Legislative Bulletin – Friday, October 11, 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

H.R. 4599

The Southern Border Communities Relief Act of 2019

The bill authorizes funds for the next three fiscal years to reimburse communities that provide humanitarian support to asylum seekers along the Southern border and to reimburse services already provided since July 1, 2019.

Sponsored by Representative Xochitl Torres Small (D – New Mexico) (10 cosponsors – 0 Republicans, 10 Democrats)

10/01/2019 Introduced in the House by Representative Torres Small

10/01/2019 Referred to the House Committees on the Judiciary and Financial Services

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Tuesday, October 15, 2019 through Friday, October 18, 2019.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

The Public’s Right to Know: FOIA at the Department of Homeland Security

Date: Thursday, October 17, 2019 at 2:00 p.m. (House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight, Management, and Accountability)

Location: 310 Cannon House Office Building

Witnesses: TBA

Immigration Raids: Impacts and Aftermath on Mississippi Communities

Date: Thursday, November 7, 2019 at 10:00 a.m. (House Committee on Homeland Security)

Location: Holmes Hall Auditorium, Tougaloo College, Tougaloo, Mississippi

Witnesses: TBA

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Legal

Federal Court Blocks Public Charge Rule Amidst Efforts to Implement and Expand Rule

A federal judge in New York issued nationwide preliminary injunction on October 11 blocking the Trump administration’s final rule broadening the definition of the term “public charge.” U.S. District Judge George B. Daniels found that the Trump administration failed to “demonstrate why or how the current public charge framework in inadequate” and noted that the “current concept of ‘public charge’ has been accepted for over a century.” Judge Daniels said the preliminary injunction is necessary because the plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits of the case and will suffer irreparable harm absent a decision to temporarily block the rule while the case moves forward. The rule, which was set to take effect on October 15, would allow federal officials to reject immigrants applying for a green card, an immigrant visa, or a temporary visa if they have previously accessed or are deemed likely to rely on certain forms of public assistance.

The preliminary injunction comes as the Trump administration moved forward to implement and expand on the “public charge” rule. On October 9, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published new self-sufficiency forms to help implement the final rule on “public charge.” In addition, the State Department is expected to implement (subscription required) a separate regulation on October 15 that would deny visas to individuals outside the U.S. based on the possibility they could use public benefits in the future. The State Department’s regulation is expected to move forward despite the court’s preliminary injunction blocking the Trump administration’s “public charge” rule.

In addition, on October 4, President Trump issued a presidential proclamation requiring future immigrants to provide proof they have health care insurance or can afford to pay for medical care before being issued an visa that could lead to lawful permanent resident (LPR) status. The proclamation requires insurance to be provided through employment or purchased individually. The proclamation, however, restricts the use of Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsidies to serve as evidence of health insurance, even if the prospective immigrant is eligible for such subsidies. Other processes of the proclamation remain unclear. Guidelines for financial requirements have not been provided, instead providing consular officers from the U.S. Department of State with discretion to make a judgement about whether the requirements are met before issuing a visa. It is also unclear what form of healthcare plan will be sufficient for approval, and how new immigrants coming to the U.S. will be able to purchase health insurance policies without Social Security numbers or medical histories in the U.S.

Immigration advocates note that the proclamation unfairly targets low-income immigrants coming into the U.S. and could reduce legal immigration by up to two-thirds. Legal experts contend, like the Trump administration’s “public charge” policy, this proclamation will face legal challenges by immigrant advocacy groups. In addition, health officials who oversee the U.S. health insurance markets have reportedly raised concerns (subscription required) that the proclamation is unworkable and potentially illegal. The proclamation goes into effect November 3.

Federal Court Declares President Trump’s National Emergency Declaration on Border Barriers “Unlawful”

A federal court in Texas ruled on October 11 that President Trump’s proclamation declaring a  national emergency to divert existing appropriations to build physical barriers along the Southern border is unlawful. U.S. District Judge David Briones found that the proclamation is invalid because it circumvents Congress’s decision to not provide additional funding for border barrier construction. Judge Briones noted that, “The Congressional language in the [spending bill] reveals Congress’s intent to limit the border barrier funding.” Judge Briones ordered the plaintiffs to file a proposed preliminary injunction within 10 days specifying the scope of such an injunction and directed the Trump administration to respond to the proposed injunction within five days.

