Legislative Activity

House Hearing Examines Enforcement of US Immigration Law

On Tuesday, March 28, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security held a hearing titled “Restoring Enforcement of our Nation’s Immigration Laws” that featured the following witnesses:

  • The Honorable Thomas Hodgson, Sheriff, Bristol County, Massachusetts;
  • Jessica Vaughn, Director of Policy Studies, Center for Immigration Studies;
  • Andrew Arthur, Immigration Judge, Retired, Executive Office for Immigration Review, York, Pennsylvania; and
  • Archi Pyati, Chief of Policy and Programs, Tahirih Justice Center.

The hearing focused on the state of immigration enforcement in the United States, particularly as it relates to sanctuary jurisdictions. Participants displayed a clear divide in their views on sanctuary policies. Sheriff Hodgson, Ms. Vaughn, Mr. Arthur, and the Republican members of the Subcommittee generally argued that sanctuary jurisdictions were a threat to public safety and advocated for restricting federal funding to such jurisdictions. Alternatively, Ms. Pyati and Democrats argued in favor of sanctuary policies.

During the hearing, Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) argued that U.S. immigration laws are integral to the nation’s sovereignty and must be enforced. He stated that the Obama Administration encouraged undocumented immigrants to fraudulently claim asylum and deliberately undermine U.S. immigration law. Chairman Sensenbrenner cited several examples of undocumented immigrants committing serious crimes in the United States. He stressed that the Trump Administration must discourage sanctuary policies, arguing that jurisdictions have attempted to implement sanctuary policies for political gain. He stated the Department of Homeland Security Weekly Declined Detainer Outcome Report will be a useful tool in educating the public on the dangers of local sanctuary policies.

Ranking Member Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) criticized Republicans for arguing that the Obama Administration did not adequately enforce immigration law, noting that it conducted the highest volume of deportations of any previous administration. She argued that the Trump Administration was focused on attacking, shaming, and threatening local governments, rather than attempting to implement real immigration reform.  She noted that the 10th Amendment prohibits state and local officials from being compelled to enforce federal immigration law, emphasizing that state and local officials know how best to protect their communities. She stated that President Trump’s Executive Order titled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States” has decreased public safety and created a culture of fear among immigrant communities in the United States.

Armed Services Chair, Air Force Nominee Oppose CR

On March 28, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) said that he would vote against a Continuing Resolution (CR) of any length, arguing that another temporary spending measure would be too damaging to the military. Speaking to reporters, Chairman McCain called the CR the “worst thing that could happen.”  Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) agreed that a CR through September would “destroy the Pentagon,” but added that he would support a shorter, week-long funding measure if necessary.

Air Force Secretary-nominee Heather Wilson also expressed concern with another CR during her March 30 confirmation hearing, explaining that it would hurt the service’s operations for the remainder of the fiscal year. “If there is a continuing resolution for this year, we will make all of the problems that we are talking about here so much worse,” Wilson cautioned, adding, “We can’t operate this way.”

Defense officials have warned a host of operations and programs would be curtailed if a full-year CR is enacted. Pentagon leaders have urged Congress to pass a full-year defense appropriations bill in tandem together with a $30 billion supplemental budget request. Lawmakers are working to fund the government through the remainder of FY 2017, but face an April 28 deadline to avert a government shutdown.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • On Tuesday, April 4, the House Armed Services Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “Assessing Progress and Identifying Future Opportunities in Defense Reform.”
  • On Tuesday, April 4, the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security has scheduled a hearing titled “Defeating a Sophisticated and Dangerous Adversary: Are the New Border Security Task Forces the Right Approach?”
  • On Tuesday, April 4, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations has scheduled a hearing titled “Oversight of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.”
  • On Tuesday, April 4, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “Use of Confidential Informants at ATF and DEA.”
  • On Tuesday, April 4, the Senate Armed Services Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “United States Strategic Command Programs.”
  • On Tuesday, April 4, the Senate Homeland Security Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “Fencing Along the Southwest Border.”
  • On Wednesday, April 5, the Senate Homeland Security Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “Improving Border Security and Public Safety” with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.
  • On Wednesday, April 5, the House Armed Services Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “Damage to the Military from a Continuing Resolution.”
  • On Wednesday, April 5, the House Armed Services Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “Damage to the Military from a Continuing Resolution.”
  • On Wednesday, April 5, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “Oversight of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Response to the Baton Rouge Flood Disaster: Part II.”
  • On Thursday, April 6, the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations has scheduled a hearing titled “Evaluating the Defense Contract Auditing Process.”

Executive Branch Activity

Trump Administration Calls on Jurisdictions to Enforce Immigration Requirements

In 2016, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, in response to a letter from Rep. John Culberson (R-TX), Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science, agreed to conduct an audit of Department of Justice (DOJ) grant recipients’ compliance with 8 U.S.C. 1373 (Sec. 1373), which prohibits jurisdictions from implementing policies that restrict government officials from sharing an individual’s citizenship information or immigration status with the federal government. Subsequently, DOJ sent a notice to Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) and State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) recipients warning that funding may be restricted if a grantee is found to be in violation of Sec. 1373.

As a result of this audit, DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs issued guidance to all JAG and SCAAP grantees reinforcing Sec. 1373 requirements. The guidance directed JAG and SCAAP recipients to honor Sec. 1373 requirements or risk losing federal assistance under the programs. DOJ also charged jurisdictions with informing personnel that “federal law does not allow any government entity or official to prohibit the sending or receiving of information about an individual’s citizenship or immigration status with any federal, state or local government entity officials.” Additionally, the update clarified that state governments are not allowed to provide subgrants to cities found to be in violation of Sec. 1373.

On March 27, Attorney General Jeff Sessions joined White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer at the White House press briefing to urge states and local jurisdictions to comply with federal immigration law.  Attorney General Sessions stated that sanctuary policies “make our nation less safe by putting dangerous criminals back on our streets.” During the briefing, he stated that DOJ will require state and local jurisdictions to certify compliance with Sec. 1373 in order to be eligible for Office of Justice Programs (OJP) grants. He also stated DOJ will “take all lawful steps to claw-back funds awarded to a jurisdiction that willfully violates Section 1373.”

Trump Administration Appeals Federal Court Ruling on Immigration Executive Order

On Thursday, March 30, the Department of Justice filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of the Appeals for the 9th Circuit challenging a federal judge’s ruling that blocked implementation of an immigration-related Executive Order (EO).  The March 6 EO, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States,” revoked and replaced a previous EO with the same title.

On March 15, U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) blocking implementation of several provisions, including limits on travel to the U.S. by individuals from six predominantly Muslim nations and a freeze on all admissions under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), effective nation-wide.  The Trump Administration’s action comes one day after Judge Watson extended his TRO to a preliminary injunction, preventing implementation of the EO while the challenge, originally filed by the State of Hawaii, is ongoing.