2018 Midterms and Immigration: What Will Congress Do Next?


While the pundits digest the lessons to be learned from the 2018 midterm elections, one takeaway is immediately clear: many Americans want Congress to resume its critical role of checks and balances on the Trump administration and its overzealous immigration agenda.

Democrats’ control of the House of Representatives offers significant opportunity for the 116th Congress to hold the administration accountable for altering the immigration landscape.

The Democratic majority can call oversight hearings requiring government officials to testify under oath on a wide range of issues. This could include family separation, the termination of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designations, rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative, record-high use of immigration detention, or turning asylum seekers away at the border.

Likewise, the House could probe other immigration issues, such as naturalization backlogs, increased denial rates of employment-based petitions, and intrusive vetting of benefits applicants that causes extensive delays. We could also see hearings on how the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is proposing to change regulations, such as expanding the detention of families and children and penalizing immigrants for their lawful use of public benefits (called the “public charge” rule).

With leadership comes subpoena power, which would enable House Democrats to compel the government to turn over important documents and policies which have been withheld from Congress and the general public. Doing so could usher in a new moment of much-needed transparency.

House leadership may also push a more affirmative legislative agenda, such as moving a bill in early 2019 to legalize Dreamers and TPS holders, whose long-held status was ended by President Trump. Although litigation has temporarily kept those benefits on life support, the House may advance legislative solutions to allow them to remain in the United States with their families.

With the Senate in Republican hands, it’s unclear whether and when such a bill would be considered, and what additional reforms might be included to get it through the chamber.

Overall, the American public expressed fatigue with the divisive environment created by President Trump’s nonstop attacks on immigrants and asylum seekers. The new Congress will have a window of opportunity to create a fresh approach and an immigration system that is humane, orderly, and meets the needs of our country in the 21st century.

This post originally appeared on Immigration Impact. Reprinted with permission.

About The Author

Royce Bernstein Murray is the Director of Policy and Media at the American Immigration Council. She oversees the organization’s administrative and legislative advocacy and ensures that the Council informs and shapes the narrative around immigration through effective engagement with the news media. Prior to joining the Council, Royce served as the Director of Policy at the Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center where she worked on issues impacting the due process rights, detention, and treatment of vulnerable immigrants. She previously worked as an immigration and human rights law consultant for organizations including the National Immigration Forum, Center for Global Development, and the World Bank’s Nordic Trust Fund. Royce was also an adjunct professor at the David A. Clarke School of Law at the University of the District of Columbia. She began her career working for the federal government as a Presidential Management Fellow and Asylum Officer for the Immigration and Naturalization Service and later at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Office of the Chief Counsel. She was introduced to immigration and asylum issues as an intern for the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (now “Human Rights First”), the Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA, and Ayuda. She holds a J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center and a Bachelor of Arts with distinction in political science from the University of Michigan. She is a member of the New York Bar.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.