Legislative Bulletin — Friday, October 15, 2021

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. 2951

Aiding Afghan Allies Act

The bill would allow a tax credit for certain charitable contributions related to the evacuation of certain individuals from Afghanistan.

Sponsored by Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) (0 cosponsors)

10/07/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Blackburn

10/07/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on Finance

S. 2954

Fair Adjudications for Immigrants Act

The bill would redefine the term “conviction” in the Immigration and Nationality Act to ensure that immigrants with criminal convictions that have been dismissed, expunged, or pardoned by a Federal or State authority do not face barriers to naturalization or undergo removal proceedings. This is a companion bill of H.R. 5517.

Sponsored by Senator Alex Padilla (D-California) (9 cosponsors— 8 Democrats, 1 Independent, 0 Republicans)

10/07/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Padilla

10/07/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 2957

Protecting Data at the Border Act

The bill would force law enforcement to get a warrant based on probable cause before it can search phones, laptops and other digital devices of U.S. citizens at the border. The bill would also prohibit immigration officials from delaying or denying entry to the U.S. if a person declines to hand over passwords, PINs, and social media account information. This is a companion bill of H.R. 5524.

Sponsored by Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) (3 cosponsors— 2 Democrats, 1 Republican)

10/07/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Wyden

10/07/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 5497

Burma Unified through Rigorous Military Accountability (BURMA) Act of 2021

The bill would prohibit the issuance of any type of visas to individuals of the Burmese military and individuals who have engaged in actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, or stability of Burma.

Sponsored by Representative Gregory Meeks (D-New York) (23 cosponsors— 17 Democrats, 6 Republicans)

10/05/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Meeks

10/05/2021 Referred to the House Committees on the Judiciary, Foreign Affairs, Financial Services, and Ways and Means

H.R. 5518

Virtual Naturalization Act of 2021

The bill would direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to establish procedures for remote naturalization ceremonies as an alternative to in-person oath ceremonies.

Sponsored by Representative Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas) (3 cosponsors— 3 Democrats, 0 Republicans)

10/08/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Garcia

10/08/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 5564

Cameroon TPS Act of 2021

The bill would designate Cameroon for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for an initial period of 18 months. This designation would allow Cameroonian nationals residing in the United States as of the date of the enactment of the Act to file applications for TPS, which if granted, would protect them from deportation and provide them with work authorization on a temporary basis.

Sponsored by Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-California) (20 cosponsors— 20 Democrats, 0 Republicans)

10/12/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Lofgren

10/12/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 5572

Safeguards Ensuring Criminal and Unvetted Refugees don’t Enter (SECURE) America Act

The bill would shift the authority from the Executive branch to Congress to set the yearly refugee admission cap. The bill would also require that Governors receive a 30-day notice from the administration before refugees are set to be resettled in their state. The bill would also establish additional vetting processes for all refugees seeking admittance into the United States.

Sponsored by Representative Matthew Rosendale Sr. (R-Montana) (15 cosponsors— 15 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

10/12/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Rosendale

10/12/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 5557

Denying Earnings to the Military Oligarchy in Cuba and Restricting Activities of the Cuban Intelligence Apparatus Act (DEMOCRACIA Act)

The bill would prohibit the issuance of any type of visas to individuals engaged in financial, material, or technological support on behalf of the Government of Cuba.

Sponsored by Representative Byron Donalds (R-Florida) (6 cosponsors— 6 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

10/12/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Donalds

10/12/2021 Referred to the House Committees on Foreign Affairs, the Judiciary, and Rules.

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate will be in session the week of October 18, 2021.

The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Tuesday, October 19, through Friday, October 22, 2021.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

Hearing to examine the nomination of Chris Magnus, of Arizona, to be Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security

Date: Tuesday, October 19, 2021, at 9:30 am E.T. (Senate Committee on Finance)

Location: 215 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Witnesses:

Christopher Magnus, Police Chief of Tucson, Arizona.

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

After Court Order, Biden Administration Details Plan to Reimplement Migrant Protection Protocols

On October 14, the Department of Homeland Security detailed its plans to respond to a court order and restart the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also known as the “Remain in Mexico” program. According to the plans, the administration is planning to restart the program in mid-November pending agreement from Mexico. The administration further noted that those placed into the new MPP procedure will receive court dates within six months of their processing and will be required to attend hearings at ad-hoc courts set up near the border in Texas.

The policy, first introduced by the Trump administration in 2019, requires migrants seeking asylum along the southwest border to wait in Mexico while their claims are adjudicated, a process that often takes months or years. The Biden administration stopped enrollment in MPP in January and officially terminated the program in June through a multi-page memorandum. However, on August 13 a federal judge in Texas ruled that the termination of MPP violated the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). After the U.S. Supreme Court declined to stay the ruling on August 24, the Biden administration was required to reimplement the program.

