Law, Criminal Justice and Public Safety Newsletter





Hill Highlights

No. 1: Federal Public Charge Rule Becomes Final

The federal rule on public charge became final on Friday when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Illinois, staying an injunction prohibiting its implementation and permitting the rule to apply nationwide. NCSL had previously filed comments with the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) objecting to its implementation due to its detrimental impact on states. The final rule, published on Aug. 14, 2019, and originally scheduled to go into effect on Oct. 15, 2019, prescribes how the DHS will determine whether an alien is granted a visa to enter the United States or whether a noncitizen can adjust to lawful permanent residence in the U.S. “Public charge” means likely to become dependent on government assistance under section 212(1)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. USCIS will now apply the final rule to all applications and petitions postmarked (or submitted electronically) on or after Feb. 24, 2020. For more information on public charge, visit NCSL’s research page.

No. 2: DHS Announces Preparedness Grants Notice of Funding Opportunity 

On Feb. 14, the DHS announced the release of nearly $1.8 billion in grants, which fund state, local, tribal and territorial governments, transportation authorities, nonprofit organizations and the private sector in preventing, protecting against, responding to, recovering from and mitigating terrorist attacks, major disasters and other emergencies.

  • Homeland Security Grant Program—more than $1 billion including:
    • State Homeland Security Program—$415 million.
    • Urban Area Security Initiative—$615 million.
    • Operation Stonegarden—$90 million.
  • Emergency Management Performance Grants—more than $355 million.
  • Tribal Homeland Security Grant Program—$15 million.
  • Nonprofit Security Grant Program—$90 million.
  • Intercity Passenger Rail Program—Amtrak $10 million.
  • Intercity Bus Security Grant Program—$2 million.
  • Port Security Grant Program—$100 million.
  • Transit Security Grant Program—$88 million.
New Requirements

DHS identified four critical priority areas for attention in the FY 2020 grant cycle:

  • Cybersecurity.
  • Soft targets and crowded places.
  • Intelligence and information sharing. 
  • Emerging threats.

DHS newly requires grant recipients under state homeland and urban area programs to dedicate a minimum of 20% of the award amounts to address the DHS priority areas by allocating at least 5% to each category. Applicants will be required to submit investment justifications that address these priorities, and DHS will conduct an effectiveness review process to ensure grant funding is allocated to projects that most effectively address these priorities.

For 2020, the Urban Area Security Initiative will fund 32 high-threat, high-density urban areas. DHS claims this represents congressional intent to limit funding to those urban areas that represent up to 85% of the nationwide risk, as stated in the Explanatory Statement accompanying the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2019 (Pub. L. No. 116-6).

Final submissions must be made through the Non-Disaster Grants system. Further information on DHS’s preparedness grant programs is available on the DHS and FEMA websites.

No 3: NCSL Hosts Advancing Justice with Broad Criminal Justice Coalition in Fort Myers, Fla.

Nearly 80 legislators and staff from across 33 states and Puerto Rico convened in Fort Myers, Fla., Feb. 7-8 to learn more about criminal justice policy. Sponsored by Stand Together, the event was a historic gathering held in partnership with the American Legislative Exchange Council, National Asian Pacific American Caucus of State Legislators, National Black Caucus of State Legislators, National Caucus of Native American State Legislators, National Foundation for Women Legislators, National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators and Americans for Prosperity. The meeting was emceed by John Tilley, senior fellow at the Council on Criminal Justice, former Kentucky state representative and former secretary of the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet.

Advancing Justice attendees:

  • Learned how legislators and state and federal officials are teaming up with local nonprofits, business leaders, educational institutions and other stakeholders to reduce recidivism and build up their communities.
  • Explored criminal justice reform policy options and developed state-specific strategies to build consensus around a balanced justice system.
  • Networked with—and learn from—peers, policy experts and community stakeholders.

For more information and the meeting agenda, visit NCSL’s website.

Bonus ...

Elections 2020: Nevada Quirks

Read NCSL’s Blog “Elections 2020: Nevada Quirks“ for a look at what makes Nevada’s caucus process unique.