Press Releases

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), issued the statement below, after the Senate parliamentarian ruled against the inclusion of immigration measures in the budget reconciliation bill:

“I’m disappointed by the parliamentarian’s recent ruling. However, we must be clear: the fight for immigration reform is NOT over. I look forward to working with my colleagues, including Senators Dick Durbin and Alex Padilla, to help protect the thousands of TPS holders and DACA recipients who call Virginia home.”

 

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WASHINGTON – El Senador Mark R. Warner (D-VA), emitió la siguiente declaración ante la decisión de la parlamentaria del senado, quien falló en contra de la inclusión de medidas migratorias en la conciliación presupuestaria: 

“Estoy decepcionado por la reciente decisión de la parlamentaria. Sin embargo, debemos ser claros: la lucha por la reforma migratoria NO ha terminado. Espero trabajar con mis colegas, especialmente los senadores Dick Durbin y Alex Padilla, para ayudar a proteger a los miles de beneficiarios de TPS y DACA que llaman hogar a Virginia ”. 

 

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WASHINGTON – On the 9th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program being announced, U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner (D-VA.) joined Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) in leading their colleagues in calling on the Biden administration to address the extreme backlog for DACA applicants and reduce wait times for DACA renewals. Current delays are a result of the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant policies and the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to negatively impact the immigrant community. 

“As you know, access to DACA provides a vital lifeline to hundreds of thousands of young people. Many DACA recipients are essential workers in health care and other critical industries and are playing an important role in helping our economy recover from the ongoing pandemic. Delays in granting benefits to DACA applicants and recipients therefore affect not just their own employment and stability, but the social and economic welfare of us all,” the Senators wrote.

They continued, “DACA processing delays have significant consequences, not just for individuals depending on the status for their livelihoods and security, but for their families and for the businesses and workplaces that employ them. As we work to build back our economy from the effects of the pandemic, reducing backlogs and processing delays for DACA cases is of the utmost importance.”

The letter is signed by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tom Carper (D-DE), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bob Casey (D-PA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), Chris Coons (D-DE), Tina Smith (D-MN), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).    

A copy of the Senators’ letter to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services can be found here and below. 

 

June 15, 2021

 

Ms. Tracy Renaud

Acting Director

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

20 Massachusetts Avenue NW

Washington, D.C. 20529

 

Dear Director Renaud:

We write to express our concerns regarding processing delays for immigration benefits at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). These delays—a legacy of the Trump Administration’s anti-immigrant policies and the COVID-19 pandemic—continue to negatively impact immigrants, our communities, and our nation as a whole. As the Biden Administration and USCIS work to rebuild and strengthen our nation’s immigration system, we hope that reducing processing delays will continue to be a priority. 

While we are aware that processing times for many different forms of immigration benefits have been unusually high for several years, we are particularly concerned about delays impacting applications related to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, including initial, first-time DACA requests, DACA renewal requests, and related employment authorization applications. As you know, access to DACA provides a vital lifeline to hundreds of thousands of young people. Many DACA recipients are essential workers in health care and other critical industries and are playing an important role in helping our economy recover from the ongoing pandemic. Delays in granting benefits to DACA applicants and recipients therefore affect not just their own employment and stability, but the social and economic welfare of us all.

Despite the change in Administration and ongoing efforts at USCIS to expand processing capacity, current wait times for DACA requests continue to be high. The average processing time for new DACA requests is between four and nine months, depending on the USCIS service center.[1] Despite the fact that hundreds of initial DACA requests were submitted when the process reopened at the end of last year, nonprofit legal service providers report that only a handful of initial requests nationwide have been approved. Reportedly, some requestors who applied in December 2020 or January 2021 have not yet been contacted to schedule their biometrics appointment. Delays for new initial DACA requests are particularly concerning because these individuals need DACA to access employment that will allow them to sustain themselves and their families, and to pursue higher education opportunities. Additionally, many of these individuals need deferred action to stop accruing unlawful presence and gain protection from deportation, and have been waiting to apply for over three years since the Trump Administration stopped accepting new requests on September 5, 2017 and attempted to eliminate the DACA program entirely.

It also appears that some DACA renewal requests continue to be processed at an unacceptably slow rate, with certain applications taking an estimated full year to process, depending on the USCIS service center.[2] These processing times are occurring despite USCIS’s stated goal of processing DACA renewal requests within 120 days.[3] Constituents have resorted to contacting our offices for assistance because, in addition to experiencing delays, the USCIS case tracker provides insufficient information to requestors and their attorneys.[4] Furthermore, some service centers are telling congressional caseworkers that expedited processing requests for DACA renewals will not be granted and that no information on case status can be shared at this point in time. Applicants need to know where their requests are in the adjudication process to better estimate how much longer they have to wait and to assess whether there are any issues with the processing of their requests.

DACA processing delays have significant consequences, not just for individuals depending on the status for their livelihoods and security, but for their families and for the businesses and workplaces that employ them. As we work to build back our economy from the effects of the pandemic, reducing backlogs and processing delays for DACA cases is of the utmost importance.

In order for us to better serve our constituents, we respectfully request that the following information be provided to our offices by July 1, 2021:

1.     How many initial, first-time DACA requests were received from January 1, 2021 to May 31, 2021?

2.     How many biometrics appointments have been scheduled for initial, first-time DACA requests received from January 1, 2021 to May 31, 2021?

3.     How many initial, first-time DACA requests have been fully adjudicated between December 2020 and May 31, 2021?

4.     How many DACA renewal requests are currently awaiting adjudication beyond the 120 day processing goal?

5.     How many requests for advance parole from DACA recipients are currently pending adjudication?

6.     How does USCIS account for the highly varied processing times for DACA-related requests at its California, Nebraska, and Vermont service centers?

7.     What steps has USCIS taken to address processing delays at its California, Nebraska, and Vermont service centers?

8.     In light of changing pandemic-related guidelines, what steps has USCIS taken to adjust COVID-19 related policies and procedures that impact request processing times? 

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to working with you to address these concerns as soon as possible.   

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) along with Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-MD) today applauded an announcement by the Biden administration that it will release an additional 22,000 H-2B temporary non-agricultural worker visas, a move that will benefit the seafood processing industries in Virginia and Maryland. The senators had previously called on the administration to make available the maximum number of congressionally-authorized H-2B visas in order to ensure that seafood processors in Virginia and Maryland have the seasonal workforce they need. Following today’s announcement, the senators released the following statement:

“As the harvest season begins on the Northern Neck and the Eastern Shore, we are pleased that seafood processors will be able to hire additional seasonal workers to keep their operations up and running. These businesses – most of them small and family-owned – are essential to the coastal economies in Virginia and Maryland, and so we appreciate that the administration listened to our requests and released these additional visas, ensuring that they will have the workforce they need as the processing season kicks up.”  

The H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Visa Program allows U.S. employers to hire seasonal, non-immigrant workers during peak seasons to supplement the existing American workforce. In order to be eligible for the program, employers are required to declare that there are not enough U.S. workers available to do the temporary work, as is the case with the seafood industry, which relies on H-2B workers for tough jobs such as shucking oysters and processing crabs.  

Sens. Warner, Kaine, Cardin, and Van Hollen have long advocated for the seafood processing industry – a community largely made up of rural, family-owned operations.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner (D-Va) joined Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-Md.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in announcing the reintroduction of the Safe Environment from Countries Under Repression and in Emergency (SECURE) Act, legislation to allow qualified TPS recipients to apply for legal permanent residency. The Senators noted the support of over 20 of their Senate colleagues. They underscored their commitment to working with the Biden Administration and the new Democratic majority in the Senate to provide security to TPS recipients. 

“TPS recipients are essential to our communities in Maryland and across the country. They are business owners contributing to our economies, students with bright futures, and leaders on the frontlines of our social movements. They came here legally and it is unsafe to return to their home countries. We have a moral obligation not to return people to countries that will put them in harm’s way,” said Senator Cardin. “The SECURE Act will extend protections for these hardworking residents and end the uncertainty and discrimination they faced under the previous administration.”

“For decades, our country has welcomed and protected those fleeing violence and turmoil around the world. TPS recipients are members of our communities – they are our neighbors, local business owners, friends, and frontline workers. Many have lived here legally for over twenty years – and have come to call our country home. But over the last four years, the livelihoods of these individuals have been under constant threat. Now, alongside the Biden Administration, we must prioritize providing TPS recipients security and certainty. We’ll be working to quickly get this done,” said Senator Van Hollen. 

"TPS holders are our neighbors, friends and colleagues and many have lived in the U.S. for decades and call America home. These individuals have made countless contributions to our communities and businesses and many have served on the frontlines of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. It is essential that we stand with them by working to pass the SECURE Act, which is why I'm proud to join Senator Van Hollen and Senator Cardin in reintroducing this piece of legislation today," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)an original cosponsor of the legislation.

In addition to Senators Warner, Cardin, Van Hollen, and Schumer the legislation is cosponsored by Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-Nev.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). 

TPS is a temporary, legal status granted to foreign citizens who are endangered by conditions in their home country such as ongoing armed conflict, environmental disaster, epidemic, or other extraordinary events. Currently, there are approximately 411,000 people with TPS in the United States from ten designated countries: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. TPS status is granted for set periods ranging from six to 18 months, requiring the Department of Homeland Security to extend a country's status on a recurring basis. Every time a country is recertified, recipients must reapply and pass a thorough background check.

In September 2020, a federal court of appeals ruled in favor of the Trump Administration and reversed a court order in the Ramos v. Nielsen lawsuit which halted the termination of TPS designations for El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan; this court order also stopped terminations of TPS for Honduras and Nepal. TPS recipients now face uncertainty as they wait for the pending re-hearing on the case. This uncertainty and the continued dangerous circumstances in their home countries has created considerable hardship for TPS recipients and their families, including American-born children. The SECURE Act will provide stability for these individuals and their communities by giving them the ability to apply for legal permanent residency. Under the bill, all TPS recipients who were qualified under the most recent TPS designation and who have been continuously present in the United States for at least three years would be eligible to apply for legal permanent residency.

Text of the legislation can be found here.

Today’s call was attended by a wide array of advocacy organizations including: CASA, National TPS Alliance, 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), LIUNA, Alianza Americas, African Communities Together, Adhikaar, Haitian Bridge Alliance, and Presente.org. 

“I am the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit led by TPS families challenging the Trump Administration’s racist and anti-immigrant attempts to tear more than 275,000 US citizen children from their parents. For too long TPS families have been pawns in other people's agendas even after we fought tirelessly in the federal courts, marched on Washington, and lobbied congress to get to this point. Now it is time for Congress to utilize any and all legislative vehicles which would guarantee our families a Permanent Residency,” said Crista Ramos, lead plaintiff in the Ramos Case and daughter of Salvadoran TPS holders from San Francisco, California. Crista is a member of the National TPS Alliance. 

“My job as an essential worker, making sure rooms are safe and clean for Walter Reed patients can mean life or death for everyone inside,” said TPS holder, Barbara Rauda, a 32BJ SEIU member and mother of three working as a frontline cleaner at Walter Reed Military Hospital. “I have been in the U.S. for over twenty one years and I have three children who are U.S. citizens, having a green card would help keep families like mine together.”

As a frontline worker during the COVID pandemic, my immigration status has brought me tremendous stress that I would not be able to provide care in my community. It has been a privilege to be part of the workforce combatting COVID-19, taking care of vulnerable populations. However, as a TPS holder, my working permit had an expiration date. There was always that fear that it would not be renewed or worse, that I would be deported back to my country; a country that I had left as a teenager almost two decades ago. For the past decades, I felt loss, hurt, disappointed, and afraid for my future. Lawful permanent residency would mean hope for tomorrow, hope for my future and for my family,” said Rose Michelle Tilus, a Rhode Island TPS Holder from Haiti, frontline worker and member of the Haitian Bridge Alliance.

