Legislative Bulletin – Friday, November 22, 2019

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. 2863

The E-Visa Integrity Act of 2019

The bill would modify the eligibility criteria for E visas, which are visas for treaty traders and investors who come to the United States under a treaty of commerce and navigation.

Sponsored by Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) (1 cosponsor – 1 Republican, 0 Democrats)

11/14/2019 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Lee

11/14/2019 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 2869

The Keep our Communities Safe Act of 2019

The bill would extend detention for immigrants who have been ordered removable. The legislation would require immigration authorities to allow detention of unauthorized immigrants past the current limit of six months.

Sponsored by Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) (7 cosponsors – 7 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

11/14/2019 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Inhofe

11/14/2019 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 2870

The Restricting Solitary Confinement in Immigration Detention Act of 2019

The bill would limit the use of solitary confinement and other forms of restrictive housing in immigration detention. It would ensure alternatives to solitary confinement are used for some detainees and prohibit the use of solitary confinement for minors and vulnerable populations. The bill would also increase access to mental health care in immigration detention centers.

Sponsored by Senator Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) (4 cosponsors – 4 Democrats and 0 Republicans)

11/14/2019 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Durbin

11/14/2019 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 2936

The Refugee Protection Act

The bill seeks to modernize the U.S. refugee resettlement and asylum systems and strengthen protection for refugees and asylum seekers. The bill would broaden asylum guidelines to include those fleeing gender-based violence and would require a minimum of 95,000 annual resettled refugees. This is a companion bill to H.R. 5210.

Sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) (15 cosponsors – 15 Democrats, 0 Republicans)

11/21/2019 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Leahy

11/21/2019 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 5038

Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019

The bill would provide undocumented farmworkers and their families with an opportunity to obtain legal status and eventually U.S. citizenship, reform the H-2A temporary agricultural workers program to address employer and worker concerns, and impose required use of employment verification (E-Verify) in the agriculture industry.

Sponsored by Representative Lofgren (51 cosponsors – 24 Republicans, 27 Democrats)

11/12/2019 Introduced in the House by Representative Lofgren

11/12/2019 Referred to the House Committees on the Judiciary, Ways and Means, Education and Labor, and Financial Services

11/20/2019 Marked up and passed by the Committee on the Judiciary by a vote of 18-12

H.R. 5151

A Bill to Establish a Military Family Immigration Advisory Committee, and for Other Purposes

Sponsored by Representative Mark Takano (D-California) (0 cosponsors)

11/18/2019 Introduced in the House by Representative Takano

11/18/2019 Referred to the House Committees on the Judiciary, Veteran’s Affairs, and Armed Services

H.R. 5210

The Refugee Protection Act

The bill seeks to modernize the U.S. refugee resettlement and asylum systems and strengthen protection for refugees and asylum seekers. The bill would broaden asylum guidelines to include those fleeing gender-based violence and would require a minimum of 95,000 annual resettled refugees. This is a companion bill to S. 2936.

Sponsored by Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-California) (31 cosponsors – 31 Democrats, 0 Republicans)

11/21/2019 Introduced in the House by Representative Lofgren

11/21/2019 Referred to the House Committees on Judiciary, Ways and Means, the Budget, and Foreign Affairs

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives will be in recess on the week of Monday, November 25, 2019.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

Promoting Safe and Efficient Travel and Trade at America’s Land Ports of Entry

Date: Monday, December 2, 2019 at 12:30 p.m. (House Committee on Homeland Security)

Location: New Mexico Border Authority, Santa Teresa, New Mexico

Witnesses:

Marco Grajeda, Director, New Mexico Border Authority, State of New Mexico

Hector A. Mancha Jr., El Paso Director of Field Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

Felipe Otero, Logistics Manager, TPI Composites

Jerry Pacheco, President, Border Industrial Association

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

U.S. Asylum Agreement with Guatemala Goes Into Effect

The asylum agreement between the United States and Guatemala went into effect on November 19, allowing the U.S. to send asylum seekers to Guatemala if they did not first apply and were denied asylum in one of the countries they passed through before seeking asylum in the U.S. The agreement is expected to primarily impact Honduran and El Salvadoran asylum seekers who trekked through Guatemala en route to the U.S. The Trump administration negotiated the agreement with the Guatemalan government in July to block Central American asylum seekers from requesting protection in the U.S. The agreement also reportedly includes expansions to an existing U.S. agricultural guest-worker program for Guatemalans and new law enforcement and regional security assistance for Guatemala.

The agreement has drawn criticism from immigration advocates and government officials, with one anonymous U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) official stating, “Like M.P.P (Migration Protection Protocols) there will be people who will die as a result of these policies.” Advocates also expressed concerns about the inadequate capabilities of the Guatemalan asylum system where a staff of 12 adjudicated 172 asylum claims nationwide from January to May 2019.

