Legislative Bulletin — Friday, September 16, 2022

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. 4813

Paperwork Reduction for Farmers and H–2A Modernization Act

The bill would allow equine, aquacultural, forestry conservation, landscaping, and livestock workers — including dairy, cattle, and poultry — to be eligible to apply for participation in the H-2A program. The bill would also require the Department of Labor to create an online H-2A application process for farmers.

Sponsored by Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) (0 cosponsors)

09/08/2022 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Paul

09/08/2022 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 4822

Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act of 2022

Among various other provisions, the bill would forbid political committees from receiving donations or contributions from foreign nationals. The bill would also require the Comptroller General to conduct a study on the incidence of illicit foreign money in all elections for Federal office held during the preceding 4-year election cycle.

Sponsored by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) (49 cosponsors— 47 Democrats, 2 Independent)

09/12/2022 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Whitehouse

09/13/2022 Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders

H.R. 8823

Safe Zones Act of 2022

The bill would allow trained and qualified DHS personnel to conduct credible fear interviews of asylum seekers. The bill would also establish Safe Zones to accept and process applications for refugee admissions to the United States. Safe Zones would include embassies, consulates, and other diplomatic facilities.

Sponsored by Representative Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas) (0 cosponsors)

09/14/2022 Introduced in the House by Representative Gonzalez

09/14/2022 Referred to the House Committees on Homeland Security and the Judiciary

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate will be in session the week of September 19, 2022.

The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Monday, September 19, through Thursday, September 22, 2022.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

There are no immigration-related hearings scheduled for next week.

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

Questions Surround Florida-Backed Flights of Migrants to Martha’s Vineyard

On September 15, Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis financed two charter flights transporting 48 Venezuelan migrants from San Antonio, Texas, to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. According to a Miami Herald report, the flights were funded via Florida taxpayers and had a total cost of $615,000 or $12,300 per person. The migrants — who had been processed by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and were in the midst of immigration court proceedings — were welcomed by local organizations and community members who provided immediate-need support.

Several reports have noted the migrants were coerced into boarding the flights with promises of open jobs and a lack of clarity about where they would be arriving. Despite criticism of the action’s legality and practicality, Governor DeSantis expressed his intention to continue “facilitating” the transportation of undocumented immigrants placed in Florida to “sanctuary jurisdictions.” Governor DeSantis had first proposed the initiative on April 12, when he had expressed his desire to relocate said immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard, Delaware, or other “progressive” jurisdictions.

Governor DeSantis’ action mimics the controversial busing program initiated by Texas Governor Abbott, who has bused over 8,900 migrants to New York City, Washington DC, and Chicago since April. Arizona’s Governor Ducey has also engaged in similar initiatives, busing over 1,574 migrants since May. On September 15, two of those buses from Texas dropped around 100 Venezuelan migrants outside of Vice President Kamala Harris’s residence in Washington, DC.

The busing initiatives have strained resources in destination cities and motivated Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser (D-DC) to announce the establishment of an Office of Migrant Services to provide support and services to migrants being bused from Texas and Arizona. Mayor Bowser stated that her government would allocate an initial $10 million to stand up the new office and support organizations working to welcome the arriving asylum seekers. She also noted the city would seek reimbursement from the federal government.

On September 11, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D-Chicago) criticized the busing program, calling it “un-American”, and expressed her concern over the “lack of respect and dignity” of busing migrants to unknown destinations with little food or coordination with receiving destinations.

Biden Administration Proposes Maintaining Refugee Ceiling at 125,000 for Fiscal Year 2023

On September 8, the Biden Administration reported to Congress its plan to maintain the refugee resettlement ceiling for fiscal year (FY) 2023 at 125,000. For FY 2022, the Biden administration had raised the Trump-era refugee cap of 15,000 to 125,000. However, the U.S. has only admitted 19,919 refugees for resettlement this fiscal year and is on track to resettle a total of only 21,730 refugees, not even 20% of the 125,000 ceiling. In its report to Congress, the Biden administration argued that the slow resettlement was due to the heavy cuts to operational capacity made in previous years and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. It also highlighted that the administration had welcomed tens of thousands of Afghans and Ukrainians under humanitarian parole, which has used resources typically reserved for the refugee resettlement program.

