Legislative Bulletin – Friday, September 18, 2020

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. 8225

Fight Notario Fraud Act of 2020

The bill would criminalize providing immigration-related legal services by those who do not have legal authorization to practice law. The bill would create three new federal offenses, criminalizing the provision of fraudulent legal immigration services, misrepresentation by individuals who falsely claim to be authorized to practice immigration law, and any threats or retaliatory acts associated with the provision of fraudulent immigration-related legal advice.

Sponsored by Representative Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Florida) (2 cosponsors – 2 Democrats, 0 Republicans)

09/15/2020 Introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Mucarsel-Powell

09/15/2020 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

09/15/2020 Marked Up and Considered by the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 549

The Venezuela TPS Act of 2019

The bill would allow Venezuelan nationals to become eligible for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in the United States. TPS allows those who are unable to return to their home countries safely to live and work in the U.S. for temporary periods.

Sponsored by Representative Darren Soto (D-Florida) (30 cosponsors – 3 Republican, 27 Democrats)

01/15/2019 Introduced in the House by Representative Soto

01/15/2019 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

05/22/2019 Passed the House Committee on the Judiciary in a 20-9 vote

07/23/2019 Failed of passage/not agreed to in House: On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended: (2/3 required): 268-154

07/25/2019 Motion to recommit with instructions failed: 215-217

07/25/2019 Passed in House: 272-158

07/29/2019 Received in the Senate and referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

09/16/2020 Motion in the Senate to move forward on the bill by unanimous consent vote blocked by Senator Thune (R-South Dakota)

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Monday, September 21, 2020 to Friday, September 25, 2020.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

Nomination of Chad F. Wolf, of Virginia, to be Secretary of Homeland Security.

Date: Wednesday, September 23, 2020 at 10 a.m. ET (Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee)

Location: 342 Dirksen Senate Office Building and via Videoconference

Witnesses:

Chad Wolf, Acting Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Immigrants as Essential Workers During COVID-19

Date: Wednesday, September 23, 2020 at 2 p.m. ET (House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship)

Location: 2141 Rayburn House Office Building

Witnesses: TBA

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

Whistleblower Complaint Reveals Medical Neglect and Abuse in ICE Detention Facility

On September 14, a whistleblower complaint alleged that immigrants in the Irwin Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center in Georgia were being subjected to medical negligence and wrongdoing. The complaint, filed on behalf of a registered nurse who was employed full-time at Irwin until July, details a list of allegations surrounding the facility’s poor handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a reportedly high rate of hysterectomies being performed on Spanish-speaking immigrants. The nurse, Dawn Wooten, was demoted in July to a part-time position at Irwin.

The complaint outlines how the ICE detention facility ignored or denied COVID-19 tests to detainees that displayed coronavirus symptoms or placed those who tested positive back into the larger population. The complaint also claims that ICE officials underreported the number of infections. Detainees interviewed in the report state that social distancing was made impossible. The private company that runs Irwin, LaSalle Corrections, has faced similar allegations of poor coronavirus treatment at another facility in Louisiana.

Wooten’s complaint reported serious misconduct related to an unusually high number of hysterectomies being performed on patients referred from the facility. According to Wooten, many of the women did not fully understand why the surgery was being performed on them, and in some cases, nurses and officials allegedly failed to obtain proper consent from the patients.

The complaint is the latest in a string of allegations concerning the mistreatment of detainees in ICE custody. In response to the allegations, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats have called for an investigation of the Irwin detention center. ICE has stated it will cooperate with any investigation by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General.

Analysis: ICE Ramps up Enforcement Against Those Without Criminal Records Despite COVID-19 Pandemic

According to a recent analysis of government data, a significant number of immigration arrests taking place in recent months involve unauthorized immigrants “whose crimes are minor, or who have not committed any crime at all.” Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a larger percentage of individuals deported during the first five months of 2020 had no criminal record (52%), as compared to the previous three fiscal years (40%).

The analysis of the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University (TRAC) seems to counter a March 2020 announcement by ICE that it would “temporarily adjust its enforcement posture” to “focus enforcement on public-safety risks and individuals subject to mandatory detention based on criminal grounds.” The policy aimed to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus and to encourage affected individuals to seek medical treatment without fear of deportation or other forms of civil immigration enforcement, and therefore only specifically limited enforcement operations near medical facilities. The TRAC analysis indicates that ICE had departed from the announced enforcement shift, increasingly focusing on arresting and deporting those without criminal records.

