Legislative Bulletin – Friday, March 23, 2018
Policy and Advocacy Associate
March 23, 2018
BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED
There were no immigration-related bills introduced or considered on the week of Monday, March 19, 2018.
LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR
The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives will be out of session the week of Monday, March 26, 2018.
UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS
There are no relevant hearings or markups scheduled for the week of Monday, March 26, 2018.
THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK
President Trump Signs Omnibus Bill after Last-Minute Veto Threat
On March 23, President Trump signed the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill that Congress passed hours earlier after threatening in a morning tweet that he might veto the bill. Trump, whose threatened veto would have risked a government shutdown, said he was frustrated that the legislation did not include a solution for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and full funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Previously, the White House announced support for the spending bill and rejected proposed bipartisan compromises that would have traded DACA protections for wall spending.
The omnibus spending bill, which would fund the federal government for the remaining six months of fiscal year (FY) 2018, passed Congress with bipartisan support early in the morning of March 23 after the latest attempt at a DACA deal failed. Earlier in the week, in an attempt to increase funding for a border wall, the White House and Republican leaders offered congressional Democrats a deal that would exchange $25 billion for border security with a two-and-a-half more years of protection from deportation for DACA recipients, which would expire before the 2020 presidential elections. Democrats reportedly countered with an offer that would provide $25 billion in border security with a permanent earned path to citizenship for about 1.8 million Dreamers, which President Trump had previously offered as part of his four-point immigration plan earlier in the year. The White House rejected the Democratic offer. Although conversations continued over the week, congressional leaders and the White House were unable to reach a deal. Republican and Democratic sources subsequently exchanged statements on which side was to blame for the failure to address DACA and border security, while others, like Senator Bob Menéndez (D-New Jersey), noted that President Trump likely missed his best opportunity to get funding for his border wall. The President’s veto threat stands in contrast to the White House’s rejection of a bipartisan Senate deal introduced by Senator Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota) that would have provided $25 billion in border security in exchange for a permanent solution for 1.8 million Dreamers.
The omnibus spending bill as passed by Congress includes $1.6 billion for physical barriers and technology along the Southwest border. In addition, the bill includes $3.1 billion to fund approximately 40,520 immigration detention beds in FY 2018, a 1,196 bed increase over FY 2017, and funding to hire an additional 65 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigators and 60 ICE attorneys. The bill also includes report language that would increase transparency efforts at ICE, such as requiring that ICE publicly release its inspections of ICE detention facilities.
The omnibus spending bill also gives the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) authority to expand the H-2B program beyond the 66,000 cap, prevents the Department of Labor from enforcing a minimum hours guarantee for H-2B workers, and permits companies to use private wage surveys to set wages for H-2B workers.
White House Hosts Roundtable on “Sanctuary Jurisdictions”
On March 20, the White House hosted a roundtable on the issue of so-called sanctuary jurisdictions, following the U.S. Department of Justice’s filing of a lawsuit against the state of California over its immigration policies earlier in March. The roundtable featured administration officials, House and Senate Republicans, Republican state attorneys general, and members of the law enforcement community.
Participants asserted that so-called sanctuary jurisdictions threatened public safety and led to the release of “thousands of criminal aliens,” and called for the defunding and penalizing of “sanctuary jurisdictions” that limit involvement with federal immigration authorities, particularly San Francisco and the state of California in its entirety. Critics condemned the roundtable, characterizing it as “fear-mongering.”
The Trump administration’s efforts to penalize so-called sanctuary jurisdictions have faced resistance in the federal courts, which have found that they violate principles of federalism and separation of powers.
USCIS Denies Reports about Its New Employee Oversight Division
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) denied reports claiming the agency is creating a new division to oversee its own caseworkers handling residency and citizenship applications. USCIS spokesman Jonathan Withington described such news as “absolutely false.” The denials followed a Washington Post report earlier this month that stated that USCIS planned to create the Organization of Professional Responsibility to increase oversight of the way its employees handle the thousands of cases the agency adjudicates daily, discouraging caseworkers from being too lenient in their review of applications.
USCIS Suspends Fast-Track Processing of H1-B Visas
On Wednesday, March 22, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will temporarily suspend premium processing for H1-B visas, under which applicants are able to receive a decision within 15 days rather than the usual three to six months. The announcement comes less than two weeks before USCIS begins accepting petitions for the fiscal year 2019, and is the second time that the Trump admiration has temporarily suspended premium processing. USCIS stated that the action—expected to last until September—will enable the agency to process long-pending petitions and help reduce overall H1-B processing times. The decision could negatively impact some top information technology services and Silicon Valley companies which are among the main beneficiaries of the H1-B visa program.