The proposed 125,000 refugee resettlement ceiling will be allocated by region. The State Department designated 40,000 spaces for Africa, 15,000 for the East Asian region, 10,000 for the European and Central Asian region, 15,000 for the Latin American and Caribbean region, 35,000 for the Near East and South Asian region, and 10,000 available spaces for reserve.

Before welcoming refugees in FY 2023, the administration still needs to consult with Congress over the ceiling and ultimately sign a presidential determination (PD) with the new ceiling. In each of the past two years, President Trump (in 2020) and President Biden (in 2021) have delayed signing a PD, resulting in low resettlement numbers in October and the cancellation of refugee flights.

Ukrainian Arrivals Through Private Sponsorship Parole Program Reach Over 50,000

According to a September 13 CBS News Report, 123,962 Americans have now applied to financially sponsor Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion via a private sponsorship program established in April 2022. This program, named Uniting for Ukraine (U4U), was created in April 2022 for the purpose of providing Ukrainian refugees and their immediate family members an immediate and efficient pathway to come to the United States. U4U has quickly become the primary means by which the U.S. government has welcomed some of the millions of Ukrainians displaced by the Russian invasion. As of September 9, over 87,000 Ukrainians have been granted permission to travel to the United States, while over 50,000 of those have already arrived.

However, U4U only provides a temporary solution for Ukrainians admitted under the program. Unlike the refugees admitted via the border or immigrant visas, those who entered via the program do not have a path to permanent status and receive only two years of protections and access to work authorization.

A September 12 report by San Antonio Express News indicated that about 6 million Ukrainians have returned to their homes in Ukraine. While the numbers are encouraging, at least 6,645,000 Ukrainians remain displaced, according to the latest report by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Secretary of State Antony Blinken Visits President of Mexico to Discuss Bilateral Agenda, Including Migration

On September 12, Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and other senior Mexican government officials for the 2022 U.S.-Mexico High-Level Economic Dialogue (HLED). This dialogue centered around several joint objectives, one of which was reducing irregular migration to the U.S. by addressing poverty and inequality in southern Mexico and Central America. Towards this goal, the leaders discussed expanding accessible job opportunities in North America and a joint U.S.-Mexico development project called “Sowing Opportunities.” The project provides technical training to young people in Central America and Mexico to plant trees, support the goal of eliminating deforestation, create sustainable jobs in the agricultural sector, and create opportunities for would-be migrants in their communities of origin.

The two leaders also discussed managing the border humanely and expanding legal pathways for migration to the United States. Secretary Blinken reported that Mexico and the U.S. are collaborating on addressing the root causes of migration “in ways that we’ve not seen before.” In addition, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo highlighted that the purpose of the HLED was to create “shared prosperity and job creation for the people of Mexico and the people of the United States.”

U.S. Hits H-2B Visa Limit For First Half of FY 2023

On September 14, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it had already received enough applications to exhaust the 33,000 H-2B visas available for the first half of Fiscal Year (FY) 2023. USCIS noted that while it would no longer accept new H-2B petitions for the coming period, it would continue processing other applications associated with H-2B status, including those to extend the amount of time a current H-2B worker may remain in the United States, petitions of fish roe processors and technicians, and petitions from workers performing labor in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands and Guam.

H-2B nonimmigrant visas are intended to help American employers fill temporary, non-agricultural positions when there are no sufficient qualified U.S. workers capable of performing the work. Only 66,000 H-2B visas are available each fiscal year — with half awarded in the first half of the fiscal year, and the remainder in the second half.

USCIS to Welcome More Than 19,000 New Americans for Citizenship Day

On September 16, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced its plans to celebrate Citizenship Day and Constitution Day — commemorated on September 17 — by welcoming 19,000 new citizens in 235 naturalization ceremonies across the country. This year’s numbers will represent a 10% decrease compared to last year’s Citizenship Day celebrations when the agency welcomed 21,000 new Americans.

