Immigration Advocacy Newsletter March-April 2014
Immigration Advocacy Network Newsletter: March- April 2014
The House passes the punitive ENFORCE Act; the Administration pledges to review deportation practices; what is a discharge petition anyway?; and more in this month’s newsletter!
- Advocacy Calendar
- Legislative and Administrative Updates
- Immigration in the News
Call-in number and code: 805-399-1000, Code 104402
- Fast4Families Bus Tour- The Fast4Families bus tour is wrapping up in the next two weeks, making several stops in Virginia before ending in Washington, DC. If you live in the area, attend an event!
- Fast4Families may be ending the bus tour but the Lenten fast continues. Join the pledge to fast every Wednesday during the remaining season of Lent to repent for an immigration system that tears apart families.
- April 14- Join the Interfaith Immigration Coalition (IIC) Monthly Webinar- Please join the Interfaith Immigration Coalition Webinar April 14th at 4 PM EDT on how various faith communities and immigrants' rights groups are responding to the rise of the deportation machinery in our country. You can join by calling in at the time & date of the conference:
Legislative and Administrative Updates
House Democrats attempt to bring a vote on H.R. 15 via discharge petition and amendment
As immigration reform continues to stall in the House, House Democrats have focused on procedural tactics in recent weeks in the hopes of bringing H.R. 15 to the floor for a vote. H.R. 15, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, is the bipartisan House version of the bill that passed the Senate in June 2013. It differs significantly from the Senate bill by replacing the controversial Corker-Hoeven border amendment with a more palatable border bill passed unanimously out of the Homeland Security Committee in May 2013. The first procedural tactic was the discharge petition.
A discharge petition allows an absolute majority of the House of Representatives, 218 lawmakers, to force a floor vote on the bill, even if leaders who control the House floor oppose the measure. When successful, this tactic allows a bill to move out of committee and to the floor of the House of Representatives for consideration without a report from the committee or leadership, thereby "discharging" the committee from further consideration of a bill or resolution. While discharge petitions can be filed by any House member, and therefore are not always filed by members of the minority party, they often serve the minority as a messaging vehicle to highlight issues stuck in committee.
While H.R. 15 is a bipartisan bill with 199 co-sponsors, 3 Republican and 196 Democrat, there is little hope of the discharge petition reaching 218 members of the House. As of Wednesday, April 2 there were 190 signatories, all Democrats.
- Learn more about H.R. 15 with this guide from the Immigration Policy Center
- Want to know more about the discharge petition? Check out Immigration Impact’s blog post
- Click here to read a summary of all the House immigration bills that have passed the Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees and see how they align with Episcopal Church policies
- The Interfaith Immigration Coalition has compiled summaries of all the immigration related bills currently before the House
Representative Tony Cárdenas (D-CA-29) also attempted to bring H.R. 15 to the floor by introducing the bill as an amendment to the budget during the Budget Committee mark-up on April 2. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently released findings that passing H.R. 15 could result in an estimated $900 billion in deficit savings over the next 20 years. The amendment failed to pass the committee on a party-line vote.
- Interested in learning more about the economic impacts of immigration reform? Click here for analysis and state by state breakdowns
- Read the synopsis of the CBO score here
The House passes H.R. 4138, ENFORCE the Law Act (Executive Needs to Faithfully Observe and Respect Congressional Enactments of the Law Act ) and H.R. 3973, Faithful Execution of the Law Act
In late March two bills aimed at curbing Executive Authority passed the House on party-line votes. Both bills addressed executive authority beyond immigration, but it is important to note that both targeted the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, a program with broad bipartisan support that provides relief from deportation for undocumented youth who arrived in the United States as children. The House Judiciary Committee has claimed that DACA is an example of the President’s “failure to enforce the law,” despite the fact that the Executive Branch has the authority to set enforcement priorities. These bills are considered “messaging bills” and neither bill is expected to move in the Senate.
