On September 20, the D.C. council approved the “Migrant Services and Support Emergency Amendment Act,” which provides temporary support and services to immigrants arriving in D.C. The DC Council is voting today on an interim version of the bill, followed by a permanent version later this year. Councilmembers have proposed an amendment designed to improve the existing law, but this amendment does not solve the problem and creates additional problems.

While CAIR Coalition welcomes the provision of essential services for immigrants arriving in D.C., the current draft of the legislation and the proposed amendment are deeply flawed. It will create more barriers for our immigrant neighbors and arriving asylum seekers.

The bill will exclude most immigrants residing in D.C. from accessing existing basic needs services, segregating them into a separate immigrant-only system that has not yet been developed. First, it would indefinitely exclude individuals paroled into the U.S., which make up most of those arriving in D.C. on buses, even if their parole expires.

Second, the provision excluding individuals issued a “Notice to Appear” (NTA) would exclude immigrants recently bused into D.C. and many immigrants who have lived in D.C. for years, well before the buses started arriving, from homeless services. Specifically, this category would cover essentially any noncitizens placed in removal proceedings after April 1, 2022, regardless of how long they have resided in D.C., including asylum seekers who arrived by means other than buses (such as people fleeing by plane arriving at Dulles or BWI who come to D.C.), long-time undocumented D.C. residents who were or are put in removal proceedings after this date due to ICE apprehension in the community or exposure to the criminal system, and green card holders who become removable due to a minor misdemeanor conviction.

One example of this is Daphne*, a CAIR Coalition client and legal permanent U.S. resident who has lived in D.C. her whole life. Last spring, she was issued an NTA placing her in immigration proceedings. Had that NTA been issued this year, the current legislation would exclude Daphne from the housing that she has relied on for decades. However, given the D.C. government’s commitment to individuals like Daphne, she was represented by CAIR Coalition in her proceedings and retains her green card. The current legislation would exclude people like Daphne from current D.C. services.

The D.C. government should not segregate services. Not only does the current legislation exclude immigrants newly arriving, but it also excludes long-time D.C. residents. Everyone planning to reside in D.C. should have access to all the city’s services, regardless of their immigration status.

CAIR Coalition condemns this legislation and the recently proposed amendment. The Council should strike the provisions (3)(c)(ii) and (3)(c)(iii) in the amended version immediately. We must continue supporting our immigrant neighbors while including asylum seekers who intend to stay.

*Names and details have been changed to protect the client’s privacy.