Posted by 12 November 2019
The Supreme Court is hearing the fate of children known as “Dreamers” today.
The Dreamers are children who were brought to the U.S. illegally. Under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) issued by President Obama in 2012, these individuals would be able to avoid deportation under certain circumstances, such as serving in the military or attending college.
In 2017, President Trump announced that his administration would phase out DACA within 6 months. The president said that President Obama did not have the legal authority to issue DACA, and that his administration had no choice but to end it. He called on Congress to pass legislation that would deal with the fate of Dreamers.
States and individuals affected by the ending of DACA sued the federal government. Federal judges have stopped the government from rescinding DACA until the Supreme Court can make a decision. Today the justices heard arguments from both sides on this question.
The Trump Administration argues that President Obama issued DACA via executive action even though he previously said that such a move must come through legislation. They note that many legal scholars think that this was, in effect, a change in law by the president, not Congress. That is illegal.
Those arguing that the Trump Administration acted illegally are not disputing that one president has the power to revoke a previous executive action of another president. Instead, they are saying that the Trump Administration did not give a legally-justifiable reason to rescind DACA. If these arguments prevail, President Trump would be free to phase out DACA in the future, but would have to go through a more careful legal process.
There have been bipartisan attempts to pass legislation that would settle the fate of Dreamers. The president has indicated his support of such legislation, but there has yet to be an agreement on final details.
Do you think President Trump was right to rescind President Obama’s legal protection of Dreamers?
Posted by 07 November 2019
Calling President Trump “a racist, a xenophobe, and a demagogue,” Senator Bernie Sanders today unveiled his proposal to reverse the Trump Administration immigration actions and make major changes to U.S. immigration law.
Among other things, the Sanders plan would:
- Reverse President Trump’s executive actions that affect immigrants, including the travel ban and restrictions on asylum
- Put a moratorium on deportations
- Provide legal status to individuals in the DACA program (immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children)
- Stop deportations of undocumented immigrants who have been in the U.S. for longer than 5 years
- Ask Congress to pass legislation to provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants
- Decriminalize illegal border crossing
- Provide illegal immigrants with the right to legal counsel in deportation hearings
- Restructure ICE and the Border Patrol
- Reform worker visas to allow immigrants to work in more places
- Focus immigration law enforcement on employers, not workers
- Mandate a $15 minimum wage for farm workers
- Lift the cap on refugee admissions
Many of these proposals are direct repudiations of Trump Administration immigration policies. In line with his position on the left wing of the Democratic Party, Sen. Sanders is focusing on penalizing employers over immigrants when it comes to enforcing current immigration laws. He is also supporting programs that would allow more immigrants into the U.S. and make it easier for those who are in the U.S. to remain here.
In the past, Sen. Sanders has criticized what he characterizes as “open border” policies as being a way for business owners to undermine U.S. workers’ rights. This plan is his attempt to spell out exactly what he would do as president when it comes to immigration reform. Many of these proposals would require action by Congress.
Do you support putting a moratorium on deportations? Should immigration enforcement focus on business owners who are using illegal immigrant labor?
Posted by 16 October 2019
Congress wants to end President Trump’s emergency declaration on the U.S-Mexican border wall. But President Trump is fighting back with a veto of a resolution that would terminate his declaration.
In February, President Trump declared a national emergency regarding the situation at the border between the U.S. and Mexico. His declaration freed up money that Congress had appropriated for other sources in order to build a border wall, something that Congress had explicitly refused to fund.
Under the terms of the national emergency law (something explained in this VoteSpotter Deep Dive), Congress can vote every six months to terminate that declaration. Congress voted to do so in the spring, and it recently did so again. But this termination resolution is subject to the president’s veto. President Trump vetoed the resolution in the spring, and he vetoed the latest resolution yesterday.
There were not enough votes to override the first veto, and there are unlikely to be enough to override this one. That means that, as far as Congress is concerned, there is no way to stop the border wall construction from occurring. However, the president’s plans have recently suffered a setback in the courts. Local officials in Texas sued to stop construction, and a federal judge sided with them. This ruling does not affect the entire length of the border wall, however, and it is likely to be appealed by the Trump Administration.
