By Ishanee Chanda
With five hard-hitting sessions in less than five hours, state legislators and legislative staff tackled a myriad of immigration topics at the preconference meeting of the NCSL Task Force on Immigration and the States.
During the Dec. 4 meeting in Washington, D.C., task force members heard from panelists from the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) and the National Immigration Forum (NIF).
Task force members also reflected on immigration developments and the newest priorities in each of their states, including:
- The defeat of the sanctuary repeal measure in Oregon.
- New York’s focus on driver’s licenses and DREAMers this upcoming session.
- Minnesota’s newest immigrant congresswoman and former state legislator Ilhan Omar, working with Oregon and Nevada, to create an Office of New Americans and reduce occupational licensing barriers in their states.
One panel, titled An Immigration Patchwork in the States, focused on the findings of a BPC report based on NCSL’s legislation database that concludes that pressure from national parties and political leaders have trickled down to impact bipartisanship at state and local levels. Further, legislators are finding points of consensus on immigration within their states and believe Congress should step up and reform the immigration system, so costs do not fall on the states. There is also consensus that workforce demand is broad in areas such as agriculture, construction, health care and STEM fields, inspiring legislators to create solutions for occupational licensing barriers.
Eddie Sanchez, DHS associate chief, and Jonathan Hayes, ORR acting director, outlined policies regarding families crossing the border and awaiting immigration proceedings. Sanchez discussed the CBP’s short-term detention facilities and emphasized that they only have jurisdiction over child migrants for 72 hours before transferring them to the ORR.
Hayes outlined the ORR’s responsibilities, which, in addition to refugees, include asylees, victims of trafficking, Iraqi and Afghan special immigrants and child migrants. He emphasized the office’s commitment to creating and fostering extensive partnerships with states, localities and other organizations, encouraging legislators to reach out to their state refugee coordinators with any questions or requests to visit facilities.
The NILC’s presentation on the DHS Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on “public charge” detailed the potential impacts of the rule on states, including costs and chilling effects on immigrant populations. Legislators and legislative staff were encouraged to submit comments on the latest NPRM. Read NCSL’s two-pager on public charge and its letter to the secretary of the DHS on the effect of the public charge rule on states.
To close, task force members explored immigration’s impact on the midterm elections, as noted by the NIF, which showed that President Trump’s emphasis on immigration leading up to the elections invigorated more voters to come out for each party. The task force analyzed a number of key races, congressional and gubernatorial, and discussed the potential impacts of these election results on immigration reform in the coming years.
NCSL’s Task Force on Immigration and the States will hold its next meeting in Nashville, Tenn., during the 2019 NCSL Legislative Summit, Aug. 5-8. Please contact Ann Morse at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in getting involved, or if you have any questions.
Ishanee Chanda is a staff assistant in NCSL’s Immigrant Policy Project.