Legislative Bulletin — Friday, March 5, 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

H.R. 6

American Dream and Promise Act of 2021

The bill would provide immigration status to eligible Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) holders. It would also provide a pathway to status for certain individuals who came to the U.S. legally as children but have “aged out” of status while their parents remain on nonimmigrant visas or in the green card backlog.

Sponsored by Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (134 cosponsors — 134 Democrats, 0 Republicans)

03/03/2021 Introduced by Representative Roybal-Allard

03/03/2021 Referred to the House Committees on Education and Labor and on the Judiciary

H.R. __

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 Representative John Curtis (R-Utah) (1 cosponsor — 1 Democrat, 0 Republicans)

03/04/2021 Announced by Representative Curtis

H.R. 1319

American Rescue Plan Act of 2021

The bill provides $1.9 trillion in additional relief to address the continued impact of COVID-19 (i.e., coronavirus disease 2019) on the economy, public health, state and local governments, individuals, and businesses. Relevant to immigration, U.S. citizens in mixed-status families would be eligible for  $1,400 stimulus checks provided under the legislation.

Sponsored by Representative John Yarmuth (D-Kentucky) (0 cosponsors)

02/24/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Yarmuth

02/27/2021 Passed in the House by a vote of 219-212

03/04/2021 Considered by the Senate

H.R. 1435

To provide Temporary Resident Status for certain parents and spouses of citizens or lawful residents of the United States.

Sponsored by Representative Bobby Rush (D-Illinois) (0 cosponsors)

02/26/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Rush

02/26/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 1496

Sarah’s Law

This bill would require U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain certain immigrants who have been charged in the United States with a crime that resulted in the death or serious bodily injury of another person.

Sponsored by Representative Randy Feenstra (R-Iowa) (12 cosponsors — 12 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

03/02/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Feenstra

03/02/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 1537

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act

The bill would provide undocumented farmworkers and their families with an opportunity to obtain legal status, reform the H-2A temporary agricultural workers program to address employer and worker concerns, and impose mandatory employment verification (E-Verify) in the agriculture industry.

Sponsored by Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-California) (3 cosponsors — 1 Republican, 2 Democrats)

03/03/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Lofgren

03/03/2021 Referred to the House Committees on Ways and Means, Education and Labor, Financial Services, and the Judiciary

H.R. 1538

The Binational Health Strategies Act

The bill would direct the U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission to report on the COVID-19 response along the border and create a binational plan to address the pandemic and future infectious diseases.

Sponsored by Representative Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) (9 cosponsors — 8 Democrats, 1 Republican)

03/03/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Escobar

03/03/2021 Referred to the House Committees on Energy and Commerce and Foreign Affairs

H.R. 1571

To provide nonimmigrant status for dairy workers.

Sponsored by Representative Chris Jacobs (R-New York) (0 cosponsors)

03/03/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Jacobs

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

H.R. 1573

Access to Counsel Act of 2021

This bill would provide immigrants with the right to access counsel while in detention or after having presented themselves to Border Patrol personnel under certain circumstances. The bill would also direct Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to improve detention conditions and limit detention stays to the briefest term possible.

Sponsored by Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) (0 cosponsors)

03/03/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Jayapal

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

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate will be in session the week of Monday, March 8, 2021.

The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Monday, March 8, 2021 to Thursday, March 11, 2021.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

There are no upcoming immigration-related hearings or markups currently scheduled in the U.S. Senate or the U.S. House of Representatives.

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

House Introduces Immigration Reform Legislation for Dreamers, TPS Holders, Agriculture Sector

The week of March 1, congressional lawmakers introduced multiple pieces of immigration reform legislation that would impact several noteworthy categories of unauthorized workers and families with longstanding ties to the U.S. The American Dream and Promise Act, sponsored by representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-California) and announced on March 3, would provide protection from deportation and an eventual path to permanent legal status for Dreamers, or those who came to the U.S. as children without authorization. The bill would also provide a path to legal status for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, resulting in a combined estimated 2.5 million people would be eligible for legal status under the bill. A previous version of the bill passed the House of Representatives in 2019, but was not acted upon in the Senate.

Last month, a bipartisan group of Senators re-introduced The Dream Act, which is more narrowly focused on providing a solution for Dreamers.  Businesses, immigration advocates, and religious leaders have spoken out in support of providing a pathway to legalization for Dreamers.

