Blumenthal Sponsors 18 Amendments To Senate’s Bipartisan Immigration Bill

Senator’s Amendments Crack Down On Overuse Of Solitary Confinement In Detention Centers, Expand Pathway To Citizenship For Little DREAMers, Protect Worker And Due Process Rights, Combat Human Trafficking and Gun Violence

(Hartford, CT) – Today, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) announced that he is sponsoring 18 amendments to the Senate’s bipartisan immigration bill (S.744: Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act), including one amendment that would crack down on the overuse of solitary confinement in immigration detention centers and another that would expand the pathway to citizenship for Little DREAMers.

“Every day in this country more than 300 immigrant detainees are held in solitary confinement, and nearly half will remain there long enough to pose a risk of permanent psychological damage,” Blumenthal said. “My amendment would bring accountability, transparency, and due process to the immigration detention system in order to build a system that is consistent with American values.”

Solitary confinement is the practice of placing a person in physical and social isolation for 22 to 24 hours a day with little or no human contact day in and day out – generally in a small cell with a solid steel door, a bunk, a toilet, and a sink. This practice is frequently overused in the immigration detention system. For example, approximately 300 immigration detainees are held in solitary confinement on any given day; almost half of them are kept there for 15 days or more –  a time period that can amount to torture since, as the UN Special Rapporteur has documented, it can create a significant risk of permanent psychological damage.

Blumenthal’s amendment allows facilities to use solitary confinement only when necessary, and it gives the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) the flexibility to allow even long periods of solitary confinement while limiting the overuse of solitary confinement against vulnerable groups like the mentally ill and children.

“To make matters worse, some of the detainees are put in solitary confinement in large part because they are mentally ill or because they are LGBT immigrants,” Blumenthal said. “This is unacceptable.”

Blumenthal is also sponsoring an amendment that would ensure that young children are not excluded from the DREAM Act’s pathway to citizenship simply because of their age. The DREAM Act, which is included in the Senate’s immigration bill, provides a five-year pathway to citizenship for youth who entered the U.S. prior to age 16, have graduated from high school or earned a GED, and earned a college diploma, attended two years of college, or spent four years in the military. However, the bill does not provide this five-year pathway to citizenship for youth who entered the U.S. as children but are too young to have graduated from high school or earned a GED. Instead, these children are required to follow the standard adult path to citizenship, which could mean up to a 13-year wait for the youngest children. 

Blumenthal’s amendment would provide younger children with the same five-year pathway to citizenship offered to older youth under the DREAM Act. Specifically, the amendment would allow children who are under the age of 18 upon completing five years of registered provisional status to be eligible to adjust to lawfully permanent resident status and be immediately eligible for citizenship. 

“The Senate’s bipartisan immigration legislation is a historic step, but it should not exclude the littlest DREAMers – children brought to this country through no fault of their own who are too young to qualify for the five-year pathway to citizenship that the DREAM Act provides,” Blumenthal said. “My amendment would ensure that all child immigrants have the opportunity to achieve the American Dream in the country they call home.”  

Blumenthal’s other 16 amendments help to protect worker and due process rights and combat human trafficking and gun violence. All 18 amendments sponsored by Blumenthal are listed below by topic. 

Expanding Pathway To Citizenship 

Blumenthal 1 – Little DREAMers: The Little DREAMers amendment would allow children who are under age 18 at the time they apply for legal permanent resident status – and who were brought to the United States when they were under age 16 – to access the five-year pathway to citizenship available to DREAMers, provided they meet all the requirements of the DREAM Act except the high school graduation and GED requirement and the college and military requirement. 

Blumenthal 15 – Citizenship Eligibility: This amendment allows immigrants present in this country after December 31, 2011 but before April 17, 2013 to access the pathway to citizenship created by S.744. S.744 only allows immigrants who arrived in the United States on or before December 31, 2011 to be eligible for the pathway to citizenship it provides. There are some exceptions. 

Human Trafficking/Foreign Labor Recruiters 

Blumenthal 3 – Lawsuits: This amendment makes the anti-human trafficking and foreign labor recruiter provisions in S.744 more effective by allowing workers who have been victims of recruiter violations to seek recourse against their employers, if, and only if, the employers have chosen to contract with an unregistered, unregulated foreign labor recruiter. 

Blumenthal 4 – Regulations: This amendment requires the Department of Homeland Security to consult with the Department of Labor when developing regulations to implement the anti-human trafficking and foreign labor recruiter provisions of S.744 (Title III, Subtitle F). 

Blumenthal 5 – Transparency: This amendment enhances the disclosure and transparency provisions of the anti-human trafficking and foreign labor recruiter provisions of S.744 (Title III, Subtitle F). The amendment also requires foreign labor recruiters to inform recruited temporary workers of plans regarding the renewal of a temporary worker visa and of their right not to have their contract changed without their informed consent. In addition, the amendment requires employers who use foreign labor recruiters to report who is responsible for paying the recruiter. Finally, this amendment makes other technical changes to Title III, Subtitle F. 

