Legislative Bulletin – Friday, February 3, 2017

Policy and Advocacy Associate

February 3, 2017




This bill would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to eliminate the per-country numerical limitation for employment-based immigrants and to increase the per-country numerical limitation for family-sponsored immigrants.

Sponsored by Senator Mike Lee (R – Utah) (0 cosponsors)

2/2/2017 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Lee

H.R. 705

This bill would amend titles XI and XIX of the Social Security Act to promote program integrity with respect to the enrollment of certain immigrants in State plans under Medicaid.

Sponsored by Representative Bill Flores (R – Texas) (3 cosponsors)

1/27/2017 Introduced in the House by Representative Flores

1/27/2017 Referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce

H.R. 722

This bill would prohibit the use of Federal funds to implement, administer, or enforce the executive order entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” signed by President Donald J. Trump on January 27, 2017.

Sponsored by Representative Grace Meng (D-New York) (49 cosponsors)

1/30/2017 Introduced in the House by Representative Meng

1/30/2017 Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, and in addition to the Committees on Foreign Affairs, Homeland Security, and Intelligence

1/30/2017 Referred to House Judiciary

01/30/2017 Referred to House Foreign Affairs

01/30/2017 Referred to House Homeland Security

01/30/2017 Referred to House Intelligence (Permanent)

H.R. 730

This bill would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to remove limitations on the ability of certain dual citizens from participating in the Visa Waiver Program.

Sponsored by Representative Justin Amash (R – Michigan) (3 cosponsors)

1/30/2017 Introduced in the House by Representative Amash

1/30/2017 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 739

This bill would prohibit the construction of new border barriers, including walls or fences, on certain Federal land.

Sponsored by Representative Adriano Espaillat (D – New York) (15 cosponsors)

1/30/2017 Introduced in the House by Representative Espaillat

1/30/2017 Referred to the House Committee on Homeland Security

H.R. 748

This bill would protect any State or local authority that limits or restricts compliance with an immigration detainer request remains eligible for grants and appropriated funds

Sponsored by Representative Mike Quigley (D – Illinois) (41 cosponsors)

1/30/2017 Introduced in the House by Representative Quigley

1/30/2017 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

1/30/2017 Referred to House Judiciary

1/30/2017 Referred to House Oversight and Government Reform

H.R. 819

The Tax Credit Accountability Act

This bill would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to prohibit aliens in an unlawful immigration status from claiming the earned income tax credit.

Sponsored by Representative Doug Collins (R – Georgia) (6 cosponsors)

2/2/2017 Introduced in the House by Representative Collins

2/2/2017 Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means


The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Monday, February 6, 2017 through Wednesday, February 8, 2017.

U.S. Senate will be in session the week of Monday, February 6, 2017.


Ending the Crisis: America’s Borders and the Path to Security

Date: Tuesday, February 7, 2017 at 10 a.m. (House Homeland Security)

Location: House Capitol Visitor Center (CVC) Room 210

Witnesses: John Kelly, Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Watchdog Recommendations: A Better Way Ahead to Manage the Department Of Homeland Security

Date: Thursday, February 16, 2017 at 2 p.m. (House Homeland Security)

Location: House Capitol Visitor Center (CVC) Room 210

Witnesses: TBA



Protests, Confusion and Lawsuits Follow Chaotic Trump Travel Ban Roll-Out

Following the announcement of President Trump’s January 27 executive order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – for 90 days, protests in U.S. cities and airports broke out across the nation. The chaotic roll-out of the order, which also halted the entire U.S. refugee program for 120 days and suspended the admission of Syrian refugees, led dozens of people in transit to be detained, even in situations where they had already passed screening and possessed valid visas, and some. In some instances, families were put on planes and sent back to the Middle East and lawful permanent residents were not being allowed to re-enter the U.S. On the latter point, the Trump administration amended the order to exempt green card holders from the ban. Following the issuance of the order, the administration reportedly cancelled more than 100,000 visas.

In response to a series of legal challenges filed by immigration and civil rights groups, Democratic state attorneys general, and individuals impacted by the ban, aspects of the order were stayed by federal judges, specifically as the ban applies to individuals with valid visas, detained at airports, and/or in transit.

The executive order faced widespread criticism from across the political spectrum, and was condemned by lawmakers, legal experts, civil rights organizations, religious leaders, and others.

Trump Fires Acting Attorney General who Refused to Defend Refugee and Immigration Ban

President Donald Trump fired acting attorney general Sally Q. Yates on January 30 after she directed the Department of Justice (DOJ)’s attorneys not to defend the White House’s executive order on the refugee and immigration ban because she believed the order to be unlawful. Trump declared in an unusual statement that Yates, who had served as deputy Attorney General in the Obama Administration, had betrayed the Justice Department by refusing to enforce an order, “designed to protect citizens of the United States.” The statement also called Yates “weak on borders” and very weak on “illegal immigration.” The White House quickly replaced Yates with Dana J. Boente, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. Boente has relayed to the White House that he intends to defend the executive order on the refugee and immigration ban.

