BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED
Bridging the Gap for New Americans Act
The new law requires the Department of Labor to conduct a study of the factors affecting employment opportunities for immigrants and refugees who have professional credentials obtained in foreign countries.
Sponsored by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) (5 cosponsors— 3 Republicans, 2 Democrats)
11/03/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Klobuchar
06/23/2022 Passed the Senate without amendment via unanimous consent
09/19/2022 Passed the House of Representatives by a 363-52 vote
10/17/2022 Signed by the President
10/17/2022 Became Public Law No: 117-210.
State Immigration Enforcement Act
The bill would authorize states and localities to pass and enforce immigration laws, including detention and deportation of foreign nationals.
Sponsored by Representative Andy Biggs (R-Arizona) (4 cosponsors— 4 Republicans, 0 Democrats)
10/14/2022 Introduced in the House by Representative Biggs
10/14/2022 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary
Border Airport Enhancement Act
The bill would require the President of the United States to designate Plattsburgh International Airport and the Valley International Airport as ports of entry.
Sponsored by Representative Elise Stefanik (R-New York) (1 cosponsor— 1 Republican, 0 Democrats)
10/14/2022 Introduced in the House by Representative Stefanik
10/14/2022 Referred to the House Committees on Ways and Means, and Homeland Security
LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR
UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS
THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK
Biden Administration Launches Limited Parole Program for Venezuelans, Expands Title 42
On October 19, the Biden administration officially launched a new private sponsorship parole program that will initially allow up to 24,000 Venezuelans to access temporary protections in the U.S. Any individuals or groups with lawful status in the U.S. will be able to serve as sponsors in the now-open program, as long as they file declarations of financial support for prospective beneficiaries and pass required background checks.
In order to be eligible for the parole program, both parties — parolees and sponsors — must pass screening and background checks. The parole status will last for an initial period of two years. Parolees will be able to apply for work authorization but will be ineligible for other benefits and will have no clear path to permanent status. The program is initially capped at 24,000 beneficiaries, although the DHS statement noted it “may consider expanding it in the future.”
Those who travel unlawfully into Mexico after the announcement of the program will not be eligible, potentially stranding tens of thousands of vulnerable migrants who were in the midst of the dangerous journey across the Darién gap, into Mexico, and towards the U.S. border. The program may also be cost-prohibitive, requiring prospective beneficiaries to have a valid passport, a connection to a U.S.-based sponsor, and cover commercial air travel to the U.S. Advocates have raised concerns the program will only be accessible to a small number of wealthier and better-connected Venezuelans and will not serve as a viable alternative to irregular migration for the most vulnerable migrants.
In conjunction with the launch of the parole program, the Biden administration also expanded Title 42 expulsions to Venezuelan nationals who arrive at the border. Title 42 is a pandemic-era order that has been used to rapidly expel arriving migrants to Mexico or their countries of origin without providing them the opportunity to seek asylum. Prior to the DHS announcement, Venezuelan asylum seekers were among the nationalities exempted from Title 42, in part because Mexico had refused to accept them. However, Mexico has now agreed to accept up to 1,000 expelled Venezuelan migrants each day. Once in Mexico, Venezuelans returned under Title 42 are notified by Mexican authorities that they must leave the country within 15 days or apply for asylum.
According to the Biden administration, the effort is intended to deter irregular migration increasing the number of Venezuelans crossing into the U.S. between ports of entry. Average monthly unique encounters of Venezuelan nationals at the southern border totaled 15,494 in FY 2022, rising further to over 25,000 in August and 33,000 in September. These numbers represent a staggering increase compared to the monthly average of 127 unique encounters from FY 2014-2019.
Biden Administration Designates Ethiopia for Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
On October 21, the Biden Administration designated Ethiopia for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). The 18-month designation will allow over 30,000 nationals from Ethiopia residing in the United States as of October 20, 2022, to apply to stay and work temporarily in the country without fear of being returned to conflict and violence.
TPS is granted — after an interagency consultation process — by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to eligible foreign-born individuals who are unable to return safely to their home countries due to violence or other circumstances in their home country. In this case, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said that the TPS designation for Ethiopia was appropriate due to the ongoing armed conflict in the country, as well as a humanitarian crisis involving severe food shortages, flooding, drought, and displacement.
Biden Administration Removes Barriers to Naturalization for Applicants with Disabilities
On October 19, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) updated its policy guidance to allow naturalization applicants with a physical or mental disability that precludes them from fulfilling the English and civics testing requirements for naturalization, to file Form N-648 to request an exception to those requirements. The form must be completed and certified by a medical professional. USCIS Director Ur Jaddou highlighted that “the changes made to Form N-648 are yet another way in which USCIS is removing barriers to naturalization.”
Supreme Court Declines to Take Case About Birthright Citizenship for American Samoans
On October 17, the Supreme Court declined to hear Fitisemanu v. United States, a case about whether individuals born in American Samoa are entitled to birthright citizenship. Anyone born within the U.S. or in a U.S. territory automatically acquires U.S. citizenship by birth. Congress considers Puerto Rico, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the US Virgin Islands “territories,” but explicitly excludes American Samoa, instead defining it as an “outlying possession.”
As a result, American Samoans are not born U.S. citizens but non-citizen U.S. nationals. Fitisemanu initially won the case against the federal government when a federal district court in Utah held that American Samoans are entitled to birthright citizenship. However, the Tenth Circuit reversed the decision on appeal. Fitisemanu then appealed to the Supreme Court, but the government of American Samoa and the Biden administration urged the Court to respect Congress’s explicit delineation of American Samoa and not take the case. The Biden Administration also argued that because American Samoans are offered an expedited path to naturalization upon moving to any U.S. state or territory, there already exists a cure for any disadvantages they may face as non-citizens.