Do you support congressional and legal efforts to stop President Trump’s emergency declaration to build a border wall?
Posted by 27 September 2019
The House of Representatives is taking aim at how the Trump Administration is treating migrant children who cross the U.S.-Mexican border.
This week members of the House passed two bills that would change key part of the Trump Administration’s strategy to deal with migrant children. Here is how VoteSpotter described them:
U.S. House Bill 3525 Mandate speedy medical checks of children detained at ports of entry
Passed 236 to 174 in the U.S. House
To mandate that anyone under the age of 18 who is detained at a port of entry to the U.S. must receive a medical check within 12 hours. For individuals who may have health problems, the deadline would be six hours.
U.S. House Bill 2203 Limit immigration child separations
Passed 230 to 194 in the U.S. House
To limit the circumstances when the Border Patrol or Department of Homeland Security may separate a child entering the country from a parent. With few exceptions this would be allowed only when a court determines it is in the child's best interest. The bill also establishes a variety of government commissions and committees to reform the way that the Department of Homeland Security operates regarding immigration as well as stopping some of the Trump Administration's new asylum rules.
These bills come in response to what some observers call abuses by the Border Patrol of children who are detained entering the U.S. The policy of separating children from adults when they arrive across the border has been an especially controversial policy. Under the legislation passed by the House, this could only occur under rare circumstances.
Those supporting these bills say that they are necessary to end inhumane treatment of children at the border. Those opposing them counter that this would needlessly hamstring the Border Patrol and would end up leading to higher levels of illegal immigration.
The bills now head to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is unlikely to bring them up for a vote.
Do you think that the federal government should only be able to separate migrant children from parents under rare circumstances? Should the federal government provide medical checks to anyone under 18 within 12 hours of being detained when they enter the country?
Posted by 26 September 2019
For the second time, the Senate has voted to terminate President Trump’s emergency declaration regarding the U.S.-Mexico border wall. But, once again, there were not enough votes to override a likely presidential veto, leaving the emergency declaration in place.
On September 25, the Senate votes 54-41 in favor of Senate Joint Resolution 54, which would terminate President Trump’s emergency declaration allowing him to re-allocate funds to build a border wall. The president issued such an emergency order on February 15 after Congress had refused to vote in favor of money for a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
As explained in this VoteSpotter Deep Dive, the president has the power under a 1979 law to declare a national emergency. When this happens, he can shift some federal funds that were approved for other projects to meet the needs of whatever emergency the president has declared. However, Congress then has the ability to vote to terminate the emergency declaration.
Soon after this February declaration, both houses of Congress did indeed vote to terminate it. However, the president vetoed the termination resolution and there were not enough votes to override the veto. According to the law governing emergencies, termination votes can occur every six months. That is why the Senate once again took up this issue.
The Senate-approved resolution will now be considered by the House of Representatives, where it is likely to pass. The president is likely to veto it once again, and there is little chance that either house will override the veto. This will preserve the emergency declaration for at least another six months.
Do you think that Congress should end President Trump’s emergency declaration that allows him to move money around to pay for a border wall?
Posted by 12 August 2019
If you are an immigrant who is a recipient of a government assistance program, you may find it more difficult to become a permanent resident or a citizen under a new rule announced by the Trump Administration.
Current law allows the federal government to deny permanent residency or citizenship to immigrants who are public charges or likely to become public charges. Under the Trump Administration, proposal, the term “public charge” is broadened to include anyone who uses benefit programs like Medicaid, food stamps, or housing assistance. Under current regulations, a public charge is defined as someone who is primarily dependent on the government programs. Immigrants who are in the U.S. for five years can apply for most government assistance programs under federal law.
Critics see this is a way to rewrite immigration law to prioritize high-skilled immigrants over migrants from areas like Central America. They say that this will prevent immigrants who need government assistance from applying for it. Supporters counter that immigration law should encourage immigrants who will contribute to the U.S., not be dependent on taxpayers for support. They say that the law already prohibits permanent residency for immigrants who would drain government resources, and that this rule merely clarifies that standard.
