BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED
Bridging the Gap for New Americans Act
The bill would require the Department of Labor to conduct a study of the factors affecting employment opportunities for immigrants and refugees who have professional credentials obtained in foreign countries.
Sponsored by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) (5 cosponsors— 3 Republicans, 2 Democrats)
11/03/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Klobuchar
11/03/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
06/23/2022 Passed the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions via unanimous consent.
06/23/2022 Passed the Senate without amendment via unanimous consent
09/19/2022 Passed the House of Representatives by a 363-52 vote
Restoring Law and Order Act
The bill would establish a federal grant for law enforcement agencies to increase the detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants who have committed a crime in the U.S., among other priorities.
Sponsored by Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) (1 cosponsor— 1 Republican, 0 Democrats)
09/15/2022 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Blackburn
09/15/2022 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary
A bill to direct the Secretary of State to designate certain Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations, and to submit a report to Congress justifying such designations in accordance with section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act
Among various other provisions, the bill would deny the issuance of any type of visas to people associated with certain Mexican drug cartels.
Sponsored by Senator Roger Marshall (R-Kansas) (1 cosponsor— 1 Republican, 0 Democrats)
09/21/2022 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Blackburn
09/21/2022 Referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
Russia Cryptocurrency Transparency Act
Among various other provisions, the bill would require the Department of State to submit a report to Congress on the most effective avenues to provide humanitarian aid to Ukrainian refugees, including possible uses of cryptocurrencies or other technologies incorporating blockchains.
Sponsored by Representative Gregory Meeks (D-New York) (1 cosponsor— 1 Republican, 0 Democrats)
03/31/2022 Introduced in the House by Representative Meeks
03/31/2022 Referred to the House Committees on Foreign Affairs and Financial Services
09/20/2022 Passed the House of Representatives
09/21/2022 Received in the Senate and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations
Assuring that the Fact-Finding Examination Continues to Track (AFFECT) Human Rights in Venezuela Act
Among various other provisions, the bill would authorize the U.S. President to urge the United Nations to address the humanitarian needs of Venezuelan refugees and migrants in third countries through direct assistance.
Sponsored by Representative Albio Sires (D-New Jersey) (13 cosponsors— 9 Democrats, 4 Republicans)
09/13/2022 Introduced in the House by Representative Sires
09/13/2022 Referred to the House Committees on Foreign Affairs
09/14/2022 Ordered to be reported (amended) by voice vote
To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act with respect to the apprehension and detention of certain aliens
Sponsored by Representative Madison Cawthorn (R-North Carolina) (0 cosponsors)
09/20/2022 Introduced in the House by Representative Cawthorn
09/20/2022 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary
To require the United States Commissioner of the International Boundary and Water Commission to negotiate an agreement with Mexico relating to the number of aliens detained in the United States
Sponsored by Representative Debbie Lesko (R-Arizona) (2 cosponsors— 2 Republicans, 0 Democrats)
09/21/2022 Introduced in the House by Representative Lesko
09/21/2022 Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs
To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to permanently bar aliens who are ordered removed after failing to appear at a removal proceeding, absent exceptional circumstances, from becoming permanent residents of the United States
Sponsored by Representative David Rouzer (R-North Carolina) (4 cosponsors— 4 Republicans, 0 Democrats)
09/21/2022 Introduced in the House by Representative Rouzer
09/21/2022 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary
LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR
The U.S. Senate will be in session from Tuesday, September 27, through Friday, September 30, 2022.
The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Wednesday, September 28, through Friday, September 30, 2022.
UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS
THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK
Migrants Flown to Martha’s Vineyard File Lawsuit Against Florida’s Governor DeSantis; Texas Sheriff Opens Criminal Investigation
On September 20, the migrants flown from San Antonio, Texas, to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts filed a class action lawsuit against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and other state officials. The migrants argue that Florida’s government — who financed the two charter flights that transported them — gave them misleading information promising cash assistance, employment services, and housing assistance. The complaint, filed in federal court in Boston, also argues that the immigrants were lied about the flight’s final destination. The immigrants were told they were headed to Boston and Washington, D.C., not Martha’s Vineyard. The lawsuit also alleges that Florida officials handed them a fake “official-looking brochure” using language from the Massachusetts Refugee Resettlement Program in order to “buttress their false oral representations.” For all those reasons, the migrants said they “suffered economic, emotional, and constitutional harms.”
