Immigration Politics Ticker

February 21, 2017

Today, the Department of Homeland Security released a pair of memos which outline the government's aggressive plan to implement President Trump's January 25 Executive Orders on interior enforcement and border enforcement. McClatchy News published previous versions of the memos over the weekend.

AILA's Advocacy Director Greg Chen told ProPublica that the government's enforcement plan would "effectively unleash a massive deportation force with extremely broad authority to use detention as the default mechanism for anyone suspected of violating immigration law." (Read this article in Spanish on Univision.) For an in-depth look into the implementation memos, read AILA's summary and analysis on both the interior enforcement memo and border enforcement memo, and watch AILA's Quicktake with Advocacy Director Greg Chen. These resources along with the text of the memos are posted on AILA's Immigration 2017 Featured Issues page.

Later this week, DHS Secretary John Kelly and State Secretary Rex Tillerson will visit Mexico and plan to meet with the President of Mexico Enrique Peña Nieto. No word on whether the new memos will be discussed.

In other news, CNN reports that the government is still drafting a new travel ban that would not impact green card holders and address concerns raised by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. AILA is monitoring the president's actions closely.


February 17, 2017

Earlier today, the Associated Press released a draft memo dated January 25, 2017, apparently under the authorship of DHS Secretary John Kelly. The leaked memo indicates DHS has considered mobilizing as many as 100,000 National Guard troops to be deployed for immigration enforcement. Today the White House stated that such a plan would not be implemented. The memo also calls for detaining virtually everyone entering or attempting to enter the country, including those seeking asylum, and for the expansion of expedited removal to the entirety of the United States.

In other news, the Justice Department told the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco that it would not seek a rehearing of a decision that blocked the president's travel ban. The DOJ's brief asserted that the president will repeal the order and issue a new one that would address constitutional concerns with the current executive order. At his press conference on February 16, 2017, President Trump stated that the new order would be issued next week. The president also indicated during the press conference that his administration would appeal the court's ruling. For more information, check out AILA's practice advisory.

In addition to a new travel ban order, the press has reported that the administration is considering additional immigration executive orders that would rescind DACA, restrict business-based visa programs, and limit social services for immigrants.

At his press conference yesterday, the president was asked whether he would in fact end DACA. In a befuddled litany, Trump announced that DACA recipients are "incredible kids," yet some are "drug dealers and gang members," but that "I love these kids" and will "deal with DACA with heart." Through all this, he did not offer any clarity as to what his administration will do with the more than 700,000 DACA recipients across the country.

AILA is monitoring the president's actions closely, and will provide a summary and analysis on any new immigration orders. Current resources on the executive orders on the travel ban, interior enforcement, and border are posted on AILA's Immigration 2017 Featured Issue page.


February 16, 2017

Earlier today, during a news conference, President Trump said he will issue a new immigration Executive Order (EO) to "protect our country" next week. The president also mentioned that the government would appeal the Ninth Circuit's ruling against his travel ban. When asked about rescinding DACA, the President again promised to "show great heart," adding that "DACA is a very, very difficult subject" for him. The press conference was scheduled to announce his new Labor secretary pick, Alexander Acosta. (Trump's first choice for Labor secretary, Andrew Puzder, withdrew his nomination on Thursday.)

Before the news conference, Senators Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI), along with 17 other senators (all Democrats plus Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders) introduced legislation that would rescind the president's EO on interior enforcement. AILA and the American Immigration Council concluded that the EO, which was signed on January 25, 2017, will massively expand interior enforcement, place all unauthorized individuals at risk of deportation, and ultimately undermine public safety rather than make our nation more secure.

A big THANK YOU to all the AILA chapters and members that urged their senators to support Cortez-Masto's bill last night and this morning. At the time of this posting, the bill was co-sponsored by: Democratic Senators Michael Bennet (CO), Richard Blumenthal (CT), Cory Booker (NJ), Chris Coons (DE), Tammy Duckworth (IL), Al Franken (MN), Kamala Harris (CA), Tim Kaine (VA), Pat Leahy (VT), Ed Markey (MA), Robert Menendez (NJ), Jeff Merkley (OR), Patty Murray (WA), Chris Van Hollen (MD), Elizabeth Warren (MA) and Ron Wyden (OR), along with Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders.


February 14, 2017

Yesterday, DHS Secretary John Kelly stated that last week, ICE launched a series of targeted enforcement operations in the Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Antonio, and New York City areas, resulting in the arrests of more than 680 individuals. Secretary Kelly stated that the enforcement operations focused on individuals who posed a threat to public safety, had been charged with criminal offenses, and had committed immigration violations or had been deported and reentered the country illegally. He also asserted that the focus of the operations was consistent with the "routine, targeted arrests" carried out by ICE's Fugitive Operations teams on a daily basis. Today, Vox delved deeper into last week's events and provided historical context to an era of aggressive enforcement actions that started under George W. Bush and continued under the Obama administration.

