Immigration Politics 2016

December 12, 2016

Congress averted a government shutdown at the 11th hour (once again). Late Friday night, the Senate passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government until April, by a vote of 63 to 36. (The House had passed the measure on Thursday.) The CR was signed into law by President Obama early on Saturday morning.

The CR provides appropriations to keep the government running through April 28, 2017, and also extends through that date the Conrad 30 J Waiver, Non-minister Special Immigrant Religious Worker, EB-5 Regional Center visa, and E-Verify programs. However, the CR did NOT include the reinstatement of the H-2B returning worker exemption. AILA will push again to get longer if not permanent authorizations for the Conrad 30, Non-minister Special Immigrant Religious Worker, and EB-5 Regional Center visa programs, as well as reinstatement of the H-2B exemption when the budget comes up again in April.

Also, on Friday, Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced 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. In a press release, AILA welcomed the introduction of the bill as an important bi-partisan step to protecting such a vulnerable and compelling population.

Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) also introduced a similar bill on Friday. However, Senator Flake's "Securing Active and Fair Enforcement Act," or SAFE Act, pairs the language of the BRIDGE Act with harsh mandatory detention and rapid 90-day removal requirements for certain people. While purporting to focus on those who are unlawfully present with serious criminal backgrounds, the SAFE Act mandates detention even for people accused of minor crimes and those completely exonerated of crimes.

Urge your lawmakers to support legislation like the BRIDGE Act that protects DREAMers, who are a vital part of our communities and economy, and that does not trade enforcement measures for the protection of DREAMers.

Watch AILA's Quicktake with Greg Chen, Director of Advocacy, for an analysis of what went down on Friday.

Congress adjourned for the year on Saturday, December 10, 2016. The 115th Congress will convene on January 3, 2017. Make sure to check AILA's Advocacy Action Center in the new year for information on new members of Congress.


December 7, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump has picked retired Marine General John Kelly to run the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), according to a report in The Washington Post earlier today. DHS is tasked with the enforcement of immigration laws and border security, among other responsibilities. Trump's pledges to curb illegal immigration and build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border would also fall to two of DHS's agencies, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

If you're asking yourself…who is General John Kelly? Kelly is an expert on Latin America and was head of the Southern Command, which is responsible for all U.S. military activated in Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean. During his tenure at Southern Command, Kelly focused on "teaching foreign militaries and law enforcement how to counter the powerful, wealthy drug cartels that perpetuate violence and drive people from their communities." For more on Trump's choice for DHS, read Military Times' profile piece.

In Congress, the House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY-05) introduced a short-term Continuing Resolution that would fund the government until April 28, 2017. Notably, once the CR is passed and signed by the president, the EB-5 Regional Center, Conrad 30, Non-minister Special Immigrant Religious Workers, and E-Verify programs will be extended through the new CR's deadline of April 28. Since the extension of these programs is only for the duration of the CR, we will again be pushing for their reauthorization next year.

Unfortunately, the reinstatement of the H-2B returning worker exemption was NOT included in the CR. AILA joined the H-2B Workforce Coalition in advocating for the inclusion of the exemption to the House and Senate Appropriation Committees. A bipartisan group of House members also joined the fight. AILA will push again to include the H-2B exemption into the next government funding effort. (Just in time for AILA's 2017 National Day of Action!)

In order to avoid a government shutdown, the CR must pass by this Friday, December 9, 2016. The House is slated to debate and vote on the CR on Thursday. Upon House passage, the CR will then be taken up by the Senate. With no time to waste, the Senate will have to debate, pass, and send it to President Obama for his signature on Friday.


November 18, 2016,

After much speculation, President-elect Donald Trump selected Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama to serve as Attorney General in his administration. Sessions, a member of the Judiciary Committee and Chair of the Immigration and the National Interest Subcommittee, is a staunch proponent of reducing immigration flows and increasing immigration enforcement. Earlier this year, the senator held a hearing on immigration in his subcommittee to make the case that immigration harms American workers by promoting the misconception that the employment and wages of African Americans are negatively impacted by immigrants. Check out the facts on how immigrants help boost employment and wages for Americans in this study. Most of Sessions' anti-immigration views were laid out in his 25-page "handbook," many of which have been echoed by Trump.

Sessions will need to be confirmed by his colleagues in the Senate. Early indicators show that Sessions will likely get the needed votes in committee, since Senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), whose immigration stance are more moderate, have indicated support for Sessions' nomination.

Read AILA's statement.

In other news, Congress looks like it's gearing up to pass another temporary spending bill to fund the government until March 2017. However, passing a short-term continuing resolution (CR) may not be easy, since lawmakers from both parties, as well as the current administration, would like to include policy and funding provisions, reports Politico. Congress has until December 9, 2016, to pass a CR or spending bill in order to avoid a government shutdown.


November 16, 2016

It's been over a week (eight days to be exact), since Donald Trump was elected the 45th President of the United States, and Congressional leadership elections and Cabinet appointments are well underway.

On the Hill:
New York Senator Chuck Schumer was elected as Senate Minority Leader today, replacing retiring Senator Harry Reid (NV) in January 2017. In his new role, Schumer has expanded the Democratic leadership to include Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Joe Manchin III (D-WV), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). The Senate Democrats also shuffled some of the top committee posts. California Senator Dianne Feinstein will serve as the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, following Senator Patrick Leahy's (VT) move to the top position of the Appropriations Committee. House Democrats, however, have postponed their leadership election until the end of the month.

Across the aisle, Republican leadership will stay pretty much the same. Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell was re-elected to be the Senate Majority Leader. Paul Ryan (WI) was unanimously re-nominated to continue to serve as House Speaker in the next Congress on Tuesday. Ryan will need 218 votes to be approved when the new House convenes in January 2017.

Both GOP leaders have policy differences with the President-elect, particularly on issues like immigration and trade, putting in question what campaign promises Trump will prioritize.

Trump Cabinet Picks, so far:
Over the weekend, Reince Priebus, the Republican Party Chairman, was named the new Chief of Staff; while Steve Bannon, Trump's campaign CEO, was named Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor. The appointment of Bannon, the former Executive Chairman of Breitbart News, has been criticized for his apparent openness to white nationalist views and anti-Semitism.

There is also much speculation on who will be named Attorney General, with Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, both famous for their anti-immigrant stance, being the top contenders for the position. The Huffington Post delved into how their appointment could impact how decisions are made in immigration cases.


November 9, 2016

What Now?

Our nation's political leadership will turn bright red in January 2017 with not only the White House but also both houses of Congress won by Republicans. On the campaign trail, President-elect Donald Trump espoused draconian policies such as deporting all undocumented immigrants, banning Muslims, creating roving ICE deportation patrols, ending DACA, and of course building a wall. Even if the new president moderates his views, he has surrounded himself with advisors, such as Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Kris Kobach, who have advanced extreme views on immigration.

