Legislative Bulletin – Friday, September 8, 2017
Policy and Advocacy Associate
September 8, 2017
BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED
Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act
This bill would define the term “criminal gang” as an ongoing group or association of five or more persons involved in certain criminal offenses and prevent individuals designated as belonging to a criminal gang from entering the U.S. and receiving immigrations benefits, such as asylum, and help remove those present in the U.S.
Sponsored by Representative Barbara Comstock (R-Virginia) (3 cosponsors)
09/07/2017 Introduced in the House by Representative Comstock
Legal Workforce Act
The bill would require U.S. employers to verify the work eligibility of all future employees through the E-Verify system.
Sponsored by Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas) (2 cosponsors)
09/07/2017 Introduced in the House by Representative Smith
Immigration in the National Interest Act
This bill would reduce legal immigration in half over the next ten years to about 500,000 immigrants per year and install a merit-based points system for legal immigrants to come to the U.S. based on the applicants’ English, education and professional skills. This is a companion bill to S. 1720, Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act.
Sponsored by Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas) (7 cosponsors)
09/07/2017 Introduced in the House by Representative Smith
LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR
The U.S. Senate will be in session the week of Monday, September 11, 2017.
The U.S. House of Representatives will be in session from Monday, September 11, 2017 to Thursday, September 14, 2017.
UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS
The Long-Term Impact of Immigration: Exploring Reforms to our Nation’s Guest Worker Programs and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and their Potential Impact on the American Economy and Local Committees
Date: Wednesday, September 13, 2017 at 10:00 a.m. (Senate Judiciary Committee)
Location: 226 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Michael Dougherty, Assistant Secretary for Border, Immigration and Trade, Office of Strategy, Policy and Plans, Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
John R. Martin, Senior Policy Advisor, Employment and Training Administration, Department of Labor
Paul Almeida, President, Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO
Daniel Costa, Director of Immigration Law and Policy Research, Economic Policy Institute
Dr. Ron Hire, Associate Professor, Howard University
Dr. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, President, American Action Forum
Randel K. Johnson, Senior Vice President for Labor, Immigration and Employee Benefits, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Jessica Vaughan, Director of Policy Studies, Center for Immigration Studies
THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK
President Trump Rescinds DACA; Dreamers to Start Losing Protection in March
The Trump administration announced that it is ending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which provided almost 800,000 young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children with protection from deportation and work permits, but will allow some DACA recipients to renew their protections and work permits before March 5, 2018 and permit current recipients to retain protections and work permits until they expire.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the decision on September 5, which came after weeks of internal deliberations in the White House. In a press statement, the White House argued that President Trump ended DACA because it would be unlikely to survive a legal court challenge and was “never intended to be permanent,” but urged Congress to find a legislative solution to address the issue. Critics of the decision and legal scholars noted that DACA has never been ruled unconstitutional and the president has the legal authority to preserve the program. After the announcement, President Trump tweeted that Congress “has 6 months to legalize DACA” and “Congress, get ready to do your job – DACA!”
Under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) “Memorandum on Rescission of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA),” DHS will allow DACA recipients with protection from deportation and work permits expiring before March 5, 2018 to apply for a two-year renewal provided they submit the renewal application before October 5, 2017.It will also permit all current recipients to retain their protections and work permits until they expire over the next two-and-a-half years. However, after March 5, 2018, Dreamers will no longer be able to renew their protection from deportation and work permits. Once they expire, Dreamers will be subject to deportation and will lose their ability to work legally in the U.S. An estimated 150,000 Dreamers will lose their protection from deportation and work permits in the six months following March 5, 2017 and more than 318,000 will lose them by January 2019. The DHS memo also bars U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) from considering new, initial applications for DACA that have not been received by the agency as of September 5.
