Refugee Legislation

*Note: Updated for the 115th Congress (as of March 20, 2017)

House Bills and Resolutions

H.R.48 – The Equal Rights and Access for the Women of South Sudan Act requires that the United States’ nation building actions in South Sudan, including in police and military training, political training, healthcare and education improvement, are inclusive of women, their needs, and promoting gender equality. These actions extend to refugee women and children, and the bill requires that sufficient resources are allocated to ensuring maternal and female healthcare and that women have access to “food aid, shelter, relief supplies, and other services from United States-sponsored programs.” The bill also requires that all necessary steps are taken to both protect refugee women and children in camps from sexual exploitation and to help refugees return home safely. Sponsors: Rep. Jackson Lee, Sheila [D-TX-18] and zero cosponsors.

H.R.81 – The Resettlement Accountability National Security Prioritization Act of 2017 would ban refugees from Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, and Syria for the next four years unless Congress passes a joint resolution to admit these refugees. After four years, all refugees from these countries will be banned indefinitely from entering the United States. The Comptroller General will submit reports on refugees’ impact on national security, and on the benefits used by refugees for the past 10 years. The bill seeks to demonize refugees by painting them as a security threat and economic drain, and stops refugees from certain Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. Sponsors: Rep. Babin, Brian [R-TX-36] and co-sponsored by 2 Republican Representatives.

H.R.114 – The Social Media Screening for Terrorists Act of 2017 requires the Department of Homeland Security to search all Internet sites, social media profiles, and public records when deciding whether an immigrant is inadmissible into the the United States. Sponsors: Rep. Buchanan, Vern [R-FL-16] and co-sponsored by Rep. McCaul, Michael T. [R-TX-10] and 1 Republican Representative.

H.R.120 – The Unaccompanied Alien Children Assistance Control Act reduces the amount of foreign assistance given by the United States to Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador by $15,000 for every child who is a national of one of these countries and is in Federal custody because of his or her immigration status. Sponsors: Rep. Burgess, Michael C. [R-TX-26] and zero co-sponsors.

H.R.379 –  The Justice for Yazidis Act outlines crimes against humanity committed by the Islamic State (IS) against Yazidis, Christians, and Shiite Muslims. Sect. 3 of the bill states that Syrian and Iraqi nationals who are religious minorities within Iraq or Syria are classified as refugees of special humanitarian concern, are eligible for Priority 2 refugee resettlement processing, and may apply directly to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. No refugee can be disqualified for admission under Sect. 3 of this bill because the refugee is an immediate relative, qualifies for any other immigrant classification, or was referred for admission by a United States NGO. Iraqi and Syrian religious minorities who were denied refugee status after June 1, 2014, may reapply. The bill requires the Secretary of State to create a program that trains mental health providers in Iraq, Syria, and host countries of Yazidi, Christian, Shabak, and Turkmen refugees. Sponsors: Rep. Hastings, Alcee L. [D-FL-20] and co-sponsored by 3 Democrat Representatives.

H.R.390 –  The Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act of 2017 addresses the blatant crimes against humanity committed in Syria and Iraq, and focuses largely on religious and ethnic minorities. The bill requires the United States to hold war criminals in Iraq and Syria accountable by conducting criminal investigations, collecting evidence, identifying humanitarian needs and working to meet them, developing investigative and judicial capacities, and making funds available for this work. The bill also makes Syrian and Iraqi religious and ethnic minorities eligible for Priority 2 processing for refugee resettlement and provides waivers for certain actions that usually would be grounds for inadmissibility as long as those actions were taken to avoid persecution. Sponsors: Rep. Smith, Christopher H. [R-NJ-4] and co-sponsored by 5 Democrat Representatives and 23 Republican Representatives.

H.R.441 – The Secure Accountability for Emigres and Refugees Act of 2017 or the SAFER Act of 2017 requires that Syrian and Iraqi refugees take a lie detector test, give biometric identification information, including DNA, to be be tested against all relevant databases, and have a background check done on all their social media. Sponsors: Rep. Calvert, Ken [R-CA-42] and co-sponsored by Rep. Rohrabacher, Dana [R-CA-48], Rep. Knight, Stephen [R-CA-25], Rep. Hunter, Duncan D. [R-CA-50], and 1 Republican Representative.

H.R.546 – The No Resettlement Without Consent Act requires the approval of a state’s governor before any refugee can be resettled in his or her state. The act also prohibits the resettlement of any refugee in a locality that has a law or policy that disapproves of refugee resettlement in that area. Sponsors: Rep. Culberson, John Abney [R-TX-7] and co-sponsored by Rep. Sessions, Pete [R-TX-32] and 4 Republican Representatives.