“This month of February it is 21 years that I cannot hug my parents. Two weeks ago my 96-year-old father was on the brink of death. Lawful permanent residency would allow me to continue contributing to the United States and to be close to my family in El Salvador during emergencies,” said Yanira Arias, TPS beneficiary from El Salvador and member of Alianza Americas. Yanira is the main source of financial support for her elderly parents and an organizer mobilizing immigrant communities across the United States.

“I am a proud single mother of a daughter who is now 30 years old and is working as a nurse. Within a couple of years of getting my work permit through TPS, I was able to acquire two businesses in Dallas, and in Texarkana. TPS has given this mother and daughter the opportunities that we could never have imagined back in Nepal, especially as a single mother family. Yet, the uncertainty that TPS entails has been very stressful for us. We need permanent residency so that I can grow my businesses further, my daughter can be ensured of longer-term employment in health services, and we can both continue to give back to the community the way we always have been even while in temporary status,” said Namrata Pokhrel, a Texas TPS holder from Nepal, member of Adhikaar and small business owner. 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) met with President Biden’s nominee for Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, ahead of his confirmation vote to discuss the importance of the Commonwealth’s seafood industry and its reliance on H-2B visas.

“During my conversation with Mr. Mayorkas, I stressed the importance of Virginia’s seafood processing industry, which includes many small and family-owned businesses, and their reliance on H-2B visas to hire seasonal workers. As I indicated during the meeting, it is my hope that we find a long-term solution to support these small, family-owned businesses in the Northern Neck,” said Sen. Warner.

Sen. Warner has long advocated for Virginia’s seafood processing industry – a community largely made up of rural, family-owned operations. Last February, Sen. Warner urged the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to release additional H-2B visas needed to support local seafood businesses in Virginia and states like Alaska, Maryland, and North Carolina.

In July, Sen. Warner sent a bicameral, bipartisan letter to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) highlighting the severe impacts COVID-19 is having on the seafood industry and requesting that USDA consider establishing a short-term purchasing program for shellfish products.As a result of these efforts, USDA recently announced its decision to allow oyster and clam businesses to access funds included within the CARES Act Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, an announcement that Sen. Warner applauded.

In September, he also fired off a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo regarding the urgent need to secure H-2B visas for seasonal seafood workers in Virginia with the oyster harvesting season now in full swing. And in October in the Northern Neck, Sen. Warner participated in a socially-distanced meet and greet to celebrate the kickoff of the oyster harvesting season and to discuss his work in Congress to help Virginia’s family-owned seafood processors keep their operations up and running during the economic hardship caused by the COVID-19 health crisis.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) and Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-MD) today sent a letter to Alejandro Mayorkas, President-elect Biden’s nominee for Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), urging him to take swift action once confirmed to protect 58,000 Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients living in Virginia and Maryland alone. Currently, TPS status for thousands of beneficiaries continues to be in jeopardy due to ongoing legal efforts by the Trump Administration to terminate the program. In a letter to DHS Secretary-Designate Mayorkas, the Senators applaud the Biden Administration’s commitment to protect current TPS holders and its pledge to grant TPS to Venezuelans already in the United States. The Senators also ask the incoming administration to take immediate executive actions to provide stability for TPS recipients and their families from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Nepal, and Sudan.

“We write today to reiterate our support for immediate action to protect the hundreds of thousands of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients whose continued lawful status in the country remains in jeopardy as a result of the Trump Administration’s efforts to terminate their protections and to urge you to promptly issue additional TPS designations and redesignations based upon a sober assessment of country conditions and an exercise of your clear statutory authority. We are pleased that President-elect Biden has pledged to grant TPS to Venezuelans already in the United States, something for which we have advocated. It is critical, especially during the ongoing public health and economic crises brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, for the Biden-Harris Administration to act quickly to provide clarity and long-term stability to TPS recipients in our communities,” wrote the Senators to DHS Secretary-Desginate Alejandro Mayorkas.

In their letter, the Senators highlight that over the past four years, the Trump Administration has taken action to terminate TPS protections for recipients from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Nepal, and Sudan, a move that President-elect Biden has described as “politically motivated.” While the Trump Administration recently extended TPS and associated work authorization documents for these individuals until October 4, 2021, TPS protections could still be removed without swift action by the incoming Biden Administration.

“TPS recipients from these six countries represent approximately 400,000 residents and over 97 percent of all TPS recipients nationwide. We are proud to represent over 58,000 TPS recipients in the National Capitol region alone. Additionally, approximately 63,100 U.S. citizen children of TPS recipients, many of whom are school-aged, live in our region. We cannot overstate the importance of our desire to protect those American children from the brutal choice they and their families will face if the Trump Administration’s terminations are permitted to go into effect. Their parents will immediately lose their permission to work. And each child will be forced to either separate from their parents or be uprooted from the lives they have built in this—their own—country. In Virginia and Maryland alone, an estimated 13,300 TPS holders work in industries that DHS deems ‘essential critical infrastructure’ including health care, agriculture, and manufacturing. These individuals have worked alongside other Americans at great risk to themselves and their family members to help keep the country running, and they will continue to play an important role in the recovery and rebuilding ahead,” continued the Senators. 

In addition to calling for a swift reversal of the Trump Administration’s TPS policies and urging the incoming Biden Administration to explore executive actions to provide stability for TPS recipients, the Senators ask the incoming Biden Administration to send an immigration bill to Congress that includes pathways towards lawful permanent residency for TPS recipients. The Senators also urge the Administration to redesignate El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua for TPS and issue a new TPS designation for Guatemala due to the devastation from Hurricanes Eta and Iota.

A copy of the letter is found here and below.

 

Dear Secretary-Designate Mayorkas: 

We would like to congratulate you on President-elect Joe Biden’s announcement that he intends to nominate you for the position of Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). We trust that your experience as Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and as Deputy Secretary of DHS, along with your personal experience as a son of refugees, will leave you well-positioned to address the pressing issues facing our nation’s immigration system, many of which have been significantly worsened by the Trump Administration’s harmful policies.

The task of the incoming Biden-Harris Administration will be, as the President-elect often states, to “restore the soul of the nation,” which is urgently needed in the sphere of immigration policy. We write today to reiterate our support for immediate action to protect the hundreds of thousands of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients whose continued lawful status in the country remains in jeopardy as a result of the Trump Administration’s efforts to terminate their protections and to urge you to promptly issue additional TPS designations and redesignations based upon a sober assessment of country conditions and an exercise of your clear statutory authority. We are pleased that President-elect Biden has pledged to grant TPS to Venezuelans already in the United States, something for which we have advocated. It is critical, especially during the ongoing public health and economic crises brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, for the Biden-Harris Administration to act quickly to provide clarity and long-term stability to TPS recipients in our communities. 

Over the past four years, the Trump Administration moved to terminate TPS for recipients from six nations: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Nepal, and Sudan.  President-elect Biden decried these decisions as having been “politically-motivated”—a finding supported by a report prepared by the minority staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and by the federal district court in Ramos v. Nielsen that initially blocked several terminations from taking effect. Only by virtue of litigation that remains pending have these designations remained in place, but the success of that litigation is now in doubt, and the continued fear and uncertainty experienced by TPS recipients are very real. While the Trump Administration, as a result of the outstanding court cases, recently extended TPS and associated work authorization documents for these individuals until October 4, 2021, even that brief reprieve could be taken away from many of these individuals if a court ruling comes soon. 

TPS recipients from these six countries represent approximately 400,000 residents and over 97 percent of all TPS recipients nationwide. We are proud to represent over 58,000 TPS recipients in the National Capitol region alone. Additionally, approximately 63,100 U.S. citizen children of TPS recipients, many of whom are school-aged, live in our region. We cannot overstate the importance of our desire to protect those American children from the brutal choice they and their families will face if the Trump Administration’s terminations are permitted to go into effect. Their parents will immediately lose their permission to work. And each child will be forced to either separate from their parents or be uprooted from the lives they have built in this—their own—country. In Virginia and Maryland alone, an estimated 13,300 TPS holders work in industries that DHS deems “essential critical infrastructure” including health care, agriculture, and manufacturing. These individuals have worked alongside other Americans at great risk to themselves and their family members to help keep the country running, and they will continue to play an important role in the recovery and rebuilding ahead.

The incoming Biden-Harris Administration has promised to immediately review Temporary Protected Status for vulnerable populations who cannot find safety in their countries due to violence or disaster. Additionally, the new administration has promoted a pathway to citizenship through legislative immigration reform for TPS and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) recipients. While we share the Biden-Harris Administration’s desire for a comprehensive review of TPS policy and pathways to citizenship, we also urge you to take immediate executive actions to provide stability for TPS recipients and their families in the U.S. weathering the public health and economic crises brought on by COVID-19. 

First, we respectfully request that the Biden-Harris Administration issue a notice in the Federal Register on January 20, 2021, vacating the Trump Administration’s termination decisions for all six nations and automatically extending current protections, including Employment Authorization Documents, while committing to conduct new fact-based assessments of country conditions required by law. Decisions regarding whether to extend, redesignate, or terminate protections for each of these countries must be made based upon the facts and the law. We also encourage you to consider granting DED to nationals of these countries, if necessary, as a way to ensure continuity of protections in the interim.

Second, in connection with the decision to review country conditions anew, we respectfully request that the Biden-Harris Administration promptly redesignate El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, for TPS—and issue a new TPS designation for Guatemala—as a result of the devastation left behind by Hurricanes Eta and Iota. The economic damage to these countries from these two unprecedented hurricanes is projected to far surpass the damage caused by Hurricane Mitch in 1998 on which the current designations for Honduras and Nicaragua are based. Widespread flooding and landslides caused substantial damage to critical infrastructure, housing, livelihoods, and food security, and weakened each country’s public health infrastructure at a time when they were already struggling to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. The governments of Honduras and Guatemala already have made formal requests for TPS—a pre-condition for designations under Section 244(b)(1)(B)—but the “extraordinary and temporary conditions” that make it impossible for these four countries to safely accept the return of their nationals more than justifies designations under Section 244(b)(1)(C), which does not require a request from a foreign government.

As the new administration works to fulfill its promise of sending an immigration reform bill to Congress within its first 100 days, we urge you to consult the models of the bipartisan American Dream and Promise Act, as well as the Safe Environment from Countries Under Repression and in Emergency (SECURE) Act. Both bills include pathways towards lawful permanent residency for TPS recipients. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the reality that millions of immigrants, both documented and undocumented, work alongside other Americans every day to keep the country going, and their work and contributions will be no less important as we begin to turn the corner and work toward a national recovery that is strong, resilient, and equitable. This is true of more than 131,000 TPS holders who are serving in jobs essential to the nation’s critical infrastructure. As we overcome this crisis, we owe a debt of gratitude to these communities that we can begin to pay by extending citizenship to those who have dutifully served their neighbors in a time of crisis. We commit to working with you to achieve that goal.  Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely, 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner, Tim Kaine, and Patty Murray wrote a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) requesting an investigation into the June 2020 transfer of immigrants in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention to Farmville, Virginia. The transfer, which was reportedly part of the Trump Administration’s efforts to send more federal agents to Washington, D.C., to end racial justice protests, led to a dramatic spike in COVID-19 infections at the Farmville facility, managed by the private contractor Immigration Centers of America (ICA). The Senators write that ICE, ICA, and DHS’s mishandling of the situation fits the pattern of abuse behind ICE detention.

