Legislative Bulletin – Friday, November 8, 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. 2162

Securing America’s Borders Act of 2019

The bill would require U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to hire at least 600 new Border Patrol agents each year until the total number of Border Patrol agents equals 26,370 and to provide emergency medical and paramedic training to a selected group of Border Patrol agents.

Sponsored by Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) (0 cosponsors)

7/18/2019 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Johnson

7/18/2019 Referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

11/06/2019 Passed the committee by a voice vote

S. 2797

Military Family Parole in Place Act

This bill would require the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to jointly approve the denial of a parole application to family members of U.S. military servicemembers and veterans.

Sponsored by Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) (10 cosponsors – 0 Republicans, 10 Democrats)

11/06/2019 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Duckworth

11/06/2019 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 2813

The bill would direct U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to establish a Hiring and Retention Innovation Council to develop initiatives to improve CBP hiring and retention efforts and capabilities.

Sponsored by Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) (1 cosponsor – 1 Republican, 0 Democrats)

11/07/2019 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Sinema

11/07/2019 Referred to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Tuesday, November 12, 2019 through Friday, November 15, 2019.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

Unprecedented Migration at the U.S. Southern Border: The Year in Review

Date: Wednesday, November 13, 2019 at 9:30 a.m. (Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs)

Location: 342 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Witnesses:

Derek Benner, Acting Deputy Director, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

Kenneth Cuccinelli, Acting Director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

Mark Morgan, Acting Commissioner, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

James McHenry, Director, Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

Trump Administration Officially Sets Refugee Admissions Cap at 18,000

On a November 1 statement, the Trump administration announced that it has officially capped U.S. refugee intake at 18,000 for fiscal year (FY) 2020. The 18,000 cap is the lowest since the modern refugee program began in 1980.

The statement also modifies the way the administration will reserve slots for refugees in the coming year. While in the past refugee slots have been allocated solely by region of origin, the FY 2020 process will rely on different types of categories. Under the new allocation method, the administration will instead reserve 5,000 slots for people persecuted on the basis of their religion, 4,000 slots for Iraqis who worked with the U.S. military, 1,500 for people from Central America, and the remaining 7,500 for those who have already been cleared for resettlement and are seeking family reunification.

The administration initially announced it intended further cuts to the FY 2020 cap in September, but had delayed in finalizing the number for over a month. Scheduled refugee flights in October were postponed as the system was paused in advance of an official announcement, resulting in the first month in the program’s history in which zero refugees were resettled.

Criticism of the low cap from both Congress and refugee advocates has mounted since the initial announcement of the plan in September. Prominent voices including Senators James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) were among many voicing their concern at the low number, and Utah Governor Gary Herbert (R-Utah) wrote a public letter to the president requesting that more refugees be sent to his state. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and Immigration and Citizenship Subcommittee Chair Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) issued a statement in response to the November determination, noting “bipartisan agreement in favor of increasing the proposed admission level,” and stating the new admissions levels “shock the conscience.”

Advocates have also noted the possibility that other efforts by the administration to stymie resettlement may prevent the program from reaching 18,000 refugees in FY 2020, which operates only as a ceiling. Analysts noted that of the more than 100,000 Iraqis awaiting resettlement who assisted with U.S. military efforts, only 153 were resettled in FY 2019 due to a drastic slowdown in background checks. If background checks continue to serve as an extreme bottleneck, it is unlikely the 4,000 slots reserved for Iraqis will be filled in FY 2020.

Chad Wolf, Acting DHS Undersecretary for Policy, Tapped as DHS Acting Secretary

On November 1, President Trump announced Chad Wolf would serve as the next acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Wolf has served as undersecretary of policy at DHS since February and was previously the chief of staff to former DHS secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. He has faced criticism from some immigration hardliners for his past work lobbying for an increase in green cards and work visas, but he was also reportedly the preferred pick of restrictionist Stephen Miller, who worked with him on the administration’s “zero tolerance” border policy last year.

The choice of Wolf for the role followed an extended search for a viable candidate after current DHS acting secretary Kevin McAleenan announced his intention to resign in early October. White House Personnel Director Sean Doocey told President Trump that his preferred pick for the position, acting head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Ken Cuccinelli, was ineligible under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act. Chad Wolf faces some similar eligibility concerns, but the Senate may vote to confirm Wolf as undersecretary as early as next week, allowing the White House to transition him into the role of acting DHS secretary.

While McAleenan served as acting secretary for seven months, reports indicate the White House intends to keep Wolf on for only a short period as they continue to search for someone to hold the role on a permanent basis. Acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Mark Morgan is understood to be the leading candidate to fill the position permanently.