On March 3, Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-California) and Dan Newhouse (R-Washington) also reintroduced the Farm Workforce and Modernization Act in the House. The bill would streamline and reform the H-2A agricultural guestworker program, provide a pathway to legal status for eligible undocumented farmworkers, and require agriculture employers to implement a reformed “E-Verify” program to ensure workers are authorized. A version of this bill also passed the House with bipartisan support in 2019.

While Congress turns its focus to these more targeted immigration reform proposals, House Democrats have postponed consideration of the more comprehensive immigration proposal  supported by the Biden administration. President Biden has said he is willing to support incremental reforms if they have a better chance of receiving bipartisan support.

Biden Administration Reopens Controversial Facilities and Takes Steps to House and Process Unaccompanied Children

Facing an influx of unaccompanied children at the Southern border and reduced shelter capacity due to social distancing requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Biden administration has reopened a temporary influx facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas, and taken additional steps to better house and process migrant children. The move to reopen the facilities, which briefly and controversially housed children during the Trump administration, has faced criticism by some advocates who have noted that the facilities are not state-licensed or held to the same standards of care as other shelters. According to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, the action comes amid a “logistical challenge” at the border that is requiring the Biden administration to take steps “to manage it and to meet our humanitarian aspirations.”

When children are determined to be unaccompanied, they are required by law to be transferred within 72 hours from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody to Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) shelters. However, ORR shelter capacity has been reduced by 40% due to Covid-19 protocols and children are getting backed up in CBP holding centers, which are not designed to care for or house children.

In addition to reopening the temporary influx facility in Carrizo Springs, which is designed to house 700 unaccompanied children, the administration plans to open up additional temporary facilities during the pandemic. The administration has also encouraged current ORR shelters to work to safely increase capacity, and DHS recently agreed to pay for travel expenses for those who are ready to be released from ORR shelters to vetted family members, foster homes, or other sponsors. In the past, it has taken up to six months for many children to be released to sponsors, but on March 1, Secretary Mayorkas stated that due to recent efforts to expedite the process, the average time spent in ORR custody has dropped to 31 days.

According to a March 3 report, since February 10 an average of 340 unaccompanied children were apprehended each day at the border. The average time spent in CBP custody for these children was 77 hours, five hours longer than the maximum 72 hours allowed under the law. DHS has sent a request to the state of Texas asking for consent to use Federal Emergency Management Agency funding to assist with efforts to expand capacity and expedite processing.

Biden Administration to Transform Family Detention Centers

In a break from Trump administration and Obama administration policies, on March 4, the Biden administration announced it plans to convert certain family detention facilities into rapid processing hubs. Moving away from medium-term and long-term family detention that led children and parents to be held together in detention for extended periods, the Biden administration intends to repurpose ICE’s three family detention centers in Berks, Pennsylvania; Dilley, Texas; and Karnes City, Texas.

The policy change moving away from family detention is already being implemented. Under the new policy, which will utilize alternatives to detention, families are to be held only until their immigration court dates can be scheduled, typically no more than 72 hours. The Biden administration began releasing detainees held in ICE’s three family detention centers the week of February 22.

Despite this policy change, many migrant families arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, including those seeking humanitarian protection, continue to face summary expulsion from the U.S. under a pandemic-era Center for Disease Control and Prevention rule.

Biden Administration Meets with Mexican President Lopez Obrador on Border Solutions, Guestworker Proposal 

On March 1, President Biden met virtually with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to address migration from Central America and challenges at the U.S.-Mexico border. In this first official meeting between the two heads of state, President López Obrador voiced support for the idea of an expansive new temporary visa program for Mexican workers, which could bring 600,000 to 800,000 Mexican and Central American immigrants a year to work on U.S. farms and factories. The Biden administration has not taken a position on the Mexican president’s proposal, but both leaders agreed on the general need to create additional legal pathways for migration and expand existing ones.

The leaders both expressed eagerness to increase communication and collaboration between the two countries. “The United States and Mexico are stronger when we stand together,” said Biden, with López Obrador adding that “it is important that we base our good relationships on constant dialogue, periodic dialogue.”

ICE Used Private Data in Interior Enforcement Operations

According to a February 26 report, U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) has used private utility records to track down immigrants under investigation for immigration violations. ICE is just one of several federal agencies with contracts with a private database called CLEAR, which contains the names, addresses, employment records, vehicle registrations and criminal histories of more than 400 million U.S. residents.

CLEAR collects the records from the credit-reporting agency Equifax, which collects data from the National Consumer and Telecom Utilities Exchange. By accessing this private data, ICE has been able to obtain information that would otherwise require a warrant. According to the report, ICE’s contract with CLEAR is worth $26 million.