“While ICE said they transferred ‘larger detention populations to facilities with fewer detainees’ to ‘promote social distancing,’ according to recently released information, ICE’s own statistics showed the facilities from where the detainees came on June 1 were not near capacity when the transfers were arranged,” the Senators wrote. “ICE and ICA’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak in Farmville raises the alarm about people’s safety and the nature of ICE detention. And ICE and DHS’s disregard of Senate inquiry in the face of clear mishandling of the situation and people’s lives is unacceptable. It is critical for the OIG to investigate the transfer of individuals in ICE custody during the COVID-19 pandemic in the context of the pattern and practice of abuse and the lack of accountability within ICE facilities.”

The Senators noted that, while the Farmville facility was 57 percent full the day of the transfer, the Arizona facility from which the migrants were transferred was only 35 percent full. “The statistics indicate that ICE has misled Congress about the reasons for transferring individuals during the pandemic,” wrote the Senators.

Senators Warner and Kaine have repeatedly pushed the Administration to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Virginia detention facilities. After the June transfer resulted in a spike of more than 50 COVID-19 cases at Farmville, the Senators urged the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to prioritize the health of detainees and workers by stopping the transfer of people in ICE custody and increasing COVID-19 testing at the facilities. Nearly a month later, with approximately 80 percent of the Farmville population testing positive for COVID-19, the Senators once again pressed ICE and DHS to stop transfers between facilities. They also posed a series of questions regarding the measures in place to safeguard the health of people in custody, staff members, and the community. In July, the Senators also insisted that the Trump Administration work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to create and deploy teams of epidemiologists to conduct an assessment of the pandemic’s impact at the facility after nearly every detained person in the Farmville facility contracted COVID-19. At the Senators’ urging, the CDC deployed its teams to the Farmville facility in August to conduct an assessment of the rate of infection among workers and detainees, risk factors for infection among workers and detainees, infection control and prevention practices in the facility, and transmission dynamics among workers, detainees, and the surrounding community. Additionally, following reports that two detained individuals tested positive for COVID-19 at the Caroline County Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facility, the Senators sent a letter today pressing for answers on what ICE is doing to protect the health of individuals in custody, staff members, and the Bowling Green community.

You can read the full letter here and below:

Inspector General Joseph V. Cuffari
Office of Inspector General
Department of Homeland Security
245 Murray Lane SW
Washington, DC 20528-0305

Dear Inspector General Joseph V. Cuffari,

We write to request that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) investigate the transfer of individuals in detention by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to Virginia via ICE Air in June 2020 as part of the administration’s efforts to send more federal agents to end racial justice protests in Washington, D.C.[1] The transfer led to the worst outbreak of COVID-19 in the ICE detention center in Farmville, Virginia, run by the private contractor Immigration Centers of America (ICA) and fits into the pattern of abuse behind ICE detention during the pandemic. We ask that your office incorporate an investigation into the June 2020 transfer to Virginia into the ongoing investigation into “ICE’s Efforts to Prevent and Mitigate the Spread of COVID-19 in its Facilities.”[2]

On June 2, ICE transferred over 70 detainees to ICA-Farmville from COVID-19 hotspots in Florida and Arizona. According to testimony at a Farmville town council meeting in August, ICE officials in the Washington field office objected to the transfer of detainees. The transfer, compounded by the inability to appropriately socially distance within the facility, led to a dramatic spike in infections. Within two weeks of the June 2020 transfer, more than half of these detainees tested positive for COVID-19. At least six people inside have been hospitalized with severe symptoms. In August, the Farmville facility had at times a nearly 90% infection rate among detainees, including James Thomas Hill, a Canadian national who tragically died on August 5.

While ICE said they transferred “larger detention populations to facilities with fewer detainees” to “promote social distancing,” according to recently released information, ICE’s own statistics showed the facilities from where the detainees came on June 1 were not near capacity when the transfers were arranged. The detention facility in Arizona from where detainees were transferred, CCA Florence, has space for approximately 550 detainees but was only about 35 percent full that day, while Farmville was 57 percent full. The statistics indicate that ICE has misled Congress about the reasons for transferring individuals during the pandemic, in violation of the CDC guidelines indicating that people should not be transferred between facilities “unless necessary for medical evaluation, medical isolation/quarantine, clinical care, extenuating security concerns, release, or to prevent overcrowding.”[3]

We have consistently raised alarm with DHS about the surging number of COVID-19 cases at the Farmville detention facility as a result of ICE’s decision to continue transferring detainees.[4] Yet both DHS and ICE have refused to respond to our questions concerning how ICE is protecting the health of individuals in their custody, staff members, and the Farmville community. We request that you investigate the following:

?      Whether ICE and DHS shared information with Farmville officials (including local elected officials like the mayor and members of the town council) about the June transfer and the subsequent outbreaks at Farmville-ICA in an effort to protect against community spread;

?      The objection to the transfer by the Washington field office and any other objections made prior to the transfer of detainees to Farmville;

?      The role of the company in charge of the facility, ICA, in the June 2020 transfer;

?      Whether the ICE agents aboard the ICE Air flight in question were tested for COVID-19 prior to boarding and ICE’s general policies around testing prior to boarding flights with detainees;

?      All information pertaining to the planned flight, including whether the flight was postponed or altered to accommodate agents;

?      The capacity at each ICE facility on June 2, 2020;

?      Whether any detainees transferred to Farmville on June 2, 2020, were subject to the Title 42 expulsions conducted by the Administration;

?      The I-216 of each detainee transferred to Farmville on June 2, 2020;

?      The number of ICE transfers during the entirety of the coronavirus pandemic, the justifications behind the transfers, the capacity at the facilities individuals were transferred from and to, and the result of any COVID-19 spread at the facilities to which detainees were transferred;

?      The decision-making process that went into making the June 2 transfer and all other transfers during the pandemic, including communication between ICE headquarters, field offices, private contractors, and local officials involved in the management of the facilities where transfers have taken place as well as agency and administration guidance, memos, and any other information guiding ICE’s decision process to embark on transfers during the pandemic;

?      Whether any assessments or inquiries were made of the local hospital and medical capacity to handle possibly infected detainees prior to transfer;

?      ICE’s use of “ICE Air” charter flights to transfer detainees during the pandemic.

ICE and ICA’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak in Farmville raises the alarm about people’s safety and the nature of ICE detention. And ICE and DHS’s disregard of Senate inquiry in the face of clear mishandling of the situation and people’s lives is unacceptable. It is critical for the OIG to investigate the transfer of individuals in ICE custody during the COVID-19 pandemic in the context of the pattern and practice of abuse and the lack of accountability within ICE facilities.

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and 29 senators today in calling on the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general to expeditiously investigate a whistleblower complaint alleging forced hysterectomies at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in Ocilla, Ga.

“Forced sterilizations infringe on reproductive rights and autonomy,” the senators wrote. “To understand whether such violations may have been committed against immigrants in our federal government’s custody, the Inspector General’s Office should immediately investigate the reproductive health policies and practices at the ICDC and at other facilities, including but not limited to, all instances of forced, coerced, or medically unnecessary hysterectomies.”

 In addition to Senators Feinstein, Leahy, Murray, Casey and Booker, the letter was signed by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Angus King (I-Maine), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Jack Reed (D-R.I), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

Full text of the letter follows:

 

September 17, 2020

Hon. Joseph V. Cuffari

Inspector General

Department of Homeland Security

245 Murray Lane SW

Washington, DC 20528-0305

Dear Mr. Cuffari:

The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General should expeditiously conduct a thorough investigation into a whistleblower complaint alleging forced hysterectomies and other egregious abuses at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in Ocilla, Georgia. LaSalle Corrections operates that facility for the federal government, including for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The alleged abuses detailed in the complaint and in related reports must be thoroughly and swiftly investigated to protect the rights and safety of women and patients in our nation’s care.

 The whistleblower expressed alarm about the “rate at which the hysterectomies have occurred” at the facility. Specifically, the complaint alleges that between October and December 2019 at least five women detained at the ICDC received hysterectomies. When asked about the procedures, however, the women “reacted confused when explaining why they had one done.” The complaint also describes how a gynecologist once removed the wrong ovary on a young woman, causing her “to go back to take out the left and she wound up with a total hysterectomy,” leaving her unable to bear children.

Another detained woman who received a hysterectomy recounted that medical personnel “did not properly explain to her what procedure she was going to have done.” Although she asked for more information about why she was receiving a hysterectomy, she was “given three different responses by three different individuals.” When the woman told a nurse that the procedure “isn’t for me,” the nurse “responded by getting angry and agitated.”

Forced sterilizations infringe on reproductive rights and autonomy. To understand whether such violations may have been committed against immigrants in our federal government’s custody, the Inspector General’s Office should immediately investigate the reproductive health policies and practices at the ICDC and at other ICE facilities, including but not limited to, all instances of forced, coerced, or medically unnecessary hysterectomies.

 In addition to thoroughly investigating the recent alleged abuses at the ICDC, we urge you to immediately conduct a national review of reproductive health policies and practices at ICE facilities to ensure that the human rights of women in federal immigration custody are assured.

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today pushed to protect thousands of essential workers in the National Capital Region including those with Temporary Protected Status (TPS), whose eligibility is in question due to ongoing legal efforts by the Trump Administration to terminate the program. In a letter, the Senators urged Senate leaders to include an automatic extension of work authorizations for TPS recipients, such as those from El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras, in the next COVID-19 legislation, citing TPS recipients’ critical work to help combat COVID-19. This letter comes on the heels of yesterday’s Ninth Circuit decision in Ramos v. Nielsen, which ruled that the Trump Administration can move forward with ending TPS for El Salvadorans. 

“As the nation and region continue to grapple with the health and economic consequences of COVID-19, TPS holders are on the front lines, serving our communities,” wrote the Senators. “In Virginia alone, an estimated 6,700 TPS holders work in industries deemed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as “essential critical infrastructure” including health care, agriculture, and manufacturing. Automatically extending work authorization for TPS holders is not only the morally correct thing to do, but also in the best interest of the National Capital Region’s, and the United States’ public health.”

“While DHS has automatically extended status and associated EADs for TPS holders from these nations through at least March 6, 2021, such assurances should be built upon as we quickly near DHS’s expiration deadline. In a moment where their essential services are needed most, we would be unwise to turn our back on TPS holders,” they continued. “The quickest means to retain the critical talent and work of TPS holders in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic is to automatically extend all work authorizations.  This would mitigate any processing backlogs at United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and help TPS holders and their families weather this uncertain time.”

Virginia is home to more than 27,500 recipients of TPS – a temporary legal status granted to foreign citizens fleeing violence or disaster in their home countries. Many TPS residents, whose home countries remain too dangerous to return, have lived in the United States for decades, developing strong ties and making countless contributions to their local communities.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have been long-time supporters of TPS protections and comprehensive immigration legislation. In June, they joined their Democratic colleagues in a letter calling on the Senate Majority Leader to bring the House-passed American Dream and Promise Act to the Senate floor. In April, they joined their colleagues in urging the President to automatically extend work authorizations for TPS and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.

A copy of the letter can be downloaded here and text is available below. 

 

Dear Leader McConnell and Leader Schumer:

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we write to urge you to protect thousands of members of Virginia’s essential workforce, including those with Temporary Protected Status (TPS).  Temporary Protected Status is a temporary, legal status granted to foreign citizens fleeing violence or disaster in their home countries.  Many TPS residents have lived in the United States for decades because their home countries remain too dangerous to return. During their time in the United States, these American residents have made countless contributions to our communities.  Our House colleagues have taken steps to protect TPS residents by including an automatic extension for TPS holders’ Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) in the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act. 

