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Legislative Bulletin — Friday, September 22, 2023

Welcome to the National Immigration Forum’s weekly bulletin! Every Friday, our policy team rounds up key developments around immigration policy in Washington and across the country. The bulletin includes items on the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, as well as some coverage at the state and local levels. 

Here’s a breakdown of the bulletin’s sections:

DEVELOPMENTS IN IMMIGRATION THIS WEEK

BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

DEVELOPMENTS IN IMMIGRATION THIS WEEK

Immigration policy is a dynamic field subject to constant change. Here, we summarize some of the most important recent developments in immigration policy on the federal, legal, state, and local levels. 

Content warning: This section sometimes includes events and information that can prove disturbing. 

Federal

Biden Administration Expands TPS for Venezuelans, Afghans and Expedites Work Permit Processing

On September 20, the Biden administration announced the extension and redesignation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Venezuela, permitting roughly 242,700 people to retain their work authorizations and deportation protections while letting an estimated 472,000 more Venezuelans potentially apply.

Then, on September 21, The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) similarly said it was extending and redesignating TPS for Afghanistan — a move that could allow roughly 3,100 Afghans to keep their temporary protections, while opening up eligibility to around 14,600 more.

Venezuelans who arrived stateside by July 31 and Afghans who came by September 20 may be eligible, but people en route now would not qualify under the expansions. 

The extensions and redesignations will provide support to two nationalities whom it would be logistically challenging and ethically dubious for the United States to deport, given the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan and Nicolás Maduro’s brutally unstable regime in Venezuela. However, while TPS provides relief to people who have already been displaced in the U.S. so they can live and work legally, it is also limited as a non-permanent solution and often leaves beneficiaries in a protracted legal limbo. 

So, even as DHS announced Afghanistan’s extension and redesignation for TPS, officials urged Afghans “to seek any more durable immigration pathways, like asylum and adjustment of status, for which they may be eligible.”

The department also announced it would allot more personnel to expedite work permit applications for certain noncitizens, while extending the validity period for employment authorizations to five years for groups such as refugees, asylees, and asylum applicants. 

These changes come after months of advocacy from local leaders and immigration activists, who have called for quicker, more readily accessible ways for recently arrived migrants and asylum seekers to receive permission to work legally. One of the potential solutions they have often endorsed is expanding TPS eligibility. 

After Venezuela was redesignated for TPS, New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) thanked the Biden administration “for hearing our entire coalition, including our hard-working congressional delegation, and taking this important step that will bring hope to the thousands of Venezuelan asylum seekers currently in our care.”

Child Dies, Kids Temporarily Separated From Parents to Mitigate Overcrowding Amid Increasing Border Numbers 

On September 20, a 3-year-old boy was one of two migrants who were found dead by Texas state officials this week after apparently drowning in the Rio Grande while trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

The tragic deaths come amid an uptick in border crossings — which have reportedly reached a daily average of 6,900 this month, with 7,500 people apprehended just last Sunday. The increases are a sign that the Biden administration’s severe asylum restrictions and other deterrence mechanisms may not be working long-term, as vulnerable and desperate people remain committed to finding ways for their families to reach safety and protection in the U.S.

Nevertheless, the Biden administration reiterated this week that it would “increase enforcement across the Southwest Border,” including by deploying more military personnel to fill support roles. 

Meanwhile, an independent court monitor said that children were being separated short-term from their parents while in a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facility in Donna, Texas, this summer, raising alarms that kids’ mental health might be at stake. 

Children had been separated from their parents for as many as four days, held in pods intended for unaccompanied migrant kids. Most of them did not know how to ask to visit their parents, and interviews “revealed significant emotional distress related to separation, including sustained crying and disorientation.”

“The situations described within the report are completely different from previous policies of separating families,” a CBP spokesperson told CBS News. “CBP is committed to family unity: our policies prioritize the safety and wellbeing of children and ensure that families are released out of CBP custody together.”

Republican Representatives Present Draft Legislative Text for a Continuing Resolution Centered on Immigration Enforcement

On September 17, Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-California) announced that the Republican party had reached an internal deal to introduce immigration enforcement provisions into the House continuing resolution draft text ahead of the looming government shutdown, projected to begin on October 1.

Continuing resolutions are temporary spending bills that allow federal government operations to continue when final spending allocations have not been approved by Congress and the president. The continuing resolution proposed by McCarthy includes the majority of the controversial H.R.2, also known as the Secure the Border Act of 2023, which passed the House of Representatives on May 11, 2023. This bill – now packaged as a continuing resolution – is one of the most sweeping border security proposals in recent history.

While the proposed text received approval from most Republicans in the House, it remains unclear whether it will advance. Twice this week, McCarthy decided not to submit the draft text to a vote after some members of the Freedom Caucus expressed opposition.

Report: Biden Administration Mulling an Increase for Next Year’s Refugee Ceiling 

On September 18, CNN reported that a source familiar with recent discussions said that the Biden administration is considering whether to raise the number of refugees who could be admitted to the United States next year. 

The president’s refugee determination sets the maximum number of refugees who can be admitted into the U.S. In recent years, that number has been more aspirational than anything — officials have struggled to resettle anywhere near the ceiling, although recent increases in refugee arrivals over the last few months show promising signs of improvement. 

