Legislative Bulletin — Friday, May 21, 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

S. 1635

Temporary Family Visitation Act

The bill would establish a new B-3 nonimmigrant visa category to allow the family members of U.S. citizens and permanent residents to stay in the U.S. for temporary periods. The U.S. resident would be required to petition for their family members, including spouses, children, grandchildren, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews. The bill is a companion to H.R. 3215.

Sponsored by Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) (1 cosponsor — 1 Democrat, 0 Republicans)

05/13/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Paul

05/13/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 1638

Fairness for Immigrant Families Act

The bill would remove barriers for long-term immigrants to become lawful permanent residents by eliminating bars to reentry and reestablishing the 245(i) program for those with family ties to adjust their status.

Sponsored by Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada) (0 cosponsors)

05/13/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Cortez Masto

05/13/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 1660

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

The bill would remove barriers to health care for immigrants of all statuses. The bill would also provide access to public health coverage for DACA recipients. Additionally, the bill would remove the current restrictions that prevent undocumented immigrants from purchasing health coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace.

Sponsored by Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) (8 cosponsors — 7 Democrats, 1 Independent, 0 Republicans)

05/17/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Booker

05/17/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on Finance

S. 1708

Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act

The bill would exempt children of Filipino World War II veterans from the numerical limitations on immigrant visas. The bill is a companion to H.R. 3336.

Sponsored by Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) (14 cosponsors — 11 Democrats, 2 Republicans, 1 Independent)

05/19/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Hirono

05/19/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 1709

Assisting Narcotics and Trafficking Officers in Interdicting (ANTI) Drugs Act

The bill would increase resources for three law enforcement programs focused on border security and combating drug trafficking: High Intensity Drug Task Forces (HIDTA), Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), and Operation Stonegarden.

Sponsored by Senator Jon Tester (D-Montana) (1 cosponsor — 1 Republican, 0 Democrats)

05/19/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Tester

05/19/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 1722

Protecting America from Spies Act

The bill would allow the U.S. Department of State to deny visas to individuals who have committed acts of espionage or intellectual property theft against the United States. The bill is a companion to H.R. 3343.

Sponsored by Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) (1 cosponsor — 1 Republican, 0 Democrats)

05/19/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Cruz

05/19/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 3189

A bill to require the Secretary of Homeland Security to submit a plan to establish travel corridors at land-based border ports of entry to facilitate cross-border travel at the northern border.

Sponsored by Representative Michelle Fischbach (R-Minnesota) (3 cosponsors — 3 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

05/13/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Fischbach

05/13/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 3195

Ending Sanctuary Cities Act

The bill would prevent state and local governments that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities from receiving certain federal grants.

Sponsored by Representative Glenn Grothman (R-Wisconsin) (9 cosponsors — 9 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

05/13/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Grothman

05/13/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary and the Committee on Oversight and Reform

H.R. 3214

A bill to protect children through eliminating visa loopholes

Sponsored by Representative Scott Perry (R-Pennsylvania) (No cosponsors)

05/13/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Perry

05/13/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary and the Committee on Foreign Affairs

H.R. 3215

Temporary Family Visitation Act (TFVA)

This bipartisan bill would establish a new B-3 nonimmigrant visa category specifically intended for relatives of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. The new visa category would allow foreign nationals to enter the United States temporarily for family purposes. The bill is a companion to S. 1635.

Sponsored by Representative Scott H. Peters (D-California) (5 cosponsors — 3 Republicans, 2 Democrats)

05/13/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Peters

05/13/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 3239

To make improvements in the enactment of title 41, United States Code, into a positive law title and to improve the Code

Sponsored by Representative Scott Fitzgerald (R-Wisconsin) (0 cosponsors)

05/14/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Fitzgerald

05/14/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 3336

Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act

The bill would exempt children of Filipino World War II veterans from the numerical limitations on immigrant visas. The bill is a companion to S. 1708.

