Legislative Bulletin – Friday, October 25, 2019



S. 2679

Citizenship for Children of Military Members and Civil Servants Act

The bill would establish that children of members of the U.S. Armed Forces and employees of the U.S. government stationed outside of the U.S. are considered “residing in the United States” for the purpose of automatically acquiring U.S. citizenship. The bill would ensure children born abroad to military service members and civil servants, as well as their stepchildren and adopted children, automatically acquire U.S. citizenship. This is a companion bill to H.R. 4803.

Sponsored by Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) (1 cosponsor – 1 Republican, 0 Democrats)

10/23/2019 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Duckworth

10/23/2019 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 2691

Homeland Security Improvement Act

The bill establishes new oversight of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) by creating an Ombudsman to focus on border and immigration-related issues, forming a commission to investigate the treatment of migrants along the Southern border, and directing the Ombudsman to develop a plan to require the use of body-worn cameras at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), among other provisions. This is a companion bill to H.R. 2203, which passed the House on September 25, 2019.

Sponsored by Senator Tom Udall (D-New Mexico) (7 cosponsors – 0 Republicans, 7 Democrats)

10/24/2019 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Udall

10/24/2019 Referred to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

H.R. 4803

Citizenship for Children of Military Members and Civil Servants Act

The bill would establish that children of members of the U.S. Armed Forces and employees of the U.S. government stationed outside of the U.S. are considered “residing in the United States” for the purpose of automatically acquiring U.S. citizenship. The bill would ensure children born abroad to military service members and civil servants, as well as their stepchildren and adopted children, automatically acquire U.S. citizenship. This is a companion bill to S. 2679.

Sponsored by Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-New York) (7 cosponsors – 4 Republicans, 3 Democrats)

10/23/2019 Introduced in the House by Representative Nadler

10/23/2019 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary


The U.S. Senate will be in session on the week of Monday, October 28, 2019.

The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Monday, October 28, 2019 through Thursday, October 31, 2019.


The Impact of Current Immigration Policies on Service Members and Veterans, and their Families

Date: Tuesday, October 29, 2019 at 2:00 p.m. (House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship)

Location: 2141 Rayburn House Office Building


Hector Barajas-Varela, Director and Founder, Deported Veterans Support House

Jennie Pasquarella, Director of Immigrants’ Rights, ACLU of California, and Senior Staff Attorney, ACLU of Southern California

Margaret D. Stock, Immigration Attorney and Lieutenant Colonel (Retired), Military Police Corps, U.S. Army Reserve

The Honorable Mark Metcalf, Former Immigration Judge and Lieutenant Colonel, Army National Guard

Immigration Raids: Impacts and Aftermath on Mississippi Communities

Date: Thursday, November 7, 2019 at 10:00 a.m. (House Committee on Homeland Security)

Location: Holmes Hall Auditorium, Tougaloo College, Tougaloo, Mississippi

Witnesses: TBA



White House Personnel Office Determines Cuccinelli, Morgan Ineligible to Serve as Acting DHS Secretary

The White House personnel office reportedly told President Trump on October 18 that his top two candidates to replace Kevin McAleenan as acting secretary for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are not eligible to serve on an acting basis under federal law. The White House Presidential Personnel Office determined that Ken Cuccinelli, acting director for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and Mark Morgan, acting commissioner at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), do not meet the qualifications to lead DHS as acting secretary. According to the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, acting officials in a cabinet level position must either be next in line for the position, already hold a Senate-confirmed position, or have served for at least 90 days in the past year under the previous secretary. Cuccinelli and Morgan are currently serving on an acting basis and have not been nominated by President Trump for permanent roles. In addition, the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Legal Counsel determined that the past DHS secretary is Kirstjen Nielsen, not McAleenan. Cuccinelli and Morgan joined DHS after Nielsen resigned, so they fail to meet the 90-day requirement of serving under the previous secretary.