In addition, on September 19, Sheriff Javier Salazar of Bexar County, which includes San Antonio, Texas, announced that he had opened a criminal investigation into the flights that transported the migrants from the Migrant Resource Center in San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard. In the announcement, he said that while it was too early to determine which laws might have been broken, it was clear that many of the migrants had been misled and lured under false pretenses by the DeSantis administration in an effort to score political points.
In addition, multiple reports highlighted that cabinet heads and White House officials would meet on September 23 to discuss litigation options to respond to the actions of the governors of Florida, Texas, and Arizona who have since April been transporting immigrants from the border to Washington, D.C., New York City, Chicago, and Martha’s Vineyard. Thousands of migrants have been transported under the schemes so far, the vast majority in the country legally to pursue removal and/or asylum claims in immigration court. Receiving communities have begun to develop coordinated responses to help welcome arrivals.
Congress Passes Bipartisan Bill To Strengthen Professional Migrants’ Access to Work
On September 19, the House of Representatives voted 363-52 to pass the Bridging the Gap for New Americans Act. The bill — introduced in March by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) and approved unanimously in the Senate in June — requires the Department of Labor to conduct a study of the factors affecting employment opportunities for immigrants and refugees with professional credentials obtained in foreign countries, and create policy recommendations designed to enable new Americans to obtain skill-appropriate employment. The bill now awaits President Biden’s signature to become law.
The bill is expected to enhance the labor opportunities for the over 2 million college-educated immigrants in the United States who are unemployed or underemployed in jobs that fail to draw on their education and expertise, according to the Migration Policy Institute (MPI).
Border Data Shows Slight Increase of Apprehensions in August
On September 19, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported that the agency detained 203,597 migrants crossing from Mexico during the month of August. This marks a slight 1.8% increase from July’s total of 199,976 encounters. Accounting for a high repeat crossing rate of 22% — the same as last month — unique border encounters in August stood at 157,921. With the August data included, over the past eleven months immigrant encounters by U.S. authorities along the southern border have for the first time surpassed the threshold of 2 million in a single fiscal year. Following seasonal patterns of previous years, migration is expected to increase further in September as the summer weather cools down.
The use of Title 42 — a pandemic-era policy used to rapidly expel migrants without providing them a chance to seek protection under U.S. law — continued to decline overall. 36% of all encounters were immediately expelled under Title 42 in August, down from over 50% of all encounters earlier this year and in 2020 and 2021. The decreasing use of Title 42 is due in part to an increase in arrivals from Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba, all of which refuse to accept Title 42 expulsions. Together, migrants from Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba accounted for over one quarter of those encounterd last month, and unique arrivals from those countries have increased 175% from this point last year.
Particularly Venezuelan migrants comprise an increasing number of arrivals, with August crossings growing 44% from July and about 400% since May. Owing to strained U.S.-Venezuela diplomatic relations, Venezuelans cannot be deported under Title 42. They are also more likely than average to receive asylum. Conversely, migration from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras declined for the third consecutive month and the four countries — which have typically made up a large proportion of overall migration— combined to represent only 36% of unique encounters at the southern border in August.
The released data also revealed that CBP conducted 1,567 Search and Rescue efforts along the border in August. Overall this fiscal year, the agency has conducted over 20,000 Search and Rescue efforts, a significant increase from past fiscal years.
Biden Administration Arrests and Indicts Eight Alleged Human Smugglers
On September 13, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that one of its operations, Joint Task Force Alpha (JTFA), resulted in the arrest and indictment of eight alleged prolific human smugglers in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. In total, JTFA and similar operations have encompassed 1,300 law enforcement officers in Latin America and resulted in 5,000 regional arrests and the seizure of over 7,000 kilograms of drugs since its inception in 2021.
On September 14, senior officials from DHS, U.S. Border Patrol (USBP), and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) participated in the “High-Level International Conference on Border Security in the Americas” hosted by the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL). They presented their strategy of broad interagency and international collaboration with Latin America to reduce human smuggling, transnational crime, and irregular migration. Deputy DHS Secretary John Tien emphasized the importance of this strategy, stating that efforts to address irregular migration and national security in the Americas “cannot succeed through any single country’s individual policies.”
