BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED
Resolving Extended Limbo for Immigrant Employees and Families (RELIEF) Act
The bill would increase the number of available immigrant visas to eliminate the employment and family green card backlogs within five years, classify spouses and children of lawful permanent residents (LPRs) as immediate relatives, provide an opportunity for “aging out” children to qualify for LPR status based on a parent’s immigration petition, and lift the per-country visa caps, among other provisions.
Sponsored by Senator Dick Durbin (D – Illinois) (2 cosponsors – 0 Republicans, 2 Democrats)
10/16/2019 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Durbin
10/16/2019 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary
LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR
The U.S. Senate will be in session on the week of Monday, October 21, 2019.
The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Monday, October 21, 2019 through Thursday, October 24, 2019.
UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS
Date: Tuesday, October 22, 2019 at 10:00 a.m. (Senate Committee on the Judiciary)
Location: 226 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Date: Thursday, October 24 (House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties)
Ken Cuccinelli, Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
Matthew T. Albence, Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
Date: Thursday, November 7, 2019 at 10:00 a.m. (House Committee on Homeland Security)
Location: Holmes Hall Auditorium, Tougaloo College, Tougaloo, Mississippi
THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK
McAleenan to Resign as DHS Acting Secretary, President Trump Mulls Successor
President Trump announced on October 11 that Kevin K. McAleenan will resign as the acting secretary for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). President Trump said he and McAleenan “worked well together with Border Crossings being way down” and that McAleenan wanted “to spend more time with his family and go to the private sector.” President Trump said he would announce a new acting secretary within the “next week.”
McAleenan served as the DHS acting secretary for about six months, at times challenging the Trump administration’s immigration policies and expressing concern about the use of political rhetoric within DHS. McAleenan’s tenure was highlighted by an increase in the number of Central American families seeking asylum at the U.S. Southern border. Under McAleenan’s leadership, DHS implemented the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), commonly known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy, and signed third country transit agreements with Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras to require asylum seekers who pass through those three countries to first seek protection in those countries before in the U.S.
President Trump is reportedly looking for a “new political fighter” to serve as the new DHS acting secretary. The top candidates to replace McAleenan are reportedly Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and Mark Morgan, the acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Thomas Homan, the former acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), is also under consideration. Cuccinelli appears to be the first choice for a number of White House officials, including White House senior adviser Stephen Miller. In addition, a group of conservative organizations, including the Club of Growth and FreedomWorks, signed a letter of support for Cuccinelli on October 14.
Under DHS succession rules, the next individual in line to serve as acting secretary is David Pekoske, administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), a Senate-confirmed official. A selection of Cuccinelli or Morgan would likely result in immediate legal challenges. According to the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, acting officials in cabinet level positions must be next in line for promotion, hold a senate confirmed position, and not serve for longer than 210 days from the date a position becomes vacant. Cuccinelli, Morgan, and Homan do not meet those qualifications.
Trump Administration to Reinstate Foreign Aid to Northern Triangle Countries
The Trump administration agreed to unfreeze $143 million in foreign aid to the governments of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador in response to the three countries signing new asylum-related agreements with the United States. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that “targeted aid” to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador would resume on October 16 as a result of the “great progress” made on reducing the flow of asylum seekers from Central America to the U.S. In addition, President Trump praised the three Central American countries for signing “historic Asylum Cooperation Agreements and [working] to end the scourge of human smuggling,” stating that the U.S. would “shortly be approving targeted assistance in the areas of law enforcement and security” to help the countries. President Trump suspended about $550 million in foreign aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador in June 2019 in a push to make the countries reduce the number of Central American migrants coming to the U.S.-Mexico border.
The asylum-related agreements with the governments of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador would block asylum seekers who pass through those three countries from seeking protection in the U.S. unless they have first sought protection in those countries. The three Central American nations, in particular Honduras and El Salvador, remain some of the world’s most dangerous countries, with high homicide and crime rates and dysfunctional asylum systems.
Secretary of State Consults Congress on Proposed Refugee Cap as Advocates Protest
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and DHS acting-Secretary Kevin McAleenan were scheduled to consult with members of Congress on October 15 regarding the Trump administration’s proposed 18,000 refugee admission ceiling for fiscal year (FY) 2020. As required by law, the president must consult with Congress on the cap before including it in the budget for the coming fiscal year. The consultation coincided with protests on the administration’s proposed resettlement cap. A group of prominent refugee advocates and leaders gathered at the U.S. Capitol on October 15 to protest the Trump administration’s plans to reduce America’s refugee intake. Among the protestors were the heads of several notable advocacy organizations, including Rev. John McCollough of Church World Service and Margaret Huang of Amnesty International.
The consultation and protests follow the administration’s announcement last month that it plans to cut FY 2020 refugee intake to 18,000. The proposed limit is 40 percent below the current cap of 30,000 in FY 2019 and would represent the lowest intake number since the refugee resettlement program began in 1980. The administration plans to make a number of other concurrent changes to resettlement policy, including reserving slots for certain groups of people and requiring state and local government consent before refugees can be settled in their communities. Refugee advocates contend that the proposed cap lacks popular support and contradicts the resettlement program’s bipartisan support in Congress.
President Trump Vetoes Second Congressional Attempt to End Emergency Declaration at the Border
President Trump on October 15 vetoed a second Congressional attempt to terminate his declaration of a national emergency to construct physical barriers along the Southern border. President Trump said he vetoed the joint resolution because “the situation on our southern border remains a national emergency, and our armed forces are still needed to help confront it.” The Senate attempted to override President Trump’s veto on October 17, but the 53 to 36 vote fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to overturn the veto. Seven Senate Republicans joined all Senate Democrats to vote in favor of overriding the president’s veto.