If you're wondering what a new administration might do if restrictionist and anti-immigrant voices take control, look at the 79 ideas that Center for Immigration Studies came up with for the next president: "A Pen and a Phone."

The Republicans will retain control of Senate with 51 seats; Democrats have 45 seats; and Independents have two seats (the Independents have been caucusing with the Democrats). So far, the Democrats have gained the Illinois seat where incumbent Senator Mark Kirk (R) was defeated by Representative Tammy Duckworth (D-IL-08). Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) remains in a tight race against Democratic challenger Maggie Hassan who was leading by less than a thousand votes.

With the Senate remaining in Republican control, key leadership posts will probably not change within the GOP where Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is Majority Leader and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) is Majority Whip. With Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) retiring, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is expected to become the Democratic Leader and Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) should be staying in the Democratic Whip position.

On the House side, while the margin between the majority and minority parties narrowed by 8 or 9 seats, Republicans were also able to maintain their majority status with 239 seats and Democrats with 193 seats. Both parties will be holding their party leadership and organizing meetings in the next couple of weeks.

The big question for House Republicans is whether or not Speaker Ryan (R-WI-01) will have a smooth or bumpy path on his reelection as Speaker of the House. There have been reports the ultraconservative Freedom Caucus is divided on whether or not they should support Ryan for another term as Speaker. Speaker Ryan has supported positive immigration reform efforts and a successful challenge to his Speakership would not bode well for immigration reform efforts. In committees that impact immigration policy, just as in the Senate, some Members of Congress will be considering committee moves and changes. More will be clarified in the coming weeks but there could new players in the Judiciary and Homeland Security committees.


November 8, 2016

It's Election Day! And tonight (hopefully) we'll know who will win the White House, and which party will have control in the House and in the Senate. (Check out Roll Call's Election Night Viewer Guide to watch the Election Day like a boss.)

Join AILA and the Council for exclusive post-election analysis!

In order for control in the Senate to flip, Democrats would need to pick up five seats which is possible according to a number of election forecasts. The House, however, is likely to keep its GOP majority. For the rest of the week, we'll provide an in-depth look at the results of the congressional races and the impact on the Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees in both the House and Senate.

In the House, all 435 representatives must run in order remain in office. In the Senate, approximately one third of the seats are up for re-election and some of the interesting races to watch include:

Senate Judiciary Committee:
Senator Chuck Grassley (R - IA)
Senator Michael S. Lee (R - UT)
Senator Patrick Leahy (D - VT)
Senator Charles Schumer (D - NY)
Senator Richard Blumenthal (D - CT)

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee:
Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI)
Senator McCain (R-AZ)
Senator Portman (R-OH)
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY)
Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)
Senator James Lankford (R-OK)


October 20, 2016

Both candidates had a moment to (finally!) discuss immigration, among other topics, during last night's final presidential debate. More or less, the candidates stuck to their major campaign promises: Donald Trump promised to build a wall along the southern border and repeated his call for mass deportation of undocumented immigrants, whereas Hillary Clinton promised to introduce comprehensive immigration reform that would include a path to citizenship in the first 100 days of her administration while supporting border security. (The full transcript of the debate is available on NPR.)

AILA's Executive Director Ben Johnson provides a more in-depth analysis on the third and last presidential debate in this AILA Quicktake. For more resources on how to offer real solutions and talk about immigration in a more positive manner, check out AILA's 2016 Campaign Issue Resource Page.


July 29, 2016

Last night, Hillary Clinton became the first woman to accept a major political party’s presidential nomination. During her acceptance speech, Clinton spoke about the need to work together to make change happen. On immigration, she spoke about building a path to citizenship for millions of immigrants and reforming our immigration sy

stem to grow the economy and keep families together. (Check out AILA’s page on the economic benefits of immigration for more information.)

Clinton also rejected her opponent’s call for a border wall and a ban on Muslim immigrants. However, the most powerful criticism to Trump’s immigration proposals came from the father of an American Muslim Army captain. Khizr Khan, whose son was killed in action in Iraq in 2006, told the convention that “we can’t solve our problems by building walls and sowing divisions.”

On night three of the Democratic National Convention, Vice President Candidate Tim Kaine and President Barack Obama drew sharp contrasts between the GOP candidate and Hillary Clinton’s immigration policies.

Senator Tim Kaine, whose impression of Trump’s “believe me” has now gone viral, told the convention that Clinton has outlined on her website how she plans to reform the country’s immigration system, and not to believe Trump’s empty promises of building a wall. President Obama similarly made a jab at Trump’s wall proposal, stating that Hillary “knows [immigrant families’] dream is quintessentially American, and the American Dream is something no wall will ever contain.”

Another critique of Trump’s proposal to build a wall came earlier in the night from former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. O’Malley not only criticized building a wall, but took on Obama’s shameful detention policies by saying: “The America we love does not build walls and shameful for-profit prisons. The America we love does not lock up women and children in disgraceful immigrant detention camps.”

Now with the conventions all wrapped up, America has heard both parties speak about their immigration policies. (For an in-depth look at each candidate’s policies, check out this Bloomberg Politics piece.) To help drive concrete solutions that will bring our immigration system into the 21st century, check out AILA’s 2016 campaign issue resource page.


July 27, 2016

Yesterday, the Democratic Party made history by officially declaring Hillary Clinton as the first woman presidential candidate for a major political party. The night was filled with speeches endorsing Clinton for being a fighter and praising her accomplishments as a public servant.

Actress America Ferrera, a daughter of Honduran immigrants, shared that as a child, her parents struggled, and occasionally she had to participate in the free-lunch program, concluding that Clinton sees her and those who share her experience for their capacity to contribute to the United States.

Tonight, Vice Presidential nominee Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) will address the convention. In a recent Spanish-language interview with Telemundo, Senator Kaine spoke about the huge impact of the Latino voter turnout and his commitment to getting comprehensive immigration reform passed in 2017. Kaine, who is fluent in Spanish, was the first Senator to deliver an entire speech in Spanish (or any language besides English) on the Senate floor in support of the Senate’s 2013 immigration bill. It is possible that Senator Kaine may talk about the need for immigration reform tonight, or address the convention in Spanish, or both. Tune in tomorrow to find out!


July 26, 2016

The Democratic National Convention kicked off yesterday in Philadelphia, after a rough start that included the resignation of Debbie Wasserman Schultz as the party’s chairwoman. The DNC’s opening night was headlined by party superstars, like First Lady Michelle Obama and Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) who spoke about unity and America’s exceptionalism. However, it was 11-year old Karla Ortiz, who spoke about fearing her parents’ deportation, that pulled at the heart strings of attendees and viewers.