We are proud to represent over 27,500 TPS holders in Virginia.[1] As the nation and region continue to grapple with the health and economic consequences of COVID-19, TPS holders are on the front lines, serving our communities.  In Virginia alone, an estimated 6,700 TPS holders work in industries deemed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as “essential critical infrastructure” including health care, agriculture, and manufacturing.[2]Automatically extending work authorization for TPS holders is not only the morally correct thing to do, but also in the best interest of the National Capitol Region’s, and the United States’ public health.

In Virginia, the vast majority of TPS holders come from El Salvador and Honduras, nations for whom TPS eligibility is in question due to ongoing litigation in Ramos v. Nielsen and Bhattarai v. Nielsen.[3]  Yesterday’s Ninth Circuit decision in Ramos v. Nielsen, which allows the Trump administration to move forward with ending TPS for El Salvadorans, further intensifies the need to provide stability for TPS recipients.  While DHS has automatically extended status and associated EADs for TPS holders from these nations through at least March 6, 2021, such assurances should be built upon as we quickly near DHS’s expiration deadline.  In a moment where their essential services are needed most, we would be unwise to turn our back on TPS holders.  The quickest means to retain the critical talent and work of TPS holders in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic is to automatically extend all work authorizations.  This would mitigate any processing backlogs at United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and help TPS holders and their families weather this uncertain time.

The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the reality that our nation relies on immigrant communities to disproportionately serve in critical industries, something we see in Virginia daily.  We urge you to prioritize the nation’s health and safety by including an automatic extension of work authorizations for TPS recipients in the next COVID-19 legislation.  We must take the necessary steps, including this one, to strengthen our essential workforce, not weaken it. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) released the following statement following a report that the Trump Administration transferred detainees from COVID-19 hotspots in Florida and Arizona in order to access additional federal agents to end peaceful protests in Washington, D.C.:

“We are outraged by the recent news report. The transfers callously put federal employees, the Farmville community, and detainees at risk, in what appears to be an effort to add more federal agents to forcibly disperse peaceful protestors in Washington, D.C. this summer. For months, we have sounded the alarm about the dangers of transferring detained people between facilities during the pandemic, and we’re horrified by the administration’s actions. We will be demanding more answers from DHS and ICE today and will also request an investigation from the Office of the Inspector General in light of this incident.” 

Sens. Warner and Kaine have repeatedly pushed this Administration to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Virginia detention facilities. In June, after a transfer that resulted in a spike of more than 50 COVID-19 cases at Farmville, the Senators urged the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to prioritize the health of detainees and workers by stopping the transfer of individuals in ICE custody and increasing COVID-19 testing at the facilities. Nearly a month later, with approximately 80 percent of the Farmville population testing positive for COVID-19, the Senators once again pressed ICE and DHS to stop transfers between facilities. They also posed a series of questions regarding the measures in place to safeguard the health of people in custody, staff members, and the community. In July, the Senators also insisted that the Trump Administration work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to create and deploy teams of epidemiologists to conduct an assessment of the pandemic’s impact at the facility after nearly every detained person in the Farmville facility contracted COVID-19. At the Senators urging, the CDC deployed their teams to the Farmville facility in August to conduct an assessment of the rate of infection among workers and detainees, risk factors for infection among workers and detainees, infection control and prevention practices in the facility, and transmission dynamics among workers, detainees, and the surrounding community.

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) expressed deep concern with plans by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to furlough more than 13,000 employees, including more than 750 in Virginia. In a letter, the Senators urged USCIS Acting Director Joseph Edlow to continue to pay its employees and immediately halt the planned August 30 furloughs that would financially devastate many civil servants and delay the processing of important immigration processes, including refugee petitions, as well as naturalization and green card applications.

“While we differ with President Trump’s administration on many immigration policy matters and believe USCIS could benefit from better fiscal management, USCIS civil servants should not be forced to pay the price for this administration’s choices and other agency decisions that led to the current financial state of USCIS,” the senators wrote in the letter. “As you know all too well, furloughing approximately 13,400 USCIS employees on August 30, would have disastrous effects on the livelihoods of families in the Commonwealth and across the country.  In Virginia alone, more than 750 civil servants could be left without a paycheck amidst the tremendous economic uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The consequences of such furloughs would not only reverberate within their families and our region, but also within the immigrant communities USCIS serves.” 

“If USCIS were to furlough a vast majority of its workforce, this would drastically undercut the agency’s mission to facilitate lawful entry and immigration to the United States,” they continued. “People throughout Virginia and the United States count on a fully functioning USCIS, including countless immigrants who await naturalization ceremonies, employers who rely on the talent and labor of nonimmigrant workers, and vulnerable populations such as asylum seekers.”

USCIS is the federal agency that oversees immigration into the United States, adjudicating immigration benefits and processing visa petitions, as well as asylum, citizenship, naturalization, green card, and refugee applications. The agency, which is funded by the application fees paid by applicants and petitioners, faces a budget shortfall due to a 50 percent drop in applications. Reports indicate that this drop has been caused in part by the Administration’s own policies. 

Full text of today’s letter is available here and below.

 

Joseph Edlow

Deputy Director for Policy and Acting Director

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

20 Massachusetts Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20001

Dear Acting Director Edlow:

We are deeply concerned that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) plans to furlough over 13,000 federal employees starting August 30, 2020. It has come to our attention that USCIS is no longer projecting a deficit for this fiscal year and can continue to pay its employees beyond the agency’s self-imposed deadline. We strongly urge you to use these funds to maintain employment for these federal workers. We are committed to work with you to prevent the impending furloughs of all USCIS employees from Virginia and across the country, and are willing to work together to find a solution to address the USCIS budget shortfall. 

We appreciate the conversations we have had with you, and the various concerns and nuances you have highlighted.  While we differ with President Trump’s administration on many immigration policy matters and believe USCIS could benefit from better fiscal management, USCIS civil servants should not be forced to pay the price for this administration’s choices and other agency decisions that led to the current financial state of USCIS.

As you know all too well, furloughing approximately 13,400 USCIS employees on August 30, would have disastrous effects on the livelihoods of families in the Commonwealth and across the country.  In Virginia alone, more than 750 civil servants could be left without a paycheck amidst the tremendous economic uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The consequences of such furloughs would not only reverberate within their families and our region, but also within the immigrant communities USCIS serves.

Employees at USCIS perform critical work in processing visa petitions, asylum, citizenship, and naturalization applications, green cards and refugee applications.  If USCIS were to furlough a vast majority of its workforce, this would drastically undercut the agency’s mission to facilitate lawful entry and immigration to the United States.  People throughout Virginia and the United States count on a fully functioning USCIS, including countless immigrants who await naturalization ceremonies, employers who rely on the talent and labor of nonimmigrant workers, and vulnerable populations such as asylum seekers. 

While we remain dedicated to finding a workable solution for USCIS and its employees, we urge an immediate halt of all furloughs planned for August 30.  Federal workers and immigrant communities deserve better than the havoc that would be brought on by such furloughs. We look forward to continuing conversations with you and our Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure we come to a solution.

Sincerely,

 

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) urged President Trump to work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to create and deploy teams of epidemiologists to the immigration detention center in Farmville, Va., where nearly every detainee has contracted COVID-19. This disastrous situation comes despite repeated requests by Sens. Warner and Kaine, who have urged the Trump Administration time and time again to cease the transfer of detained individuals during the current public health crisis.

“In early June, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, ICE transferred over 70 detainees to Farmville ICA from COVID-19 hotspots in Florida and Arizona. Within two weeks of their transfer, more than half of these detainees tested positive for COVID-19. There are now 287 confirmed cases of COVID-19 amongst detainees, which is approximately 80% of the population housed at Farmville, and 26 confirmed cases amongst staff members,” wrote the Senators.

They continued, “The Farmville ICE facility and surrounding community now face a dire situation where almost every detainee at the Farmville facility has tested positive for COVID-19. This presents a clear risk to individuals within the facility, but also endangers the broader community as facility staff and released detainees have interaction with the general public.”

In the letter, the Senators requested that the Trump Administration bring teams of epidemiologists to Farmville to conduct an overall assessment of the situation at the immigration detention facility – a request that has been backed by Virginia Governor Ralph S. Northam. 

Sens. Warner and Kaine have repeatedly pushed this Administration to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Virginia detention facilities. In June, after a transfer that resulted in a spike of more than 50 COVID-19 cases at Farmville, the Senators urged the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to prioritize the health of detainees and workers. Nearly a month later, with approximately 80 percent of the Farmville population testing positive for COVID-19, the Senators once again pressed ICE and DHS to stop transfers between facilities. They also posed a series of questions regarding the measures in place to safeguard the health of people in custody, staff members, and the community.

Full text of today’s letter is available here or below.

 

The Honorable Donald J. Trump

President of the United States

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW

Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Trump: 

On July 16, 2020, we sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acting Secretary Chad Wolf and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Acting Director Matthew Albence regarding the outbreak of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) at the ICE detention facility in Farmville, Virginia.  Among other things, we asked Acting Secretary Wolf and Acting Secretary Albence to work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to create and deploy teams of epidemiologists to conduct an overall assessment of the situation at the Farmville facility.  We write today to reiterate that request, which Virginia Governor Ralph S. Northam also supported in a July 22, 2020 letter to you.

In early June, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, ICE transferred over 70 detainees to Farmville ICA from COVID-19 hotspots in Florida and Arizona. Within two weeks of their transfer, more than half of these detainees tested positive for COVID-19. There are now 287 confirmed cases of COVID-19 amongst detainees, which is approximately 80% of the population housed at Farmville, and 26 confirmed cases amongst staff members. 

The Farmville ICE facility and surrounding community now face a dire situation where almost every detainee at the Farmville facility has tested positive for COVID-19.  This presents a clear risk to individuals within the facility but also endangers the broader community as facility staff and released detainees have interaction with the general public.  It is incumbent upon your administration to work with the CDC to create and deploy teams of epidemiologists to conduct an assessment of the pandemic’s impact at the Farmville ICE facility. State and local officials stand ready to support the CDC in efforts to help contain the current outbreak before it spreads to the surrounding Farmville community.

We must prioritize the health and well-being of the detainees and staff at the Farmville ICE facility as well as the Farmville community. We appreciate your attention to these issues and look forward to working together to address the public health crisis at the ICA Farmville detention facility.

Sincerely,

Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine

Cc: Dr. Robert Redfield, Director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) raised alarm with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for continuing to transfer individuals in custody between detention facilities, even as approximately 80 percent of the population at the Farmville, Va. detention center tests positive for COVID-19. In a letter, the Senators urged ICE and DHS to prioritize the health and well-being of detained individuals and staff, and to protect the communities that surround these facilities. This letter follows a previous June 26 letter sent by Sens. Warner and Kaine urging ICE to stop transfers, following a spike of 50 COVID-19 cases at the Farmville detention center.

“Despite the recent surge in cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) across the country, it is our understanding that ICE has not halted interstate detainee transfers between facilities,” wrote the Senators. “If this is true, ICE is continuing to endanger the health and safety of detainees and workers, as evidenced by the recent outbreak at the Immigration Centers of America Farmville (Farmville ICA) facility.”

They continued, “In early June, ICE transferred over 70 detainees to Farmville ICA from COVID-19 hotspots in Florida and Arizona. Within two weeks of their transfer, more than half of these detainees tested positive for COVID-19. As we stated in our June 26 letter, prior to the transfers, the facility had only a few cases of the virus. ICE is endangering a staggering number of lives of detainees, staff, and the surrounding Farmville community because of its decision to transfer detainees during the pandemic.” 

