Legislative Bulletin — Friday, October 8, 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

BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED

S.2945

Better Enforcement of Grievous Offenses by un-Nautralized Emigrants (BE GONE) Act

The bill would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to include sexual assault and aggravated sexual violence as disqualifying crimes for foreign applicants for residence in the United States, and make those crimes deportable offenses for non-citizen resident immigrants.

Sponsored by Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) (15 cosponsors— 15 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

10/06/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Ernst

10/06/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S.2954

To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to alter the definition of “conviction.”

Sponsored by Senator Alex Padilla (D-California) (9 cosponsors— 8 Democrats, 1 Independent, 0 Republicans)

10/07/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Padilla

10/07/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 5460

Virgin Islands Visa Waiver Act of 2021

The bill would waive visa requirements for nationals of certain countries to visit Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or the Virgin Islands of the United States for a period not to exceed 45 days.

Sponsored by Representative Stacey Plaskett (D-Virgin Islands) (0 cosponsors)

09/30/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Plaskett

09/30/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 5482

Special Immigrant Visas for Afghan Fulbright Scholars Act

The bill would direct the State Department to automatically issue Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) for all Afghan nationals who have lived in the United States as Fulbright Scholars and their immediate families.

Sponsored by Representative John Garamendi (D-California) (0 cosponsors)

10/05/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Garamendi

10/05/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 5498

Preserving Employment Visas Act

The bill would authorize U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to process and award employment-based visas to eligible applicants from the pool of unused employment-based immigrant visas during fiscal years 2020 and 2021. The bill is a companion to S. 2828.

Sponsored by Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa) (0 cosponsors)

10/05/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Miller-Meeks

10/05/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate will not be in session the week of October 11, 2021.

The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session for committee work from Tuesday, October 12, through Friday, October 15, 2021.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

There are no scheduled immigration-related hearings or markups scheduled for the week of October 11, 2021.

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

Despite Increased Refugee Admissions Ceiling, U.S. Resettles Historic Low

On October 6, the Biden administration released the number of refugee admissions to the United States during Fiscal Year (FY) 2021, revealing a historic low. The numbers showed that in FY 2021 — which ended on September 30 — the United States admitted only 11,445 refugees. The admissions are far below the 62,500-ceiling President Biden announced in May and below the previous record low of 11,814 refugees that the Trump administration set in FY 2020. On October 5, the Biden administration argued that the pandemic and the difficulty of reversing Trump administration policies were responsible for the record-low number of refugees admitted to the United States.

The released data did show the administration may be beginning to make progress in rebuilding the resettlement program. In September, the U.S. admitted 3,774 refugees, a sharp increase from 1,363 in August and the most the country has resettled in a single month since May 2017. Even at this increased pace, the Biden administration would need to dramatically further expand resettlement to meet the intended FY 2022 ceiling of 125,000, which would require 10,416 refugees to be resettled per month.

The number of refugees admitted in FY 2021 does not include the tens of thousands of Afghan evacuees brought to the United States after American troops withdrew from Afghanistan. Many of those Afghans were allowed into the country under a different legal status known as humanitarian parole, which is why they are not included in the refugee tally.

Expulsions of Haitians Under Title 42 Spark Widespread Criticism of White House Border Policy

The Biden administration’s mass expulsions of Haitians arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border — without screening them for asylum claims or other fears of persecution — has sparked widespread criticism from international organizations, immigration advocates, health officials, and even senior officials from within the administration. The administration conducted over 70 deportation flights between September 19 through October 7, expelling thousands of Haitians under Title 42, a pandemic era rule which allows for the summary expulsion of migrants without providing them a chance to make a claim for protection.

On October 4, Harold Koh, a senior State Department official, resigned from his position in protest of the use of Title 42, calling it “illegal” and “inhumane.” Additionally, on October 1, Juan Gonzalez, senior director for the Western Hemisphere for the National Security Council, apologized for the treatment of Haitian migrants, calling it an “injustice.” Previously, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi called for the U.S. to “immediately and fully lift” the use of Title 42.

The administration has repeatedly justified the rapid expulsions, stating that they are based solely on public health grounds. However, on October 3, the President’s Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci stated that immigrants are not the reason behind increases in COVID-19. Asked specifically about Title 42, Dr. Fauci also stated that a unilateral policy that refuses entry to asylum seekers and other immigrants “is not the solution to an outbreak.” Also, on October 7, a coalition of international human rights lawyers filed a petition before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights requesting precautionary measures against the United States to stop expelling asylum seekers under Title 42.

On October 7, an NBC News report revealed that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had been aware for months that thousands of Haitians were making their way towards the U.S.-Mexico border, but lack of communication left the agency unprepared when the migrants arrived in Del Rio, Texas in mid-September. According to multiple reports, thousands more Haitians who have been living in Central and South America are attempting to reach the U.S. border in search of safety and better opportunities.

An Estimated 53,000 Afghan Evacuees Still Waiting on Eight U.S. Military Bases

On October 3, a New York Times report highlighted that an estimated 53,000 Afghan evacuees remain on eight military bases in the U.S. waiting to be resettled into communities across the country. While an initial group of about 2,600 people — largely former military translators and others who helped allied forces during the war — were quickly processed and resettled, the vast majority remain stuck in temporary housing in the military bases.