The Biden administration has repeatedly stated that it cannot reimplement the policy without agreement from Mexico. On October 14, the administration noted that “discussions with the Government of Mexico concerning when and how MPP will be reimplemented are ongoing.”

Asylum seekers returned to Mexico under MPP by the Trump administration were subject to extremely dangerous conditions while awaiting their cases to be heard in U.S. immigration court. A regularly updated Human Rights First report has documented over 1,500 of publicly reported murder, rape, kidnapping, and other violent assaults experienced by those forced to wait in MPP. In its initial memorandum terminating the program, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas stated that the use of MPP “would not be consistent with this administration’s vision and values.”

Biden Administration Officially Raises Refugee Ceiling to 125,000 for Fiscal Year 2022

On October 8, President Biden signed a presidential determination to raise the refugee resettlement ceiling for fiscal year (FY) 2022 from 62,500 to 125,000. The new refugee resettlement ceiling allocates 40,000 slots for refugees from Africa, 15,000 for the East Asian region, 10,000 for the European and Central Asian region, 15,000 for the Latin American and Caribbean region, 35,000 for the Near East and South Asian region, and 10,000 available spaces for reserve.

The presidential declaration came two days after the Biden administration released the number of refugee admissions to the United States during FY 2021, revealing a historic low of 11,445. In other words, the monthly average of refugees resettled in FY 2021 was 954. If the Biden administration intends to reach the new refugee ceiling of 125,000, it would need to increase resettlement tenfold in FY2022 to resettle an average of 10,416 refugees per month.

Acknowledging the challenge of dramatically expanding resettlement and reaching the proposed ceiling, the President requested only enough funding to process 65,000 refugees in FY 2022. However, the White House wrote that “those funding levels will be re-evaluated and increased as appropriate as the year progresses and as it becomes clearer how much progress can be made against the target.” The administration has also requested significant additional funding for agencies involved in the refugee pipeline, including USCIS refugee officers.

Thousands of Afghans who have been paroled into the U.S. following the emergency evacuation are not counted towards the refugee ceiling.

Biden Administration Ends Mass Worksite Immigration Raids

On October 12, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas announced a new worksite immigration enforcement strategy intended to better respond to the exploitation of unauthorized workers in the United States. The new strategy ceases mass worksite immigration raids, and instead emphasizes the need to adopt an approach that encourages undocumented workers to report labor trafficking and exploitation and cooperate with law enforcement agencies in the investigation and prosecution of unscrupulous employers.

In announcing the new strategy, Mayorkas stated that the large workplace raids undertaken in the past, especially under the Trump administration, misused resources and, in some instances, served as retaliation against unauthorized workers who had reported workplace violations.

The new strategy also commits to ensuring that the E-Verify program is not used to suppress unauthorized workers from reporting unlawful labor practices such as substandard wages, unsafe working conditions, and other forms of worker exploitation.

Biden Administration Reignites Diplomatic Discussions with Mexico to Address Migration

On October 6, President Biden sent a letter to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador highlighting his priorities on immigration. In the missive, Biden stressed that his administration is working to have a secure border, expand legal immigration pathways to the U.S., guarantee the fairness and efficiency of asylum processes, reduce irregular migration, and address the root causes of migration. President Biden also listed some of the steps his administration has taken to achieve those goals, including funding the modernization of land ports of entry, alterations to the asylum system, and ramping up engagement with Central to tackle gender-based violence, economic insecurity, inequality, corruption, and insecurity. The President also mentioned his efforts to encourage Congress to provide a pathway to permanent status for undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

Two days later, on October 8, Secretary of State Antony Blinken met in Mexico City with President López Obrador and his Mexican counterpart to outline a new bilateral cooperation agreement called U.S.-Mexico Bicentennial Framework for Security, Public Health and Safe Communities. The three-year agreement — expected to be completed in January 2022 — intends to strengthen the security cooperation and stem migration to the United States by focusing on development and addressing root causes.

Biden Administration has Reunited 52 Families Separated Under Trump Presidency; At Least 1,000 Remain Separated

On October 10, a CBS News report revealed that the Biden administration’s Family Reunification Task Force has so far reunited 52 families that were separated under former President Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy. However, the number represents only a small fraction of the at least 1,000 children who remain separated from their parents as a result of Trump administration border practices. The report further revealed that the exact number of separated children is unknown due to the lack of adequate records kept by the Trump administration. According to Michelle Brane, the head of the family reunification task force, the estimated number of separated children is between 1,000 and 1,500.

Almost a month ago, on September 13, the Biden administration’s Family Reunification Task Force launched a new program to find the parents who were separated from their children by the Trump administration. Many of the parents are presumed to be back in Central American communities after they were deported from the U.S. The new program intends to help the parents return to the United States to reunite with their children, providing them with at least three years of legal residency and other assistance.

