Legislative Bulletin — Friday, September 24, 2021

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. 2795

A bill to require the Secretary of Homeland Security to use alternatives to detention for certain vulnerable immigrant populations

Sponsored by Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada) (4 cosponsors— 4 Democrats, 0 Republicans)

09/22/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Cortez Masto

09/22/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 2828

Preserving Employment Visas Act

The bill would authorize U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to process employment-based immigrant visa applications after September 30, 2021, and to award such visas to eligible applicants from the pool of unused employment-based immigrant visas during fiscal years 2020 and 2021.

Sponsored by Senator Thomas Tillis (R-North Carolina) (2 cosponsors— 2 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

09/23/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Tillis

09/23/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 4350

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022

The bill would appropriate funding for the national defense priorities for Fiscal Year (FY) 2022, including the transportation of Afghan special immigrant visa (SIV) candidates and other threatened Afghan partners outside of Afghanistan for visa processing.

Sponsored by Representative Adam Smith (D-Washington) (1 cosponsor— 1 Republican, 0 Democrats))

07/02/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Reed

07/02/2021 Referred to the House Committee on Armed Services

09/23/2021 The bill passed after a 316-113 vote.

09/22/2021 At least the following five immigration-related amendments were filed:

Amdt. 426, sponsored by Representative Kathy Manning (D-North Carolina) to mandate the Secretary of Defense to appoint an official to help oversee continued evacuations of Americans and Afghan partners from Afghanistan. The amendment did not pass.

Amdt. 504, sponsored by Representative Crow (D-Colorado) to increase the SIV cap by 10,000 and clarify that those employed under cooperative agreements and grants are eligible for the Afghan SIV program. The amendment was agreed after a voice vote.

Amdt. 620, sponsored by Representative Mark Green (R-Tennessee) to direct the Department of Defense to maintain and report to Congress an accounting of the number of American Citizens evacuated from Hamid Karzai International Airport. The amendment did not pass.

Amdt. 671, sponsored by Representative Slotkin (D-Michigan) to require the Secretary of State to develop a strategy to safely process Afghans abroad with pending SIV applications and refugee referrals. The amendment did not pass.

Amdt. 769, sponsored by Representative Correa (D-California) to establish an Afghan Refuge Special Envoy position. The amendment was agreed after a voice vote.

H.R. 5294

Make the Migrant Protection Protocols Mandatory Act of 2021

The bill would require the Department of Homeland Security to re-implement the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), a Trump-era policy that required certain asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their claims were processed and heard in the U.S. This is a companion bill of S. 1582.

Sponsored by Representative Roger Williams (R-Texas) (5 cosponsors— 5 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

09/20/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Williams

09/20/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 5305

Extending Government Funding and Delivering Emergency Assistance

The bill would extend government funding through December 3. Concerning the evacuation of Afghan allies, the bill would allocate $6.3 billion in emergency assistance to help resettle Afghan refugees in the United States. In addition to funding, the bill would provide Afghan parolees access to benefits given to refugees and SIV holders, and it would expedite asylum adjudications for parolees without other paths to legal status. The bill would also direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to submit to Congress a report on the status of Afghan evacuees.

Sponsored by Representative Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Connecticut) (0 cosponsors)

09/21/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative DeLauro

09/21/2021 Referred to the House Committees on Appropriations, Budget, and Ways and Means

09/21/2021 Resolution agreed to in the House of Representatives by a 220-211 vote.

H.R. 5319

Reduce Financial Barriers to Immigration and Citizenship Act

The bill would waive fees for the naturalization application for all eligible immigrants, including essential workers. It would also codify existing fee waivers issued administratively by USCIS. Finally, the bill would authorize funding to offset USCIS operations and tackle the case backlog.

Sponsored by Representative Norma J. Torres (D-California) (16 cosponsors— 16 Democrats, 0 Republicans)

09/21/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Torres

09/21/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives will be in session the week of September 27, 2021.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

Hearing to receive testimony on the conclusion of military operations in Afghanistan

Date:  Wednesday, September 29, 2021, at 9:30 am E.T. (Senate Committee on Armed Services)

Location: G50 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C.

