Legislative Bulletin – Friday, February 23, 2018
Policy and Advocacy Associate
February 23, 2018
BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED
A Bill to Provide for the Adjustment of Status of Certain Nationals of Liberia to that of Lawful Permanent Resident, and for Other Purposes
Sponsored by Representative Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota) (5 cosponsors – 5 Democrats, 0 Republicans)
02/20/2018 Introduced in the House by Representative Ellison
02/20/2018 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary
LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR
The U.S. Senate will be in session the week of Monday, February 26, 2018.
The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Monday, February 26, 2018 to Thursday, March 1, 2018.
UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS
The meeting agenda includes a mark-up of the Department of Homeland Security Authorization Act (H.R. 2825).
Date: Wednesday, February 28, 2018 at 10:00 a.m. (Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee)
Location: 342 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Date: Thursday, March 1, 2018 at 9:30 a.m. (House Appropriations Committee)
Location: 2359 Rayburn House Office Building
Rex Tillerson, Secretary, Department of State
THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK
Dreamer Fight Looms in Congress as Deadline for Must-Pass Spending Approaches
Last week’s immigration debate in the Senate failed to end the uncertainty around the future of Dreamers eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
In response to the Senate’s failed efforts, Senators John Thune (R-South Dakota), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) announced on February 15 a plan to indefinitely extend Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and provide $25 billion in border security spending. The proposal would require DACA recipients to reapply for the program every two years and cap border security spending at $5 billion per year. However, the plan could face difficulty in garnering enough support from Democrats, and possibly some Republicans, since it fails to provide Dreamers an opportunity to earn citizenship in the future. Three Senate Democrats already opposed a similar plan last week that would have provided to 1.8 million Dreamers the opportunity to earn citizenship within 10 to 12 years and $25 billion border security. The Democratic Senators opposing the bill argue that the border security portion was too expansive. Senators Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) stated that he also plans to demand a vote on his narrower plan to codify DACA for three years and provide $7.6 billion in border security spread out over that same period. Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, indicated that the Senate may address a temporary extension of protection for Dreamers in a massive spending bill that must be passed by March 23.
As the Congressional fight over immigration continues, public support for a solution for Dreamers remains overwhelming. A recent Quinnipiac University poll found that 80 percent of Americans support allowing Dreamers to remain in the United States and that they should be able to apply for citizenship.
USCIS Removes Reference to “a Nation of Immigrants” from Mission Statement
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) modified its mission statement on February 22 by removing a reference to the U.S. as a “nation of immigrants” and eliminating the word “customers” to refer to applicants who pay fees to submit their immigration applications. A USCIS spokesperson stated that USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna developed and debuted the agency’s new mission statement during his first conference with USCIS senior leadership. USCIS noted that the changes reflect Cissna’s guiding principles for the agency, which include a focus on lawfulness, protecting American workers, and safeguarding the homeland. Cissna defended the changes in an email to staff, stating that referring to applicants and petitions for immigration benefits as “costumers” promoted a “culture that emphasizes the ultimate satisfaction of applicants and petitioners, rather than the correct adjudication of such applications and petitions.” However, immigration advocates noted that the changes signify that USCIS no longer sees promoting an awareness and understanding of citizenship as part of its mission, calling USCIS’s modification “completely at odds with what defines and unites [America] as a nation.” The changes to USCIS’s mission statement are effective immediately.
ICE Data Shows Spike in Deportations, Especially Those without Criminal Convictions
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) statistics released on February 23 show that immigration arrests, especially of those without criminal convictions, were up substantially in the first year of the Trump administration. ICE arrested approximately 155,000 undocumented immigrants in 2017, a 41 percent increase compared to 2016. Approximately 30 percent of those arrested in 2017 did not have a criminal record, a 171 percent increase over 2016. In January 2017, President Trump signed an executive order virtually making all undocumented immigrants in the U.S. a priority for deportation, reversing the last administration’s policy to prioritize those with criminal convictions.
