Legislative Bulletin — Thursday, November 11, 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. 3134

Keep Food Local and Affordable Act of 2021

The bill would implement a temporary stay on the H-2A Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR) in states with unemployment rates at no higher than 5 percent. It would also allow Governors of states with demonstrated food price increases of more than 3 percent in the past 12 months to request their state’s AEWR to stay at its 2021 rate. The AEWR informs the rate of pay received by temporary agricultural workers through the H-2A program.

Sponsored by Senator Thomas Tillis (R-North Carolina) (0 cosponsors)

11/02/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Tillis

11/02/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 3136

Stop Foreign Interference in Ballot Measures Act

The bill would prevent non-U.S. citizens from donating money to fund ballot initiatives and referendums.

Sponsored by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) (0 cosponsors)

11/02/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Gillibrand

11/02/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration

S. 3146

WALL Act of 2021

The bill would appropriate $25 billion for the continued construction of border barriers at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Sponsored by Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) (6 cosponsors— 6 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

11/03/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Inhofe

11/03/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on Finance

S. 3154

Prohibiting Taxpayer Funded Settlements for Illegal Immigrants Act

The bill would block the attorney general from making any settlement payments to undocumented immigrants that were victims of family separations while in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detention.

Sponsored by Senator Steve Daines (R-Montana) (28 cosponsors— 28 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

11/03/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Daines

11/03/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

S. 3160

Border Accountability, Oversight, and Community Engagement Act

The bill would establish a commission within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) comprised of representatives from northern and southern border states to develop policy recommendations, evaluate policies, and improve agent and officer safety. It would also establish the DHS Office of the Ombudsman dedicated to investigating complaints, identifying systemic issues, and providing recommendations to improve border and immigration activities. The bill would also create a border liaison office within U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and mandate certain training and education for CBP officers and agents, such as community policing practices, lawful use of force and de-escalation tactics, and history and ethics of asylum law.

Sponsored by Senator Ben Lujan (D-New Mexico) (5 cosponsors— 5 Democrats, 0 Republicans)

11/03/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Lujan

11/03/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

S. 3182

Safe Shelters Act of 2021

The bill would require facilities seeking a shelter grant from the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) — an office within HHS that is responsible for the care and placement of unaccompanied children — to be licensed by the state they are operating in. It would also require grant applicants to disclose any adverse actions taken against them by a federal, state, or local government. Additionally, the bill would require HHS to do its due diligence and collaborate with the appropriate state agencies and search respective state databases for any derogatory information concerning the applicant seeking an HHS grant. This is a companion bill of H.R. 5882.

Sponsored by Senator Thomas Carper (D-Deleware) (2 cosponsors— 2 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

11/04/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Carper

11/04/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

S.

Veteran Deportation Prevention and Reform Act

The bill would establish the Military Family Immigration Advisory Committee (MFIAC), which would make recommendations on whether deportable noncitizen veterans or their family  should be granted a stay of removal, deferred action, parole, or be removed from the country. It would also direct DHS to determine whether an individual in removal proceedings is a member of the armed forces, a veteran, or a covered family member – and if so, to transfer their case materials to the MFIAC. The bill would also require DHS to establish a program and application for veterans and their families who were removed from the United States to be admitted back into the country as lawful permanent residents.

Sponsored by Senator Alex Padilla (D-California) (10 cosponsors— 9 Democrats, 1 Independent)

11/10/2021 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Padilla

11/10/2021 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

H.R. 5895

To prohibit payments from the Judgment Fund to aliens who are not lawful permanent residents

Sponsored by Representative Eric Crawford (R-Arkansas) (10 cosponsors— 10 Republicans, 0 Democrats)

11/05/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Crawford

11/05/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate will be in session the week of November 15, 2021.

The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Monday, November 15, through Thursday, November 18, 2021.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

Oversight of the Department of Homeland Security

Date: Tuesday, November 16, 2021, at 10:00 am E.T. (Senate Committee on the Judiciary)

Location: 106 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C.

Witness: The Honorable Alejandro N. Mayorkas, Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Federal Government Perspective: Improving Security, Trade, and Travel at the Southwest Border Ports of Entry

Date: Wednesday, November 17, 2021, at 2:30 pm E.T. (Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs)

Location: 342/VTC Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C.

