Legislative Bulletin – Thursday, July 2, 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

S. 4119

The bill would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to increase penalties for individuals who illegally reenter the United States after being removed.

Sponsored by Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) (0 cosponsors)

07/01/2020 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Cruz

07/01/2020 Read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives will be on recess the week of Monday, July 6, 2020.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

There are no immigration related hearings or markups in the U.S. Senate or the U.S. House of Representatives.

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

Families, Workers, Businesses Impacted by Proclamation Suspending Immigration

The Trump administration’s June 22 proclamation suspending certain temporary and permanent categories of immigration has made a widespread impact on thousands of families, foreign workers, and American businesses. The proclamation extended an April ban on certain immigrant categories from abroad and expanded those restrictions to include suspensions on issuances of visas to certain temporary workers and their families. According to multiple reports, thousands have been either separated from close family members or stuck abroad  themselves as a result of the proclamation, including many who were in the midst of temporary trips outside of the country to attend to events such as weddings or family emergencies.

Panic and confusion ensued among families regarding whether individuals who were seeking to renew valid visas after traveling abroad would be eligible to return to the U.S. under the proclamation. While the proclamation text did not refer to visa renewals, in one Twitter thread, the State Department wrote that “those whose visas expire and apply for a renewal are subject to the proclamation.” As of July 1, these State Department Twitter threads remain the only public guidance provided by the administration on the proclamation.

In addition to the separation of families, the proclamation has also had an immediate impact on foreign workers and their U.S. employers. Tens of thousands of H-1B high skilled specialty occupation workers and H-2B nonagricultural workers who have already been matched with employers in need will be unable to enter the country and work this fall.

The President wrote in the June 22 proclamation that suspending immigration would help American workers during the economic recovery, but this claim has been disputed by lawmakers and economic experts. On July 1, Gallup released a poll noting that Americans’ support for increased immigration levels has increased over the past year, with 77% saying that immigration is good for the country.

Loss of Revenue Leads USCIS to Issue Furlough Notices

Beginning on June 26, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) sent furlough notices to more than 13,000 employees. The furloughs would be effective starting August 3 and could last for one to three months if supplemental Congressional funding is not secured before then. USCIS Deputy Director for Policy Joseph Edlow said in a statement that the cause of the furloughs was a “crippling budget shortfall,” which would “require assistance from Congress.” The agency has said it is asking Congress for $1.2 billion in emergency supplemental funding to help offset losses and prevent the need for the temporary layoffs. However, even as the majority of the agency’s workforce has now received furlough notices, the Trump administration has yet to make a formal request to Congress for the funds.

The impending furloughs would restrict the agency’s ability to conduct many of its services and would likely result in considerable processing delays. For example, DACA recipients seeking to renew their work authorization after the recent Supreme Court decision may be no longer able to do so in a timely manner, and the recent agency efforts to work through the large backlog of naturalization ceremonies would likely be curtailed.

Legislators have discussed the possibility of including emergency assistance for USCIS in a fourth coronavirus bill, but progress remains limited without a formal request for a specific amount of funding from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Senator Pat Leahy (D-Vermont) sent a letter to the OMB stating that a request for emergency funding is necessary before Congress can “craft a fair and responsible solution to this problem.”

USCIS officials have said that the budget crisis is due to a drastic decline in green card and other visa applications since the COVID-19 pandemic began. These declines were largely due to Trump administration travel and immigration restrictions implemented during the pandemic. Critics have argued that the pandemic only exacerbated problems that already existed due to mismanagement of the fee-funded agency.

First COVID-19 Cases Confirmed Among Asylum Seekers in Camp on U.S.-Mexico Border  

On June 29, the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Matamoros, the largest migrant encampment along the U.S.-Mexico border. Global Response Management (GRM), a nonprofit providing medical services in the camp, identified the first case and confirmed two others the following day. Matamoros holds as many as 2,000 migrants who have been returned to Mexico under the administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols to wait while their asylum claims are processed.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, public health experts have expressed concerns about the health and safety of migrants returned to these cramped encampments where social distancing is difficult and access to running water and proper sanitation is scarce. GRM has tested 344 migrants and volunteers since the start of the pandemic, with 100 of those tests coming just this week. There are ongoing attempts to isolate those who have tested positive to contain the virus’ spread.