The new regulation will go into effect in two months barring any court challenges. Immigrant rights groups are vowing to file lawsuits to stop it, however.
Should immigrants to receive government assistance be denied permanent residency in the U.S.?
Posted by 01 August 2019
Immigration has already been a big issue during the 2020 presidential race, and it will continue to feature prominently in the campaign. Former Vice President Joe Biden is seeking to distinguish himself from the field of Democratic candidates by coming out in opposition to decriminalizing unauthorized border crossing.
Biden made his stance on this issue known during last night’s CNN Democratic debate. He said that he opposed changing the law that makes it a misdemeanor to cross the U.S. border without authorization. He was responding to the stance of some Democratic candidates who had said that having such a law on the books has led to family separation at the U.S.-Mexican border.
Other Democrats on the stage attacked Biden’s immigration stance, saying that he shares blame for the Obama Administration’s large number of deportations. Biden said that he does not support returning to the deportation policy of those years.
With President Trump’s actions to restrict immigration and impose more border control, the Democratic candidates running for president are seeking to outline how they would differ from the president on these issues. Biden is staking out a less liberal plan than some in the party, although his ideas are far more liberal than those of President Trump.
Do you think that it should be a crime to cross the border without authorization? Or should it be a civil citation that does not require detention?
Posted by 22 July 2019
The situation at the U.S.-Mexican border continues to be the center of attention for many elected officials. Both President Trump and Democrats in Congress are focusing on this issue, though with widely different ideas on how to solve the problems on the southern border. This week the House of Representatives will vote on one idea put forward by Democrats – increasing the standards of care for those detained by Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
Some observers have criticized the CBP for detaining individuals under inhumane conditions. Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA) has introduced H.R. 3239, the “Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in Customs and Border Protection Custody Act.” This bill would require that CBP provide the following services to those in its custody:
- A health screening
- Emergency medical care
- Access to drinking water and hygiene facilities
- Adequate meals
The legislation also sets standards for the buildings housing detainees and forbids unaccompanied minors from being housed with adults. In addition, the bill would require that members of Congress have access to these facilities.
Following visits to CBP facilities, some members of Congress have decried the conditions there and have complained about their treatment by CBP staff. Some have even labeled such facilities as “concentration camps.” This charges have met pushbacks by Trump Administration officials, who say that detainees are being treated as well as possible under the circumstances of a rising tide of illegal immigration.
The House is expected to pass H.R. 3239 this week. However, it is unlikely to receive a vote in the Senate.
Do you think that Congress should pass legislation to mandate certain standards of care for immigration detention facilities?
Posted by 12 July 2019
Immigration has been a major issue throughout President Trump’s time in office. This week Congress tackled that subject, with the House passing a bill that would allow more high-skilled immigrants into the country.
HR 1044 would eliminate the 7% cap on employment-based immigrant visas, and end the country-based caps on high-skilled immigrants or investor immigrants. In addition, it would also increase the country-based cap for family-based immigrants.
The House passed this legislation by a vote of 365-65.
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has introduced legislation in the Senate that would accomplish similar goals. His bill, S. 2091, would nearly double the number of employment-based immigration visas (from 140,000 to 270,000), end the country-based caps on employment-based immigration, lower the burdens on hiring immigrants in occupations deemed to have a shortage of workers, and ease rules on work for some family members of those who hold work visas.
These bills are not comprehensive immigration reform, but they do address issues for higher-skilled immigrants. As reflected in the bipartisan support for HR 1044, there is consensus across the political spectrum that it should be easier for high-skilled immigrants or immigrants who have a job waiting for them to enter the U.S.
Even with this consensus, it is unclear if President Trump would sign such legislation. The president has said he would like any immigration reform to deal with border security.
Do you think that the U.S. should allow more high-skilled immigrants into the country?
Posted by 05 July 2019
The Trump Administration wants to move forward with building a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, but lawsuits are stopping this from happening. A federal appeals court this week declined to issue a stay that would allow the wall work to proceed.
President Trump has made a border wall a top priority for his administration. Congress, however, has failed to provide money to build one. After a government shutdown earlier this year over the issue, the president used his emergency power to re-allocate funds to build such a wall. Residents in the border area went to court to stop this construction.