In the letter, the Senators requested that Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf and Acting Director of ICE Matthew Albence work with the Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC) to create and deploy teams of epidemiologists to conduct an overall assessment of the situation and confirm the seriousness of the spread in the Farmville facility. They also posed the following series of questions in order to understand what ICE is doing to protect the health of individuals in custody, staff members, and the community:

  1. Has ICE halted all transfers of detainees among detention facilities? If not, when was the last detainee or group of detainees transferred, and what were the original and final destinations?
    1. If all transfers have been halted, does ICE plan to resume transfers anytime soon? If so, please provide details, including when ICE expects to begin transfers and at which facilities.
  2. Did ICE distribute its COVID-19 Pandemic Response guidance to all detention facilities, and if so, on what date?
    1. How does ICE ensure detention facilities are implementing proper quarantine and isolation protocols?
    2. How does a detention center solicit help in containing a COVID-19 outbreak?
  1. Please explain in detail how ICE tracks COVID-19 cases in detention facilities and how quickly ICE updates its website with new numbers of cases.
  2. Is ICE notifying state and local health departments when a detainee who previously tested positive is released so that community experts can ensure appropriate contract tracing?  If so, what are the procedures for such notifications? If not, why is ICE choosing not to share this information with state and local health departments?

Sens. Warner and Kaine have previously pushed ICE to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in its facilities. In May, the Senators joined a letter calling on the DHS Inspector General to examine ICE detention facilities nationwide to evaluate whether the facilities’ operations, management, standards, and conditions have adapted to address the threat of COVID-19 to both the staff and detainees. 

Full text of today’s letter is available here or below.

 

Dear Acting Secretary Wolf and Acting Director Albence:

We write to follow up on our June 26, 2020 letter regarding detainee transfers and conditions at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities in Farmville, Virginia, and Bowling Green, Virginia, to which we have not received a response.  There are now 287 confirmed cases of COVID-19 amongst detainees, which is approximately 80% of the population housed at Farmville, and 26 confirmed cases amongst staff members. 

Despite the recent surge in cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) across the country, it is our understanding that ICE has not halted interstate detainee transfers between facilities. If this is true, ICE is continuing to endanger the health and safety of detainees and workers, as evidenced by the recent outbreak at the Immigration Centers of America Farmville (Farmville ICA) facility.

In early June, ICE transferred over 70 detainees to Farmville ICA from COVID-19 hotspots in Florida and Arizona. Within two weeks of their transfer, more than half of these detainees tested positive for COVID-19. As we stated in our June 26 letter, prior to the transfers, the facility had only a few cases of the virus.  ICE is endangering a staggering number of lives of detainees, staff, and the surrounding Farmville community because of its decision to transfer detainees during the pandemic. 

In order to assist in keeping the Commonwealth safe, we have several questions concerning how ICE is protecting the health of individuals in your custody, staff members, and the community.  Due to the rapidly rising number of COVID-19 cases at the Farmville detention facility, please reply by July 31, 2020.

  1. Has ICE halted all transfers of detainees among detention facilities? If not, when was the last detainee or group of detainees transferred, and what were the original and final destinations?
    1. If all transfers have been halted, does ICE plan to resume transfers anytime soon? If so, please provide details, including when ICE expects to begin transfers and at which facilities.
  2. Did ICE distribute its COVID-19 Pandemic Response guidance to all detention facilities, and if so, on what date?
    1. How does ICE ensure detention facilities are implementing proper quarantine and isolation protocols?
    2. How does a detention center solicit help in containing a COVID-19 outbreak?
  1. Please explain in detail how ICE tracks COVID-19 cases in detention facilities and how quickly ICE updates its website with new numbers of cases.
  2. Is ICE notifying state and local health departments when a detainee who previously tested positive is released so that community experts can ensure appropriate contact tracing?  If so, what are the procedures for such notifications? If not, why is ICE choosing not to share this information with state and local health departments?

Finally, as we witness almost the entire detainee population at Farmville testing positive for COVID-19, we ask that you work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to create and deploy teams of epidemiologists to conduct an overall assessment of the situation and confirm the seriousness of the spread in the Farmville facility. 

It is incumbent upon ICE to prioritize the health and well-being of its detainees and staff, and at the same time it must also protect the communities that its facilities inhabit. ICE must not view its facilities as silos in the fight to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and should allow local health authorities access and information to protect our communities.

We appreciate your attention to these issues and look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

 

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) urged U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to stop the transfer of individuals in ICE custody – such as the ones that recently resulted in a spike of more than 50 COVID-19 cases at the ICE detention facility in Farmville, Va. 

In a letter to Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, the Senators urged the Secretary to prioritize the health of detainees and workers at ICE detention centers and to work with the Virginia Department of Health to increase COVID-19 testing at these facilities.

“In early June, ICE transferred over 70 detainees from Arizona and Florida to the Immigration Centers of America Farmville (Farmville ICA) detention facility. While Farmville ICA appears to have followed appropriate quarantine measures, it seems the decision to transfer detainees between facilities has instead resulted in over 50 positive COVID-19 cases at Farmville ICA. Additionally, at least two staff members at Farmville ICA have tested positive for COVID-19,” wrote the Senators. “The situation in Virginia highlights the inherent danger of such interstate transfers at this time. We believe further transfers between local, state, and federal jails and detention centers would risk accelerating COVID-19 cases in facilities nationwide, along with putting surrounding communities at heightened risk and must be ceased at this time.” 

In the letter, the Senators called for widespread testing in the facilities in order to reduce further spread of the virus. Specifically, they pushed ICE to work with the Virginia Department of Health following a May offer by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam,  to provide testing support to the federally-controlled ICE detention facilities in both Farmville and Bowling Green.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have previously pushed ICE to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in its facilities. In May, the Senators joined a letter calling on the DHS Inspector General to examine ICE detention facilities nationwide to evaluate whether the facilities’ operations, management, standards, and conditions have adapted to address the threat of COVID-19 to both the staff and detainees. 

 

Full text of the letter is available here or below.

Dear Acting Secretary Wolf:

We write to seek immediate review of the conditions at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities in Farmville, Virginia and Bowling Green, Virginia. It is our understanding that despite the ongoing 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, ICE is continuing its practice of interstate detainee transfer among facilities.  Not unsurprisingly, as a result of such transfers, the facility in Farmville, Virginia recently took in detainees and then found a spike in positive cases of COVID-19 at the facility. The health and well-being of detainees and the workers should be the priority of ICE.  We urge ICE to immediately halt transferring individuals in ICE custody, and in the case of the two facilities in the Commonwealth, work quickly with the Virginia Department of Health to increase testing at each facility. 

In early June, ICE transferred over 70 detainees from Arizona and Florida to the Immigration Centers of America Farmville (Farmville ICA) detention facility. While Farmville ICA appears to have followed appropriate quarantine measures, it seems the decision to transfer detainees between facilities has instead resulted in over 50 positive COVID-19 cases at Farmville ICA. Additionally, at least two staff members at Farmville ICA have tested positive for COVID-19. The situation in Virginia highlights the inherent danger of such interstate transfers at this time. We believe further transfers between local, state, and federal jails and detention centers would risk accelerating COVID-19 cases in facilities nationwide, along with putting surrounding communities at heightened risk and must be ceased at this time.

Further, it is important that there be more widespread testing at the facilities in the Commonwealth now to stop any further spread of the virus. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, in a May 14, 2020, letter to the Virginia Congressional Delegation offered to provide testing support to the federally-controlled ICE detention facilities in both Farmville and Bowling Green. We encourage ICE to take the offer from the Governor and allow the State Health Commissioner and the Virginia Department of Health access to these facilities. Increased screening and testing within these detention centers will undoubtedly help curb the outbreaks that have resulted from transfers. 

Until ICE discontinues the practice of transfers and expands testing accessibility and resources, ICE will only continue to exacerbate conditions for individuals in its custody as well as staff members. We appreciate your attention to these issues, and we look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON— Following yesterday’s historic Supreme Court ruling rejecting President Donald Trump’s repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee, and 42 of his Senate Democratic colleagues in a letter to President Trump urging him to finally end his cruel attempts to deport DACA recipients, who are commonly known as Dreamers.  

“As the Supreme Court has recognized, it is well within your executive authority to protect Dreamers.  By contrast, going ahead with your Administration’s efforts to deport DACA recipients would be needlessly cruel and would weaken our nation’s essential workforce,” the Senators wrote to President Trump.  “Only Congress can provide a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, but it is up to you whether to use your Administration’s authority to allow these young immigrants who have benefitted America in countless ways to continue contributing to our nation, or to continue your efforts to deport them.”

Today, President Trump tweeted, “I have wanted to take care of DACA recipients better than the Do Nothing Democrats, but for two years they refused to negotiate.”  In fact, the President has rejected numerous bipartisan deals to protect Dreamers.  For example, on January 11, 2018, in a meeting in the Oval Office, he rejected a bipartisan immigration agreement that included protection for Dreamers.  On February 15, 2018, the Senate considered a bipartisan amendment offered by Senators Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Angus King (I-ME), which included a path to citizenship for Dreamers.  A bipartisan majority supported the amendment, but it failed to reach the 60 votes needed to pass because the Trump Administration issued a statement of opposition.  On the same day, the Senate rejected the President’s immigration proposal by a bipartisan supermajority of 39-60. 

In their letter to President Trump, the Senators also noted that in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 200,000 DACA recipients are working in occupational areas that the Trump Administration’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) identifies as part of the “essential critical infrastructure workforce.”  This includes an estimated 41,700 DACA recipients working in the health care industry, including physicians and physicians in training, intensive care nurses, paramedics, respiratory therapists, nursing assistants, and health technicians.  

The Dream Act was included in the 2013 comprehensive immigration reform bill that Durbin and Graham coauthored as part of the “Gang of Eight” – four Democrats and four Republicans.  The 2013 bill passed the Senate on a strong bipartisan vote of 68-32, but the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives refused to consider it.

Along with Durbin, today’s letter was also signed by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tom Carper (D-DE), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Chris Coons (D-DE), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Angus King (I-ME), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tina Smith (D-MN), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), and Doug Jones (D-AL).

Full text of today’s letter to President Trump is available here and below: 

 

June 19, 2020 

Dear President Trump:

Following the Supreme Court’s landmark decision on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), today you tweeted, “We will be submitting enhanced papers shortly in order to properly fulfil the Supreme Court’s ruling & request of yesterday”  We strongly urge you to change course and use your executive authority to protect, not deport, the young immigrants who are eligible for DACA. 

Eight years ago, following bipartisan requests from Congress, President Obama used his legal authority to establish DACA.  DACA provides temporary protection from deportation on an individualized basis to immigrants who arrived in the United States as children if they register with the government, pay a fee, and pass criminal and national security background checks.  The young people who are eligible for DACA, known as Dreamers, are American in every way except for their immigration status.  More than 800,000 Dreamers have come forward and received DACA.  DACA has been vital for Dreamers, who are contributing to our country as soldiers, nurses, teachers, and small business owners, and in many other ways. 

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 200,000 DACA recipients are working in occupational areas that your Administration’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) identifies as part of the “essential critical infrastructure workforce.”  This includes an estimated 41,700 DACA recipients working in the health care industry, including physicians and physicians in training, intensive care nurses, paramedics, respiratory therapists, nursing assistants, and health technicians.  It makes no sense to continue your efforts to deport these essential workers to countries they barely remember even as our nation grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic.

When you announced your repeal of DACA, you called on Congress to “legalize DACA,” and today you tweeted, “I have wanted to take care of DACA recipients better than the Do Nothing Democrats, but for two years they refused to negotiate.” In fact, you have rejected numerous bipartisan deals to protect Dreamers. For example, on January 11, 2018, in a meeting in the Oval Office, you rejected a bipartisan immigration agreement that included protection for Dreamers.  On February 15, 2018, the Senate considered a bipartisan amendment offered by Senators Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Angus King (I-ME) which included a path to citizenship for Dreamers.  A bipartisan majority supported the amendment, but it failed to reach the 60 votes needed to pass because your Administration issued a statement of opposition.  On the same day, the Senate rejected your immigration proposal by a bipartisan supermajority of 39-60.