Karla, who was accompanied on stage by her mother, was among a prominent lineup of Latinos that included DREAMer and activist Astrid Silva, actress Eva Longoria, and Illinois Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL). Each speaker shared their personal immigrant story and denounced Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies, which includes deporting the eleven million undocumented immigrants living in the United States and building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The latter proposal was adopted into the Republican Party's platform last week.

The Democratic Party’s platform seeks to ensure due process for individuals and families fleeing violence in Central America, as well as ending the inhumane deterrence tactics of the Obama administration. It also includes rejecting proposals that would bar immigrants or refugees from entering the country based on their religion – a jab at another of Trump’s immigration proposals.

Hillary Clinton, who will be officially nominated as the Democratic presidential candidate after today’s roll call vote, has pledged to tackle the nation’s outdated immigration system in her fist 100 days, if elected president. Democratic vice-presidential candidate Virginia Senator Tim Kaine echoed this promise over the weekend. Kaine, who speaks Spanish fluently, told Spanish-language news stations Telemundo and Univision that he was going to work hard with Congress to pass immigration reform. To keep the pressure on, FWD.us recently launched a #100Days pledge, which encourages lawmakers, advocates, and the community at large to promise to fight for comprehensive immigration reform in 2017.


July 22, 2016

The Republican National Convention wrapped up last night with Donald Trump formally accepting the party’s nomination for president. During his one-hour plus speech, Trump painted a doom-and-gloom picture of America and offered himself as the candidate who could restore law and order.

Trump entered the general election with the same anti-immigrant rhetoric and fearmongering tactics that he used throughout the primaries, minus the assumption that some immigrants are good people. The candidate, who’s played into people’s prejudices, once again falsely associated undocumented immigrants with higher crime rates (immigration is actually associated with lower crime rates); said Syrian refugees are dangerous and are not screened before entering the country (refugees are vetted by multiple U.S. federal agencies); and repeated that immigration lowers American wages and raises the unemployment rate (immigrants both contribute to the economy and create new companies and jobs that grow the economy). Trump’s grand solution: build a wall along the U.S-Mexico border. However, a Gallup poll recently found that “significantly more Republicans favor a path to citizenship than support building a border wall or deporting illegal immigrants.”

Read Trump’s complete speech here; commentators have noted that Trump’s echoed more of Richard Nixon’s lawlessness tone, rather than Ronald Reagan’s theme of renewal.

Next Monday, the Democratic National Convention kicks off in Philadelphia. Right now all eyes are focused on who Hillary Clinton, the presumptive nominee, will pick as her running mate. At least at the time of this post, her VP pick is unknown, but people close to the Clinton’s campaign have signaled Virginia Senator Tim Kaine is a very likely choice. On his website, Kaine boasts his support for the immigration reform bill that passed the Senate in 2013, as well as President Obama’s 2012 and 2014 deferred action programs. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak has also emerged on Clinton’s short list, reports The Washington Post. The official announcement is scheduled for late Friday or Saturday in Florida.


July 21, 2016

Mike Pence accepted the nomination for vice president. (Learn about Mike Pence's record on immigration and refugees, both as a governor and as a congressman, that earned him a 100 percent approval rating by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, an anti-immigration group.)

But Pence, who the Trump campaign hopes will unify the party and attract independent voters, was overshadowed last night by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). In a move that angered many attendees and exploded in the media, the former presidential candidate did NOT endorse Trump in his speech, and instead urged attendees to "vote your conscience" this November.

Roll Call found that in the three nights of the convention, the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, was mentioned nearly twice as much as Trump. And when convention speakers talked about Clinton, attendees regularly chanted "Lock Her Up!" But Republican Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) wrote yesterday that "Republicans are not going to defeat Hillary Clinton in November by insisting that she belongs in prison any more than we defeated Barack Obama by pretending that he was born in Kenya."

The RNC will wrap up tonight with Donald Trump's acceptance speech, one that experts have said will need to accomplish a number of things including broadening his appeal to a wider electorate. A recent poll found that 76 percent of Latinos back Clinton's bid for president, while 14 percent support Trump. After the convention, Trump is slated to embark on a Hispanic engagement tour to boost approval numbers, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus has stated and the Trump campaign has confirmed.


July 20, 2016

On Day 2 of the Republican National Convention, the GOP officially declared Donald Trump as its presidential nominee. In a night that was themed "Make America work again," speakers failed to talk about the nominee's economic plan, and instead focused on attacking the presumptive Democratic nominee. The Wall Street Journal, however, broke down where Clinton and Trump stand on top economic issues, highlighting that the next president's immigration policy could reshape the nation's economic landscape.

Earlier this week, a new study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that "immigrants accounted for more than one in four entrepreneurs in the U.S." -- showing just how vital immigrants are to America's economy and job creation. Additionally, Entrepreneur magazine reported that more than half of American companies valued at $1 billion or more, had at least one foreign-born founder.

For more on the economic benefits of immigration, visit AILA's Featured Issues page.


July 19, 2016

The Republican National Convention kicked off yesterday with a bit of chaos as the "never Trump" movement attempted to change the party's convention rule that requires "delegates to vote in accordance with their state's primary and caucus results," - without a change in the rules, Donald Trump's presidential nomination would be essentially guaranteed.

Each day of the GOP convention will feature a unique theme that plays off of Donald Trump's signature "Make America Great Again" slogan. Last night's theme was "Make America Safe Again," which focused on national security, foreign policy, and immigration.

The evening highlighted crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, a central issue to Trump's campaign and basis for his mass deportation policy and plan to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. The latter was adopted into the Republican Party's platform on Monday, stating that the "border wall must cover the entirety of the southern border and must be sufficient to stop both vehicular and pedestrian traffic." The border wall has been welcomed by the Border Patrol union, but faces overwhelming opposition from border residents, according to a recent poll.

Melania Trump, Donald Trump's wife and an immigrant, headlined Monday's event. In an attempt to soften her husband's image, Melania gave a speech that focused her immigrant experience. Shortly after Melania walked off stage, questions were raised over whether she plagiarized Michelle Obama's 2008 speech.

Also among last night's speakers, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who chairs the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and National Interest, called for greater border enforcement and curbing of legal and unauthorized immigration. During his speech, Sen. Sessions inaccurately stated that about 350,000 people succeed in crossing our borders illegally each year. To help set the record straight on border wall and enforcement issues, check out AILA's 2016 Campaign Talking Points.

Tonight's theme is "Make America Work Again," which will focus on creating jobs and strengthening the nation's economy. There is a possibility Trump's immigration plan will be featured again, since he has blamed foreigners for high unemployment rates and low salaries for Americans; however, a new study has proven (once again) the important roles immigrants play in growing America's economy and creating jobs.


