BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED
ADAPT Act of 2018
This bill would designate specific ports of entry as the only places where immigrants arriving in the U.S. can apply for asylum. It would also allow immigrants to apply for asylum only immediately after arrival rather than within the first year in the U.S. as allowed under current law.
Sponsored by Representative Louie Gohmert (R – Texas) (0 cosponsors)
11/16/2018 Introduced in the House by Representative Gohmert
11/16/2018 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary
An Act to Add Ireland to the E-3 Nonimmigrant Visa Program
This bill would allow for Ireland to be added to the E-3 visa program, which is currently designed for certain specialty occupation professionals only from Australia.
Sponsored by Representative James F. Sensebrenner, Jr. (R – Wisconsin) (1 cosponsors – 1 Democrat)
11/20/2018 Introduced in the House by Representative Sensebrenner
11/20/2018 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary
11/28/2018 Passed the U.S. House by a voice vote
11/29/2018 Received in the Senate
LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR
The U.S. Senate is in session the week of Monday, December 3, 2018.
The U.S. House of Representatives is in session from Tuesday, December 4, 2018 to Friday, December 7, 2018.
UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS
This hearing will discuss potential authorization of a $15 minimum wage and its possible impact on U.S. workers and small businesses, including immigrants in the workforce and immigrant-owned companies.
Date: Wednesday, December 5, 2018 at 2:00 p.m. (House Committee on Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Workforce Protections)
Location: 2175 Rayburn House office Building
THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK
Some Caravan Migrants Leave Tijuana after Border Closure, Use of Tear Gas
Many of the migrants from the Central American caravan have been changing their plans in reaction to the escalating tension at the San Ysidro port of entry separating Tijuana and San Diego, California, where they hoped to ask for asylum in the U.S. Hundreds of migrants asked for asylum in Mexico or sought assistance to return home, as they lose hope for protections in the U.S. The Wall Street Journal reported that at least 200 migrants submitted voluntary repatriation claims in the week of Monday, November 26, 2018, which is a 200 percent increase from the previous week. Moreover, about 105 mostly Honduran migrants departed Tijuana by plane and 98 migrants by bus on Tuesday, November 27, 2018. At the same time, nearly 50 people applied for asylum in Mexico on Monday, November 26, an increase from the previous 15 to 20 petitions per day.
On Sunday, November 25, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reportedly blocked roads and bridges and deployed more personnel to San Ysidro in anticipation of an organized march to the border. The situation escalated after a group of caravan members tried to push their way through the border fencing, which provoked the U.S. Border Patrol agents to fire tear gas that spread about a half a mile, impacting hundreds of others in the crowd, including children. The unrest resulted in complete shutdown of San Ysidro, the biggest port of entry into the US, during as well as hours after the conflict. While U.S. authorities arrested 40 migrants who crossed to the U.S., nobody is believed to have escaped. The temporary closure of San Ysidro, usually the busiest border crossing, negatively impacted many local shop owners who reportedly lost approximately $5.3 million in sales.
President Trump later defended the Border Patrol’s actions. The Mexican government responded by presenting a diplomatic note, requiring investigation of the usage of tear gas at the Mexican territory. While the CBP has been conducting an internal review of the confrontation, the state of California has been considering a legal action against the Trump administration, after receiving complaints about the Border Patrol’s decision to use tear gas at the border.
On November 29, a small group of asylum seekers from the shelter reportedly launched a hunger strike after the Mexican police prevented over a dozen caravan migrants from reaching a nearby border crossing at El Chaparral. About 5,000 caravan migrants have been still camped in a Tijuana tent shelter, waiting to apply for asylum in the U.S. With worsening weather forecast, Mexican authorities decided to open an indoor shelter to house the migrants. Some of the asylum seekers have been already transported to the new location.
On November 21, 2018, the President authorized the roughly 5,900 U.S. troops, who are stationed along the U.S.-Mexico border to assist CBP agents, to use lethal force. Experts believe that the new memo may violate the Posse Comitatus Act that restricts use of the military in civilian law enforcement. On November 30, DHS requested that the Department of Defense extend the troops deployment until January 31. The DOD has not responded to the request and had planned to send most of the troops back by December 15. Besides the active duty troops, about 2,100 National Guard members have been deployed to the border as well. Politico reported that DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen sent a memo requesting other Cabinet agencies to deploy personnel, such as diplomatic guards, national park patrol, or staff protecting nuclear weapons, to the border to assist CBP officers. In the meantime, the Trump’s administration has been trying to reach an agreement with Mexican government that would allow for the asylum seekers to stay in Mexico during the entire length of their immigration proceedings. While no deal has been official confirmed, the Mexico’s incoming government hinted they could agree to such a policy.