If you have any information on confirmed round-ups or raids happening in your community, please use this form to share that information with AILA National. Visit AILA's Immigration 2017 featured issue page and check out AILA's practice alerts and pointers for further updates on any enforcement actions.


February 10, 2017

Last night, in a unanimous decision, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to keep in place the temporary restraining order (TRO) barring the implementation of President Trump's Muslim and refugee ban. AILA welcomed the decision, with AILA Executive Director Ben Johnson stating that "the court acted swiftly and appropriately in accordance with its undeniable constitutional role as a check on executive power." In terms of next steps, the federal government could seek U.S. Supreme Court intervention, though five of the current eight justices would need to vote to overturn the panel decision.

Check out AILA's practice alert on DHS and DOS implementation of the president's Executive Order for additional information.


February 9, 2017

Earlier today, President Trump signed three Executive Orders (EOs) that would "crack down" on crime and public safety. AILA National is currently reviewing and analyzing the three EOs for their immigration impact. Once finalized, AILA's analysis will be posted on AILA's Immigration 2017 page.

The EOs were signed shortly after Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) was sworn in as Attorney General. The Senate confirmed Sessions on Wednesday night. The final vote was 52-47, which was split along party lines, with Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia as the only Democrat to back Sessions' nomination. As the head of the Department of Justice, Sessions will be in charge of immigration courts and could turn his attention to targeting so-called "sanctuary cities." Read AILA and NIJC's Policy Brief on ICE's Detainer Program that summarizes the legal and constitutional requirements governing ICE's detainer practice and the ways in which ICE's current practice routinely violates these constraints.

Also today, Senator Durbin (D-IL), the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, requested a series of hearings on the president's immigration Executive Orders on border and interior enforcement, signed on January 25, 2017, and the Muslim and refugee ban, signed on January 27, 2017. AILA has denounced the President's EOs on immigration and calls on President Trump to end these divisive policies that will undermine rights, weaken public safety, and revert to an era of indiscriminate prosecution and removal of immigrants, irrespective of their family ties or contributions to the community.

Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) introduced the Access to Counsel Act to guarantee access to legal counsel to anyone held or detained while attempting to enter the United States. AILA supports this bill and urges AILA members to thank the co-sponsors: Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tom Carper (D-DE), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).


February 7, 2017

Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit will hear oral arguments on the legality of the President's Executive Order banning Muslim nationals and refugees. The hearing, which will take place by telephone, will also be livestreamed on the court's website at 6:00 pm ET/3:00 pm PST.

The three judges on the Ninth Circuit Court who will decide the outcome are: William C. Canby Jr., who was appointed by President Jimmy Carter; Judge Richard Clifton, who was appointed by President George W. Bush; and Judge Michelle Taryn Friedland, who was appointed by President Barack Obama.

On Captiol Hill today, Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly testified before the House Homeland Security Committee. The committee questioned Kelly on the president's Executive Order banning nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries, the border wall, and sanctuary cities, among other issues. Read The Hill's live coverage for the full rundown of today's hearing.

In other news, the Senate will vote tomorrow on Senator Jeff Sessions' nomination to serve as the U.S. Attorney General (AG), after the Senate voted to end debate. On Friday, February 3, 2017, AILA submitted a statement to the U.S. Senate on the nomination of Senator Sessions for AG, indicating that "AILA is deeply troubled by the likely confirmation of Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General." AILA also has a Take Action on its website urging AILA members to contact their members of Congress and request that they consider Sessions' troubling record on immigration policy.


February 6, 2017

On Friday, February 3, 2017, a nationwide temporary restraining order was issued from a U.S. District Court in Washington state after the states of Washington and Minnesota challenged President Trump's Executive Order (EO) banning Muslims and refugees. Judge James L. Robart wrote, "[T]he court finds that the States have met their burden of demonstrating that they face immediate and irreparable injury as a result of the signing and implementation of the Executive Order." The Department of Justice filed an emergency motion for an immediate administrative stay and motion for stay pending appeal. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the DOJ's request for an immediate administrative stay and requested that both sides submit motions on behalf of their positions.

Until the Ninth Circuit decides further, all U.S. land and air ports of entry are prohibited from enforcing portions of the EO. For more information on how the Department of State, Customs and Border Protection, and the airlines are conforming their actions to be in line with the court decision, see AILA's Practice Alert. Stay tuned to AILA's breaking news page for more information on what the Ninth Circuit decides.