Witnesses:

Honorable Lloyd Austin III, U.S. Secretary of Defense

General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

General Kenneth McKenzie, Commander, United States Central Command

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

Senate Parliamentarian Rules Against Immigration Provisions in Budget Reconciliation Bill

On September 19, the Senate Parliamentarian ruled against the inclusion of immigration provisions in the budget reconciliation bill. She was asked to determine whether providing legal permanent residence to certain immigrants was primarily budget-related and therefore germane to the reconciliation process. While the Parliamentarian recognized the fiscal benefits of providing a pathway to citizenship to almost eight million people in the United States, she argued that the proposed policy changes “far outweigh the budgetary impact scored to it.” Hence, she ruled that the proposal is not appropriate for inclusion in reconciliation.

Budget reconciliation is a process that allows Senate Democrats to bypass a potential Republican filibuster and pass budget-related legislation with a simple majority. In negotiations on a reconciliation package in the House of Representatives, Democrats agreed to incorporate significant immigration reforms, including a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, and essential workers. The House immigration reform package also included provisions to address the green card backlog. After the Parliamentarian’s ruling barring the legalization provisions (she has not yet considered the green card items), Democrats must turn to alternative pathways to pass immigration reforms. These could include additional proposals to the Parliamentarian that might pass muster or attempts to restart bipartisan negotiations over legislation that would not require reconciliation to pass.

Senate Democrats are reportedly already considering alternative proposals to put before the Parliamentarian. These might include updating the registry date, a provision of immigration law that allows individuals to apply for lawful permanent status provided they entered the U.S. before a particular date. Another proposal under consideration is to change the statutory deadline of a provision of immigration law that allows certain unauthorized immigrants who are ineligible for status to apply for lawful permanent residence.

Senate Republicans praised the Parliamentarian’s decision and called for a return to bipartisan immigration negotiations. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), said that “the parliamentarian’s guidance reinforces long-held traditions of the Senate that major policy changes should be done collaboratively and not through the reconciliation process.” Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) tweeted, “let’s try some bipartisan immigration reform,” in response to the news.

Congressional Democrats face additional challenges beyond the Parliamentarian in getting their reconciliation package passed into law. Moderate Democratic lawmakers have warned that if the House does not turn to the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill by September 27, they will refuse to support any reconciliation proposal. September 27 is the deadline that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi set as a compromise with nine moderate Democrats, who argued that the House should have first considered the bipartisan infrastructure bill before dealing with the more partisan reconciliation effort.

Biden Administration Deports Haitian Migrants, Clears Out South Texas Encampment

According to a September 24 report, there are no longer any migrants in a makeshift migrant encampment in Del Rio, Texas, which had at times sheltered over 14,000 mostly Haitian migrants in the preceding weeks. According to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Mayorkas, 7,000 migrants have either already been deported to Haiti or are in rapid deportation (“Title 42”) proceedings, 8,000 returned to Mexico voluntarily, and 12,400 were placed in normal deporation proceedings and allowed to stay in the U.S. as their immigration court cases proceed.

After hearing of a new smuggling route from Southern Mexico to Del Rio via word of mouth and social media, thousands of migrants — many originally from Haiti — crossed into Del Rio during the week following September 17. Del Rio is typically a low-traffic border area, and the Biden administration was unable to quickly process the large number of arriving migrants, all of whom were eager to turn themselves in with the hopes of receiving asylum or other status in the U.S. The large migrant encampment quickly formed underneath the local international bridge as temperatures climbed and the humanitarian situation deteriorated.

The administration surged resources and enforcement personnel to the area, and Secretary Mayorkas warned that “if you come to the United States illegally, you will be returned. Your journey will not succeed, and you will be endangering your life and your family’s lives.” On September 20, images and video emerged of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents on horseback, appearing to use their reins as whips and charging Haitian migrants as they attempted to cross into the Del Rio encampment. The images sparked outrage from advocates and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. The White House condemned the actions, suspended the use of CBP horse patrols, and initiated further investigation into the incidents.

The White House also ramped up deportation flights to Port-au-Prince, with numerous flights leaving daily. On September 23, the U.S. special envoy to Haiti resigned in protest of what he called “inhumane” deportations to a country that has been in turmoil after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake and the recent assassination of its President. The rapid deportations and treatment of Haitian migrants at the border also attracted international attention. The United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR, and the United Nations Office of Human Rights expressed their concern over the summary, mass expulsions of Haitians without screening for protection needs. Both agencies argued that the deportations are inconsistent with international norms and may constitute refoulement.