Gun Violence Prevention 

Blumenthal 6 – Firearm Purchases: The Alien Gun Violence Prevention Amendment closes a loophole that allows visitors who have entered the United States through the Visa Waiver Program – a group that includes the shoe-bomber Richard Reid and 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui – to purchase firearms in the United States. The amendment would make Visa Waiver Program entrants subject to the same ban on firearm purchases that visitors with visas currently face. 

Blumenthal 9 – Firearm Purchase Notification: This amendment requires the Attorney General to inform the Secretary of Homeland Security when an unauthorized immigrant or a visitor on a temporary visa – two groups that cannot legally purchase firearms – attempt to purchase a firearm. This amendment also requires federally licensed firearms dealers to report bulk purchases by non-citizens to the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security.

Workers' Rights 

Blumenthal 7 – Wage Discrimination: S.744 bans discrimination based on national origin or citizen status with respect to hiring, firing, and verification of work eligibility. This amendment would expand S.744’s prohibition on discrimination to ban discrimination with respect to compensation or the terms, conditions or privileges of employment. This amendment makes other clarifying changes. 

Blumenthal 11 – Registered Provisional Immigrant Status: Under this amendment, an immigrant with Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status would not lose legal status because they fail to meet the income requirements of S.744 if their failure to meet such requirements resulted from a violation of a worker protection law. 

Blumenthal 13 – Workplace Raids: Out of a desire to avoid situations in which the threat or reality of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid is used to crack down on workers’ efforts to assert their legal rights, ICE has a policy against engaging in enforcement actions targeted at workplaces where workers are asserting their rights under the labor or employment laws. However, this ICE policy is of limited effect since it cannot be used by an immigrant seeking to avoid deportation after an ICE raid conducted in violation of ICE policy. This amendment codifies, with technical changes, ICE policies in this area.

Blumenthal 17 – Whistleblower Protections: This amendment provides whistleblower protections for temporary workers participating in the H-2B temporary worker program. 

Blumenthal 18 – Proof Of Employment: This amendment gives workers protected by workplace protection laws the right to get a pay stub. This will allow immigrants on the path to citizenship to prove employment and make it easier to crack down on wage theft and other violations of America’s wage and hour laws. 

Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Blumenthal 8 – School-Hospital-Religious Institution Raids: To protect children and other vulnerable individuals, ICE has developed a policy that limits raids and other enforcement actions at or focused on sensitive locations, including schools, hospitals, and places of worship. However, the policy is not always followed and could be reversed by a future administration. This amendment codifies the existing limitations on enforcement actions in sensitive areas while leaving exceptions for exigent circumstances and properly approved operations.  

Blumenthal 13 – Workplace Raids: Out of a desire to avoid situations in which the threat or reality of an ICE raid is used to crack down on workers’ efforts to assert their legal rights, ICE has a policy against engaging in enforcement actions targeted at workplaces where workers are asserting their rights under the labor or employment laws. However, this ICE policy is of limited effect since it cannot be used by an immigrant seeking to avoid deportation after an ICE raid conducted in violation of ICE policy. This amendment codifies, with technical changes, ICE policies in this area. (Note: This amendment is also listed in the “Workers' Rights” section.) 

Military Service

Blumenthal 12 – Naturalization: The amendment would allow a childhood arrival registered provisional immigrant who enlists in the military to naturalize. 

Due Process/Civil Rights 

Blumenthal 2 – Solitary Confinement: This amendment creates flexible requirements and procedures to enhance oversight and reduce the overuse of solitary confinement in immigration detention.

Blumenthal 10 – Attorney General Reimbursement: This amendment creates an exception to S.744’s requirement that the Attorney General reimburse state, county, tribal and municipal law enforcement for costs associated with the prosecution and pre-trial detention of Federally initiated immigration-related criminal cases declined by local offices of the U.S. Attorneys. Under this amendment, the Attorney General would not reimburse when there is reason to believe the detention or prosecution resulted from a violation of the law by a law enforcement official, such as an act of racial profiling.

Blumenthal 14 – Deportation Hearings: This amendment expands the ability of immigrants facing deportation or attempting to obtain legal permanent resident status to receive individualized consideration. The amendment defines “conviction” and “term of imprisonment” to avoid unjust and irrational results produced by current law. This amendment also mitigates the impact of “in absentia” orders in cases where an immigrant had good cause for missing a hearing. In addition, it prevents the retroactive application of deportability and inadmissibility grounds. Finally, it limits the impact of stale or minor convictions in the immigration context. 

Education 

Blumenthal 16 – Access To Higher Education Courses: This amendment allows visitors to the United States on tourist visas to participate in short-term (up to 90 days) courses offered by accredited institutions of higher education.