As early as tomorrow, a final confirmation vote could come for Attorney General (AG) nominee Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL). On Friday, February 3, 2017, AILA submitted a statement to the U.S. Senate on the nomination of Senator Sessions for AG, messaging that "AILA is deeply troubled by the likely confirmation of Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General." AILA also has a Take Action on its website urging AILA members to contact their members of Congress and request that they consider the following when casting their vote on Senator Sessions' nomination:

  • Even before his confirmation, Senator Sessions' influence and views on excluding people of Muslim faith from our country have been realized.
  • Senator Sessions' statements and record make clear that he lacks the ability or desire to fully enforce civil rights laws protecting the rights of immigrants and other noncitizens.
  • Senator Sessions remains opposed to the 14th Amendment's guarantee of birthright citizenship.
  • Senator Sessions continues to believe that indiscriminate prosecution and unrestrained removal of unauthorized immigrants is in the country's best interests.
  • Senator Sessions' opposition to immigration extends to the most vulnerable populations.


February 3, 2017

Today, AILA submitted a statement to the U.S. Senate on the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) for Attorney General, stating that "AILA is deeply troubled by the likely confirmation of Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General." AILA members are encouraged to take action and urge their legislators to review Senator Sessions' long record of relentlessly eroding the Constitution and protections for immigrants when they decide whether to vote for his confirmation.

Also, earlier today a government attorney revealed that over 100,000 visas have been revoked as a result of the President's Executive Order, which banned travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Shortly thereafter it was reported that the State Department says the figure is closer to 60,000. Hours after the Executive Order was issued on January 27, federal courts issued injunctions against the president's Muslim ban in several jurisdictions across the country. (For more information, visit the litigation section on AILA's Immigration 2017 page.) The president's Muslim ban has been widely opposed by Republicans and Democrats. A broad range of voices, including AILA, have also denounced the unconstitutional Muslim and refugee ban.

With all the attention focused on the executive order banning refugees and Muslim nationals, there has been less attention focused on the first two executive orders, which unleash massive deportation plans at the border and the interior. AILA fully expects raids and other enforcement actions to begin immediately and is vigilantly monitoring actions through our chapters and membership. Please report raids and enforcement action to AILA National by completing this form.


February 1, 2017

It was a busy day in the Senate today. The morning kicked off with the Senate Judiciary Committee voting to confirm Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) as Attorney General, in an 11 to 9 vote along party lines. A Senate floor vote has yet to be scheduled. In the afternoon, the Senate then convened to approve Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State by a vote of 56-43. Tillerson joins the Department of State days after the agency issued a directive announcing the provisional revocation of all valid visas of nationals of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, with certain limited exceptions.


January 31, 2017

Update from 12 pm (ET)

This morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee met to vote on Senator Jeff Sessions' (R-AL) nomination for Attorney General. At the time of this post, the Committee members were still presenting statements in support or opposition to Sessions' nomination. On January 10, 2017, AILA submitted a statement to the Judiciary Committee, noting that Senator Sessions' record "raises serious concerns that he would be unwilling or unable to interpret the U.S. Constitution in a fair and neutral manner or exercise balanced judgment on immigration law."

Today's Judiciary Committee vote comes a day after President Trump fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates, after she ordered the Department of Justice to not defend the President's executive order (EO) that barred nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries and refugees against legal challenges. In a White House statement, the administration accused Yates of betraying the Department of Justice and calling her "weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration." The President replaces Yates with Dana Boente, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, who will serve as acting Attorney General until the nominee is confirmed. Also Monday night, President Trump appointed Thomas D. Homan as acting ICE Director, who replaced acting ICE Director Daniel Ragsdale.

The President's Muslim ban has been widely opposed by Republicans and Democrats. Democrats in the Senate and House introduced legislation to rescind Trump's EO. Additionally, a broad range of voices have also opposed the unconstitutional Muslim and refugee ban.


January 30, 2017

Over the weekend, thousands gathered in airports across the country to protest the President's Executive Order banning entry to foreign nations of predominantly Muslim countries. AILA members banded together with a number of non-profits to provide legal support to those detained at a number of point of entries. AILA National thanks all of our members who volunteered their legal expertise and their moral support! Please share your stories of clients and individuals who have been affected by the Order for advocacy purposes.

News outlets have reported that more immigration EOs are in the works. Among them is a draft EO entitled: "Protecting American Jobs and Workers by Strengthening the Integrity of Foreign Worker Visa Programs." Here are some of the most troubling aspects, the draft EO:

  • Requires within 90 days, a review of all regulations that allow foreign nationals to work in the US, determine which of those regulations violate immigration laws, and propose a regulation to rescind or modify such regulations;
  • Requires proposal of a regulation to "conform" use of parole authority and clarify that parole can never be used to circumvent statutory immigration policy or admit entire classes of foreign nationals that do not otherwise qualify for admission and immediately terminate all policies, guidance, and programs that do not comply with these principles or with the requirements of the INA;
  • Submit a list of options to the President for incentivizing and expanding participation by employers in E-Verify, including conditioning certain immigration-related benefits on use of E-Verify;
  • Orders agencies to start developing more restrictive regulations for foreign students seeking to learn through on-the-job training programs, business visitors, certain foreign investors and other work related programs; and
  • Requires proposal of a regulation that would affect the green card allocation process through the Visa Bulletin.

