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Legislative Bulletin — Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Welcome to the National Immigration Forum’s weekly bulletin! Every Friday (or in this case, Wednesday), 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

A note: we’re sending out the bulletin early this week because of the Thanksgiving holiday, but we’ll return to our regular Friday schedule next week!

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. 

State and Local 

Texas Passes Controversial Legislation to Create State-Level Crimes for Irregular Border Crossings 

On November 14, the Texas House of Representatives passed bills that would create state-level crimes for irregular border crossings, allow state magistrates or judges to order migrants to leave the United States, and appropriate an additional $1.54 billion for immigrant policing and the construction of more state-funded border barriers.

Senate Bills 3 and 4 represent a ratcheting up of Texas’s already aggressive border enforcement tactics under Operation Lone Star, which despite massive financial investments has shown little sign of effectively deterring cross-border migration from Mexico. 

SB 3 now returns to the Texas Senate, where state lawmakers must decide whether to sign off on an amended version of the bill that lets local officials access some of the more than $1.5 billion in immigration-focused funding to enforce the new state charges in SB 4. 

SB 4, meanwhile, heads to Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) desk for signature. A group of 30 former immigration judges, who were appointed and served under both Republican and Democratic administrations, have said the bill is unlawful because “immigration is plainly a federal function.” 

Likewise, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas called the legislation “anti-immigrant” and warned that it could lead to significant racial profiling of Latinos, who comprise over 40% of Texas’s population. The civil rights organization and the League of United Latin American Citizens have both said they intend to sue. 

Meanwhile, on November 15, Mexico’s Foreign Ministry said that the Mexican government “categorically rejects” Texas’s measures, raising serious questions about how the Texas government intends to enforce provisions that would require migrants to return abroad — presumably to Mexico. 

Still, Gov. Abbott is expected to sign the bill, and on Sunday, he publicly endorsed former president Donald Trump in the 2024 presidential election. Abbott specifically cited what he perceives as President Joe Biden’s laxity on immigration as a key reason for the endorsement. 

Democratic-Led Cities and States Set Shelter Limits, Buy Tickets for Migrants to Go Elsewhere 

Earlier this month, Massachusetts officially reached its maximum capacity of 7,500 families in emergency shelters, many of them migrants drawn to the state in part because of its unique right-to-shelter law. 

Massachusetts is not alone – Democratic-led cities and states across the nation have said their finite resources are now tapped out, and some have started purchasing bus tickets or plane rides for migrants so they can quickly move elsewhere.

Denver has used at least $4.3 million to send migrants to other parts of the U.S. — adding to the already large number of newcomers in cities such as New York and Chicago — in hopes of freeing up shelter beds at home. 

Meanwhile, in New York, migrant families were ushered to Floyd Bennett Field in a remote part of Brooklyn, far from public transit, schools, and work. Many chose not to stay, despite the makeshift shelter being their only option left for a warm bed in the city. 

Federal

House Avoids Mayorkas Impeachment For Now

On November 13, in a 209-201 vote, the House of Representatives decided against rushing an attempt to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and instead sent the relevant resolution to the Homeland Security Committee, where an impeachment inquiry is already in progress. 

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R- Georgia) led the effort to impeach Mayorkas through a forced vote on the House floor. But eight Republicans joined all House Democrats to sidestep Greene’s resolution for now, while retaining the possibility of committee consideration.  

Days later, Mayorkas appeared before the House Homeland Security Committee, where he was predictably questioned on the situation at the border.

In a departure from past impeachments, the attempt to oust Mayorkas hinges not on grave misconduct, but instead on disapproval of his administration’s policies at the southern border. Greene’s resolution alludes to newcomers arriving in the U.S. as an “invasion” in a nod to the xenophobic great replacement theory, which contends migrants of color will “replace” white people in countries like the U.S.  

Even amid such concerning rhetoric, the once fringe idea of impeaching Mayorkas has picked up prominent GOP backers in recent days, including Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minnesota) and Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas). 

