Camila DeChalus

New Bill Would Hold HHS Feet to Fire for Unaccompanied Minors
Whereabouts of nearly 1,500 undocumented children are reportedly unknown

A bipartisan group of senators have introduced a bill designed to ensure that the Department of Health and Human Services takes full responsibility for, and keeps better track of, unaccompanied children who come to the border seeking entry to the United States and then are placed with U.S. sponsors.

The legislation follows a new report that revealed that the government could not determine the whereabouts of nearly 1,500 children that HHS had placed with sponsors this year.

Lawmakers Unhappy With Pompeo’s Lowered Cap on Refugees
New cap of 30,000 is a historic low

Lawmakers of both parties are criticizing the Trump administration’s decision to lower the annual refugee cap to 30,000 people for fiscal 2019 — a sharp decrease from the 45,000 cap set for fiscal 2018, and also a historic low.

“At a time when we should be defending our values and ideals as Americans and working to alleviate the biggest refugee crisis since World War II, it is truly repugnant to see the Trump administration double down on its efforts to reject our foundational values and humanitarian duty of providing those escaping persecution the opportunity to seek protection and safe haven,” Sen. Robert Menendez, the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement Monday.

Democrats Fume Over Transfer of FEMA Money to ICE Before Hurricanes
Agency officials, some Republicans say funds could not be used for response

On the eve of Hurricane Florence hitting the U.S. coast, Democratic lawmakers expressed outrage that the Homeland Security Department transferred nearly $10 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to Immigration and Customs Enforcement in a reprogramming move this summer.

Sen. Jeff Merkley’s office on Wednesday released documents confirming that $9.8 million from FEMA’s operations and support budget was diverted to fund ICE’s detention facilities and deportation operations.

Border Apprehensions Down Two Months Running
Trump administration officials say the dip is directly tied to Trump’s zero-tolerance initiative

For the second month in a row, the number of individuals caught trying to enter the U.S. illegally at the southwest border declined, drawing praise from administration officials who say it is directly tied to President Donald Trump’s zero-tolerance initiative.

In the month of July, border apprehensions declined by 7 percent, according to data released by Customs and Border Protection on Wednesday. In July, a total of 31,303 individuals were apprehended compared to 34,095 in June and 40,333 in May.

Lawmakers Renew Efforts to Pass Family Separation Bill
But with House already out for recess, no legislative solution possible until September

Lawmakers say they are renewing efforts to find what has been elusive legislation to keep families together at the U.S.-Mexico border, as the Trump administration announced it would meet the latest court deadline for reuniting more than 1,400 children it had separated from their immigrant parents.

Department of Homeland Security officials said they expected to complete all “eligible” reunifications by midnight Thursday, Pacific time. Beyond those, 711 children remain in custody because they’re not “eligible” for reunification, according to the department. Of those, 431 have a parent who was deported from the U.S. without them, officials said.

More U.S.-Born Children Could Be Separated From Immigrant Parents
Trump administration wants to terminate TPS status for hundreds of thousands

As lawmakers try to find a legislative solution to keep immigrant families together at the U.S.-Mexico border, an even bigger family separation challenge looms next year when thousands of parents with temporary residency status will face deportation and separation from their U.S.-born children.

The Trump administration has said it will terminate so-called Temporary Protected Status for nearly 60,000 Haitians in July 2019, more than 262,000 Salvadorans in September 2019 and 57,000 Hondurans in January 2020.

DHS: More Time Needed for Foreign Investor Visa Overhaul
EB-5 visa program gives up to 10,000 visas annually to investors who spend at least $500,000 in area of need

The Trump administration does not expect to finalize an overhaul of the EB-5 investor visa program before it expires Sept. 30, a top Homeland Security Department official told senators Tuesday.

“I don’t know, that would be hard to pull off,” said U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Lee Francis Cissna before the Senate Judiciary Committee, when asked if a proposed rule will be completed before the end of fiscal 2018. 