Much of the draft EO will require new and amended regulations to be proposed which will require a notice and comment period. Given the extremely restrictive approach to immigration policy contained in the EO's that have been issued to date, there is no doubt that the Trump Administration plans to make legal immigration as difficult and cumbersome as possible. New regulations that make it harder for an employer to get a visa for a skilled worker, for students to get Optional Practical Training or create additional requirements on business visitors will not help our economy and is not going to protect American jobs.

AILA and the American Immigration Council is working on a summary and analysis of the draft EO and will be posted on AILA's Immigration 2017 Featured Issues page.

Please make sure to take action against this draft EO and the current ban by urging your Senators and Representative to speak out against President Trump's actions which hollow out our nation's cherished values of welcoming immigrants and refugees and would hurt our economy.


January 29, 2017

AILA sent an email to all members explaining where things stand with regard to President's Trump's January 27, 2017, Executive Order, Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States, as well as how members can take action against the order, and what AILA resources are available to help.

Read AILA's email to members, titled "48 Hours Later, Where Things Stand on the January 27 Executive Order" (AILA Doc. No. 16012999).


January 27, 2017

Update from 12pm (ET)

News outlets are reporting that President Trump is expected to sign an executive order limiting the flow of refugees into the United States and instituting “extreme vetting” today at 4:30 pm at the Department of Defense. AILA provided a practice alert with a travel warning for nationals of certain countries in anticipation of this Order. Among other provisions, Section 3 of the draft Executive Order, if implemented as written, would "suspend" the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry of nationals from certain designated countries for 30 days from the date of the order. The order also does not define what it means to be "from" a designated country. Thus, in an abundance of caution, it may be best to interpret the term broadly to include passport holders, citizens, nationals, dual nationals, etc. Additionally, after 30 days, travel is not automatically reinstated. Instead, DHS would be required to report whether countries have provided information "needed … for the adjudication of any … benefit under the INA … to determine that the individual seeking the benefit is who the individual claims to be and is not a security or public-safety threat." If not, the country would have 60 days to comply, or the travel ban would become indefinite. Attorneys should consider advising clients who might be affected by the Executive Order to refrain from traveling outside of the United States if they are already here, or try to return to the United States as soon as possible if they are outside of the country.

AILA members can use these Talking Points with media when asked about this draft Executive Order targeting Muslims and refugees.


January 26, 2017

Update from 5:30 pm (ET)

Trump will instead sign executive actions tomorrow and Saturday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said.

Update from 5:00 pm (ET):

Today’s Executive Order will concern voter fraud, White House press secretary stated.

For details from President Trump's January 25, 2017, executive orders on border and interior enforcement and previews upcoming executive orders watch this Quicktake with AILA's Director of Advocacy Greg Chen.

According to news sources, the next Executive Order on immigration, which pertains to visa issuance/screening and refugee resettlement, is expected to be signed tomorrow.

The Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol has left the agency that’s in charge of securing America’s borders with Mexico and Canada, the Associated Press reports. According to a U.S. official and a former official, Border Patrol agents have been told that Mark Morgan is no longer on the job. It was not immediately clear whether Morgan resigned or was asked to leave. Morgan’s departure comes a day after President Donald Trump announced plans to build a wall at the Mexican border, hire 5,000 additional Border Patrol agents, immediately construct additional detention facilities along the southern border, and significantly expand expedited removal authority to cover anyone in the United States who entered without inspection within two years, among other things.

In addition, the entire DOS senior level of management officials resigned unexpectedly today, reports the Washington Post. Four DOS officials confirmed that Patrick Kennedy, who has been the undersecretary for management for nine years, has resigned, and that three of his top officials—Assistant Secretary of State for Administration Joyce Anne Barr; Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Michele Bond; and Ambassador Gentry O. Smith, director of the Office of Foreign Missions—are following him out the door. All are career foreign service officers who have served under both Republican and Democratic administrations.

Stay tuned to AILA’s Featured Issue: Immigration 2017 page for more updates on the presidential transition.


January 25, 2017

Update from 4:00pm (ET):

BREAKING: The text of both of today's Executive Orders is now public:

President Trump just held a press conference on these orders, and here are some rough notes of what he said:

Congratulated General Kelly. Then recognized as "friends" Brandon Judd, the head of the National Border Patrol Council, and Chris Crane, National ICE Council President (longtime critic of Prosecutorial Discretion), saying they will be very busy doing their jobs.

DHS is a law enforcement agency. For too long, immigration officers and agents haven't been allowed to do their jobs. That is about to change. From here on out, I am asking you to enforce the laws of the United States of America.