On June 4, 2019, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 6, the American Dream and Promise Act, legislation that would give Dreamers a path to citizenship, on a strong bipartisan vote of 237-187.  The American Dream and Promise Act has now been pending in the Senate for more than a year. 

Mr. President, it is not too late for you to do the right thing.  Specifically, we call on you to immediately:

  1. Publicly announce that you will not make another attempt to repeal DACA;
  2. Direct DHS to reopen DACA to eligible individuals who have been unable to apply due to your decision to terminate DACA; and.
  3. Endorse the American Dream and Promise Act, which would pass the Senate on a strong bipartisan vote if you simply called on Leader McConnell to bring it to a vote. 

As the Supreme Court has recognized, it is well within your executive authority to protect Dreamers.  By contrast, going ahead with your Administration’s efforts to deport DACA recipients would be needlessly cruel and would weaken our nation’s essential workforce.  Only Congress can provide a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, but it is up to you whether to use your Administration’s authority to allow these young immigrants who have benefitted America in countless ways to continue contributing to our nation, or to continue your efforts to deport them.

It would be an American tragedy to deport DACA recipients who are saving lives in the midst of this pandemic.   We must ensure these talented young immigrants are not forced to stop working when the need for their public service has never been greater.  And we must give them the chance they deserve to become American citizens.

We, and hundreds of thousands of Dreamers, await your response.

Sincerely,

WASHINGTON - Following last week’s historic Supreme Court ruling rejecting President Donald Trump’s repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee and author of the Dream Act, and the entire Senate Democratic Caucus in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) calling on him to immediately take up the bipartisan House-passed American Dream and Promise Act, which will establish a path to citizenship for Dreamers and immigrants with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED). 

In their letter, the Senators noted that with Republicans in the majority, the Senate has failed to address our nation’s immigration challenges.  In the 116th Congress, the Border Security and Immigration Subcommittee has held only one hearing; the Senate Judiciary Committee has voted on only one immigration bill – the Trump Administration’s anti-asylum bill – and the Republican majority limited debate to only one hour and did not allow a single amendment to be offered; and McConnell has not brought a single immigration bill to the floor of the Senate. 

“It is not too late to change course.  As Majority Leader, you can immediately schedule a vote in the Senate for the American Dream and Promise Act,” the Senators wrote to McConnell.  “It would be an American tragedy to deport DACA recipients who are saving lives in the midst of this pandemic.   We must ensure these talented young immigrants are not forced to stop working when the need for their public service has never been greater.  And we must give them the chance they deserve to become American citizens.”

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 200,000 DACA recipients are working in occupational areas that the Trump Administration’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) identifies as part of the “essential critical infrastructure workforce.”  This includes an estimated 41,700 DACA recipients working in the health care industry, including physicians and physicians in training, intensive care nurses, paramedics, respiratory therapists, nursing assistants, and health technicians. 

The Dream Act was included in the 2013 comprehensive immigration reform bill that Durbin and Graham coauthored as part of the “Gang of Eight” – four Democrats and four Republicans.  The 2013 bill passed the Senate on a strong bipartisan vote of 68-32, but the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives refused to consider it.

Along with Warner and Durbin, today’s letter was also signed by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tom Carper (D-DE), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Chris Coons (D-DE), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Angus King (I-ME), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tina Smith (D-MN), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Doug Jones (D-AL), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).

Full text of today’s letter to Leader McConnell is available here and below: 

 

June 22, 2020 

Dear Leader McConnell:

Following the Supreme Court’s landmark decision on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), last week President Trump tweeted, “We will be submitting enhanced papers shortly in order to properly fulfil the Supreme Court’s ruling & request of yesterday.”  The Senate has a responsibility to consider legislation to protect the young immigrants who are eligible for DACA.  We call on you to immediately schedule a vote in the Senate on H.R. 6, the American Dream and Promise Act, legislation to give DACA recipients a path to citizenship that passed the House of Representatives more than a year ago. 

Eight years ago, following bipartisan requests from Congress, President Obama used his legal authority to establish DACA.  DACA provides temporary protection from deportation on an individualized basis to immigrants who arrived in the United States as children if they register with the government, pay a fee, and pass criminal and national security background checks.

The young people who are eligible for DACA, known as Dreamers, are American in every way except for their immigration status.  More than 800,000 Dreamers have come forward and received DACA.  DACA has been vital for Dreamers, who are contributing to our country as soldiers, nurses, teachers, and small business owners, and in many other ways. 

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 200,000 DACA recipients are working in occupational areas that the Trump Administration’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) identifies as part of the “essential critical infrastructure workforce.”  This includes an estimated 41,700 DACA recipients working in the health care industry, including physicians and physicians in training, intensive care nurses, paramedics, respiratory therapists, nursing assistants, and health technicians.  Congress must take action to ensure these essential workers are not deported to countries they barely remember even as our nation grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic.  

When President Trump announced his repeal of DACA, he called on Congress to “legalize DACA,” and last week he tweeted, “I have wanted to take care of DACA recipients better than the Do Nothing Democrats, but for two years they refused to negotiate.” In fact, the President has rejected numerous bipartisan deals to protect Dreamers. For example, on January 11, 2018, in a meeting in the Oval Office, he rejected a bipartisan immigration agreement that included protection for Dreamers.  On February 15, 2018, the Senate considered a bipartisan amendment offered by Senators Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Angus King (I-ME), which included a path to citizenship for Dreamers.  A bipartisan majority supported the amendment, but it failed to reach the 60 votes needed to pass because the Trump Administration issued a statement of opposition.  On the same day, the Senate rejected the President’s immigration proposal by a bipartisan supermajority of 39-60. 

With Republicans in the majority, the United States Senate has failed to address our immigration challenges.  In the 116th Congress, the Border Security and Immigration Subcommittee has held only one hearing; the Senate Judiciary Committee has voted on only one immigration bill – the Trump Administration’s anti-asylum bill – and the Republican majority limited debate to only one hour and did not allow a single amendment to be offered; and you, as Majority Leader, have not brought a single immigration bill to the floor of the Senate. 

It is not too late to change course.  As Majority Leader, you can immediately schedule a vote in the Senate for the American Dream and Promise Act.  It would be an American tragedy to deport DACA recipients who are saving lives in the midst of this pandemic.   We must ensure these talented young immigrants are not forced to stop working when the need for their public service has never been greater.  And we must give them the chance they deserve to become American citizens.

We, and hundreds of thousands of Dreamers, await your response.

Sincerely,

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) joined Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and 24 of his Senate colleagues in writing a letter announcing that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General (IG) will conduct a review of U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s (ICE) efforts to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in its facilities.

Following reports that ICE detention facilities with confirmed cases of COVID-19 were operating without processes to protect both staff and detainees such as providing protective gear, ensuring detainees have access to hygiene products, and practicing social distancing, Udall led a group of 26 Democratic senators in calling for the DHS IG to conduct a full assessment of ICE detention facilities nationwide to evaluate whether the facilities’ operations, management, standards, and conditions have adapted to address the threat of COVID-19 to both the staff and detainees.

“There is a long history of disease outbreaks in detention facilities and this is the first step toward ensuring that sufficient policies and practices are in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in ICE detention,” said Udall. “I am urging the DHS IG to be fully transparent and thorough in its review of the agency’s disease control procedures at detention facilities. And we expect the final report to include meaningful, unbiased recommendations that protect the health and safety of detainees, of the individuals who work at these facilities every day, and of the surrounding communities.”

In addition to Sens. Warner and Udall, the letter to DHS was joined by U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

The full text of the letter from the DHS IG can be found here.

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) joined Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and a group of 24 Democratic senators in calling for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General (IG) to conduct a full assessment, including site inspections, of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities nationwide to evaluate whether the facilities’ operations, management, standards, and conditions have adapted to address the threat of COVID-19 to both the staff and detainees. 

Joining Sens. Warner and Udall on the letter to the DHS IG were U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Dick Durbin (D-Il.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

The letter to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Joseph Cuffari cites reports from across the country that staff at ICE’s detention facilities with confirmed cases of COVID-19 are working without masks or gloves, detainees are not provided adequate access to hygiene products like soap and sanitizer, and facilities are doing little to accommodate social distancing practices. 

“As the numbers of detainees and detention facility staff infected with COVID-19 continue to climb, we share the unease that public health experts have expressed about the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in congregate settings, like detention facilities,” wrote the senators. “Not only are detainees at higher risk because they are in such close proximity to others, people in detention and incarceration are more likely to have other preexisting health conditions, which places them at even higher risk for mortality from the virus. Further, outbreaks inside congregate settings often affect employees who then can spread the disease into their broader communities.” 

In the letter, the senators request that “In order to mitigate the spread of this virus in its congregate settings, we request that, similar to the Justice Department Inspector General’s remote inspections of BOP facilities, you expeditiously conduct site inspections of ICE facilities that have identified positive cases among staff or detainees, and at facilities in geographic areas that have emerged as hot spots. Second, we ask that you immediately examine and assess the sufficiency of policies and practices in place at each facility to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”

The full text of the letter can be found here.

###

WASHINGTON – As the nation continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), and 36 Senators in a letter to President Donald Trump urging him to automatically extend work authorizations for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients and other impacted immigrants.

 More than 200,000 DACA recipients are working in occupational areas the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) identifies as part of the “essential critical infrastructure workforce.”  TPS recipients, like DACA recipients, are vital contributors to our economy and health care workforce, with more than 130,000 TPS holders serving as “essential critical infrastructure workers.” 

“This simple measure, which is well within your executive authority, will save American lives and avoid further disruptions to our economy,” the Senators wrote.  “By contrast, going ahead with your Administration’s efforts to deport more than a million DACA and TPS recipients would be needlessly cruel and greatly weaken our nation’s essential workforce.”

An estimated 41,700 DACA recipients and approximately 11,600 TPS recipients work in the health care industry, including physicians and physicians in training, intensive care nurses, paramedics, respiratory therapists, nursing assistants, and health technicians.  Additionally, an estimated 14,900 DACA recipients are teachers, many of whom are distance educating American children during the pandemic.

With U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offices closed to the public, and many USCIS services suspended, it is likely that Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) for many immigrants will expire.  EAD renewals are already backlogged and additional processing delays are inevitable due to COVID-19 disruptions.  Additionally, with hundreds of millions of Americans under stay-at-home orders, and hundreds of thousands infected with COVID-19, it will be difficult for many immigrants to collect the required information and submit renewal applications and fees within the required timeframe.

Along with Sens. Warner and Durbin, the letter was also signed by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tom Carper (D-DE), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Kirstin Gillibrand (D-NY), Chris Coons (D-DE), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Angus King (I-ME), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV). 

Full text of the letter is available here and below: 

 

April 15, 2020
Dear President Trump:           

As our nation grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, we strongly urge your Administration to automatically extend work authorizations for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients and other impacted immigrants.  This simple measure, which is well within your executive authority, will save American lives and avoid further disruptions to our economy.  By contrast, going ahead with your Administration’s efforts to deport more than a million DACA and TPS recipients would be needlessly cruel and greatly weaken our nation’s essential workforce. 