Biden Administration Publishes Rule Eliminating Regulations That Hindered Access to Employment Authorization for Asylum Seekers
On September 21, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a final rule that restores asylum seekers’ ability to work legally in the U.S. while their asylum applications are pending. In June 2020, two Trump-era rules, the Timeline Repeal rule and the Broader Asylum EAD rule, made it increasingly difficult for asylum applicants to obtain work authorization. For example, they were required to wait 365 days before applying for work authorization instead of the previous 150 days, the validity period of their work authorization was reduced, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) was no longer required to adjudicate work authorization applications within 30 days.
As a result, many asylum seekers were left without a legal means to work while their asylum applications moved through the years-long backlog. But in February 2022, a U.S. District Court vacated these rules because then-Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf was unlawfully installed as Secretary when they were issued. The September 2022 rule codifies the regulatory language that existed before these Trump-era rules.
Biden Administration Announces $170 Million in Humanitarian Assistance for Rohingya Refugees
On September 22, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced more than $170 million in additional humanitarian assistance for the Rohingya refugees who have been forcibly displaced to Bangladesh due to the military coup in Myanmar and security forces’ violence in Rakhine State. According to the most recent report by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), there are over 980,000 refugees and asylum-seekers from Myanmar in neighboring countries, mainly in Bangladesh. Moreover, the total number of internally displaced people (IDPs) within the country recently surpassed 1.1 million — 769,000 of whom have been internally displaced since February 2021.
According to Secretary Blinken, the funds will continue enabling the provision of food, safe drinking water, health care, protection, education, shelter, and psychosocial support for Rohingya refugees. The total assistance of the United States in response to the Rohingya refugee crisis has reached nearly $1.9 billion since August 2017. In Fiscal Year 2022, the U.S. has thus far resettled 1,498 refugees from Myanmar.
USCIS Announces Third Phase of Premium Processing for Certain Employment-Based Green Card Petitions
On September 15, U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced the third phase of premium processing for petitioners who have a pending green card petition under the EB-1 and EB-2 classifications. Premium processing provides — for an additional fee — expedited processing for certain categories of applicants by guaranteeing some adjudicative action on the case within 15 to 45 calendar days.
This phase only applies to applicants who have already filed Form I-140 under an E13 multinational executive and manager classification or E21 classification as a member of professions with advanced degrees or exceptional ability seeking a national interest waiver. The agency announced that petitioners who wish to request a premium processing upgrade must file a Request for Premium Processing Service (Form I-907).
In the announcement, USCIS highlighted that the expansion of premium processing is part of the agency’s efforts to increase efficiency and reduce burdens to the overall legal immigration system.
Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General (DHS-OIG); “U.S. Border Patrol Screened Migrants at the Southwest Border but Could Strengthen Processes;” September 19, 2022
This OIG report highlights that although U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) followed its screening procedures to prevent migrants with serious criminal backgrounds from entering the United States, CBP did not always assign alien registration numbers (A-numbers) for all arrivals, which is necessary to create files for arriving immigrants that document their immigration history and include biographic and biometric data. In addition, the report notes that CBP does not always properly maintain migrants’ files and some of those files are either lost or mistakenly disposed of.
Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General (DHS-OIG); “ICE and CBP Should Improve Visa Security Program Screening and Vetting Operations;” September 16, 2022
This OIG report identifies issues involving the Visa Security Program (VSP) processes and systems. The report highlights that although U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) use a screening system that compares 36 data points in each application, CBP does not keep detailed records of this screening. As a result, it is not possible to verify if CBP fully screens every application. The report also notes that some analysts do not sufficiently support their conclusions in the applications that they review. Finally, the report also notes that CBP has failed to track the costs associated with the VSP.
SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES
The fact sheet explains what health care benefits undocumented immigrants are eligible for and how much federal and state governments spend on these benefits. The fact sheet highlights that undocumented immigrants — who have limited access to the U.S. healthcare system — consume only a small fraction of total health expenditures, contributing far more through federal, state, and local taxes.
In recent weeks, stories of governors from states on the U.S. southern border transporting migrants by bus or plane to other states has dominated the news. This explainer compiles some answers to some of the most frequently asked questions to help you better understand the nuance and context behind these news stories.
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.
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*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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.