Witnesses:

Diane Sabatino, Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner, Office of Field Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Joe Jeronimo, Deputy Assistant Director, Transnational Organized Crime Division, Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Stuart Burns, Assistant Commissioner, Public Buildings Service, Portfolio Management and Customer Engagement, General Services Administration

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

Congress Approves Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill; Reconciliation Bill with Immigration Provisions still Pending

On November 5, Congress passed a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill after a 228 – 206 vote in the House of Representatives. Democrats initially hoped to approve the infrastructure bill along with a separate, $1.75 trillion budget reconciliation bill that represents President Biden’s Build Back Better (BBB) agenda and aims to reform the nation’s health care, education, climate, tax, and immigration laws. However, despite negotiations progressing on the BBB platform, some moderate Democrats were unwilling to support the reconciliation bill before the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) releases estimates of the total cost of implementation.

Budget reconciliation is a process that allows Democrats to bypass a potential Republican filibuster in the Senate and pass budget-related legislation with a simple majority. Democrats, however, must be careful when writing the legislative text, as according to the rules of the reconciliation process, all provisions must be budget-related. A determination of whether planned immigration reforms can be included falls on the Senate Parliamentarian, who is the chamber’s nonpartisan rules referee. The Parliamentarian has previously ruled against the inclusion of a path to citizenship in reconciliation efforts.

In spite of the Parliamentarian’s ruling, House Democrats initially still intended to include a pathway to citizenship in their version of the BBB package. However, on the week of November 1, a group of moderate Democrats refused to vote for a bill that included provisions that had already been overturned by the Parliamentarian. The current platform instead includes an effort to offer parole — or temporary protection from deportation and work authorization — to undocumented individuals who have been in the U.S. since 2010. Senate Democrats are preparing to propose this “plan C” of parole before the Parliamentarian.

The current platform also includes provisions to address the green card backlog by recapturing past unused visas, but the Parliamentarian has not yet ruled on these proposals either. The CBO is expected to return cost estimates for the entire package by the week of November 15, at which point the bill will be brought to the House floor. Even should the reconciliation pass the House, it would likely require further changes to get through the Senate. On November 4, Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) said that, “for us to even be talking about immigration without border security is ludicrous.”

U.S. Admits Just 401 Refugees in October as Administration Continues to Focus on Resettling Afghan Evacuees

On November 8, the Biden Administration released refugee resettlement data for the month of October.  The U.S. resettled just 401 refugees in the first month of the new fiscal year, a steep drop from 3,774 in September. The resettlement pace set in October would lead to a total refuge resettlement number that would be far behind the 125,000 refugee ceiling announced by President Biden in September. The steep decline in October may be partially a result of Biden failing to sign the official presidential determination on the refugee admissions ceiling until October 8, thereby delaying resettlement. Additionally, a focus on resettling tens of thousands of Afghan parolees from U.S. military bases may also be contributing to the low totals.

The October resettlement data also reveals just 312 Special Immigrant Visas were granted to Afghans in October, a slight increase from the 296 in September but still far below the peaks in the summer when the administration was granted over 3,000 SIVs a month. Those still in Afghanistan are unable to continue their applications and while many of those evacuated under parole are reportedly eligible for SIVs, very few have been able to complete their applications from within the U.S. Without official SIV or refugee status, evacuated Afghans remain on temporary parole and lack a clear path to permanent residence.

Report: October Border Data Reveals Decline in Encounters

According to a November 11 Washington Post report, leaked data from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) show that about 160,000 border-crossers were encountered by CBP in October. The number represents a significant drop from 192,000 reported in September, and if confirmed would represent the third consecutive month that border arrests have declined. According to the report, the decline was partially driven by a steep drop in Haitians encountered at the border, falling from over 17,000 in September to approximately 1,000 in October.

The decline in overall encounters may also have been driven by a multi-month drop in arrivals from countries that tend to drive unauthorized migration at the border, including Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras. However, the Washington Post report noted that October did see an increase in crossing from migrants from Venezuela.

