Legislative Bulletin — Friday, May 14, 2021



S. 1580

Make the Migrant Protection Protocols Mandatory Act of 2021

The bill would require the Department of Homeland Security to re-implement the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), a Trump-era policy that required certain asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their claims were processed and heard in the U.S.

Sponsored by Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) (2 cosponsors — 2 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

05/12/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Blackburn

05/12/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 1582

Empowering Law Enforcement Act

The bill would delegate federal immigration enforcement functions to state and local law enforcement. The bill would also require the detention of certain noncitizens in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody at the request of local law enforcement.

Sponsored by Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-Alabama) (2 cosponsors — 2 Republicans,0 Democrats)

05/12/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Tuberville

05/12/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 3120

UAC State Notification Act of 2021

The bill would require the government to notify the Governor of a state prior to placement of unaccompanied children in that state.

Sponsored by Representative Adrian Smith (R-Nebraska) (2 cosponsors — 2 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

05/11/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Smith

05/11/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 3149

Health Equity and Access under Law (HEAL) for Immigrant Families

The bill would lift the five-year requirement that lawful immigrants must wait before being able to enroll in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The bill would also allow undocumented immigrants to purchase health care through the Affordable Care Act and provide additional access to health coverage for DACA recipients.

Sponsored by Representative Pramila Jayapal (80 cosponsors — 80 Democrats, 0 Republicans)

05/12/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Jayapal

05/12/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary


The U.S. Senate will be in session the week of Monday, May 17, 2021.

The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Monday, May 17, 2021 to Thursday, May 20, 2021.


U.S. Customs and Border Protection Resource Management and Operational Priorities

Date: Wednesday, May 19, 2021 at 10:00 am ET (House Appropriations Committee)

Location: Virtual


Troy Miller, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Commissioner, U.S. Customs and Border Protection



Bipartisan Border Negotiations Continue Despite Headwinds

According to a May 12 report, a bipartisan group of senators are continuing talks related to a potential deal on immigration reform. The group has reportedly made little progress in negotiations since they last met on April 22, as leading Republicans continue to highlight the need to address the current situation at the border before moving forward on two pieces of legislation which recently passed by the House of Representatives with bipartisan support that would provide a pathway to permanent status for Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status holders, and undocumented farmworkers. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-Texas) said that “there’ll be no immigration reform until you get control of the border.” Senator Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) said, “We certainly are willing to deal with questions about the border — but the question is much broader.”

Leading Senate Democrats continue to consider using the budget reconciliation process to pass immigration reform if a bipartisan compromise cannot be reached. Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington), said that, “we need to look at every legislative path possible to get comprehensive immigration reform done.”

Official April Border Numbers Reveal Arrivals Have Leveled Off

On May 11, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released official data on the number of migrants the agency had apprehended or encountered at the Southwest border in March. The data showed a slight uptick in overall April arrivals, signaling numbers are beginning to plateau after steep increases in February and March. CBP encountered 178,622 total April encounters, a marginal increase from March’s total of 172,331. Single adults drove the entirety of the increase, rising from 100,104 to 111,301. Arriving individuals in family units and arriving unaccompanied children dropped slightly from March to April. The overall numbers, particularly of arriving adults, remain inflated due to a high number of repeat crossers, with recidivism rates reportedly close to 40%.

Safely processing arriving unaccompanied children has continued to pose a challenge for the administration, although children are no longer being backed up in Customs and Border Protection holding cells for prolonged periods. The administration has dramatically expanded shelter capacity in the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to get children quickly out of CBP custody, opening at least 15 emergency sites across the country. However, the hastily-opened emergency sites do not meet the same standards for care and oversight as permanent ORR shelters, and some are overcrowded themselves or facing allegations that children are mistreated in their care. According to a May 13 report, some unaccompanied minors were held for consecutive days on buses as they waited to be transferred to emergency sites or to be re-united with family members.

The administration has also continued to use a pandemic era rule called Title 42 to rapidly expel most single adults and many families — even those seeking humanitarian protection. There were 111,000 (or 62.5%) arriving migrants immediately returned under the protocol, including 85% of single adults and about one third of all arriving families. According to a May 7 report, the use of  the rule on families has resulted in 2,100 unaccompanied children separating from their families after being returned and attempting to cross alone. The administration has said it plans to clarify exceptions to Title 42, but as of May 8 the implementation remained haphazard. According to a May 12 report, the U.S. government has stopped flying families from one part of the border to another in order to more easily expel them.

Harris Urges Cooperation on Migration in Meeting with Mexican President

In a May 7 virtual meeting with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Vice President Kamala Harris urged bilateral cooperation between the U.S. and Mexico, particularly to address the root causes migration into the U.S. from Mexico and Central America. “Most people don’t want to leave home, and when they do, it is often because they are fleeing some harm or they are forced to leave because there are no opportunity,” Harris said in the conversation. López Obrador offered to assist with U.S. efforts to stem migration but did not provide specifics.

As part of an effort to address root causes, the Biden administration has recently launched a series of anti-corruption initiatives in the Northern Triangle and Mexico. The initiative has faced pushback from political leaders in the countries, with lawmakers in Guatemala and El Salvador dismissing judges and others who are leading anti-corruption efforts. Shortly before President López Obrador’s meeting with Vice President Harris, he requested that the U.S. cut off funding to an anti-corruption group in Mexico.

Administration Supports Pathway for Immigrant Entrepreneurs

On May 10, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced the revival of the International Entrepreneur Rule (IER), a program that allows international entrepreneurs to start or scale their businesses for up to five years in the U.S.

