Legislative Bulletin — Friday, May 6, 2022

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. 7595

Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement Restoration Act

The bill would require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to create within Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) an office to support victims of crimes committed by immigrants called the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement Office.

Sponsored by Representative Jack Bergman (R-Michigan) (4 cosponsors— 4 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

04/27/2022 Introduced in the House by Representative Bergman

04/27/2022 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 7596

Repurposing Elite Luxuries Into Emergency Funds (RELIEF) for Ukraine Act

The bill would require the Attorney General to deposit all proceeds resulting from the liquidation of assets seized as a result of actions taken by Task Force KleptoCapture into the Ukrainian Relief Fund. Task Force KleptoCapture is an interagency task force dedicated to enforcing sanctions, export restrictions, and economic countermeasures that the United States has imposed in response to the invasion of Ukraine. The Ukrainian Relief Fund, among other things, would promote the security, safety, health, well-being, and resettlement of Ukrainian refugees.

Sponsored by Representative Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) (1 cosponsor— 1 Republican, 0 Democrats)

04/27/2022 Introduced in the House by Representative Kaptur

04/27/2022 Referred to the House Committees on Foreign Affairs and the Judiciary

H.R. 7637

Veterans First Act of 2022

The bill would prohibit the Department of Veterans Affairs from using federal funds to provide emergency assistance in response to an emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border directly resulting from the repeal of Title 42. This bill is a companion to S. 4082.

Sponsored by Representative Steve Womack (R-Arkansas) (31 cosponsors— 31 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

04/28/2022 Introduced in the House by Representative Womack

04/28/2022 Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

H.R. 7650

International Press Freedom Act of 2022

The bill would create within the Department of State an Office on International Press Freedom. Among other things, the office would recommend the issuance of nonimmigrant visas and parole to foreign individuals classified as threatened journalists. For purposes of this bill, threatened journalists are foreign nationals who have been threatened, harassed, or attacked on account of, or in the exercise of, journalistic activity.

Sponsored by Representative William Keating (D-Massachusetts) (1 cosponsor— 1 Democrat, 0 Republicans)

05/03/2022 Introduced in the House by Representative Keating

05/03/2022 Referred to the House Committees on Foreign Affairs and the Judiciary

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate will be in session the week of Monday, May 9, 2022.

The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Tuesday, May 10, through Friday, May 13, 2022.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

Hearing: Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Request for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Date: Wednesday, May 11, 2022, at 2:00 pm E.T. (House Committee on Appropriations)

Location: 2358-A Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C.

Witness: Chris Magnus, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

President Biden and Mexico’s President López Obrador Hold Talks to Address Migration

On April 29, President Biden spoke with Mexico’s President López Obrador to discuss joint strategies to address the flow of migrants from throughout the hemisphere to Mexico and the United States. Both countries agreed to enhance their collaboratory efforts to address irregular migration. They also discussed the importance of working together with countries throughout the hemisphere to address root causes of migration, ensure safe and sustainable livelihoods for their respective citizens, and expand legal pathways for migrants and refugees.

Four days after their conversation, on May 3, Mexican authorities relocated a migrant camp that had sprung up in a park in the city of Reynosa, which sits across the border from McAllen, Texas. The camp held over 2,000 people from Central America and Haiti who have now been moved to a city shelter. On May 4, Mexican authorities agreed to take Cuban and Nicaraguan migrants expelled by the United States under Title 42, a pandemic-era order used since March 2020 to rapidly expel arriving migrants without providing them the opportunity to seek asylum.

Also on April 29, Mexico’s Minister of Economy announced that a planned commercial rail line will now cross the U.S.-Mexico border in New Mexico instead of Texas, as initially planned. The change comes in response to Texas Governor Abbott’s recent attempts to expand inspections of commercial vehicles crossing the Texas-Mexico border. The change of rail route is estimated to cost Texas $4.2 billion in lost revenue.

Refugee Resettlement Continues to Lag in April as Administration Turns to Parole Program for Ukraine

On May 5, refugee resettlement data released by the State Department revealed the administration resettled a total of 1,984 refugees in April, which represents a 12% decrease from March. Seven months through the fiscal year (FY), the current resettlement pace would lead to a total of only 18,414 refugees resettled in all of FY 2022. That number continues to lag far behind the refugee ceiling of 125,000 announced by President Biden last September.

The released data also revealed that the U.S. resettled an increasing number of refugees from Ukraine, rising from 12 in March to 105 in April. The April numbers brought the total of Ukrainian refugees resettled since February — when the Russian invasion started — to a total of 544. These numbers, however, are still far behind the 100,000 refugees that the Biden administration committed to welcome in a March statement. However, despite the low number of Ukrainians entering through the refugee resettlement program, the recently-launched Uniting for Ukraine private sponsorship parole program has received over 14,500 applications in just ten days.

The April resettlement data also reveals that 568 Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) were granted to Afghans in April, a significant increase from 301 in March but still far below summer peaks prior to the fall of Kabul when the administration granted over 3,000 SIVs each month.