May 20, 2016

Vice News has delved into the root cause that leads thousands of families to flee Central American, as well as how deportation raids and other deterrence strategies have failed to discourage families and individuals seeking safety. "People's intentions to migrate nearly doubled if they had been victimized multiple times," states Vanderbilt University political professor Jonathan Hiskey. AILA has called on the administration to respond to with an intelligent strategy to address the root causes of violence in the Northern Triangle region, and ensure that the victims of that violence who arrive at our border have a full and fair opportunity to seek protection.

AILA members who want to write an opinion piece pushing back on these harsh enforcement tactics are encouraged to use AILA's talking points to get started. Advocates can also tell President Obama to protect Central American refugees through AILA's Advocacy Action Center. AILA is collecting information on raids targeting Central American families or unaccompanied minors happening across the country. Please take a moment to fill this form with any information you may have.

If you have a client who is apprehended by ICE during a raid, read this AILA practice advisory to find out what you should do. More resources on the practice of asylum law, as well as tools for assisting individuals impacted by the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Central America are available on AILA's practice resources page.


May 12, 2016

Earlier today, Reuters reported that U.S. immigration officials are planning a month-long series of raids in May and June to apprehend and deport Central American mothers and children who have recently entered the U.S. The operation will also target children who entered without a guardian and have now turned 18-years old. The raids would be similar to those conducted in January that apprehended 131 women and children, and 336 youths.

AILA has denounced this harsh and in humane tactics that target families and children fleeing horrific violence. Please help AILA by reporting immigration raids targeting Central American families happening in your community.

In other news, Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA), introduced the Freedom of Religion Act of 2016, which would prohibit the U.S. from banning individuals from entering the country based on their religion on Wednesday. Acknowledging that the bill has little chance of advancing, Representative Beyer said that the legislation is a way for him and his colleagues to push back against Donald Trump's proposed temporary ban on Muslims. The legislation was co-sponsored by more than 70 members, including Republican Congressman Richard Hanna of New York.

Coincidently, the bill was introduced the same day the presumptive Republican presidential nominee said he is considering setting up a commission to review immigration and a temporary ban on Muslims. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who Trump has suggested would head the commission, has called the plan a 'good idea' and is open to leading the commission.

Trump announced his proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States in the aftermath of the Paris and San Bernardino attacks last year. AILA condemns any proposal that would treat someone differently based upon nationality or religion.


April 26, 2016

Happy Super Tuesday, or Acela primary day, as it's been dubbed for the high-speed train that runs up and down the East Coast. Although big wins are expected for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, neither frontrunner will be able lock up the nomination today. In short, we're looking at a few more Super Tuesdays before the nominees are determined. Undoubtedly, in the weeks leading up to the conventions, candidates from both parties will continue to tout their immigration policies. For the most part, the immigration solutions set forth by the candidates have been political and divisive, as well as non-practical.

Lucky for us, AILA now has a 2016 Campaign Issue Resource page to help push forward real solutions to bring our outdated immigration system into the 21st century! This page provides talking points, one-pagers, and links to other resources that can help you be a proactive immigration advocate. AILA chapters and members can use these resources to advocate in a number of ways: attend a presidential campaign stop to raise an issue with candidates, write an op-ed or Letter to the Editor to help set the record straight, or host a reporters' roundtable to offer your chapter's expertise to local reporters who cover immigration issues. AILA can help you and your chapter use these resources in whatever way is appropriate. Have additional ideas on how to use these tools? Email newsroom@aila.org with your suggestions.


April 22, 2016

This week, a number of House subcommittees entered in the immigration debate, including committees that don't typically oversee the issue. The day after the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on lawsuit challenging DAPA and expanded DACA, a House Judiciary Subcommittee held a hearing entitled "The Real Victims of a Reckless and Lawless Immigration Policy" to attack the president's immigration executive action. While the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner was grilled on how his agency handles tax returns filed by undocumented immigrants in a Ways and Means Subcommittee hearing. The main instigator in the hearing was Representative Sam Johnson (R-TX), whose legislative state of Texas receives over $1.5 billion in state and local tax contributions from undocumented immigrants. However, the most bizarre debate of the week happened on Wednesday during the subcommittee markup of the FY2017 Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill. Lawmakers spent bulk of the meeting arguing about a measure that would force the Library of Congress to continue to use the term "illegal aliens;" a word that the library stopped using in its subject headings. The measurement was approved, with Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) being the only member who voted against it.

Check out AILA's Upcoming Congressional Hearings on Immigration to learn about upcoming hearings, and links to watch past hearings.


March 17, 2016

Earlier today, Representative Mike Honda (D-CA) introduced the Reuniting Families Act (RFA), a bill that would help reduce the current family-based backlogs by increasing the number of green cards available, and eliminate discrimination against same-sex couples in our immigration laws. AILA applauds Representative Honda for his leadership in preserving the longstanding and cherished American value of family unity (Read AILA's press statement.) In a tweet, Representative Honda called on Congress to support his bill, instead of attacking DAPA and expanded DACA.

The comment came as the House voted in favor of a resolution to file an amicus brief opposing the president's immigration programs. The resolution passed largely along party lines, by a vote of 234 to 186. Notably, Republican members Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Carlos Curbelos (R-FL), Richard Hanna (R-NY), Ileana Ros Lehtinen (R-FL), and Robert Dold (R-IL) crossed party lines and voted against the resolution. Representative Hanna stated that "members are free to sign Amicus Briefs on any issue before the Court without this resolution" in a statement explaining his vote. Huffington Post reports that a law firm is representing the House pro-bono, and would likely ask the Supreme Court to participate in oral arguments scheduled for next month.

Join AILA on April 7, 2016, for National Day of Action, to lift client stories and educate lawmakers on the importance of RFA and DAPA and expanded DACA!


March 16, 2016

Earlier today, the House Judiciary Committee in an 18 to 9 vote approved the Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act of 2016 (H.R. 4731), which would reduce the number of refugee admissions in the United States, and allow states to refuse to resettle refugees. The legislation, which now will go to the House floor, was introduced on Monday by Representatives Raul Labrador (R-ID) and Bob Goodlatte (R-VA). AILA opposes this bill, and has joined a number of organizations in urging Congress to reject it.

Also, this morning, before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest, AILA Executive Director Ben Johnson asked Congress to reform America's immigration system, which is outdated and falls short of meeting the needs of America's 21st century economy.

Subcommittee Chairman Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) began the hearing by asking whether immigrants suppress the wages of Americans, addressing the misconception that the employment and wages of African Americans are negatively impacted by immigrants. (The American Immigration Council explains how immigrants help boost employment and wages for African Americans in this study.) Ben pointed out that America needs an immigration system that will serve as a tool to provide economic opportunity and growth. In overtime, Ben got nearly the last word in with a rousing call for Congress to work together to pass immigration reform.