Unprecedented surge from Central America is harming both Mexico and the U.S. Beginning today, we get back control of the borders. We will work in partnership with Mexico - creating safety and economic opportunity on both sides. Dismantling cartels and keeping illegal weapons and cash out of our country.

We understand that a strong and healthy Mexico is very good for the United States. Enhance cooperation between our two nations that we have not seen in a very long time.

I just signed two Executive Orders:

  • DHS and President will begin immediate construction of wall. Will help Mexico by deterring illegal immigration from Central America.
  • We are going to get the "bad ones" out - the criminals, drug dealers, cartels, gang members.
  • Ends policy of catch and release at the border.
  • Requires other countries to take back their criminals
  • Threats to public safety removed
  • Cracks down on sanctuary cities
  • Empowers ICE to take and remove those who present public threat to safety.
  • Adds 5,000 more CBP officers
  • Triples ICE officers
  • Creates Office of Homeland Security to help victims of illegal immigrant crime. Media has ignored victims of open borders for years. You will never ever be ignored again. Referenced the Remembrance Project.

Update from 1:30pm (ET):

BREAKING: President Trump's Press Secretary Sean Spicer just announced two Executive Orders on immigration enforcement. Here are quick notes from the press conference:

  1. Border Enforcement Executive Order: Build a large physical barrier on southern border (one way or another Mexico will pay for it). Provide DHS with the tools and resources they need to stop "illegal immigration." Create more detention space along southern border, make it "easier and cheaper" to detain and return individuals. End "Catch and Release." Prioritize prosecution and deportation of "illegal immigrants" who have otherwise violated our laws. After they spend time in prison, they are going to be sent back on a one way ticket.
  2. Interior Enforcement Executive Order: ICE will "unapologetically" enforce the law. Restore "popular and successful" Secure Communities (SCOMM) program. Withhold visas from countries and use other tools to make sure countries accept their people (criminals) from their countries back. Strip federal grant from sanctuary cities that harbor "illegal immigrants."

The actual language of these executive orders is not yet available, though Spicer said he would get the orders to press "ASAP." Here are some questions asked by press, and how they were answered:

  • How will Mexico pay for the wall? The President is working with Congress and other folks to figure that out. Wants to get project started with existing funds as much as possible. But needs to be included in appropriations.
  • What about DACA? Order today does not deal with DACA - other updates later this week on immigration. President's first priority is people in the U.S. who intend to do us harm or have committed crimes. He understands the significance of this problem - will work through this issue with his team in a humane way.
  • How will the order strip funding from sanctuary cities? Order directs Secretary to look at funding streams that are going to those cities and figure out ways they can be cut off.
  • What steps will be taken against those people from (listed certain Muslim countries) who are already here in the U.S.? The President talked extensively about "extreme vetting" implementation. Guiding principle is keeping this country safe. We need to make sure we take necessary steps for people with a "predisposition," who come from these countries of higher concern, and make sure they are coming to this country for all the right reasons.
  • How do you respond to sanctuary states that say, keep your federal money, and don't comply? First step is the funding piece, then a Congressional piece. To the extent that the President can ID areas that he can do under his executive authority, he will do it. Tax payer issue here.

Update from 1pm (ET):

AILA received a leaked, unsigned copy of one of President Trump's Executive Orders on immigration. The order suspends: the issuance of visas for certain countries, refugee admissions for 120 days, Syrian refugee processing indefinitely, and the visa interview waiver program.

Want to participate in a "virtual march" on social media to register opposition to these executive orders? Here's what you can do: Tweet photos of yourself at @POTUS using the hashtag #SolidaritySelfie!

Here's how to make a #SolidaritySelfie:

  1. Write a short note on a piece of paper - something like "Refugees Welcome," "Here to Stay" or "I stand with immigrants"
  2. Take a picture of yourself with the paper
  3. Tweet the photo of yourself, along with a note, at @POTUS (and at your Member of Congress). Make sure to include the hashtag #SolidaritySelfie!

Here are some suggested tweets, which could be used in various executive order scenarios:

GENERAL:

Walls, division, bans don't have a place in America. @POTUS seeks to divide us all. #SolidaritySelfie

@POTUS, you shut down government social media accounts but we won't be silenced. #SolidaritySelfie

We need Washington to get out of the way of the cities and states that support and protect immigrants #OurCitiesStandTall

Trump's immigration orders will create chaos, destroy lives and cost a fortune. #NoBanNoWall #OurCitiesStandTall

Trump is taking a wrecking ball to our immigration system. We won't stop until we stop him. #NoBanNoWall #OurCitiesStandTall

Update from 10am (ET):

The Washington Post, Politico, the New York Times, and other news outlets report that President Trump will sign a series of executive orders beginning today that will likely have broad consequences for the immigration system and refugee processing. Details are still unclear, but the orders are expected to enable the construction of a southern border wall, crack down on so-called "sanctuary cities," temporarily disable the refugee program, among other things. For the very latest on what we're hearing about the content of executive orders both today and later in the week, see our Chasing Down the Rumors page - and continue to tune in to AILA's Featured Issues page: Immigration 2017 for more!


