Legislative Bulletin — Friday, November 19, 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. 3202

To terminate the Interagency Task Force on the Reunification of Families and to require the transfer of the salaries of certain Federal officials and Task Force members to the Judgment Fund to reimburse the Federal Government for settlements paid to aliens

The bill would stop settlement negotiations between the U.S. government and undocumented immigrants separated from their families at the border. The bill would also terminate the Interagency Task Force on the Reunification of Families and require the transfer of Task Force members’ salaries to reimburse the U.S. government for any settlements paid to migrant families.

Sponsored by Senator James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) (0 cosponsors)

11/04/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Lankford

11/04/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 3227

Strengthening Citizenship Services for Veterans Act

The bill would ensure that deported veterans who have successfully completed the preliminary naturalization process can attend their citizenship interview at a port of entry, embassy, or consulate without navigating the complex process of advance parole.

Sponsored by Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) (1 cosponsor— 1 Democrat, 0 Republicans)

11/17/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Duckworth

11/17/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 5376

Build Back Better Act

The bill represents President Biden’s sweeping, two-trillion-dollar legislative package that he and congressional Democrats hope to pass using the budget reconciliation process. Concerning immigration, the bill would provide temporary protection from deportation, work permits, travel authorization with advance parole, and access to certain benefits to undocumented immigrants. The bill would also recapture unused employment-based, family-sponsored, and diversity green cards.  It would also provide access to pell grants for DACA, TPS, and DED holders. The bill would also expand investments to tackle climate change and expand health care and childcare.

Sponsored by Representative John Yarmuth (D-Kentucky) (0 cosponsors)

09/27/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Yarmuth

09/27/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Budget

11/19/2021 Passed the House of Representatives after a 220-213 vote.

H.R. 5923

Preserving the Integrity of Our Laws Act of 2021

The bill would prohibit all employees of federal agencies from entering into settlement negotiations or agreements with undocumented immigrants who file a civil lawsuit against the United States.

Sponsored by Representative Pat Fallon (R-Texas) (0 cosponsors)

11/09/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Fallon

11/09/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 5924

Keep STEM Talent Act of 2021

The bill would allow certain international graduates with advanced degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) to apply for legal permanent residence in the United States. Their green cards would not be being subject to annual numerical limitations.

Sponsored by Representative Bill Foster (D-Illinois) (3 cosponsors— 3 Democrats, 0 Republicans)

11/09/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Foster

11/09/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 5961

To make revisions in title 5, United States Code, as necessary to keep the title current, and to make technical amendments to improve the United States Code

The bill would grant authority to the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security to oversee the internal investigations performed by the Bureau of Border Security and the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Sponsored by Representative Joe Neguse (D-Colorado) (0 cosponsors)

11/012/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Neguse

11/12/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 5969

Border Security is National Security Act of 2021

The bill would compel the U.S. Attorney General to appoint 200 additional immigration judges to serve in courts in the Southern District of Texas, Southern District of California, Western District of Texas, District of Arizona, or the District of New Mexico.

Sponsored by Representative Jerry Carl (R-Alabama) (0 cosponsors)

11/15/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Carl

11/15/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives will not be in session the week of November 22, 2021.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

There are no immigration-related hearings scheduled for the week of Monday, November 22, 2021.

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

House of Representatives Passes Build Back Better Act with Immigration Provisions

On November 19, in a 220-213 vote, the House of Representatives passed Democrats’ sweeping, approximately $2 trillion Build Back Better Act, a budget reconciliation bill intended to advance President Biden’s agenda by combatting climate change, expanding the social safety-net, and enacting certain immigration reforms, among many other provisions. Concerning immigration, the bill includes over $100 billion to provide temporary parole protection for millions of undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. before 2011. The bill would also recapture unused employment-based, family-sponsored, and diversity green cards. Moreover, the bill would provide fee-based cap-exemptions to certain green card holders waiting in the backlog, and provide access to pell grants for DACA, TPS, and DED holders.

The parole provisions in the bill would provide work authorization and protection from deportation to approximately seven million undocumented immigrants for a five-year period, once renewable. The green-card recapture and cap exemption provisions would provide access to relief to the over five million individuals currently stuck in green card backlogs — many of whom are already in the U.S. on temporary visas.

