Legislative Bulletin – Friday, March 8, 2019

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. __

Fair Day in Court for Kids Act

The bill would require that the government appoint counsel for unaccompanied children during immigration proceedings. The bill would also ensure that these children are informed of this right and have access to their lawyer even if they are detained by the government.

Sponsored by Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) (2 cosponsors)

03/06/2019 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Hirono

S. __

Child Trafficking Victims Protection and Welfare Act of 2019

The bill would which would help ensure that children in CBP custody receive proper care based on the expertise of child welfare professionals and pediatric medical experts, medical assessments by pediatric specialists, and access to legal services.

Sponsored by Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) (2 cosponsors)

03/06/2019 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Hirono

S. 663

Immigration Court Improvement Act of 2018

This bill seeks to insulate immigration judges from political interference and enhance the effectiveness of immigration courts.

Sponsored by Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) (7 cosponsors – 6 Democrats, 1 Independent)

3/5/2019 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Hirono

3/5/2019 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 643

BE SAFE Act

This bill would require all new permanent residents to pay an additional fee, which would be used for construction of new border walls or physical barriers and other immigration-related matters.

Sponsored by Senator Rand Paul (R- Kentucky) (0 cosponsors)

3/4/2019 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Paul

3/4/2019 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

H. J. Res. 46

This resolution would terminate President Trump’s national emergency declaration to build a border wall in the Southern border.

Sponsored by Representative Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) (233 cosponsors – 1 Republican, 232 Democrats)

02/22/2019 Introduced in the House by Representative Castro

02/26/2019 Passed in the House by a 245 to 182 vote

02/27/2019 Received in the Senate and referred to the Committee on Armed Services

H.R. 582

Raise the Wage Act 

This bill would increase the minimum wage to $15 for all workers, including immigrants, by 2024.

Sponsored by Representative Bobby Scott (D- Virginia) (200 cosponsors – 200 Democrats)

1/16/2019 Introduced in the House by Representative Scott

1/16/2019 Referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor

3/6/2019 Passed the committee in a 28-20 vote

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate will be in session the week of Monday, March 11, 2019.

The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Monday, March 11, 2019, through Thursday, March 14, 2019.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

Business Meeting

This hearing will contain nominations of Nomination of Ronald D. Vitiello to be Assistant Secretary at Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Joseph V. Cuffari, Ph.D. to be U.S. Department of Homeland Security Inspector General.

Date: Monday, March 11, 2019 at 5:40 p.m. (Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee)

Location: S-216, President’s Room in The Capitol

Witnesses:

Joseph V. Cuffari, nominated to be Inspector General, Department of Homeland Security

Ronald D. Vitiello, nominated to be Assistant Secretary, Immigration and Customs Enforcement

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

Resolution to Block National Emergency Expected to Pass the Senate

A joint resolution that would block President Trump’s national emergency declaration allowing the administration to redirect funds to build a wall along the U.S. Southern border appears to be moving towards passage.  Four Republican Senators have expressed support for the resolution so far – Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) and most recently Rand Paul (R- Kentucky). Together with the 47 Democratic and Independent Senators, the Republican opponents of Trump’s declaration would secure the simple majority they need to send the resolution to the President. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) also confirmed Senate has the votes to pass the resolution, which cannot be filibustered, but is expected to be vetoed by President Trump.

The White House has been lobbying Republican Senators to oppose the resolution, but faced questions from Senators concerned that the emergency declaration could impact military projects in their respective states. A March 7 report from the Associated Press indicated that the administration is planning to move $1 billion from military pay and pension accounts to fund the wall. The Senate vote is expected during the week of Monday, March 11. While the resolution seems headed for passage in the Senate, there is unlike to be the required two-thirds support in both houses of Congress required to override a veto from President Trump.

The House passed the resolution on February 26 by a 245 to 182 vote, with 13 Republicans joining all Democrats to block the emergency declaration.

House Democrats to Introduce Bill to Protect Dreamers, TPS Recipients After Holding Judiciary Hearing

House Democrats  plan to introduce legislation on March 12 to protect Dreamers and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, as well as Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) recipients, from deportation. The bill, called the Dream and Promise Act of 2019 (H.R. 6), would allow Dreamers to remain in the U.S. and obtain U.S. citizenship in the future if they fulfill certain education, employment or military requirements. The bill would also provide TPS holders and DED recipients who meet certain requirements with lawful permanent resident status (LPR), allowing them to naturalize after five years as permitted by U.S. law.

