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Legislative Bulletin — Friday, November 3, 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

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

U.S.-Mexico Border: Mayorkas Calls for Funding as Biden Administration Weighs Asylum Deal 

On October 30, in an opinion piece for the Washington Post, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas called on Congress to increase border security funding by passing the Biden administration’s supplemental budget request.

The additional cash flow would go toward more detention beds, support for border cities struggling to provide resources to migrants, staffing increases, and other measures to beef up enforcement at the United States-Mexico border while responding to migrants who are already here.

“Too many elected officials believe that making cable TV appearances to decry a broken system is better for their politics than equipping our nation’s front-line officers with the resources they need to carry out their difficult jobs,” Mayorkas wrote. 

“Ensuring the safety and security of the American people is more than just a talking point. It is a national imperative.”

To garner support for the supplemental package — which, on top of border security, includes funding for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan — reports indicate the Biden administration is considering whether to agree to substantive policy changes to asylum law. It’s unclear what a compromise would involve, though according to Politico, one of the talking points is a shift in the credible fear standard for asylum seekers in expedited removal. 

These discussions come as large-scale humanitarian migration at the U.S.-Mexico border has become increasingly global, including from nations as far flung as India. In fiscal year 2023, around 42,000 migrants from India irregularly crossed the southern border into the U.S., more than double the number from fiscal year 2022. 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist policies have driven many from their homes, while others are arriving for economic reasons.

Meanwhile, as migrants from around the world make the trek to the U.S.’s southern border, Mexico’s immigration system has in turn been overwhelmed, resulting in long delays for refugee or exit visas. 

On Monday, a group of around 5,000 migrants started marching from near Mexico’s southern border toward the U.S., tired of waiting to be officially processed and allowed to transit the country. The caravan has since grown to around 7,000 people. 

President Biden Hosts Hemispheric Summit; Migration Initiatives Announced 

On November 3, President Joe Biden hosted the presidents and prime ministers of Barbados, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Panama, Peru, and Uruguay – as well as Mexico’s Minister of Foreign Affairs – for the inaugural Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity Leaders’ (APEP) Summit. 

The Summit, focused on economic integration and growth in the Americas, also had a migration-oriented goal: tackling the underlying economic drivers of irregular migration. During the opening remarks of the APEP Summit, Biden announced three joint initiatives to manage the challenges of unprecedented migration flows across the Western Hemisphere:

First, he highlighted the U.S.’s commitment to ensuring communities welcoming migrants and refugees across the hemisphere can afford to care for them. As part of that commitment, he announced that the U.S., Canada, and Spain are contributing to the Inter-American Development Bank’s Migration Grant Fund, created to help countries integrate migrants into local communities and contribute to their development.

Second, Biden announced that APEP leaders are committed to expanding legal migration pathways and providing permits to migrant workers. He emphasized that migrant workers are a “critical asset to all of our countries.”

Third, he highlighted the importance of enforcing immigration laws humanely and effectively to “deter dangerous and irregular migration.” 

Biden closed his opening remarks by saying, “our region is knit together by the close bonds of family and enduring friendship.” He highlighted that the U.S. is a “country of immigrants” that is home to more than 63 million Latinos and millions more with roots in the Caribbean. He also pointed out that the U.S. has the fourth largest Spanish-speaking population in the world, and about a quarter of the children in American schools are Hispanic.

Biden Administration Issues Executive Order on Artificial Intelligence; Immigration Provisions Included 

On October 30, the Biden administration issued an executive order to regulate the development and use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the United States. Among its many and varied provisions, the executive order includes the following immigration-related elements:

The executive order mandates the State Department (DOS) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to streamline visa applications for foreign nationals working in AI research or other critical emerging technologies. The order mandates the Department of Labor to consider updates to Schedule A to include AI and other STEM-related occupations for which there is an insufficient number of American workers.

It also orders DOS to start a rulemaking process to establish new criteria to designate countries and skills on the Department of State’s Exchange Visitor Skills List. This process should include modernizing the two-year foreign residence requirement for certain J-1 visa holders whose skills are critical to the U.S.

The order also mandates DOS to consider implementing a stateside visa renewal program to allow highly skilled immigrants and international students who obtain a degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) to continue their work in the U.S. without unnecessary interruption.

It also orders DOS to establish a program to identify and attract top talent in AI and other STEM fields to come to American universities and research institutions.

Finally, the order mandates DHS to modernize immigration pathways for experts in AI and other critical and emerging technologies.

Haiti Suspends Flights to Nicaragua Amid Claims that Ortega Is ‘Weaponizing’ Migration

On October 30, the Haitian government halted all flights to Nicaragua amid accusations that Nicaragua President Daniel Ortega is deliberately allowing migrants to transit through his country in order to force the United States into easing sanctions against his autocratic regime. 