President Trump declared the national emergency on February 15. The Trump administration has so far transferred about $6 billion to start constructing more than 200 miles of barriers along the Southern border. On September 3, the Department of Defense (DoD) informed Congress that it will divert $3.6 billion in military construction funding to build 175 miles of border barriers. On September 25, Congress passed a joint resolution for the second time this year to terminate President Trump’s national emergency declaration. President Trump is expected to veto that resolution.

Supreme Court to Review DACA, Other Immigration Cases in New Term

The U.S. Supreme Court met on October 7 to start a new term that includes four immigration-related cases.

The Supreme Court will most notably consider the future of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California. The case centers on whether President Trump’s decision to end DACA is reviewable by the courts and, if so, whether the decision to is lawful. If the court strikes down DACA, DACA recipients would eventually become susceptible to deportation and not be able to work legally in the U.S. Three federal district courts have separately issued preliminary injunctions allowing DACA renewals to continue while the court cases make their way through the court system. So far, universities, law enforcement leaders, businesses and many others have signed on to amicus briefs in support of DACA. The court will hold oral arguments on November 12 and likely issue a decision between January and June 2020.

On October 9, President Trump called on the Supreme Court to strike down DACA, claiming that if the courts end DACA there will be “a DEAL to let them [Dreamers] stay in our Country, in very short order.” The White House has previously opposed bipartisan deals in Congress to provide permanent protections to Dreamers. In addition, the Trump administration is  reportedly considering an additional DACA renewal fee, to be added to the current $495 DACA fee, in case the court decides to uphold DACA and the program continues.

The Supreme Court will also consider a case, United States v. Sineneng-Smith, over whether a federal law that criminalizes the inducement of illegal immigration for financial gain is unconstitutional. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals invalidated part of that law in December 2018, finding that it violated the First Amendment because it criminalizes constitutionally protected free speech. The court is also hearing Kansas v. Garcia, which concerns whether states can prosecute undocumented immigrants for using false or borrowed Social Security numbers on state tax forms, and Hernandez v. Mesa, which is the continuation of a case involving a Border Patrol agent who killed a Mexican boy by shooting across the border into Mexico.

DOJ Weighs Challenge to New York State’s Driver’s License Law

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is preparing to weigh in on a legal challenge to a New York state law that permits undocumented immigrants to apply for a driver’s license. The law, which takes effect on December 14, allows eligible New York residents to apply for a driver’s license without providing a Social Security number and prevents the disclosure of applications for licenses to federal immigration officials. Undocumented immigrants can obtain driver’s licenses in 12 states.

In June, Erie Country Clerk Michael Kerns filed a lawsuit to challenge New York’s license law, arguing it would force him to violate federal statutes. DOJ prosecutors are reportedly reviewing whether to weigh in on the law’s disclosure provisions, which they argue could contradict federal statutes that prohibit states from restricting information-sharing with federal immigration officials. However, lawyers for the state of New York have argued those federal laws violate the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which grants states authority over policy matters not delegated to the federal government. Supporters of the law also argue it will allow undocumented immigrants to better assimilate into their local communities and increase public safety by ensuring they can pass a driving test before driving.

Federal

Border Crossings Continued to Fall in September, Totaled 850,000 in FY 2019

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced on October 8 that the number of migrants apprehended along the Southern border or taken in at Southern border ports fell for the fourth straight month to 52,000 in September, down 18 percent from 64,000 in August and a 63 percent decrease from 144,000 in May. The number of apprehensions along the Southern border over fiscal year (FY) 2019 totaled slightly more than 850,000 migrants, the highest since FY 2007. Mark Morgan, acting commissioner at CBP, said September’s lower figures are “an unprecedented achievement” and credited the Trump administration’s border policies with bringing “dramatic results.” Apprehension numbers historically increase in the spring and decrease in the late summer, fall and winter. However, apprehension numbers in the past five years have not fit into a clear seasonal pattern. Morgan said the number of daily border crossings is at about 1,700 and that the administration is aiming for a daily goal of 500.