January 24, 2017

Today, President Donald Trump signed a total of five orders today regarding environment issues. The orders addressed advancing the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines, as well as actions to expedite environmental reviews for high priority projects. Stay tuned for more executive action news.


January 23, 2017

Today, President Trump signed three presidential directives: one formally withdraws the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The second freezes hiring on non-military federal workers. The third prohibits U.S. aid to foreign NGOs that provide abortions.

In the immigration field, a major concern with the hiring freeze is whether it will affect immigration judge hiring. At the time of this post, the White House had not published the text of the order. The massive immigration court case backlog continues to grow, and the immigration system desperately needs more judges to operate efficiently and to ensure fair hearings that comport with due process. Congress has funded a total of 374 immigration judges, but the immigration courts currently only employ 296. Moreover, according to Human Rights First (HRF), that current funded level is not even enough. To eliminate the backlog by 2023, an additional 150 immigration judges would need to be hired on top of the 374 currently funded, for a total of 524 immigration judges. For a full analysis, read the American Immigration Council's blog from July 2016.

President Trump did not take any action today to withdraw from or renegotiate NAFTA, but during press Secretary Sean Spicer's press conference, he suggested there could be other actions on trade later this week and did not rule out action on NAFTA.

On the DACA program, a USCIS spokesperson told Politico that DACA applications and renewals continue to be processed normally. The Trump administration did not announce any actions to rescind DACA. When asked about it, Spicer said the President has articulated priorities (meaning enforcement priorities) that focus on people who have done harm, who have criminal backgrounds, or who have overstayed visas. On legislation to protect DACA recipients, he said that there is nothing in front of the President yet, and that they'll wait to see what Congress does. In December 2016, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced the BRIDGE Act to provide temporary protection for DACA-eligible individuals. AILA supports the BRIDGE Act. Previously, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus foreshadowed that President Trump did not have immediate plans to end DACA.


January 18, 2017

Donald Trump will be sworn as the 45th President of the United States this Friday. Last week, The Hill took a look at five areas that President-Elect Trump promised to act on in his first day, including immigration. On the campaign trail, Trump promised to deport undocumented immigrants and rescind President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. On the latter issue, Trump has softened his tone in recent weeks telling "Fox & Friends" that he understands DREAMers' predicament and pledged a 'firm' immigration plan, with 'a lot of heart.'

AILA will be monitoring any executive action throughout the weekend and will respond as necessary to immigration policy changes. For an in-depth look at what executive branch action Trump can unilaterally and immediately revoke, check out Congressional Research Service Legal Sidebar: With the Stroke of a Pen.

In other news, AILA, along with other immigrant and civil rights groups, announced the filing of a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security's Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL)and the Office of Inspector General, which urged a prompt and thorough investigation into allegations that asylum-seekers were denied entry to the United States at ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border despite having asserted a fear of returning to their home countries. The complaint also requests CRCL to take immediate action and address this alarming new trend.

Over the weekend, The Washington Post delved deeper into the systemic denial of asylum seekers, sharing the stories of a few asylees, who have been turned away at the border. A U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesperson told the Post that there has been "no policy change" affecting asylum procedures. The United States' asylum procedure adheres to international law, which allows people being persecuted to seek asylum.

AILA has also joined 13 organizations in requesting a hearing during the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on measures taken by or at the request of the United States that impede access to asylum and interfere with the right to family life.


January 13, 2017

Yesterday, Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) reintroduced the "Bar Removal of Immigrants who Dream and Grow the Economy," or BRIDGE Act, which would provide DACA-eligible individuals the chance to apply for "provisional protected presence," or temporary protection from deportation similar to that provided by DACA. Employment authorization would be granted after recipients pay a fee and pass stringent background checks. The Senate bill is cosponsored by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

The House companion bill led by Representatives Mike Coffman (R-CO) and Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) was introduced today, and is supported by Representatives Jeff Denham (D-CA), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Carlos L. Curbelo (R-FL), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), and Judy Chu (D-CA).

"We don't want [Trump] to overturn the executive order from the prior administration, which he could do," said Representative Coffman during a press conference, reported The Denver Post. "This certainly sends a strong message, not just to our congressional leadership but also to the incoming administration, that this is a very important program that needs to be preserved."

AILA supports the BRIDGE Act and urges members of Congress to pass it.