Impasse on Border Wall Funding Could Lead to Partial Government Shutdown or Compromise
President Trump threatened on November 29 to force a partial government shutdown if Congress does not include an additional $5 billion in border security funding as part of the remaining spending bills to fund the federal government beyond December 7. President Trump said this week he would “totally be willing” to force a shutdown unless Congress authorizes the additional funding. He also suggested that the $5 billion would fund the physical barrier alone, not technology or personnel at the border.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D – New York) said President Trump is responsible for holding up the spending discussion, which is threatening the government shutdown. Schumer said President Trump could either accept a bipartisan Senate bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which includes $1.6 billion in additional border security funding, or extend existing funding levels for the remainder of the fiscal year. Schumer noted that the Trump administration has yet to spend $1.3 billion Congress allocated for border security in last year’s spending bill.
At the same time, congressional Democrats may be open to an agreement with Republicans that would tie border security funding with some policies that Democrats support. Two top priorities are to protect the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 election and to remove the Trump administration’s question on citizenship from the 2020 census. Another possibility is to trade border wall funding for a permanent, legislative solution for DACA recipients. Senator Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) noted “there’s easily a deal to be made there on the border wall and DACA,” but Democrats are unlikely to insist on inclusion of such a provision. President Trump refused to strike such a trade earlier this year.
Number of Children in ICE Detention Hits Record High
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the U.S. government held a record high of 14,056 unaccompanied immigrant children (UACs) in detention facilities as of Friday, November 16, 2018. In fiscal year (FY) 2018, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol apprehended a total of 50,036 UACs at the U.S. Southern border, while the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released 34,815 children to sponsors in the U.S. For comparison, in FY 2017, CBP apprehended 41,435 UACs on the Southern border and HHS released 42,497 to U.S. sponsors. Moreover, the Houston Chronicle reported on November 21 that the average length of time that a migrant child spends in government custody increased from a 41-day average in FY 2017 to an average of 59 days in June and 75 days in August of 2018.
One of the reasons for the influx in children detention is the Trump administration’s policy requiring potential sponsors of the migrant children to submit fingerprints that will be shared with immigration authorities. Because the administration has confirmed that ICE has arrested dozens of potential sponsors, many family members or friends who previously would have sponsored the children have stopped coming forward out of fear of deportation.
Trump Administration Resumes Family Separation at U.S.-Mexico Border
ProPublica reported that the Trump administration resumed separating immigrant families at the U.S. Southern border. Attorneys at Catholic Charities representing immigrant children in government custody discovered at least sixteen new separation cases. The administration claims the immigration authorities use such policies only if the parents have criminal history. However, reports show that border agents have used vague and unconfirmed allegations of offenses, such as undocumented re-entry to the country, to justify separation of the parents from their kids.
The Trump administration increased its separation of families at the border after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced his “zero-tolerance policy”, allowing The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in partnership with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to prosecute all individuals crossing the U.S. border without authorization. The zero-tolerance policy separated over 2,600 immigrant children from their families at the border. On June 26, San Diego-based U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw issued a preliminary injunction barring family separations going forward and requiring the Trump administration to reunite families that had already been separated by July 10 to for families with children under 5 and July 26 for families with older children. As of November 6, 2018, there were still 147 immigrant children in government custody, who were separated from their parents due to the administration’s zero-tolerance policy.
The New York Times (NYT) reported the U.S. government spent $80 million on detention and reunification of families separated at the border which does not include the costs of continuing to house the children remaining in government custody. The NYT estimated the government’s expenses to amount in approximately $30,000 on average per child. The final per-child amount is two and a half times higher than the average of $12,000 a year needed to educate a child in public schools.
Trump Administration Employed Personnel at Teen Migrant Camp Without Proper Background Checks
The Associated Press reported that former Director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement Scott Lloyd granted BCFS Health and Human Services, the contracting agency that runs a teen migrant shelter in Tornillo, a waiver allowing the organization to staff the facility without required child abuse and neglect checks. The American Academy of Pediatrics stressed that failing to check staffers’ background might endanger the safety of the more than 2,300 migrant children detained in the facility. The Office of Inspector General (OIG) found two reasons behind this waiver. First, the OIG report revealed the agency was pressured to open the camp so rapidly that they didn’t have time to do the checks, and second, that the contracted agency assumed the staff had already undergone FBI background checks, which the OIG investigation confirmed they had not. The investigation also revealed that Tornillo does not employ a sufficient number of mental health professionals, and thus fails to comply with federal regulations requiring such facilities to have one mental health professional for every 12 children. BCFS was allowed to staff Tornillo with one specialist for every 100 children. OIG asked HHS to provide a written response assuring that all Tornillo shelter staff will undergo the required FBI background check and HHS will institute an adequate staffing ratio in the shelter as soon as possible, but no later than 30 days after the release of the report.
Unauthorized Immigration at Lowest Level in More Than 10 Years
A new report by Pew Research Center found that the number of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. has dropped significantly between 2007 and 2016. The data show there were 10.7 million immigrants living in the U.S. without proper immigration documents in 2016, which is a 1.5-million decline from 2007. Specifically, the number of undocumented Mexican immigrants fell significantly from 7 million in 2007 to 5.5 million in 2016, while the amount of immigrants without legal status from Central America increased from 1.5 million to 1.9 million during the same period of time. The study also notes that visa overstays have increased and probably counted for most of the unauthorized immigration in 2016. At the same time, the report showed that while the share of undocumented immigrants decreased, the number of immigrants with legal status grew from 28.3 million in 2007 to 34.4 million in 2016.
