Skip to content

Legislative Bulletin — Friday, May 17, 2024

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 country. The 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:

DEVELOPMENTS IN IMMIGRATION THIS WEEK

BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

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

Biden Administration Announces More Changes to Asylum Processing 

On May 16, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a new “recent arrivals” docket process for single adults who try to cross the U.S.-Mexico border without authorization, cutting timelines for immigration proceedings from years to roughly six months.

This last-in-first-out scheme focused on those who enter the U.S. between ports of entry could apply to individuals who report Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, or New York City as their destinations within the U.S. For now, only ten judges have been allotted for the program, according to CBS News. 

“We’ve identified judges who have availability to manage to do these and manage along with all the existing work that they’re doing,” said a senior administration official, as reported by CNN. “As conditions merit, we’ll adjust as is necessary.”

The Biden administration is targeting for cases to be decided within 180 days, although “the time to decision in any particular case will remain subject to case-specific circumstances and due process guarantees, including allowing time for noncitizens to seek representation where needed,” said a joint press release from DOJ and DHS.  

In the same breath, the DOJ announced that it was finalizing a rule, “Efficient Case and Docket Management in Immigration Proceedings,” which will codify immigration judges’ discretion to better manage their overwhelmed dockets. By the end of April, nearly 3.6 million cases were pending in the U.S.’s immigration courts, according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.

The announcements follow other potential changes to the asylum system that were made public last week, when DHS proposed that complex eligibility requirements to qualify for humanitarian protection should be applied earlier in the adjudicatory process. It also comes even as the number of irregular border crossings dipped once again in April, now down to under 129,000.

Biden Administration Reportedly Sends Deportation Flight to Haiti

On May 16, the Biden administration reportedly sent another deportation flight to Haiti, despite an ongoing crisis in the country that has led to mass violence and widespread gang control in recent months.

The flight seemingly landed in Cap Haitien, hours from the capital of Port-au-Prince, in a similar move to another removal flight that took place and garnered a great deal of criticism in April.

The Forum has sent a letter to officials from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the State Department asking for them to consider policy changes that would honor Haitians’ human dignity and provide them a pathway to safety. One of the recommendations is to pause Haitian removals until conditions improve in their home country. Other recommendations involve novel suggestions such as more accessible virtual processing for employment-based temporary statuses and an expansion of the existing Central American Minors (CAM) program to safeguard Haitian children.

Mexican Migration Enforcement Measures Draw Attention, Scrutiny

That the U.S. is seeing a decline in migrant encounters at its southern border is no coincidence, experts say — it’s a fact attributable to Mexico’s ramped up immigration enforcement since the end of December, as Mexican authorities have been stopping almost three times the number of migrants in their country compared to a year ago.

According to NBC News, more migrants are now being interdicted in Mexico than in the U.S.: around 280,000 in Mexico compared to roughly 189,000 in the U.S. during March.

But Mexico’s enforcement activities may be unsustainable, some experts warn, as the country lacks the capacity to detain and deport most people who are apprehended. According to the New York Times, Mexico deported fewer than 7,000 people in January and February, a small fraction of the number of migrants encountered.

Instead of mass repatriations, Mexico has been flying and bussing people en masse to cities near its southern border, where they cannot access appointments through the U.S. government’s CBP One app to enter the country legally, and where they must start all over with paying the costs — including bribes — to reach the U.S.-Mexico border.

Tonatiuh Guillén, once the head of Mexico’s National Migration Institute, described this strategy as a “merry-go-round” and “a perverse scenario.”

Amy Fischer from Amnesty International USA argued that Mexico was “doing the dirty work of the U.S. in order to keep people from accessing the U.S. southern border and exercising their right to seek safety.”

Meanwhile, the financial exploitation migrants are enduring in Mexico doesn’t end even if they do eventually reach the U.S., advocates have warned. In San Diego, which recently became the most transited sector for migrants across the U.S.-Mexico border, community members have allegedly started charging people to power up their phones and are ripping them off on rides that cost hundreds of dollars to get to places like the airport.

Even so, people fleeing violence and instability while searching for a better life continue to migrate, often through dangerous paths. During the first four months of this year, over 30,000 children transited the perilous Darién Gap jungle between Colombia and Panama, a 40% uptick compared to the same time last year. Around 2,000 of those kids traveled unaccompanied or separated from family members.

“During my visit last month to the community of Bajo Chiquito, I met Esmeira, an 11-year-old girl from Venezuela who separated from her mother during the crossing through the jungle. Through tears, Esmeira shared with me how difficult it was for her to be alone in the jungle,” said Ted Chaiban, UNICEF deputy executive director.

“She had to cross swollen rivers, pass injured and hungry people on the route, and at night, she told me, it was very dark and she heard scary noises. Esmeria was hungry. She had not eaten in two days. Esmeria had not studied for months, and she hoped that her mother would arrive soon to follow their path. No child should have to live through or witness these things.”

This continued and even increasing migration, by vulnerable populations like children and by people from around the world, poses questions about how effective a focus primarily on enforcement will be long-term — both in the U.S. and Mexico.

“I understand why Biden and Trump want to stop immigration,” Exar, a 30-year-old, middle-class mechanical engineering student making the journey, told the Los Angeles Times. “But it’s a little late for that, no?”

Legal

Immigration Groups Argue Against Turnbacks Before Ninth Circuit Amid CBP One Enforcement

On May 13, the ninth circuit considered advocates’ and affected individuals’ arguments against the Biden administration allegedly turning asylum seekers away at official ports of entry because they lack appointments through the federal government’s CBP One app.

