Two Hearings, Five House Floor Actions, and the Release of the Administration's FY '13 Sequestration Report Highlight the Coming Week's Immigration- and Refugee-Related Legislative Activity
By Micheal E. Hill
Saturday, September 8, 2012 -- 12:30 pm EDT
The House and Senate return on Monday, September 10, 2012, from their five week-long August Recesses.
Upon their return to Washington, the House and Senate are expected to remain in session for two weeks, through the close of business on Friday, September 20, 2012, at which time they are expected to recess until shortly after November 6, 2012, general elections.
While the official Senate floor schedule had not yet been released at the time of this writing, the biggest immigration- or refugee-related legislative action occurring on Capitol Hill during the week to come include House consideration of a continuing appropriations measure to fund the operations of the federal government through the first six months of fiscal year 2013 and House floor consideration of a Senate-passed measure extending four popular expiring immigration programs, including such expiring programs and authorities as the E-Verify System, the EB-5 Regional Centers Program, the Conrad 30 Visa Waiver Program, and the Special Immigrant Non-minister Religious Worker Visa Program.
Other action impacting immigration policy that is set to occur this week in Congress includes House floor consideration of a North Korean refugee adoption bill, a resolution mentioning Sri Lankan internally displaced persons, a Viet Nam human rights bill, a hearing in the House on he entry into the United States of terrorists and a hearing on the abuse of presidential power.
Finally, the White House Office of Management and Budget this week is expected to release a report detailing the likely sequestration cuts in spending that will take place beginning in January of 2013 pursuant to the Budget Control Act.
At the time of this writing, two hearings that could examine aspects of immigration- or refugee-related policy, no markups that are likely to deal with immigration-related measures, and as many as five potential floor actions on measures that either contain significant immigration- or refugee-related provisions or that are likely to become targets for immigration- or refugee-related amendments are possible during the coming week.
The following lists some of the possible highlights of the coming week's immigration- or refugee-related legislative-related action:
House Could Take Up Six-Month Long Continuing Appropriations Measure. The full House of Representatives is scheduled during the week of September 10, 2012, to take up a yet-to-be-introduced six month-long fiscal year 2013 continuing appropriations measure that would fund the operations of the federal government between October 1, 2012, and March 31, 2013. No text had yet been produced at the time of this writing. However, it is widely anticipated that the measure will fund operations at roughly the fiscal year 2012 level. Among the operations that are expected to be funded in the measure are the federal government's immigration services, border security, interior immigration enforcement, visa issuance, overseas refugee assistance, refugee admissions, and refugee resettlement operations.
House Could Take Up Bill Extending Four Expiring Immigration Programs. The full House of Representatives is scheduled during the week of September 10, 2012, to take up S. 3245, a Senate-passed measure that would extend four immigration programs that are set to expire on September 30, 2012. The four expiring programs included in the Senate-passed measure are the E-Verify Program; the Conrad 30 J1 Visa Waiver Program; the EB-5 Regional Centers Program; and the Special Immigrant Nonminister Religious Worker Visa program. As passed by the Senate on August 2, 2012, by unanimous consent, the measure would extend all four expiring programs for four years without change. Also included in Section 5 of the measure is a provision stating that "Nothing in this Act may be construed as authorizing the planning, testing, piloting, or development of a national identification card."
- House to Take Up Vietnam Human Rights Act. The full House of Representatives is scheduled during the week of September 10, 2012, to take up H.R. 1410, the "Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2011", a measure that would prohibit U.S. nonhumanitarian assistance to the government of Vietnam in excess of FY2011 amounts unless: (1) the federal government provides assistance, in addition to democracy building assistance under this Act, supporting human rights training, civil society building, and exchange programs between the Vietnamese National Assembly and Congress at levels commensurate with or exceeding any increases in nonhumanitarian assistance to Vietnam; and (2) the President certifies to Congress that the government of Vietnam has made substantial progress respecting political, media, and religious freedoms, minority rights, access to U.S. refugee programs, and actions to end trafficking in persons and the release of political prisoners. With specific regard to refugees, the introduced version of the measure would have declare "it is U.S. policy to offer refugee resettlement to Vietnam nationals (including members of the Montagnard ethnic minority groups) who were eligible for the Humanitarian Resettlement program, the Orderly Departure program, the Resettlement Opportunities for Vietnamese Returnees program, the Amerasian Homecoming Act of 1988, or any other U.S. refugee program, but who were deemed ineligible for reasons of administrative error or who failed to apply because of circumstances beyond their control." However, that provision was stripped from the bill during the House Committee on Foreign Affairs markup of the measure.
