Legislative Bulletin – Friday, September 14, 2018

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

H.R. 6776

Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2019

This bill appropriates funding for the Department of Homeland Security for the fiscal year 2019.

Sponsored by Representative Kevin Yoder (R – Kansas) (0 cosponsors)

09/12/2018 Introduced in the House by Representative Yoder

09/12/2018 The House Committee on Appropriations reported an original measure, H. Rept. 115-948, by Mr. Yoder.

H.R. 6740

Border Tunnel Task Force Act

This bill seeks to enhance and integrate border security efforts by establishing Border Tunnel Task Forces, which would evaluate potential cross-border threats.

Sponsored by Representative Pete Sessions (R – Texas) (1 cosponsor – 1 Republican)

09/07/2018 Introduced in the House by Representative Sessions

09/07/2018 Referred to the House Homeland Security Committee

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate will be in session the week of Monday, September 17, 2018, except for Wednesday, September 19, 2018.

The U.S. House of Representatives will be out of session the week of Monday, September 17, 2018.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

The Implications of the Reinterpretation of the Flores Settlement Agreement for Border Security and Illegal Immigration Incentives

Date: Tuesday, September 18, 2018 at 10 a.m. (Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs)

Location: SD-342, Dirksen Senate Office Building

Witnesses:

Matthew Albence, Executive Associate Director, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Robert Perez, Acting Deputy Commissioner, U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Joseph Edlow, Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice

Rebecca Gambler, Director, Homeland Security and Justice, U.S. Government Accountability Office

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

Congress Reaches Deal to Fund DHS Until December 7

On September 13, Congressional leaders reached a bipartisan spending deal to fund some federal agencies and to fund the remaining federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), through  a continuing resolution at the current spending levels through December 7,. The spending package may help avert a government shutdown once current government funding expires on September 30, though President Trump previously voiced an openness to shut down the federal government if Congress did not provide more funds for border security including a border wall. Republican congressional leadership aides believe the White House is supportive of the spending deal.

The Senate is expected to adopt the spending measure next week and the House the week after.

Trump Administration Diverted Funds from FEMA to Pay for Detention Facilities

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reportedly transferred almost $10 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to finance immigration detention centers and removal operations under Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The administration decided to transfer the funds in June despite the upcoming hurricane season, according to a document published by office of Senator Jeff Merkley (D – Oregon). The administration diverted the funds as part of a larger $200 million transfer, in which DHS sought to cover ICE’s increased detention and removals expenses by reallocating funds from other agencies. DHS responded that the transferred money came from FEMA’s operational accounts for training, office supplies and headquarter costs not from FEMA’s disasters relief account set up to cover natural disasters such as hurricanes. News of the transfer occurred as the Southeast U.S. faces hurricane Florence, which hit the coast on Friday, September 14.

Besides the funds from FEMA, DHS moved money from a number of other agencies and offices, including some key national security programs such as $1.8 million from Domestic Nuclear Detention Office, $29 million from the U.S. Coast Guard as well as over $34 million from a number of TSA programs.

HHS To Significantly Expand Texas Shelter for Immigrant Children

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced on September 11, 2018 that it plans to significantly expand a facility that houses immigrant minors in Tornillo, Texas. HHS, which opened the temporary tent shelter in June, now says it will increase its capacity from 360 to 3,800 and leave it open until the end of this year. Initially, the shelter was only intended to operate for 30 days. In early August, there were nearly 5,200 unaccompanied children (UACs) held in facilities across Texas, representing about 90 percent of the state’s capacity. The government notes the expansion is not a result of the administration’s zero-tolerance policy implemented in June, which contributed to separations of over 2,500 families at the Southwest border.

Although the Trump administration halted family separations and was ordered to reunite all the impacted families, about 400 children across the U.S. remain separated from their parents. Some of the parents, who were already deported, have reportedly refused to be reunited with their children in their home countries because they say conditions are too dangerous for their children to be deported back. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has been tracking about 300 of the separated parents, reported that most of them have older children likely to be recruited by violent gangs if the U.S. immigration authorities sent them back home. At the same time, a number families who were deported and reunited overseas filed a lawsuit seeking unspecified financial damages against the Trump administration to recover costs associated with their mental health treatment following separations.