Even prior to the TRAC report, the March decision has faced increased attention as it reportedly led to the July 2020 resignation of acting ICE chief Matthew Albence. Albence reportedly faced criticism from White House immigration hawks, who criticized him for favoring humanitarian concerns over more aggressive enforcement actions. Notably, even before Albence announced his departure, ICE announced a significant nationwide operation this summer that resulted in the arrest of more than 2,000 unauthorized individuals.

Protective Status for Venezuelans Blocked in Senate

On September 16, Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota) blocked an attempt by Senators Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) and Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) to provide Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Venezuelans living in the U.S. The bill would allow Venezuelans to live and work in the U.S. without fear of deportation for a temporary period, due to the unsafe conditions and ongoing humanitarian crisis in the country under the disputed leadership of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

The bill to provide TPS for Venezuelans, which already passed the House of Representatives in July 2019, was brought up by Senators Menendez and Durbin for a unanimous consent vote, a method which expedites passage but can be blocked by any single objection from another Senator. The bill was initially introduced in the House by Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Florida) and Darren Soto (D-Florida). A similar bill, the Venezuela Temporary Protected Status Act of 2019 (S. 636), received bipartisan support in the past and was co-sponsored by Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida).

Approximately 200,000 Venezuelans currently live in the U.S. and are at risk of deportation.

Legal

Appeals Court Allows Trump Administration to End Temporary Protected Status for Thousands

On September 14, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in Ramos v. Neilsen that the Trump administration acted within its authority in terminating Temporary Protected Status for certain countries. The ruling potentially strips 300,000 or more people from six different countries of their legal protected status and could render them deportable if they do not voluntarily leave the country. The administration argued that the emergency conditions that existed in each country at the time of its TPS designation are no longer prevalent. The court ruled that it did not have jurisdiction to review the process the administration used to terminate TPS designation.

The decision does not immediately end TPS protections. The Trump administration has agreed to maintain them until at least March 2021 for people from five of the affected countries and until November 2021 for people from El Salvador. It is likely that the plaintiffs will ask for the ruling to be reconsidered en banc by an 11-judge panel, or that they appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Though only El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan were officially included in the decision, nationals this ruling will also likely affect TPS holders from Honduras and Nepal who had filed a separate lawsuit that was put on hold pending the outcome of the Ramos case. The termination of TPS could also result in the separation of families, as thousands of beneficiaries have U.S.-born children.

The Ninth Circuit decision overturns a 2018 preliminary injunction by a California federal judge. A federal court in New York separately blocked the termination of TPS for Haitians in April 2019. That narrower injunction remains in place as the appeal of that decision is pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Federal Judge Rules that Acting DHS Secretary Servicing Unlawfully, Temporarily Blocks Some Asylum Restrictions

On September 11, a federal judge in Maryland ruled that Chad Wolf, who has been serving as acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security since November 2019, is likely serving unlawfully. As part of the ruling, Judge Paula Xinis temporarily barred the Trump administration from enforcing new asylum restrictions on immigrants represented by two advocacy groups.

Judge Xinis wrote that the two groups are likely to show that former acting DHS secretary Kevin McAleenan’s appointment was invalid under the agency’s order of succession, rendering his placement of Chad Wolf as his successor invalid as well. Wolf, therefore, did not have the authority to impose the asylum rules that are being challenged. However, the ruling does not automatically end Wolf’s time in the position.

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released in August that found that both Wolf and Ken Cuccinelli were appointed under an invalid order of succession. The report referred concerns regarding the legality of actions taken by Wolf and Cuccinelli to the DHS inspector general Joseph Cuffari. Cuffari has since declined to investigate the issue, stating that only a federal court could issue a binding determination on the matter.

In August, President Trump announced his intent to permanently appoint Wolf as DHS Secretary. Wolf’s nomination has been formally sent to the Senate. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will be holding a hearing on the nomination on September 23.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

There were no immigration-related government reports the week of Monday, September 14, 2020.

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

Statement for the Record: “The Expansion and Troubling Use of ICE Detention”

This Forum Statement for the Record submitted for a September 2019 House subcommittee hearing describes the consequences of excessive and wasteful overuse of immigration detention by ICE. The statement argues that alternatives to detention (ATDs) are cheap and effective and should be used more as detention rates fall.

Fact Sheet: Temporary Protected Status

This fact sheet provides an explanation of what Temporary Protected Status is and who is eligible to receive it and includes a summary of how many immigrants living in the U.S. have TPS. The fact sheet also provides an overview of current ongoing litigation and policy changes surrounding TPS.

Immigration Related Executive Actions During the COVID-19 Pandemic

This list provides an overview of the 47 (and counting) immigration-related actions implemented by the administration during the COVID-19 pandemic. The list separates the actions by who is impacted and highlights indefinite and particularly concerning actions.

* * *

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

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