Legislative Bulletin – Friday, July 7, 2017
Policy and Advocacy Associate
July 7, 2017
BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED
There were no immigration-related bills introduced or considered on the week of Monday, July 3, 2017.
LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR
The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Tuesday, July 11, 2017 through Friday, July 14, 2017.
The U.S. Senate will be in session the week of Monday, July 10, 2017.
UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS
Date: Wednesday, July 12, 2016 at 2:30 pm (Senate Judiciary)
Location: 226 Dirksen Senate Office Building
The Honorable John Roth, Inspector General, Department Of Homeland Security
Mr. Michael Dougherty, Assistant Secretary for Border, Immigration, and Trade, Office Of Strategy, Policy, And Plans
Mr. John Wagner, Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner, Office of Field Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Mr. Louis A. Rodi, Deputy Assistant Director of National Security Investigations Division, Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Date: Wednesday, July 12, 2017 at 4:30 pm (House Appropriations)
Location: 2008 Rayburn House Office Building
THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK
U.S. Judge Rejects Hawaii’s Attempt to Clarify Trump Administration’s Travel Ban
On Thursday, July 6, U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson declined to issue an interpretation of what constituted a “bona fide relationship” under the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling partially reinstating the Trump administration’s travel and refugee bans. Stating that he “declines to usurp the prerogative of the Supreme Court to interpret its own order,” Judge Watson ruled that Hawaii could directly seek clarification from the Supreme Court. Hawaii has stated it will appeal the district court’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
Following Trump’s request for a stay, the Supreme Court narrowed the scope of the injunctions halting the bans in early June and held that the executive order may not be enforced against individuals who have “a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” On June 29, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued guidelines regarding of the application of the travel and refugee bans consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision. The guidelines stated that a “close familial relationship” will not include grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law and any other “extended” family members. Additionally, the Trump administration does not consider preexisting relationships between refugees and resettlement agencies as satisfying the Court’s guidance on the refugee ban. The administration has faced criticism for interpreting the decision too narrowly.
Ninth Circuit Holds that Unaccompanied Immigrant Children Are Entitled to Bond Hearings
On Wednesday, July 5, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit lifted a stay on a district court order mandating that the government provide bond hearings to unaccompanied minors who have unlawfully entered the United States. The lower court’s order, issued in January by Judge Dolly Gee, sought to enforce the terms of the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement, which sets specific standards for the detention of children under the government’s watch and includes a presumption favoring release of minors in custody.
While the Office for Refugee Resettlement argued that enforcement of the Flores Settlement Agreement’s bond-hearing requirement was superseded by subsequent statutes, the Ninth Circuit found that nothing in the statutes’ language terminates or supersedes the rights established by the 1997 Agreement: “In the absence of such hearings, these children are held in bureaucratic limbo, left to rely upon the agency’s alleged benevolence and opaque decision making.”
Federal Judge Halts Deportations of Iraqi Christians for Another Two Weeks
On Thursday, July 6, U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith further postponed the deportation of over 1,400 Iraqi nationals facing removal while he evaluates whether his court is the proper venue for the case. The suspension has been extended for two more weeks until July 24, 2017. The Iraqis claim they will face religious persecution and bodily harm if returned to Iraq.
On June 26, the Detroit-based federal judge issued a nationwide stay of removal for 1,444 Iraqi nationals – mostly Chaldean Christians – on the grounds that they are likely to face “extreme, grave consequences” on account of religion if deported to Iraq. The ruling expanded on his previous action, which halted the deportation of 114 Iraqi nationals from Metro Detroit, to include more Iraqi nationals facing the immediate risk of deportation.
DOJ Reviewing Letters from Ten Jurisdictions Certifying Compliance with Federal Law
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is reviewing letters certifying compliance with federal law from ten jurisdictions identified by the Department’s Inspector General (DOJ-OIG) last year. According to the May 2016 DOJ-OIG report, the jurisdictions’ policies may be violating 8 U.S.C. § 1373, which forbids states or localities from barring or restricting the sharing of information regarding the citizenship or information status of individuals. All of the ten areas were required to certify their compliance with § 1373 by the end of June 2017. After the review, DOJ will determine whether the jurisdictions follow the federal law. Violating the statue could result in cuts in federal funds allocated to those areas.
In their letters to DOJ, the ten jurisdictions claimed that they are in compliance with § 1373 in its current form. Experts have noted that the provision does not impose any affirmative obligation on localities to require the collection of individual’s immigration statue or to report any information in addition to the narrow categories of information mentioned in the statute. On June 29, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would amend § 1373 to bar community trust policies and require that jurisdictions honor warrantless immigration detainers. The Senate has yet to act on that legislation.
Refugees Fleeing Central America Settle in Mexico Instead of the U.S.
Increasing numbers of families from the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras are seeking asylum in Mexico rather than risking crossing the border into the United States. The Mexico office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) expects the country to receive 20,000 asylum applications by the year’s end. In contrast, Mexico received just 3,424 applications for asylum in 2015. The change has been attributed to hostile rhetoric from U.S. government officials as well as a Mexican legal process that is more favorable to Central American asylum seekers. The U.S. denies the asylum applications of Central Americans at a rate of about 80%, and American immigration judges have a case backlog of several years.
15,000 People Become United States Citizens on Independence Day
This July 4, in more than 65 Independence Day-themed ceremonies, over 15,000 people across the country became United States citizens. Naturalization ceremonies took place in a variety of places, including George Washington’s Mount Vernon and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. The number of new citizens this year is double that of Independence Day 2016, when roughly 7,000 people were naturalized.
DHS Moves Forward to Increase Number of Low Skilled and Seasonal Worker Visas
On Monday, July 3, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) submitted a final rule to the White House Office of Management and Budget that would increase the number of H-2B visas available for the year. In May, Congress provided DHS Secretary John Kelly with authority to release additional visas beyond the standard annual quota of 66,000 visas. Those visas ran out in March. The exact number of additional visas that will be released remains unclear.
Businesses in several industries have struggled to recruit seasonal workers in the absence of the visas. Shortly before the administration submitted the rule, a bipartisan group of seven Senators sent a letter to Secretary Kelly expressing their concerns about the visa shortfall and calling for an urgent response. The proposed rule has faced opposition from some who claim that the H-2B program favors foreign workers over the domestic workforce, including groups skeptical of immigration who have significant support from the Trump administration’s core supporters.
There were no immigration or workforce related government reports published during the week of Monday, July 3, 2017.
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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.