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Legislative Bulletin — Friday, October 13, 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

Ukrainian Arrivals to the U.S. Left Without Critical Support Amid Congressional Funding Battle 

On September 30, when Congress passed a continuing resolution to avert a government shutdown, lawmakers failed to extend eligibility for newly arriving Ukrainians to access much-needed federal assistance as they seek safety in the United States, according to a new report by the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI)

Through the Biden administration’s initiative, Uniting for Ukraine (U4U), Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion arrive initially in the U.S. not as refugees, but as “parolees” — a status that allows them to live here temporarily, but does not offer a clear pathway to a green card or federal support. 

That said, in May 2022, Congress took action to at least provide mainstream benefits and resettlement help to Ukrainian parolees who came into the U.S. between February 24, 2022, and September 30, 2023, making them eligible for job training, health insurance via Medicaid, cash assistance, childcare, and other support services that aren’t available to most other parolees. 

But when Congress passed its temporary stopgap measure to continue to fund the U.S. government late last month, policymakers neglected to extend the current cutoff date for people to qualify for that federal aid, which means that many Ukrainian parolees arriving now — after September 30 — may not be able to get the services they need for a safe and healthy start in the U.S.

“The expectation was that when they come over here, they will at least have some kind of support,” said Oleksandr Nemchenko, a USCRI program officer.

“Particularly vulnerable cases will suffer the most,” he continued. “Trafficking and exploitation concerns are real. We hear about such cases. We believe when people will have less access to benefits, the number will grow — and they will go unreported.”

State and Local 

Texas Republicans Push for State Immigration Enforcement, Deportation Powers Despite Operation Lone Star Concerns 

On October 9, the first day of Texas’s third special legislative session this year, the Texas House gaveled in and out in under half an hour amid political ruptures within the state’s Republican leadership. 

In the latest sign of divisions within Texas’s GOP, House Speaker Dade Phelan has called on Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to return $3 million to the Defend Texas Liberty PAC. The political action committee is facing scrutiny from Phelan and beyond after revelations that its president, Jonathan Strickland, hosted known white supremacist Nick Fuentes at an office building near Fort Worth. 

Patrick responded by saying that Phelan should resign. 

This bitter infighting over the Texas GOP’s future comes even as state lawmakers are being pressed to enact border policies that would likely tee up a court battle over whether states can police migration in the United States. 

Despite long-established precedent that immigration enforcement is a federal responsibility, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott made state legislators return to work on Monday in part to “pass laws to mirror the federal immigration laws,” including by imposing a new state criminal offense on people who enter Texas unauthorized from abroad. The penalty would be enforced by any licensed peace officer, who would now ostensibly have the authority to “remove” unauthorized migrants.

“Federal law is very clear: States cannot engage in immigration enforcement,” Aron Thorn, senior attorney at the Texas Civil Rights Project’s Beyond Borders Program, said in a statement.

During the special session, Abbott also called for legislation to trump up smuggling penalties and fund more border barriers, as Texas builds its own border wall and even reportedly erects barriers to cut off migrants trying to cross through its neighboring state, New Mexico. The Biden administration is also planning to resume construction of border barriers in the Rio Grande Valley —  despite analyses that walls are not  an effective solution for border security. 

At the same time, Abbott is pushing for legislation to address “public safety, security, environmental quality, and property ownership in areas like the Colony Ridge development,” a community outside of Houston that has quickly become a news fixation because many of its homeowners are reportedly immigrants. In September, federal Texas lawmakers portrayed Colony Ridge as a den of violent crime and a battleground for “the ongoing invasion at our southern border,” using concerning language to voice their opposition against the community and ask the state legislature to look into it. 

 But after state lawmakers visited Colony Ridge on October 5, they found little cause for concern. 

“From what we’ve seen, it looks a lot like places you might see in East Texas,” said Republican state Rep. Briscoe Cain. “It looks a lot like my family’s place in Louisiana.”

Meanwhile, a recent New York Times report documents the reality of Abbott’s signature border initiative, Operation Lone Star, with footage recorded over 10 days at the juncture between Mexico and El Paso. Videos show soldiers trying to force a woman and child against concertina wire and yanking a young man back toward Mexico. In many of the shots, officials are armed. 

Mayor Adams Advocates ‘Right to Work’ as New Yorkers Struggle to Support Migrants

On October 7, at the end of a whirlwind four-day visit to Latin America, New York Mayor Eric Adams stood on a dock where migrants boat toward the treacherous Darién jungle as he called for transnational collaboration and work pathways in the U.S. to respond to large-scale migration across the region. 

“Nothing is more humane and nothing is more American than your right to work, and we believe that is a right we should extend,” Adams said from Necocli, Colombia.

Adams’ trip took him to Colombia, Mexico, and Ecuador to learn more about what’s driving migration to the U.S.’s southern border — and from there to New York. During his travels, he tried to hammer home the message that his city is “at capacity” after more than 120,000 migrants and asylum seekers have arrived since last year. 

“Our hearts are endless, but our resources are not,” he said. “We don’t want to put people in congregate shelters. We don’t want people to think they will be employed.”

Some have been discouraged from going to New York — though perhaps not as much by Adams as by people already there. Henry Aguilar was planning to take his family to the city but heard from a friend that “it’s not as easy as they paint it.” Now, he has shifted his strategy and will head toward Texas instead.

Yet for many aspiring migrants, Adams’ messaging did not seem to break through. Carlos Gabriel Hernández, whose family had failed to make it through the Darién Gap but intended to attempt the trek again en route to New York, wondered aloud, “How can you tell someone not to follow their American dream?”

Meanwhile, Adams — with New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s (D) support — is vying in court to suspend New York’s unique requirement to provide shelter to anyone who asks for it. The mandate has been a central point of debate as the city struggles to accommodate tens of thousands of newcomers in one of the most oversaturated housing markets in the country. 

As the number of new migrant arrivals has increasingly become a flashpoint in recent months, some New York residents are feeling conflicted about their own immigration beliefs. 

“These are human beings who deserve a chance at life and opportunities,” Carin Bail, a public school teacher and daughter of immigrants, told the New York Times. “My heart goes out to some of these folks. But then on the flip side, I feel that our government and our leadership have been failing us.

“There’s not one positive outcome that has come from this yet. And it seems like it’s just heading toward a downward spiral.”

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 is expected to be in session from Monday, October 16 through Friday, October 20, 2023.

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to be in session from Tuesday, October 17 through Friday, October 20, 2023.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

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

Preserving Due Process and the Rule of Law: Examining the Status of Our Nation’s Immigration Courts

Date: Wednesday, October 18, 2023 at 2:30 p.m. EST (Senate Judiciary Committee) 

Location: Dirksen Senate Office Building Room 226, Washington, D.C.

Witnesses: TBA

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. 

Congressional Research Service (CRS); Citizenship and Immigration Statuses of the U.S. Foreign-Born Population; Updated October 6, 2023

This report provides an overview and a data breakdown of the foreign-born population in the U.S., including nonimmigrants, lawful permanent residents, naturalized citizens, and unauthorized immigrants. It also gives brief context around migrants seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.

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. 

Explainer: What Are Safe Mobility Offices?

Read this explainer for information about what we know so far on how SMOs are being implemented in Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Colombia, and who may qualify to participate. 

CBP One: Fact Sheet and Resources Directory

This fact sheet and resources directory provides information and useful links about CBP One’s key features, its significance for asylum seekers, and its shortcomings. 

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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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