H.R.565 – The Save Christians from Genocide Act states that Christians and Yadizis in Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Iran, and Libya are targets of genocide and gives them first priority among applications for refugee status. Christian and Yazidi nationals of these countries and individuals with no nationality but whose last habitual residence was one of these countries will have expedited visa processing and are not required to be outside their country of nationality to be considered for refugee status. Sponsors: Rep. Rohrabacher, Dana [R-CA-48] and co-sponsored by 5 Republican Representatives.

H.R. 604 – The State Refugee Security Act of 2017 would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to permit the governor of a state to reject the resettlement of a refugee in that state unless there is adequate assurance that the refugee does not present a security risk. The Office of Refugee Resettlement must notify the state 21 days prior to the refugee settling in that state. If the governor decides she or he has not received adequate information to determine that the refugee is safe, the refugee will not be admitted into that state. Same as S.211. Sponsors: Rep. Poe, Ted [R-TX-2] and co-sponsored by Rep. Babin, Brian [R-TX-36] and 10 Republican Representatives.

H.R.858 – The DREAMers, Immigrants, and Refugees (DIRe) Legal Aid Act requires the Attorney General to give grants to nonprofit legal services providers with immigration expertise. These grants must be used to provide legal advice and services to immigrants who are legal permanent residences, DACA recipients, or refugees, and their spouses and parents, who have already been admitted to or who qualified for admittance to the United States. Immigrants must be given the contact information of these legal services providers, and immigrants in detention must be allowed to speak with one of these providers. The bill affords $5,000,000 in grants. Within 180 days of the enactment of the bill, the Under Secretary for Science and Technology will conduct a study to note the differences in outcomes between immigrants with legal representation and those without representation. Sponsors: Rep. Correa, J. Luis [D-Ca-46] and co-sponsored by 57 Democrat Representatives.

H.R.1006 – The Access to Counsel Act states that any person subject to removal, exclusion, deportation proceedings, or inspection is entitled to legal counsel and representation as he or she chooses. The government does not pay for the counsel. If counsel cannot meet directly with a person in holding, detention, or inspection at a port of entry, redress options must be provided within the first hour of holding or detainment regardless of the day or time of day. Individuals held or detained at ports of entry cannot submit a valid Record of Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status or Withdrawal of Application for Admission if they have been denied access to counsel. Individuals held or detained at ports of entry or any detention facility must have access to food, water, restroom facilities, and must be held for the shortest amount of time and in the least restrictive conditions possible. Sponsors: Rep. Jayapal, Pramila [D-Wa-7] and co-sponsored by 46 Democrat Representatives.

H.R.1014 – The Haiti Emergency Relief Act of 2017 adds Haiti to section 244 of the Immigration and Nationality Act for 18 months so that Haitians who have been continuously present in the United States since November 2, 2016, may receive temporary protected status. Sponsors: Rep. Clarke, Yvette D. [D-NY-9] and co-sponsored by 18 Democrat Representatives.

H.R.1075 – The Freedom for Refugees Escaping Enmity (FREE) Act voids and nullifies the Executive Order “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” so that it has no force and cannot be implemented. No funds can be used to execute the order. Any immigrant currently in custody because of the order must be released. Visas revoked under the order must be returned, and there will be no effect on immigration status or benefits because of the order. Immigrants may not be discriminated against because of their religion or lack of religious beliefs. The president’s authority is limited so that she or he cannot modify the requirements for immigrant entry, reentry, or admission if the immigrant has a valid and unexpired visa, is a lawful permanent resident, has been granted asylum, or is a refugee who qualifies for admission or has already been admitted. Sponsors: Rep. Clarke, Yvette D. [D-NY-9] and co-sponsored by 18 Democrat Representatives.

H.Con.Res.4 – The resolution argues that the United States should continue to give temporary protected status (TPS) to Haitians currently living in the United States. Hurricane Matthew and the 2010 cholera outbreak devastated the Haitian economy and infrastructure, and to send Haitians back to these conditions would be inappropriate. Haitians living in the United States send back $1,000,000,000 to Haiti annually, more than the United States gives Haiti in foreign assistance, and to cut this money off by returning Haitians to Haiti would hurt Haiti’s recovery efforts. Allowing Haitians to continue receiving TPS in the United States will help Haiti recover and is in the best interests of the United States and Haiti. Sponsors: Rep. Hastings, Alcee L. [D-FL-20] and co-sponsored by 5 Democrat Representatives.

