Legislative Bulletin — Friday, October 22, 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

Leading the Way 2021: Trusted Solutions for a Brighter Future

On October 25 and 26, the National Immigration Forum will host its annual Leading the Way convening. We will gather experts from across parties and industries — such as UNHCR High Commissioner Filippo Grandi, Reps. Jason Crow and Adam Kinzinger, World Relief’s Jenny Yang, and Cummins’ Tom Linebarger — to engage in critical conversations about migration. Join the conversation online both days from 3 to 5 p.m. ET.

Make sure to reserve your (free!) spot here.

For more information visit https://immigrationforum.org/article/leadingtheway/

BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED

S. 2989

DHS Blue Campaign Enhancement Act

The bill would develop online, interactive training videos and other web-based training opportunities for federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement officers to tackle human trafficking. The bill would also create a campaign advisory board formed by members of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), among others.

Sponsored by Senator Gary Peters (D-Michigan) (1 cosponsor— 1 Republican, 0 Democrats)

10/18/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Peters

10/18/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

S. 2990

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 providing financial, material, or technological support to the Government of Cuba. This is a companion bill of H.R. 5557.

Sponsored by Senator Rick Scott (R-Florida) (4 cosponsors— 4 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

10/18/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Scott

10/18/2021 Referred to the Senate Committees on Foreign Affairs, Judiciary, and Rules.

S. 2991

Countering Human Trafficking Act of 2021

The bill would make permanent the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Center for Countering Human Trafficking (CCHT), a pilot program that was started in October 2020. CCHT would operate within ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). The bill would also allow the CCHT to modernize their systems and operations to support worldwide investigations on human trafficking and forced labor in supply chains. Finally, the bill would expand national public awareness and law enforcement training initiatives to boost counter-trafficking efforts.

Sponsored by Senator Gary Peters (D-Michigan) (1 cosponsor— 1 Republican, 0 Democrats)

10/18/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Peters

10/18/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

S. 3002

Stop the Surge of Unsafe Rio Grande Encampments (SURGE) Act of 2021

The bill would create processing facilities in Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Delaware, California, and Vermont and relocate unauthorized migrants apprehended in South Texas to the newly established facilities.

Sponsored by Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) (0 cosponsors)

10/19/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Cruz

10/19/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 5618

Reimagining Asylum Processing Act

The bill would establish Humanitarian Processing Centers (HPC) for asylum seekers along the southern border of the United States. HPCs would provide orientation about the asylum-seeking process, legal counsel and other materials to prepare for a credible fear interview (CFI), referrals to community-based case management programs, interpreters, and medical screening.

Sponsored by Representative Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) (0 cosponsors)

10/19/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Escobar

10/19/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 5636

Kerrie Orozco First Responders Act

The bill would allow immediate relatives of first responders who die in the line of duty to continue to process their immigration applications in a timely manner.

Sponsored by Representative Don Bacon (R-Nebraska) (4 cosponsors— 3 Democrats, 1 Republican)

10/20/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Bacon

10/20/2021 Referred to the House Committees on the Judiciary

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate will be in session the week of October 25, 2021.

The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Monday, October 25, through Thursday, October 28, 2021.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

There are no immigration-related hearings scheduled for the week of October 25, 2021.

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

Border Apprehensions Decline in September as High Fiscal Year Total Revealed

According to multiple reports on October 20, preliminary data from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) show that the overall number of migrant apprehensions at the Southwest border in Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 has risen to over 1.7 million, the highest fiscal year total in decades. The high fiscal year totals belie a second straight month of declining apprehensions, as the leaked data for September indicates an approximate 8% drop in apprehensions from the numbers seen in August and a 10% drop from July. Prior to this August and September, overall apprehensions had increased in every single month since March 2020.

The high number of migrants who were apprehended at the border in FY 2021 does not necessarily indicate an unheralded number of unique unauthorized border crossers. The fiscal year was characterized by extremely high recidivism, as the rate of repeat crossers regularly surpassed 25%, close to triple what it was in FY 2018 and FY 2019. In addition, as a greater number of migrants have chosen to simply turn themselves in to seek legal protection and as Border Patrol implements modern surveillance technologies, the proportion of CBP-estimated “got aways” — who are not listed in apprehension statistics — has declined significantly.

Of the 1.7 million apprehended in FY 2021, over 1 million were immediately expelled under Title 42, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) protocol that has given CBP the authority to summarily deport unauthorized border crossers, even those who are attempting to make a legal claim for asylum or other protection. The Biden administration has faced significant criticism in recent weeks for continuing to use Title 42 to conduct mass deportation flights to Haiti after the Department of Homeland Security had previously written in August that “Haiti is grappling with a deteriorating political crisis, violence, and a staggering increase in human rights abuses.”

