Monday, June 14, 2021

DNA Collecting

 Collecting DNA From Asylum Seekers at the Border Raises Privacy Concerns

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is collecting DNA from asylum seekers at the border, recent media reports confirm. This is the latest expansion of DNA collection as part of a program initiated under the Trump administration that targets nearly all immigrants in government custody. A growing number of noncitizens are being subjected to this invasive collection of sensitive personal information with little knowledge or understanding of how their information will be used or stored by the federal government.

While the southern border remains largely closed to asylum seekers due to the Biden administration’s continuation of the Title 42 expulsions policy, some families and particularly vulnerable individuals are being allowed to enter to pursue their claims. And it is this population that is being subjected to DNA collection as they enter the United States.

The Biden administration has continued this policy despite privacy concerns and no clear justification. It contradicts the administration’s recent decision to withdraw a Trump-era rule that would have expanded biometrics collection to petitioners and beneficiaries of immigration benefits.

Proponents of the program argue it can help investigate crimes and reveal the immigration history of people who misrepresent their identity at the border. But the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has acknowledged that it won’t be able to process the DNA fast enough for it to be useful in ongoing criminal investigations. Also, the program is estimated to cost DHS nearly $14 million over its first three years.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Watchdog Finds Hundreds of Parents Separated

Government Watchdog Finds Hundreds of Parents Separated by Trump Never Given Opportunity to Reunify

The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General (DHS OIG) recently found that the Trump administration deported as many as 348 parents that had been separated from their children without ever giving them an opportunity to reunify.

The blistering new report tracks deportations throughout 2017 and 2018 during the prior administration’s Zero Tolerance policy and the pilot project that preceded it. Senior DHS officials testified repeatedly to Congress that every parent received the choice to reunify before deportation—statements that the OIG’s report makes clear were false.

During Zero Tolerance, thousands of families seeking asylum in the United States were separated at the border, with Border Patrol officials at times dragging children from their parents’ arms. Officials then sent parents to be prosecuted. Meanwhile, the children were turned over to the custody of the Office of Resettlement as newly “unaccompanied” minors. After the parent finished any criminal sentence (usually a matter of days), they would be turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for the deportation process – not released or reunified with their children.

The announcement Friday also indicated that one goal of the dedicated docket is to reduce the years-long immigration court backlog. Yet data from 2019, just after another rocket docket for families was used, indicate that rushing through these cases would have virtually no effect on the court backlog.

From 2014 to 2017, the Obama administration ran a similar rocket docket for families, called the “adults with children” docket. Officials at the immigration courts later admitted that the docket “coincided with some of the lowest levels of case completion productivity in [the court’s] history and, thus, did not produce significant results.”

The new Dedicated Docket program could also lead to more families being put in electronic monitoring ATDs who would otherwise be released on their own recognizance, expanding the government’s surveillance of non-detained migrants. Data makes it clear that the majority of asylum seekers appear for court without the need for surveillance or other restrictive ATDs.

Monday, May 31, 2021

Americans Embrace


According to the American Immigration Council, 14 percent of the United States population is foreign-born. That’s 44.7 million immigrants, more than any other nation. Is immigration a net detractor or net benefit for our country? The political debate would lead you to believe that we’re divided on this issue. The facts are that immigration fuels much of America’s creativity, growth and individualism. And the vast majority of Americans view immigration as a positive factor. This special report takes a closer look at immigrant contributions in the following areas:

Economic Growth, Jobs & Entrepreneurship

STEM Innovation

Society & Culture

Healthcare, Food & Hospitality

Public Service & U.S. Military

Contrary to what the loudest rhetoric may indicate, Americans are largely pro-immigration. In a survey conducted by Gallup in the spring of 2020, more respondents told the firm immigration should increase, and not the other way around. In fact, close to 80 percent of respondents said immigration was a “good thing” for the country. And this includes categories of immigrants traditionally seen as “less competitive,” such as refugees and asylum seekers.

Even with the coronavirus pandemic, evidence shows that while people support travel restrictions that could slow or stop the spread of the pandemic, that doesn’t change the favorable opinions the majority of Americans have about immigration, and of immigrants themselves. 70 percent of respondents of an NPR/Ipsos poll, first conducted in 2018 and repeated in the summer of 2020, said that immigrants are “an important part of the American identity.” In surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center, about two-thirds of Americans favor immigration because immigrants “work hard,” and because of their talents.