These residents argued that the president is violating the Constitution and federal law by his emergency action. They say that Congress did not appropriate funds for a border wall, so the president should not be able to build a wall. Federal courts have agreed with this argument, stopping the Trump Administration from proceeding with border barriers.
The Justice Department asked the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to stay these lower court orders, which would allowed construction to begin. By a 2-1 decision, a panel of this court’s judges disagreed. They wrote that the president is indeed misusing his authority:
The Constitution assigns to Congress the power of the purse. Under the Appropriations Clause, it is Congress that is to make decisions regarding how to spend taxpayer dollars. Congress did not appropriate money to build the border barriers Defendants seek to build here. Congress presumably decided such construction at this time was not in the public interest. It is not for us to reach a different conclusion.
The Trump Administration argues that the wall is necessary to secure the border from drug traffickers and illegal immigrants.
This decision by the 9th Circuit judges does not end the matter. The Justice Department can continue its legal fight in favor of the border wall, which means the Supreme Court may ultimately decide this matter.
Do you think that President Trump misused his power to spend money for a border wall when Congress did not authorize such spending?
Posted by 03 July 2019
A federal judge dealt the Trump Administration another setback in its quest to reshape the nation’s immigration policy. Judge Marsha J. Pechman issued a nationwide injunction stopping the administration’s plan to end bail hearings for some asylum seekers. The White House blasted the judge, saying she had no authority to do this.
Judge Pechman’s order affected a decision by Attorney General William Barr to end bail hearings for some people who have entered the U.S. seeking asylum. This order would have left these individuals in detention indefinitely, without any chance to request a hearing for release.
In the judge’s decision, she wrote “that plaintiffs have established a constitutionally protected interest in their liberty, a right to due process, which includes a hearing before a neutral decision maker to assess the necessity of their detention and a likelihood of success on the merits of that issue.”
She then ordered that these asylum seekers must either have a bond hearing within seven days of detention or be released.
In response, White House spokesperson Stephanie Grisham released a statement saying, “The decision only incentivizes smugglers and traffickers, which will lead to the further overwhelming of our immigration system by illegal aliens. No single district judge has legitimate authority to impose his or her open borders views on the country.”
This case is the latest in a series of decisions where federal judges have blocked or overturned aspects of the Trump Administration’s changes to immigration policy.
Do you think that asylum seekers should be able to be held without a bail hearing? Should a federal judge be able to block implementation of a policy nationwide?
Posted by 02 July 2019
Sen. Cory Booker laid out an immigration plan today that he said he would implement if elected president. The New Jersey senator’s proposal would be a big break from President Trump’s immigration actions.
Decrying the current situation at the border, Sen. Booker pledged to use executive action to remedy what he sees as inhumane conditions for individuals being held in detention. His proposal includes new standards for immigration detention facilities and an end to for-profit companies operating such facilities.
Sen. Booker also said he would reverse many of President Trump’s immigration actions. These steps would include stopping construction of the border wall with Mexico, reinstating the policy protecting “Dreamers” who came to the country illegally as children, ending the “remain in Mexico” policy for asylum seekers, and revoking the ban on people entering the U.S. from several majority-Muslim nations.
President Trump has imposed many of these policies through executive action, so they can be undone by the next president without congressional approval. This is what Sen. Booker said he would to accomplish if he is elected president.
Sen. Booker is part of a crowded field of challengers seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, all of whom have expressed some level of disagreement with how President Trump is pursuing immigration policy.
Do you think that there should be higher standards for immigration detention facilities? Should for-profit companies be prohibited from operating these facilities? How should the federal government treat immigration detainees?
Posted by 10 June 2019
Illegal immigration has been a hot topic throughout President Trump’s term in office. The president recently threatened to impose tariffs on Mexican goods unless that nation’s government took steps to curtail illegal immigration. This weekend, the two nations came to an agreement that will avoid these tariffs.
Under this deal, Mexico will increase the military presence on its southern border to deter migrants from Central America entering and coming to the U.S. Mexico will also allow some asylum seekers to be returned to Mexico to await a resolution of their claim.