USCIS Increases Automatic Extension Period of Work Authorization for Certain Applicants

On May 3, U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services (USCIS) announced a Temporary Final Rule (TFR) that increases the automatic extension of work authorization for certain renewal applicants from 180 days to up to 540 days. The directive, intended to help tackle the work-permit application backlog, went into effect on May 4. In the announcement, USCIS Director Ur Jaddou highlighted that the extension would help avoid gaps in employment for non-citizens and avoid further disruption for U.S. employers.

The current employment authorization backlog at USCIS sits at over 1.5 million.

Report Shows Increasing Number of Deaths and Injuries Caused by Border Barriers

On April 29, a group of physicians from the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) published a peer-reviewed article that highlights the increasing number of deaths and traumas of patients who have fallen from barriers on the U.S.-Mexico border since 2019. The article notes that since the replacement of pre-existing border fencing with 30-foot barriers in 2019, the number of patients arriving at the UCSD Medical Center trauma ward after falling off the structure has increased fivefold. Moreover, falling deaths at the border went from zero to 16 during the same period. The construction of that section of the border wall was ordered by former President Donald Trump on January 24, 2017 through the executive order Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements.

The falling incidents are a subset of the soaring number of injuries and deaths occurring to migrants all across the southern border. In 2021, at least 650 people died attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. According to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents tend to undercount immigrant deaths, with the number of people dying likely twice as high as has been reported.

Legal

US Supreme Court Requests Additional Briefs in MPP Case

On May 3, only six days after the Supreme Court held oral arguments in a case concerning the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), the justices instructed the parties to file additional briefs by Monday, May 9, to provide an answer as to whether the Supreme Court has the jurisdiction to consider the merits of the case. The case, Biden v. Texas, revolves around whether the Biden administration may end MPP, commonly known as Remain in Mexico. Texas and Missouri — the states challenging the decision to end the policy — argue that the Biden administration (and several prior administrations) is statutorily required to implement MPP as long as it does not have the capacity to detain all arriving migrants.

The Biden administration stopped enrollment in MPP in June 2021. On August 13, a federal judge in Texas ruled that the termination of MPP violated the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). Hence, in compliance with court orders, the Biden administration resumed the implementation of MPP on December 6. On December 29, the Biden administration asked the Supreme Court to consider its arguments to end MPP after the Fifth Circuit rejected its appeal on December 14. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to the Biden administration’s petition on February 18 and held oral arguments on April 26.

State & Local

Massachusetts Senate Approves Bill That Allows Undocumented Immigrants to Receive Driver’s Licenses

On May 5, the Massachusetts Senate passed a bill by a vote of a 32 to 8 that would allow undocumented residents to receive driver’s licenses in the state. The bill had already passed the Massachusetts House of Representatives on February 17, and now sits on Governor Charlie Baker’s desk to be signed into law.

The bill would require undocumented immigrants seeking a license to prove their identity and provide evidence of their residency in the state. Applicants would be required to provide two separate identification documents, the first consisting of either a passport or consular identification and the second consisting of an unexpired driver’s license from any U.S. state or territory, a birth certificate, a foreign national identity card, a foreign driver’s license, or a marriage certificate issued in Massachusetts.

If the bill is signed into law, it is expected to benefit over 200,000 undocumented immigrants, and Massachusetts would become the 16th state in the country to allow undocumented immigrants to access driver’s licenses.

Texas Governor Abbott Threatens to Challenge Requirement to Offer Free Public Education to All Children

On May 4, Texas Governor Gregg Abbott announced he was considering a challenge to Plyler v. Doe, a landmark 1982 Supreme Court ruling that requires states to offer free public education to all children, including undocumented immigrants. The ruling had struck down a Texas law that denied state funding to educate children who had not been “legally admitted” to the United States.

Governor Abbott expressed his intention to challenge the ruling in a radio interview where he discussed his desire to “resurrect that case and challenge the issue again.”

Education advocacy groups raised concerns about Governor Abbott’s intention. The Texas American Federation of Teachers, for instance, stated that “children shouldn’t be punished for the political ambitions of adults. Nor should they be judged for the decisions of their parents, who oftentimes are trying to provide a life for their children that’s free from violence.”

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (DHS-OIG), “CBP and CWMD Need to Improve Monitoring and Maintenance of Radiation Portal Monitor Systems (Redacted),” April 27, 2022

This OIG report notes that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Department of Homeland Security’s Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office (CWMD) have failed to ensure that Radiation Portal Monitor (RPM) systems are meeting critical system performance requirements. RPM systems are used by CBP to scan for radiological and nuclear threats and materials at U.S. ports of entry.

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

Addressing Increases in Migration at the Southwest Border

This updated 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.

Explainer: Uniting for Ukraine

This resource explains the elements of the Uniting for Ukraine program, launched by the Biden administration on April 21, to provide Ukrainian citizens who have fled Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression opportunities to come to the U.S.

Explainer: Title 42 and What Comes Next at the Border

This explainer provides more information about the Title 42 border policy, its impact on the border, and what will happen when the policy is lifted.

* * *

*This Bulletin is not intended to be comprehensive. Please contact Arturo Castellanos-Canales, National Immigration Forum Policy and Advocacy Associate, with comments and suggestions of additional items to be included. Arturo can be reached at acastellanos@immigrationforum.org.. Thank you.

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