H.Res.94 – The resolution commends Sally Quillian Yates for refusing to enforce Donald Trump’s discriminatory Executive Order 13769. The resolution calls the order unconstitutional and against the American values of tolerance, compassion, and respect for diversity. Sponsors: Rep. Clarke, Yvette D. [D-NY-9] and co-sponsored by 15 Democrat Representatives.

H.Res.120 – The Resolution rebukes Judge James L. Robart of the Western District of Washington for ignoring the Constitution, federal law, and court precedent by placing a temporary restraining order on the Executive Order “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” The Resolution says the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals erred in upholding Judge Robart’s restraining order. Sponsors: Rep. King, Steve [R-IA-4] and zero co-sponsors.

H.Con.Res.25 – The resolution Expressing the sense of Congress on the admission of refugees and immigrants to the United States decries the executive order “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” and its suspension of the U.S. Refugee Admission Program, travel ban of seven majority Muslim countries, and the suspension of the Visa Interview Waiver Program. The resolution states that the executive order does not reflect American values and that refugees should immediately be allowed to resettle in the United States regardless of nationality. Lawful permanent residents should be allowed reentry into the United States, and the Visa Interview Waiver Program should not be suspended because of its negative impact on students. Sponsors: Rep. Adams, Alma S. [D-NC-12] and co-sponsored by Rep. Velazquez, Nydia M. [D-NY-7] and 5 Democrat Representatives.

Senate Bills and Resolutions

S.54 – The Protect American Families from Unnecessary Registration and Deportation Act of 2017 bans the creation of an immigration-related registry that categorizes people based on their religion, age, gender, ethnicity, national origin, or citizenship. This bill allows refugees and immigrants of all regions and beliefs to be granted entry to the United States of America in accordance with regulatory background checks and vetting processes that are not grounded on discriminatory qualities. The “Protect American Families Act” forbids the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, or any Federal department from developing and enacting a law or program to monitor entry of immigrants and refugees on the basis of religion, race, age, gender, ethnicity, national origin, or citizenship. This bill blocks funding to create an immigrant check-in plan. Simply collecting data about foreigners entering and exiting the United States is permitted, as well as collecting figures for programs that issue grants. These types of data can be gathered, but a registry cannot be assembled based on the accumulated records. Sponsors: Sen. Booker, Corey [D-NJ] and co-sponsored by Sen. Warren, Elizabeth [D-MA] and 9 Democrat Senators and 1 Independent Senator.

S.107 – The Safeguard Israel Act of 2017 forbids the U.S. government from making any voluntary contributions to the United Nations or any of the United Nations’ affiliated organizations until the president confirms with the Committees on Foreign Relations, Appropriations, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the Senate, and Oversight and Governmental Reform of the House of Representatives that U.N. Resolution 2334 has been repealed. U.N. Resolution 2334 condemned Israel for its illegal settlements in Palestine. Sponsors: Cruz, Ted [R-TX] and co-sponsored by 24 Republican Senators.

S.354 – The Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act (RAISE Act) eliminates the diversity visa program and sets 50,000 as the maximum number of refugees allowed into the United States each year. All references to the Attorney General in section 207 of the Immigration and Nationality Act are replaced with the Secretary of Homeland Security. Parents are no longer considered immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, only spouses and children are immediate relatives. The number of family-sponsored immigrants allowed into the United States annually is 88,000 minus the number of immigrants paroled into to the United States in the second preceding fiscal year who did not leave the United States without advance parole for 365 days, and were undocumented immigrants during the two preceding fiscal years. Only the spouses and children of legal permanent residences qualify for family-sponsored immigration. 75% of family-sponsored immigrants are not subject to the numerical limitation on immigration. The remaining 25% of family-sponsored immigrants may be issued visas so long as the total number of visas issued to the country is less that the ceiling. The ceiling is 77% of the maximum number of visas available to the country. For family-sponsored immigration purposes, a child is anyone 21 years old or younger. The initial period of authorized admission for nonimmigrants is five years, but may be extended an additional five years if the U.S. citizen child of the nonimmigrant still lives in the United States. U.S. citizen children are responsible for their nonimmigrant parent’s support while their parent lives in the United States. Nonimmigrant parents may not live in the United States unless their U.S. citizen child can prove he or she has health insurance for the nonimmigrant parent, at no cost to the parent. This act will take effect on the first day of the first fiscal year after the bill is passed. Sponsors: Sen. Cotton, Tom [R-AR] and co-sponsored by Sen. Perdue, David [R-GA].