House of Representatives Approves Funding for Afghan Resettlement

On September 21, the House of Representatives, on a 220-211 party-line vote, passed $6.3 billion in funding to assist the already ongoing Afghan resettlement effort in the U.S. The legislation also included provisions allowing Afghan parolees to receive refugee benefits and to receive expedited adjudication of their asylum claims. The provisions were placed within a larger $28.6 billion continuing resolution to continue to fund the federal government past the end of the fiscal year on September 30 and through December 3. While the resolution has passed the House, it now faces an uphill battle in the Senate. Republicans are objecting to the inclusion of a debt limit increase in the legislation. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) proposed a separate continuing resolution without a debt limit increase that otherwise tracks closely with the House version and includes many of the same provisions for Afghan evacuees.

Despite the high likelihood that the continuing resolution will not pass the Senate in its current form, resettlement and refugee assistance organizations continue to assist thousands of Afghans who have already arrived in the U.S. or who remain stuck in Afghanistan or third countries. Even with the groundswell of grass-roots support, especially among religious organizations, it remains unlikely there will be enough resources to comfortably resettle these evacuees without congressional support.

Biden Administration Raises Refugee Ceiling to 125,000 for Fiscal Year 2022

On September 20, the Biden Administration reported to Congress its plan to raise the refugee resettlement ceiling for fiscal year (FY) 2022 from 62,500 to 125,000. In May, President Biden had already raised the refugee ceiling for FY 2021 from the Trump-era cap of 15,000 to 62,500. However, the U.S. has only admitted 7,637 refugees for resettlement this fiscal year and is on track to resettle a historic low of just 8,331 refugees with one month to go. In FY 2020, the Trump Administration resettled 11,814 refugees, a number that now appears unreachable for FY 2021.

The new 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.

Refugee advocates, faith leaders, and national security leaders all celebrated the decision, but called for the administration to work to ensure that the ceiling is met by bolstering the refugee backlog and streamlining the required vetting and screening protocols.

In the report to Congress, the administration also included plans for a new category of refugee admissions that would rely on a private sponsorship model. The specifics of the new program are not yet clear.

Biden Administration Will Ease Covid-19 Travel Restrictions for Fully Vaccinated International Travelers

On September 20, the Biden Administration announced its plans to lift Covid-19 travel restrictions for fully vaccinated travelers who are able to demonstrate a recent negative Covid-19 test. The travel restriction — which was put in place under the Trump administration to limit the spread of the Covid-19 virus — hindered the entrance of nationals from Europe, China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, and India to the United States for eighteen months. The new policy will take effect in November of this year. However, the new policy will not apply yet to those crossing land borders from Mexico or Canada.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

Department of Homeland Security – Office of the Inspector General (OIG): CBP Targeted Americans Associated with the 2018-2019 Migrant Caravan, September 20, 2021

This report reveals that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) took improper actions against American journalists, attorneys, and supporters of the 2018-2019 migrant caravan. The DHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found that CBP placed lookouts on U.S. citizens suspected of organizing or being associated with the caravan. The OIG also found that in December 2018, a CBP official asked Mexico to deny entry to caravan associates, including 14 U.S. citizens. Finally, the OIG discovered that CBP officials improperly shared sensitive information of U.S. citizens with the Mexican government.

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

Explainer: What’s Happening at the U.S.-Mexico Border

This regularly updated explainer breaks down what is happening at the U.S.-Mexico border, analyzing CBP data on recent apprehensions, describing the impact and use of Title 42 expulsions as well as the treatment of arriving UACs, and providing additional context on reports of increased migration to the U.S. and releases of migrant families into the interior. The explainer also includes a Facebook live discussion covering recent developments at the border.

Fact Sheet: Pathways to Protection for Afghans at Risk

This resource provides a comparison between the SIV status, the P2 refugee program, and Humanitarian Parole. It also summarizes the eligibility requirements for each pathway and notes the different application timelines and vetting procedures. The fact sheet also describes what we know about the numbers resettled so far under each pathway and what benefits they receive.

Explainer: Budget Reconciliation and Immigration Reform

This resource explains the elements, rules, and history of the budget reconciliation process. Congressional Democrats are expected to try to use reconciliation to avoid a Senate filibuster and pass immigration reforms with a simple majority.

* * *

*This Bulletin is not intended to be comprehensive. Please contact Arturo Castellanos-Canales, National Immigration Forum 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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