House to Take Up North Korean Refugee Children Adoption Bill. The full House of Representatives this week is scheduled to take up H.R. 1464, the "North Korean Refugee Adoption Act of 2011", a measure that would direct
the Secretary of State to develop a comprehensive strategy for facilitating the adoption of North Korean children by U.S. citizens. With specific regard to refugees, the introduced version of the measure would express the sense of Congress that
thousands of North Korean children do not have families and are threatened with starvation and disease if they remain in North Korea or as stateless refugees in surrounding countries and that
the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security should make every effort to facilitate the immediate care, family reunification, and, if necessary and appropriate, the adoption of any eligible North Korean children living outside North Korea as de jure or de facto stateless refugees. The measure, further, would provide that in developing her strategy for facilitating the adoption of North Korean refugees by U.S. citizens, the Secretary of State must consider the challenges that United States citizens would encounter in attempting to adopt children from North Korea who are currently living in Hague countries and non-Hague countries regardless of their legal status in such countries; propose solutions to dealing with the situation in which a North Korean refugee child does not have access to a competent authority in the foreign-sending country; propose solutions to dealing with North Korean refugee children who are not considered habitual residents of the countries in which they are located; evaluate alternative mechanisms for foreign-sending countries to prove that North Korean refugee children are orphans when documentation, such as birth certificates, death certificates of birth parents, and orphanage documentation, is missing or destroyed; provide suggestions for working with South Korea to establish pilot programs that identify, provide for the immediate care of, assist in the family reunification of, and assist in the international adoption of, orphaned North Korean children living within South Korea; provide suggestions for working with international adoption agencies and aid organizations in Asia to identify and establish pilot programs for the identification, immediate care, family reunification, and international adoption of North Korean orphans living outside North Korea as de jure or de facto stateless refugees; identify other nations in which large numbers of stateless, orphaned children are living who might be helped by international adoption; and propose solutions for assisting orphaned children with Chinese fathers and North Korean mothers who are living in China and have no access to Chinese or North Korean resources.
House to Take Up Resolution on Internally Displaced Sri Lankans. The full House of Representatives this week is scheduled to take up H. Res 177, a House resolution expressing
support for internal rebuilding, resettlement, and reconciliation within Sri Lanka that are necessary to ensure a lasting peace. With specific regard to refugees, the measure would
urge the Government of Sri Lanka to allow humanitarian organizations, aid agencies, journalists, and international human rights groups greater freedom of movement, including in internally displaced persons camps.
- No immigration- or refugee-related markups scheduled.
House Homeland Security Panel Hearing on Preventing Terrorists from Entering the United States. The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security has scheduled a hearing during the coming week week titled, "Eleven Years Later: Preventing Terrorists from Coming to America." At the time of this writing, the witness list for the hearing had not yet been announced.
House Judiciary Committee Hearing on Abuse of Presidential Power. The House Committee on the Judiciary has scheduled a hearing for the coming week titled, "The Obama Administration's Abuse of Power." At the time of this writing, neither the witness list for the hearing nor the extent to which immigration will be a subject of the hearing had yet been announced.
House and Senate Searching for a Way to Get Differing Versions of Violence Against Women Reauthorization Bills to Conference. The Senate and the House of Representatives have each passed differing versions of legislation that would reauthorize and revise programs under the Violence Against Women Act. And action could occur at any time to move the two bodies towards resolving the differences between the two bills. The Senate passed S. 1925, the "Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011", on April 26, 2012, by a vote of 68-31. The House passed H.R. 4970, the “Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act of 2012”, on May 16, 2012, doing so by a vote of 222-205. Both measures contain significant immigration-related provisions, including a controversial provision in the Senate-passed version of the measure that would amend the definition of an aggravated felony under the Immigration and Natonality Act to include a third conviction for driving under the influence, a provision in the Senate-passed bill expanding the number of "U" Visas for alien victims of domestic violence, a provision in the Senate-passed measure charging a fee to all Diversity Visa applicants, and numerous provisions in the House-passed version of the legislation that would rollback current protections for alien victims of domestic violence.
In addition to "on the Hill" immigration- and refugee-related action that is scheduled for the coming week, a number of significant "off of the Hill" immigration- and refugee-related activities also could occur.
The following lists several highlights of the coming week's "off-of-the-Hill" immigration- and refugee-related legislative-related action:
- Panel Discussion on Latinos and the Workforce. The Department of Labor has scheduled a panel discussion for this week on the economy and the Latino Workforce.
- Release of FY '13 Sequestration Report. The White House Office of Management and Budget this week is expected to release a report detailing the likely sequestration cuts in spending that will take place beginning in January of 2013 pursuant to the Budget Control Act.
- White House Daily Briefings. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney is scheduled to conduct daily briefings every day during the coming week, at which he will field questions from the White House press corps, including possible questions on immigration- and refugee-related matters.