Legislative Bulletin – Friday, April 6, 2018
Policy and Advocacy Associate
April 6, 2018
BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED
There were no immigration-related bills introduced or considered on the week of April 2, 2018.
LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR
The U.S. Senate will be in session the week of Monday, April 9, 2018.
The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Tuesday, April 10, 2018 to Friday, April 13, 2018.
UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS
The Department of Labor’s budget request includes funding for skills and workforce development programs, which help to improve the skills of U.S. workers, including immigrants.
Date: Thursday, April 12, 2018 at 10:00 a.m. (Senate Appropriations Committee)
Location: 124 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Witness: The Honorable R. Alexander Acosta, Secretary, U.S. Department of Labor
Date: Thursday, April 12, 2018 at 2:00 p.m. (House Homeland Security Subcommittee on National Security)
Location: 2154 Rayburn House Office Building
Date: Tuesday, April 17, 2018 at 10:30 a.m. (House Appropriations Committee)
Location: H309 The Capitol
THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK
President Trump to Deploy National Guard along Southwest Border
The Trump administration announced on April 4 that it would deploy National Guard troops to the southwest border, following President Trump’s comments the previous day that “until we can have a wall and proper security, we’re going to be guarding our border with the military.” President Trump’s comments were apparently prompted by news reports of a caravan of over 1,000 migrants, mostly from Honduras, making its way north through Mexico to the U.S. to request asylum. The caravan appears to have stalled as the Mexican government began handing out transit or humanitarian visas to people in hopes that they apply for asylum in Mexico.
Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), said on April 4 while speaking at the White House that the National Guard deployment could begin “immediately,” though she said DHS was still determining key details of the operation, including how many troops will be sent to the border, the length of the deployment and its cost. On April 5, President Trump suggested that 2,000 to 4,000 National Guard troops would be needed for the operation. The purpose of the operation is to combat what the Trump administration characterizes as “unacceptable” illegal border crossings, even though border apprehensions of illegal entrants decreased by almost three-fifths from 1.7 million to 310,000 between 2000 and 2017, a 46-year low previously touted by the administration. In 2017, each Border Patrol agent apprehended just 16 people on average over the course of the year, approximately one every three weeks.
As part of the operation, the Trump administration is also requesting that the U.S. military build a wall on at least one military installation along with U.S.-Mexico border, the Barry Goldwater Air Force Range in Arizona. The Defense Department is reviewing other military installations near the border to see if any other department-controlled lands could be used for wall building.
Nielsen said that details of the operation are being worked out with the four border state governors. Governors Greg Abbott (R-Texas), Susana Martinez (R-New Mexico) and Doug Ducey (R-Arizona) expressed their support for the operation, while Governor Jerry Brown (D-California) indicated that his office would review the request “as with others we’ve received from the Department of Homeland Security.”
At least two non-border state governors (Alabama and Arkansas) indicated that they would also be willing to provide support for the operation, while the office of Governor Brian Sandoval (R-Nevada) said that the governor “does not think this would be an appropriate use of the Nevada National Guard.” Governor Kate Brown (D-Oregon) said that she would decline a request by President Trump to send the National Guard to the border. The deployment of the National Guard along the southwest border also raised concern among Members of Congress, local law enforcement in border communities, immigration groups and the Mexican government. Former presidents, including Barack Obama and George W. Bush, have deployed the National Guard to the U.S.-Mexico border, although those operations have been criticized as being costly and inefficient.
President Trump Declares that DACA Deal Is Dead
In a series of Easter Sunday tweets, President Trump stated on April 1 that a deal to protect Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients is dead and called on Republican congressional leaders to instead pass more restrictive immigration laws. Referencing the caravan of migrants, mostly from Honduras, making its way north through Mexico to the U.S. to request asylum, President Trump tweeted “NO MORE DACA DEAL.” He later stated that “big flows of people are all trying to take advantage of DACA,” even though individuals are only eligible for DACA if they arrived as children to the U.S. before June 15, 2007. President Trump’s comments also follow criticism from some supporters about the absence of money to build a wall in the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill he signed in March.
Following the president’s comments, the White House is reportedly planning to send Congress legislation that would make it more difficult for migrants to receive asylum and significantly expand the number of people in immigration detention.
Justice Department to Impose Performance Quotas on Immigration Judges
The Justice Department notified immigration judges on March 30 that it will begin evaluating their job performance based on annual case quotas, a directive aiming to require them to close deportation cases more quickly. To earn a satisfactory grade under the new quotas, immigration judges will be required to complete at least 700 cases each year, with fewer than 15 percent of their decisions reversed by a higher court. Judges who complete between 560 and 700 cases would be categorized as needing “improvement.” Judges who decide fewer than 560 cases in a year would be deemed unsatisfactory. Over the last five years, the average immigration judge decided 678 cases in a year. Because the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) – the immigration court system – is located within the Department of Justice, immigration judges lack the judicial independence and life tenure of “Article III” judges.