Join AILA in Washington, D.C., for the National Day of Action on April 7, 2016, to educate lawmakers on why America needs immigration reform. This election year, we need to make sure that the facts don't get lost in all the political noise.

You can read Ben's full testimony submitted to the Senate, and watch a recording of the hearing Senate Judiciary's webpage.


March 15, 2016

Tomorrow, AILA Executive Director Ben Johnson will be testifying before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest during the hearing entitled "The Impact of High Levels of Immigration on U.S. Workers." As the title suggests, the hearing will address the controversial question of whether native-born workers are hurt by competition from immigrant workers. Drawing upon economic and demographic research, Ben will explain how immigrants fuel our nation's economic growth, and how immigrants are more likely to complement the work performed by native-born workers rather than compete for their jobs. Watch the hearing live tomorrow on the Senate Judiciary's page starting at 10:00 am (ET).

On the House side, the House Judiciary Committee will take on the U.S. refugee resettlement program. The committee is scheduled to mark up the "Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act of 2016" (H.R. 4731) tomorrow morning. The bill, which was introduced by Representatives Raul Labrador (R-ID) and Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), would drastically reduce and cap refugee admissions, place refugees under continual surveillance after their arrival, and create new procedures that would significantly and potentially indefinitely delay resettlement for many refugees who are fleeing danger.

Tell your lawmakers to welcome refugees, and urge them to oppose the Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act of 2016 before tomorrow's markup. For more information on H.R. 4731, check out the Interfaith Immigration Coalition's section-by-section summary and analysis.


March 14, 2016

In Congress, House members are scheduled to vote Wednesday on a resolution authorizing the chamber to file an amicus brief opposing President Obama's 2014 executive orders on immigration. Immigrant rights groups are pressuring Republican lawmakers from districts with significant Latino and Asian districts to vote against the resolution, which is expected to pass along party lines, reports Politico. Last week, Democrats filed their own brief supporting DACA and expanded DACA. American businesses and executives, including Mark Zuckerberg, have also signed a separate amicus brief in support of protecting immigrants from deportation. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the case on Monday, April 18, 2016, and is expected to issue a ruling by the end of June.


March 9, 2016

During this morning's Senate Judiciary hearing, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) asked Attorney General Loretta Lynch why the Department of Justice does not prohibit immigration proceedings from moving forward until children have representation. "I think we're looking to find any various ways to support that and we're looking at various ways to get legal counsel appointed in every situation," responded Lynch. The question came after Senator Leahy lambasted the immigration judge who in a deposition claimed that toddlers can learn immigration law well enough to represent themselves in court.

Last month, the Vermont Senator co-sponsored S. 2540: Fair Day in Court for Kids Act of 2016, which mandates that unaccompanied children and vulnerable immigrants receive legal representation. A House companion bill (H.R. 4646) was introduced two weeks ago. AILA welcomes these bills, and encourages AILA members to thank the current co-sponsors for their leadership and to ask other members of Congress to join as co-sponsors. For more data on children and families in immigration court, check out this fact sheet.

In other Senate News:

In a recent letter to USCIS Director Leon Rodriguez, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) questioned whether or not it is appropriate for an entrepreneur to be granted an H-1B visa. AILA President-Elect Bill Stock answers the question in the AILA Leadership Blog post, "Chasing Away the Innovators: Not in America's Interest." Next Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on "The Impact of High Levels of Immigration on U.S. Workers."


March 8, 2016

Today, AILA joined an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to lift the preliminary injunction blocking the implementation of President Obama's executive actions on immigration. A coalition of cities and counties will also file an amicus brief in support of the programs known as DAPA and expanded DACA. It's worth noting that some localities that have signed on to the brief are from states that are plaintiffs in the Texas vs. United States lawsuit.

The battle over the president's immigration programs has spilled over to Congress as well. More than 200 Democrats will file a friend-of-the-court brief supporting DAPA and expanded DACA later today. The move comes on the heels of Speaker Paul Ryan's (R-WI) announcement that the House will vote in the coming weeks on a resolution to allow the chamber to file an amicus brief opposing the programs. (Read the Council's blog on who would benefit from deferred action.) The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the case on Monday, April 18, 2016. "It is the only case set for that day, allowing the hour's time allotted to be extended," reports SCOTUS Blog.

In other news, India filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization over the fee increases for H-1B and L-1 visas on Friday. The increased fees were part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 (PL 114-113), which was signed into law in December 2015. See the USCIS Notice on Increased H-1B and L-1 Petition Fees for more information.


March 3, 2016

Sign the petition! Tell ICE to release Kimberly, a 10th grade student from Atlanta, Georgia, who was arrested by ICE on her way to school and has now been detained. And tell President Obama to stop the raids, so that this doesn't happen again.

On the morning of January 27, 2016, Kimberly and her little sister were getting a ride to school from their aunt when ICE pulled them over. ICE knew that they were on their way to school, but they arrested Kimberly anyway. ICE lied to Kimberly and told her they just needed her to review and sign some paperwork. Kimberly got out of the car, book bag in hand. ICE has detained Kimberly for more than five weeks in Irwin County Detention Center, where she spent her 19th birthday. She and her younger sister had fled Honduras together, after gangs called on the phone and threatened to rape them, and after corrupt police broke into their home, held them at gunpoint, and took their stepfather for ransom. All Kimberly wants is a chance to ask for asylum. No one should be deported before their protection claims can be heard. These raids are a symptom of a much larger problem: that the Obama administration continues to treat Central American refugees like criminals, and continues to use the most aggressive enforcement tools against some of the most vulnerable immigrants. Learn more about Kimberly's story, and take action to stop the raids.


March 2, 2016

An update on Supreme Court Case on DAPA/DACA: on Tuesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced that Representatives will vote on whether to file an amicus brief opposing President Obama's 2014 immigration executive orders, reports Roll Call. The programs known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) were enjoined last year by a Texas federal judge.

Speaker Ryan called President Obama's DAPA and expanded DACA programs a "direct attack" on congressional power. "The House will make that very, very clear, and we will do so as an institution on behalf of the American people, on behalf of representative self-government," Ryan added.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called the Speaker's action "one-sided." She also announced that House Democrats will file a brief supporting the president's actions, which she stated are authorized under current law. According to Politico, Congress is getting involved after the Supreme Court added a question on whether the programs violated the Constitution's "Take Care" clause.

Today, it was reported that the Department of Justice has filed its brief with the Supreme Court. The government states that "deferred action" is an extension of a well-established principle that the Department of Homeland Security exercises enforcement discretion.

Check out AILA's Texas v. United States page for more resources on the lawsuit. Watch this Quicktake on how U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's death might impact the upcoming case.