This plan was drawn up after President Trump threatened an escalating series of tariffs in response to what he termed the Mexican government’s inadequate efforts to deter illegal immigration into the U.S. Many in the business community, and many Republicans in Congress, said that these tariffs would be destructive to the U.S. economy.
Democrats have expressed skepticism that this agreement will do much to address the problems causing people to enter the U.S. illegally. President Trump’s supporters hail it as a victory for his negotiating skill.
What should the Mexican government be doing, if anything, to stop illegal immigrants from entering the U.S.?
Posted by 07 June 2019
The fate of so-called “Dreamers” – illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children – has been debated in Washington for years. This week, the House of Representatives passed legislation to provide them with a path to permanent residency. But President Donald Trump has said he is opposed to it.
The House passed H.R. 6 by a vote of 237-187 on June 4. Here is how VoteSpotter described the legislation:
To stop deportation proceedings against non-citizens who were brought to the U.S. as minors, and allow those individuals to remain in the U.S. for 10 years. To qualify, a person must have been brought to the U.S. as a minor, must meet certain educational and residency requirements, and cannot have been convicted of a felony, among other things. The bill would also allow these individuals to become permanent legal residents if they graduate college, complete military service, or have three years of steady employment.
President Obama attempted to deal with the status of Dreamers without Congress. He instituted the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This affected illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children and who met educational requirements and had no criminal record to be shielded from deportation. Once he assumed office, Donald Trump canceled DACA, saying it was an overreach of executive power.
President Trump has signaled support for legislation that would provide permanent residency for Dreamers. However, he has issued a veto threat for H.R. 6. He would like to see this issue tied to a larger plan that limits immigration and provides more border security. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agrees with the president, and has said that the Senate will not consider H.R. 6.
Do you think that children who were brought to the U.S. illegally should receive legal residence if they have no criminal record and meet education requirements? Should the status of Dreamers be tied to overall immigration reform?
Posted by 20 May 2019
Legislators in North Carolina are advancing a bill that would prohibit sanctuary city policies in that state. This may set up another veto fight with Gov. Roy Cooper, as the Democratic governor faces protests urging him to reject this bill.
Under House Bill 370, local law enforcement officers in North Carolina would be required to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement efforts. The bill would specifically prohibit law enforcement personnel from refusing to comply with federal immigration detainer request. These requests come from immigration agents looking to detain illegal immigrants who are in local law enforcement custody.
In cities with sanctuary policies, local law enforcement does not cooperate with the federal government in enforcing federal immigration laws or comply with detention requests. These local officials are not breaking federal law by refusing to do so; the federal government can only request, not command, cooperation of local police or sheriffs in enforcing federal law. But some states are enacting statewide policies that require such cooperation.
The North Carolina House passed HB 370 by a vote of 63-51, and now it is being considered by the Senate. This weekend, protestors urged Gov. Roy Cooper to veto the bill if it emerges from the General Assembly.
Do you think that states should prohibit sanctuary cities? Should local law enforcement cooperate with the federal government to enforce federal immigration laws?
Posted by 16 May 2019
Immigration has been one of the defining issues of President Trump’s time in office. Today the president unveiled a proposal that would reshape the nation’s immigration laws, bringing them more in line with the president’s views.
Under the Trump plan, overall immigration numbers would not change. Instead, policies would shift from family-based immigration to skills-based immigration. The president’s proposal would limit the immediate family members whom a U.S. resident could sponsor for entry into the nation. It would also prioritize immigration for individuals with certain skills.
Other aspects of the plan include making it tougher for individuals to seek asylum, modernizing ports of entry in an attempt to stop more drug trafficking, and finishing the border wall. There is no proposal to deal with the millions of “Dreamers,” or individuals who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, already in the nation.
The president has outlined an immigration plan, but has not prepared legislation to move this plan through Congress. Any such proposal would likely face Democratic opposition. There are also some grumblings of opposition from the president’s base, with some immigration restrictionists upset that the president is not calling for a reduction in immigration numbers.
Should U.S. immigration policy focus more on family reunification or economic skills? Do you support placing more restrictions on who can seek asylum here? Should overall immigration numbers be reduced, kept the same, or increased?
