Senator Feinstein for many years has been at the forefront of the fight to fix America’s failed immigration policies. She has been a staunch advocate for a farmworker protection program as well as for passage of the Dream Act and protections for immigrant children.
Opposing President Trump’s radical agenda
- Rescinding President Trump’s Travel Bans, 2017: Senator Feinstein has come out in fierce opposition to all three of President Trump’s executive orders halting the U.S. refugee program and suspending the admission of certain immigrants. Senator Feinstein introduced S. 274 to rescind the first executive order, and introduced S. 608 to rescind the revised executive order. Most recently, Senator Feinstein became an original cosponsor of Senator Chris Murphy’s (D-CT) “A bill to block the implementation of certain presidential actions that restrict individuals form certain countries from entering the United States” (S. 1979), which would block President Trump’s third executive order by declaring it illegal.
- Opposing the Sentiment of President Trump’s Travel Bans, 2017: Senator Feinstein cosponsored S.Res.56 introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) on February 7, 2017, which expresses the sense of the Senate that the U.S. should continue to welcome refugees and asylum seekers and that no person should be banned from entering the U.S. on a basis of their nationality, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender.
- Joined Congressional Briefs Opposing Travel Bans, 2017: Senator Feinstein joined amicus briefs challenging President Trump’s executive order halting the refugee program and suspending travel from Muslim-majority countries in cases before the Fourth and Ninth Circuits, and the Supreme Court.
Leading the fight to protect farmworkers
- Agricultural Worker Protection Program, 2017: On May 3, 2017, Senator Feinstein introduced the Agricultural Worker Program Act to provide immigrant farmworkers with protection from deportation and a path to earned legal status and eventual citizenship. Farmworkers who have worked in agriculture for at least 100 days in the two years leading up to the bill’s passage can earn a “blue card,” which would provide farmworkers with temporary legal status. Senator Feinstein reintroduced this legislation at the start of the 116th Congress, in 2019.
- Farmworker protections in immigration reform bill, 2013: In 2013, the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill that included a strong agricultural worker immigration program. The language that she negotiated with Democrats and Republicans, with significant input from the farmworker community, created a new Blue Card program offering a path to citizenship for current undocumented farmworkers as well as two new agricultural visa programs (W-2 and W-3) to ensure an adequate, future agricultural workforce. The bill was blocked by Republicans in the House.
Protections for immigrant children
- Unaccompanied Immigrant Children, 2000-2008: Senator Feinstein championed critical protections to ensure that unaccompanied immigrant children who arrive on the U.S. border are treated fairly and humanely. In 2000 she first introduced the Unaccompanied Alien Child Protection Act, portions of which were subsequently incorporated and passed into law in the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (Public Law 107-296). As a result of Senator Feinstein’s efforts, Congress transferred authority over the care and custody of unaccompanied immigrant children from the Immigration and Naturalization Service to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement. In 2007, Senator Feinstein again introduced the bill, which was incorporated into the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act and became law (Public Law 110-457). The bill required family reunification whenever possible, provided pro bono legal representation for children at no expense to the government and required additional training of Department of Homeland Security personnel and other government officials who come into contact with unaccompanied children.
- Preventing Family Separation: Senator Feinstein has led efforts to prevent family separation in the wake of President Trump’s zero tolerance policy, introducing the Keep Families Together Act with 48 co-sponsors. This bill would prohibit employees of the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, or the Department of Health and Human Services from removing a child under the age of 18, from his or her parent at or near a port of entry, within 100 miles of the U.S. border. The bill explicitly prevents agencies from removing a child from their legal guardian, solely for the policy goal of deterring migration to the United States. Senator Feinstein reintroduced the Keep Families Together Act at the start of the 116th Congress.
- The Senator has written a number of letters on protections for immigrant children:
- March 14, 2017: Letter to Secretary John Kelly requesting rejection of policies separating families from their children.
- July 11 and 30, 2018: Letters to Secretary Azar raising concern about the validity of data provided by the administration regarding immigrant children who were separated from their parents.
- August 24, 2018: Letter to Secretary Nielsen expressing frustration with the administration’s separation of children from their parents beyond the court-ordered reunification date, and calling for the use of humanitarian parole to reunite children with parents deported during the zero tolerance policy.
- September 26, 2018: Letter to Secretary Alex Azar and Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, urging the administration to rescind a rule that would allow indefinite detention of families along the border.
