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Legislative Bulletin — Friday, November 10, 2023

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

A note: The bulletin will not be published next week, November 17, as the Forum will be focused on our annual convening, Leading the Way. We will publish a special edition of the bulletin on Wednesday, November 22, ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. 

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

Senate GOP Unveils Immigration Proposal in Exchange for Ukraine Funding 

On November 6, a group of Senate Republicans proposed a sweeping package of immigration and asylum restrictions in exchange for continued support for Ukraine’s war against Russian invasion.  

Sens. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), and Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) unveiled a one-pager detailing extensive changes to the U.S. immigration system, including resumed construction on a border wall, legislated barriers to asylum eligibility and access, new limitations on the executive branch’s parole authority, and a return to family detention.

The talking points — which the group said were “drawn from those found in H.R. 2,” the House GOP’s signature border bill — would also mandate that noncitizens who couldn’t be detained or removed to a safe third country return to a contiguous nation during their immigration proceedings, much like under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP). Likewise, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) could “suspend” entry of certain foreigners, similar to under the Title 42 public health order.  

Some Republicans have voiced hesitation around sending more aid to Ukraine after a year and a half of U.S. assistance, and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell — a defender of Ukraine aid — has said that pairing the White House’s supplemental funding request for national security with increased border enforcement “is the best way to get nine Republican senators on board,” the presumed threshold needed to avoid a filibuster.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York), in turn, has called his Republican colleagues’ immigration proposal a “total non-starter.”

“Senate Republicans basically copy and pasted large chunks of the House’s radical H.R. 2 bill and that’s their asking price for helping Ukraine,” he said. “Making Ukraine funding conditional on the hard-right border policies that can’t ever pass Congress is a huge mistake by our Republican colleagues.”

Now, a bipartisan group of senators — including Lankford, Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colorado), Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), Kyrsten Sinema (I-Arizona), and Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) — are spending the weekend trying to hash out a narrower compromise on immigration reform. 

“There’s growing concern, from folks on both sides of the aisle, that we have to act now, as a national security measure, to protect our border and ensure the safe passage of migrants into our country for those who do qualify for asylum,” said Sinema. 

DHS to Add 64,716 H-2B Visas for FY 2024 

On November 3, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it expects to make an additional 64,716 H-2B visas available for fiscal year 2024, after consultation with the Department of Labor.

The H-2B visa program permits employers to temporarily hire noncitizens to perform nonagricultural labor and services in the United States. These visas heavily supplement the workforce in the restaurant, landscaping, construction, hospitality, and amusement park industries, as well as many others

The new allotment of 64,716 visas will be in addition to the congressionally mandated 66,000 H-2B visas available every fiscal year. The expansion is expected to include 20,000 visas for workers from Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, and Honduras, to provide safe, orderly, and humane pathways to the U.S. for those nationalities. The other 44,716 supplemental visas are for returning workers.

A Strong Start To Refugee Arrivals for Fiscal Year 2024

The United States resettled 7,354 refugees in October, compared to just 2,152 refugees resettled in October 2022 — a strong start to fiscal year 2024. 

If the U.S. were to resettle the same number of refugees for the remaining 11 months of this fiscal year, 88,248 refugees would arrive, far exceeding the 60,014 refugees resettled last fiscal year.

Amid the Biden administration’s commitment to increasing refugee numbers from Latin America and the Caribbean to up to 50,000 in FY 2024, in October, 1,057 refugees were resettled from that region. This is an increase over the 798 refugees resettled in September, and higher than any month in FY 2023. However, if the U.S. were to resettle the same number of refugees for the remaining 11 months of this fiscal year, it would only resettle a total of 12,687 refugees from the Latin America/Caribbean region. 

The overall strong arrival numbers in October would suggest the refugee pipeline is being replenished at a good rate, and while there is more work to be done to further increase arrivals per month, initial signs point in the right direction for refugee arrivals this fiscal year.

State and Local 

Texas Legislature Quickly Advances Controversial Border Measures

After Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) called a historic fourth special legislative session on November 7, state lawmakers have quickly advanced controversial proposals to create state-level crimes for irregular border crossings and allow state magistrates or judges to order noncitizens removed from the United States. 

The proposed legislation raises serious constitutional questions and actively challenges Supreme Court precedent, so its passage would likely tee up a court battle. Last month, the National Immigration Forum urged state leaders to oppose earlier versions of the legislation and redirect Texas policymakers toward a more productive dialogue on immigration and border security. 

Nevertheless, House Bill 4 advanced out of committee on Thursday, while its companion, Senate Bill 4, cleared the entire upper chamber the same day after elected officials voted to suspend standard rules of procedure that would have allowed for more feedback from the public. 

On Friday, Texas leaders and board members for the Forum weighed in against the bills, warning that “these kinds of measures expose migrants to great risks and harms.”

“We’ve seen what has happened in other states that tried to pass these types of immigration enforcement laws at the state-level: court challenges and uncertainty for businesses and communities,” said Mustafa Tameez, former consultant to the Department of Homeland Security in the Bush administration and a Forum board member from Texas. “Austin cannot fix our broken immigration system. To truly address border challenges and workforce needs, Washington needs to step up.”

State legislators are also considering whether to spend another $1.54 billion on border barriers as Abbott builds his own border wall, and on a greater law enforcement presence in the Colony Ridge community outside of Houston. 

New York City Council Approves Immigrant Workers’ Bill of Rights 

On November 2, the New York City Council passed legislation to create a workers’ bill of rights, in part to crack down on migrant exploitation by ensuring immigrants and asylum seekers working in the city know they’re entitled to protections.   