Posted by 13 May 2019
Earlier this year, President Trump declared a national emergency in order to build a border wall without congressional authorization. Now the White House is releasing details on how he wants to pay for part of it – with $1.5 billion being re-directed from the Department of Defense.
While President Trump wants a border wall, Congress has not allocated funding to pay for it. The president’s emergency order allows him to shift funding from other sources to build the wall, but he has to identify those sources. Last week, the Pentagon announced that $1.5 billion would be moved from other defense areas and be used for roughly 80 miles of border wall construction.
Among those areas losing money to pay for the wall are an intercontinental ballistic missile system, a surveillance plane, the Afghan Security Force Fund, chemical weapons destruction, and military retirement. The money from these accounts will be re-programmed for construction of the wall.
The Pentagon says that removing funding from these areas will not affect military readiness. Opponents of this move argue that the president is prioritizing an ineffective all over military programs that have already been approved by Congress.
This funding will not pay for the entire wall. To do so the president must find other areas of federal spending where he can move money to wall construction.
Do you think that money should be taken from military programs to pay for a border wall?
Posted by 03 April 2019
President Trump this week continues his focus on illegal immigration, threatening to close the border with Mexico if that nation does not curtail the flow of migrants north. This has met pushback from Republicans as well as Democrats, who point out the large economic damage it could cause.
On Wednesday morning he tweeted, “Congress must get together and immediately eliminate the loopholes at the Border! If no action, Border, or large sections of Border, will close. This is a National Emergency!” This follows earlier statements calling for Mexico to do more to stem illegal immigration or the border would close.
It is unclear how the border would be closed under the president’s scenario. He has floated both a complete closure and a closure of key ports of entry. Either way, say business leaders and elected officials, this would impose a heavy cost on the economy. With significant trade between the U.S. and Mexico, a border closure would impede U.S. exports south and Mexican exports north. Both businesses and consumers would be affected quickly if such an action is taken.
The president and his allies say that shutting down border crossing is the best way to deal with an increasing number of illegal immigrants. Many disagree, however. Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, said, “Closing down the border would have potentially catastrophic economic impact on our country, and I would hope we would not be doing that sort of thing.”
Do you think that President Trump should shut down the U.S.-Mexican border?
Posted by 27 March 2019
A majority of the House of Representatives may want to terminate President Trump’s border wall emergency declaration, but there weren’t enough votes to overcome his veto keeping it in place.
By a vote of 248-181, the House voted to override the president’s veto of House Joint Resolution 46. This resolution would end the national emergency declared by President Trump in February to shift federal funds around to build a border wall.
Both the House and Senate passed this resolution, but President Trump vetoed it earlier this month. The Constitution requires a 2/3 vote, or 288 members of the House of Representatives, to override a veto. The vote yesterday fell well short of that number.
This is not the end of the fight over the emergency declaration, however. Sixteen states are suing the federal government over this issue. Under the terms of the National Emergencies Act, the House of Representatives can also bring up another resolution to terminate the emergency in 6 months. See our Deep Dive on presidential emergencies for more information
Do you support a vote to override President Trump’s veto of a resolution to terminate the border wall emergency declaration?
Posted by 14 March 2019
The Senate today joined the House of Representatives in voting to terminate President Trump’s border emergency.
By a vote of 59-41, the Senate voted in favor of House Joint Resolution 46. This resolution would end the national emergency declared by President Trump in February to shift federal funds around to build a border wall. Twelve Republicans joined all the Democrats in voting for this measure.
Under the National Emergencies Act, the law that allows President Trump to declare an emergency, Congress has the authority to pass a resolution to terminate that emergency declaration. Both houses of Congress must pass the resolution, and it is subject to the president’s veto.
The House of Representatives passed the same resolution in late February by a vote of 245-182. However, the majorities in the House and Senate for approval were not large enough to meet the threshold to override the promised veto by President Trump.
This is not the end of the fight over the emergency declaration, however. Sixteen states are suing the federal government over this issue.
Do you support the vote in the House and Senate to terminate President Trump’s emergency declaration allowing him to build a border wall?