DACA provides temporary relief from deportation to immigrants who arrived in the United States as children if they register with the government, pay a fee, and clear criminal and national-security background checks.  These young people, known as Dreamers, are American in every way except for their immigration status.  More than 800,000 Dreamers have come forward and received DACA, which has allowed them to contribute more fully to their country and their communities in myriad ways.  More than 200,000 DACA recipients are working in occupational areas the Department of Homeland Security identifies as part of the “essential critical infrastructure workforce.”  An estimated 41,700 DACA recipients work in the health care industry, including physicians and physicians in training, intensive care nurses, paramedics, respiratory therapists, nursing assistants, and health technicians.  Additionally, an estimated 14,900 DACA recipients are teachers, many of whom are distance educating American children during the pandemic. 

TPS currently provides safety in the United States to approximately 411,000 people from 10 countries, the majority of whom have lived in the United States for more than two decades.  Like DACA recipients, TPS recipients must register with the government, pay a fee, and clear criminal and national-security background checks.  Collectively, more than 90 percent of TPS recipients are nationals of El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti, three of the six countries for which your Administration has attempted to terminate TPS.  TPS recipients, like DACA recipients, are vital contributors to our economy and healthcare workforce.  More than 130,000 TPS holders are “essential critical infrastructure workers,” including 11,600 health care workers.

With U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offices closed to the public, and many USCIS services suspended, it is likely that Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) for many immigrants will expire.  USCIS’s recent decision to process renewals using previously submitted biometrics means that EAD renewals can be adjudicated without a new biometric appointment. However, EAD renewals are already backlogged and additional processing delays are inevitable due to COVID-19 disruptions.  Additionally, with hundreds of millions of Americans under stay-at-home orders, and hundreds of thousands infected with COVID-19, it will be difficult for many immigrants to collect the required information and submit renewal applications and fees within the required timeframe.

Your Administration can immediately ease burdens for thousands of American families, and prevent further, unnecessary economic disruptions during this public health emergency by automatically extending employment authorizations for DACA and TPS recipients and other impacted immigrants.  As Jesus Contreras, a DACA recipient paramedic in Houston who is on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19, says, “We’re not only going to have to worry about this pandemic, but we’re going to have to worry about our immigration status and deportation.”  Similarly, Aldo Martinez, a DACA recipient paramedic in Fort Myers, Florida who is responding to calls from COVID-19 patients, says that losing work authorization would “create more chaos in an already chaotic situation.”  Dr. Manuel Bernal Mejia, a resident in the emergency room at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Chicago, says DACA is “letting me treat and care for patients that are facing this deathly pandemic right now.… If you take away DACA. . . it is at least one doctor less to take care of a patient who is critically ill with this virus.”

You can order DHS to immediately ensure that Jesus, Aldo, Manuel, and hundreds of thousands of others in our essential workforce are not forced to stop working when the need for their services has never been greater.  We urge you to prioritize our nation’s health, safety, and economic wellbeing as we grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,    

###

SPRINGFIELD – As our nation continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee, and 26 of their Senate colleagues in a letter to President Donald Trump urging him to automatically extend work authorizations for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients and other impacted immigrants.

More than 200,000 DACA recipients are working in occupational areas the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) identifies as part of the “essential critical infrastructure workforce.”  TPS recipients, like DACA recipients, are vital contributors to our economy and health care workforce, with more than 130,000 TPS holders serving as “essential critical infrastructure workers.”

“This simple measure, which is well within your executive authority, will save American lives and avoid further disruptions to our economy,” the Senators wrote.  “By contrast, going ahead with your Administration’s efforts to deport more than a million DACA and TPS recipients would be needlessly cruel and greatly weaken our nation’s essential workforce.”

An estimated 41,700 DACA recipients and approximately 11,600 TPS recipients work in the health care industry, including physicians and physicians in training, intensive care nurses, paramedics, respiratory therapists, nursing assistants, and health technicians.  Additionally, an estimated 14,900 DACA recipients are teachers, many of whom are distance educating American children during the pandemic.

With U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offices closed to the public, and many USCIS services suspended, it is likely that Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) for many immigrants will expire.  EAD renewals are already backlogged and additional processing delays are inevitable due to COVID-19 disruptions.  Additionally, with hundreds of millions of Americans under stay-at-home orders, and hundreds of thousands infected with COVID-19, it will be difficult for many immigrants to collect the required information and submit renewal applications and fees within the required timeframe.

Along with Sens. Warner and Durbin, today’s letter is also signed by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tom Carper (D-DE), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Kirstin Gillibrand (D-NY), Chris Coons (D-DE), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Angus King (I-ME), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV). 

 

Full text of the letter is available here and below:

 April 15, 2020

Dear President Trump: 

As our nation grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, we strongly urge your Administration to automatically extend work authorizations for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients and other impacted immigrants.  This simple measure, which is well within your executive authority, will save American lives and avoid further disruptions to our economy.  By contrast, going ahead with your Administration’s efforts to deport more than a million DACA and TPS recipients would be needlessly cruel and greatly weaken our nation’s essential workforce. 

DACA provides temporary relief from deportation to immigrants who arrived in the United States as children if they register with the government, pay a fee, and clear criminal and national-security background checks.  These young people, known as Dreamers, are American in every way except for their immigration status.  More than 800,000 Dreamers have come forward and received DACA, which has allowed them to contribute more fully to their country and their communities in myriad ways.  More than 200,000 DACA recipients are working in occupational areas the Department of Homeland Security identifies as part of the “essential critical infrastructure workforce.”  An estimated 41,700 DACA recipients work in the health care industry, including physicians and physicians in training, intensive care nurses, paramedics, respiratory therapists, nursing assistants, and health technicians.  Additionally, an estimated 14,900 DACA recipients are teachers, many of whom are distance educating American children during the pandemic.

TPS currently provides safety in the United States to approximately 411,000 people from 10 countries, the majority of whom have lived in the United States for more than two decades.  Like DACA recipients, TPS recipients must register with the government, pay a fee, and clear criminal and national-security background checks.  Collectively, more than 90 percent of TPS recipients are nationals of El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti, three of the six countries for which your Administration has attempted to terminate TPS.  TPS recipients, like DACA recipients, are vital contributors to our economy and healthcare workforce.  More than 130,000 TPS holders are “essential critical infrastructure workers,” including 11,600 health care workers.

With U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offices closed to the public, and many USCIS services suspended, it is likely that Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) for many immigrants will expire.  USCIS’s recent decision to process renewals using previously submitted biometrics means that EAD renewals can be adjudicated without a new biometric appointment. However, EAD renewals are already backlogged and additional processing delays are inevitable due to COVID-19 disruptions.  Additionally, with hundreds of millions of Americans under stay-at-home orders, and hundreds of thousands infected with COVID-19, it will be difficult for many immigrants to collect the required information and submit renewal applications and fees within the required timeframe.

Your Administration can immediately ease burdens for thousands of American families, and prevent further, unnecessary economic disruptions during this public health emergency by automatically extending employment authorizations for DACA and TPS recipients and other impacted immigrants.  As Jesus Contreras, a DACA recipient paramedic in Houston who is on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19, says, “We’re not only going to have to worry about this pandemic, but we’re going to have to worry about our immigration status and deportation.”  Similarly, Aldo Martinez, a DACA recipient paramedic in Fort Myers, Florida who is responding to calls from COVID-19 patients, says that losing work authorization would “create more chaos in an already chaotic situation.”  Dr. Manuel Bernal Mejia, a resident in the emergency room at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Chicago, says DACA is “letting me treat and care for patients that are facing this deathly pandemic right now.… If you take away DACA. . . it is at least one doctor less to take care of a patient who is critically ill with this virus.”

You can order DHS to immediately ensure that Jesus, Aldo, Manuel, and hundreds of thousands of others in our essential workforce are not forced to stop working when the need for their services has never been greater.  We urge you to prioritize our nation’s health, safety, and economic wellbeing as we grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,    

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) and U.S. Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-MA-07) and a group of 36 Senators and 87 Representatives in pressing the Trump Administration on reports that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is preparing mass deportations of Dreamers, young immigrants who grew up in the United States and know no other home.  Many Dreamers have reported receiving notice that their deportation cases have recently been reopened.  U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a statement confirming that DACA deportation cases that had been administratively closed will be reopened and that this “is occurring nationwide and not isolated to a particular state or region.”  

The Supreme Court is currently considering the legality of President Trump’s cruel repeal of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), with a decision expected by June.  

“Only Congress can provide a permanent solution for Dreamers, but if the Supreme Court permits President Trump’s DACA repeal to stand, the fate of the Dreamers will be in your hands,” the members wrote in a letter to DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf.  “It will be up to you whether to use DHS’s limited resources to deport these young immigrants who have benefitted America in countless ways through their talents, hard work, and service.”

Along with Durbin and Harris, today’s letter was also signed by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tom Carper (D-DE), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Chris Coons (D-DE), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV).

Along with Rep. Pressley, the letter was also signed by U.S. Representatives Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ-03), Gwen Moore (D-WI-04), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-02), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ-12), Julia Brownley (D-CA-26), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA-07), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-09), Tony Cárdenas (D-CA-29), Sylvia R. Garcia (D-TX-29), Judy Chu (D-CA-27), Jahana Hayes (D-CT-05), Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY-05), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY-14), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-03), Nydia M. Velázquez  (D-NY-07), James P. McGovern (D-MA-02), Dina Titus (D-NV-01), Ilhan Omar (D-MN-05), Rashida  Tlaib (D-MI-13), David Trone (D-MD-06), Bill Foster (D-IL-11), Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr. (D-CA-39), Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL-26), Veronica Escobar (D-TX-16), Joaquin Castro (D-TX-20), Jerold Nadler (D-NY-10), Jesús G. “Chuy” García (D-IL-04), Jim Cooper (D-TN-05), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM-03), Karen Bass (D-CA-37), Jamie Raskin (D-MD-08), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (D-GA-04), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY-13), Scott Peters (D-CA-25), Mark Pocan (D-WI-02), Linda T. Sánchez (D-CA-38), Lori Trahan (D-MA-03), Alcee Hastings (D-FL-20), Grace Meng (D-NY-06), Jared Huffman (D-CA-02), Katherine Clark (D-MA-05), Al Green (D-TX-09), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-03), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA-11), Bennie Thompson (D-MS-02), Danny K. Davis (D-IL-07), Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO-05), Mike Quigley (D-IL-05), Deb Haaland (D-NM-01), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA-19), Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA-11), Darren Soto (D-FL-09), Peter A. DeFazio (D-OR-04), Joseph P. Kennedy, III (D-MA-04), Donna Shalala (D-FL-27), Kathy Castor (D-FL-14), Jimmy Gomez (D-CA-34), Ted Deutch (D-FL-22), Peter Welch (D-VT), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY-08), TJ Cox (D-CA-21), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL-23), Daniel T. Kildee (D-MI-05), Filemon Vela (D-TX-34), J. Luis Correa (D-CA-46), Salud Carbajal (D-CA-24), Dwight Evans (D-PA-03), Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY-09), Grace Napolitano (D-CA-32), Diana DeGette (D-CO-01), David N. Cicilline (D-RI-01), Eliot L. Engel (D-NY-16), Norma J. Torres (D-CA-35), John Yarmuth (D-KY-03), Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA-44), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA-47), Greg Stanton (D-AZ-09), Steve Horsford (D-NV-04), Adam Schiff (D-CA-28), Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA-18), Mike Thompson (D-CA-05), Juan Vargas (D-CA-51), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA-20), and André Carson (D-IN-07). 

Full text of the letter is available here and below: 

 

March 19, 2020 

Dear Acting Secretary Wolf:                                                                     

We are gravely concerned that the Trump Administration is preparing mass deportations of Dreamers, young immigrants who grew up in the United States and know no other home.  We write to urgently seek more information about the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) plans for removing DACA recipients.