U.S. Supreme Court Declines to Hear Appeal of Decision Blocking Arizona’s Denial of Driver’s Licenses to Dreamers
The United States Supreme Court declined to review a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit blocking Arizona from denying driver’s licenses to about 20,000 young DACA recipients living in the state.
The case dates back to 2012, when after then-President Obama announced DACA, then-Gov. Jan Brewer (R-Arizona) took action to block DACA recipients from receiving driver’s licenses. Brewer claimed that the action was consistent with Arizona’s longstanding policy of issuing licenses only to those who can prove their legal immigration status. The measure was challenged by a group of DACA beneficiaries who argued that Arizona had a policy of granting driver’s licenses to recipients of other types of deferred action. The Ninth Circuit held that the Arizona policy of denying driver’s licenses to DACA recipients was unlawful because U.S. immigration law prohibits states from differentiating among various classes of non-citizens.
District Judge Dismisses Tennessee’s Refugee Resettlement Lawsuit
A district judge on Monday, March 19, dismissed the state of Tennessee’s lawsuit against federal government over the refugee resettlement program. The lawsuit alleges that the federal government infringed on the state’s sovereignty by requiring it to provide Medicaid benefits to refugees, or else face losing nearly $7 billion in Medicaid funds annually if it refused. The plaintiffs argued the requirement violated the 10th Amendment, which limits the federal government’s powers over the states. Chief Judge S. Thomas Anderson dismissed the lawsuit saying the state lacked legal standing, calling the prospect of Medicaid funding loss “speculative.” The case did not include an allegation that the federal government had threatened to withhold funding. The Republican-led Tennessee General Assembly filed the lawsuit, but it was not signed by the state’s governor, Bill Haslam (R-Tennessee).
State and Local
Immigrant Deportations and Arrests on Rise in Michigan and Ohio
The number of immigrants arrested or deported by federal agents in Michigan and Ohio has sharply increased, according to the Detroit Free Press’s review of federal records from fiscal years 2016 and 2017. The spike in arrests and deportations comes as the Trump administration has increased interior immigration enforcement. Overall, Michigan and Ohio saw a 57 percent rise in deportations and a 52 percent increase in arrests, including a 1117 percent increase in arrests of immigrants without criminal records and a 126 percent increase in deportations of those without criminal records. Immigrant advocates argue that the uptick in enforcement has unsettled local communities separating families and destabilizing trust between immigrant communities and local law enforcement.
Skills & Workforce Development
Congress Increases Perkins CTE Funding
Congress decided to increase funding for the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins Act), adding a $75-million increase for Perkins Basic State Grants to the recently-enacted fiscal year (FY) 2018 omnibus appropriations bill. The move is a departure from President Trump’s proposed budget, which called for a 15-percent cut to the state grant program.
Earlier this week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers sent a letter to U.S. House Labor, Health and Human Services, and the Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma) and Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut), calling for “strong funding” of the Perkins Act in the subcommittee’s appropriations bill for FY2019. The joint “dear colleague” letter had bipartisan 170 signatories – 46 Republicans and 124 Democrats from 40 different U.S. states and territories.
The Perkins Act is the primary federal funding source for high school, college and university career and technical education (CTE) programs that are critical for preparing youth and adults, including immigrants, for jobs in local and regional economies. Programs funded by the Perkins CTE Act help immigrants and other workers gain work skills, certificates, licenses and education that allow them to secure better jobs and fulfill their career potential.
There were no immigration or workforce related government reports published during the week of Monday, March 19, 2018.
SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES
Comparison of U.S. Senate Bills on Dreamers and Comparison of U.S. House of Representatives Bills on Dreamers
These charts compare legislative solutions for Dreamers introduced in the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives.
This document reviews the President’s budget request for the DHS and compares the funding requests to FY 2017 Omnibus Enacted Discretionary Funding and the FY 2018 President’s budget request.
This document reviews the President’s budget request for Skills and Workforce Development and compares the funding requests to FY 2017 Omnibus Enacted Discretionary Funding and the FY 2018 President’s budget request.
This document reviews the President’s budget request for the Department of Justice and compares the funding requests to FY 2017 Omnibus Enacted Discretionary Funding and the FY 2018 President’s budget request.
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*This Bulletin is not intended to be comprehensive. Please contact Zuzana Cepla, 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.