An October 1 Reuters report revealed that over 700 Afghan evacuees have independently departed the military bases before being connected to U.S. resettlement services. While it is the evacuees’ prerogative to depart at any time, leaving early can prevent evacuees from accessing critical immigration benefits, including expedited work permits, housing, and child and medical care. Departing early can also cause a myriad of legal problems, as evacuees would be without case management services and may face difficulties entering asylum claims or continuing the Special Immigrant Visa process.

In addition to the 53,000 Afghan evacuees in U.S.-based military bases, over 14,000 Afghans are at military bases abroad waiting to be transferred to the United States. Their transfer was paused on September 10 after four cases of measles were discovered and a testing and vaccination process was initiated. U.S.-bound flights of Afghan evacuees resumed on October 7.

All evacuees have been subject to extensive vetting protocols throughout the evacuation process, including biometric and biographic checks at the airport in Kabul, in third-country processing, and upon arrival in the U.S. However, on October 4, 16 Republican Senators sent a letter DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III urging them to pause the relocation of Afghan evacuees, arguing that the vetting procedures in place remain “unclear and incomplete.”

Legal

Supreme Court Directs Lower Courts to Reconsider Earlier Ruling Regarding Border Wall Funding

On October 4, the Supreme Court vacated and remanded a Ninth Circuit decision that blocked border barrier funding that had been redistributed by the Trump administration from certain Department of Defense accounts. The short decision noted the “changed circumstances” of the case, referring to the fact that the Biden administration has since paused border wall construction and has redistributing much of the funding back to DOD military construction accounts.

Plaintiffs, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Sierra Club, plan to continue to seek relief in the district court for damages associated with the funds that have already been used for border barrier construction.

Federal Court Blocks California Law Banning Private Prisons, Including Immigration Detention Facilities

On October 5, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a California state law aimed at phasing out private detention facilities in the state cannot be enforced because it is likely to intrude on the federal government’s power over immigration enforcement. The law in question, which went into effect last year, prohibits the state from entering and renewing contracts with private prisons, including for-profit immigrant-detention facilities.

In the majority opinion, Judges Bridget Bade and Kenneth Lee wrote that the law conflicted with federal powers because DHS needs private prisons to detain unlawful immigrants in accordance with federal immigration law. “California is not simply exercising its traditional police powers, but rather impeding federal immigration policy,” the ruling said. Judge Mary Murguia dissented, arguing that the federal government can apprehend and detain undocumented immigrants in state or federal facilities and does not need to use private prisons or detention facilities.

State & Local

Eleven GOP Governors Gather in Texas to Discuss Migration at the Border

On October 6, 11 Republican governors gathered in Texas to criticize the Biden administration’s handling of the border and to propose a ten-point immigration plan for the administration to implement. The ten-point plan calls for the continued implementation of Title 42, continuing the construction of border barriers, re-instating the controversial Migrant Protection Protocols (“Remain in Mexico”), and deploying additional enforcement personnel at the border.

Governor Abbott (R-Texas), who led the gathering, and the other governors each took turns expressing their concerns regarding immigration and the border. Some discussed concern about the trafficking of drugs, and others attributed cross-border migration to the spread of the coronavirus in their states. Public health officials have stated repeatedly that migration at the border is not contributing to an increase in COVID-19 in the U.S.

Governor Abbott also touted his own state’s response to the border situation, much of which has been the subject of considerable legal challenge and scrutiny. Abbott has used state law enforcement officers to attempt to arrest and charge migrants for trespassing at the border, attempted to prevent the transportation of migrants who may have COVID-19 (including to and from testing and quarantine sites), and attempted to rescind licenses from shelters caring for unaccompanied migrant children. The courts have stepped in to release migrants held in state jails and to block Abbott’s efforts to pull over vehicles suspected of transporting migrants.

Despite these challenges, on September 28 Governor Ron Desantis (R-Florida) issued an executive order that incorporated similar efforts to prevent the transportation of migrants and to target shelters housing unaccompanied children.

Nominations & Personnel

U.S. Senate Confirms Jonathan Meyer as DHS General Counsel

On October 4, the U.S. Senate confirmed Jonathan Meyer, President Biden’s nominee for General Counsel of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), after a 51-47 vote. In this position, Meyer will be responsible for all of DHS’s legal determinations and overseeing all of its attorneys. Prior to his confirmation, Meyer was a private attorney and partner at Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP in Washington, D.C. His professional experience includes public positions such as Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the Department of Justice during the Obama administration between 2009 and 2011, Special Deputy General Counsel of Amtrak, and Counsel to Senator Joe Biden on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

There were no immigration-related government reports the week of October 1, 2021.

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.

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.

Fact Sheet: Asylum Fraud and Immigration Court Absentia Rates

The resource describes what asylum fraud is, how often it occurs, the difference between a finding of fraud and the simple denial of an asylum claim, and the many tools we use to detect and prevent asylum fraud.

* * *

*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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