While overall border numbers have declined in recent months, arrivals from the Caribbean and South America have been rising. U.S. officials are reportedly tracking a large caravan of Haitian, Venezuelan, and Cuban migrants currently gathered in South Mexico and planning to travel north to the U.S.-Mexico border. According to an October 18 report, the Department of Homeland Security is engaging in new initiatives to better track the movement of migrants in South and Central America, including the use of social media tracking and surveillance drones.

Biden Administration Engages with Latin American Countries to Slow Migration to the U.S.

On October 20, Secretary of State Antony Blinken participated in the Regional Migration Ministerial meeting hosted in Bogota by Colombia’s President Iván Duque to discuss strategies to counter irregular hemispheric migration. In the meeting — where seventeen countries from the hemisphere were represented — Blinken highlighted that irregular migration is a shared problem that cannot be solved by one country alone. He appealed to the rest of the countries in the Americas to present a united front to tackle the challenges that irregular migration poses.

Blinken warned that under current conditions, mass migration is poised to increase in much of the region. He urged all countries to address the root causes of migration, and called on states to take specific and concrete steps to slow down the numbers of irregular migration so that the situation as a whole can become safer, more orderly, and more humane.

On October 19, President Biden’s Special Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, met near the Mexico-Guatemala border with Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador to discuss a plan to tackle the root causes of migration and climate change. López Obrador introduced Secretary Kerry to Sembrando Vida, a program that the Mexican government has undertaken to plant trees, support the goal to eliminate deforestation, create sustainable jobs in the agricultural sector, and create opportunities for would-be migrants in their communities of origin.

USCIS Updates Policy Regarding Visa Applications for Victims of Trafficking

On October 20, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued new guidance regarding the adjudication and granting of T visa status to qualified applicants. T Visas grant nonimmigrant victims of sex or labor trafficking up to four years of legal status in the U.S., work authorization, some federal and state benefits, and an eventual pathway to legal permanent residence. Law enforcement and other “certifying agencies” must assert that prospective T Visa applicants have cooperated in the investigation of the trafficking to the extent that they were able.

The new guidance is the first of its kind from USCIS, and it serves to clarify misunderstandings or confusion that certifying agencies may have relating to eligibility requirements, burdens of proof, and quality of evidence in T Visa cases. It also provides guidance on how USCIS investigates and corroborates claims of sex trafficking and involuntary servitude.

The guidance aligns with the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) new “victim-centered” approach that it will start to implement throughout all its agencies. DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas stated, “Safeguarding, supporting, and respecting victims of human trafficking is not just the right thing to do. It also enables law enforcement to better detect, investigate, and prosecute perpetrators of human trafficking.” The new guidance comes on the one-year anniversary of the creation of DHS’s Center for Countering Human Trafficking (CCHT) which is tasked with the prosecution of human traffickers and the protection of their victims.

Legal

Court Orders Biden Administration to Issue 9,095 Reserved 2020 Diversity Visas

On October 13, a judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the Biden Administration, once again, to process the 9,095 diversity visas that had been reserved from Fiscal Year (FY) 2020. The ruling comes after an extended process that started in 2020 when former President Donald Trump temporarily banned noncitizens from moving to the U.S. on new immigrant visas. The ban forced the State Department to suspend the adjudication of visas for recipients subject to the immigration ban. The suspension caused approximately 40,000 of the 55,000 available diversity visas for FY 2020 to remain unissued by the September 30, 2020 deadline. On that date, the same District judge ordered the U.S. State Department to reserve 9,095 diversity visas for future processing pending the final resolution of the case. Nearly a year later, on August 17, the court ordered the administration to issue those reserved visas.

After the court’s order, however, the Biden administration asked the court to suspend the requirement to issue the reserved visas until FY 2023. They argued that the delay of processing was necessary for the following reasons: 1) the State Department’s Visa Office is currently focusing on efforts surrounding Afghani applicants for the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV), 2) the Department does not have adequate information systems or groundwork to process diversity visas applications after the conclusion of a Fiscal Year, and 3) the Department does not have the capacity to resume processing 2020 diversity visa applications. Nevertheless, in his most recent ruling, the judge did not accept these considerations and ordered, once again, to issue the 9,095 reserved 2020 diversity visas.

The Diversity Visa Immigrant Program is designed to allow additional immigration opportunities to people from countries with relatively low rates of immigration to the U.S. Accessing a diversity visa is a multi-step process, which consists first of entering a computerized lottery which selects 55,000 individuals each year, and then a lengthy application, interview, and visa issuance stage before lottery winners can finally receive their green cards.

Biden Administration Eliminates Trump-era Case Quotas for Immigration Judges

On October 19, the Department of Justice (DOJ) ended the case quota system that required immigration judges to close at least 700 cases per year to get a “satisfactory” rating.