Following the announcement on September 5, the White House circulated talking points that said current DACA recipients should use the time remaining on their work permits to prepare to self-deport by “arrang[ing] their departure from the United States.” DHS said that there are no plans to prioritize DACA recipients for removal once their permits expire. On September 8, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi urged President Trump to assure Dreamers that they will not be deported. President Trump tweeted that DACA recipients should not be concerned “about your status during the 6 month period,” but did not elaborate if they will be proactively deported after that period.
Congressional Republicans, Democrats Criticize DACA Rescission; Support Legislative Solution
Many Members of Congress expressed disapproval ranging from displeasure to anger with the Trump administration’s decision on September 5 to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Most Members voiced support for Dreamers and urged their colleagues to pass a permanent, legislative solution. House Speaker Paul Ryan said that he hoped that the House and Senate would find a consensus on a permanent legislative solution to protect Dreamers. Democrats in Congress immediately urged Congressional leaders to set up a stand-alone vote on the Dream Act of 2017, while some Republicans support tying legislation to protect Dreamers with border security measures. Other Members praised President Trump’s decision to end DACA. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) called the decision a move that “corrects [a] fundamental mistake” and said Congress would “continue to secure our border and ensur[e] a lawful system of immigration that works.”
Following the termination of DACA, Senators Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) and Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) announced that they would co-sponsor the Senate version of the Dream Act of 2017 (S. 1615), bringing the total number of co-sponsors to four Republicans and six Democrats. In the House, at least eleven Republicans newly co-sponsored the Recognizing America’s Children (RAC) Act led by Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Florida), increasing the total number of co-sponsors to 29. In addition, Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-California) lifted the restriction on co-sponsors for the House version of the Dream Act (H.R. 3340). As of September 8, 134 Democrats signed on as cosponsors to the House version of the Dream Act, which also includes Representative Mike Coffman (R-Colorado) as co-sponsor.
Finally, Senator Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) announced that he would introduce a Republican-led bill in the coming weeks to protect Dreamers similar to the House RAC Act.
President Trump’s decision to end DACA also elicited opposition from business, faith and immigration groups, while increasing calls for Congress to provide a permanent, legislative solution to protect Dreamers.
Congress Passes President Trump’s, Democratic Leaders’ Compromise Package
Congress voted on September 7 and 8 to approve a compromise package that will both fund the federal government at the current spending levels and extend the country’s borrowing authority until December 8, and provide $15 billion in recovery aid in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. The compromise package was reached after President Trump met on September 6 with House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer at the White House. President Trump agreed with Pelosi’s and Schumer’s proposal to temporarily extend government funding and the debt limit until December, while tying them to aid for Hurricane Harvey. The proposal disappointed conservatives in Congress, who fear it will give Congressional Democrats leverage to attach legislation or policy riders to one of these must-pass bills in December.
However, immigrant groups expressed strong disappointment with the decision, condemning Pelosi and Schumer for not insisting that the Dream Act or other legislation to protect Dreamers be included in the deal.
The compromise package now heads to President Trump for his signature.
ICE Appears to Cancel Massive Immigration Raids Due to Inclement Weather
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced on September 7 that it will cancel a plan to conduct massive immigration raids over a five-day period beginning on September 17. The raids, titled “Operation Mega,” would have been the largest operation of its kind in the history of ICE, targeting an estimated 8,400 unauthorized immigrants. DHS reportedly made the decision to cancel the operation in response to Hurricane Irma, which is expected to make landfall in Florida, as well as the ongoing recovery efforts in Texas stemming from Hurricane Harvey. ICE had been planning the operation during August. At least one official reportedly said that the higher-than-usual target number may have been driven by an effort to reach a deportation goal by the end of the fiscal year, which ends on September 30.
Representative Lamar Smith Introduces House Companion Bill to the RAISE Act
On September 7, Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas) introduced the Immigration in the National Interest Act, the House companion bill to the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act introduced in Senate by Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and David Perdue (R-Georgia). Representative Smith’s bill would reduce legal immigration in half over the next decade to 500,000 legal immigrants per year and install a merit-based points system to come to the U.S. based on the applicants’ English, education and work skills. The bill would also eliminate the diversity visa program and limit refugee admissions.