The data also shows that the Trump administration deported nearly 215,000 immigrants in 2017, a 13 percent decrease over 2016. However, the decrease in deportations is likely a result of the decrease in the number of people apprehended along the border while attempting to cross into the United States.
President Trump Suggests Withdrawing ICE and Border Patrol from California, Recites Anti-Immigration Parable in Speech at CPAC
At a roundtable discussion on gun violence on February 22, President Trump said that he is considering withdrawing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers and Border Patrol agents from California as punishment for what he claimed was a “lousy management job” on immigration enforcement. President Trump suggested that if ICE officers and Border Patrol agents were withdrawn from California, the state would become “a crime nest like you’ve never seen” and would be “begging” for the return of federal immigration authorities within months. President Trump said his administration receives “no help from the state of California” on immigration enforcement. A news report stated that it was unclear how serious President Trump was about the proposal. ICE Director Tom Homan said earlier this year that California’s policies would only increase ICE’s presence in the state.
Governor Jerry Brown (D-California) responded to President Trump’s comments by saying that California would continue to protect all of its residents. Brown signed Senate Bill (S.B.) 54 in October 2017, which permits state and local law enforcement authorities to continue to limit their participation in federal immigration enforcement. The law prohibits state and local law enforcement from using either personnel or funds to hold, question, or share information about people with federal immigration agents, with significant exceptions that allow cooperation with federal authorities in situation where the individuals have been convicted of one or more crimes from a list of over 800 crimes.
On February 23, President Trump gave a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) where he derided MS-13 members, so-called sanctuary jurisdictions and the Diversity Lottery Visa program. President Trump recited Al Wilson’s “The Snake,” often interpreted as an anti-immigration parable in which a snake asks to be taken into a woman’s home and repays her charity by murdering her. The use of the parable, which Trump repeatedly referenced on the campaign trail in 2016, drew sharp criticism from across the political spectrum.
Border Patrol Reportedly Expands Searches Far from the Border
The Border Patrol reportedly conceded that it is increasing the number of searches it conducts up to 100 miles away from the border, according to the New York Times. Border Patrol agents have recently boarded Greyhound buses and Amtrak trains on domestic routes to question passengers, most of them American citizens, about their immigration status. Under current rules, Border Patrol agents have broad powers to conduct “routine searches” without a warrant within 100 miles of any U.S. external boundary, including the coast. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said that the transportation checks were conducted in accordance with the law, but critics argued that CBP pushes the limits of its authority to conduct searches without warrants far from the border. The U.S. Department of Justice first adopted this 100-mile border zone in 1953 under a federal law that allows immigration officers to search people who are suspected of immigration violations if they are a “reasonable distance” from the border. About 200 million Americans – a majority of the country – live within 100 miles of an external boundary.
CBP Begins to Replace Border Wall in California
On February 21, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) began to replace a border wall in California as part of the first wall contract awarded in the Trump administration. CBP is replacing about two miles in downtown Calexico, California. The original barrier, built in the 1990s from recycled metal scraps, is going to be replaced by a 30 feet high bollard-style barrier.
AP Reports ICE’s Operation Matador is “Shrouded in Secrecy”
The Associated Press reported on February 21 that federal and state authorities involved in Operation Matador, a law enforcement operation targeting gang violence, have declined repeated requests to release information made public in most law enforcement operations, such as the names of those arrested and the crimes they allegedly committed.
The operation, led by Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations, swept up 428 alleged gang suspects in Long Island, New York since May 2017, including 220 members of the MS-13 gang. While federal authorities say 44 of those arrested have been deported, they have not disclosed more information about the other individuals, including their ages, immigration statuses, or current whereabouts. Authorities argue that releasing more details could endanger the suspects and jeopardize ongoing investigations, but some parents and activists say that the lack of transparency shows the government is using unsubstantiated rumors to falsely accuse people of having gang affiliations and detaining them, including teenagers who came to the U.S. as unaccompanied minors. Federal immigration judges have already ordered the release of some detainees arrested on suspicion of being MS-13 members when the government could not provide evidence of gang activity.
