Monday, July 26, 2021

DACA?


 

Federal Judge Strikes Down DACA: What You Need to Know


Nearly a decade after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to provide protections to undocumented immigrants brought here as children, Judge Andrew Hanen of the Southern District of Texas struck down the program on July 16, ordering U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to stop issuing any new DACA benefits.


Although Judge Hanen did rule that DACA itself was illegal, in recognition of the impact of terminating DACA on the 616,000 people who currently benefit from the program, he did not require the agency to terminate any DACA protections or stop renewals while his decision goes through the appeals process. People who only recently submitted initial applications will not receive approvals from USCIS.


Background

DACA recipients vary in age and come from countries all around the world, but the typical DACA recipient is a 27-year-old woman from Mexico. And while nearly 42 percent of all DACA recipients are 25 or younger, the oldest DACA recipients will turn 40 next year. Given the progam’s requirements, all DACA recipients have been in the United States for at least 14 years. Many of them have been here for much longer.


The first major legal challenge to the DACA program came in 2014, two years after its creation, when Texas successfully sued to prevent the Obama administration from implementing Deferred Action for Parental Arrivals (DAPA) program, which would have expanded DACA-like protections to the parents of immigrant youth.


Monday, July 19, 2021

New Changes


 


Who Is Ed Gonzalez? Biden’s ICE Nominee Signals New Changes for the Agency


U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) may soon have its first Senate-confirmed leader in nearly five years. On July 15, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing on the nomination for the head of ICE, Ed Gonzalez, who is currently the Sheriff of Harris County, Texas.


Gonzalez’s nomination presents a unique opportunity to begin to rein in an agency that was responsible for some of the worst abuses of the last four years. Despite the significant controversies and crises that have engulfed ICE in the past years, Gonzalez signaled few major changes at ICE and expressed extensive support for the agency and some of its most controversial policies during the hearing.


If confirmed, ICE would once again have stable leadership. The Trump administration relied on acting officials throughout its entire term in office. The last nominee for ICE Director, Ronald Vitiello, withdrew his nomination in 2018 after facing opposition from ICE’s union.


Although Gonzalez comes from a law enforcement background, unlike prior ICE Directors he has not previously worked within the Department of Homeland Security. He had also previously expressed opposition to extensive cooperation with ICE, having terminated Harris County’s 287(g) agreement in 2016 on the grounds that it undermined local law enforcement’s cooperation with immigrant communities.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Arresting Stops


 

ICE Will Stop Arresting and Detaining Most Pregnant and Nursing People


U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will no longer detain most people who are pregnant, postpartum, or nursing, according to a new policy released on July 9. However, ICE did not commit to a total ban, saying that there will still be “very limited circumstances” that will allow the agency to detain pregnant people.


The move is a clear shift away from the Trump administration, which in 2017 ended the presumption of release for such individuals. In the two years following that change, the rate at which ICE detained pregnant people skyrocketed by 52%, increasing from 1,380 in 2016 to nearly 2,100 pregnant people in 2018.


In announcing the new policy, ICE Director Tae Johnson said the change “reflects our commitment to treat all individuals with respect and dignity while still enforcing our nation’s laws.”


ICE’s new policy revokes the Trump-era practice. It also goes a step further than the Obama administration, which generally exempted pregnant people from detention, but did not include those who were nursing. Additionally, the Biden administration policy includes people who gave birth within the last year.


This is a much-needed step toward safeguarding the wellbeing of pregnant individuals in detention, as well as the health of their baby.

Monday, July 5, 2021

Removal Orders


 

Supreme Court Denies Bond Hearings to People Pursuing Protection Claims Who Have Prior Removal Orders



The Supreme Court issued a decision on June 29 in the Johnson v. Guzman Chavez case. The majority of the justices determined that people with prior removal orders are subject to mandatory detention, even while they pursue proceedings to stop their deportation to a country where they established they have a reasonable fear of persecution or torture.


Without the opportunity to be released on bond, these individuals face months and even years in detention as they pursue protection in what are known as withholding-only proceedings. Withholding of removal is a form of protection that prohibits the U.S. government from deporting someone to a country where they will be persecuted or tortured.


At issue in the case was which of two sections in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) apply to individuals with prior removal orders who are waiting to appear before an Immigration Judge to argue their claim for protection.


The Supreme Court sided with the government. In his opinion, Justice Samuel Alito concluded that the provision—8 U.S.C. § 1231 of the INA—that subjects individuals to mandatory detention applies to those with prior removal orders who are pursuing withholding of removal because the prior removal orders are “administratively final.”


Lawyers for the individuals seeking protection argued that another provision—8 U.S.C. § 1226—that provides the opportunity for release from detention on bond should apply to individuals with prior removal orders who are in withholding-only proceedings because a decision on whether an individual will be deported remains pending.


Monday, June 28, 2021

Agreements


 Biden’s Unfulfilled Promise to End 287(g) Agreements with Local Law Enforcement


During the 2020 campaign, President Biden pledged to end all 287(g) agreements made by the Trump administration. More than 150 days into his presidency, the promise remains unfulfilled.


The 287(g) program allows the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and state or local law enforcement agencies to enter into formal agreements to permit state and local law enforcement officers to enforce some aspects of federal immigration law.


Currently, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has 287(g) agreements with 146 law enforcement agencies in 25 states. This includes 126 jurisdictions that signed 287(g) agreements during the Trump administration.


287(g) agreements can be terminated at any time by either party. But action taken by the Biden administration to end them has been limited so far.


As of June 2021, just one 287(g) agreement—with the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office in Massachusetts— has been terminated by DHS. This termination only occurred after several documented civil rights violations in Bristol, including a violent incident in May 2020 that resulted in the hospitalization of three immigrant detainees.


The Fiscal Year 2022 DHS budget requests that the Biden administration put forward also did not seek any cuts to the $24.3 million allocated for the 287(g) program. This is despite acknowledging that “the program is not universally regarded as the most effective or appropriate model” for immigration enforcement.


287(g) Agreements

Monday, June 21, 2021

A Call to Rebuild

 



On World Refugee Day, A Call to Rebuild U.S. Refugee Resettlement


World Refugee Day is celebrated internationally on June 20 every year. It honors the struggle of refugees around the world who are fleeing violence and persecution and are unable to safely return to their home countries.


Over this past year, in the middle of a devastating global pandemic, the number of refugees worldwide hit an all-time high of over 26 million. At the same time, the Trump administration continued its drastic reduction in the number of refugees annually accepted into the United States.


This year’s World Refugee Day brings hope that the United States will reassert itself as a humanitarian leader under the Biden administration. But it also serves as a reminder – more actions are needed to undo the damage of the Trump-era and rebuild the capacity of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP).


On the campaign trail, President Biden pledged to change course dramatically by raising the annual refugee cap to 125,000. In April, he flip-flopped on this commitment and decided to maintain Trump’s historically low admissions cap of 15,000. After backlash from advocacy groups and members of Congress, Biden finally raised the cap in May from 15,000 to 62,500. He also pledged to double the cap to 125,000 for fiscal year 2022.


Despite these changes, the United States is on pace to resettle a historically low number of refugees in FY 2021. As of May 31, only 3,250 refugees have been resettled this year. At the current rate, fewer than 5,000 refugees would be resettled in FY 2021 – lower than any year during the Trump administration.


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.