January 11, 2017

Two big confirmation hearings were held yesterday for critical cabinet positions in the next administration. The Senate Judiciary Committee held the first day of hearings for Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), nominee for Attorney General; and the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee held a hearing for General John F. Kelly, nominee for Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

For Senator Sessions, immigration came up again and again yesterday. But due process hardly came up at all. AILA had some critical questions for the Senator going into this confirmation hearing. Here's some of what Senator Sessions said on immigration during his first hearing:

Proposed Muslim Ban: In December 2015, in response to Donald Trump's proposal to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 16-4 in favor of an amendment confirming that the U.S. should not block people from the entering the U.S. because of their religion. Senator Sessions was one of the "no" votes, and yesterday, Senator Leahy asked him why. I did not want to suggest that religion could not be a factor in vetting, Senator Sessions said. He confirmed that he does not support the idea of Muslims as a religious group being blocked from admission to the U.S. But later in the hearing, Senator Hirono asked again how religion could be a factor in the enhanced vetting he described. Senator Sessions clarified that religious views would be a factor "if their views encompass extremism" or "dangerous doctrines."

DACA and Immigration Reform: Some of the least responsive answers came on the subject of DACA. Early in the hearing, both Senators Graham and Durbin asked Senator Sessions a simple question: what would happen to the 800,000 Dreamers who have received DACA if DACA is suddenly rescinded? Here, Senator Sessions punted: it is the Attorney General's role to enforce the law, not to make it-the system overall is broken and Congress needs to fix it in a bipartisan way. The answer didn't satisfy Senator Durbin, who asked how Senator Sessions could possibly offer CIR as the solution when he had opposed every major bipartisan effort at immigration reform in the last decade. Senator Sessions pivoted to the need for prioritization: We're not able to seek out and remove everybody in country illegally, he said. Like President Obama, President-elect Trump has said those with criminal convictions should be a top priority. So let's fix this system in a bipartisan way, he suggested-and after the "lawlessness" has ended, enter into dialog about what to do about people been here a long time. When Senator Blumenthal raised concerns that it would violate fundamental fairness to use DACA recipients' confidential information for enforcement, Senator Sessions agreed that that cohort of individuals should not be a priority, but said any decision on that score would be for DHS, and he could not commit that the information would never be used. (He was not asked about the bills he sponsored in 2003 and 2015, for example, that would have made unlawful presence a crime-even for Dreamers.)

Abuse of the H-1B Visa System: Senator Grassley reiterated his call for an investigation in abuse of the H-1B program, expressing concern that firing a U.S. worker and replacing her with a cheaper foreign worker might be considered "de facto nationality based discrimination." Senator Sessions agreed that he believes this has been an abuse, and he was pleased to support Senator Grassley's legislation addressing it. It is wrong to think we are in a totally open world, he said, where any American with a job can be replaced by anyone in the world willing to take that job. We have borders, we have a commitment to our citizens. I would use such abilities as I have to address that, he stated.

Birthright Citizenship: Senator Hirono noted that people born here are U.S. citizens regardless of their parents' nationality-and she asked Senator Sessions if he believes there should be more required to be a US citizen. Far from providing a staunch and clear defense of the 14th amendment's principle of birthright citizenship, he left the door open on the question of whether Congress could change that without violating the Constitution. Under the current state of the law, it is accepted that those who are born here retain their citizenship, he said.

Due Process and Immigration Courts: There was hardly any discussion of due process for individuals facing removal. In fact, in 11 hours of testimony, only two questions even touched on the immigration courts. In response to one question regarding how the immigration courts would protect refugees, Senator Sessions deflected by saying that refugee admissions decisions were the purview of the State Department and the President, not the Department of Justice. In an answer to Senator Grassley's question about recent Board of Immigration Appeals decisions that had "gone too far," he suggested that he had not yet given much thought to whether or how an Attorney General could or would undo prior BIA decisions. Senator Coons did ask Senator Sessions about the need for legal counsel for children facing removal. His response was less than supportive. My understanding of the state of law is that the government cannot provide lawyers to "illegal immigrants," he said, and I don't believe it distinguishes between minors and adults. In general, I do not believe we can afford, nor should we undertake to provide free lawyers for everyone who comes in unlawfully, he continued, and Congress would need to decide what to do regarding children.

General Kelly's hearing was less contentious than Senator Sessions' hearing. Both sides of the aisle extended praise towards the General. He was introduced by Republican Sen. McCain, Democratic Sen. Carper, and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who served in both the Bush and Obama administrations. Gates praised General Kelly, calling him "one of the finest people I have ever known," also saying, "I would trust him with my life." Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat from North Dakota, said the Senate committee had hit the "cabinet lottery," given Kelly's experience and openness to answering questions.

Border: As predicted General Kelly received a good amount of questions regarding the border. Sen. McCain specifically pressed on whether we need an actual physical wall lining the border. "A physical barrier in and of itself will not do the job. It has to be a layered defense," General Kelly said, calling for more assistance from drones, sensors, and other technology. Sen. Hoeven questioned General Kelly on the best way to measure border security. While he did not have a direct answer as to "how border security can be measured," he expressed the importance of allowing the law enforcement officials at the border to do their job "according to the law" -hopefully he stands by the "according to the law" part of that statement and adds oversight and accountability into the picture.

