Legislative Bulletin – Friday, November 13, 2020

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

There were no immigration-related bills introduced or considered the week of Monday, November 9, 2020.

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives will be in session the week of Monday, November 16, 2020.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

There are no immigration-related hearings or markups currently scheduled in the U.S. Senate or the U.S. House of Representatives.

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

Biden Transition Team Plans Immigration Actions

According to multiple reports, President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team is planning a number of immigration actions for the early days of the new administration.

The Biden administration plans to reimplement full Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protections and once again allow new applicants to the program, after a July 28 Trump administration memorandum limited the program following a Supreme Court decision keeping the program in place. The Biden team also plans to initiate an “immediate review” of Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which is granted to eligible foreign-born individuals who are unable to return home safely due to violence or other circumstances in their home country. During the campaign, Biden promised to grant TPS to Venezuelans due to ongoing unrest in Venezuela. On November 12, Biden pledged to raise the refugee admissions ceiling to 125,000 in his first year in office, a steep increase from the record-low ceiling of 15,000 set by President Trump.

In addition, the new administration is planning a 100-day freeze on deportations and a return to the Obama administration’s prioritization of enforcement actions on unauthorized immigrants who have been convicted of serious crimes. At the border, Biden plans to end the construction of new barriers and to stop the diversion of Department of Defense funds to border wall construction.

The administration is also considering ending the Trump administration’s controversial Migration Protection Protocols (MPP) (also known as “Remain in Mexico”) that requires asylum seekers to wait in Mexico during the pendency of their claims, but may act cautiously to prevent an increase in new arrivals. The new administration also may wait before overturning certain immigration restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including a controversial Center or Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rule that has been used to summarily deport thousands of asylum seekers and unaccompanied children arriving at the border.

Regarding legal immigration, the Biden team is planning on rescinding travel bans impacting 13 countries, most of which are majority Muslim. The administration also plans to support legislation to reform the visa system and provide a “roadmap to citizenship for the nearly 11 million people” who are living in the U.S. but lack status.

Number of Migrant Children Remaining Separated from Parents Rises to 666

According to a NBC News report on November 9, 666 children remain separated from their parents as a result of a 2017 Trump administration pilot program that separated families. The report further reveals that 129 of those children were under the age of five at the time of separation.

An October 20 court filing previously revealed that the government had not reunited, and in many cases had not even located, the parents of 545 children after separating them under the 2017 policy. According to a representative for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which is working to find the children’s parents, the 121 additional children are those for whom the government had provided no additional information to help with the search.

The effort to reunite the children is part of an ongoing court case arising from the “zero tolerance” policy that led to thousands of family separations in 2018. In 2018, a federal judge in California ordered the end to the policy, which required authorities to criminally prosecute all those who entered the United States unlawfully, including parents accompanied by minor children. The judge initially ordered the government to reunite 2,700 children who had been separated from their parents due to the policy, but the court later discovered that 1,556 additional children were separated in the 2017 pilot program. The ACLU and other nonprofit groups were tasked to assist in locating and reuniting the families.

U.S. Continues to Deport Detained Women Involved in Medical Malpractice Allegations

According to a November 11 Associated Press report, the Trump administration is attempting to deport several women who alleged medical mistreatment in a Georgia immigration detention center. According to the report, ICE has already deported six former patients of Dr. Mahendra Amin, who has been accused by as many as 57 women of performing unwanted or unnecessary gynecological procedures.

The report comes amid ongoing investigations into a September 11 whistleblower complaint alleging that numerous detainees at the Irwin detention facility in Georgia were subjected to medical negligence and neglect, including high rates of unwanted hysterectomies and other invasive surgeries. Multiple independent panels of outside experts have concluded, after reviewing available medical records, that the procedures were unnecessary and the victims were frequently unable to offer informed consent. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) continues to investigate the allegations.

Legal representatives and advocates have said deporting the women will impede OIG’s efforts and potentially hinder future court proceedings related to these matters. A Columbia University law professor working with many of the women said that by deporting an increasing number of the victims, “ICE is destroying the evidence needed for this investigation.”

Deported Cameroonian Asylum Seekers Go Missing as Administration Plans Additional Deportations

According to a November 9 report, several asylum seekers the U.S. deported to Cameroon on October 22 have gone missing upon their return, even as the U.S. plans additional deportation flights to the country. Many of the deported asylum seekers were political activists and members of  Cameroon’s anglophone minority, and some had warrants out for their arrest in association with political activities. The deportees were all immediately detained upon their arrival in Cameroon, and while some have been released to family members, many were kept in detention. Almost a month later, their whereabouts are unknown.