On February 26, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform sent letters to Equifax and to CLEAR’s parent company, Thompson Reuters, requesting additional information about ICE’s use of the data. The letter expressed concern that “ICE’s use of this database is an abuse of power.”

Legal

Biden Administration Requests Dismissal of “Sanctuary City” Supreme Court Cases

On March 5, the Biden administration requested the that the U.S. Supreme Court dismiss three pending cases on “sanctuary jurisdictions” following settlements between the impacted localities and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The cases concerned Trump administration efforts to withhold grant funding from states, cities, and counties that declined to carry out specific immigration enforcement measures.

Federal courts had been divided over the legality of the Trump era grant requirements, with most federal courts – including the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the First, Third, Seventh, and Ninth Circuits – ruling that the new conditions are improper. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has held that the Trump administration had the authority to impose the new conditions.

New York State Attorney General Letitia James praised the settlement, stating, “We look forward to continuing to work with the [Biden] administration to ensure state and localities never have to choose between protecting their autonomy and protecting the public’s safety.”

Relief Granted to Diversity Visa Recipients Blocked by Trump Bans

As a result of a recent federal court ruling and the Biden administration’s recent revocation of a Trump-era sweeping travel ban, many diversity visa recipients who have been stuck abroad for over a year are now able to immigrate to the U.S.

On February 19, a judge granted emergency relief to plaintiff diversity visa lottery winners in Gomez v. Trump. These plaintiffs, who were issued now-expired visas under a September 4 ruling in that case, were barred from entering the U.S. under Presidential Proclamation 10014, a Trump-era immigration ban issued in April 2020 that prevented most diversity visa lottery winners in Fiscal Year 2020 from accessing or using their visas. With the Biden administration having subsequently revoked the ban on February 24, diversity visa recipients were once again permitted travel to the U.S. On March 1, Customs and Border Protection clarified in a bulletin that “travelers who have Diversity Visas that were issued in September 2020 and are now expired are permitted to board.” Those with expired visas that were not issued or re-issued in September were not provided relief.

The Diversity Visa Immigrant Program is designed to allow additional immigration opportunities to people from countries with relatively low rates of immigration to the U.S. Accessing a diversity visa is a multi-step process, which consists first of entering a computerized lottery which selects 55,000 individuals each year, and then a lengthy application, interview, and visa issuance stage before lottery winners can finally receive their green cards. Lottery winners must act quickly, because if their visas are not issued by the end of the following fiscal year (September 30), they lose all access to their visa and are no longer authorized for a green card.

Nominations/Personnel

Judiciary Committee Advances Attorney General Nominee Merrick Garland After Bipartisan Vote

On March 1, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance attorney general nominee Merrick Garland. In a 15-7 vote, ranking Republican Senator Chuck Grassley (Iowa) joined Republican Senators Lindsey Graham (South Carolina), John Cornyn (Texas), and Thom Tillis (North Carolina) to advance the nomination to the Senate floor.

The attorney general leads the DOJ, which is responsible for administering immigration courts and adjudicating immigration cases through the interpretation and administration of federal immigration law.

In Judiciary Committee hearings, Judge Garland discussed his family’s immigration history.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

Office of Inspector General: CBP Has Improved Southwest Border Technology, but Significant Challenges Remain; February 23, 2021

In this report, the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General (OIG) explained that Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) technology used at the southwest border still faces significant concerns related to implementation. CBP’s planned rollout of new technology has been delayed due to changing agency priorities, delays in construction, and lack of funding. Additionally, Border Patrol agents have reported that there is not enough staff available to efficiently utilize surveillance technology or maintain current systems. OIG noted that the implementation concerns mean that CBP is less able to detect and prevent unauthorized entry at the border.

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

Fact Sheet: Mixed Status Families and Covid-19 Economic Relief

This fact sheet provides information and demographic details about mixed status families living in the U.S. It provides information on tax payments by families filing joint tax returns listing both U.S. citizens with Social Security Numbers and family members who have Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs). The fact sheet also explains why some undocumented spouses may be unable to obtain legal status.

Bill Summary: Farm Workforce Modernization Act

This is a bill summary of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H.R. 1537), which seeks to reform the process by which temporary foreign workers come to the United States to work in agriculture. The bill includes a pathway to legalization for certain undocumented agricultural workers and reforms to the existing H-2A temporary agricultural workers visa program.

American Dream and Promise Act: Bill Summary

This is a summary of the American Dream and Promise Act, which would provide Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders and individuals with Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) with protection from deportation and an opportunity to stay in America 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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