As you know, the Supreme Court is currently considering the legality of President Trump’s cruel repeal of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), with a decision expected by June.  During oral argument on November 12, 2019, Chief Justice Roberts seemingly minimized the significance of the outcome, saying:  “Both [the Obama and Trump] administrations have said they’re not going to deport the people.” 

Contrary to the Chief Justice’s expectations, it appears that the Trump Administration is planning to deport DACA recipients whose deportation cases had been administratively closed.  Many Dreamers have reported receiving notice that their deportation cases have recently been reopened.  U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a statement confirming that DACA deportation cases that had been administratively closed will be reopened and that this “is occurring nationwide and not isolated to a particular state or region.”  On January 23, Acting ICE Director Matthew Albence replied to a question about these actions, saying that if “DACA is done away with by the Supreme Court, we can actually effectuate those removal orders.”  Similarly, in response to questioning from Senator Kamala D. Harris at a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on March 4, you said that DHS would deport these DACA recipients, testifying: “So when we get final orders of removal, we’re going to effectuate those.”

Eight years ago, following bipartisan requests from Congress, President Obama used his legal authority to establish DACA.  DACA provides temporary protection from deportation to Dreamers on an individualized basis if they register with the government, pay a fee, and pass criminal and national security background checks.  DACA is a lawful exercise of the President’s authority to establish deportation priorities.  Past administrations—Democratic and Republican—have stopped deportations of low-priority cases and courts have long recognized this authority.

More than 800,000 Dreamers have come forward and received DACA.  DACA has unleashed the full potential of Dreamers, who are contributing to our country as soldiers, nurses, teachers, and small business owners, and in many other ways.  Now, as a result of President Trump’s decision, these Dreamers face losing their authorization to work and being deported to countries they barely remember.  When he announced the repeal of DACA, President Trump called on Congress to “legalize DACA,” but since then, he has rejected numerous bipartisan deals to protect Dreamers.

In response to the crisis that President Trump created, the House of Representatives passed the American Dream and Promise Act on a strong bipartisan vote of 237-187.  The American Dream and Promise Act is now pending in the Senate, as is the bipartisan Dream Act, and it is up to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell whether to give Dreamers a path to citizenship by calling this legislation for a vote.

Only Congress can provide a permanent solution for Dreamers, but if the Supreme Court permits President Trump’s DACA repeal to stand, the fate of the Dreamers will be in your hands.  It will be up to you whether to use DHS’s limited resources to deport these young immigrants who have benefitted America in countless ways through their talents, hard work, and service.

In light of the clear statements above that the Trump Administration is preparing to deport DACA recipients whose deportation cases had been administratively closed, we request that you respond to the following questions as soon as possible, and no later than April 9, 2020:

  1. How many DACA recipients’ cases have been administratively closed since August 15, 2012?

  1. How many of these cases of DACA recipients that had been administratively closed have subsequently been reopened or re-calendared since January 20, 2017?

  1. How many current or former DACA recipients have been ordered removed since January 20, 2017? 
  1. How many current or former DACA recipients have been removed since January 20, 2017?

  1. Since January 20, 2017, how many DACA recipients’ and DACA applicants’ information has been provided to ICE? 

  1. During the March 4 hearing, you committed to provide plans developed by ICE with regard to DACA recipients that take into account the various potential decisions the Supreme Court may issue.  Please include that information in your response.

Thank you for your time and consideration.  We look forward to your prompt response.

Sincerely,

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released a statement after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced its decision to release an additional 35,000 H-2B temporary nonagricultural worker visas – a move that will benefit Virginia’s seafood processing industry, a community largely made up of rural, family-owned operations. This decision follows strong advocacy by Sen. Warner, who has repeatedly urged DHS to release additional visas in order to provide much-needed support to the seafood industry in the Commonwealth.

“I’m relieved to know that with harvest season approaching, Virginia’s family-owned seafood processors will be able to access these additional visas in order to hire more seasonal workers and keep their operations up and running,” said Sen. Warner. “I’ve heard from many seafood businesses how difficult it can be to fulfill labor needs in an industry with such tough and temporary jobs like processing crabs and shucking oysters. I know Virginia businesses still have questions about how the visas will be allocated and how soon they can get workers on the job. I will continue to stay in close contact with both the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor and push for these answers. Going forward, we have to work to make sure that our seafood processors no longer have to worry about whether they will be forced to lose supply agreements due to a lack of labor. That’s why I’m going to continue fighting for legislation I introduced to strengthen the H-2B visa program and help seasonal employers better prepare for fluctuations in demand during peak seasons.”

H-2B visas allow employers to temporarily hire nonimmigrant workers to perform nonagricultural labor or services in the United States if U.S. workers are not available, after completing rigorous application and certification process. These visas are critical to the survival of Virginia’s seafood industry – particularly the seafood processing community around the Chesapeake Bay.

According to the Virginia Institute of Marine Science’s last complete study of this kind, the commercial seafood industry in Virginia generates $407.9 million in economic output, which includes all economic activity from harvesters to restaurants. Of that $407.9 million, 62 percent comes from seafood processing/wholesaling firms – the primary companies who rely on the H-2B worker program. Additionally, according to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, in 2017, Virginia oysters alone had a dockside value of more than $48.9 million dollars, followed by Quahog Clams with more than $47.6 million and Blue Crabs with more than $38 million in dockside value.

Sen. Warner has long advocated for the release of these additional visas. Most recently, he led six of his Senate colleagues in urging DHS to release additional H-2B visas needed to support local seafood businesses. In February, in a bipartisan call, he pressed DHS Secretary Wolf to release the additional Congressionally-authorized H-2B visas, to publicly announce this intent, and to do so as quickly as possible. Additionally, earlier this year, he joined a bipartisan, bicameral letter calling on the Administration to increase the statutory cap of H-2B visas for FY20. He also recently met with DOL Secretary Eugene Scalia to discuss the impact of the H-2B program on Virginia and urge the Secretary to work alongside DHS to release the additional visas in a timely fashion.

Sen. Warner has previously introduced bipartisan legislation to strengthen the H-2B visa program, and has requested an audit to determine the number of unused visas that could be made available to eligible petitioners.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) was joined by six of his Senate colleagues in calling on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to release the additional H-2B visas needed to support local seafood businesses in Virginia and states like Alaska, Maryland, and North Carolina. The letter, signed by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Dan Sullivan (D-AK), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), urges the DHS to quickly authorize additional visas for temporary non-agricultural workers so that seafood industries around the country can hire seasonal workers and continue operations. 

“Many of the seafood businesses we represent are family-owned operations that go back multiple generations, often in rural areas of our states. Despite good faith efforts to find local seasonal workers, our seafood industries rely on H-2B workers for tough jobs such as shucking oysters and processing crabs,” wrote the Senators. “These businesses are entirely reliant on the forces of nature that determine, for example, when salmon will run and be ready for harvest. Without H-2B visas, some local businesses will be forced to reduce the size of their American workforces.”

“We urge the Department to promptly make available sufficient visas to meet the labor needs of our states’ seafood industries, and to announce its intent to do so by March 1, 2020,” they continued. “Local seafood businesses earn their livelihoods based on perishable products, and need H-2B workers to harvest and process their respective seafood products so they can sell those products. If these local businesses lose a customer base one year, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to come back into the industry. We have already heard from local businesses that will be forced to shut down ahead of the 2020 season if a sufficient number of Congressionally-authorized H-2B visas are not released.”

H-2B visas allow employers to temporarily hire nonimmigrants to perform nonagricultural labor or services in the United States if U.S. workers are not available, after completing rigorous application and certification process. These visas are critical to the survival of Virginia’s seafood industry – particularly the seafood processing community around the Chesapeake Bay. Last month, Sen. Warner met with Virginia seafood processors in Tappahannock, who expressed concern with their inability to fill their seasonal labor needs, resulting in lost supply agreements with grocery stores and other customer suppliers who are then forced to turn to foreign imports for their orders.

According to the Virginia Institute of Marine Science’s last complete study of this kind, the commercial seafood industry in Virginia generates $407.9 million in economic output, which includes all economic activity from harvesters to restaurants. Of that $407.9 million, 62 percent comes from seafood processing/wholesaling firms – the primary companies who rely on the H-2B worker program. Additionally, according to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, in 2017, Virginia oysters alone had a dockside value of more than $48.9 million dollars, followed by Quahog Clams with more than $47.6 million and Blue Crabs with more than $38 million in dockside value.

In the letter, the Senators note that the Congressionally-authorized FY20 Consolidated Appropriations Act gives the DHS Secretary, in consultation with the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), the authority to raise the cap on H-2B visas, and issue additional visas as needed.

Sen. Warner has long advocated for Virginia’s seafood processing industry – a community largely made up of rural, family-owned operations. Earlier this month, in a bipartisan call, he pressed DHS Secretary Wolf to release the additional Congressionally-authorized H-2B visas, to publicly announce this intent, and to do so as quickly as possible. Additionally, in January, he joined a bipartisan, bicameral letter calling on the Administration to increase the statutory cap of H-2B visas for FY20. He also recently met with DOL Secretary Eugene Scalia to discuss the impact of the H-2B program on Virginia and urge the Secretary to work alongside DHS to release the additional visas in a timely fashion. Sen. Warner has previously introduced bipartisan legislation to strengthen the H-2B visa program, and has requested an audit to determine the number of unused visas that could be made available to eligible petitioners.

The letter is available here and below.

 

The Honorable Chad F. Wolf

Acting Secretary

United States Department of Homeland Security

3801 Nebraska Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20528

Dear Acting Secretary Wolf:

We write on behalf of local seafood businesses in Virginia, Alaska, Maryland, and North Carolina who need the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to release additional H-2B visas in order to hire seasonal workers and continue operations.  We were encouraged to hear that you have been working diligently on this issue when we spoke with you last week. 

Many of the seafood businesses we represent are family-owned operations that go back multiple generations, often in rural areas of our states.  Despite good faith efforts to find local seasonal workers, our seafood industries rely on H-2B workers for tough jobs such as shucking oysters and processing crabs.  These businesses are entirely reliant on the forces of nature that determine, for example, when salmon will run and be ready for harvest.  Without H-2B visas, some local businesses will be forced to reduce the size of their American workforces.

Under the “Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020”, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of the Department of Labor (DOL), is authorized to provide expeditious H-2B cap relief for our local businesses’ upcoming seasonal labor needs.  We urge the Department to promptly make available sufficient visas to meet the labor needs of our states’ seafood industries, and to announce its intent to do so by March 1, 2020. 

Local seafood businesses earn their livelihoods based on perishable products, and need H-2B workers to harvest and process their respective seafood products so they can sell those products.  If these local businesses lose a customer base one year, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to come back into the industry.  We have already heard from local businesses that will be forced to shut down ahead of the 2020 season if a sufficient number of Congressionally-authorized H-2B visas are not released. 

Without answers on H-2B visa cap relief for 2020, our seafood industries remain in a unique and perilous position.  We urge you to quickly announce your intent to make available sufficient H-2B visas authorized as Congress.  Thank you for your careful attention to this critical matter.  

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin (both D-Md.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) released the following statement today regarding a bipartisan call the Senators participated in last night with the Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf:

“The release of additional H-2B visas to allow our local businesses to hire seasonal workers is of vital and urgent importance to Maryland and Virginia’s seafood industries. Last night, on a call with the Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf, we stressed this need and pressed the Secretary to act immediately. We were pleased to hear that he has been working diligently on this issue, and we will continue pushing to ensure that additional visas are released quickly. Without these additional visas, our states’ treasured crab and oyster industries – which are made up of many small, family-owned businesses and are crucial to the economies of the Eastern Shore and Northern Neck – will be forced to scale back operations, default on contracts, lay off full-time American workers or, in some cases, close operations completely. We will keep fighting to protect this important regional industry and to address this issue long-term.”

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