COVID-19 Policy Priorities
- The American Citizen Coronavirus Relief Act – Introduced by Senators Rubio (FL) and Tillis (NC), the bill would amend the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to allow U.S. citizen spouses in mixed-status families to receive a reduced COVID-19 stimulus rebate, even if their spouse jointly filed taxes with them under an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). The bill is narrow and has no Democrat sign ons. You can take the following actions:
- Take action on the LIRS alert here to tell your Senator to include immigration-related provisions in the next COVID stimulus package.
- Contact your Senator asking for next COVID stimulus legislation to include provisions for all taxpayers. Some immigration advocates are even asking for stimulus relief for undocumented immigrants who are working.
- The National Immigration Forum COVID-19 Relief Asks.
- COVID-19 Relief Talks Halted After Trump Takes Unilateral Actions – On August 8 President Trump signed a series of executive actions intended to address the continuing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The actions, consisting of one executive order and a number of presidential memoranda, would create a new temporary unemployment benefit program, defer payroll taxes to the end of the year, extend student loan repayment relief, and request that federal agencies work to enact eviction protections. Possible repercussions of the executive action include:
- According to the National Immigration Forum, the actions, which may be challenged in court for seeking to repurpose federal funding without Congress’ consent, effectively halted congressional talks regarding a new fourth COVID-19 relief package and faced harsh criticism from Democratic leaders, who characterized them as being “unworkable, weak and narrow,” given the ongoing crisis.
- The executive actions provides no supplemental emergency funding for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) (which conducts interviews for refugees and others seeking asylum), which is set to furlough 13,400 of its 20,000 employees by August 30 due to budgetary shortfalls. Should the USCIS furloughs go into effect, they will result in major delays and backlogs for many immigration services and benefits.
- Additionally, proposals to extend COVID-19 stimulus payments to U.S. citizen spouses in mixed families, expand immigrant access to COVID-19 testing and treatment, and expedite the processing of immigrant healthcare workers in the green card backlog – all ideas with some degree of bipartisan support – were not addressed by the presidential actions.
- Therefore, it is important to continue to ask your Senators to support COVID relief that will support immigrants going forward. You can easily send a message through the ACLU today.
- A full list of executive actions taken against immigration during COVID-19 can be found here courtesy of the National Immigration Forum.
Refugee Resettlement Priorities
- Presidential Determination (PD) – Each year the President, after consultation with Congress and the Secretary of State, sets the annual target for refugee arrivals for the coming fiscal year. This announcement has previously been made before the start of the fiscal year, however, in 2019 President Trump released the PD on Nov. 1, 2019. Usually, there is a moratorium on refugee resettlement until the President releases his PD. The PD outlines the U.S. priorities for resettlement and the ceiling for admissions for that coming fiscal year. President Trump has lowered the refugee ceiling each year. FY20 saw the lowest admissions ceiling since the signing of the 1980 U.S. Refugee Act at 18,000 individuals. Therefore, it is important to take two actions:
- Demand your elected leaders hold the administration accountable for reaching the historically low refugee admissions ceiling. Currently, the U.S. has resettled 7,961 people, even though the fiscal year is almost over.
- Use your voice to ask the President to raise the refugee ceiling for FY21. The PD will be in consultation during September, so pressure is needed to hold the administration accountable to our values as a refuge for those seeking safety.
- Download the LIRS Welcoming Refugee 2021 Toolkit to find out how you can take immediate action.
- Understanding your state’s refugee resettlement facts and figures – Read more about the process of refugee resettlement to the United States in RCUSA’s Fact Sheet. Furthermore, you can find information on Virginia refugee arrivals here; and RCUSA state refugee fact sheets: Maryland here and Virginia here.
- National Origin-Based Antidiscrimination for Nonimmigrants Act or the NO BAN Act – This bill was an action in response to the Trump Administration’s executive orders suspending travel for immigrants and refugees from particular nations. Specifically because those EOs were seen as discriminatory against Muslim immigrants. This bill imposes limitations on the President’s authority to suspend or restrict aliens from entering the United States and terminates certain presidential actions implementing such restrictions. It also prohibits religious discrimination in various immigration-related decisions, such as whether to issue an immigrant or non-immigrant visa, unless there is a statutory basis for such discrimination. You can take the following actions:
- You can follow the bill’s progress through the House and Senate here.
- The bill will likely pass the house given the number of Democrat co-sponsors. But the Senate is another issue. Ask your Senator to support the NO BAN Act today!
- Refugee Protection Act (RPA) – The Refugee Protection Act (RPA) is a comprehensive blueprint for restoring and reinvigorating our refugee and asylum systems. This legislation expands protections for refugees, particularly those coming to the U.S. from the Northern Triangle, restores due process for asylum seekers, and improves and expands processing of Special Immigrant Visa (seeking to add Syrians to this categorization). Though this bill has only been introduced in both the House and the Senate, it has stalled since fall 2019. Let your representatives know that this legislation is still very important to you and your community.