Sponsored by Representative Ed Case (D-Hawaii) (23 cosponsors — 22 Democrats, 1 Republican)

05/19/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Case

05/19/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 3343

Protecting America from Spies Act

The bill would allow the U.S. Department of State to deny visas to individuals who have committed acts of espionage or intellectual property theft against the United States. The bill is a companion to S. 1722.

Sponsored by Representative Vicky Hartzler (R-Missouri) (10 cosponsors — 10 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

05/19/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Hartzler

05/19/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate will be in session the week of Monday, May 24, 2021.

The U.S. House of Representatives will not be in session the week of Monday, May 24, 2021.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

Department of Homeland Security Resource Management and Operational Priorities

Date: Wednesday, May 26 at 10:00 am ET (House Appropriations Committee)

Location: Virtual

Witnesses:

Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary, Department of Homeland Security

Hearings to Examine Proposed Budget Estimates and Justification for Fiscal Year 2022 for the Department of Homeland Security

Date: Wednesday, May 26 at 2:00 pm ET (Senate Appropriations Committee)

Location: Dirksen Senate Office Building SD-138

Witnesses:

Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary, Department of Homeland Security

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

Biden Meets DACA Recipients while USCIS Promises new Rules to Fortify the Program

On May 14, President Biden met with six recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that provides protection from deportation and work authorization to Dreamers. Following the meeting, President Biden renewed his call for Congress to find a permanent legislative solution for DACA recipients and other Dreamers and reiterated his commitment to passing immigration reform.

Also after the meeting, a spokesperson for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said that that strengthening DACA via regulatory policy is a top priority for the agency. “It’s something that we are committed to get done within months, not years,” the spokesperson said, “because we know how important the program is.” The agency’s work on a new rule to fortify DACA comes as the fate of the program hangs in the balance in an ongoing court case in Texas, in which nine states have challenged the legality of the program. It remains unclear whether a decision in the case is imminent or whether the judge will wait until the rulemaking is completed to make a ruling.

Administration Clarifies Exemptions to CDC Border Rule

On May 18, a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) confirmed that the administration is establishing new processes for certain vulnerable migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border to apply for asylum at ports of entry. Currently, under a pandemic-era Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) health rule called Title 42. the majority of all arriving migrants continue to be immediately expelled, including those seeking humanitarian protection. Under the newly-created exceptions to Title 42, the Biden administration will allow approximately 250 asylum seekers into the United States for processing each day, or up to 7,750 each month. Family units and single adults who are deemed to fit particular vulnerability criteria by local advocacy groups and legal service providers will be eligible for this process.

The new process stems from negotiations between the administration and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) related to ongoing federal litigation on the legality of Title 42. The administration is already exempting an increasing number of asylum seekers from the rapid expulsions, including 49,739 individuals in April. There has been uncertainty surrounding the implementation of these exemptions, however, with some voicing criticism that the process has been haphazard and lacks transparency. DHS has noted that Mexico’s reluctance to receive migrants in certain border sectors is contributing to the uncertainty. While the new process will be available for a smaller number of individuals, a spokesperson for the ACLU said it is designed to create a more “streamlined process for assessing and addressing” exemptions.

In conjunction with the clarified exemption process, the administration may also resume “lateral flights” of migrants from one border sector to another in order to facilitate Title 42 expulsions. The flights had been paused as negotiations with the ACLU continued. The use of lateral flights are among multiple aspects of the administration’s border response which have garnered criticism from migrant advocacy groups and legal service providers. On May 20, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi released a statement calling on the U.S. to end the use of Title 42 expulsions entirely, noting that the expulsions have had “serious humanitarian consequences in northern Mexico.”

According to a May 16 report, a number of arriving asylum seekers at the border are fleeing from countries and areas that do not often send migrants to the U.S. The report suggests a number of these individuals are “pandemic refugees” who are fleeing the particular social and economic impacts of COVID-19 on their communities.