In anticipation of the bill’s introduction, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on March 6, inviting three Dreamers, a TPS holder and a DED recipient, as well as others, to testify before the committee. Democrats in the committee advocated for a clean, permanent solution to protect Dreamers, TPS holders and DED recipients. Noting that the bill was unlikely to obtain the required 60 votes in the Senate, Rep. Doug Collins (R-Georgia), the committee’s ranking member, said Democrats were offering “talking points but no plans.” Collins called for the inclusion of border security or reforms to the asylum process to discourage future unauthorized immigration to the U.S. However, Collins said he is hopeful that Congress could find a solution to protect some individuals from deportation. Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-North Dakota) noted that, while the issue is complicated, there are “people in both sides of the aisle” who want to protect Dreamers and others, and said he is “hopeful” Congress can find at least a “meaningful, temporary” solution.

AP: Census Bureau and DHS to Share Immigration Data

On March 7, the Associated Press reported that the Census Bureau is in talks with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to obtain DHS data about legal status of immigrants in the U.S. The shared information would include immigrants’ full names and addresses, dates and places of birth, as well as Social Security and visa numbers. Such information is closely guarded and not typically shared with other agencies. Advocates and former Census officials expressed deep concerns over the sharing of sensitive information, including the prospect of the creation of a registry of noncitizens.

The two agencies have been reportedly working on an agreement, which would allow such collaboration, since January 2018 when a New York judge blocked the administration’s effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case in mid-April and is expected to release a final decision on the 2020 Census in the following weeks.

29 Parents Re-Enter the U.S. Seeking Asylum to Reunite with Children

On March 2, 29 parents who had been deported in 2018 and separated from their children successfully crossed the U.S.-Mexico border asking for asylum hearings. Their admittance followed 12 hours of tense discussions with immigration agents at the Mexicali port of entry. The group has been traveling north from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador over the last month with the assistance of a group of immigration lawyers. The parents currently have 27 children in U.S. custody, living in shelters, foster homes, or with relatives who have sponsored them.

The parents are expected to be detained and may remain in custody for months as the government determines whether to process their asylum claims. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says 430 parents were deported without their children last year, 200 of which remain separated to this day.

CBP Data Shows Border Apprehensions Rise in February

According to new data released by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), CBP officers apprehended 66,450 individuals between ports of entry on the Southern border in February. The increase would represent an unusual spike for wintertime, with the agents apprehending 26,666 and 18,754 people during the same period of time in 2018 and 2017, respectively. More than a half of the individuals arrested in February crossed the border as family units. However, even with the recent increase, the total number of border apprehensions remains well below record high levels set in the 2000s. In fiscal year (FY) 2018, total border apprehensions between ports of entry amounted to about 400,000, which is 45 percent less than 720,000 apprehensions in FY 2008 and 75 percent below 1.6 million apprehensions in FY 2000.

While apprehensions have increased in FY 2019, particularly family apprehensions, analysts noted that CBP is now citing the combined number of individuals apprehended between ports of entry with people found inadmissible after they came to the border and asked for asylum as allowed by U.S. immigration law. Some have criticized the inclusion of asylum seekers asking for lawful admission in this metric, and argue that their inclusion inflates the apprehension numbers.

In congressional testimony on March 6, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan both pointed to these numbers in support of the contention that  border apprehensions are approaching “record-high” levels.

Trump Administration Denies More Work, Family and Student Visas

New data released by the U.S Department of State showed a decline in number of issued temporary and permanent visas. The National Foundation for American Policy’s analysis of the official statistics found a 39-percent increase in the number of immigrants deemed “ineligible” seeking permanent residence between fiscal years 2017 and 2018. Additionally, denials of immigrants seeking temporary permits such as H-1B increased by 5 percent. At the same time, the administration returned 60 percent of all submitted H-1B applications, requesting further evidence in the first quarter of FY 2019, which compares to less than a half of returned applications at the same time a year ago. USCIS officers also approved fewer visa claims from students, tourists, and certain categories of business people, as well as immediate family members and fiancées of U.S. citizens and green card holders.

