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Legislative Bulletin — Friday, March 31, 2023

Welcome to the National Immigration Forum’s weekly bulletin! Every Friday, our policy team rounds up key developments around immigration policy in Washington and across the United States. This bulletin includes items on the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, as well as some coverage at the state and local levels.

Here’s a breakdown of the bulletin’s sections:

BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

DEVELOPMENTS IN IMMIGRATION THIS WEEK

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED

It can be challenging to keep up with the constant barrage of proposed legislation in Congress. So, every week, we round up a new list of bills here. This section includes federal legislative proposals that have recently been introduced and that are relevant to immigration policy. 

S.979

A bill to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to reform and reduce fraud and abuse in certain visa programs for aliens working temporarily in the United States

Sponsored by Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Illinois) (5 cosponsors — 2 Republicans, 2 Democrats, 1 Independent)

03/27/2023 Introduced in the Senate by Sen. Richard J. Durbin

03/27/2023 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S.1129

No Relief for Allies of Dictators Act of 2023

This bill would revoke visas and restrict new visas for supporters of regimes in Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Bolivia. It would impose visa restrictions on any current or former officials of the Hugo Chávez or Nicolás Maduro regimes in Venezuela; the Fidel Castro, Raúl Castro, or Miguel Díaz-Canel regimes in Cuba; Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua; and Evo Morales in Bolivia. Visa restrictions would extend to spouses and children of foreign officials who support such regimes and potentially affect those visiting the United Nations Headquarters General Assembly.

Sponsored by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Florida) (0 cosponsors)

03/30/2023 Introduced in the Senate by Sen. Rick Scott 

03/30/2023 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 1564

Drug Cartel Terrorist Designation Act

This bill would designate the Gulf Cartel, Cartel del Noreste, Cartel de Sinaloa, and Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion as Foreign Terrorist Organizations. As a consequence, it would suspend and deny the issuance of any type of visas to any person associated with these groups. The Senate companion is S.698. 

Sponsored by Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) (28 cosponsors — 28 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

03/10/2023 Introduced in the House by Rep. Chip Roy 

03/10/2023 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R.1571

Compact Impact Fairness Act of 2023

This bill would provide certain federal benefits for qualified citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau who are lawfully in the U.S.

Sponsored by Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii) (4 cosponsors — 3 Republicans, 1 Democrat)

03/14/2023 Introduced in the House by Rep. Ed Case

03/14/2023 Referred to the House Committees on Oversight and Accountability, on Ways and Means, and Agriculture

H.R.1787

To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide nonimmigrant status to mobile entertainment workers

Sponsored by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-California) (1 cosponsor — 1 Republican, 0 Democrats)

03/24/2023 Introduced in the House by Rep. Zoe Lofgren

03/24/2023 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R.1793

EL CHAPO Act

This bill would reserve assets forfeited to the federal government because of criminal prosecutions and felony convictions involving the transportation of controlled substances into the U.S. so that they may be used for security measures — including a border wall — at the southern border.

Sponsored by Rep. Keith Self (R-Texas) (9 cosponsors — 9 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

03/24/2023 Introduced in the House by Rep. Keith Self

03/24/2023 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R.1832

To amend the Afghan Allies Protection Act to provide special immigrant visas to certain Fulbright Scholars

Sponsored by Rep. John Garamendi (D-California) (0 cosponsors)

03/28/2023 Introduced in the House by Rep. John Garamendi

03/28/2023 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 2009

To provide for a limitation on availability of funds for Department of Health and Human Services, The Administration for Children and Families, Refugee and Entrant Assistance for fiscal year 2024

Sponsored by Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Arizona) (5 cosponsors — 5 Republicans, 0 Democrats) 

03/29/2023 Introduced in the House by Rep. Andy Biggs

03/29/2023 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R.2397

The Homeownership for Dreamers Act

This bill would clarify that — if all other eligibility criteria are met — loan eligibility cannot be conditioned on the mortgagor’s status as a DACA recipient.

Sponsored by Rep. Juan Vargas (D-California) (2 cosponsors — 0 Republicans, 2 Democrats)

03/29/2023 Introduced in the House by Rep. Juan Vargas

03/29/2023 Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services

H.R.2374

New Way Forward Act

This bill would end mandatory detention and bolster judicial discretion. It would also end federal laws that allow for the prosecution of people migrating. It would create a five-year statute of limitations for removal based on criminal convictions, allow those unjustly deported to possibly return, and make other changes to immigration enforcement.