**Immigration on the Campaign Trail**

The aftermath of Super Tuesday is settling in. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) stated that the Republican party should rally behind Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) to defeat GOP front-runner Donald Trump. Senator Graham, who dropped out of the presidential race in December, has denounced Trump's immigration plan as "nonsensical," and called on his party to denounce anti-immigrant rhetoric. Senator Cruz doesn't have a great track record on immigration, and agrees with Trump on building a wall along the southern border and deporting the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

Jorge Ramos, the Univision and Fusion anchor who was physically removed from a Trump news conference, talks to the New York Times Magazine about the importance of a Latino firewall to prevent a Trump presidency.


February 26, 2016

Earlier this morning, Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) introduced the House version of the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act. (Check out the video from this morning's press conference.) "This bill ensures children, women, and other vulnerable groups will not have to make their case in immigration court without adequate legal representation. It is an important step towards ensuring that those seeking protection from violence, abuse, and persecution are able to fully avail themselves of our refugee and asylum laws," stated Rep. Lofgren. AILA sang praises of the bill.

Two weeks ago Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), along with Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Patty Murray (D-WA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Al Franken (D-MN), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Tom Udall (D-NM) introduced their version: S. 2540.

Take Action: thank cosponsors for their leadership in introducing these bills and ask everyone else to join as cosponsors.

**Immigration on the Campaign Trail**

GOP presidential hopefuls faced off in Houston, Texas last night, just days before the Super Tuesday primaries. The debate was the first to include a moderator from the Spanish-language media. Telemundo's anchor Maria Celeste Arrarás pointedly asked Senator Marco Rubio (FL) about changing his stance on DACA. "I am sympathetic to the plight of someone who came here when they were two or three years old through no fault of their own. But you can't solve it doing something that is unconstitutional," Rubio answered.


February 23, 2016

This morning the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on recent reports, including one released today by the GAO, criticizing Health and Human Services (HHS) for its lack of oversight and protection measures for unaccompanied minors. AILA called for the administration to ensure that "HHS has the resources and support it needs to be able to serve the best interest of each child," and to ensure every individual fleeing persecution is afforded a fair and meaningful opportunity to seek protection.

For a detailed look at why families and children are fleeing El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, check out the American Immigration Council's report: Understanding the Central American Refugee Crisis.

**Immigration on the Campaign Trail**

The Republican Nevada Caucus takes place tonight, and immigration has already taken center stage. Frontrunner Donald Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric was welcomed in the Silver State - a sold-out crowd chanted "Build that wall" as Trump took the stage during a Las Vegas rally Monday evening, after being introduced by Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Trump's closest rivals Senator Cruz (TX) and Senator Rubio (FL) also moved farther to the right on the issue. Yesterday, the Texas Senator told Fox News that he would deport the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States - a move that Trump criticized as driven by Cruz's third place finish in South Carolina. Marco Rubio, has also promised to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program on day one of his administration.

Trump, who has built "a huge following in Nevada with his combative rhetoric reported on illegal immigration and economic unrest" could offset Rubio and Cruz's organized efforts in Nevada, reports the Los Angeles Times.


February 18, 2016

Update on the Visa Waiver Program: Today, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it will also exclude from the Visa Waiver Program certain individuals who have traveled to Libya, Somalia, and Yemen in the last five years, but not those who are dual citizens of those countries. The changes are part of the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, which excludes from the program recent travelers and dual citizens from Syria, Iran, Iraq, and Sudan. The bill was signed into law in December 2015 as part of the omnibus appropriations bill for FY2016.

Supporters of the new law applauded DHS for adding new countries, but disagree with the government's plan to allow waivers, reports The New York Times. The Homeland Security Secretary may waive the stringent visa requirements for journalists or individuals traveling on behalf of international organizations or humanitarian groups. The announcement comes a month after the House and Senate introduced a bipartisan bill to remove limitations on the ability of certain dual citizens from participating in the Visa Waiver Program.

Pope on the Border: Pope Francis concluded his six-day trip to Mexico by recognizing the humanitarian crisis at the Mexico-U.S. border. "The human tragedy of forced migration is a global phenomenon," stated the pontiff during his cross-border mass in Ciudad Juárez. "It is a crisis that can be measured in numbers but should be measured with names, stories, and families." The pope's message echoed the one he delivered to a joint session of Congress last September, when he asked lawmakers to "not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal."

The pope's trip to the border sparked criticism from GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump, who told Fox News that Pope Francis does not understand U.S. immigration issues. The dispute between the frontrunner and the head of the Catholic Church has gone viral after Pope Francis stated that "a person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian." Check out the Washington Post's updates on the showdown.


February 17, 2016

This afternoon, Pope Francis is scheduled to lay flowers in honor of all the migrants who have died at the Mexico-U.S. wall, after holding a cross-border mass in Cuidad Juarez, Mexico. (Meet the stonemason, a U.S. deportee, who fashioned the altar for Pope Francis' cross-border mass.) The trip comes a few days after the pontiff held mass in the Mexican southern state of Chiapas that borders Guatemala and is a gateway for many migrants fleeing violence and persecution. Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, Texas, states that the pope's visit to both ends of Mexico was to "highlight the plight of tens of thousands of Central American refugees-vulnerable families and unaccompanied children-who are fleeing violence in the northern triangle countries."

***Immigration on the Campaign Trail***

During the GOP debate in South Carolina on Saturday, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush explained that immigrants come to the United States without authorization because they have "no other choice." Bush went on to attack GOP frontrunner Donald Trump for making offensive remarks about immigrants, and called on his colleagues to show respect toward immigrant families who are struggling. The South Carolina primary on Saturday may make or break Jeb Bush's campaign, experts say.

Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) took time off the campaign trail earlier this week to announce he would co-sponsor the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act of 2016. The bill, which was introduced last week by Senate Minority Leader Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), would mandate the government to appoint legal representation to unaccompanied immigrant children and vulnerable individuals in removal proceedings. AILA welcomes the introduction of this bill.

Take action and thank Senators Harry Reid (D-NV), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Patty Murray (D-WA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Al Franken (D-MN), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for their leadership.


February 11, 2016

Today, Senate Democrats introduced legislation to ensure access to counsel in the immigration system for the most vulnerable. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), along with Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Patty Murray (D-WA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Al Franken (D-MN), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) introduced the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act of 2016. The bill would "require that every unaccompanied child and vulnerable immigrant in removal proceedings receives legal representation," wrote Senator Reid in an op-ed published in Univision. The senator's office has also published this section-by-section summary of the bill.

"AILA applauds the introduction of the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act," stated AILA President Victor Nieblas, adding that the bill "would stop the injustice of forcing people to face deportation without counsel." For more on this bill and what's happening in Congress, check out this AILA Quicktake with Advocacy Director Greg Chen.

Please take a moment to thank the Senators for their leadership!