President Trump has reportedly told Senate Republican allies that he would like to nominate Cuccinelli as the next DHS secretary and that he does not believe Republican Senate leaders would support the choice. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) told reporters on April 11 that he spoke to the White House to show his “lack of enthusiasm for a Cuccinelli nomination to lead DHS.” Cuccinelli previously worked at the Senate Conservatives Fund, which criticized and funded primary challenges to sitting Republican senators.

The White House is also reportedly considering David Pekoske, Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and Chad Wolf, acting DHS undersecretary for policy, to serve as acting DHS secretary. White House senior adviser Stephen Miller reportedly supports placing Wolf as acting secretary. Some groups in favor of limiting immigration to the U.S. have expressed concern about Wolf, in part criticizing his support for the H1-B visa program. The White House is expected to announce the new acting DHS secretary in the next few days.

DOJ Publishes Proposed Rule to Collect DNA Information from Migrants

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) published a proposed rule on October 22 to require the collection of DNA from any immigrant “detained under the authority of the United States,” such as those who are apprehended after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and/or placed in immigration detention facilities. The rule would require DHS to collect cheek swabs and send them to a national criminal database operated by the FBI. The database currently houses DNA samples from people accused of committing serious crimes. The effort will reportedly require a more comprehensive DNA sample than the existing sampling used on migrant families to ensure the adults are related to children traveling with them. The rule is expected to gather DNA information on about 748,000 immigrants annually and cost around $13 million for its first three years. The proposed rule is subject to 20 days of public comment.

DOJ officials said the proposed rule would help the federal government identify immigrants who commit crimes in the future and result in better compliance with the DNA Fingerprint Act of 2005, which requires the collection of biometric information from specific populations. Immigration and civil rights advocates argue the propose rule, which would result in the collection of DNA samples from immigrants who have not committed crimes, amounts to a significant violation of privacy and could result in discriminatory profiling by law enforcement agencies that have access to immigrant DNA records. On October 22, Mexico’s foreign ministry said that it would pay close to attention to the implementation of the rule to ensure correct use of Mexican citizens’ information stored by the U.S. government.

Congress Mulls Second Short-Term Spending Bill to Fund Government Into 2020

Congress is increasingly likely to depend on a second short-term spending bill to fund the federal government at the current spending levels beyond November 21, 2019, when the current continuing resolution expires. Congressional officials are facing an impasse over funding for border barriers. The Senate Appropriations Committee marked up a full-year spending bill for DHS that includes $5 billion in funds from domestic programs to construct barriers along the Southern border, as well as permitting $7 billion in military constructions funds to be used to build border barriers. House Democrats offered zero dollars to build physical barriers along the Southern border and plan to request additional restrictions, including fewer Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention beds. A second short-term spending bill could help Congress prevent a potential government shutdown.

Trump Administration Discloses More Than 1,500 Additional Family Separations

The Trump administration disclosed on October 24 an additional 1,556 migrant children who were separated from their parents along the Southern border, bringing the total number of migrant children separated from their families to about 4,300. The Trump administration provided the new figure to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) a day before a court-ordered deadline to disclose previously unidentified family separations. Most of the additional family separations occurred from mid-2017 to early 2018, before the Justice Department fully instituted its “zero tolerance” policy in May 2018. The ACLU said many of the children were likely separated as a result of a pilot family separation program conducted in El Paso in 2017. A majority of the 1,556 additional separated children were reportedly ages 12 and under. More than 200 of the children were considered “tender age” because they were under five years old, including five babies under a year old and 26 one year olds. DOJ lawyers said in court that most of the separated children have been released to their parents or sponsors, but the ACLU noted children from that period can be difficult to find because the federal government used inadequate tracking systems.

The Trump administration increased the separation of families at the Southern border in mid-2018 in accordance with then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ announcement of a “zero-tolerance” policy, which allowed the DOJ and DHS to criminally prosecute all individuals crossing the U.S. border without authorization. On June 26, 2018, a federal judge ordered the U.S. government to curtail the use of family separations and reunite families that had already been separated.

Mexico Again Becomes Largest Source of Unauthorized Migration to the U.S.

