Washington Review, July 17, 2020
This week, I attended a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee vote on an important water infrastructure bill and submitted public comments opposing the Administration’s proposal to rewrite asylum rules. I also signed onto letters opposing the Administration’s recent attempted rule on international students, urging the Administration to extend the current public health emergency, pushing for protections for immigrant victims of domestic violence, and encouraging the Administration to keep protections in place for Medicaid beneficiaries.
On Wednesday, I participated in a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee consideration and vote on the bipartisan Water Resources Development Act of 2020. The provisions included in this legislation are critical for our nation’s water infrastructure and allow the Army Corps of Engineers to develop and implement a plethora of water resource development projects. This bill would increase funding to preform necessary harbor maintenance across the country and instruct the Army Corps of Engineers to develop and implement projects that protect against flood and hurricane damage, protect our shorelines, and restore local ecosystems in our waterways. I voted in favor of this legislation which passed the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee by a voice vote and will now head to the House Floor for consideration.
On Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) jointly published a new rule proposing the elimination of long-established protections for asylum seekers. I joined Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX), in submitting comments to the agencies urging them to rescind this proposed rule. We argue that the new rules directly contradict the Refugee Act of 1980 and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. The United States has long been a safe haven for people seeking refuge across the world, and, as someone who fled a dictatorial regime with my family in pursuit of a better life, I will continue fighting for the right of others to have that same opportunity.
On Tuesday, I joined the entire New Jersey delegation, led by Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), in a bicameral letter to the Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), expressing our concerns regarding the proposed rule changes to the Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). On July 6, 2020, these agencies adopted a new rule that would prohibit international students from remaining in the U.S. while taking all online courses in the fall. The rule called for international students to transfer to an institution offering in-person classes or to leave the country. This rule was detrimental to many students’ educations and threw their academic careers into jeopardy as universities across the country are trying to plan for the safest fall semester possible. Following this letter, along with outcries from universities and students across the country, DHS and ICE rescinded the proposed rule and will now allow international students to remain in the United States should their universities switch to online learning come the fall semester. International students help make up the fabric of universities across the country and their hard-work and academic contributions are greatly appreciated.
Also on Tuesday, I signed onto a letter led by Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), to the Acting Director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), urging him to ensure immigrant survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and other heinous crimes, have full access to protections provided to them under provisions in the Violence Against Women Act and the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. Disturbingly, cases of domestic violence have risen sharply since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak and it is essential that victims, regardless of citizenship, receive the necessary help they are entitled to. Additionally, we asked USCIS to provide explanations for delays in processing times for immigration requests. The spread of COVID-19 has impacted everyone in different ways, and I will not let immigrants be forgotten during this public health crisis.
On Thursday, I joined my colleagues in the New Jersey delegation, led by Rep. Donald Norcross (D-NJ), in sending a letter to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), urging the Administration to extend the current public health emergency. The current extension is set to expire on July 25, 2020; however, in recent weeks a number of states have reported an alarmingly high rise in cases of COVID-19. With this continuing increase in cases and a slowdown in the testing results needed to safely reopen our economy, we must extend this emergency in an effort to bolster our economy and save American lives.
On Monday, I signed onto a letter led by Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) and Joaquin Castro (D-TX) to Democratic leadership in the House and Senate urging them to protect Medicaid maintenance of effort (MOE) in the next COVID relief package. MOE prevents states from restricting Medicaid eligibility and prevents states from terminating coverage under Medicaid during the public health emergency. These protections are important during normal times but are vital during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure vulnerable groups and marginalized communities are protected and have access to care should they need it. During a public health emergency, we should be fighting to expand care to all those who need it, and not focusing on eliminating care for certain groups.
Please know that I will continue working to get the 8th District the resources it needs. If you have questions or need assistance please call my Washington, D.C. office at (202)225-7919 and follow instructions to be connected to my staff or send an email to NJ8inquiries@mail.house.gov. Together we can get through this.