Congress passed its second joint resolution to terminate President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency on September 27. Under the national Emergencies Act, lawmakers can force votes on a joint resolution to terminate the emergency declaration every six months. The measure is not subject to filibuster in the Senate.
Concern over the emergency declaration increased in early September after reports surfaced that the Trump administration was transferring $3.6 billion from military construction projects to fund the border barrier effort. On October 16, additional reports emerged that the Trump administration transferred more than $200 million from Pentagon counterdrug efforts to build physical barriers along the Southern border. The transfer shifted at least $129 million from anti-drug efforts in Afghanistan, which produces 90 percent of the world’s heroin, to border barrier construction. Top Senate Democrats sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper criticizing the transfers and noting that the heroin trade is a major funding source for the Taliban.
Five Federal Courts Block Trump Administration’s “Public Charge” Rule
Five federal judges issued separate preliminary injunctions blocking the Trump administration’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) final rule broadening the definition of the term “public charge.” Federal judges in New York, California and Washington State issued preliminary injunctions blocking the rule on October 11. A few days later, on October 14, federal judges in Illinois and Maryland issued additional decisions blocking the Trump administration from enforcing the rule. In New York, U.S. District Judge George B. Daniels found that the Trump administration failed to “demonstrate why or how the current public charge framework is inadequate” and noted that the “current concept of ‘public charge’ has been accepted for over a century.” Judge Daniels ruled that a preliminary inunction is necessary because the plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits o the case and will suffer irreparable harm absent a decision to temporarily block the rule while the case moves forward.
The DHS 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 State Department announced on October 11 that it would implement a separate “public charge” 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 notwithstanding the five court rulings blocking the DHS “public charge” rule.
Asylum and Refugee Officers Ask Court to Block Trump Administration’s Transit Bar
An union representing about 700 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) refugee and asylum officers filed an amicus brief on October 15 urging a federal appeals court to block the Trump administration’s interim final rule, known as the “Third Country Transit Bar,” that bars most migrants traveling to the U.S. Southern border by land from seeking asylum. The National CIS Council 119, the union that filed the amicus brief, argues that the policy “defies our nation’s asylum laws and…rips at the moral fabric of our country.” A spokesperson for the union, who also serves an asylum officer, said that they are not aware of “any asylum officers who thinks [the policy] is the right thing to do.” The amicus brief was filed in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Under the interim final rule, migrants are required to apply and be denied asylum in one of the countries they pass through before seeking asylum in the U.S. The Supreme Court issued an unsigned order on September 11 allowing the Trump administration to implement the rule while lower courts review legal challenges to the policy, a process that could take more than one year to conclude.
State and Local
Gov. Newsom Signs Bills to Support Immigrant Communities in California
Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-California) signed four immigration-related bills on October 12 that continue the state’s efforts to support its immigrant communities. One of the bills, AB 1645, would help expand California’s college student loan program for the state’s Dreamers to include Dreamers seeking graduate degrees at California’s state universities. Newsom also signed SB 225, which would allow noncitizens in California to serve in state and local boards and commissions; AB 1747, which prohibits the use of noncriminal information from the state’s telecommunications database for immigration enforcement purposes; and AB 668, which bans immigration arrests inside courthouses across the state. Newsom said the bills he signed into law are an example that, “California is working to ensure that every resident – regardless of immigration status – is given respect and the opportunity to contribute.” One day earlier, on October 11, Newsom signed legislation to effectively ban the use of private-run state prisons and immigration detention centers in California.
Newsom also vetoed a bill, AB 1282, that would bar state prison officials from allowing security companies under contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to take individuals in state prisons into custody and transport them to immigration detention facilities. Newsom said he was concerned the bill could “negatively impact prison operations and could hinder and delay needed transfers…for myriad situation-specific reasons such as medical care and court obligations.”
Congressional Research Service (CRS): Expedited Removal of Aliens: Legal Framework (October 8, 2019)
This CRS report examines the statutory and regulatory framework that governs the use of expedited removal, including exceptions to expedited removal and the scope of judicial review of expedited removal orders. The report also addresses some of the legal challenges to expedited removal and potential legal issues that may arise if expedited removal is expanded to cover additional noncitizens.
Congressional Research Service (CRS): Unaccompanied Alien Children: An Overview (October 9, 2019)
This CRS report provides an overview of unaccompanied migrant children (UAC) apprehension levels, examines current policy on the treatment, care, and custody of UACs, and describes the responsibilities of each federal agency involved in the apprehension and custody of UACs. The report also reviews administrative and congressional attempts from fiscal year (FY) 2014 to the present to address the increase in UACs coming to the United States.
SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES
This infographic highlights the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and calls on Congress to pass a permanent, legislative solution to protect Dreamers.
This blogpost discusses the term “sanctuary city” and the need for good-faith efforts to clarify local immigration enforcement responsibilities consistent with the principle that immigration enforcement should be primarily a federal responsibility.
This summary provides an overview of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) proposed regulation that would redefine the meaning of the legal term “public charge.” Under the new, broadened definition of “public charge,” immigrants applying for an immigrant visa (green card) or a temporary visa may be rejected if they have previously accessed or are deemed likely to rely on certain forms of public assistance.
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*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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.