Sponsored by Jesús G. “Chuy” García (D-Illinois) (30 cosponsors — 0 Republicans, 30 Democrats)

03/29/2023 Introduced in the House by Rep. Jesús G. “Chuy” García

03/29/2023 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R.2344

To provide for a limitation on availability of funds for Bilaterial [sic] Economic Assistance, Department of State, Migration and Refugee Assistance for fiscal year 2024

Sponsored by Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Arizona) (5 cosponsors — 5 Republicans, 0 Democrats) 

03/29/2023 Introduced in the House by Rep. Andy Biggs

03/29/2023 Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs

H.R.2345

To provide for a limitation on availability of funds for Bilaterial [sic] Economic Assistance, Department of State, US Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund for fiscal year 2024

Sponsored by Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Arizona) (5 cosponsors — 5 Republicans, 0 Democrats) 

03/29/2023 Introduced in the House by Rep. Andy Biggs

03/29/2023 Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs

H.R.2417

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 Rep. John R. Carter (R-Texas) (2 cosponsors — 2 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

03/30/2023 Introduced in the House by Rep. John R. Carter

03/30/2023 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R.2432

To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide for the detention of arriving aliens

Sponsored by Rep. Tom McClintock (R-California) (R-Texas) (0 cosponsors)

03/30/2023 Introduced in the House by Rep. Tom McClintock

03/30/2023 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R.2436

To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to expand penalties for illegal entry and presence

Sponsored by Rep. Nathaniel Moran (R-Texas) (7 cosponsors — 7 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

03/30/2023 Introduced in the House by Rep. Nathaniel Moran

03/30/2023 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R.2453

To amend section 212(d)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act to reform immigration parole

Sponsored by Rep. Thomas P. Tiffany (R-Wisconsin) (0 cosponsors)

03/30/2023 Introduced in the House by Rep. Thomas P. Tiffany

03/30/2023 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

Neither the U.S. Senate nor the U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Monday, April 3, through Friday, April 7, 2023.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

Here, we round up immigration-related congressional hearings and markups happening in the field or in Washington. 

There are no upcoming hearings or markups concerning immigration policy the week of April 3.

DEVELOPMENTS IN IMMIGRATION THIS WEEK

Immigration policy is a dynamic field subject to constant change. Here, we summarize some of the most important recent developments in immigration policy on the federal, legal, state, and local levels. 

Content warning: This section sometimes includes events and information that can prove disturbing. 

Federal 

Dozens Killed in Fire at Migration Detention Facility Near Mexico-U.S. Border

On March 27, at least 39 migrants were killed and dozens more were injured after a fire tore through a Mexican detention center near the U.S.’s southern border. 

The facility in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico — just across from El Paso, Texas — detains migrants caught by authorities on their way through Mexico and people who have been quickly expelled by the U.S. under the Title 42 policy, a Mexican official told the Washington Post. Viral footage of the tragedy shows uniformed individuals leaving behind trapped detainees who were unable to escape their cells, even as smoke filled the area. 

Among the dead and injured were 28 Guatemalans, 13 Hondurans, 12 Venezuelans, 12 Salvadorans, and a Colombian and Ecuadorian, according to the Mexican Attorney General’s Office. Six people — three National Immigration Institute officials, two private security guards, and the detainee accused of setting the fire — have had arrest orders issued against them for charges including homicide and causing injuries.

Hundreds of migrants gathered Tuesday to peacefully protest outside the detention center and to seek news of their loved ones who were inside when the fire broke out. 

“We’re pawns in a game between giants,” Juan Pavón, a Venezuelan, told the New York Times. “No one cares what happens to us.”

Later in the week, over a thousand migrants surrendered themselves to border officials in El Paso after a false rumor spread that they would be able to cross to safety in the U.S.

Migrants told Reuters “they were fed up with daily discrimination and violence in Mexico,” and some of them expressed concerns that they would end up like the men killed by the fire. 

“I came to live, not to die,” Juan Velázquez told Reuters. “That’s why I want to leave here now. Mexico is not a place for us.”

