Legislative Bulletin – Friday, March 30, 2018

BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED

H. R. 5414

Help Separated Families Act of 2018

This bill seeks to make policy changes to keep children of detained or deported parents united with family members. It would amend part E of title IV of the Social Security Act. This amendment would ensure that immigration status alone does not disqualify a parent, legal guardian, or relative from being a placement for a foster child.

Sponsored by Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (D – California) (1 cosponsor – 1 Democrat)

03/26/2018 Introduced in the House by Representative Roybal-Allard

03/26/2018 Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives will be out of session the week of Monday, April 2, 2018.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

There are no relevant hearings or markups scheduled for the week of Monday, April 2, 2018.

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

Trump Administration To Curb Immigration by Broadening “Public Charge” Definition

President Trump Administration reportedly plans to issue a rule that would disqualify immigrants who accept almost any form of welfare or public benefit from receiving permanent residency in the U.S.  The proposal that is allegedly under review by the administration, and awaits final approval, would require immigration officers to use much stricter rules when determining whether the applicants can be considered, or are likely to become, a “public charge.”

The current guidelines direct the caseworkers to penalize applicants, who receive cash welfare payments, but the proposed changes would extend the “public charge” definition to include  broadly used earned-income tax credit, health insurance subsidies, and other “non-cash” public benefits. The changes would impact certain foreigners seeking employment or family based immigrant visas, or green cards, and could affect some Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals beneficiaries. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plans to publish the proposed rule changes in the Federal Register for public comment.

President Trump Proposes the Military Fund the Border Wall

President Trump reportedly pressed for the U.S. military to fund construction of a border wall, along the U.S.-Mexico border, after Congress appropriated only $1.6 billion for the project in this year’s omnibus spending bill. President Trump allegedly suggested to Speaker Paul Ryan and Secretary of Defense James Mattis that the Pentagon could fund the project, because the Defense Department received a significant increase in funding as part of the spending bill package.  A Defense Department official, however, noted that reprogramming the funds for a border wall would require an act of Congress, including 60 votes in the Senate. President Trump would likely have to submit the proposal to Congress as a budget amendment.

Last week, President Trump threatened to veto the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill, saying he was frustrated it did not include a deal fully funding a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border in exchange for a solution for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The White House previously rejected several proposals that tied $25 billion in border security in exchange for a permanent solution for Dreamers.

Trump’s Administration Adds Citizenship Question to U.S. Census

U.S. Department of Commerce announced it would include a citizenship question in the 2020 U.S. Census. Critics warned that such a step could lead to an enormous drop in the participation of immigrants, who would worry that the immigration authorities could use the information to deport them. A drop in the response rate would result in undercounting the U.S. population, affecting everything from the distribution of federal funds to redrawing congressional districts.

The decision to add a citizenship question to the census sparked backlash from congressional Democrats and civil rights advocates. A number of States are also planning to sue the administration over the action. The White House sees the decision as “necessary for the Department of Justice to protect voters.” The announcement came just days before the March deadline to finalize census questions.

Trump Administration to Require 5 Years of Visa Applicants’ Social Media History

President Trump’s administration reportedly plans to require almost all visa applicants to submit five years of histories for a number of specific social media platforms identified by the government. The visa-seekers will also have the option of submitting handles for other social media. The decision, which is expected to affect nearly 15 million future visa applicants, will not go into effect immediately. After publication of the planned change on Friday, March 30, the general public will have 60 days to comment on it. Besides the argument that the move is an invasion into applicants’ privacy, critics are concerned that it will prolong the visa application process and make it more difficult for some to get approved. This proposed change tracks with the administration’s emphasis on “extreme-vetting.”

Trump Winds Down Special Status for Liberian Immigrants

On Tuesday, March 27, President Trump issued an executive action ending the Deferred Enforcement Departure(DED) program shielding over 4,000 Liberian immigrants, many of whom have lived in the United States for decades. Since 1999, the DED has provided temporary U.S. residence and work authorization to eligible Liberians affected by war, civil unrest, and disease outbreaks in the West African country. The administration’s decision was based on the belief that Liberia has made significant progress in restoring stability and democratic governance. Liberia’s DED is set to expire at the end of March 2018, but a 12-month “wind-down” period extends the termination of DED until March 31, 2019.

ICE’s New Policy Allows Detention of Pregnant Women

President Trump’s administration is reportedly ending a policy that excludes pregnant women from immigration detention. A new internal directive that went into effect on Thursday, March 29, allows U.S. immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to treat pregnant detainees as any other, except for providing them with necessary medical aid. The authorities will also keep a record of pregnant women in custody. The change was made by the ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan. He also authored the previous 2016 policy that directed ICE officers not to detain pregnant women unless a mandatory detention was required due to extraordinary circumstances. According to ICE, the new policy aligns better with the President’s executive order on interior enforcement. There are currently 35 pregnant women under ICE custody.

Legal

Justice Department, West Palm Beach Settle Lawsuit Over Sanctuary City Policies

On Tuesday, March 27, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Florida city of West Palm Beach  reached a legal settlement over the city’s immigration policies. West Palm Beach filed the lawsuit after the Justice Department flagged the city as one of the 23 jurisdictions that restrict cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration officials. As part of the settlement, the city is required to issue a memo to its employees clarifying that its policies do not prohibit information sharing with DHS. In return, the Justice Department confirmed that the city is in compliance with Section 1373, a federal law that focuses on the exchange of information between federal, state, and local agencies.

In January, Attorney General Jeff Sessions requested documents detailing compliance with Section 1373 from 23 jurisdictions—including West Palm Beach—and threatened to subpoena jurisdictions that failed to do so. In 2017, West Palm Beach’s city commission unanimously passed a resolution declaring West Palm Beach a “Welcoming City”for immigrant communities.

State and Local

Orange County Joins Justice Department in Fight Against California’s Sanctuary Policies

On Tuesday, March 27, the Orange County Board of Supervisors decided to condemn California’s sanctuary law. In a 4-0 vote, the Board agreed to join the U.S. Justice Department’s (DOJ) lawsuit claiming the state’s policy is unconstitutional. The Senate Bill 54, which limits police cooperation with federal immigration authorities, is a joint effort of California Governor Jerry Brown, legislators and mayors of the state’s largest cities. DOJ and President Trump welcomed Orange County’s decision.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

U.A. Government Accountability Office (GAO): Border Security: Actions Needed to Strengthen Performance Management and Planning for Expansion of DHS’s Visa Security Program, March 29, 2018

This report examines the Visa Security Program (VSP) managed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Specifically, the report analyses how VSP has contributed to the visa adjudication process, the extent to which ICE has implemented a system to assess VSP performance, and identified and evaluated options to expand the program to additional posts.

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

Omnibus Appropriations for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018: Department of Justice (DOJ)

This document provides an overview of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) appropriations for its immigration-related responsibilities and compares them to the amounts enacted in FY 2017.

Omnibus Appropriations for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018: Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

This document provides an overview of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appropriations for its immigration-related responsibilities and compares them to the amounts enacted in FY 2017.

How Will Technology Affect Immigrant Workers?

This blog talks about automation and its potential impact on the U.S. workforce, particularly immigrants. It puts forward the theses that technology can create new benefits and opportunities for both immigrants and native-born workers rather than creating competition between them.

 

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

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