Refugee Bills Still Linger In Congress

Monday June 10, 2024

 

Richard MacIntyre, PCC4Refugees Advocacy Team Member

The Advocacy Team of PCC4R a year ago selected two important bills in Congress that had just been introduced.  They still linger without being brought to a vote in either the Senate or the House of Representatives.  The most urgent bill, the Afghan Adjustment Act (AAA), was introduced in the Senate and House last July to enable Afghan evacuees, forced by Taliban to leave their country over two years ago, a path to secure permanent residency or citizenship here in the United States.  Because that bill has now lingered in Congress, the special humanitarian parole that allowed Afghan evacuees to become refugees here has expired, and they now have no legal residency anywhere.  An updated rally call from veterans for the bill is available here:  https://thewarhorse.org/afghan-adjustment-act-for-us-ally-immigration-path-stalls/

The Senate version of the Afghan Adjustment Act S.2327 was introduced on 07/13/2023 by Sen Nancy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) and Sen Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and has now secured 17 Senator bipartisan cosponsors.  To make this bill totally bipartisan, cosponsors are only approved each time there is one Democrat and one Republican to be listed at the same time.  There are numerous other Democratic Senators who have agreed to be added as co-sponsors, but they need to be matched up with Republican Senators who agree to cosponsor.  We need more Republican Senators on board!

The House version of the Afghan Adjustment Act H.R.4627 was simultaneously introduced on 07/13/2023 by Rep Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa) and Rep Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregan) and has secured 47 bipartisan cosponsors among U.S. House of Representative members, under the same two-by-two bipartisan co-sponsorship.  Again, quite a few Democratic House members are awaiting Republican House members to join in cosponsoring this bill.

The second congressional action we have been seeking to promote has now been lingering in both chambers for over a year.  It is also hung up in the Judiciary Committees of both chambers.  They are two similar versions of the Asylum Seekers Work Authorization Act, introduced in Congress last year.  The Senate version was introduced by Sen Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen Lisa Murkowski (R- Alaska), but it only has two other co-sponsors.  The House version was introduced by Rep Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and has 24 cosponsors, but only one of them is a Republican.  Despite the logic of these bills, it seems that the chances of passing in both the Senate and the House are not strong.  Read here Rep. Pingree’s argument for allowing asylees to work 30 days after arrival in the US instead of waiting the current 6 month required for a work permit: — asylum seekers work bill.docx

Under congressional rules, new bills are first sent to a congressional committee in each chamber for review and a decision is made to take that bill to the floor of that chamber for a vote by all members of the Senate or House.  HOWEVER, the JUDICIARY COMMITTEES in the Senate and House have taken NO ACTION on these bills for over a year.  Therefore, we believe that advocacy efforts need to be directed to the leaders and members of those committees, especially by their constituents.  We have joined many other groups, especially those made up of US veterans who served in Afghanistan, in trying to get constituents of Republican Senators to add their names as co-sponsors.

Listed at the end of this paragraph are the names of members of the Senate Judiciary Committees that need to take action.  Please write any of them with whom you have any connection to or where you are a voting constituent.  The Senate Judiciary Committee is chaired by Sen Richard Durban of Illinois, and the highest Republican ranking member is the same Sen Lindsey Graham of South Carolina co-sponsored the bill.  Why the Senate Judiciary committee has not taken action on this bill remains a mystery.  However, I was told that Sen Klobuchar believes it will eventually pass.  WRITE THESE MEMBERS OF THE SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE AND URGE THEM TO TAKE ACTION ON THIS BILL:  https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/about/members

The bill, however, must also be passed by the House of Representatives before the end of this year to become law.  This may be the biggest challenge.  The House Judiciary Committee is chaired by Rep Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).  Rep Jerrold Nadler (D-New York) is the highest Democrat ranking member.  This may not be approved without a very strong push;  we hope to participate in that urgent push.  PLEASE WRITE THESE MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE AND URGE THEM TO TAKE ACTION ON THIS BILL: — https://judiciary.house.gov/about/membership

The final option seems to be end-of-year lame duck sessions in both houses of Congress, when members can seek to attach bills to other legislation that might be relevant.  So it is possible that, if there is enough support, these bills might get attached to other bills that could be passed in both chambers.  But this is a very uncertain option, and one which shouldn’t be necessary, but might be the only manner for approval of either bill this year.

Please do what you can.  If you have further actions to suggest, connect with PCC4R by writing to [email protected].  Thank you!

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