DHS Deputy Secretary Duke Announces Retirement
On February 23, Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS) Elaine Duke announced that she would be retiring in April. Duke had worked for the federal government for over 30 years, including more than a decade at DHS. In November, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly reportedly pressured then-Acting DHS Secretary Duke against renewing temporary protected status (TPS) for 60,000 Hondurans, but was unsuccessful in reversing her decision.
First Lady’s Parents are Lawful Permanent Residents
An immigration lawyer for First Lady Melania Trump’s parents confirmed on February 21 that they are lawful permanent residents (LPRs), or green-card holders. Experts indicated that Viktor and Amalija Knavs most likely became LPRs through the family-based preference categories that account for about two-thirds of all immigration to America, which help reunify families.
Family-based immigration provides critical benefits, providing family support that allow immigrants in the U.S. to integrate faster or start their own businesses. The Trump administration has proposed “limiting family sponsorships to spouses and minor children only” and has been critical of family-based preference categories, calling for an end to what it calls “extended family chain migration.”
State & Local
South Dakota Senate Panel Rejects Bill to Limit Refugees in the State
In an 8-1 vote, a South Dakota Senate panel rejected a bill aiming to suspend refugee resettlement in the state from any country listed on “any federal travel ban list.” The most recent version of President Trump’s travel ban prohibited travel by nationals of Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen. The South Dakota legislation in question would also direct the state to refuse any family-based immigration, sometimes called “chain migration,” tied to nationals of the travel ban countries. Governor Dennis Daugaard (R-South Dakota) and the Senate panel opposed the bill, in part because South Dakota has no jurisdiction over federal refugee or immigration policy. The bill’s sponsor argued that the government does not have the right to “make your neighborhood less safe.” Immigration experts have found that refugees, and immigrants generally, do not pose any serious security risks and are not more likely to commit crime than Americans.
Trump Administration Sued Over TPS Termination
A number of Haitian and Salvadorian immigrants with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) filed a lawsuit on February 22 challenging the Trump administration’s decision to terminate TPS designation for Haiti and El Salvador. The plaintiffs argue that the decision to end the countries’ TPS designation was racially motivated, citing President Trump’s comments from the 2016 campaign trail and those made while in office. In one comment cited in the lawsuit, President Trump referred to Haiti, El Salvador and other countries in Africa in a vulgar manner and said he would like to see more immigrants from countries like Norway. The lawsuit seeks to prevent the administration from enacting its decision to end TPS designation for immigrants from Haiti and El Salvador.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen decided to end TPS designation for El Salvador in January 2018, giving Salvadorian TPS holders until September 9, 2019, to leave the U.S., adjust status or face deportation. DHS ended TPS designation for Haiti in 2017, providing them until July 22, 2019. The next TPS decisions are expected to be made in late-April for Nepal and later this year for Honduras.
Congressional Research Service: Diversity Immigrants’ Regions and Countries of Origin: Fact Sheet, February 13, 2018 (by Jill H. Wilson)
This fact sheet provides an overview of the regional and national origins of immigrants who came to the U.S. through the Diversity Immigrant Visa program.
SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES
This resource provides an overview and list of public statements urging Congress to protect Dreamers as soon as possible.
This fact sheet explains family-based immigration, sometimes called “chain migration.” It provides an overview of family visas, information about who is eligible and process of obtaining them, and highlights the economic and cultural benefits of a family-based immigration system.
This is an analysis of the Securing America’s Future (SAF) Act (H.R. 4670) introduced by Representative Bob Goodlatte (R- Virginia) on January 10, 2018. The wide-ranging, over 400-page bill would transform America’s immigration system by reducing annual legal immigration by at least 25 percent, criminalizing illegal presence in the U.S., increasing border security and interior immigration enforcement, revising the agricultural guest worker program, and mandating E-verify for all employers. It would also provide some Dreamers with a temporary three-year renewable nonimmigrant status.
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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.