Boente will serve as acting attorney general until a new attorney general is confirmed by the Senate. The Judiciary Committee approved Senator Jeff Sessions (R – Alabama), Trump’s nominee to lead the Justice Department, by a party-line 11 to 9 vote on February 1 and a full Senate vote is expected on the week of February 6.

Republicans Change Rules to Advance Price and Mnuchin; Tillerson Confirmed as Secretary of State; DeVos Faces Resistance

Following a Democratic-led boycott, on January 31, Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee changed its rules to advance the nominations of Tom Price to lead the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Steven Mnuchin to lead the Treasury Department. At HHS, Price would oversee the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which is responsible for the care and placement of unaccompanied children (UAC). Price has previously has been critical of the Obama administration’s refugee resettlement policies. Democrats boycotted the nominations after inconsistencies emerged in the testimony of both nominees. Cloture and confirmation votes for both nominees are expected to take place in the Senate next week.

Also on January 31, the full Senate voted 56-43 to confirm Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. As head of the State Department, the former Exxon Mobil Corporation chief will be responsible for supervising the administration of U.S. immigration laws abroad. The State Department also runs the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, which provides aid and sustainable solutions for refugees, victims of conflict and stateless people around the world.

A day earlier, on Tuesday, January 31, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) approved Betsy DeVos’ nomination for Secretary of the Department of Education. The 12-11 vote followed criticism questioning her experience with public education. DeVos’ confirmation vote on the Senate floor is scheduled for next week. Two Republicans – Sens. Susan Collins (R –Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R – Alaska) have announced they will vote against DeVos, leaving the outcome of the confirmation vote in question.

New Leadership at ICE, Border Patrol; Duke Nominated to Serve as Deputy DHS Secretary

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly announced on January 30 that President Trump appointed Thomas D. Homan acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Homan, a former New York Police Department officer and Border Patrol agent, has served as the executive associate director of ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) since 2013. Homan replaces Daniel Ragsdale, who will resume his former position of deputy director.

In addition, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced on January 31 that Ronald Vitiello, CBP’s executive assistant commissioner for operations support, has been appointed to lead the Border Patrol. Vitiello served as acting Border Patrol chief in 2016, before Mark Morgan was appointed to take over the role in October 2016. Morgan, the first outsider to lead the Border Patrol, resigned on January 26 after he was asked to leave by the administration. Vitiello’s appointment is supported by the National Border Patrol Council, the Border Patrol agents union, which argued that an “insider” needs to lead the agency.

Finally, Trump announced on January 30 that he will nominate Elaine Duke as deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Duke previously served in senior roles DHS in the Bush and Obama administrations. Secretary Kelly reportedly pushed back against White House efforts to name controversial Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to the deputy secretary role. Kobach, the author of Arizona SB 1070 and other restrictionist immigration measures, was a Trump immigration advisor during the presidential campaign and during the transition.

Trump Clashes with Australia’s Turnbull over Refugee Pact

U.S.-Australia relations appear to be in flux after a reportedly heated phone call between President Donald Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on January 28. The dispute centered on Trump’s displeasure with a 2016 agreement between the two nations under which the U.S. would accept 1,250 refugees from two Australia’s offshore immigration detention centers. The conversation reportedly turned heated after Trump accused the prime minister of attempting to send “the next Boston bombers” to the United States and called the agreement the worst deal ever.” Many of the refugees affected by the pact are from Iran, Iraq and Somalia, countries covered under Trump’s executive order temporarily banning entry from refugees and others from seven Muslim-majority countries. In a subsequent Twitter post on February 1, Trump called the agreement a “dumb deal.”


Congressional Research Service: Barriers Along the U.S. Borders: Key Authorities and Requirements, January 27, 2017 (by Michael John Garcia)

This CRS report details statutory authority concerning the construction and maintenance of barriers along U.S. borders, including the wall construction requirements of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA). IIRIRA mandated that what is now the Department of Homeland Security construct barriers, roads and fencing along at least 700 miles of the United States’ southwest border with Mexico. The appendix section of the report lists federal laws that DHS has waived in furtherance of border construction projects.

Congressional Research Service: President Trump’s Executive Order on Suspending Entry of Select Foreign Nationals: The Seven Countries, February 1, 2017 (by Alison Siskin)

This CRS insight examines the Immigration and Nationality Act INA §217(a)(12), which lists restrictions to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), including the seven countries singled out in President Trump’s Executive Order “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorists Entry Into the United States.”

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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 zjerabek@immigrationforum.org. Thank you.