Legislative Bulletin – Friday, December 8, 2017
Policy and Advocacy Associate
December 8, 2017
BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED
Security, Enforcement, and Compassion United in Reform Efforts, (SECURE) Act
This bill seeks to strengthen border security and increase resources for enforcement of immigration laws.
Sponsored by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) (5 cosponsors)
12/5/2017 Introduced in Senate by Senator Grassley
This bill would authorize appropriations for border infrastructure construction, provide conditional resident status to certain immigrants, and amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to include grounds of inadmissibility and deportability for alien members of criminal gangs and cartels.
Sponsored by Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) (0 cosponsors)
12/6/2017 Introduced in Senate by Senator Flake
Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act
This bill seeks to support students, including immigrants, in completing an affordable postsecondary education that will prepare them to enter the workforce with the skills they need for lifelong success. It would make changes to federal student aid and other programs under the Higher Education Act.
Sponsored by Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC) (1 cosponsors)
12/1/2017 Introduced in House by Representative Foxx
12/1/2017 Referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
Stopping Lawless Actions of Politicians (SLAP) Act of 2017
This bill would provide fines and criminal penalties for public officials in so-called sanctuary jurisdictions for non-cooperation with federal immigration enforcement activities.
Sponsored by Representative Todd Rokita (R-IN) (0 cosponsors)
12/1/2017 Introduced in House by Representative Rokita
12/1/2017 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary
LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR
The U.S. Senate will be in session the week of Monday, December 11, 2017.
The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Monday, December 11, 2017 through Thursday, December 14, 2017.
UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS
There are no immigration or workforce development related hearings scheduled for the week of Monday, December 11, 2017.
THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK
Congress Passes Short-Term Continuing Resolution as Debate on a DACA Fix Continues
Congress approved a two-week continuing resolution on December 7 that funds the federal government until December 22. The short-term resolution is intended to give Congress more time to reach an agreement on a spending bill for the remaining months of fiscal year (FY) 2018. Although Democrats in the House threatened not to help Republicans pass the spending bill without protections for Dreamers, the bill passed the House by a 235 to 193 vote and the Senate by a 81 to 14 vote. The bill now awaits President Trump’s signature.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) met with President Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) on December 7 to resume conversations on funding for the federal government and on other issues, including finding a legislative solution for Dreamers. After the meeting, Schumer and Pelosi stated that “nothing specific has been agreed to, but discussions continue” on a number of issues, including their intention to continue to press to “pass the DREAM Act.” The White House said in a statement that President Trump had a constructive meeting with congressional leaders, but that “negotiations on immigration should be held separately” from the funding bill. The White House said President Trump reiterated his priorities include ensuring that any immigration package “ends chain migration, constructs a border wall, and substantially strengthen immigration enforcement to stop illegal immigration and visa overstays.” McConnell and Ryan stated that during the meeting “all agreed on the need to address the DACA population,” but also stressed the need to address “border security, interior enforcement and other parts of our broken immigration system.”
In Congress, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) introduced the Security, Enforcement and Compassion United in Reform Efforts (SECURE) Act on December 5. The bill would expand border security in the U.S., including providing funding for the Trump administration to build a border wall where appropriate in the U.S.-Mexico border, increase immigration enforcement in the interior of the U.S., and reform parts of the legal immigration system, among other provisions. The bill would also incorporate the BRIDGE Act, a measure to extend protections from deportation for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and certain other Dreamers for three years. Grassley argued that the SECURE Act provides a solution to major immigration issues, but Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) said the bill was not “a good faith effort to provide protection for the Dreamers.”
On December 6, about two thousand Dreamers and their supporters rallied in Washington, D.C. to call for a legislative solution to protect Dreamers. The National Day of Action event included business and religious leaders, as well as immigrant and civil rights groups.
House Republicans Push for DACA Fix before End of Year
On Tuesday, December 5, a group of 34 House Republicans sent a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) urging Congress to pass a permanent legislative solution for recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals before the end of 2017. Organized by Representatives Scott Taylor (R-Virginia) and Dan Newhouse (R-Washington), the letter states that passing a bipartisan agreement by the end of the year is vital to protect DACA recipients from deportation and to give them an opportunity to apply for a more secured status.
Trump Administration Withdraws U.S. from U.N. Migration Pact
The Trump administration announced on December 3 that the United States was withdrawing from the nonbinding United Nations Global Compact for Migration. The agreement encouraged international cooperation to protect the rights of migrants, improve border security, and combat government detention of child migrants. U.S. ambassador to the United Nations (U.N.) Nikki Haley reportedly wanted to keep the U.S. in the agreement so it could better influence negotiation outcomes, but was overruled by President Trump. President of the U.N. General Assembly Miroslav Lajčák expressed regret that the U.S. was withdrawing from the compact. Negotiations over the agreement are expected to commence in 2018.
Senate Approves Nielsen as New Homeland Security Secretary
On Tuesday, December 5, U.S. Senate confirmed Deputy White House chief of staff Kirstjen Nielsen to serve as secretary of the Homeland Security Department (DHS). Senators approved Nielsen’s nomination in a 62-37 vote after 11 Democratic members joined Republicans in supporting Nielsen. Among other areas, the U.S. Homeland Security Department oversees the nation’s borders, cybersecurity and response to natural disasters. The DHS Secretary position went vacant after President Donald Trump asked the former Secretary, retired General John Kelly, to be his chief of staff.
Sessions Calls for Immigration Court Changes to Reduce Backlogs
Citing a backlog of more than 600,000 immigration cases, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions urged immigration courts to improve efficiency to slash the lingering case backlog. In his memo to the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) released on Wednesday, December 6, Sessions called on judges and staff to “increase productivity, enhance efficiencies, and ensure the timely and proper administration of justice” and “realign[ ] the agency towards completing cases.” The memo was widely seen as disfavoring the granting of continuances in pending immigration cases.