Biden Administration Suspends Use of Expanded Expedited Removal Proceedings

On October 14, the Biden administration announced the suspension of a Trump-era expansion of expedited removal proceedings. Expedited removal is a procedure established in the 1990s which allows Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers to rapidly deport undocumented immigrants without a full immigration court hearing. While several prior administrations have used expedited removal for recent unauthorized border crossers, in 2019 the Trump administration expanded the practice in an attempt to allow ICE officers to implement the procedure for migrants apprehended far away from the border and long after they had entered without authorization.

The Biden administration announced it had suspended the practice only after a Buzzfeed report revealed that at least four migrants had been deported under the expansion of the policy since the President took office on January 20.

Under the Trump-era expansion of the policy, most undocumented persons who could not prove they had resided in the United States for more than two years were subject to expedited removal. The previous regulations limited eligibility for expedited removal to unauthorized immigrants who were apprehended within 100 miles of the U.S. border and who had been in the country for less than two weeks.

U.S. Hits H-2B Visa Limit For First Half of FY 2022

On October 12, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it had already received enough applications to exhaust the 33,000 H-2B visas available for the first half of Fiscal Year (FY) 2022. The fiscal year began just 12 days before at the start of October. H-2B nonimmigrant visas are intended to help American employers fill temporary, non-agricultural positions when there are no sufficient qualified U.S. workers capable of performing the work.

Only 66,000 H-2B visas are available each fiscal year — with half awarded in the first half of the fiscal year, and the remainder in the second half. For the past three fiscal years, USCIS met the visa cap for the first half of the year by November and December, and reached the annual threshold by February, according to prior agency announcements.

Biden Administration to Lift Border Restrictions with Canada and Mexico for Fully Vaccinated Visitors

On October 12, the Biden administration announced that it would lift the COVID-19 land border travel restrictions for fully vaccinated visitors from Canada and Mexico in November. The announcement by the Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas aligns with the new lift on air travel restrictions for vaccinated foreigners traveling from a total of 33 countries, also set to start in November. The new order is divided into two phases. The first phase will start in November and will allow visitors to enter the U.S. by land borders or ferry crossings for non-essential purposes if they have proof of vaccination against COVID-19. The second phase will begin in January of 2022 and will require all travelers — including individuals deemed essential — to provide proof of complete vaccination against the virus.

While the travel restrictions have significantly impacted border communities, even with the limitations in place millions of individuals have been crossing at land ports of entry every month for purposes deemed essential (including cross-border trade).

Legal

Biden Administration Terminates Border Wall Construction Contracts

On October 8, the Biden administration canceled all the remaining Trump-era border wall construction contracts in Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley. Instead of funding the construction, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it would initiate research into the environmental, biological, and cultural significant of the area in consultation with impacted landowners, tribes, state and local elected officials, and federal agencies. In addition, the DHS reiterated its call on Congress to cancel the remaining border wall funding and instead fund smarter border security measures such as the implementation of new border technologies and modernizing land ports of entry.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

Department of State, U.S. Periodic Report to the U.N. Committee Against Torture (CAT), September 24, 2021

The United States submitted its periodic report before CAT to present the country’s compliance with the Convention Against Torture between 2014 and 2021. The report describes a series of immigration-related actions taken by the U.S. government to improve the country’s immigration system. The report highlights the creation of mechanisms for noncitizens to apply for any form of relief or protection for which they may be eligible, including asylum and protection from removal under CAT obligations.

Congressional Research Service (CRS): Visa Waiver Program, October 12, 2021

This CRS report provides an overview of the Visa Waiver Program, which allows nationals from 40 countries, many of which are in Europe, to enter the United States as temporary visitors for business or pleasure without first obtaining a visa.

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

Explainer: What’s Happening at the U.S.-Mexico Border

This regularly updated explainer breaks down what is happening at the U.S.-Mexico border, analyzing CBP data on recent apprehensions, describing the impact and use of Title 42 expulsions as well as the treatment of arriving UACs, and providing additional context on reports of increased migration to the U.S. and releases of migrant families into the interior. The explainer also includes a Facebook live discussion covering recent developments at the border.

Fact Sheet: Unused Green Card Recapture

This fact sheet explains, in simple terms, what green card recapture means. Every year, the U.S. sets aside a specific number of available green cards for individuals from all around the world. However, over the years, various administrative complications have left hundreds of thousands of green cards unissued. To tackle the backlog – and consequently trigger economic growth – policy analysts and immigration advocates have suggested recapturing the unused green cards accumulated over the past three decades, going back to 1992.

Explainer: Budget Reconciliation and Immigration Reform

This resource explains the elements, rules, and history of the budget reconciliation process. Congressional Democrats are expected to try to use reconciliation to avoid a Senate filibuster and pass immigration reforms with a simple majority.

* * *

*This Bulletin is not intended to be comprehensive. Please contact Arturo Castellanos-Canales, National Immigration Forum Policy and Advocacy Associate, with comments and suggestions of additional items to be included. Arturo can be reached at acastellanos@immigrationforum.org. Thank you.

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