Legal

Judge Orders the Release of Children From Family Immigration Detention Facilities

On June 26, federal judge, Dolly Gee, ruled that all children held for over 20 days in the three ICE family detention facilities must be released by July 17. The judge concluded that the family detention facilities were “on fire” with the coronavirus and that “there is no more time for half measures.” Judge Gee oversees the 1997 Flores settlement agreement, which controls how the federal government must treat detained immigrant children. The judge had issued a series of previous rulings requiring public health reforms to protect the children held in custody and urging ICE to make an effort to parole children during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this most recent ruling, Judge Gee documented “ICE’s incomplete, infrequent, and at times, inaccurate, parole determinations and failure to implement best public health practices.”

Judge Gee does not have jurisdiction over the adults in custody in the family detention facilities, and in her ruling gave ICE the option of either releasing children to sponsors with the consent of their parents or guardians or simply releasing the children together with their families.

It remains to be seen how ICE will respond to the ruling. In the past, the Flores settlement has resulted in the release of children along with their parents into alternatives to detention (ATDs), such as electronic monitoring, while their immigration court cases continue. In recent weeks, ICE has reportedly given parents the “binary choice” of either giving up the Flores rights of their child and remaining in detention indefinitely or agreeing to let their child be separated from them and released to a sponsor or foster care.

The order comes as the COVID-19 pandemic has begun to spread through family detention facilities. Eleven people have tested positive in the facility in Karnes City, Texas, and at least four staff members have tested positive for the virus in the facility in Dilley, Texas. Approximately 124 migrant children live in the three detention facilities.

District Court Judge Strikes the Trump Administration’s Third-Country Asylum Rule

On June 30, a federal district court judge in Washington ruled that the Trump Administration’s third-country asylum rule is invalid because it violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) rule required those who had traveled through another country on the way to the southern border of the U.S. to have first sought asylum in that country in order to be eligible to seek asylum in the U.S. The judge ruled that DHS did not provide appropriate rationale for bypassing the APA’s notice-and-comment requirements when issuing the interim final rule. The judge also denied the government’s request to stay the decision during an appeal.

The decision will result in access to protection to many individuals who were previously ineligible for asylum, including many currently in U.S. immigration detention facilities who had their asylum claims rejected and were rendered removable solely because of the rule. Numerous restrictions on the asylum system remain, however, including a Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rule which has resulted in the summary expulsion of thousands of asylum seekers and unaccompanied children arriving at the border without providing them the opportunity to seek asylum.

As Immigration Courts Reopen, Critics Say It Is Too Soon

After a months-long closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic that suspended most in-person immigration proceedings across the U.S., Boston’s immigration court reopened on June 29. The court, which had postponed all “non-detained” hearings since March 18, began hearing the cases of some migrants who are not being held in detention. If these individuals fail to appear in court, even for COVID-19 related reasons, they risk being charged in absentia and scheduled for deportation. The Boston court is one of seven immigration courts across the country that the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) has decided to reopen for some non-detained hearings in recent weeks.

Immigration attorneys, judges, and officials have voiced concern that the decision by EOIR to reopen the courts is “premature” and may endanger public health. In a letter sent to EOIR director James McHenry, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) expressed concern over the lack of provided guidance on public health measures included in the reopening announcement, and criticized the lack of transparency provided by EOIR on what criteria is being used to determine which courts are safe to open.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

Congressional Research Service (CRS); Immigration Legislation and Issues in the 116th Congress; June 19, 2020

This report provides an overview of the immigration-related issues that have received legislative action in the 116th Congress. Issues covered include border security, immigration enforcement, legalization programs, temporary and permanent immigration reforms, and humanitarian admissions. Some of these measures were incorporated into larger appropriations and defense authorization bills, others are standalone policies. Multiple bills have been brought to committee or to the floor but did not pass both chambers.

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

Questions Remain Following Family Detention Ruling

This press statement examines the potential actions ICE may take in response to the recent court order that ICE must release children held in family detention facilities. It notes that alternatives to detention (ATDs) are a practical and effective option for immigration authorities that would help keep families together. It also provides additional resources on ATDs and the cost of immigration detention.

Fact Sheet: Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs)

This resource explains what ITINs are and how they are used by some noncitizens to pay taxes. It also describes how many people use ITINs and how much money they pay in taxes, and discusses the financial assistance to individuals in the CARES Act which exclude ITIN filers.

The DACA Decision and Beyond: BBB Webinar

In this resource, Bibles, Badges and Business (BBB) leaders host a webinar to delve into the recent Supreme Court decision on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). They discuss what the ruling means and what could come next for DACA recipients.

* * *

*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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