Representative Smith also introduced a second bill, the Legal Workforce Act, which would expand E-Verify, the electronic employment verification system that many businesses use to check immigration status of their new hires, by requiring U.S. employers check the work eligibility of all future hires. While the E-Verify system is currently voluntary for most businesses, President Trump called for making it mandatory in his budget proposal.
Fifteen States and D.C. Sue Trump Administration for Rescinding DACA
On September 6, 15 states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit in a federal district court in New York to block the Trump administration’s decision to rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The lawsuit alleges that the Trump administration’s rescission of DACA violates the constitution’s equal protection clause on the basis of animus toward individuals of Mexican-American descent, who constitute about 78 percent of the population eligible for DACA. The lawsuit cites a series of statements made by President Trump during his presidential campaign, including labeling Mexican immigrants “bad hombres” and “thugs,” which the lawsuit claims is indicative of a racial bias. In addition, the lawsuit argues that the states would be harmed by the potential deportation of hundreds of thousands of tax-paying state residents who are DACA recipients. In an effort to protect DACA recipients from deportation, the suit includes a request for an injunction to prohibit U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) from sharing recipients’ personal information, which they provided to qualify for DACA, with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for deportation purposes.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced that the state will file a separate lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s decision to rescind DACA. California, home to the largest population of DACA recipients in the nation, is not one of the 15 states joining the lawsuit filed in New York. Becerra said that the high number of DACA recipients living in California, about one in four DACA recipients, indicates that California is likely to suffer the greatest degree of harm due to the program’s termination. Becerra announced that he will file the suit soon and that its arguments will closely mirror those of the state attorney generals involved in the New York lawsuit.
On September 8, the University of California (UC) filed a separate lawsuit against the Trump administration, asserting that the recession unconstitutionally violated the rights of California students. UC President Janet Napolitano previously served as the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security under President Obama and created DACA in 2012 in that role.
The White House decided to terminate DACA after a September 5 deadline imposed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and officials from eight other states who threatened to challenge the Trump administration in court if it did not rescind the program. Following DACA’s termination, Paxton announced that he no longer plans to sue the Trump administration over DACA.
Appeals Court Rejects Exclusion of Extended Family Members in Travel Ban Case
On September 7, a three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed an injunction issued by Judge Derrick Watson of the U.S. District Court of Hawaii in the case challenging the Trump Administration’s travel ban. At issue was whether the federal government’s determination of which extended family members of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents and certain refugees qualify as having a “bona fide relationship” to come to the U.S. The appeals court panel held that Judge Watson acted within his authority in expanding who qualified for “bona fide relationships” to include grandparents, grandchildren, brothers- and sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, cousin, nieces, and nephews. The Trump administration was unable to persuade the appeals court panel in its reasoning that these people lack a close connection to individuals in the United States. The court explained that the government’s interpretation of “close family relationships” was too narrow, particularly because mothers-in-law already fall within the scope of the injunction based. In addition, the court held that refugees abroad with sponsorship from U.S. resettlement agencies could enter the U.S. because they meet the standard for a “bona fide relationships with an entity in the U.S.
The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the legality of the travel ban on October 10, 2017.
State and Local
DHS Will Not Conduct Non-Criminal Enforcement in Areas Affected by Hurricane Irma
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a statement on September 6 announcing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will not conduct non-criminal immigration enforcement operations in areas expected to be affected by Hurricane Irma, which is likely to constitute most of the state of Florida. At the same time, Sheriff Grady Judd of Polk County, Florida announced that law enforcement authorities in the county will check the identities of people who arrive at shelters and will transfer anyone found to have an active arrest warrant to the county jail.
There were no immigration-related government reports published or released on the week of Monday, September 4, 2017.
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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.