Since August, Haitians have been flying directly into Nicaragua en route to the U.S., bypassing the treacherous Darién Gap jungle. The number of daily flights between the two countries had reached as many as 15 per day, with more than 260 arriving in Nicaragua over the last few months. Tickets cost thousands of dollars. 

At the Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Haiti, a reporter from the Miami Herald counted over a thousand passengers who were waiting for flights on Monday, despite an earlier “Notice to Airmen” signaling the suspensions. Some passengers who had boarded a flight headed for Managua were even forced to deplane. 

“The government has to tell us what plan they have for Haiti,” said a man who had paid $3,000 for airfare. “There is no life in Haiti. That’s one of the reasons why everyone is here, everyone has decided to leave.”

Legal

Judge Sides With Texas, Orders Federal Immigration Officials to Stop Removing Concertina Wire 

On October 30, a federal judge ordered U.S. immigration officials to stop removing razor wire along the Texas-Mexico border after the Texas Military Department had spent $11 million over three years to fund the hazards in an attempt to deter migration.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) sued the Biden administration, claiming that U.S. Border Patrol agents illegally destroyed state property by damaging the wire to “assist” migrants. U.S. District Judge Alia Moses granted Texas a temporary restraining order but carved out an exception for certain situations involving medical emergencies.

The concertina wire has provoked widespread backlash amid reports that it has caused serious injuries to migrants crossing the Rio Grande.

Paxton’s office and the Biden administration will present arguments in the case on November 7, while as of now, the temporary bar on cutting and removing wire is set to expire on November 13. 

State and Local 

As Shelter Space Runs Out, Massachusetts Hosts Work Authorization Clinic, New York Offers One-Way Tickets Elsewhere 

While New York City and Massachusetts respond to large numbers of migrants asking for housing under their right-to-shelter laws, local and state officials are implementing disparate measures as they warn that available space is running low. 

Beginning November 13, Massachusetts will host a work authorization clinic in coordination with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), even as the state says its shelter system for families is nearing capacity. On Wednesday, a judge greenlit a plan to cap available shelter space at 7,500 families, despite the state’s right-to-shelter laws. 

“Many shelter residents want to work but face significant barriers to getting their work authorizations,”said Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey (D). “This clinic will be critical for building on the work that our administration has already been leading to connect more migrants with work opportunities, which will help them support their families and move out of emergency shelter into more stable housing options.”

New York is also holding work authorization clinics in collaboration with the Biden administration. But meanwhile, migrants in New York City searching for available shelter beds are instead being redirected to a “reticketing center,” where they’re offered one-way tickets to anywhere in the world, as long as they leave. 

“They told me here they would help me with a shelter. I got here and it’s a lie,” Franklin Sosa told The City. “They’re giving out bad information. It’s hard to talk because I’ll cry.”

In a letter over the weekend, New York Mayor Eric Adams (D) was among five city leaders who called on President Joe Biden to set “an urgent meeting” to discuss the needs in their communities amid large-scale migration. 

“We believe we have a unique opportunity to work with the White House and Congress over these next few weeks to create an immigration and asylum system that will treat our newcomers with dignity and be fair and equitable to cities and neighborhoods across the country,” the five mayors wrote. 

On Thursday, two of the mayors — Mike Johnston of Denver (D) and Brandon Johnson of Chicago (D) — traveled to Washington to broach the migrant situation with senior White House officials and lawmakers

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 and the U.S. House of Representatives are expected to be in session from Monday, November 6 through Thursday, November 9, 2023.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

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

A Review of the President’s Supplemental Request for the Departments of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security

Date: Wednesday, November 8, 2023 at 9:00 a.m. EST (Senate Appropriations)

Location: Dirksen Senate Office Building 106, Washington, D.C.

Witnesses:

The Honorable Xavier Becerra, Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

The Honorable Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

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); CBP Did Not Fully Implement the Requirements of the Synthetic Opioid Exposure Prevention and Training Act; Published October 26, 2023

This report details how U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) failed to implement certain measures from the Synthetic Opioid Exposure Prevention and Training Act, such as providing naloxone to personnel who might be exposed to opioids and requiring training on opioid exposure.

DHS Office of Inspector General; Management Alert – ICE Management and Oversight of Mobile Applications (REDACTED); Published October 30, 2023

This report outlines “urgent issues” involving user-installed mobile applications on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) mobile devices, which pose threats to the agency’s security.

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: 

Fact Sheet: Temporary Protected Status (TPS)

This fact sheet explores Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which gives beneficiaries access to deportation protections and work authorization. The resource was updated on October 3 with recent developments. 

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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