The reconciliation bill will now move to the Senate, where it is likely to face a challenging road ahead. While reconciliation bills are not subject to a Senate filibuster, all 50 Senate Democrats must be in lock-step in order to pass the effort with a simple majority. While Senate Democrats have been involved in the negotiations as the bill proceeded through the House, several have voiced concerns about particular aspects of the legislation and have not yet given their full endorsement to the House legislation. Among other issues, moderate Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), has raised the need to incorporate border security funding in the legislation, noting that “for us to even be talking about immigration without border security is ludicrous.” Meanwhile, progressive Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) has said he hopes to see the bill “strengthened in a number of ways.”

Another hurdle that the reconciliation bill faces in the Senate is the Byrd rule, which requires all provisions to be budget-related. The Senate Parliamentarian — the body’s nonpartisan rules referee — has previously ruled against the inclusion of a path to citizenship in reconciliation efforts. The Parliamentarian has not yet ruled whether the parole and green card reform provisions are germane to budget reconciliation.

Biden Administration Puts Refugee Resettlement Program on Hold To Prioritize Resettlement of Afghan Evacuees

According to multiple reports on November 16, the Biden administration has curtailed the traditional refugee resettlement program from October 29 through January 11, 2022, to prioritize resettling Afghan evacuees. The federal government will still be processing applications of refugees who meet one of the following criteria: 1) urgent cases, 2) cases with processing steps that will expire, 3) family reunification cases, 4) refugees who already have travel arrangements made for November and December, and 5) refugees eligible for a Special Immigrant Visa status. New cases that do not fit any of these five categories will be temporarily put on hold.

Advocacy groups have expressed concern that the administration has not yet built capacity within the system to resettle both Afghan evacuees and refugees already in the pipeline. Due to this lack of capacity, refugee resettlement groups requested a pause in resettlement as they devote limited resources to properly care for arriving Afghans.

The U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) prioritizes the most vulnerable refugees around the world for resettlement. In October, Biden administration set the refugee admissions ceiling at 125,000 for Fiscal Year (FY) 2022. However, even before the pause was put in place, the U.S. had only resettled 401 refugees in October and was on track to resettle just 4,812 refugees for the entire year.

October Border Data Reveals Decline in Migrant Encounters and High Recidivism Rates

On November 16, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released official data on the number of migrants the agency had apprehended or encountered in October. The data showed a decline in overall monthly border encounters as the numbers dropped approximately 14% to 164,303 in October from 192,001 reported in September. These numbers confirmed that October was the third consecutive month in which migrant encounters along the Southwest border declined — with particularly sharp drops in arriving families and unaccompanied children.

Notably, recidivism continued to play a significant role at the border and increased from previous months even as arrivals declined. CBP reported that 29% of all individuals encountered in October were repeat crossers. High recidivism is inflating overall arrival numbers — the number of unique border crossers dropped to 117,260 in October from 142,710 in September. The high recidivism rates are partially explained due to Title 42 expulsions of migrants, which increased in October as 57% of all crossers were immediately expelled under Title 42. According to the data, approximately 80,000 single adults and 13,000 individuals in family units were summarily expelled under Title 42 without an opportunity to request humanitarian protection.

Biden, Trudeau, and López Obrador Discuss Migration in North American Leaders’ Summit but Avoid Controversial Issues

On November 18, President Biden met with Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, and Mexico’s President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, to discuss multiple trilateral issues, including migration. The three of them recognized the complex factors that have driven an increase in irregular migration through the hemisphere and acknowledged the need to implement a coordinated regional response that prioritizes an orderly, safe, and regular migration.

Biden, Trudeau, and López Obrador pledged to foster pathways to labor mobility by committing to promote seasonal worker visas and expanding centralized migration resource centers in Central America.  They also committed to developing additional programs to create jobs in Latin America and the Caribbean. Moreover, they agreed to deepen the trilateral collaboration between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and its Mexican and Canadian counterparts to address the root causes of irregular migration and forced displacement.

The three leaders also pledged to strengthen asylum systems and refugee resettlement programs to provide international protection for those fleeing persecution. Each country promised to make new commitments to take in more refugees. Additionally, they committed to improving their capacity to identify human trafficking and other crimes and create a trilateral migrant smuggling and human trafficking task force.