The memo also touted the Trump administration’s focus on hiring new immigration judges, with 50 new immigration judges hired since President Trump took office with plans for the Justice Department to hire 60 more in the next six months. By 2020, the administration plans to reduce the pending case load by a half.
Immigration advocates criticized Sessions’ memo, specifically noting that “continuances are often a necessary means to ensure due process is afforded in removal proceedings.”. The American Immigration Lawyers Association expressed concern with the memo’s criticism of the immigration court system and immigration attorneys, emphasizing the importance of maintaining the due process rights of immigrants. It claimed that the Attorney General cited flawed facts by singling out the modest increase in case continuances sought by immigrants in proceedings while ignoring significantly larger increases in continuances requested by the Department of Homeland Security, as well as “Operational-related” continuances otherwise granted by immigration judges.
Immigration Arrests Up, Border Apprehensions Down in Trump’s First Year
According to new data released by DHS, the Trump administration’s immigration policies have resulted in a spike in arrests by immigration enforcement officers in the interior of the U.S., while apprehensions along the Southern border have dropped sharply. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Removal Operations agents made 143,470 arrests during the first year of Trump’s presidency. At the same time, the data suggested fewer people sought to illegally cross the border, with apprehensions by the Border Patrol falling to a 45-year low.
The administration removed a total of 226,000 people from the country in fiscal year 2017, which represents a decline of six percent from FY 2016, fewer than at any time during the Obama presidency. The decrease appears to be have been caused in part by the decline of unauthorized border crossings but also by the growing backlog in the immigration court system.
Critics pointed to the data to criticize the broadening of ICE interior enforcement priorities to include virtually any undocumented person, while questioning the need to increase border security funding while attempted crossing decline.
SCOTUS Permits Full Enforcement of Trump’s Travel Ban
On December 4, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed President Trump’s revised travel ban to go into effect while litigation over the policy continues in the courts. The third version of Trump’s travel ban, issued earlier this fall, bars entry into the United States of certain individuals from Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Chad, Somalia, North Korea and Venezuela. The procedural decision stayed preliminary injunctions limiting the ban, but did not evaluate the ban on the merits.
In June, the Supreme Court issued a decision on a previous iteration of the ban that exempted those with “bona fide relationships” with U.S. persons or entities from being barred from the U.S. Following that decision, federal courts in Maryland and Hawaii had imposed restrictions on the recent travel ban enjoining restrictions on foreign nationals from six countries who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the U.S, including grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and others. The new Supreme Court ruling stays those injunctions and allows the ban to take effect as litigation over the ban continues in the lower courts.
On Wednesday, December 7, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit heard arguments in Hawaii’s challenge to the ban, claiming that the policy exceeded president’s powers under immigration law. The same three-judge 9th Circuit panel which limited previous version of the ban heard the arguments, but some of the judges seemed more cautious about blocking the policy. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit heard arguments over the Maryland challenge on December 8. After the lower courts evaluate the ban on the merits, it is expected that the case may return to the Supreme Court to be heard on the merits, likely in the coming months.
Trump Administration Asks Supreme Court to Block Decision on DACA Documents
The Trump administration asked the Supreme Court on December 1 to overrule a lower court’s decision requiring it to produce documents relating to the termination of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). . The Department of Justice (DOJ) said that the ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld a district court decision, threatens to intrude on confidential executive branch deliberations and is unjustified. In addition, DOJ said that the decision is unnecessarily diverts significant federal resources, requiring DOJ to review more than 1.6 million documents. On December 6, several states, the University of California and others plaintiffs suing the Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to leave the ruling in place, noting that the public is “entitled to know on what basis” the government made the decision to end DACA.
DOJ previously filed an “administrative record” of 256 pages of documents, all of which had already been released, in response to a number of lawsuits challenging the administration’s DACA decision. U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup ruled on October 17 that the limited number of documents was inadequate and directed the government to release an expanded set of memos and legal analyses that led to the end of DACA. DOJ asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to block the order, but the court declined.
Federal Judge Orders DHS to Rescind Immigrant Entrepreneur Rule Delay
On December 1, a federal judge in the District of Columbia ordered DHS to lift its delay of the International Entrepreneur Rule. The proposed rule, which would allow certain foreign entrepreneurs to remain in the U.S. to expand their companies, had been delayed by the Trump administration, which indicated it was “highly likely” to rescind it.
The ruling allowing the rule to go into effect favors the National Venture Capital Association’s lawsuit challenging the delay. The group argued that the Trump administration failed to follow proper procedures when delaying the rule, which was proposed by the Obama administration and slated to take effect in July 2017. Several tech start-ups founded by immigrant entrepreneurs, which were adversely impacted by the delay, later joined the trade group’s claim.
Office of Inspector General: USCIS Has Been Unsuccessful in Automating Naturalization Benefits Delivery, November 30, 2017
This report from Office of Inspector General (OIG) is a summary of audit conducted to determine effectiveness of USCIS’s efforts to automate the N-400 Application for Naturalization. It examines problems in N-400 automation and makes a set of recommendations to the USCIS Director and Chief Information Officer to improve automation of immigration benefits.
Office of Inspector General: DHS Semiannual Report to the Congress, December 1, 2017
This Office of Inspector General (OIG) semiannual report summarizes the OIG’s work and accomplishments during the second half of fiscal year 2017.
SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES
The National Immigration Forum published the following summaries of the latest bills that were introduced in Congress to address the issue of DACA holders and Dreamers:
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This Bulletin is not intended to be comprehensive. Please contact Zuzana Jerabek, National Immigration Forum Policy and Advocacy Associate, with comments and suggestions of additional items to be included. Zuzana can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.