House Democrats Rebuffed on Getting Census Documents
Quest to get answers on citizenship question blocked by party-line committee vote

House Democrats tried this week to make the Commerce Department disclose documents about the decision-making behind a citizenship question on the 2020 census. But they were blocked by Republicans. 

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday voted 20-16 along party lines to reject the resolution of inquiry by California Democratic Rep. Jimmy Gomez and unfavorably report the measure. The vote prevents the resolution from moving to the House floor.

Also in the Omnibus: Extra Overtime for the Secret Service
Agents have been stretched thin as Trump travels

The Secret Service is slated to receive about $2 billion in the fiscal 2018 omnibus bill, including $9.9 million to pay agents for overtime.

The agency’s funding is down $53 million from fiscal 2017 levels, according to a Republican summary of the bill that passed the House Thursday.

Members Caught Off Guard on News of DACA Fix On Omnibus

The White House has held some discussions with Congress about addressing immigration in the pending fiscal year 2018 spending bill, according to GOP senators and aides, but members are skeptical that such a provision will be included in the omnibus package.

Lawmakers in both parties have sought a solution to the situation surrounding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — which covers undocumented immigrants who come to the country as children. President Donald Trump targeted it for expiration on March 5, which has been halted by court actions. The chamber voted on a series of different DACA proposals in February, but none garnered the necessary 60 votes to advance.

Omnibus Unlikely to Defund 'Sanctuary' Cities
Senate appropriator says it would make it too difficult to pass

A top Senate appropriator said Tuesday the final omnibus spending bill would likely not include a provision to defund “sanctuary” cities that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C., suggested in two posts on Twitter that Congress should withhold federal grants for sanctuary cities in the omnibus. His remarks follow the Trump administration’s decision to sue California over three state immigration laws, escalating a battle over sanctuary jurisdictions that began shortly after President Donald Trump took office.

Border Wall Funds Elusive Without a Deal on ‘Dreamers’
Stalemate could affect negotiations over fiscal 2018 spending bill

President Donald Trump may be headed for a Groundhog Day experience as his search for funding to build a U.S.-Mexico border wall enters its second year.

Trump is asking Congress for $1.6 billion in fiscal 2019 to construct 65 miles of new barriers in southern Texas, even though he is still without the $1.6 billion he requested for 2018. The White House also wants $18 billion over the next decade for construction.

The ICE Man Cometh, Prompting a New Look at E-Verify
After high-profile federal raids, Congress is revisiting an employment verification system

When federal agents arrived at nearly 100 7-Eleven locations across the country last month to check the paperwork of store clerks selling Big Gulps and coffee, it was the clearest sign that President Donald Trump is serious about taking on employers who illegally hire undocumented immigrants.

Twenty-one arrests were made during the Jan. 10 raids at convenience stores in 17 states and the District of Columbia in what was the Trump administration’s strongest action yet targeting employers. Thomas Homan, acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said at the time that the raids sent “a strong message” to employers that “ICE will enforce the law, and if you are found to be breaking the law, you will be held accountable.”

A Dream Deferred for Young Immigrants at State of the Union
Guests at speech taken aback by hard-line talk from president

Dozens of young immigrants sat in the pews as President Donald Trump gave his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

Many of the young immigrants, known as Dreamers, were invited by lawmakers to attend the speech and remind the president that their lives are stuck in limbo.

Podcast: Immigration Imbroglio
CQ on Congress, Episode 86

CQ immigration reporters Camila DeChalus and Dean DeChiaro dig into the complications of finding an agreement to safeguard immigrants with special protections while funding a border wall demanded by the Trump administration.

Show Notes:

Protected Immigration Status for Salvadorans to End in 2019
Democrats blast DHS decision amid DACA, border wall dispute

The Department of Homeland Security announced Monday that it will terminate a form of protected immigration status for about 262,500 Salvadorans living in the United States next year, and urged Congress to come up with a legislative fix during an 18-month delay.

The decision to end what’s known as Temporary Protected Status for El Salvador comes after DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen determined “the original conditions caused by the 2001 earthquakes no longer exist.”