DHS Secretary Mayorkas Testifies Before Congress Amid Impeachment Threats 

On March 28 and 29, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testified in front of Congress, fielding tough questions from lawmakers about current operations at the U.S.’s southern border amid large-scale migration there. 

The hearings come amid growing calls for Mayorkas’s impeachment, as a number of Congress members allege he has lost operational control of the U.S.’s borders. 

The deadly effects of fentanyl remained a flashpoint for debate, with some lawmakers continuing to conflate separate issues of migration and drug smuggling across the U.S.’s borders. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) demanded that Mayorkas apologize to the families “who lost their children because of fentanyl poisoning, because of the policies of your department and the Biden administration.”

Meanwhile, other elected officials highlighted that the overwhelming majority of fentanyl entering the U.S. is transported by American citizens through ports of entry, not by asylum seekers. 

Asylum Officers Union, UN Refugee Agency Express Opposition to Proposed Asylum Rule 

During a comment period that closed on March 27, both a union representing U.S. asylum officers and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) ranked among a legion of stakeholders who urged the Biden administration to reverse course on its proposed rule to restrict asylum

In an effort to preempt an expected increase in humanitarian migration after the Title 42 public health order is set to end in May, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security announced a proposed rule last month that would create a rebuttable presumption of asylum ineligibility at the U.S.-Mexico border. 

Migrants who traveled through a third country to arrive stateside would be subject to the presumption unless they were denied protection elsewhere en route, used the CBP One phone application to pre-schedule an appointment at a port of entry (or went to a port of entry and proved they hadn’t been able to access that technology), followed a DHS parole process, or qualified for one of several particularly narrow rebuttal grounds. 

Stakeholders and concerned citizens were given a 30-day period to weigh in on the Biden administration’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), during which many thousands of public comments were filed. 

Attorneys for a labor organization representing over 14,000 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services employees, including asylum officers, urged the Departments to rescind the proposed rule. They wrote that it could force their members “to take actions that would violate their oath to faithfully discharge their duty to carry out the immigration laws adopted by Congress” and “make them complicit in violations of U.S. and international law.”

UNHCR — the UN’s refugee agency — also expressed concerns that “the NPRM runs afoul of several central principles of international refugee law,” including “the foundational principle of non-refoulement and the right to seek asylum.” The agency similarly recommended that the Departments rescind the proposed rule. 

House Democrats Urge the Biden Administration Not to Bring Back Family Detention 

On March 28, more than 100 House Democrats wrote a letter raising “serious concerns” about the Biden administration’s reported consideration of reinstating family detention for migrants. 

Amid the expected end of the Title 42 public health order, which allows for the rapid expulsion of migrants and asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border, news broke several weeks ago that officials were mulling a return to family immigration detention. On Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said that “no decision has been made” on whether to bring back the practice. 

Led by Reps. Pramila Jayapal (Washington), Bennie Thompson (Mississippi), Jerrold Nadler (New York), Lou Correa (California), David Trone (Maryland), and Veronica Escobar (Texas), the congressional letter opposing family detention outlines the various ways the policy can cause psychological trauma to children and urges the use of “important and proven alternatives.”

For example, the Biden administration’s recent “parole” programs provide a legal pathway for Haitian, Nicaraguan, Venezuelan, and Cuban migrants, and their rollout has coincided with a decrease in monthly border crossing numbers. 

House Democrats have also called for more investment in case management programs that allow migrant families to pursue their immigration court cases without being held in detention centers. 

The House letter follows a similar dispatch on Sunday from members of the Senate, including Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, calling family detention “ineffective and inhumane.” 

Legal 

Supreme Court Hears Arguments Over Free-Speech And Unlawful Migration

The Supreme Court on Monday revisited the constitutionality of a law that makes it a crime to encourage unlawful immigration in the United States.

Arguments focused on the language of the law, “encourages or induces,” and its interpretation, which some say is unconstitutionally broad and raises apprehensions over criminalizing free-speech. 

Critics worry the law could be used to justify the criminalization of legal advice immigration lawyers provide to migrants, as well as the aid immigrant rights activist groups extend.

Principal Deputy Solicitor General Brian Fletcher argued these free-speech concerns are misplaced. According to Fletcher, the Justice Department “understands the statute to require criminal intent,” and therefore there’s little reason to fear prosecution. 