The number of Mexican migrants and asylum seekers coming to the United States surpassed those from Guatemala and Honduras in August to become the single-largest source of unauthorized migration to the U.S., according a report in The Washington Post. Mexican adults apprehended along the Southern border reportedly increased by about 25 percent from the end of July to the end of September. The number of Mexican family groups apprehended along the Southern border also increased. During the same period, migration from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador declined. Many of the Mexican families seeking asylum in the U.S. reportedly say they are fleeing corruption and drug violence, which is intensifying in Mexico.

The Trump administration has recently implemented multiple policies along the Southern border to block the flow of asylum seekers from Central America, including the “Remain in Mexico” policy, a third country transit rule that effectively blocks asylum for most Central American migrants, and asylum-related agreements with the governments of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. However, those policies do not apply to Mexican asylum seekers, because Mexican authorities cannot detain Mexican nationals on their way to the U.S.-Mexico border and asylum seekers from Mexico cannot be returned to the country they are fleeing.

Refugee Flights Continue to be Cancelled

The Trump administration announced the moratorium on refugee flights for those already approved to come to the United States will run until at least October 28. The flights for approved refugees were initially cancelled until October 21, but the moratorium was extended one week as the administration is still yet to announce an official refugee ceiling for fiscal year (FY) 2020. In scheduled consultations on the cap between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Congress last week, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) reportedly pushed for already-approved refugees to be allowed into the country. The cancellation of flights will have a negative impact on refugees whose medical exams and security checks are close to expiring.

The Trump administration’s efforts to scale back the refugee resettlement program could have a significant impact on the program going forward. The proposed FY 2020 ceiling of 18,000 refugees would represent the lowest intake number since the program began in 1980. Further administrative restrictions include allowing states and localities to refuse refugee resettlement, placing restrictions on the type and location of accepted refugee referrals, and implementing additional intensive vetting protocols. Advocates fear these efforts could do lasting damage to existing resettlement infrastructure. Over one hundred resettlement offices have closed over the past few years around the country, and should the new restrictions go into place, some of the smaller resettlement agencies contracted by the government may have to shut down altogether.


Supreme Court to Consider Expedited Removal Challenge

On October 18, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will review the constitutionality of accelerating the processing of certain asylum cases. In Department of Homeland Security v Thuraissigiam, the Court will consider the constitutional legitimacy of “expedited removal,” the practice of quickly deporting asylum seekers who are arrested within 100 miles of the border and fail to pass an initial credible fear screening without going through the formal asylum procedure and with no access to a judicial appeals process.

The case involves Vijayakumar Thuraissigiam, a Sri Lankan man who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border in 2017 and was immediately arrested by Border Patrol. Upon applying for asylum, Thuraissigiam failed his initial credible fear screening and was therefore subject to the expedited removal policy. In a lower court ruling, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that expedited removal violated Thuraissigiam’s constitutional rights under the Suspension Clause because it did not provide him with a meaningful opportunity to have his legal claims considered.

The case comes amid multiple efforts by the Trump administration to expand expedited removal. In an effort currently barred by the courts, the administration attempted to allow expedited removal to take place throughout the country, not just for those arrested near the border. More recently, a Washington Post report on October 24 suggested that the administration is attempting to further speed up asylum procedures via a secretive pilot-program called “Prompt Asylum Claim Review.”


Congressional Research Service (CRS): Comparing DHS Component Funding, FY 2020: In Brief (October 15, 2019)

The report summarizes the budget authority provided to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for FY 2019 and requested by the Trump administration for FY 2020, as well as the funding levels proposed by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees in their respective spending bills for FY 2020.


DACA in the Supreme Court: An Urgent Solution is Needed

This infographic highlights the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the urgency for Congress to pass a permanent, legislative solution to protect Dreamers.

Essentials of Naturalization for Military Service Members and Veterans

This primer provides an overview of the military naturalization process and examines recent data and policy changes related to military naturalizations.

Infographic: FY 2020 Refugee Ceiling

This infographic captures the detrimental changes to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for FY 2020, which includes decreasing the refugee ceiling to 18,000 refugee arrivals.

* * *

*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 cpenichetpaul@immigrationforum.org. Thank you.

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