Arriving Central Americans: When asked why people from Central America are trying to enter the U.S., General Kelly replied, "They, most of the time, don't come here for any other purpose except to have economic opportunity and to escape violence." As head of Southern Command, General Kelly has personally seen the violence suffered by many Central American. He recognized the "horrific levels of violence," especially in Honduras. He spoke of the need to foster economic development and an improved police force in Central and South America, and the need to reduce our country's demand on drugs, but never acknowledge the right to asylum for those fleeing from violence. Hopefully, that changes if he is confirmed.

Muslim Databases and Surveillance: Sen. Gary Peters, Democrat from Michigan, highlighted the "great deal of fear" among Muslim Americans in this country and especially his state. He asked about the idea-one of Trump's proposals-of putting mosques under continuous surveillance and establishing Muslim databases. General Kelly said, "I don't think it's ever appropriate" to do those things. "I don't think it's ever appropriate to focus on something like religion as the only factor," General Kelly said. He stated that he doesn't agree with registering people based on religion or ethnic reasons.

DACA: The fieriest part of the hearing was when California's Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris grilled General Kelly on whether he wants to spend the DHS's limited resources on deporting children of undocumented immigrants who have spent their entire lives in the U.S. General Kelly noted that he will be required to enforce the law, but recognized the Department's limited resources and pointed out that "law-abiding individuals" of this sort "would not be at the top of the list" of priorities for deportation. General Kelly dodged the question of whether DACA recipients need to be concerned about their personal information, that they shared with the government when applying for deferred action, being shared with ICE. He stated that he would keep an open mind when looking at the topic of DACA confidentiality but he doesn't know where this next administration plans to take the program.


January 6, 2017

The 115th Congress has wrapped up its first week in session. Among the multiple bills introduced this week, there are two that relate to immigration.

First, on Wednesday, Representative Issa (R-CA) re-introduced the bi-partisan Protect and Grow American Jobs Act, H.R. 170, which seeks to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to modify the definition of "exempt H-1B nonimmigrant." Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), who has been critical of Issa's bill, told CNN she would introduce her own proposals to change to how permanent visas are awarded under the H-1B program.

On Thursday, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced the Protect American Families Act (S.54). "The bill would prevent President-elect Trump from implementing a program that would discriminate against people by country of origin or nationality," AILA's Director of Advocacy Greg Chen told the Washington Post. The bill was also co-sponsored by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI).

Next week marks the beginning of Senate committee hearings to approve President-elect Donald Trump's Cabinet picks. First up, on Tuesday, is Senator Jeff Sessions' (R-AL) Attorney General nomination hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. AILA submitted a statement to the Judiciary Committee, noting that Senator Sessions' record "raises serious concerns that he would be unwilling or unable to interpret the U.S. Constitution in a fair and neutral manner or exercise balanced judgment on immigration law," and calling upon the committee's members to ask probing questions of the senator before voting to confirm him.

AILA members are encouraged to also take action to ensure Senator Sessions is not confirmed unless he pledges to:

  • Uphold and defend the 14th Amendment's guarantee of birthright citizenship;
  • Ensure the immigration court system operates efficiently and is protected from political interference;
  • Stop abusive civil rights violations against immigrants like those committed by Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio; and
  • Adopt a humane policy regarding young people granted DACA and others who have lived in the United States for years who have families and jobs but do not have legal status.

(Check out Politico for a full rundown of upcoming hearings.)


January 3, 2017

Happy 115th Congress Day! Today, the new Congress gaveled in at noon. As expected, Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) was reelected as Speaker of the House for the 2017-2018 Congressional term by a vote of 239 to 189. Last November, Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was reelected as House Minority Leader. In the Senate, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) resumed his position as Senate Majority Leader, and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) began his new role as the Senate Minority Leader. The Elected Official Directory in AILA's Advocacy Action Center has been updated to include the new members of Congress.

In other news, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson in a letter to lawmakers urged federal authorities against the use of DACA recipients' personal information for deportation purposes. President-elect Donald Trump on the campaign trail promised to rescind DACA. However, last month Trump told Time Magazine he would "work something out" for DREAMers.

More DACA news….
A Georgia Superior Court decision released today states that DACA recipients in Georgia qualify to pay in-state tuition. Fulton Superior Court Chief Judge Gail Tusan wrote in her ruling that the University System of Georgia officials are "hereby compelled to perform their duty in applying the federal definition of lawful presence as it relates to students who are DACA recipients and to grant them in-state tuition status." Congratulations to AILA Past President Charles Kuck for representing the ten DACA recipients in the lawsuit.


Cite as AILA Doc. No. 15011390.