Senate Debates Deal Trading Border Policy for Ukraine Aid

A bipartisan group of senators is working through the Thanksgiving break to try to negotiate a deal trading border policy changes for aid to Ukraine in its war against Russian invasion, the Washington Post reported. 

“I’m told that whereas over the weekend things looked very bleak, there are new signs of life today,”  Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said last week. 

Republicans are threatening to block aid to Ukraine unless the funding is paired with border security policy changes. Over the weekend, both Democratic and Republican senators confessed to their foreign allies at the Halifax International Security Forum that assistance for Ukraine would only come if Congress can reach a deal on the U.S.-Mexico border. 

Bipartisan groups of lawmakers have tried to strike a deal on immigration and border security for years now. Those efforts have ultimately failed. But the growing sense of urgency to pass aid for Ukraine and Israel is adding pressure to reach a compromise.

Many of the initial requests Republicans made on border and immigration policy would involve lasting changes to U.S. law by restricting asylum and hampering the executive branch’s parole authority.

 “We’ve got to be prepared to say: ‘Before we get to Israel, before we get to Ukraine, we’re going to have a discussion about [the border],’” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina). “We can hold up that spending bill.”

In the meantime, Congress averted a government shutdown by passing a laddered continuing resolution last week. Funding for certain programs will expire on January 19, while the rest of the government will be funded through February 2.

Biden, López Obrador Recommit to Border Cooperation as Venezuelan Border Crossings Decline Amid Deportations 

On November 17, President Joe Biden and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador were complimentary of one another as they recommitted to addressing fentanyl trafficking and migration to the United States by working together. 

The presidents’ comments came amid increasing pressure on the Biden administration to rein in migration along the U.S.-Mexico border, as people from around the world arrive in search of safety and opportunity. 

In October, Border Patrol documented 188,778 migrant encounters between ports of entry at the southern border, down 14% from the month before. Venezuelans saw a particularly dramatic dip in apprehensions, after the Biden administration announced it would begin deporting them directly to Venezuela. 

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 is expected to be in session from Monday, November 27 through Friday, December 1, 2023.

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to be in session from Tuesday, November 28 through Friday, December 1, 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 yet for the week of November 27. 

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); Major Management and Performance Challenges Facing the Department of Homeland Security; Published November 3, 2023

This report details “the most serious management and performance challenges facing the Department of Homeland Security,” including transparency, accountability, efficiency, and sustainability. 

U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO); Department of Homeland Security: Reporting on Border Security Metrics Could Be Improved; Published November 13, 2023

This study analyzes the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) 2021 Border Security Metrics Report and finds that the department “may be missing opportunities to fully report the metrics and improve the usefulness of the report.”

DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG); Independent Auditors’ Report on the Department of Homeland Security’s Consolidated Financial Statements for FYs 2023 and 2022 and Internal Control over Financial Reporting; Published November 14, 2023

This audit of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) consolidated financial statements for the past two fiscal years — conducted by accounting firm KPMG LLP — uncovered “significant deficiencies in internal control” and “noncompliance” with two laws and regulations.

DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG); Results of Unannounced Inspections of CBP Holding Facilities in the San Diego Area; Published November 15, 2023

This report explains the findings from unannounced inspections of four Border Patrol facilities and one Office of Field Operations port of entry in the San Diego area during May 2023. 

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: 

American Dream Employment Act: Bill Summary

This bill summary explores the American Dream Employment Act of 2023, which would allow Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) recipients to work in the U.S. Congress.

Explainer: What Are Safe Mobility Offices?

Read this explainer for information about what we know so far on how SMOs are being implemented in Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Colombia, and who may qualify to participate. 

The Reasons Behind the Increased Migration from Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua

This paper explores the reasons behind the increased migration from Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua. While irregular migration from these three countries ruled by autocratic governments is not new, the situation has worsened in recent years. Commonalities include domestic political crises, weakening economies, Covid-19, natural disasters, and strict U.S.-led economic sanctions. Facing precarious conditions and the threat of political persecution, a growing number of people from these nations have opted to seek safety in the United States.

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*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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