Specifically, The ENFORCE Act would allow Members of Congress to sue the President if they believe that the President is failing to enforce existing laws, including but not limited to using prosecutorial discretion in immigration enforcement, as it is used in other areas of law. The Faithful Execution of the Law Act seeks to address purported overreach by the Administration by requiring the Attorney General to report to Congress any instance where a federal agency refrains from enforcing laws or regulations for any reason, including but not limited to immigration, even informal and minor prosecutorial discretion decisions on specific cases.
Representatives Pete O’Rourke (D-TX-16) and Steve Pearce (R-NM-02) Introduce H.R. 4303, Bipartisan Legislation to Protect the Civil Rights of Border Residents, Restore Accountability at CBP and Ensure the Safety of Front-Line Officers and Agents
On March 27 Representatives O’Rourke (D-TX-16) and Pearce (R-NM-02) introduced bipartisan legislation aimed at improving training and accountability for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and ensuring the needs of border communities are considered by enforcement agencies and operations. This bill would create an independent Border Oversight Commission with subpoena authority to examine and make recommendations on CBP’s use of force, search and seizure, personnel training, and community engagement policies. It also includes recommendations for preventing further deaths of migrants who make dangerous dessert crossings.
In a press release accompanying the bill’s introduction, Rep. O’Rourke explained the genesis of the bill stems from,
“Frequent reports from constituents regarding mistreatment at the border. Yet, there is no coherent complaint process. We also represent thousands of CBP agents and officers who need the support and training to be safe and do their jobs effectively. We are introducing this legislation because we need a border policy that is humane, rational and fiscally responsible. I am grateful to Rep. Pearce for his willingness to tackle this important challenge in a bipartisan manner.”
This is not the first bipartisan bill from these two border-district representatives. Last fall, O’Rourke and Pearce also partnered to introduce H.R. 3431, the American Families United Act. This bill would grant discretionary authority to a judge or the Secretary of Homeland Security to review specific cases for family reunification purposes in certain circumstances and offer relief to U.S. citizens currently separated from their families because of previous and minor immigration violations of a technical nature. Relief is also available in certain cases if those violations occurred when the family member removed was a minor.
President Obama Orders a Review of Deportation Practices
It is estimated that the Obama Administration’s deportation record has just reached the 2 million mark. In the run up to that sobering milestone, President Obama announced in late March that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson will conduct a review of current deportation policies and what could be done to make the immigration enforcement system more humane. This announcement comes on the heels of the House votes on the ENFORCE and Faithful Execution of the Law Acts as well as increased pressure from advocates across the country and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. White House advisors have stated that the review will not include an expanded DACA program to protect other undocumented immigrants from removal and no clear timeline has been set.
Immigration in the News (opinion pieces and editorials appear in red)
What the White House Does on Deportations Means a Lot for the Future of Immigration Reform
By Elahe Izadi
The National Journal, 3/24/14
Pope Francis hosts President Obama for talks on poverty, health care and immigration
By Eric J. Lyman
Religion News Service, 3/27/14
California Farmers Short of Labor, and Patience
By Jennifer Medina
The New York Times, 3/29/14
Immigration Reform Is a Moral Imperative
By Randolph Reed and Russell Moore
The Wall Street Journal, 3/30/14
Catholic leaders hold Mass at border to urge immigration overhaul
By Cindy Carcamo
The Los Angeles Times, 4/1/14
Ease refugee restrictions: Column
By Elliott Abrams and Eric P. Schwartz
USA Today, 4/1/14
America has resettled 121 of Syria's 2m refugees. We must do better – now
By Eleanor Acer
The Guardian, 4/2/14
- Learn more about work across The Church to combat human trafficking at the Episcopalians Against Human Trafficking Facebook Page
- Read the latest UNHCR report on unaccompanied immigrant children, Children on the Run
Please contact Katie Conway, Immigration and Refugee Policy Analyst, at [email protected] for more information.