Legislative Bulletin – Friday, January 5, 2018
Policy and Advocacy Associate
January 5, 2018
BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED
Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act of 2018
This bill would allow certain Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders from Liberia to adjust to lawful permanent resident (LPR) status.
Sponsored by Senator Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island) (4 cosponsors – 4 Democrats, 0 Republicans)
1/03/2018 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Reed
1/03/2018 Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary
LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR
The U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Monday, January 8, 2018 to Thursday, January 11, 2018.
UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS
Date: Tuesday, January 9, 2018 at 10:00 a.m. (House Homeland Security Committee)
Location: 210 House Visitor Center (HVC)
Date: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 at 10:00 a.m. (Senate Judiciary Committee)
Location: 216 Hart Senate Office Building
Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK
DACA Negotiations Continue; Bipartisan Group May Meet in the White House Next Week
Discussions on finding a permanent, legislative solution for Dreamers continued this week as congressional leaders and key Republican Senators met with White House officials and President Trump over the week, though no breakthroughs were reached. As a follow-up to the conversations, President Trump invited Senators from both parties to the White House next week, possibly on January 9, for a meeting to continue the negotiations.
The January 3 meeting between congressional leaders and White House officials appeared to show progress toward a budget deal. After the meeting, the White House released a joint statement with Republican congressional leaders stating that Congress should not tie immigration policy to any bipartisan spending agreement. The next day, January 4, President Trump met with key Republican Senators to discuss a deal on Dreamers. The meeting included Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Lindsay Graham (R-South Carolina), Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) and James Lankford (R-Oklahoma). President Trump stated during the meeting that he hoped to see a bipartisan deal on DACA, arguing that if they receive support from Democrats, “DACA is going to be terrific.” Yet, President Trump stated that any immigration plan must include a physical border wall, end the visa lottery program and deal with so-called chain migration, which essentially means reducing family-based immigration.
In the Senate, a bipartisan group of five Senators continues to work toward a solution for Dreamers. Graham stated that the emerging deal includes a resolution for Dreamers, which would provide legal status and eventually citizenship for them, increased border security that would include physical barriers, some limits to family-based visa categories, and ending the diversity visa lottery program. Graham indicated that the “chain migration” aspect of the bill would be limited, with Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) stating that the discussions would probably limit family-based migration to the DACA-eligible immigrants protected by the eventual deal. However, Lankford rejected that approach, stating that the conversations must be broader than just limiting family-based migration for DACA recipients.
On January 5, the Trump administration sent its border security and immigration priorities to Congress as part of the immigration package negotiations. The border security request includes $18 billion to construct more than 700 miles of new and replacement barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border over the next ten years. By 2027, about 970 miles of the 2,000-mile border would have some wall or fencing. The request also includes $15 billion for road construction, border security technology and an increase of 5,000 Border Patrol agents and other personnel over the next ten years. The White House also re-sent its immigration principles and policy priorities, first issued on October 8, that include increases in interior immigration enforcement and changes to the legal immigration system. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) called the requests “outrageous” and said the White House appeared to be heading in the direction of a government shutdown.
Meanwhile, in the House, a group of Republican members is expected to introduce an immigration package that would extend deferred action status for Dreamers in exchange for more immigration enforcement, including border security, an increase in immigration agents, and limiting the ability of lawful permanent residents and naturalized citizens to sponsor family members to come to the U.S. Also of note, on January 3, a bipartisan group of former Secretaries of the Department of Homeland Security under the Bush and Obama administrations called on Congress to find a permanent, legislative solution for Dreamers by mid-January.
DOJ Memo Weakens Guidelines Protecting Unaccompanied Children in Court
The Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a memo on December 20 containing changes to the policies and procedures that immigration judges should follow in dealing with unaccompanied children who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border. The new memo, issued by the DOJ’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), replaces guidelines established in 2007. The memo eliminates suggestions for how to conduct “child-sensitive questioning,” adds reminders to judges to maintain “impartiality” even though “juvenile cases may present sympathetic allegations” and changes the word “child” in the guidelines to “unmarried individual under the age of 18.” The memo also encourages judges to be skeptical in court cases since an unaccompanied child “generally receives more favorable treatment under the law than other categories of illegal aliens.” EOIR stated that the new memo contained “clarifications and updates” to the 2007 guidelines in order to be consistent with laws “as they’ve been passed by Congress.” A representative of the National Association of Immigration Judges, the union representing immigration judges, said the tone of the memo is concerning and there is a feeling that the immigration courts “are just being demoted into immigration enforcement offices, rather than neutral arbiters.” Immigration advocates also noted that special protections for unaccompanied immigrant children are important to make sure they can tell a “very complicated and oftentimes very traumatic story” in court. They stated the new memo weakens those protections.