“Welcoming refugees is part of who we are as Americans,” President Joe Biden said in a statement on World Refugee Day earlier this year.“Our nation was founded by those fleeing religious persecution. When we take action to help refugees around the world, and include them, we honor this past and are stronger for it.”

The refugee ceiling requires consultation with Congress before the end of the fiscal year on September 30, and administration officials are expected to meet with lawmakers soon. 

New Proposed Rule Would Expand Protections for H-2A Workers 

On September 18, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that would expand the legal protections of immigrant agricultural workers under the H-2A visa program. 

The H-2A visa program is available to foreign nationals who are temporary agricultural workers helping to fill gaps in worker shortages. The proposed rule would add new safeguards for worker self-advocacy, protect workers against retaliation, and make foreign labor recruitment more transparent.

DHS secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas said, “These proposed reforms will help U.S. employers address worker shortages through new program flexibilities. They will also help provide this vulnerable population of workers with the protections they deserve.” 

The proposed rule is open to public comments through November 20, 2023.  

USCIS Celebrates Citizenship Day Through Naturalization Ceremonies 

On September 17, the U.S. public celebrated Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, honoring citizens’ rights and liberties under the U.S. constitution.  

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) celebrates Constitution Day and Citizenship Day every year, and between September 17-22, USCIS conducted 130 naturalization ceremonies, where 6,900 people became new citizens. USCIS also used the holiday as an opportunity to recognize the Citizenship Ambassador Initiative, which works with community leaders to promote naturalization throughout the country.  

“We believe that promoting citizenship and encouraging eligible immigrants to naturalize and fully participate in our democracy is a cornerstone of the agency’s work and illustrates the spirit of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day through a focus on the rights, responsibilities, and importance of citizenship,” USCIS Director Ur M. Jaddou said.

USCIS has a range of resources for individuals who want to learn more about Citizenship Day and the process of naturalization.  

BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED

It can be challenging to keep up with the constant barrage of proposed legislation in Congress. So, every week, we round up new bills. This list includes federal legislative proposals that have recently been introduced and that are relevant to immigration policy. 

Please follow this link to find new relevant bills, as well as proposed legislation from past weeks. 

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Tuesday, September 26 through Friday, September 29, 2023.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

Here, we round up congressional hearings and markups happening in the field or in Washington. 

There are no relevant hearings or markups announced for the week of Monday, September 25, 2023. 

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

Reports by bodies such as the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the Congressional Research Service, and the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General provide invaluable information on immigration policy and practice. Here, we give brief summaries of new immigration-related reports, with links to the resources themselves in case you want to learn more. 

DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG); Results of an Unannounced Inspection of ICE’s Caroline Detention Facility in Bowling Green, Virginia; Published September 15, 2023

This report discusses the results of an unannounced inspection at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s Caroline Detention Facility, with antiquated chronic care guidance, the lack of a dentist, delayed responses to detainee grievances, a lack of consistency in displaying lists of legal providers and visitation hours, and other problems raising cause for concern. 

DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG); Results of Unannounced Inspections of CBP Holding Facilities in the El Paso Area; Published September 15, 2023

This report details the findings from unannounced inspections of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities in the El Paso sector, including failure to consistently comply with standards around segregating different populations, managing property, having regular meals and shower access, and keeping holding rooms clean.

DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG); Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology System Compliance with 28 C.F.R. Part 23; Published September 19, 2023

This report explores the Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology (HART) system and which laws it must comply with, while considering related issues around privacy.

Congressional Research Service (CRS); The Legality of DACA: Recent Litigation Developments; Updated September 20, 2023

This report focuses on the Texas II legal challenge to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and its relationship to other litigation such as DHS v. Regents of the University of California and Texas I

Congressional Research Service (CRS); The Biden Administration’s Final Rule on Arriving Aliens Seeking Asylum (Part One); Published September 21, 2023

This legal sidebar breaks down the Biden administration’s “Circumvention of Lawful Pathways” rule, as it applies to asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border. 

Congressional Research Service (CRS); The Biden Administration’s Final Rule on Arriving Aliens Seeking Asylum (Part 2); Published September 21, 2023

This legal sidebar considers arguments for and against the legality of the “Circumvention of Lawful Pathways” rule, while providing an overview of pending litigation challenging the policy. It also offers legislative options and highlights current proposals for lawmakers to potentially engage on the topic.

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

The Forum is constantly publishing new policy-focused resources that engage with some of the most topical issues around immigration today. Here are a few that are particularly relevant this week:

Explainer: U.S. District Court Judge Hanen Finds New DACA Rule Unlawful

This explainer details the September 13 decision on DACA holding that the program is unlawful. It also explores the decision’s implications for current DACA recipients and other Dreamers, discusses potential solutions, and provides a timeline for the court challenge around DACA.

Dreamer Advocacy Resources

This landing page provides key information and resources about DACA and Dreamers.

CBP One: Fact Sheet and Resources Directory

This fact sheet and resources directory gives information and useful links about CBP One’s key features, its significance for asylum seekers, and its shortcomings. 

* * *

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

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