February 10, 2016

This morning, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee voted on a resolution (S. 104) which would preserve Operation Streamline and acknowledge its "importance and success." AILA has called for an end to Operation Streamline, a program that fast-tracks federal criminal prosecutions for immigration status offenses. The resolution passed the committee in an eight to seven vote, right along party lines. Ranking Minority Member Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) spoke up on his bipartisan efforts to work with the Department of Justice and Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who introduced the resolution, and how that effort failed. The senator also highlighted a letter to Attorney Loretta Lynch General written by AILA and other immigrant, civil rights, and human rights groups that laid out several concerns regarding Operation Streamline, acknowledging that problems exist with this program. For more information on Operation Streamline visit AILA's featured issue page on the Border.

Next Wednesday, Pope Francis will express solidarity with Latin American migrants trying to cross the U.S. border by holding mass in the border town of Cuidad Juarez, Mexico. The cross-border mass is expected to draw 200,000 attendants on the Mexican side and 50,000 on the Texan side. The pontiff's visit to the U.S.-Mexico border comes at a time when some U.S. politicians are calling for an even larger border wall and the mass deportation of all undocumented immigrants, and when raids are being conducted nationwide to apprehend and deport asylum-seekers. Pope Francis addressed the plight of migrants in his visit to the United States last September, and asked a joint Congress to show solidarity and compassion to immigrants, and to reject a "mindset of hostility."


February 9, 2016

Today, President Obama presented Congress with his Budget for Fiscal Year 2017. Notably the president has asked Congress to reduce the overall number of detention beds, and provide funds for body-worn cameras for CBP law enforcement activities. The trillion dollar spending plan, invests billions on the Southern Border security and enforcing immigration law. The president's budget "holds out hope for the long-stalled immigration bill of 2013, the implementation of which the administration says would reduce the deficit by $170 billion over ten years," reports TIME. The American Immigration Council analyzed this and delved further into the funding proposal.

Call for business stories: AILA is collecting examples of how employment-based nonimmigrants have helped their petitioning employers expand their business through increased sales, revenues, and/or job creation. If you have an employment-based nonimmigrant client who fits this profile, we want to hear from you!

**Immigration on the Campaign Trail**

Happy New Hampshire Primary Day! The Washington Post has taken a closer look at New Hampshire's divided views on immigration among Republican voters. The mixed views on immigration among the GOP candidates were also showcased during Saturday's debate in New Hampshire. Ohio Governor John Kasich restated that he would not support mass deportation for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. "I couldn't even imagine how we would even begin to think about taking a mom or a dad out of a house when they have not committed a crime since they've been here, leaving their children in the house," he said. "That is not, in my opinion, the kind of values that we believe in." The governor's remarks, however, stood in sharp contrast to comments from Senator Ted Cruz (TX) who promised to enforce the law and conduct mass deportations. One problem: Senator Cruz got the deportation numbers wrong for both administrations, again.


February 5, 2016

Earlier this week, Senator Mark Kirk (R-Il) led a group of Republican senators on calling for a "pause" to the U.S. refugee resettlement program for Syrian refugees. The efforts come just weeks after the Senate blocked the House-passed bill that would impose unworkable security measures on the screening of Iraqi and Syrian refugees and halt their resettlement to the United States. AILA opposed the bill. AILA members are encouraged to use this template to submit letters to the editor asking members of Congress to welcome refugees. For more information on the Syrian refugee crisis, visit AILA's feature page.

**Immigration on the Campaign Trail**

In last night's Democratic debate there was finally a question on immigration: would they make it the first priority? Both Secretary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) dodged that question but expressed support for comprehensive immigration reform. BuzzFeed News explores nine immigration questions that Clinton and Sanders "have not been asked in the Democratic debate."


February 4, 2016

Earlier today, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing to discuss the security at the southwest border. In AILA's statement, we call for better due process and legal protections for children, families, and other vulnerable border arrivals. This CNN story examines a mother and son's journey through the labyrinth of immigration courts after fleeing violence in Guatemala.

Our southern border isn't the only one under scrutiny. Yesterday, the Senate held a hearing to explore Canada's refugee plan to resettle 25,000 refugees and its implication for U.S. national security. The Canadian government submitted an outline of its refugee screening process. Vice News covered in detailed the recurring myth "that the Canadian border is a pipeline for terrorists." The criticisms of H-1Bs continued last week with a story in the New York Times about a lawsuit accusing Disney of misusing H-1B visas by replacing U.S. workers with foreign workers. The Christian Science Monitor delved further into the H-1B visa process, including some reform ideas of presidential candidates Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX). For more on what Republican and Democratic presidential candidates have said on H-1B visas, check out ZDNet's guide.

***Immigration on the Campaign Trail***

We're less than one week away from the New Hampshire primary, and Donald Trump continues to dominate the polls. Both Trump and Senator Cruz have taken harsh, anti-immigrant positions. The Huffington Post explored how their continued success may actually help bring forth a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants by engaging Latino and Asian voters to vote against them. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who supports immigration reform and dropped out of the presidential race last year, also warned that Senator Rubio's hard stance on immigration "will come back to bite us as a party."


February 2, 2016

This morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing titled "The Failures and Future of the EB-5 Regional Center Program: Can it be Fixed?" for which AILA submitted a statement expressing strong support of the program. The witnesses included Nicholas Colucci who heads up the EB-5 program at USCIS and Stephen Cohen from the enforcement division of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Although the witnesses were grilled by the committee, the real fight was between the senators, reported The Hill.

The hearing started out with Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) expressing serious concerns over the EB-5 program. Matters got worse when Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) stated that the program should sunset. Fortunately, Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) expressed strong support for the program while acknowledging that reforms to improve the program were needed. This hearing continued to highlight the divisions we saw late last year when the EB-5 program extension was being negotiated. Congress will be sure to continue its examination of this important program, which sunsets on September 10, 2016, per the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016. For more on the EB-5 program, view the American Immigration Council's fact sheet titled "The EB-5 Visa Program: What It Is and How It Works."


January 22, 2016

Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the U.S. will expand its Refugee Admissions Program for individuals and families fleeing violence from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The U.S. has asked the United Nations (UN) to help screen migrants in need of refugee protection from Central America by setting up processing centers in nearby countries. Currently, the UN has only one center in the Western Hemisphere — in Ecuador. Very little is yet known about how this program will operate. The administration's Central American Minors (CAM) program, launched at the end of 2014, was supposed to help thousands of children fleeing Northern Triangle violence, but in the past year, only a handful of children have completed the process and come to the U.S. Although the administration has taken this step towards recognizing the ongoing refugee crisis in Central America, it is still continuing the inhumane and aggressive enforcement tactics to round up and deport mothers and children seeking asylum here in the U.S. — a blanket contradiction. "President Obama must fully acknowledge that these families deserve humanitarian protection rather than punishment,"said the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project in its latest press release on the raids.

