House and Senate Action on Immigration and Homeland Security
The House and Senate each addressed Homeland Security legislation prior to recess.
House Action: Just before leaving this past Saturday until early September, the House passed H.R. 5005 on July 26, by a 295-132 vote. Many Democrats voted against the bill because of opposition to the management flexibilities contained in the bill (pertaining especially to a diminution of civil service protections.) During floor debate on the bill, the House rejected various proposed amendments on a range of issues including: an amendment that sought to retain FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) as an independent agency; an amendment to preserve the existing Customs Service as a distinct entity within the Department of Homeland Security; an amendment to strike from the bill the provision that would exclude from the Freedom of Information Act information provided to the Homeland Security Department; and an amendment to transfer all visa processing functions from the State Department to the Homeland Security Department.
H.R. 5005 splits up the INS, with Services remaining in Justice, and enforcement and inspections going into the Homeland Security Department. Lobbyists believe that services will be ill-served by this arrangement-with policy guidance and legal opinions coming from Homeland Security, and no coordination structured between the two agencies. H.R. 5005 also moves the care and custody of children to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and creates a civil rights office as well as an Inspector General (IG). This bill also allows the EOIR to be moved into Homeland Security, and moves visa processing policy into Homeland Security, with State issuing the visas. Finally, the bill explicitly rejects national, uniform standards for driver's licenses, thereby putting the brakes on plans to turn state driver's licenses into a de facto national ID card.
Senate Action: The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee finished marking-up a substitute version of S. 2452 on July 26. A floor vote is not expected until the Senate returns from recess on September 3. The bill maintains immigration functions together in a fifth division and incorporates S. 2444 (the bipartisan reorganization bill introduced by Senators Kennedy and Brownback which Lobbyists strongly support) as the way to structure immigration functions. (Like the House, the Senate bill does not mirror the Administration's proposal.) The bill also moves the care and custody of children out of the INS and into the ORR and creates a civil rights office and an IG. The bill also creates within the Department of Justice the Agency for Immigration Hearings and Appeals that would include the Board of Immigration Appeals. This bill also would move visa processing policy into Homeland Security, with State issuing the visas.
By a 10-7 vote, the Committee defeated an amendment proposed by Ranking Member Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN), and supported by the White House, that would have brought all immigration back within the Border and Transportation Security division. Lobbyists opposed this amendment because we believe that if our immigration functions are transferred to Homeland Security, they must be elevated to their appropriate level within the Department of Homeland Security, and restructured based on S. 2444, the bipartisan INS restructuring bill.
We expect that when the bill reaches the Senate floor, amendments will be offered including one that would bring all immigration back under the Border and Transportation Security Division, and another that would strike the creation of the Agency for Immigration Hearings and Appeals within the DOJ. The Administration wants to move the EOIR into Homeland Security. Lobbyists oppose both of these probable amendments.