- Support for Potential Refugees from Hong Kong – In June, bi-partisan Senate support was shown for potential refugees created from China’s passage of the National Security Law on June 30th. See a bi-partisan penned letter to the Secretary of the State here and follow the progress of legislation to protect Hong Kong refugees (the Hong Kong Safe Harbor Act, now in the Judiciary) here. Ask your senators and the Secretary of State to allow potential Hong Kong refugees safety in the U.S., as well as, perpetuating the resettlement program in the U.S. to provide a safe haven for all refugees.
Asylum Seeker Priorities
- USCIS processing fees increase – The Department of Homeland Security, which houses the immigration and refugee processing department, the United State Citizenship and Immigration Service, has increased fees associated with applying for naturalization and asylum applications. Additionally, because of funding shortfalls (or suspected misuse), many “circuit riders” (staff conducting visa and refugee interviews) will be furloughed. Both fee increases and staffing furloughs will create barriers to entry for many vulnerable people. What can you do?
- Democrat Senator, Patrick Leahy, is calling on DHS and USCIS to further delay and avoid unnecessary staff furloughs. Call on your Senators and the Committee on Appropriations to oppose these actions and for federal courts to block such action.
- Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) or Remain in Mexico policy – According to Human Rights Watch, under the MPP program, non-Mexican asylum seekers in the United States are sent to cities in Mexico while awaiting asylum hearings in US immigration court. What actions can you take?
- Urge the US government to immediately end the program, stop returning asylum seekers to Mexico, and instead ensure them access to humanitarian support, safety, and due process in immigration court proceedings.
- More information on the policy and how to oppose it can be found here.
- Protection of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Dreamers – According to the National Immigration Forum, DACA is not lawful status nor does it provide the opportunity for Dreamers to stay permanently – it temporarily shields Dreamers from deportation and provides them work authorization with possible renewal every two years. There are as many as 3.6 million Dreamers residing in the United States, but only about 653,000 Dreamers are currently protected under DACA. The average DACA recipient arrived in the United States at age 7 and has lived here for more than 20 years. Please see our fact sheet on DACA for more information. Actions and recent events:
- The Supreme Court heard the DACA case on November 12, 2019 and issued a ruling allowing the policy to survive on June 18, 2020. However, the decision permits the Trump administration to make another attempt to end the protections for Dreamers if it uses proper procedures, including providing a valid explanation for its actions. In the absence of a permanent solution, Congress has a responsibility to cement the contributions of Dreamers, as well as other immigrant populations, and provide some certainty for American employers and workers.
- The Dream Act of 2019 is a bi-partisan bill introduced to the Senate by Republican Lindsey Graham. This bill directs the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to cancel removal and grant lawful permanent resident status on a conditional basis to an alien who is inadmissible or deportable or is in temporary protected status who (1) has been continuously physically present in the United States for four years preceding this bill’s enactment; (2) was younger than 18 years of age on the initial date of U.S. entry; (3) is not inadmissible on various grounds such as those related to crime or security; and (4) has fulfilled specified educational requirements.
- The American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 passed the House and would allow Temporary Protection Status (TPS) recipients to apply for conditional permanent residency.
- Contact your Senators and ask them to support these Acts on the Senate floor or in their committees. Call or email your legislators now!
- Protection of Unaccompanied Refugee Minors at the border – Under the excuse of the spread of COVID-19 , the administration has begun taking harsher actions by expelling migrant youth and asylum seekers with no actual public health justifications. According to Oxfam, the Trump administration is putting youth and asylum seekers back into harm’s way by expelling them after they have tested negative for COVID-19 and denying them due process and legal hearings on their cases for asylum. This violates the US obligation to protect unaccompanied minors from the threat of human trafficking, and to afford asylum seekers the right to have their case heard. Therefore, last week, Oxfam joined a class action lawsuit with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Texas Civil Rights Project to challenge the Trump administration’s use of the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to expel unaccompanied children and asylum seekers from the US. How to act:
- Ask your Congress members to continue to use their Congressional oversight to investigate the mistreatment of minors and asylum seekers at the border.
- Call on the Administration and DHS to immediately follow U.S. immigration law by allowing all asylum seekers their right to a “credible fear” hearing.
Stay up to date on the lawsuit and advocacy actions by following the ACLU’s updates.
For more information on how you can directly serve refugees and immigrants in your community, visit LSSNCA.org to learn more about our volunteer opportunities. You can also learn about ways to welcome refugees and immigrants by attending our virtual panel “Creating Home Together” on September 15 at 6:30pm. Registration is free!