacement in the hemisphere, describing how many come to the border because there is no other real alternative — no “right way” to come.

Journey to the U.S. Southern Border

This interactive resource will allow you to experience a virtual journey where you’ll face the challenges a migrant family could encounter when making the journey to the U.S. – and consider what choices you would make.

What’s happening at the U.S.-Mexico border?

This resource provides a breakdown of the latest border-related headlines, including the expansion of Title 42, the Biden administration’s new border plan, and shelters reaching maximum capacity.

* * *

*This Bulletin is not intended to be comprehensive. Please contact Alexandra Villarreal, 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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