Afghans Who Assisted US Troops Fear Being Left in Danger, Protest Slow Visa Process

According to a May 17 report, a group of former interpreters and others who have assisted U.S. forces in Afghanistan gathered in Kabul to protest delays in U.S. processing of their Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applications ahead of the American troop withdrawal scheduled for September 11. SIVs are available to individuals and their dependents who have worked for at least two years for the U.S. government in Afghanistan, who have received a letter of recommendation from a U.S. citizen supervisor, and who can demonstrate a threat to their life or livelihood on the basis of their assistance to the U.S. government.

The SIV application process involves extensive vetting and medical screening, causing the application process to take longer than three years in many cases. Approximately 18,000 applicants are currently waiting in the pipeline after receiving initial approval from the State Department and an additional 5,000 are still waiting for initial action on their applications.

Interpreters and other Afghans who are eligible for SIVs argue that the approaching withdrawal puts them at even greater risk as they wait for U.S. action. “We are not safe,” said one. “They are absolutely going to kill us.” Since 2016, at least 300 interpreters have been killed in Afghanistan.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle in the House of Representatives have lamented the lack of urgency from the administration in assisting the population. Representative Michael Waltz (R-Florida), who worked with interpreters during his deployment in Afghanistan, said, “the day the last U.S. soldier goes wheels up out of Bagram air base, we’ve handed these people a death sentence.”

Mayorkas Directs ICE to Close Two Embattled Immigration Detention Facilities

On May 20, DHS Secretary Mayorkas directed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to close two immigration detention facilities that have been the source of multiple allegations of abuse and medical mistreatment.

One of the facilities, the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia, was referenced in a September 14 whistleblower complaint alleging that numerous female detainees were subject to medical negligence and neglect, including a high rate of unwanted invasive procedures, such as hysterectomies. At least 57 women held at the facility said they underwent unnecessary gynecological treatments, and a panel of outside experts concluded after reviewing available medical records that there was a pattern of “unwarranted or medically aggressive treatment” at the facility.

The other facility, the C. Carlos Carreiro Immigration Detention Center in Bristol County, Massachusetts, was the site of a clash between detainees and law enforcement officials on May 1, 2020 related to inadequate provision of COVID-19 testing at the facility. The Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General concluded that the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) was responsible for “a series of institutional failures and poor decisions” leading up to and during the clash, including the unnecessary and excessive use of “a flash bang grenade, pepper-ball launchers, pepper spray canisters, anti-riot shield, and canines.”

In his memo to ICE, Secretary Mayorkas wrote that “we will not tolerate the mistreatment of individuals in civil immigration detention or substandard conditions of detention.” According to a May 14 report, ICE has been slow to vaccinate immigrant detainees, even as vaccines became available to all other U.S. adults. While vaccination has begun in certain facilities, ICE still has no nationwide plan to vaccinate the detained population, which was 16,721 detainees as of May 12.

DHS, HHS Budgets Take Hit as Agencies Respond to Migration at the Southern Border 

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are both facing financial difficulties as they work to recover from resource constraints related to the COVID-19 pandemic and to redirect funding to manage the recent influx of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.

In a House Appropriations Committee hearing on May 19, Chairwoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-California) said it was “unlikely” that Customs and Border Protection (CBP), an agency under DHS, would have enough funding to remain operational for the remainder of the fiscal year without additional supplemental funding from Congress. In the hearing, acting director of CBP Troy Miller said that the agency had lost revenue as a result of a decline in immigration and customs fees during travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

HHS has also faced financial issues, particularly relating to the increase in arriving unaccompanied children at the border. HHS is largely responsible for caring for the children while they are processed before being placed with family members, other sponsors, or foster care. The agency has diverted $2.13 billion from other initiatives to respond to the 2021 border influx, including resources initially designated for COVID-19 testing and to replenish the nation’s emergency medical reserve stockpile, which is used to supplement medical supplies and equipment to states and localities during public health emergencies.

In the May 19 hearing, Representative Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) suggested the administration may seek supplemental funding from Congress for agencies to help address the situation at the border.