In October, 2018, DHS issued proposed regulations that would expand the meaning of the legal term “public charge” to reject immigrants applying for an immigrant visa (green card), or a temporary visa if they have previously accessed or are deemed likely to rely on certain forms of public assistance in the future. In addition, In January 2018, the State Department implemented changes to its Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) that included modifications to treatment of a sponsor’s affidavit of support. The State Department data revealed that the changes and proposed regulation led to a surge in the number of immigrants deemed “ineligible” for visas

Legal 

Ninth Circuit Rules Asylum Seekers May Appeal Rejections

On March 7, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that immigrants can fully appeal their rejected asylum claims after failing the initial qualifying step of establishing “credible fear” of returning to their home country in a credible fear interview administered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officers. With the rejection rate of credible fear increasing substantially over the last two years, the ability to appeal to immigration courts will give thousands of asylum seekers the ability to have their day in court.

Currently, asylum seekers can only appeal denials of their credible fear claims on narrow, technical grounds, but the Ninth Circuit ruled that constitutional due process requires that asylum seekers may appeal the substantive grounds of the rejection to an immigration judge. After the ruling all rejected asylum seekers within the 9th Circuit – Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington – will be able to appeals credible fear rejections.

The Department of Justice is likely to appeal and may seek an emergency stay in the case.

Federal Judge Orders Processing of 2,700 Central American Minors Program Applicants

On March 1, Federal Judge Laurel Beeler of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ordered that the Trump Administration continue to process the nearly 2,700 applications submitted under the Central American Minors (CAM) program. The impacted group had been granted conditional approval to travel to the U.S. before the Trump administration ended the program and rescinded travel approval.

CAM, an initiative of the Obama administration, allowed parents who legally resided in the United States to apply to bring their children or other family members from Honduras, Guatemala, or El Salvador into the U.S. In August 2017, the Trump administration announced it would be ending the program. Beeler’s order stopped short of ordering the administration to resume the CAM program, only requiring to process the 2,700 applications that had already received conditional approval before the program was terminated.

Judge Rules Against Trump’s Attempt to Block Sanctuary Cities’ Grants

On March 4, U.S. District Judge William Orrick III released another decision against the Trump administration’s effort to withdraw federal grant funding from so-called sanctuary jurisdictions, which place limits on local immigration enforcement or otherwise maintain certain policies aimed at increasing community trust. There have been at least ten rulings from various courts across the country, including those U.S. Courts of Appeal for the 3rd, 9th and 7th circuits, preventing the Justice Department’s attempt to block grants for sanctuary cities without approval from Congress.

Previously, Orrick had issued several rulings preventing the Trump administration from cutting off grants to local jurisdictions that do not help carry out federal immigration enforcement responsibilities beyond those already required under federal law, because Congress holds control of the purse. Orrick also ruled that a provision of federal law that requires states and localities to share information relating to individuals’ immigration status, 8 U.S.C. 1373, is unconstitutional.

President Trump’s January 2017 executive order on interior immigration enforcement aims to prevent so-called sanctuary cities from receiving Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants (Byrne JAG funds) for law enforcement. San Francisco uses around $1.4 million in Byrne JAG funds for drug court proceedings, targeted drug treatment for the underserved population and other law enforcement purposes.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

Congressional Research Service (CRS): The Budget and Homeland Security: Homeland Security Issues in the 116th Congress, February 28, 2019 (by William L. Painter)

This CRS Insight report examines factors that complicate understanding of government spending on homeland security. It also covers information about historical homeland security budget authority and current DHS appropriations.

Government Accountability Office (GAO): U.S. Customs and Border Protection: Progress and Challenges in Recruiting, Hiring, and Retaining Law Enforcement Personnel, March 7, 2019 (by Rebecca Gambler)

This GAO statement addresses CBP’s efforts to recruit and more efficiently hire law enforcement applicants, and retain law enforcement officers. It is based on a GAO report from June 2018 and updates CBP actions to address the previous recommendations in February 2019.

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

Infographics: Dreamer and TPS Recipient Contributions

These infographics focus on the contributions of Dreamers and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients in seven U.S. states: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas.

Fact Sheet: Deferred Enforced Departure (DED)

This fact sheet provides general information about Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) and its current use.

Border Security Along the Southwest Border: Fact Sheet

This fact sheet provides an overview of border security resources and migration trends along America’s Southwest border

* * *

*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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