Legislative Bulletin – Friday, October 16, 2020

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. 8585

The American Right to Family Act

This bill would grant temporary legal status to the parents of citizens, provided they have lived in the U.S. for ten years. The bill would also provide legal status to parents of children who were brought to the U.S. when they were under 16 years old, again if those parents can show they have lived in the country for ten years or more.

Sponsored by Representative Bobby Rush (D-Illinois) (0 cosponsors)

10/13/2020 Introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Rush

10/13/2020 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate will be in session the week of Monday, October 19, 2020.

U.S. House will not be in session the week of Monday, October 19, 2020.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

There are no upcoming immigration-related hearings and markups currently scheduled in the U.S. Senate or the U.S. House of Representatives.

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

Unauthorized Border Crossings Rise as Asylum Ban Remains in Place

According to data from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) released on October 14, unauthorized border crossings at the Southwest border rose for the fifth straight month. Total apprehensions of unauthorized crossers rose to 54,771 in September from a low of 16,182 in April. The rise in border crossings come even as the CBP continues to implement a pandemic-related policy of rapidly expelling almost everyone who arrives at the border, including asylum seekers and unaccompanied children. Total expulsions under the new expulsion policy, known as Title 42, also rose in September, from 42,742 to 48,327.

The rapid expulsion policy could be partially contributing to the rise in crossing, as migrants pushed back to Mexico may be attempting to cross the border repeatedly. The severe economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting instability in central America may also be spurring the increase in attempted border crossing.

Cameroonian Asylum Seekers Allege They Were Mistreated by ICE Prior to Deportation

According to an October 14 report, two Cameroonian asylum seekers were removed from a deportation flight moments before takeoff to permit their continued participation in an investigation into abuse they alleged occurred while in ICE custody. The investigation was prompted by a complaint brought on behalf of eight Cameroonian asylum seekers by a number of civil and immigrant rights organizations, including the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Cameroonian American Council. The complaint, which was brought to the DHS Office of Inspector General and Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, alleges that physical violence was used to intimidate the asylum seekers into providing biometric data and signing deportation paperwork at a detention facility in Adams County, Mississippi.

On October 12, ICE had reportedly transferred more than 200 asylum seekers, the majority of them from Cameroon, to a detention center near Dallas, Texas in preparation to put them on deportation flights. Many of the asylum seekers fear they will be immediately arrested and killed upon returning to Cameroon, where many have been persecuted by the government for being part of anglophone cultural groups.

Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus have written letters to the acting director of ICE, Tony Pham, requesting that the agency investigate the allegations made by the Cameroonian asylum seekers and to reconsider their deportation.

Mexico Identifies Two Women Who May Have Had Nonconsensual Surgeries in U.S. Detention Facility

On October 12, the Mexican Foreign Ministry said it had identified a second migrant woman who may have been the victim of a non-consensual, invasive surgery while detained at the Irwin Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facility in Georgia. The foreign ministry had previously identified another woman who may have been subjected to surgery at the Irwin facility. The findings were part of an ongoing investigation conducted by the ministry into into a September 14 whistleblower complaint alleging that numerous detainees at Georgia facility were subjected to medical negligence and neglect, including a high rate of unwanted invasive surgeries and hysterectomies.

Acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) secretary Chad Wolf testified on October 12 that ICE had referred five immigrant detainees for hysterectomies at the Irwin facility. A September 29 New York Times report found more widespread instances of unwanted and unnecessary gynecological procedures after interviews and a review of case records of 16 women who were detained at the facility. The DHS Office of Inspector General continues to further investigate the allegations.

According to an October 9 report, immigrants held in ICE detention have been detained for longer periods of time during the COVID-19 pandemic than any time period in the last ten years. The extended detention times have contributed to increased risk of contracting COVID-19 in the facilities, and detainees have described instances where ICE agents have transferred migrants to different centers, further exacerbating outbreaks. ICE has said that the pandemic has halted normal deportation timeframes, as countries have closed their borders or have been otherwise unwilling to accept migrants, and as such the agency has been forced to hold detainees for longer than normal.

Trump Administration Removes Information on Resettled Refugees 

On October 9, the State Department removed demographic information on previously resettled refugees from their website, rendering the data unavailable to the public. An administration spokesperson said the decision was due to privacy concerns and that a new technological system is currently being built that will allow some of the information to again be made public. According to the spokesman, an interactive reporting feature that contained data on whether refugees had fled religious-persecution will not be reported publicly by the department, even after the new technological system is in place.

The decision to discontinue reporting statistics has faced criticism from organizations that work with and support resettled refugees. A representative for World Relief and the Evangelical Immigration Table said the decision would “make it more difficult to hold our government accountable to its commitments to protect those fleeing violations of their religious liberty globally.”

Previously reported State Department records reveals that accompanying an overall reduction in refugee admittances, the Trump administration has overseen a 83% drop in the number of persecuted Christians resettled in the U.S. as refugees.

Legal

Federal Court Rejects Administration’s Use of Military Funds for Border Wall

On October 9, a federal appeals court ruled that the President’s use of emergency powers to divert $3.6 billion in wall funding from funds appropriated for military construction projects was illegal. The funds were set to be used for the construction of barriers in a number of border areas, including approximately 60 miles of barriers on the Texas border.

The ruling comes as the administration has ramped up construction in advance of the November 3 election, with DHS stating that more than ten additional miles are being built each week. It is unclear how the court’s ruling will impact this progress. According to an October 12 construction update from U.S. Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott, 360 miles of new border barriers have been constructed on the Southwest border, with an additional 378 miles currently under either construction or pre-construction.

The construction, which in some parts of the border is projected to cost more than $41 million per mile, has been funded in large part by the administration’s attempts to reallocate funds from Pentagon accounts appropriated by Congress for other efforts.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

Senate Committee on Foreign Relations: DHS Run Amok?, October 13, 2020

This report from the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations reveals that in January 2020, DHS officials used State Department funding in an unauthorized operation in Guatemala. According to the report, CBP agents detained Honduran migrants traveling north through Guatemala and used rented vans to return them to the Guatemala-Honduras border. The investigation by the committee reports that DHS misused funding and acted in violation of a written agreement with the State Department. Because the migrants were sent back to Honduras without oversight, DHS could not be certain whether any families had been separated in the process, or if any of the migrants had been given the chance to claim asylum. The investigation further raised concerns regarding the lack of protocols used to ensure the safety of the migrants who were bussed back to the Honduras-Guatemala border.

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

Working Paper: Addressing the Increase of Central American Migrants

This working paper provides a set of short-term and long-term policy recommendations that can be implemented to better manage and process the increase in Central American migrants at the Southern border.

Infographic: Where did the Trump Administration Get 13.7 Billion to Build Barriers on the U.S.-Mexico Border

This infographic focuses on the Trump administration’s effort to fund the construction of barriers on the Southwest border. The infographic describes the various sources of funding used by the administration and the amount of new and replacement barriers that have been constructed.

Factsheet: U.S. Refugee Resettlement

This fact sheet summarizes basic facts and statistics about refugee resettlement in the United States and describes the U.S. refugee screening process.

* * *

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

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