On November 21, the U.S. sent the first Honduran asylum seeker to Guatemala under the asylum accord.

President Trump Signs Spending Bill Funding Federal Government through December 20

President Trump signed a short-term continuing resolution on November 21 to fund the federal government at the current spending levels through December 20. The one-month continuing resolution will provide Congress more time to break an impasse over funding for border barriers in the full-year spending bill for fiscal year (FY) 2020.

Congressional appropriators working on the short-term spending bill agreed to leave out any restrictions on the Trump administration’s border barrier spending. Some House Democrats previously proposed blocking the administration from continuing to rely on his emergency declaration to transfer military funding to build border barriers along the Southern border. The continuing resolution passed the Senate earlier on November 21 by a 74 to 20 vote, with 32 Senate Republicans joining all present Senate Democrats in support of the legislation. The House passed the bill on November 19 by a party-line 231 to 192 vote.

The White House has requested up to $8.6 billion in FY 2020 funding to construct additional physical barriers along the Southern border. The Senate Appropriations Committee marked up a full-year spending bill that largely met the White House’s request. However, the House has offered zero dollars in additional border barrier funding and requested additional restrictions, including restrictions on transferring military funding to build additional border barriers.

House Judiciary Marks Up Farm Workforce Modernization Act

On November 20, the House Judiciary Committee marked up the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H.R. 5038). The bill seeks to reform and broaden the H-2A foreign agriculture worker program and provide an earned path to legalization for current unauthorized farmworkers. The bill has bipartisan support and support from groups representing farmworkers and grower. After a marathon four-and-a-half hour markup, the bill passed Committee by a party-line vote (subscription required) of 18 to 12.

Democrats on the subcommittee limited consideration of amendments to those that had been submitted beforehand and vetted by the bipartisan group of co-sponsors, including over 20 Republicans. As a result, only one substantive amendment was added to the bill during the markup, an effort by Representative Jackson Lee (D-Texas) that would allow Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) recipient farmworkers the same pathway to legalization as the bill provides unauthorized workers.

Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee Doug Collins (R-Georgia) and other committee Republicans opposed the bill, citing the lack of Farm Bureau support for the bill, and calling for changes in the H-2A wage calculation and additional employer lawsuit protections.

International Student Enrollment Falls

International student enrollment in U.S. universities has fallen for the third straight year, according to a report released on November 18 by the Institute of International Education (IIE). The report reveals a drop in the international enrollment rate of over 10% since 2015, and predicts that enrollment will continue to decline in 2020. The drop comes as international enrollment has spiked in countries like Canada and Australia, where the international enrollment rate rose 47% in the same three-year time span. The IIE report also indicated that for the first time in a decade, there are fewer total enrolled international students in the United States this year than the year before.

International students contribute $44 billion to the U.S. economy, and many universities rely on the higher-than-average tuition of foreign students. Trump administration officials pointed to rising tuition costs as the reason for the decline. However, some universities have pointed instead to the administration’s divisive rhetoric and harsh immigration policies as a key driver of the drop in international enrollment.

Trump Administration Plans for New Regulations that Would Restrict Legal Immigration

On November 21, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released plans for a number of forthcoming proposed rules that could significantly restrict legal immigration across a number of visa categories. The rules, compiled and released in a DHS United Agenda, would alter eligibility criteria for L1 specialized workers, EB5 investors, and H-1B temporary workers and their spouses. The Agenda also reveals the administration’s intention to make it more difficult for Americans to sponsor family members and for immigrants to apply for asylum.

Specific proposed reforms include a stricter definition of the “specialized knowledge” requirement for the L-1 visa and an attempt to enforce financial bars to family sponsorship. Some of the proposed rules would push on legal boundaries, potentially in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, and may contravene congressional authority over legal immigration.

The administration has already released a series of administrative actions to restrict legal immigration, some of which are now in force and others currently blocked by the courts. Notably, an October presidential proclamation that would bar legal immigrants from entering the United States without health insurance was temporarily blocked by a federal judge in early November. But other new rules that went into effect have resulted in a historic rate of denials for H-1B and L-1 visa applications.

Despite existing restrictions, market demand for legal immigrant workers remains high. The administration announced on November 20 that the H-2B nonagriculture guestworker program has already reached its cap for the first half of fiscal year (FY) 2020, which began on October 1.