- October 2, 2018: Letter to U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner McAleenan raising concern over the Inspector General’s report on family separation at the border, which found that CBP held children apart from their parents for extended periods of time in facilities intended for short term detention.
- October 3, 2018: Letter to Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley calling for hearings on family separation and detention conditions at the border, especially for children.
- December 27, 2018: Letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Graham calling for oversight hearing regarding deaths of two young children in custody of Customs and Border Protection in December 2018.
- January 24, 2019: Letter to Government Accountability Office calling for an investigation into conditions for children being detained by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), prompting the opening of a GAO investigation into this issue.
Key immigration issues and votes
- Protect DREAMer Confidentiality Act, 2019: Senator Feinstein is an original co-sponsor of a bill to safeguard the private information – such as addresses and telephone numbers – of the young immigrants known as DREAMers, to ensure they are not targeted by the Trump administration for deportation.
- Full, Fair and Complete Exchange Act, 2019: Senator Feinstein is an original co-sponsor of a bill to prohibit the federal government from taking land for construction of border barriers until all persons or entities entitled to compensation are remunerated in full.
- International Parental Child Abduction: Senator Feinstein introduced resolutions in 2018 and 2019 to designate April as Countering International Parental Child Abduction Month.
- Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act, 2016: Senator Feinstein voted against the “Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act” (S. 3100) when it came before the Senate for a vote (7/6/16). This bill would have revoked certain federal funds from so-called “sanctuary jurisdictions.”
- Kate’s Law, 2016: Senator Feinstein voted against “Kate’s Law” (S. 2193) when it came before the Senate for a vote (7/6/16). This bill would increase the maximum prison term to five years, for an undocumented immigrant who reenters after being denied admission, excluded, and deported, or removed. Additionally, the maximum prison term for undocumented immigrants who reenter after being denied admission, excluded, deported, or removed, three or more times, would be 10 years. “Kate’s Law” also would have created a mandatory five-year minimum prison sentence for undocumented immigrants who reenter after being removed following a conviction for an aggravated felony or following two or more prior convictions for illegal reentry.
- American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act, 2016: Senator Feinstein voted against the “American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act” (H.R. 4038) when it came before the Senate for a vote (1/20/16). This bill would require the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to certify to the Department of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence that they have conducted an investigation to determine whether an alien applying for refugee status is a security threat.
- Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, 2013: Senator Feinstein voted in support of the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act” (S. 744) when it came before the Senate for a vote (6/27/13). This bill was comprehensive immigration reform legislation that included provisions on interior enforcement, border security, employment eligibility verification, worksite enforcement, legalization of undocumented immigrants, immigrant visas, nonimmigrant visas and humanitarian admissions.
- Violence Against Women Act, 2013: Senator Feinstein voted in support of the “Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013” (S. 47) when it came before the Senate for a vote (2/28/13). This bill included important immigration protections for non-citizen women and children.
- Dream Act, 2010: Senator Feinstein voted in support of cloture on the “Dream Act” (S. 3963) (12/18/10). This bill would provide a path to legal status to undocumented persons who were 16 years or younger when they first arrived in the U.S., have lived in the country five years prior to enactment, and have satisfied certain higher education, among other criteria.
- Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act, 2007: Senator Feinstein voted in support of the “Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act” (S. 1348) when it came before the Senate for a vote (6/7/07). This bill was comprehensive immigration reform legislation that included provisions on border security, interior enforcement, backlog reduction, student visas, labor certification, and immigration personnel. There were also provisions on the Board of Immigration Appeals, noncitizen Armed Forces membership, surveillance programs, parole and status adjustment, and automatic citizenship.
- Dream Act, 2007: Senator Feinstein voted in support of cloture on the “Dream Act” (S. 2205) (10/24/07). This bill would provide a path to legal status to undocumented persons who were 16 years or younger when they first arrived in the U.S., have lived in the country five years prior to enactment, and have satisfied certain higher education, among other criteria.
- Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act, 2006: Senator Feinstein voted in support of the “Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act” (S. 2611) when it came before the Senate for a vote (5/25/06). This bill was comprehensive immigration reform legislation that included provisions on border security, interior enforcement, unlawful employment of aliens, nonimmigrant and immigrant visa reform, backlog reduction, agricultural workers, citizenship assistance for members of the armed services, and family humanitarian relief.
- Violence Against Women Act, 1994: Senator Feinstein voted in support of the “Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994,” which incorporated the 1994 Violence Against Women Act. This law provided an opportunity for abused immigrants to self-petition for lawful permanent resident status separate from their abusers.