The Justice Department guidance also included additional metrics, including a requirement that 95 percent of all hearings be completed on the initial scheduled hearing date, a requirement that would significantly reduce continuances routinely granted to individuals attempting to obtain counsel or collect evidence. The new quotas and standards will reportedly take effect in the next fiscal year beginning on October 1.
The immigration judges union stated that the quotas are a threat to the judicial independence of immigration judges. The union also argued that the quotas will ultimately exacerbate the backlog by encouraging individuals to appeal their decisions by implying that the judge did not provide them adequate time to make their case. Immigration groups and lawyers warned that the quotas will strip immigration judges of their independence and unduly influence the judge’s decisions on cases that could lead to an individual’s deportation. The Department of Justice defended the new guidance, stating that it is intended to “encourage efficient and effective case management” and reduce the backlog in the immigration courts, which is approaching 700,000 cases, up from 225,000 in 2009.
ICE Seeks to Deport Military Veteran Despite Defense Department Directive
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is reportedly looking to remove an immigrant veteran who was honorably discharged from the military, despite a directive from the Department of Defense that prevents the deportation of noncitizen troops. ICE is seeking to remove Xilong Zhu, who came from China in 2009 to attend college, based on alleged visa fraud because he failed to attend classes in violation of his student visa. Zhu was caught up in a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) operation that created a fake university to catch brokers of fraudulent student visas. Zhu paid tuition to the fake university created by DHS long enough to ship to basic training, but reportedly did not attend classes. Zhu’s lawyer said that he did not know that the school was fake, and that DHS never reimbursed him the $8,000 he paid in tuition.
Defense Secretary James Mattis said in February that “anyone with an honorable discharge…will not be subject to any kind of deportation,” unless the individual committed a serious felony. However, according to court documents, ICE has interpreted the Mattis directive to apply only to a narrow group of foreign recruits that excludes Zhu.
USCIS Reaches H-1B Cap in Five Days
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on April 6 that it reached the 65,000 visa H-1B cap for fiscal year (FY) 2019, as well as sufficient petitions to meet the so-called master’s cap for 20,000 foreign workers with advanced degrees. The H-1B limit was met days after USCIS started accepting the 2019 applications. H-1B visas allow U.S. businesses to employ foreign workers in occupations that require specialized knowledge.
State & Local
Iowa Legislature Approves Anti-“Sanctuary Jurisdiction” Bill
Under the bill, a local entity would lose state funding if it adopts policies that limit its involvement in federal immigration enforcement. The bill would require that all jurisdictions comply with federal immigration detainer requests, which have been found to be legally dubious. The bill would also prevent localities from establishing policies that would limit local law enforcement officers from participating in federal immigration enforcement or would bar them from inquiring about the immigration status of a person who is under arrest and sharing that information with other officials. The bill now heads to Governor Kim Reynolds (R-Iowa), who is expected to sign it.
Opponents of Senate File 481 noted that Iowa does not have any so-called sanctuary jurisdictions and that the bill is likely to lead to racial profiling and foster distrust between local law enforcement and immigrant communities, harming community safety. Supporters in the legislature argued that the bill would maintain public safety.
States, Cities Sue U.S. Government Over 2020 Census Citizenship Question
A group of seventeen states, Washington, D.C. and six cities filed a federal lawsuit on April 3 challenging the Department of Commerce’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. Census. The group, led by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D-New York), claims that including the question “will fatally undermine the accuracy of the population count and cause tremendous harms” by discouraging immigrant communities from participation in the Census. The drop in the response rate is expected to result in an undercount of the U.S. population, which will affect distribution of federal funds and the redrawing of congressional districts. The states joining New York in the lawsuit are Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington. The cities include Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Seattle, San Francisco and Providence, Rhode Island. California filed a similar lawsuit last week.
There were no immigration-related government reports published on the week of Monday, April 2, 2018.
SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES
This document provides an overview of FY 2018 DHS appropriations for its immigration-related responsibilities and compares them to the amounts appropriated in FY 2017.
This document provides an overview of FY 2018 DOJ appropriations for its immigration-related responsibilities and compares them to the amounts appropriated in FY 2017.
This document provides an overview of FY 2018 skills and workforce development appropriations, which fund programs to improve the skills of U.S. workers including immigrants, and compares them to the amounts appropriated in FY 2017.
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*This Bulletin is not intended to be comprehensive. Please contact Christian Penichet-Paul, National Immigration Forum Policy and Advocacy Associate, with comments and suggestions of additional items to be included. Christian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.