Legal

Federal Judge Blocks Asylum Ban from Applying to Asylum Seekers Who Were Delayed by “Metering,” But Arrived Before July 16

A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction on November 19 blocking the Trump administration’s interim final rule restricting asylum from applying to thousands of asylum seekers delayed by the practice of “metering.” U.S. District Judge Cynthia Bashant ruled that asylum seekers who arrived at a southern port of entry and were placed in a “metering” waiting list before July 16, 2019 should not subject to the Trump administration’s rule restricting asylum. Border officials were reportedly counting the asylum seeker’s date of entry as the day they officially made an asylum claim, rather than the first day they joined the “metering” waitlist. Judge Bashant called the practice “quintessentially inequitable,” noting that “[b]ut for the government’s metering policy, these asylum-seekers would have entered the United States and started the asylum process without delay.”

The Trump administration issued the interim final rule on July 16, barring most migrants other than Mexican nationals from qualifying for asylum. The rule requires that migrants apply be denied asylum in one of the countries they pass through before seeking asylum in the U.S. The Trump administration applied the rule to most asylum seekers, including those who presented themselves at ports of entry and were placed in the process known as “metering.” Under “metering,” asylum seekers are told they must wait their turn, which can last days or weeks, before they can be officially processed for asylum at the American port of entry facilities.

Immigration lawyers and advocates lauded the judge’s decision, saying it would “protect the lives of asylum seekers.” The number of migrants affected by the ruling is not clear but could potentially be in the thousands.

Trump Administration Criticizes State Policies Limiting Courthouse Arrests

In a letter to state supreme courts in Oregon and Washington State, attorney general William Barr and acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) secretary Chad Wolf criticized policies barring Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers from accessing state courts to carry out administrative arrests. Calling such policies “dangerous and unlawful,” Barr and Wolf argued that state rules cannot bar federal officers from carrying out enforcement activities.

The letter followed guidance issued last week from the chief justice of the Oregon Supreme Court barring federal immigration officials from carrying out courthouse arrests in the state’s courts. Washington State is reportedly considering adopting a similar policy.

The Trump administration letter is the latest salvo in an ongoing dispute over courthouse arrests of immigration offenders. State and federal judges and legal experts have repeatedly complained about the practice, arguing that it deters immigrants – including victims and witnesses – from coming to court to testify or seek protective orders from abusers. ICE has argued that courthouses are an appropriate place to conduct arrests because targeted individuals are unarmed after clearing courthouse security, meaning that it is a safer option than detaining that person on the street.

ICE maintains a sensitive locations policy barring enforcement actions from being carried out in schools or places of worship in most circumstances, but courthouses are not deemed “sensitive locations” under the policy.

State and Local

North Dakota Governor Says State Will Continue to Receive Refugees

Governor Doug Burgum (R-North Dakota) announced on November 19 that North Dakota will continue to accept refugees as long as local jurisdictions agree. Gov. Burgum’s pledge to continue to resettle refugees comes in response to  President Trump’s executive order on September 26 requiring state and local governments to consent to refugees settling in their communities. Under the executive order, both the state and local government must consent to refugee resettlement, potentially creating political fights between municipal and state governments. Advocates expressed concern that permitting states and localities to opt-out from refugee resettlement will have a deeply negative economic and fiscal impact in those communities, will complicate the federal government’s ability to set refugee policies at a national level, and will undermine the work of resettlement agencies.

A representative from Lutheran Social Services, a resettlement agency in North Dakota, says the State historically has resettled around 400 refugee cases a year, but that the number has declined. In fiscal year (FY) 2019, North Dakota only resettled 124 refugees. Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney noted his city needs assistance to meet job demands, saying “I have 33 businesses that say they will take as many refugees as they could.”

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

Congressional Research Service (CRS): Immigration: Recent Apprehension Trends at the U.S. Southwest Border (November 19, 2019)

This report provides an overview of recent migrant apprehensions trends along the Southern border and how undocumented migration to the United States has changed in terms of the migrants’ origin countries, demographic composition, and primary migratory motivations.

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

Bill Summary: Farm Workforce Modernization Act

This is a bill summary of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019 (H.R. 5038), which seeks to reform the process by which temporary foreign workers come to the United States to work in agriculture. The bill includes a pathway to legalization for certain undocumented agricultural workers and reforms to the existing H-2A temporary agricultural workers visa program.

Analysis: Executive Order on Enhancing State and Local Involvement in Refugee Resettlement

This document is an analysis of President Trump’s “Executive Order on Enhancing State and Local Involvement in Refugee Resettlement,” issued on September 26, 2019, that will prevent refugee resettlement throughout the United States except in those states and localities that have submitted written consent to have refugees resettled in their jurisdictions.

Proposed USCIS Fee Increases

This infographic provides an overview of significant changes proposed in U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) fee rule published on November 14, 2019 and presents a potential timeline for implementation of the final fees.

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*This Bulletin is not intended to be comprehensive. Please contact Christian Penichet-Paul, National Immigration Forum Policy and Advocacy Manager, with comments and suggestions of additional items to be included. Christian can be reached at cpenichetpaul@immigrationforum.org. Thank you.

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