Congress to Continue Negotiations on Government and Border Barrier Funding

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) said on November 6 that he will meet with other top Senate and House appropriators on November 12 to continue spending negotiations and work through outstanding issues to fund the federal government for fiscal year (FY) 2020. The group will reportedly discuss allocations for the 12 spending bills that fund the operations of the federal government and President Trump’s request for additional funding for physical barriers along the Southern border. Shelby called funding for physical barriers “the big impediment.” Shelby also indicated that Congress will pass a second short-term spending bill to fund the federal government at the current spending levels beyond November 21, 2019, when the current continuing resolution expires. Shelby said the two dates under discussion for the end of the next short-term spending bill are December 13 and December 31. The White House stated on November 5 that it is open to another continuing resolution to fund the federal government beyond November 21 as long as the short-term spending bill does “not restrict [President Trump’s] authorities or abilities to pursue his policy priorities, including wall construction.”

Congressional appropriators and committee staffers reportedly remain optimistic Congress will come to an agreement on border wall funding and avoid a government shutdown. However, President Trump said on November 3 that he would not commit to ruling out a government shutdown, saying “I wouldn’t commit to anything. It depends on what the negotiation is.”

The White House has requested at least $8.6 billion in FY 2020 funding for additional physical barriers along the Southern border. The request includes $5 billion for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to build additional border barriers and $3.6 billion in military construction funds to backfill funding that was transferred by the Trump administration earlier in the year to construct border barriers. The Senate Appropriations Committee marked up a full-year spending bill that largely met the White House’s request. However, the House offered zero dollars in additional border barrier funding and requested additional restrictions, including fewer Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention beds.

President Trump Comments on Reports of Smugglers Cutting Through New Border Wall Sections, Drug Cartels in Mexico

President Trump on November acknowledged reports that smuggling groups have sawed through new sections of physical barriers along the Southern border in recent months, saying that “[w]e have a very powerful wall. But no matter how powerful, you can cut through anything, in all fairness.” President Trump also said the breaches are “very easily fixed” because “[y]ou put the chunk back in.” The breaches have been reportedly made using commercially available power tools, such as a cordless saw that sells for as little as $100. The breaches have opened gaps large enough for people and drug shipments to pass through. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) conducted tests earlier in 2019 that found the steel bollard design for the Trump administration’s new border barriers could be cut through.

President Trump also stated on November 5 that “we merely await a call” from the Mexican government to help “wage WAR on the drug cartels.” President Trump’s comment came after news reports of an atrocious murder of three women and six children, dual U.S. and Mexican citizens, in a rural road in the northern Mexican state of Sinaloa. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador rejected the offer.

Legal

Federal Judge Temporarily Blocks Trump Administration’s Health Care Coverage Requirement

A federal judge in Oregon issued a temporary restraining order on November 2 blocking the Trump administration’s presidential proclamation that would deny U.S. immigrant visas to individuals who cannot prove they have health insurance or can afford to pay for medical care. U.S. District Judge Michael Simon found that the proclamation is likely unlawful and that it was issued without following proper rulemaking procedures. Simon also said he would temporarily bar the policy because plaintiffs showed “they are likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of temporary relief…and that temporary relief is in the public interest.” Simon’s order blocks the proclamation, which was set to go into effect on November 3, for 28 days.

The proclamation would require future immigrants to the U.S. to provide evidence they have health insurance or can afford to pay for medical care before receiving a visa that could lead to lawful permanent resident (LPR) status. The proclamation requires insurance to be provided through employment or purchased individually. Immigrant advocates and health officials argue the policy would prevent up to two-thirds of all future legal immigrants from coming the U.S. In addition, officials within the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) raised questions about implementing the regulation, including whether enforcing the proclamation was legal.

The Trump administration’s “public charge” rule similarly was put on hold last month prior to taking effect.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

There were no immigration-related government reports published on the week of Monday, November 4, 2019.

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

DACA in the Supreme Court: An Urgent Solution Is Needed

This infographic highlights the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the urgency for Congress to pass a permanent, legislative solution to protect Dreamers.

Mexico’s Asylum System Is Inadequate

This analysis provides an overview of the Mexican asylum system and finds that it cannot handle the scope of the humanitarian crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border due to insufficient infrastructure, legal representation and due process. The analysis notes that the U.S. asylum system has more experience handling large numbers of asylum claims and sufficient resources to ensure fair adjudication.

* * *

*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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