Attorneys fighting the turnback policy asked for the appeals court to reverse a federal district court’s decision not to issue a preliminary injunction last year. The turnbacks are part of a larger change in asylum processing and immigration enforcement after the end of the Title 42 public health order last May, as the Biden administration has provided limited pathways (including the use of CBP One) for people fleeing violence and persecution to remain eligible for asylum.

Biden Administration Moves to Partially Terminate Flores Settlement Agreement After Rulemaking

On May 10, the Biden administration asked a federal judge to partially end the Flores Settlement Agreement after finalizing a new regulation implementing protections and codifying standards of care for unaccompanied migrant children.

The legal agreement, which dates to 1997, has been used to ensure adequate care for migrant children through court enforcement for years. But it was always meant to be temporary, and with the publication of the new rule, the Biden administration is angling to terminate the part of the agreement that applies to unaccompanied children who are being cared for by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Notably, the proposed change would not end the agreement and its oversight mechanisms for children in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Still, Flores counsel expressed concerns that the new rule would not provide enough access to meaningful oversight to ensure that unaccompanied children remain safe. The regulation does create a new ombudsman office to investigate concerns, but some experts worry this public advocate position will not meaningfully replace the authority of the federal court that oversees the agreement now.

State and Local

8 Mexican Farmworkers Tragically Killed in Florida Vehicle Collision

On May 14, eight Mexican farmworkers died when a pickup truck driver collided with the bus taking them to their job at a watermelon field in Dunnellon, Florida.

Of the bus’s 53 passengers, 44 were Mexican citizens in Florida on temporary or seasonal visas. Among the dead were Evarado Ventura Hernández, Cristian Salazar Villeda,  Alfredo Tovar Sánchez, Isaías Miranda Pasca, José Heriberto Fraga Acosta, and Manuel Pérez Ríos.

“They were here to do honest work,” said Jeannie Economos with the Farmworker Association of Florida. “Agricultural work is hard. They came here to work hard to support themselves and their families back in their home country.”

Tovar Sánchez was only 19 years old and had been in the U.S. for about two weeks. He had joined the temporary workers program to save up for his marriage to his fiancée, whom he never learned is two months pregnant.

“I feel I can’t continue without my son,” his mother told Telemundo News. “I’ve been left with so much pain. I don’t know that I can live with this pain.”

Gamaliel Marcel, a childhood friend of Salazar Villeda’s, remembered him as “the most respectful” and someone who “brought out a smile when you needed it.” He said Salazar Villeda had just gotten married in March and had a young daughter.

For Ventura Hernández’s mother, the loss of her son meant that “a piece of my heart is gone.”

The pickup driver, Bryan Maclean Howard, has pleaded not guilty to driving under the influence-manslaughter charges. He has a long record of driving offenses.

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 new bills. This list includes federal legislative proposals that have recently been introduced and that are relevant to immigration policy.

Please follow this link to find new relevant bills, as well as proposed legislation from past weeks. Below is one bill that advanced in the House. 

H.R. 7343

The Detain and Deport Illegal Aliens Who Assault Cops Act

This bill would require the detention and deportation of noncitizens who assault law enforcement officers.

Sponsored by Rep. Jefferson Van Drew (R-New Jersey) (10 cosponsors – 10 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

02/13/2024 Introduced in the House by Rep. Jefferson Van Drew

02/13/2024 Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Relations

05/15/2024 Passed the House of Representatives after a 265 – 148 vote

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate is expected to be in session from Monday, May 20 through Friday, May 24, 2024. 

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to be in session from Tuesday, May 21 through Friday, May 24, 2024. 

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

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

There are no immigration-related hearings announced for the week of May 20, 2024.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

Reports by bodies such as the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the Congressional Research Service, and the Department of Homeland Security’s 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. 

Congressional Research Services (CRS); Immigration: Grounds of Inadmissibility; Published May 7, 2024 

This CRS report provides a brief explanation of all the grounds of immigration inadmissibility to the United States. 

U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO); CBP Could Take Additional Steps to Strengthen Its Response to Incidents Involving Its Personnel; Published May 13, 2024 

This GAO report includes recommendations to enhance the investigation of critical incidents of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel. 

U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO); Additional Steps Needed to Improve ICE’s Budget Projections and Execution; Published May 15, 2024 

This GAO report includes nine recommendations to improve ICE’s budget projections and executions. 

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: 

The Biden Administration’s Proposed Rule on Asylum Bars & Other Measures: Explainer 

This explainer provides an overview of the proposed rule, which would give asylum officers the discretion to make decisions on bars to humanitarian relief around public safety and national security concerns during initial screenings that often take place days or weeks after an asylum seeker enters the country.  

Annual Funding From Congress Needed To Tackle USCIS Backlogs 

This paper highlights that in order to address USCIS’s vulnerabilities, prevent detrimental consequences, and assure efficient and timely services, Congress must provide USCIS with adequate funding to process its caseload, address backlogs, and modernize the agency’s outdated processes.

The Myths and Truths of Noncitizen Voting in the United States 

This analysis covers the truths around immigrants voting in the U.S., which include that noncitizens have been barred from voting in federal elections since 1924. 

* * *

*This Bulletin is not intended to be comprehensive. Please contact Alexandra Villarreal, Senior 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.

Learn More

Read more about Legislative Bulletin — Friday, May 10, 2024

Legislative Bulletin

Legislative Bulletin — Friday, May 10, 2024

Read more about Legislative Bulletin — Friday, May 3, 2024

Legislative Bulletin

Legislative Bulletin — Friday, May 3, 2024

Read more about Legislative Bulletin — Friday, June 21, 2024

Legislative Bulletin

Legislative Bulletin — Friday, June 21, 2024