Since the implementation of the quota system in 2018 under the Trump administration, the immigration judges union had complained that the quotas valued expediency over due process and was not an appropriate metric to evaluate judges. The union had also argued that the quotas were a threat to the judicial independence of immigration judges.

Immigration groups and lawyers had also warned that quotas would exacerbate the case backlog by encouraging individuals to appeal their decisions by implying that the judge did not provide them adequate time to make their case. The backlog did increase from 700,000 cases in 2018 to 1.5 million cases in 2021.

The DOJ, after canceling the quota system, announced that “the agency is in the process of developing new performance measures that will accurately reflect the workload of an immigration judge. These new performance measures will focus on balance and equity for the various types of docket assignments, and we look forward to sharing them with you shortly.”

States & Local

Utah’s Gov. Cox Creates Afghan Community Fund to Help Evacuees in the State

On October 18, Utah’s Governor Spencer Cox announced the launch of an Afghan Community Fund to help the 756 Afghan evacuees expected to be resettled in the state. The Afghan Community Fund — which tops $275,000 — is a public-private partnership that will support Afghan evacuees in critical areas such as legal support, health care, education, housing, food, and special needs for women and children. The majority of Afghans slated to come to Utah were granted humanitarian parole to enter the United States. They are currently at several military bases receiving thorough medical and security screenings, preparing to be resettled.

According to a recently publicized letter from the Pentagon to Congress, 44% of the 53,000 Afghan evacuees housed temporarily at eight U.S. military bases are children. They were evacuated from Afghanistan during the U.S. withdrawal from the country in August, which is said to be the largest air-lift operation in U.S. history, evacuating more than 124,000 people in a matter of weeks. Out of the total population of people who were evacuated, “85% were Afghans eligible for an SIV or P1 or P2 refugee status and their family members, 7% were U.S. citizens, 5% were lawful permanent residents, and 3% held some sort of U.S. visa,” the letter states.

Nominations & Personnel

Senate Finance Committee Holds Confirmation Hearing for CBP Nominee

On October 19, Chris Magnus, Police Chief of Tuscon, Arizona, testified before the Senate Finance Committee on his nomination to be the next Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). During the hearing, Chief Magnus stated that he would enforce immigration laws in a way that seeks to better balance border security with humane treatment of migrants in federal custody. If confirmed, Magnus said that he would take a nonpartisan approach to immigration enforcement and would improve the training of CBP personnel. He also highlighted his personal connection to immigration, noting that his father was a Norwegian immigrant, his mother the child of German immigrants, and his husband, an immigrant from Hong Kong.

CBP has not had a Senate-confirmed leader since 2019. If Chief Magnus’s nomination clears the Finance Committee, he will still need to be confirmed by the full Senate.

If confirmed, Chief Magnus would be tasked with securing and protecting U.S. borders, managing and processing arriving migrants and asylum seekers, and securing the initial transfer of unaccompanied minors from Border Patrol stations to the Department of Health and Human Services. Magnus’s nomination has drawn support from law enforcement officials around the country.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

Congressional Research Service (CRS): The Department of Homeland Security’s Reported “Metering” Policy: Legal Issues, October 15, 2021

This Legal Sidebar from the Congressional Research Service focuses on metering, a Trump-era DHS policy that limits the number of asylum seekers that are processed each day at designated ports of entry. CRS reports that the policy sought to address an “unprecedented rise in asylum requests,” as well as safety and health concerns resulting from overcrowding at ports of entry. However, according to CRS, the policy has led to long wait times and overcrowded conditions on the Mexican side of the border, and has arguably incentivized attempts to illegally cross the border between ports of entry along the U.S. southern border.

Department of Homeland Security – Office of the Inspector General (OIG): ICE Needs to Improve Its Oversight of Segregation Use in Detention Facilities, October 13, 2021

This report highlights that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) failed to comply with segregation reporting requirements between 2015 and 2019. Segregation is the practice of isolating detainees from the general population for disciplinary or administrative reasons. The report reveals that ICE did not ensure that detention facilities complied with records retention requirements. OIG reports that ICE’s own reporting policy prevents transparency with Congress and the public about the prevalence of segregation use. Hence, the report concludes that without adequate oversight, clear policies, and comprehensive data, ICE does not know the full extent of detention facilities’ use of segregation, which hinders its ability to ensure compliance with policy and prevent and detect potential misuse of segregation.

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.

Explainer: DHS Immigration Enforcement Guidelines

This is an explainer on the new DHS immigration enforcement priorities issued on September 30. The new guidance provides flexibility to DHS personnel, who are advised to balance aggravating and mitigating factors when making enforcement determinations.

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.

* * *

*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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