Let’s look at these contributions immigrants make through their skills, talent and diversity in their everyday work and lives in the United States. While the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of immigrants in keeping essential industries running, immigrants have been valuable all along.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Biden Revokes


Biden Administration Revokes Trump’s Health Insurance Visa Ban

President Biden revoked a proclamation issued by former President Trump in 2019 that required nearly all prospective immigrants to demonstrate that they would be covered by private health insurance or were wealthy enough not to need it. Those needing health insurance would have to be covered within 30 days of entering the United States.

This health insurance visa ban would have amounted to a wealth test for most noncitizens wanting to immigrate to the United States.

Biden’s May 14 presidential proclamation overturning Trump’s order makes the case that “access to quality, affordable healthcare” can be achieved “without barring the entry of noncitizens who seek to immigrate lawfully to this country but who lack significant financial means or have not purchased health insurance coverage from a restrictive list of qualifying plans.”

The Trump-era health insurance visa ban would have excluded 65%  of all immigrants to the United States. Trump’s order was aimed not only at keeping noncitizens who lacked health insurance out of the country. It also sought to exclude noncitizens who had publicly funded or subsidized health insurance plans, like those purchased through the exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act.

The stated justification for the health insurance visa ban was that immigrants “should not further saddle our health care system, and subsequently American taxpayers, with higher costs.” This rationale overlooked the fact that immigrants are also taxpayers. They also contribute to the U.S. economy through their labor and entrepreneurship.

Monday, May 17, 2021

As US Birth Rate Declines

 As US Birth Rate Declines, Programs Like Social Security Need Immigration to Survive

Birth rates are falling in the United States at the same time more Americans are reaching retirement age. Together, these two trends present enormous economic challenges for the nation. A growing number of retirees are leaving the labor force and relying on programs like Social Security and Medicare. But there aren’t enough younger workers able to take their place.

If not for immigration, this pool of younger workers would be even smaller than it already is. As a result, immigration is playing a key role in supporting the country’s labor force, tax base, and contributions into benefits programs.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the number of births in the United States in 2020 was down 4% from the previous year. This marked the sixth year in a row that births have declined and amounts to the lowest number of births in the country since 1979.

The decline in the birth rate is a major factor underlying the sluggish growth of the U.S. population. The first round of data to come out of the 2020 Census reveals that the 2010s witnessed the second-lowest population growth rate in U.S. history.

Between 2010 and 2020, the number of people in the United States grew by only 7.4%. The only time population growth ever fell lower than that was during the Great Depression in the 1930s. The last year the United States saw the number of births increase was in 2014.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Medical Care in ICE Detention


Medical Care in ICE Detention

Poor medical treatment contributed to more than half the deaths reported by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) during a 16-month period, Human Rights Watch, the American Civil Liberties Union, Detention Watch Network, and National Immigrant Justice Center said in a report released today.

Based on the analysis of independent medical experts, the 72-page report, “Code Red: The Fatal Consequences of Dangerously Substandard Medical Care in Immigration Detention,” examines the 15 “Detainee Death Reviews” ICE released from December 2015 through April 2017. ICE has yet to publish reviews for one other death in that period. Eight of the 15 public

Death reviews show that inadequate medical care contributed or led to the person’s death. The physicians conducting the analysis also found evidence of substandard medical practices in all but one of the remaining reviews.

“ICE has proven unable or unwilling to provide adequately for the health and safety of the people it detains,” said Clara Long, a senior US researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The Trump administration’s efforts to drastically expand the already-bloated immigration detention system will only put more people at risk.”

12 people died in immigration detention in fiscal year 2017, more than any year since 2009. Since March 2010, 74 people have died in immigration detention, but ICE has released death reviews in full or in part in only 52 of the cases.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Scrutinizing the Treatment


Scrutinizing the Treatment and Conditions Black Immigrants Face in Detention

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detains hundreds of thousands of people each year in hundreds of jails and jail-like facilities throughout the United States. Increasingly, individuals in ICE detention are Black or come from majority-Black countries in Africa and the Caribbean.  

The complex network ICE uses for detention has a long history of human rights and due process violations, sometimes with tragic and deadly repercussions. In this context, and the broader context of mass incarceration in the United States, Black immigrants face egregious conditions. Yet these concerns too often are missing from the public’s understanding of immigration and immigration detention. 

The Council and Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) are filing requests for information about the conditions, treatment, and outcomes in eight facilities throughout the U.S. South.  

The FOIAs ask for information from October 1, 2015 to the present. The eight facilities are Jackson Parish Correctional Center (Louisiana); LaSalle ICE Processing Center (Louisiana); Pine Prairie ICE Processing Center (Louisiana); Winn Correctional Center (Louisiana); Adams County Correctional Center (Mississippi); Prairieland Detention Center (Texas); T. Don Hutto Residential Center (Texas); and West Texas Detention Facility (Texas).