Even though Biden, Trudeau, and López Obrador addressed general migration issues, they did not tackle specific pressing and thorny problems. For instance, they did not discuss the surging number of migrants at the southern border and the potential implementation of MPP, commonly known as the Remain in Mexico policy.

Biden Administration Announces Departure and Resettlement of Last Afghan Evacuees from Fort Lee, Virginia

On November 17, the Biden administration announced that the first temporary housing site for Afghan evacuees—Fort Lee, Virginia—is officially closed as the U.S. ramps up the resettlement of Afghan evacuees into communities across the country. Fort Lee began hosting Afghan evacuees with pending Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applications in late July.

An estimated 80,000 Afghans were evacuated to the United States for resettlement, including those who aided the U.S. war effort and their families, family members of U.S. citizens, and others that were at risk, such as journalists and NGO workers. Before arriving in the U.S., evacuees underwent thorough background and security checks and medical screenings at overseas bases conducted by intelligence, law enforcement, and counterterrorism professionals. The Department of Defense will continue to support the remaining Afghans in the process of completing their resettlement at several other military installations across the country.

The U.S. government has not yet made clear an exact date when it expects to have all Afghan evacuees resettled. However, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas told Congress this week that the administration expects it to be between December 2021 and February 2022. Mayorkas further noted that they were aiming to resettle approximately 4,000 Afghans a week out of the military bases.

Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, noted the challenges in acquiring housing and emphasized the need for “balance” between making sure families are relocated as quickly as possible while also ensuring they have safe places to call home.

DHS Office of Inspector General Declines to Investigate Mounted Officer Controversy

On November 16, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released an update regarding the ongoing investigation of mounted Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers’ interactions with Haitian migrants in Del Rio, Texas, on September 19. The case was initially referred to the DHS’s Office of Inspector General (OIG). However, OIG declined to investigate, and the case is now being managed by CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). The OPR investigation is currently ongoing while it continues to collect information and statements from witnesses and CBP employees. Once the investigation concludes, the findings will be made available to CBP leadership and the accused officers, allowing them to make a formal response and retain their due process rights.

A DHS spokesperson confirmed that the accused CBP officers remain on administrative duty while the investigation is pending and that mounted officers are no longer being used in Del Rio. Many advocates, however, have expressed frustration regarding how the investigation is being managed, especially after DHS Secretary Mayorkas stated in September that it would “be completed in days, not weeks.”

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

Government Accountability Office (GAO): Progress Made, but DHS Should Take Additional Steps to Improve Information Quality; November 16, 2021

This report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) highlights that even though DHS has improved the quality of the information on 43 metrics of border security effectiveness, the agency still needs to improve. The 43 metrics include information on different matters, including average wait time at land ports of entry, apprehensions in each U.S. Border Patrol sector, and illicit drugs seized at ports of entry.

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

Explainer: The Refugee Resettlement Backlog and How to Rebuild the Pipeline

This resource explains why refugee resettlement has continued to crater despite President Biden dramatically increasing the admissions ceiling. It describes the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) and the backlogs at various stages of the pipeline, and it discusses six solutions to quickly expand domestic capacity and rebuild the pipeline overseas.

Explainer: What’s Happening at the U.S.-Mexico Border

This regularly updated explainer breaks down what is happening at the U.S.-Mexico border, analyzing CBP data on recent apprehensions, describing the impact and use of Title 42 expulsions as well as the treatment of arriving UACs, and providing additional context on reports of increased migration to the U.S. and releases of migrant families into the interior. The explainer also includes a Facebook live discussion covering recent developments at the border.

Fact Sheet: Unused Green Card Recapture

This fact sheet explains green card recapture. Every year, the U.S. sets aside a specific number of available green cards for individuals from all around the world. However, over the years, various administrative complications have left hundreds of thousands of green cards unissued. Green card recapture would “recapture” a number of these unused green cards accumulated over the years, relieving the backlog and promoting economic growth.

* * *

*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.

Learn More

Read more about Advocacy Resources Landing Page

Article

Advocacy Resources Landing Page

Read more about Legislative Bulletin — Thursday, November 11, 2021

Legislative Bulletin

Legislative Bulletin — Thursday, November 11, 2021

Read more about Legislative Bulletin — Friday, November 5, 2021

Legislative Bulletin

Legislative Bulletin — Friday, November 5, 2021