Trump Administration to Appeal Order Halting Asylum Proclamation after Trump Criticizes Federal Judges
On November 27, the Trump administration filed notice that it will be appealing the federal court order temporarily blocking President Trump’s proclamation barring migrants from applying for asylum if they cross the U.S.-Mexico border between ports of entry. On November 19, U.S. District Court Judge Jon S. Tigar issued the temporary restraining order, halting implementation of the policies at least until December 19, 2018, when the court will consider a longer-lasting injunction. Last week, President Trump criticized Judge Tigar, as well as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which will be hearing the appeal, prompting Chief Justice John Roberts to defend the federal judiciary.
President Trump signed the proclamation limiting asylum on November 9, 2018. The measure, which would limit access to asylum for migrants who crossed the U.S. border between ports of entry without proper documentation, was aimed at targeting asylum seekers traveling with the Central American caravan. In conjunction with the proclamation, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and DHS issued a joint interim final regulation making anyone who crosses the U.S. border between ports of entry ineligible to apply for asylum in an affirmative process, contradicting existing federal statutes that permit applying for asylum either at a port of entry or between ports of entry.
Federal Judge Orders Release of Iraqis in ICE Detention, Sanctions Government Lawyers for False Statements
On November 20, a federal judge in Detroit ordered) ICE to release approximately 120 Iraqi detainees in its custody, some of whom have been detained for eighteen months. In reaching his decision, Judge Mark Goldsmith sanctioned government lawyers for making “demonstrably false” statements and acting “ignobly” in the matter, while making note of ICE’s slow pace in complying with court orders. Noting that the federal government falsely stated that the Iraqi government was willing to accept the deportees, Judge Goldsmith ordered the detained individuals to be released within 30 days. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) led the lawsuit against federal authorities, arguing that ICE’s actions resulted in the indefinite detention of these individuals.
Starting in early 2017, ICE began detaining Iraqi nationals with prior deportation orders, most of whom were minority Chaldean Christians, as part of its effort to increase deportations. Government lawyers falsely argued that Iraq was willing to repatriate individuals, contradicting American diplomats and internal government documents that indicated the opposite.
Federal Court Blocks Defense Department Policy that Obstructed LPRs from Serving in Military, Naturalizing
A federal court issued a preliminary injunction on November 19 blocking a Department of Defense (DoD) policy that made it more difficult for Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) to serve in the military and eventually become U.S. citizens through an expedited naturalization process. U.S. District Court Judge Jon S. Tigar found that the Defense Department policy, which in part requires more extensive background checks for LPRs, likely violated the Administrative Procedure Act because the department failed to provide a rational justification for the policy change. Judge Tigar noted that the Defense Department provided no evidence indicating that LPRs posed more of a risk than U.S. citizens.
The DoD policy, issued on October 13, 2017, bars LPRs enlisting in the military from starting basic training until their background investigations are completed, a process that could take up to a year or more. The policy ended a long-standing pre-October 13, 2017 practice of permitting LPRs enlistees to begin basic training as long as their background screening requirements were initiated, just as it permits U.S. citizens to do so. The DoD policy also extended the waiting period before LPRs in the military are eligible to apply for naturalization. Under the policy, LPRs must have180 consecutive days of active duty service, whereas under the previous policy, they could apply after one day of active service.
The court order enjoins the implementation of the DoD policy memo and orders that the department return to the pre-October 13, 2017 practices for the accession of LPRs into the military.
State & Local
New Directive Prevents NJ Police from Detaining Individuals Based on Immigration Status
On November 29, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal released a new directive forbidding New Jersey police officers from stopping or detaining individuals based on their immigration status. Under the new rules, which are aimed at improving relations between police and immigrant communities, officers are not permitted to ask individuals about their immigration status, unless it is part of an investigation into a serious crime. The guidance also bars state and local law enforcement from participating in ICE raids and prevents ICE from utilizing state or local resources.
Office of Inspector General (OIG): The Tornillo Influx Care Facility: Concerns About Staff Background Checks and Number of Clinicians on Staff, November 27, 2018
This OIG memo concerns the Inspector’s site visit to the facility in Tornillo, Texas that is holding thousands of unaccompanied children (UAC). The site visit revealed a number of serious concerns, including that the shelter is not conducting required Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) background checks for its staff and does not employ a sufficient number of clinicians to provide adequate mental health care for UACs.
SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES
This is a summary of Senator Rob Portman’s (R-Ohio) Responsibility for Unaccompanied Minors Act (S.3474) that would provide additional protections for UACs, by making ORR responsible for continuing to oversee the care of UACs even after their placement with a sponsoring family.
This fact sheet focuses on immigrants in the U.S. transportation sector, highlighting key facts about their demographics, income, and contribution.
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*This Bulletin is not intended to be comprehensive. Please contact Zuzana Cepla, National Immigration Forum Policy and Advocacy Associate, with comments and suggestions of additional items to be included. Zuzana can be reached at email@example.com. Thank you.