Since the Supreme Court did not take the appeal, the Tenth Circuit’s ruling against birthright citizenship for American Samoans stands. Those born in American Samoa remain ineligible to vote or run for office at state and federal levels, serve on juries, or work as police officers, among other privileges exclusive to full U.S. citizens.
Supreme Court Schedules Oral Arguments in Case Challenging Biden Administration’s Immigration Enforcement Guidelines
On October 18, the U.S. Supreme Court scheduled oral arguments for November 29 in the case U.S. v Texas, which challenges the Biden administration’s immigration enforcement guidelines that re-prioritized enforcement efforts to focus on immigrants who are deemed national security threats, those who recently crossed the border without authorization, and those who have been convicted of aggravated felonies or other violent crimes.
The case stems from an April 6 lawsuit that Texas and Louisiana filed against the federal government’s enforcement guidelines. The Biden administration argue that limited resources require prioritizing certain enforcement actions, and that the use of discretion and prioritization is both common and necessary across law enforcement agencies. But on June 10, a federal judge in Texas sided with the states, arguing that while the federal government has case-by-case discretion, DHS policy binds officials in a “generalized, prospective manner.” The Biden administration appealed the ruling and requested a stay, but on July 7, the Fifth Circuit declined to stay the injunction. The Biden administration then appealed the Fifth Circuit ruling and requested a stay. However, on July 21, the Supreme Court declined to lift the injunction but granted certiorari to hear the merits of the case.
The case represents one of several lawsuits in which Republican-led states have attempted to block significant parts of the Biden administration’s immigration and border agenda.
Lawyers for Immigrant Detainees Sue ICE for Preventing Communication with Detained Clients
On October 17, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – acting on behalf of five nonprofit legal services organizations representing immigrant detainees in Louisiana, Texas, Florida, and Arizona – filed suit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), claiming that they have been unlawfully prevented “from effectively communicating with their clients.” Per the complaint, the plaintiff-attorneys stated that they are being denied access to “private, individual visitation rooms to hold confidential conversations with their clients at ICE detention facilities.” Additionally, they are being forced to deal with severely limited telephone access and inflated $20 rates for 25-minute calls.
According to a June 22 ACLU report, detained immigrants at ICE detention facilities nationwide face pervasive barriers to accessing counsel. ACLU has agreed to handle the suit for a number of nonprofit organizations who are facing similar problems.
State and Local
Washington, D.C., City Council Approves Bill That Would Allow Noncitizens to Vote in Local Elections
On October 19, the Washington, D.C., City Council approved a bill, the Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2022, that would allow over 51,000 foreign nationals residing in D.C. — regardless of their immigration status — to vote in all local elections, including for mayor, attorney general, school board, and city council. The bill would not allow noncitizens to participate in federal elections. In a lawmaking process unique to D.C., legislation passed by the city council must be sent to Congress where the House and Senate have 30 days to enact a resolution disapproving the bill which, if signed by the President, would serve as a veto. Therefore, to become law, the Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act still needs the approval of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and to be sent to Congress for 30 days. On October 20, House Republicans sent a letter to Mayor Bowser urging her to reject the bill arguing that it “violates American sovereignty.”
Currently, eleven municipalities in Maryland and two in Vermont already grant noncitizens some municipal voting rights. Additionally, in San Francisco and Chicago, noncitizens can vote in school board elections. Other municipalities in New York, California, Maine, and Massachusetts are weighing similar legislation.
U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO); Southwest Border: Challenges and Efforts Implementing New Processes for Noncitizen Families; September 28, 2022 (Publicly released on October 17, 2022)
This GAO report highlights that Border Patrol encountered 1.7 million noncitizens between ports of entry in FY 2021, a 300% increase over FY 2020. To help deal with this increase, Border Patrol created two processes to release families (parents and children under 18) into the U.S. without initiating immigration removal proceedings. This reduced their time in Border Patrol custody. Border Patrol told the families to report to Immigration and Customs Enforcement to start their immigration court proceedings. The report notes that as of March 1, 2022, about 75% of these family members had reported to ICE as required. The report also notes that ICE conducted several operations to try to identify and locate those who did not report.
U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO); Immigration Detention: ICE Needs to Strengthen Oversight of Informed Consent for Medical Care; October 18, 2022
This GAO report highlights U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has established policies for obtaining and documenting informed consent for medical care provided on-site at detention facilities. However, the report notes that that ICE policies do not require facilities to collect documentation of informed consent for detained noncitizens’ off-site medical care from community providers.
SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES
This explainer describes the newly created Venezuelan parole program and the expansion of Title 42 expulsions to cover Venezuelans. The resource details the policies, their likely impact, and some concerns associated with their implementation.
This explainer provides an overview of Puerto Rico’s, Guam’s, U.S. Virgin Islands’, Northern Mariana Islands’, and American Samoa’s islands longstanding campaign for statehood.
This fact sheet analyzes three different active family-based parole programs: Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program, Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program, and Central American Minors Program. The fact sheet describes the elements of the programs, who is eligible, and some steps the administration can take to improve their efficacy.
This is an explainer on the new DHS immigration enforcement priorities issued on September 30, 2021. The new guidance provides flexibility to DHS personnel, who are advised to balance aggravating and mitigating factors when making enforcement determinations.
This new advocacy landing page serves as a complement to the policy resources page on key advocacy campaigns.
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*This Bulletin is not intended to be comprehensive. Please contact Arturo Castellanos-Canales, National Immigration Forum Senior Policy and Advocacy Associate, with comments and suggestions of additional items to be included. Arturo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.