The IER was initially adopted at the end of the Obama administration in January 2017 but delayed by the Trump administration before it went into effect. After a successful lawsuit over the delay, USCIS was compelled to begin accepting applications under the rule in 2018. Following the lawsuit, the Trump administration delayed implementation and issued a proposed regulation to withdraw the IER. While the rule was never finalized, due to the program’s uncertain status between 2017 and 2019, USCIS only received 30 applications for the program, and just one was approved. With the May 10 announcement, USCIS rescinded the proposed regulation to withdraw the IER and promised to begin advertising and supporting new applications.

Under the IER, entrepreneurs are eligible to be paroled into the U.S. and granted an initial stay of up to two years as long as their startups attract at least $250,000 in U.S. venture capital, hire ten employees, or meet other benchmarks. A subsequent request for re-parole for up to three additional years is available in situations where the entrepreneur and the startup entity could demonstrate a significant public benefit through increases in capital investment, revenue, or job creation. USCIS has estimated that about 3,000 international entrepreneurs qualify each year, leading to the creation of 100,000 jobs over ten years.

Education Secretary Opens Emergency Grants to Undocumented and International College Students

On May 11, the U.S. Department of Education broadened the eligibility of pandemic relief grants to all higher education students regardless of their immigration status. These grants will help over 5,000 higher education institutions provide emergency financial aid to millions of students, including DACA recipients. U.S. Secretary of Education, Miguel Cordona, said the additional funds would be critical to ensuring that all of the nation’s students —particularly those disproportionately impacted by the pandemic — have the opportunity to continue their education.

Since early 2020, Congress has earmarked $35 billion in emergency aid for students facing housing, employment, and food insecurities, but left it to the Education Department to determine the terms governing the distribution of the funds. Under the previous administration, only those eligible for federal student aid programs could receive money, disqualifying undocumented and international students. The new rule clarifies that emergency aid can support all students who have been enrolled in college during the pandemic, regardless of their migratory status.


Biden Hires 17 Immigration Judges Formerly Selected by Trump Administration

On May 13 the Biden administration announced the appointments of 17 new immigration judges, all of whom were initially selected by the Trump administration. A Department of Justice spokesperson said the judges had “all received their conditional offers under the previous administration.”

The appointments drew criticism from immigration advocates, who noted that the appointments were almost all former Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) prosecutors. Others called for additional reforms to the immigration court system. A representative from the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said that, “on its own more judges won’t fix the fundamental lack of fairness in the immigration courts.”

State and Local

Arizona House Approves Ballot Referral to Allow DACA Recipients to Access In-State Tuition

On May 10, the Arizona House of Representatives voted in favor of a ballot referral giving Arizona voters in 2022 the chance to determine if students brought to the U.S. as children should qualify for in-state tuition. The measure, which was supported by 29 Democrats and four Republicans, would partially repeal Proposition 300, a 2006 state law that prevents undocumented Arizonans from accessing a number of public benefits. Arizona is one of just three states that currently deny undocumented students access to in-state tuition. “We need more educated youth to become tomorrow’s teachers, health care workers, lawyers, engineers and a host of other occupations, especially if we want to continue to lower taxes,” said state Representative Michelle Udall (R-Mesa).

Indianapolis Approves Immigration Legal Defense Fund

On May 10, the Indianapolis City-County Council approved a pilot program that will assist immigrants accessing legal counsel. The $150,000 program was approved as a fiscal ordinance, and it will furnish legal counsel to immigrants who are applying citizenship or adjustment of status or who are seeking protection from removal or deportation. The funds would come from the Indiana Office of Public Health and Safety and will be distributed to local nonprofits that provide legal immigration services.

Because immigration court proceedings are administrative, not criminal, the constitutional right to counsel does not extend to immigrants with cases in immigration court. While those in proceedings may retain representation at their own expense, the federal government does not provide them with counsel. Data shows that those who are able to find legal representation are four times more likely to win their cases.


Congressional Research Service (CRS): Applications for Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness (LRIF): Fact Sheet Updated May 6, 2021

This fact sheet from the Congressional Research Service focuses on Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness (LRIF) applications. Since 1991, certain Liberians have been permitted to live and work in the United States through Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or deferred enforced departure (DED). In December 2019, Congress enacted LRIF in order to provide Liberians with a pathway for lawful permanent resident status or citizenship, if they met certain requirements. Currently, it is estimated that 10,000 Liberians are potentially eligible for LRIF.

Congressional Research Service (CRS): U.S Refugee Admissions in FY2021; April 27, 2021

This report focuses on the number of refugee admissions for FY2021. In April 2021, President Biden issued a presidential determination (PD) on the year’s refugee admissions, setting the ceiling for how many refugees can be admitted to the United States. Biden’s initial emergency PD kept the ceiling at 15,000 but changed eligibility requirements. The April PD lifted the ceiling to 62,500.


What’s Happening at the Southern Border, Explained

This explainer breaks down what is happening at the U.S.-Mexico border, analyzing CBP data on recent apprehensions, describing the impact and use of Title 42 expulsions as well as the treatment of arriving UACs. It also provides additional context on reports of increased migration to the U.S. and the treatment of migrant families seeking entry at the border.

Public Funding for Immigration Legal Services

This resource provides an overview of various local efforts to provide legal representation to immigrants in removal proceedings. The resource examines four different types of immigrant legal service provision programs, examines the outcomes of each, and makes a series of recommendations for future programs.

Explainer: Emergency Shelters and Facilities Housing Unaccompanied Children

This explainer describes the different kinds of shelters and facilities that are currently being used to house unaccompanied children (UACs). The explainer documents the emergency facilities that have recently been opened by the Biden administration to address the increase in UACs at the border.

* * *

*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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