Biden Administration to Mail Court Documents to Migrants Released at the Border

On November 8, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) launched Operation Horizon, an effort to send court documents to 78,000 immigrants who had entered the country between ports of entry. Due to an increase in border encounters in early 2021, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers were not always able to issue traditional notices to appear (NTAs), which provide migrants instructions to report to an immigration judge and begin their immigration court proceedings. While initially the administration planned for these migrants to instead report to ICE to begin their court cases, the strategy led to long backlogs at ICE offices and the agency has decided to instead mail out the NTAs to migrants for whom an address is on record.

The majority of all migrants who arrived at the border — including many asylum seekers — were immediately returned or deported under a protocol called Title 42. Unaccompanied children were taken to the Department of Health and Human Services, processed, and eventually passed on to family members in the U.S. Others (mostly families, and accounting for fewer than 10% of all crossers) were processed by CBP and then released either with documents called Notices to Report (NTRs) or on parole with an alternative to detention (ATD) like an ankle monitor.

ICE asserts that Operation Horizon will help it commence “removal proceedings in a timely way” for the migrants with NTRs or on an ATD. Immigrant advocates, however, worry that many of these notices will not reach their intended recipients due to clerical errors, incorrect addresses, or migrants moving location before the deportation notice arrives. If migrants do not show up to their scheduled court date with an immigration judge, they could be ruled deportable “in absentia.”

Biden Administration Waives Fees and Streamlines Benefits Processes for Afghan Evacuees

On November 8, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it would waive filing fees and streamline the processing of work authorization and green cards for Afghan nationals paroled into the United States for humanitarian reasons after the U.S. military withdrawal. The policy aims to facilitate the resettlement of at least 70,000 Afghans who have arrived in the United States as part of Operation Allies Welcome. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said, “these actions demonstrate our ongoing commitment to Afghan nationals who provided valuable assistance to the United States over the past two decades.”

The administration did not waive fees for Afghans applying for immigration benefits like parole from outside of the country.

On November 10, Reuters reported among those evacuated from Afghanistan to the U.S. are 1,300 unaccompanied children who arrived without their parents. Many of the children have been placed with relatives in the U.S., but more than 250 remain in government shelters or foster care. According to two U.S. officials, the Biden administration is speeding up the entry process for parents in Afghanistan whose children are already in the U.S.

U.S. Officially Reopens Borders to Vaccinated International Travelers 

On November 8, the United States officially reopened its borders to vaccinated international travelers, allowing families and friends to reunite and tourists to visit the country on “non-essential” trips. For more than 18 months, the travel restrictions barred non-citizens from 33 countries from entering the United States for non-essential purposes. Additionally, non-essential land and ferry entry from Canada and Mexico were also restricted, but have now lifted.

Border communities and border travel and tourism businesses are set to rebound after taking a  significant economic hit during the prolonged border closure.

DHS Provides H-2A and H-2B Visa Program Eligibility to Six Additional Countries

On November 9, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) added six new countries to the list of those whose nationals are eligible to participate in the H-2A and H-2B seasonal guestworker visa programs in the coming year. The list of 85 countries now includes Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Mauritius, and Saint Lucia. In the announcement, DHS removed Moldova’s eligibility for the H-2A program, which remains effective until January 18, 2022.

The H-2A program allows U.S. employers to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural jobs. The H-2B, on the other hand, permits employers to hire nonimmigrants to perform temporary nonagricultural services in the United States.

4,400 People Become U.S. Citizens amid Veterans Day Celebrations 

On November 11, amid Veterans Day festivities, more than 4,400 members of the military and their families became U.S. citizens in 90 ceremonies across the country. In preparation for the ceremonies, USCIS Director Ur Jaddou said that “USCIS is committed to serving the U.S. military community by making sure they have meaningful and efficient access to the immigration benefits they or their families may be entitled to.”

Within the last year, USCIS has enacted policy initiatives to facilitate the naturalization process for current and former U.S. service members and their families. These initiatives include virtual naturalization oath ceremonies for eligible military members stationed overseas and updates of the military naturalization policy manuals.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

There were no immigration-related government reports from federal agencies released the week of Monday, November 8, 2021.

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: Unused Green Card Recapture

This fact sheet explains green card recapture. Every year, the U.S. sets aside a specific number of available green cards for individuals from all around the world. However, over the years, various administrative complications have left hundreds of thousands of green cards unissued. Green card recapture would “recapture” a number of these unused green cards accumulated over the years, relieving the backlog and promoting economic growth.

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.

* * *

*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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