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Washington Update

U.S. Supreme Court Hears DACA Oral Arguments
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments stemming from several lawsuits challenging the administration’s move to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The program protects nearly 700,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. In May, the Fourth Circuit ruled that the administration’s decision to rescind DACA violates federal law because the rescission was “arbitrary and capricious” and “failed to give a reasoned explanation” for the policy change. The Ninth Circuit issued a similar ruling earlier this year in the case of Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California.

APLU continues to advocate on behalf of Dreamers. Last month, APLU and partner associations filed an amicus brief in the case detailing the economic and humanitarian case for supporting Dreamers as well as legal arguments regarding justiciability of the administration’s decision to repeal DACA. The association also continues to urge Congress to pass legislation that would permanently protect Dreamers.

Fiscal Year (FY)2020 Appropriations Update
With government funding set to run out Wednesday, the House yesterday passed another stopgap funding bill that would extend government funding until December 20. The Washington Post reports the Senate is expected to pass the bill before tomorrow. Senior administration officials said they expect President Trump to sign the bill.

In the meantime, appropriators are still negotiating spending totals, border wall funding disputes, and other challenges. House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) expressed confidence last week that Congress could work to complete the 12 annual appropriations bills by the end of the year, saying “we are going to get our work done.”

House Ed & Labor Committee Passes College Affordability Act
The House Education and Labor Committee passed comprehensive legislation to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, the College Affordability Act (CAA), on a party-line vote of 28-22. Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) lauded passage while Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) attacked the bill. Chairman Scott reiterated his intentions for bill passage on the House Floor this year.

In a letter to Chairman Scott and Ranking Member Foxx, APLU continues to urge improvements to the legislation and notes it cannot support the bill in its present form. APLU updated its comprehensive summary of developments in markup which includes an amendment chart outlining significant changes to the bill that were included in the manager’s amendment. Further, the American Council on Education (ACE) released a 77-page section-by-section summary that thoroughly outlines legislative changes reflected in the CAA, as amended by the manager’s amendment but not yet by individual amendments.

FBI Academia Summit Summary Documents
Last month, the FBI convened a daylong “Academia Summit” at its headquarters in coordination with APLU, Association of American Universities, and ACE. The Summit addressed undue foreign influence in science and steps universities can implement to reduce risks. The summit was attended by agency officials, university leaders, and presidents of higher education associations. The FBI released a detailed summary of the summit and key takeaways from the sessions.

GAO Releases Report on Religious-based Hate Crimes
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report titled Religious-Based Hate Crimes: DOJ Needs to Improve Support to Colleges Given Increasing Reports on Campuses. The report references data from the Departments of Education and Justice from 2009-2017, indicating religious-based hate crimes are on the rise on American college campuses. GAO notes that although the Department of Justice (DOJ) offers publications, webpages, and educational activities to help campus law enforcement monitor and address hate crimes, the information is outdated and not easily accessible. GAO recommends DOJ “update, centralize, and share its information to make it easier to use.”

USCIS Proposes New Fee Increases
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a notice of proposed rulemaking to update the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services fee schedule. The proposed rule would adjust “fees by a weighted average increase of 21 percent, add new fees, and make other changes, including form changes and the introduction of several new forms.”

Of particular interest, the fee to renew DACA applications will increase to $275 (previously free) and H-1 visas will increase from $460 to $560. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has provided a chart of changes to the current fee schedule. The deadline to submit comments is December 16, 2019.

Senators Introduce Protect VETS Act to Close 90/10 Rule
On November 14, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Ranking Member Jon Tester (D-MT) and Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) introduced the Protect Veterans’ Education and Training Spending (Protect VETS) Act of 2019. The bill aims to:

  • Close the 90/10 loophole by counting Veteran Affairs (VA) and Department of Defense (DOD) educational funds on the 90 percent side of the 90/10 formula rather than the 10 percent side;
  • Require proprietary schools to provide updated 90/10 data in their annual report to Congress;
  • Move to a system of tiered penalties for schools that violate the 90/10 Rule. Beginning the 2022-2023 school year, the penalties for violating the 90/10 Rule escalate over a three-year time period: (Year 1) no new VA and DOD student enrollments (this provision is modeled on existing VA regulations that protect the GI Bill); (Year 2) a total enrollment cap; and (Year 3) loss of access to federal funding for at least two years with the possibility of regaining eligibility after two years;
  • Provide an appeal process that grants high-quality proprietary institutions relief from penalties. This limited appeal process gives schools additional time to comply with the 90/10 Rule if they are serving military and veteran students and taxpayers well;
  • Add a caution flag to the GI Bill Comparison Tool when an institution violates 90/10. This would better allow prospective or current military and veteran students to readily identify potential bad actors; and
  • Apply the new 90/10 Rule for a limited time to for-profit schools after they convert to non-profit status.

APLU has long advocated for closing the loophole excluding VA and DOD benefits from the 90 percent side of the 90/10 rule. The bill is endorsed by 37 veteran organizations including Student Veterans of America. A summary of the bill is available here.

APLU Expresses Concerns with Proposed DHS Social Media Rule
APLU joined partner higher education associations in submitting comments to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on the agency’s proposed new collection information concerning “Generic Clearance for the Collection of Social Media Information on Immigration and Foreign Travel Forms.” Published on September 4, DHS argues the data is necessary to comply with Section 5 of Executive Order 13780, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” and will be used to validate an applicant’s identity and to “determine whether such travel or grant of a benefit poses a law enforcement or national security risk to the United States.”

The comment letter expresses concerns with the proposed rule and outlines unintended consequences that would hinder global engagement and lead to a decline in international student enrollment and extensive visa processing delays.

  • Council on Governmental Affairs

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