Acting ICE Director Calls for Prosecution of “Sanctuary Cities,” City and State Officials
Thomas Homan, Acting Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), advocated on January 3 for the arrest of local and state government officials in so-called sanctuary cities that limit their cooperation with federal immigration enforcement. Homan said in a Fox News segment that he asked the Department of Justice to investigate whether “sanctuary cities” may be in violation of shielding and harboring undocumented immigrants based on the 8 U.S.C. 1324 statue, which provides criminal penalties for smuggling undocumented immigrants. He suggested that the government take “sanctuary cities” to court and criminally prosecute some of the cities’ officials. Homan also called for federal funding to be withheld from “sanctuary cities.”
USCIS Proposes New Requires for Congressional Offices Helping Constituents
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) reportedly proposed a series of new requirements on December 18 that may make it more difficult for members of Congress to help constituents adjust to lawful permanent resident status or apply for U.S. citizenship. According to an e-mail from a top USCIS official sent to Capitol Hill offices, USCIS will start to demand extra forms, notarized signatures and certified translations with green card applications. In addition, USCIS will require individuals to sign new privacy waivers every time they communicate with the agency after receiving “a meaningful and accurate response” from the agency. USCIS argues that the changes are designed to protect immigrants’ privacy and help both USCIS and Congress handle inquires in a more efficient manner, not to make the process more difficult. However, the changes could increase paperwork and obstacles for immigrants seeking congressional help to adjust to lawful permanent resident status or naturalize, and bar a congressional office from communicating directly with an immigrant’s family or lawyer, even when there is a language barrier.
DOJ Requests Adding Citizenship Question in 2020 Census Questionnaire
The Department of Justice (DOJ) sent a letter on December 12 requesting that the Census Bureau, which is part of the Department of Commerce, include a question on citizenship in the 2020 census questionnaire. The DOJ letter argues that a citizenship question would allow the government to better enforce Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits practices or procedures that dilute a minority group’s voting power through redistricting. The letter states that citizenship is the proper metric for determining whether a racial group could constitute a majority in a congressional district. However, advocacy groups argue that including a citizenship question in the census could depress participation by immigrants who fear the government could use that information for immigration enforcement purposes. Depressed participation among immigrants could then affect how congressional seats are allocated around the country and the distribution of federal spending among the states. They also noted that adding a citizenship question could make the process more expensive and ineffective, since questions are usually carefully field-tested over several years. The Census Bureau said that the agency received the letter and the request “will go through the well-established process that any potential question would go through.” The full census has not included a question about citizenship since 1950.
Judge Orders Government to Release or Allow Bond Hearings for Iraqi Immigrants
On January 2, a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to either release Iraqi immigrants held for six months or longer in immigration detention facilities or grant them bond hearings before an immigration judge within 30 days. U.S. District Court Judge Mark Goldsmith’s ruling stated that “legal tradition rejects warehousing human beings while their legal rights are being determined.” Goldsmith said it is unclear whether Iraq has actually agreed to take back all its nationals, and if so, under what conditions, leading to the seemingly indefinite detentions of some individuals. Goldsmith previously halted the deportation of Iraqi immigrants, many of whom are Christian, who argued they would face persecution if they were sent back to Iraq. In 2017, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detained hundreds of Iraqi immigrants who had final deportation orders due to criminal convictions. Approximately 300 Iraqi immigrants with final deportation orders remain in immigration detention facilities.
Washington Attorney General Sues Motel 6 for Sharing Guest Lists with ICE
Washington state’s attorney general sued Motel 6 on January 3, alleging that the hotel chain illegally provided guest lists to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers from June 2015 to May 2017. Attorney General Bob Ferguson said that the hotel provided the names, birth dates, license plates and other personal information of over 9,000 guests in Washington state, which ICE allegedly used to target people based on their national origin. The disclosures led to the arrest of at least six people. Motel 6 employees were reportedly trained to cooperate with ICE officers, despite a company policy about safeguarding personal information. The hotel chain was also found to cooperate with ICE in Arizona, leading to the arrests of 20 people between February and August of last year. The hotel’s management company, G6 Hospitality, stated it ordered its more than 1,400 locations in September to stop sharing guest lists with ICE officers.
There were no immigration-related government reports published or released on the week of Monday, January 1, 2018.
SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES
This resource provides an overview and list of public bipartisan or center-right statements urging Congress to protect Dreamers as soon as possible.
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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.