More Parents of Migrant Children Found After Separation During Trump Administration

The parents of 54 migrant children have been located after being separated at the border during the Trump administration, according to a May 12 court filing. The pro bono lawyers appointed by a federal judge in California to reunite these immigrant families have found all but the parents of 391 children, down from 445 in April. The committee is independent from an interagency task force established by the Biden administration to identify children separated from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border during the Trump presidency and to facilitate the reunification of those families. The Biden task force has estimated that as many as 1,000 families may remain separated.

It has been difficult for the pro bono lawyers to find the parents of many children, but as they have made progress in investigating the separations, they now believe that the parents of 227 of the children were deported, 100 are located in the U.S., and 14 lack contact information and remain unreachable.

Biden Reverses Proclamation Requiring Immigrants to Provide Proof of Insurance

On May 14, President Biden reversed a 2019 Trump executive action that required proof of health care insurance or ability to pay for medical care before issuing visas leading to lawful permanent resident (LPR) status to future immigrants. President Biden also ordered agency leadership at State, DHS, and HHS to review regulatory orders, guidance documents, and administrative acts that were executed pursuant to the 2019 proclamation and make revisions that reflect the change in policy. In doing so, the Biden administration expressed its commitment to increasing access to healthcare without excluding individuals based on their immigration status.

Advocates Expect Low Refugee Resettlement Total

According to a May 16 report, refugee advocates and others involved in refugee resettlement believe the Biden administration will only be able to resettle between 10,000 and 15,000 refugees for the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2021, far lower than the ceiling of 62,500 set by President Biden on May 3. As of May 16, only 2,500 refugees had been resettled since the beginning of the fiscal year in October 2020, putting the U.S. on pace for a historic low. In announcing the modified refugee ceiling earlier this month, President Biden acknowledged that the administration would fall short of reaching the increased ceiling.

One factor contributing to the slow pace of refugee admissions was the president’s long delay in setting a revised admissions ceiling. Resettlement agencies have only recently been able to begin to rebuild capacity, and many refugees had their flights postponed as a result of the delay, some of whom will now need updated health screenings and renewed documents prior to being resettled.

Legal

Biden Expands Programs Offering Legal Aid to Immigrants

On May 18, President Biden signed a presidential memorandum to expand access to legal representation for immigrants and other vulnerable Americans. The memo included a plan to restore and re-establish two initiatives which have worked to improve access to counsel for immigrants and others. The first, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Access to Justice initiative, supports civil legal aid providers and public defenders across the country. The presidential memorandum also re-established the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable, a group which works with other government agencies to raise awareness of the importance of legal representation and address challenges to accessing it. Both programs were dismantled during the Trump administration.

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 at government expense. Data shows that detained immigrants who are able to find legal representation in immigration cases are twice as likely to win their cases.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

Office of the Inspector General (OIG): DHS Law Enforcement Components Did Not Consistently Collect DNA from Arrestees; May 17, 2021

In this report, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) describes an audit conducted on DHS law enforcement agencies. The audit revealed that four out of five agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), did not consistently collect DNA samples from those they arrested, or did not collect any samples at all. Department of Justice regulations under the DNA Fingerprint Act of 2005 require federal law enforcement agencies to collect DNA samples from arrestees. OIG found that these agencies did not collect DNA from approximately 88% of arrestees between 2018-2019.

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

Addressing Increases in Migration at the Southern Border

This resource provides policy recommendations that would create more humane and efficient border processing, refocus on regional approaches that combat trafficking networks and address the root causes of migration, and enact practical border security fixes that address key remaining vulnerabilities.

The Math of Immigration Detention, 2018 Update: Costs Continue to Multiply

This paper examines the current cost to American taxpayers of detaining hundreds of thousands of immigrants annually, as well as highlights the increase in the “bed rate” and the detention bed quota from fiscal year (FY) 2010 to FY 2018. This is an update to the 2013 Math of Immigration Detention paper.

Fact Sheet: Family Separation at the U.S.-Mexico Border

This fact sheet provides an updated overview of the issue of family separation at the U.S.-Mexico border, including information on the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) former “zero-tolerance policy” that entailed prosecuting all individuals crossing the border between ports of entry without authorization.

* * *

*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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