Today, the chorus of voices calling to stop the raids received a boost from twenty-two senators who have called on President Obama to halt the raids on children and families and to consider expanding TPS for the Northern Triangle countries in response to the undeniable humanitarian crisis in the region — please thank your senator if he or she is on the list! Also today, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) called on President Obama and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson "to cease these ICE raids of Central American women and children, and that each such person scheduled for deportation who is seeking asylum have their cases reviewed for violations of their due process rights." The USCCR also called for families to have the "opportunity to have pro bono counsel to ensure that they have had an adequate opportunity to present any basis for asylum status." Currently the CARA Pro Bono Project is working in the South Texas Residential Family Center in Dilley, Texas to protect many of these mothers and children from immediate deportation. Please consider volunteering for the CARA Project, and urging the president to STOP the raids.


January 20, 2016

Earlier today, Senate Democrats blocked the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act of 2015 (H.R. 4038). The bill fell short of the needed 60 votes to advance; the final vote was 55 to 43, largely along party lines.

Leading up to this afternoon's vote, Senate Democratic and Republican leaders battled over including a handful of amendments, including a temporary ban to block Muslims from entering the United States, reported The Hill. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) stated that the GOP front runner ban should be included so "Republicans who support these illogical plans should be prepared for the next logical step: Voting on his vision of America." John Cornyn (R-TX), the Senate Majority Whip, shot back by saying that Democrats were trivializing the refugee issue "by bringing the circus to town on the floor of the Senate."

The experts believe that H.R. 4038, which passed the House with broad support last fall, is likely dead for the year. This is a huge victory to all the advocates, including AILA members, who reached out to their members of Congress opposing this ugly legislation.


January 19, 2016

Today's top story: The Supreme Court decided to review the challenge to President Obama's executive actions on immigration. AILA President Victor Nieblas called the Supreme Court's decision "an incredibly important moment in the history of immigration reform." See AILA's press statement for his full remarks.

The Court is likely to hear the case in April 2016, and make a decision by the end of June. As the Huffington Post put it, this would be "[just] in time to galvanize advocates and opponents of immigration reform and to add further fuel to the presidential election."

On the campaign trail, presidential hopefuls are weighing in: Marco Rubio tweeted, "I'm confident SCOTUS will agree Obama executive orders are unconstitutional. Regardless, as president, I will end them." Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton tweeted, ".@POTUS' action should be upheld so families can stay together and live without fear of deportation." For more on what candidates are saying on immigration, check out the FWD.us tracking tool.

The president's plan has been stuck in legal limbo for almost a year, after Texas and 25 other states sued the administration. (Check out AILA's page on Texas v. United States for more resources.) A ruling in favor of the administration could extend protection to five million immigrants.

Senate to vote on refugees: The Senate will vote tomorrow, January 20, 2016, on H.R. 4038, the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act of 2015. The bill already passed the House last fall. AILA opposes the bill, because it would impose completely unworkable security measures on the screening of Iraqi and Syrian refugees that would completely halt their resettlement to the United States. Moreover, the bill's additional requirements are unnecessary given the extremely rigorous security checks already done by multiple agencies. Take a moment to take action and ask your senator to vote against H.R. 4038.


January 12, 2016

Tonight, a Syrian refugee and former DREAMer will be among the guests who sit with First Lady Michelle Obama as President Obama delivers his final State of the Union address. According to a White House announcement, the guests "represent who we are as Americans: inclusive and compassionate, innovative and courageous."

The presence of Refaai Hamo, who fled Syria's civil war in 2013, stands in sharp contrast to the administration's decision to arrest 121 Central American families in raids conducted nationwide. Despite ample evidence of the uncontrollable violence and dangerous conditions in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras forcing these families to flee, the administration has never treated them as refugees needing humanitarian protection.

The nationwide deportation raids that began on New Year's weekend have created tension between the president and Democrats. In the run-up to tonight's address, House Democrats have upped the ante: Today, 146 House Democrats sent a letter to the President arguing for greater protection for families who are seeking safety from violence and persecution, rather than deporting them back to danger.

Last night, Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton broke with the Obama administration and called for an to end the raids during the Iowa Black and Brown Forum. The former Secretary of State's statement comes days after Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Martin O'Malley denounced the deportation raids.

**Immigration on the Campaign Trail**

With less than three weeks to go until the Iowa Caucus, Republican presidential candidates are embracing fear in their campaigns to toughen their stance on immigration. Stoking the public's fear of terrorism, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida has begun to shift the immigration debate to one about national security. Similarly, front-runner Donald Trump doubled down on his incendiary call to ban all Muslims, as well as to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, in his first campaign ad.


January 6, 2016

On late Tuesday, the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project won temporary stays from the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) blocking the deportation of four Central American mothers and their children arrested in recent raids. "Our interviews revealed that these families have bona fide asylum claims, but were deprived of a meaningful opportunity to present them at their hearings in immigration court," said Katie Shepherd, Managing Attorney for the CARA Project.

Over New Year's weekend 121 adults and children were apprehended in raids across the country. The CARA Project has met with many of the families detained at the Dilley, TX detention facility, and is trying to identify and interview every individual picked up in the raids before they are deported. Already some families have been deported.

Today, AILA and the American Immigration Council requested a meeting with DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson to discuss the raids and how to protect the families that were picked up. The letter reiterates AILA's opposition to the raids which are causing panic and fear in the immigrant communities across the country.

In other news, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has stated he plans to revisit recent changes to the visa waiver program that impact nationals of Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Sudan, which were passed as part of the omnibus appropriations bill before leaving office at the end of 2016.


January 4, 2016

On Monday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a statement on the raids conducted over the weekend to round up and deport Central American families. According to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, 121 adults and children were apprehended in raids across Georgia, Texas, and North Carolina this weekend. Apprehended families are being held at the South Texas Family Detention Center in Dilley, Texas. AILA condemned the administration's inhumane tactic of detaining and deporting mothers and children who are seeking protection. "Rounding up mothers and children who have fled the most violent region in the western hemisphere and are trying to find refuge abrogates our legal obligations to provide protection to refugees," stated AILA President Victor Nieblas Pradis. "The Obama Administration should be ashamed of these actions and immediately suspend them." On December 31, before the raids took place, more than 160 legal services, immigration, refugee, faith, and civil rights organizations sent a letter to President Obama asking him to renounce such aggressive enforcement tactics against this vulnerable population.

The Los Angeles Times reported on the efforts by advocates and Central American governments to educate and assist immigrant communities, as it is unclear whether and how many more raids are planned. AILA is asking all members to share any information you may have on raids or similar enforcement actions happening in their community.

For additional information on the raids, visit AILA's Central American Humanitarian Crisis page and watch this AILA Quicktake.