Additional Cameroonian asylum seekers still in the U.S. have been moved from various facilities around the country to an immigration detention center in Texas to prepare for further deportation flights. Lawyers, human rights groups, and members of Congress have appealed to DHS to stop deportations to Cameroon while political strife and the targeting of recent deportees continues in the country.

Approximately 80% of Cameroonians seeking asylum in the U.S. have been granted relief, but multiple Cameroonian asylum seekers alleged that they were coerced by ICE to sign deportation papers before their cases were heard.

Legal

Federal Agency Decertifies Immigration Judge’s Union

On November 6, the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) decertified the National Association of Immigration Judges, the union which represents the nation’s immigration judges. The FLRA stated that the judges are “management officials,” and are therefore excluded from unionizing. In recent years, the union has clashed with the Trump administration over a number of issues, including requiring immigration judges to meet annual case quotas and other actions that threaten judicial independence and due process.

The decision comes after President Trump issued an October 21 executive order that reclassified thousands of federal employees as “policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating” staffers, excluding them from collective bargaining units and civil service protections. President-elect Biden is expected to overturn the October 21 executive order, along with other Trump executive actions impacting the federal workforce.

State and Local

Two New Sheriffs in Georgia Plan to End Local Participation in 287(g) Program

According to a November 6 report, the newly elected sheriffs in Cobb and Gwinnett counties in Georgia plan to stop local jails from participating in the 287(g) program. The 287(g) program deputizes local law enforcement officials to participate in and assist with certain federal immigration enforcement efforts, including investigating, detaining, and transporting unauthorized immigrants.

Advocates and local officials have argued that 287(g) strains limited resources and personnel, while undermining public safety and community trust by conflating federal and local roles in immigration enforcement. The new Cobb County sheriff echoed this sentiment, stating that when 287(g) is in effect, individuals in his community “won’t call the police because they fear they will be deported.”

Since President Trump issued a 2017 executive order calling for the expanded use of 287(g), the use of the program has risen dramatically, with nearly one hundred new law enforcement agencies in 25 states entering into 287(g) agreements with the federal government.

Commissioners Approve Deportation Defense Fund for Houston Metro Area

On November 10, commissioners in Harris County, Texas voted to allocate $2,050,000 over the next two years to an Immigrant Legal Services Fund (ILSF) that will help provide pro bono legal assistance to those facing deportation in the Houston metropolitan area. While Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio have similar, city-funded programs, the Harris County ILSF is the first county-funded program of its kind in Texas. In addition to the legal services fund, Harris County commissioners also approved the allocation of $500,000 to create a program to support access to legal status for immigrants who are victims of a crime and who are cooperating with law enforcement.

Studies show that immigrants facing removal proceedings who have access to legal counsel are more than 10 times as likely to win their cases.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

Congressional Research Service (CRS): FY2021 Refugee Ceiling and Allocations, November 3, 2020

This report provides insight on the refugee admissions ceiling and allocations for fiscal year (FY) 2021. For FY 2021, President Trump set the ceiling at 15,000, which is the lowest cap in the history of the modern refugee admissions program. While the number is typically set before the start of a new fiscal year, the FY 2021 ceiling was not set until four weeks after the start of the fiscal year, leaving a month-long period in which no refugees were resettled. The report further provides details on the allocated categories of eligible refugees and the rationale provided by the administration for the low ceiling.

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

Immigration Priorities for a Biden Administration

This document lists the National Immigration Forum’s immigration reform priorities for the first 100 days of a Biden presidency. The priorities all have strong bipartisan support and are based in the understanding that America needs an immigration system that advances the interests of all Americans.

Fact Sheet: Immigration Courts

This fact sheet examines the current state of the U.S. immigration court system and provides information on the total number of immigration judges and cases being processed. It also addresses the cause and extent of the current immigration case backlog. The fact sheet also includes an embedded discussion, “Challenges in the Immigration Court System,” with former immigration judge Tracy Hong.

Background on Local Law Enforcement’s Role in Immigration Enforcement – 287(g) Agreements

This resource from the Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force provides an overview of the 287(g) program, citing both key benefits and concerns associated with the use of the program.

* * *

*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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