The case involves Helaman Hansen, who was found guilty of two counts of encouraging unlawful immigration for private financial gain. The counts were thrown out in 2022 by the federal appeals court in San Francisco on the grounds that the immigration law violated the First Amendment. 

The Justice Department is seeking to reverse the lower court decision, arguing it relies on the measure to prosecute migrant smugglers. 

A decision on United States v. Hansen is expected by July. 

State and Local 

New Utah Bill Signed Into Law Could Restrict Undocumented Students From Participating in School Sports

On March 17, Gov. Spencer Cox (R-Utah) signed a new law requiring students to provide identifying documents in order to participate in school extracurriculars, despite concerns that such a measure might exclude some undocumented kids from playing sports. 

The law lists various forms of identification students can present to their schools, including a birth certificate, a state-issued document such as a driver’s license or passport, and a federally recognized document like those issued by the Department of Homeland Security. But many of these IDs aren’t available to undocumented children, stoking worries that thousands of kids across the state may be at risk of losing the ability to participate in extracurricular activities — a further marginalization that could significantly impact their futures. 

“Sports are a gateway for families to have access to scholarships for college. If they can’t participate, it’s something that really scares them,” Maria Montes, community engagement and organizing manager for Comunidades Unidas, told KSL.com. 

Before signing the bill, Gov. Cox said he had solicited a promise from its sponsor — Republican state lawmaker Jordan Teuscher — to change its provisions during a special session if further analysis over the next month indicates students would in fact be affected.

“We’re not trying to exclude anybody from playing,” Cox said. 

Texas Attorney General Urges State Lawmakers to Challenge Federal Authority Over Immigration Enforcement

During a border security hearing on March 16, Attorney General Ken Paxton (R-Texas) urged state legislators to “test” a 2012 Supreme Court decision that reaffirmed immigration enforcement as a federal and not a state responsibility. 

For several years, Texas’s Republican leadership has been trying to find ways to crack down on irregular migration at the state’s international boundary with Mexico. Most notably, Gov. Greg Abbott’s over $4 billion Operation Lone Star has deployed large numbers of Department of Public Safety troopers and Texas National Guard members to the border in an attempt to target and prosecute migrants, largely for trespassing on private property in a state where around 95% of the land is private. 

Now, state lawmakers are considering legislation — including a priority bill, H.B. 20 — that would clearly challenge court precedent around states’ authority to interfere with immigration enforcement. H.B. 20 would go so far as to form a state unit of officers who could arrest and repel migrants at Texas’s southern border, raising concerns of vigilantism. 

Paxton told Texas officials that they “should test to see if the states can protect themselves.” He explicitly signaled a desire to challenge the Supreme Court’s decision in Arizona v. United States, in which state immigration restrictions were found to violate the U.S. Constitution and subsequently struck down in 2012. 

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

Reports by bodies such as the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the Congressional Research Service, and the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General provide invaluable information on immigration policy and practice. Here, we give brief summaries of new immigration-related reports, with links to the resources themselves in case you want to learn more. 

U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO); Immigrant Investor Program: Opportunities Exist to Improve Fraud and National Security Risk Monitoring; March 28, 2023

This report reviews the EB-5 program for foreign investors and makes recommendations for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to continue to address concerns around potential fraud and national security risks.

Office of Inspector General (OIG); FEMA Should Increase Oversight to Prevent Misuse of Humanitarian Relief Funds; March 28, 2023

This report reviews FEMA awards granted to local recipient organizations serving families and individuals encountered by the Department of Homeland Security. OIG determines that the local organizations did not always use funding according to guidance and makes recommendations to improve oversight and enforcement.

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

The Forum is constantly publishing new policy-focused resources that engage with some of the most topical issues around immigration today. Here are a few that are particularly relevant this week: 

Florida’s Immigration Enforcement Legislation: Five Key Concerns

This resource provides key information about the legislative package Republican lawmakers in Florida introduced on March 7, 2023.

The Relationship Between English Proficiency and Naturalization

This paper details the relationship between English language proficiency and naturalization rates in the United States. It also provides related policy recommendations.

Bill Summary: Regional Immigration and Diplomacy Enforcement (RIDE) Act

This bill summary explains the provisions in the Regional Immigration and Diplomacy Enforcement (RIDE) Act, or H.R. 1690, which was introduced by Rep. Michael T. McCaul (R-Texas). 

* * *

*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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