USA Border with American Flag and barbed Wire

Major U.S. Congressional Actions in 2018 – Immigration

Securing America’s Future Act

  • Introduced by retiring House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) as a bill favored by conservative Republicans.
  • Would have granted legal status to DACA recipients with reapplication every three years.
  • Would allow the Department of Justice (DOJ) to penalize sanctuary cities and authorize more border wall construction.
  • One of the only immigration bills that made it to a full House vote, but failed, 193-231.

Status: Failed in a House vote on 6/21/18

Government Shutdown

  • The government shut down from Jan. 19-Jan. 22, 2018 when Senate Democrats refused to pass government funding legislation without protections for DACA recipients.
  • Senate Democrats voted to reopen the government following what seemed to be a commitment from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to open debate on immigration bills.

Status: Majority Leader McConnell did not open debate on immigration bills

USA Act (H.R. 4796/S.2367)

  • A bipartisan bill introduced by Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) in the House on and Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) in the Senate.
  • Would have provided undocumented minors who have lived in the US for at least four years the opportunity to earn permanent legal status.
  • Also includes provisions to strengthen border security.

Status: Referred to House and Senate Judiciary Committees, no action afterward

Sources: National Journal Research, 2018

Trump Administration Recap

Ending DACA

  • President Trump announced plans to end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in September 2017.
  • He gave Congress until March 5, 2018 to act.
  • Several federal courts have granted injunctions that forced the federal government to resume DACA while it works its way through the courts.
  • Congress has not passed any legislation to codify DACA.

Border Wall

  • Lacking major funding to construct a full wall, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has devoted funds to repairing existing barriers.
  • Roughly 40 miles of new barriers have been erected or approved for construction.
  • The Trump administration commissioned construction of wall prototypes in 2017; the wall designs failed U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)’s field tests.

Family Separation Crisis

  • The DOJ instituted a “zero tolerance” policy in April, which required prosecution of all people attempting to enter the country not at a port of entry.
  • DHS separated children from their parents because they are not allowed to detain children for more than 20 days (Flores Agreement).
  • The policy was ended by executive order on June 20 after intense public pressure.

“I am proud to shut down the government for border security.” President Trump threatening to shut down the government unless Congress included $5 billion for the border wall in its end-of-year government funding package.

Sources: National Journal Research, 2018

Potential 2019 Congressional Immigration Agenda Items

Pathway to Citizenship for Undocumented YouthLaw concept - Open law book with a wooden judges gavel on table in a courtroom or law enforcement office

  • Incoming Senate Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has signaled support for bills providing a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients.
  • Incoming House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) has said that he will aim to strike an immigration deal with Republicans.

Potential Legislation: S. 1615 Dream Act

  • Introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) with bipartisan support.
  • Would grant a three-year provisional residence for qualified undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.
  • Also provides additional funding for border security.

Family Migration (“Chain” Migration)

  • President Trump and conservative Republicans have demanded that any changes to immigration involve the end of family-based visa sponsorship or “chain” migration.
  • Conservative Republicans are wary that DACA recipients that earn a path to citizenship or residency will be able to sponsor their family members who brought them to the U.S. illegally.

“[The 2017 Dream Act] would allow these young people – who grew up in the United States – to contribute more fully to the country they love.  They have a powerful story to tell and this may be an area where both parties can come together.” — Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), incoming chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee

 Sources: National Journal Research, 2018

House Democrats are Poised to Hold Many More Oversight Hearings on Immigration

Family Separation

  • Incoming House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) plans to hold more oversight hearings on the Trump administration’s handling of the family separation crisis.
  • As chair, he will wield subpoena power over Trump administration officials that were involved in separating children at the southern border.

Immigration Detention Centers

  • After a seven-year-old girl died in federal immigration custody in December 2018, members have called for hearings on CBP’s handling of juvenile detention.

“We should be investigating the fact that the United States government tore babies out of the arms of their mothers and there are still separated kids who haven’t been reunited with their families and may never be.” — Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), incoming chair of the House Judiciary Committee

Potential 2019 Trump Administration Immigration Agenda Items

Cuts to Asylum Numbers

  • The administration is trying to cut down on what it sees as abuses of the asylum system.
  • They have already removed the ability to apply for asylum on domestic violence or gang violence grounds.
  • They are now negotiating with the Mexican government to keep asylum-seekers in Mexico while their claims are processed.Law and Justice, Legality concept, Scales of Justice l on a wooden background, Law library concept.

Public Charge Rule

  • The proposed rule would expand the number of immigrants who could be excluded as “public charges” under the Immigration & Nationality Act.
  • Probable future usage of health care, nutrition, and housing programs would count as factors for denial under the rule.
  • The public comment period closed on December 10, 2018; over 210,000 comments were received and must be reviewed before a final rule is issued.

Flores Agreement Appeal

  • The Flores Agreement prevents children from being detained for more than 20 days.
  • The Trump administration has introduced a proposed rule that would end Flores and free the federal government’s juvenile immigrant detention from court supervision.
  • The public comment period closed on November 6, 2018; HHS and DHS must now review the comments before issuing a final rule.

“As ridiculous as it sounds, the laws of our country do not easily allow us to send those crossing our Southern Border back where they came from. A whole big wasted procedure must take place.” — President Trump in an April 2, 2018 tweet criticizing asylum claims

Sources: National Journal Research, 2018

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