The Trump administration has implemented multiple policies along the Southern border to try to stem the flow of migrants coming to the U.S.-Mexico border. Under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy, an estimated 50,000 asylum seekers have been sent back to wait in Mexico while their immigration court cases move forward in the U.S. On October 10, an estimated 250 and 300 asylum seekers marched to the Gateway International Bridge between Matamoros, Mexico and Brownsville, Texas, closing it down by peacefully sitting in the vehicle lanes and blocking traffic for about 15 hours. Asylum seekers involved in the incident said they faced a growing sense of despair as they wait in Mexico for their asylum cases in the U.S. to proceed, facing attacks from gangs and criminal organizations and struggling to wait in Mexico with sick children.

USCIS Reduces Overseas Military Naturalization Sites to Four Military Bases

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on September 30 that it will provide military naturalization services at four overseas military bases, a reduction in services that will make it more difficult for immigrants in the military to become U.S. citizens. Prior to the announcement, USCIS handled military citizenship applications at its 23 international offices in 20 different countries. Under the new policy change, USCIS officers will travel to each of the four military bases for just one week each quarter to provide naturalization services. USCIS said service members and their families will have to schedule appointments in advance and make their own travel arrangements to one of the four bases. Military naturalization services will be provided at Camp Humphreys in South Korea, the Commander Fleet Activities in Yokosuka, Japan, the U.S. Army Garrison in Stuttgart, Germany, and the Naval Support Activity in Naples, Italy.

The reduction in overseas military naturalization sites comes as a result of the USCIS decision to close most of the agency’s international offices, which are responsible for processing military naturalization applications. It also comes as the number of military naturalizations declined 44 percent in fiscal year (FY) 2018 compared to FY 2017, likely in response to the Trump administration’s policy changes that made it harder for immigrants in the military to become U.S. citizens.

State and Local

California Signs Bill Banning Private Prisons, Immigration Detention Centers

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-California) signed legislation to effectively ban the use of privately-run prisons and immigration detention centers in California. The bill, AB32, would block most new or renewed contracts with for-profit detention facilities in the state starting in January 2020. AB32 sets the stage to close three remaining private prisons in California, which house about 1,400 inmates, when the prison contracts expire in the next four years.  It would also will close four privately-run Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities in the state, which hold about 4,000 individuals, when those contracts expire next year. The bill includes an exemption for facilities that provide inmates with “educational, vocational, medical or other ancillary services.” In response to the bill, ICE stated that it will transfer detainees in privately-run facilities in California to other ICE facilities outside the state.

The bill follows a nationwide decline in for-profit detention facilities. Other states, including New York, Illinois and Nevada, have adopted similar bans on private detention facilities. In 2016, the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Inspector General found that private prisons spend less on personnel and are less safe than public institutions.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

Nonimmigrant and Immigrant Visa Categories: Data Brief

This brief provides an overview of nonimmigrant visa categories and lawful permanent resident (LPR) categories, including a description of each category, the allowed duration of stay, and the annual numeric limit.

Legal Authority to Repurpose Funds for Border Barrier Construction

This report examines the legal authorities cited by the Trump administration to repurpose existing appropriations by transferring up to $8.1 billion in funds to build physical barriers along the Southern border. The report also examines the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) legal authority to construct border barriers and the ongoing litigation regarding the administration’s funding transfers.

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

Bill Summary: Deferred Removal for Iraqi Nationals Including Minorities Act of 2019

This is a summary of Reps. Andy Levin (D-Michigan) and John Moolenar’s (R-Michigan)  Deferred Removal for Iraqi Nationals Including Minorities Act of 2019 (H.R. 2537), which would defer the detention and deportation of Iraqi nationals with orders of removal, including many Chaldean Christians and other minority populations, for 24 months.

Border Security Along the Southwest Border: Fact Sheet

This fact sheet provides a summary of current border security resources and recent migration trends along America’s Southern border.

Naturalizations in the Military: A Recent Decline

This infographic illustrates the recent decline in military naturalizations as a result of the Trump administration’s policy changes that make it harder for military service members and veterans to naturalize.

* * *

*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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