USCIS Allows Officers to Deny Visa Applications Without Offering Chance to Make Corrections

A new policy from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) taking effect on September 11, 2018, could prevent immigrants and their lawyers from making corrections on their rejected visa and green card applications as well as other forms. Where applicants were previously provided the opportunity to make such corrections unless “no possibility” existed that additional information would fix deficiencies in applications, the new the policy permits immigration authorities with discretion to summarily deny erroneous applications, rather than issuing Requests for Evidence (RFEs) or Notices of Intent to Deny (NOIDs). According to its July memo, USCIS expanded the discretionary policy in effort to “discourage frivolous or substantially incomplete filings used as ‘placeholder’ filings,” claiming it does not intent to “penalize filers for innocent mistakes or misunderstandings of evidentiary requirements.”

Under the policy, applicants who received denials on the basis of insufficient evidence or technical error will have to restart the process from the beginning, first filing a motion to reopen the proceedings. However, a separate June USCIS memo would place immigrants in deportation proceedings immediately following a denial, before the motion to reopen would be adjudicated. Businesses objected to the new policy, arguing it creates new uncertainty in the visa process. And some immigration advocates believe that USCIS “methodically” issued these memos in an effort to subject more immigrants to deportation.

Sessions to Swear-in More Immigration Judges, Seeking to Meet Administration Target

In September 10 remarks addressed to 44 new immigration judges, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he expects to swear in at least 75 more immigration judges before the end of the calendar year. The increased hiring is  as part of an effort to meet the Trump administration’s target of increasing the number of immigration judges by 50 percent during the president’s first term. By adding additional immigration judges, the administration seeks to reduce the growing immigration case backlog. In fiscal year 2018, the number of pending immigration cases hit a new high of nearly 750,000, while the average waiting time for a hearing is more than 700 days.

A group of judges from the National Association for Immigration Judges took exception to a portion of Sessions’ speech in which he called on the judges to “restore rule of law in our immigration system” and send a” clear message to the world that the lawless practices of the past are over.” Representatives of that organization, an immigration judges union, criticized Sessions for suggesting they ignore the law and show bias in favor of immigrants seeking relief, calling that characterization “one-sided” and “political.”

Report: Justice Department Dismissed Assessment that Found Refugees Not to Be a Major Threat

NBC News reported that the Trump administration exaggerated the threats posed by refugees, including dismissing a report concluding that they do not pose a major security threat to the United States. The NBC report stated that the Department of Justice (DOJ) rejected the National Counterterrorism Center’s assessment, stating that Attorney General Jeff Sessions did not agree with the report’s findings.  Instead, according to NBC News, DOJ intends to stand by the findings of its January 2018 report, which asserted that “three out of four individuals convicted of terrorism and related offenses in the United States were actually foreign born.” That report was deeply criticized by experts, who assert that it was misleading and inaccurate. The National Counterterrorism Center’s findings are consistent with those of other studies finding refugees do not represent a significant security threat.

Immigrants Spur Economic Growth New Study Finds

A new study by Citigroup and Oxford Martin School found that OECD economies receive a significant economic boost from immigration, determining that those economies would have been the equivalent of hundreds of billions of dollars worse off “without the contribution of migrants to economic growth.” According to the study, the majority of U.S. GDP growth since 2011 was generated by immigrants in U.S. workforce.

In the United States, migrants are more than twice as likely to create a patented invention or win a Nobel Prize, and founded 40 percent of businesses on the Fortune 500 list. One of the study’s authors, Ian Goldin, noted that the presence of migrants “usually is associated with higher productivity, lower unemployment, and higher female workforce participation.”

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

There were no immigration related government reports published during the week of Monday, September 10, 2018.

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

Unclog the Naturalization Backlog

This fact sheet provides an overview of border security resources and migration trends along America’s Southwest border.

Construction Sector: Immigrants are Indispensable to U.S. Workforce

This fact sheet focuses on immigrants in the U.S. construction sector, highlighting key facts about their demographics, income, and contribution. It is a part of a series of infographics that can be found here.

* * *

*This Bulletin is not intended to be comprehensive. Please contact Zuzana Cepla, National Immigration Forum Policy and Advocacy Associate, with comments and suggestions of additional items to be included. Zuzana can be reached at zcepla@immigrationforum.org. Thank you.

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