The citizenship ceremonies will take place between September 17 and 23. In the announcement, USCIS Director Ur Jaddou said that the agency “has been working tirelessly in communities to raise awareness about citizenship consistent with our mission to uphold America’s promise as a nation of welcome and possibility with fairness, integrity, and respect for all we serve.”

State & Local

Massachusetts Law That Allows Undocumented Immigrants to Receive Driver’s Licenses Will Be Submitted to Referendum 

On September 9, Massachusetts’ Secretary of the Commonwealth Office announced that it had certified the signatures needed to submit to a referendum the recently approved law that allows undocumented immigrants to receive driver’s licenses in the state.

The law, titled Work and Family Mobility Act, is set to take effect on July 1, 2023. The law would require undocumented immigrants seeking a license to prove their identity and provide evidence of their residency in the state. Applicants would be required to provide two separate identification documents, the first consisting of either a passport or consular identification and the second consisting of an unexpired driver’s license from any U.S. state or territory, a birth certificate, a foreign national identity card, a foreign driver’s license, or a marriage certificate issued in Massachusetts. If the law survives the November referendum, it is expected to benefit over 200,000 undocumented immigrants, and Massachusetts would become the 16th state in the country to allow undocumented immigrants to access driver’s licenses.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO); “Military Naturalizations: Federal Agencies Assist with Naturalizations, but Additional Monitoring and Assessment Are Needed;” September 14, 2022.

This GAO report highlights that servicemember naturalization applications fell 78% from 2017 to 2018—from about 11,000 to 2,500. The Department of Defense (DOD) and other officials attribute the decline in part to DOD policy changes, including longer service requirements to be eligible for naturalization assistance. The report also highlights that over 100,000 noncitizens joined the armed forces between 2010 and 2021.

Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General (DHS-OIG); “DHS Technology Systems Do Not Effectively Support Migrant Tracking at the Southwest Border;” September 9, 2022

This OIG report highlights that the Department of Homeland Security’s IT systems did not effectively allow U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel to track migrants from apprehension to release or transfer. The report also notes that DHS personnel does not consistently documents migrant apprehension times, family status of migrants, and migrant’s intended U.S. address. The report also highlights that approximately 30 percent of migrants did not comply with release terms to report to ICE within 60 days between March and September 2021.

Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General (DHS-OIG); “U.S. Border Patrol Faces Challenges Administering Post-Apprehension Outcomes Consistently Across Sectors;” September 13, 2022

This OIG report highlights that while all Border Patrol sectors on the Southwest border receive the same post-apprehension guidance from headquarters, applying the guidance consistently is a challenge. The report notes that sector capabilities, resources, and apprehension trends play a role in how Border Patrol implements the guidance, as does the availability of beds in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities. The report also recognizes that the application of the guidance is inherently inconsistent due to external factors such as local prosecutorial guidelines and conditions for removals imposed by foreign governments.

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

Explainer: Migrant Deaths at the Border

The explainer dives into various estimates of the number of migrant deaths, describes some of the reasons we have seen an increasing number of deaths in recent years, and discusses both what CBP already does to prevent deaths at the border and what more we can do to restore safety and humanity to what has become the world’s most lethal land border crossing.

The Current State of DACA: Challenges Await in Litigation and Rulemaking

This explainer describes the current state of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, discussing the ongoing attempts to scale back or end the program in the courts and the current administration’s attempts to preserve the program.

What Makes a Border Secure? Building a Healthier Border Dialogue

This paper creates an actionable border security framework based on the best and most appropriate available metrics and data. It surveys previous and ongoing attempts to describe and quantify border security, and it proposes a series of policy recommendations to create a healthier dialogue around securing our border, including an expanded role for the DHS Office of Immigration Statistics and the creation and publication of new border metrics.

* * *

*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 acastellanos@immigrationforum.org. Thank you.

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