The bill of rights would explain any federal, state, and local laws that safeguard workers regardless of their immigration status. New employees would receive a copy of the bill, and it would be posted in the workplace. 

“The idea behind the immigrant bill of rights is just to compile existing protections to ensure the immigrant workforce, irrespective of their legal status, recognize what their rights are around minimum wage, overtime, paid sick leave, fair schedule, and the right to form a union,” said Council Member Shahana Hanif, who sponsored the legislation.  

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.

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate is expected to be in session from Monday, November 13 through Friday, November 17, 2023. 

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to be in session from Monday, November 13 through Thursday, November 16, 2023.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

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

H.R. 5894 – Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2024

Date: Monday, November 13, 2023 at 4:00 p.m. EST (House Rules)

Location: H-313, The Capitol, Washington, D.C.

Related Items: H.R. 5894

Guardians of the Sea: Examining Coast Guard Efforts in Drug Enforcement, Illegal Migration, and IUU Fishing

Date:  Tuesday, November 14, 2023 at 10:00 a.m. EST (House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure)

Location: 2167 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C.

Witnesses: TBA

Markup of National Security Legislation

Date:  Tuesday, November 14, 2023 at 10:00 a.m. EST (House Financial Services Committee)

Location: 2128 RHOB, Washington, D.C.

Related Items: H.R. 5921, H.R. 5923, H.R. 6245, H.R. 6322, H.R. 5945, H.R. 6000, H.R. 6015, and others

Examining the Biden Administration’s Afghanistan Policy Since the U.S. Withdrawal

Date: Tuesday, November 14, 2023 at 10:00 a.m. EST (House Foreign Affairs)

Location: HVC-210, Washington, D.C.

Witnesses: 

The Honorable John Sopko, Inspector General, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR)

Go-to-Zero: Joe Biden’s Withdrawal Order and the Taliban Takeover of Afghanistan

Date: Tuesday, November 14, 2023 at 2:00 p.m. EST (House Foreign Affairs)

Location: HVC-210, Washington, D.C.

Witnesses:

Lt. General (Ret.) Sami Sadat, Chairman, Afghanistan United Front, Fmr. Commanding General, Afghan National Special Operations Corps

Bill Roggio, Senior Fellow and Editor of the Long War Journal, Foundation for Defense of Democracies

The Impact of Illegal Immigration on Social Services

Date: Wednesday, November 15, 2023 at 10:00 a.m. EST (House Judiciary)

Location: 2141 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C.

Witnesses: TBA 

Business meeting to consider the nominations of Harry Coker, Jr., of Kansas, to be National Cyber Director, Jeff Rezmovic, of Maryland, to be Chief Financial Officer, Department of Homeland Security, and Suzanne Elizabeth Summerlin, of Florida, to be General Counsel of the Federal Labor Relations Authority

Date: Wednesday, November 15, 2023 at 11:00 a.m. EST (Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs)

Location: 562 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C.

Related Items: PN744, PN838, PN876

Aging Americans and a Waning Workforce: Demographic Drivers of Our Deficit

Date: Wednesday, November 15, 2023 at 2:30 p.m. EST (Joint Economic Committee)

Location: TBA

Witnesses: 

Dr. John Scott, Project Director, Retirement Savings, The Pew Charitable Trusts

Dr. Julie Topoleski, Director of Labor, Income Security, and Long-Term Analysis, Congressional Budget Office

Dr. Ben Harris, Vice President and Director of Economic Studies Program and Director of the Retirement Security Project, Brookings Institution

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. 

DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG); Limited-Scope Unannounced Inspection of Mesa Verde ICE Processing Center in Bakersfield, California; Published November 2, 2023

This report details the takeaways from an inspection at Mesa Verde ICE Processing Center in Bakersfield, California, including problems with reporting around a use of force incident and issues providing prompt advanced optometry care.

DHS Office of Inspector General; Results of Unannounced Inspections of CBP Holding Facilities in the Miami Area; Published November 2, 2023

This report describes the findings from unannounced inspections of two Border Patrol stations and four Office of Field Operations ports of entry in the Miami area, including issues with inaccurate detainee custody log data and transportation challenges.

United Nations Human Rights Committee; Concluding Observations on the Fifth Periodic Report of the United States of America; Published November 3, 2023

This report details concerns and recommendations around the U.S.’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. For one, the report raises issues with “the persistence of the practice of racial profiling by law enforcement officials, including practices by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), targeting certain ethnic and racial minorities, in particular people of African Descent, Indigenous Peoples, persons of Hispanic/Latino origin and Muslims.”

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: 

Immigrants in Nursing and Allied Health Act of 2023: Bill Summary

This bill summary explores the Immigrants in Nursing and Allied Health Act of 2023, which would authorize and expand programs that make it easier for immigrants to enter the nursing or allied health professional workforce.

Illicit Fentanyl and Drug Smuggling at the U.S.-Mexico Border: An Overview

This paper gives a detailed overview of fentanyl and drug smuggling at the U.S.-Mexico border, including that “most illicit fentanyl encountered by CBP is smuggled through POEs [ports of entry].”

The Reasons Behind the Increased Migration from Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua

This paper explores the reasons behind the increased migration from Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua. While irregular migration from these three countries ruled by autocratic governments is not new, the situation has worsened in recent years. Commonalities include domestic political crises, weakening economies, Covid-19, natural disasters, and strict U.S.-led economic sanctions. Facing precarious conditions and the threat of political persecution, a growing number of people from these nations have opted to seek safety in the United States.

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

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