Monday, December 28, 2020

Proper Term?


What Is the Proper Term: Illegal or Undocumented Immigrant?

When someone resides in the United States without having filled out the requisite immigration paperwork, that person has immigrated to the United States illegally. So why is it preferable to not use the term "illegal immigrant"?

Good Reasons to Avoid the Term "Illegal Immigrant"

"Illegal" is uselessly vague. ("You're under arrest." "What's the charge?" "You did something illegal.")

"Illegal immigrant" is dehumanizing. Murderers, rapists, and child molesters are all legal persons who have committed illegal acts; but an otherwise law-abiding resident who doesn't have immigration paperwork is defined as an illegal person. This disparity should offend everyone on its own merits, but there's also a legal, constitutional problem with defining someone as an illegal person.

It's contrary to the Fourteenth Amendment, which affirms that neither the federal government nor state governments may "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." An undocumented immigrant has violated immigration requirements, but is still a legal person under the law, as is anyone under the jurisdiction of the law. The equal protection clause was written to prevent state governments from defining any human being as anything less than a legal person.

On the other hand, "undocumented immigrant" is a very useful phrase. Why? Because it clearly states the offense in question: An undocumented immigrant is someone who resides in a country without proper documentation. The relative legality of this act may vary from country to country, but the nature of the offense (to whatever extent it is an offense) is made clear.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Access to Immigration Files


USCIS and ICE Must Give People Access to Their Immigration Files After Losing Lawsuit

People who need access to their government immigration records scored a huge victory in the Nightingale et al. v. USCIS case on December 17.

A judge ruled that a nationwide class of individuals should have access to their immigration files—called A-Files—within the timeframes outlined in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) statute.

A-Files contain records of interactions with the Department of Homeland Security, prior entries in the United States, removal orders, statements made to immigration officials, and past applications for immigration benefits. This information allows immigrants to defend against removal, apply for immigration benefits, and naturalize. Individuals must submit a FOIA request to receive their files.

The judge ruled that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) must:

Adhere to the FOIA statutory deadlines, which mandates the agencies must respond to FOIA requests within 20 business days, with certain exceptions.

Make determinations on all A-File FOIA requests in USCIS and ICE backlogs within 60 days.

Provide the court and class counsel with quarterly compliance reports, with the first report due in 90 days.

The judge noted, “There is no adequate substitute for the information contained in an A-File and FOIA is the primary, if not the only, mechanism for accessing A-Files.”

Monday, December 14, 2020

DACA Reinstated

A Judge Fully Reinstated DACA, but Dreamers Are Still in Danger

A federal judge in New York has overturned the Trump administration’s latest effort to limit the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative.

DACA temporarily protects certain people without immigration status from deportation and provides them with a work permit. The Trump administration’s previous effort to end the initiative altogether was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court. DHS responded by attempting to severely limit participation in the initiative, which the court in New York rejected. The latest decision means that starting December 7, hundreds of thousands of people should be able to apply for DACA for the first time.

History of DACA

In 2012, after years of pressure from immigrant youth, the Obama administration implemented DACA through executive action. Applicants must meet certain age, physical presence, and academic requirements to qualify, in addition to passing a criminal background check.

In 2017, the Trump administration attempted to terminate DACA, claiming it was illegal. Lawsuits forced the government to continue granting renewals from people already enrolled, but the administration was allowed to refuse any new applications.

In June 2020, the Supreme Court found that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) did not adequately explain its decision to end DACA and its reasoning to do so was faulty. However, the Court left the door open to the Trump administration ending DACA so long as it did so properly.

Following that decision, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) should have—but did not—start accepting first-time applications after the Supreme Court decision. In July, DHS instead issued a memo severely limiting DACA. The memo excluded first-time applicants, required renewal annually instead of every two years, and eliminated most advanced parole, a procedure that let DACA recipients travel outside of the country.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Managing Immigration Dockets


How Two Proposed Rules Make It Harder for Immigration Judges to Manage Their Docket

The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) has proposed two rules that would significantly decrease the due process rights of people in immigration court. Both rules would restrict judges’ abilities to manage their dockets and require them to push through cases at breakneck speeds, further transforming the immigration court system into a deportation machine.

While the rules are not likely to be finalized by the time President Biden takes office, they demonstrate the Trump administration’s continued commitment to dismantling the immigration system.

The first rule would severely limit the reopening of immigration cases after a judge enters an order of removal. Respondents or their attorneys routinely file motions to reopen because of previously unavailable evidence, changed country conditions, or a lack of proper notice of a hearing. This opportunity is crucial for people who are eligible for relief but were ordered deported for reasons beyond their control.

The rule would limit the reasons for which a case can be reopened, requiring significantly more evidence. This means that fewer people could overturn a deportation order, even if they now had another way to remain in the United States. The respondent would have to include their application for relief with the motion. Once their case is reopened, they would be barred from applying for any other kind of relief.

EOIR’s new rule would further limit case termination, a tool judges used in the past to remove low-priority cases from their dockets. It would also end nearly all discretionary stays of removal, which temporarily prevent a deportation in emergency situations.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Immigrants Pay their Fair Share


Immigrants Pay their Fair Share

A recent study by the University of Florida shows that immigrants in Florida pay their fair share of taxes, and in some cases there are several immigrant groups that pay substantially higher taxes.

Why Florida?

A study conducted by the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Florida focuses 

on the economic impact of immigrants using Florida native-born residents and immigrants as their sample group. 

Florida provides an interesting area to study the immigration question, as it is the third-leading destination for immigration. 

Specifically Florida’s Miami-Dade County is a haven for immigration and an example of an area that has felt a profound effect 

of several generations of immigrants. One aspect that the study focuses on is comparing the level of taxes paid in Florida and 

Miami-Dade County by both immigrants and persons born in the United States.

Different Immigrants Studied

The study focuses both on Florida in general, and Miami-Dade County specifically and separates immigrants into several categories, 

including where they were born, when they arrived in the U.S., whether or not they are naturalized citizens, 

and which generation of immigrants they belong to. The study uses census data and examined federal income, 

FICA, property, and sales taxes, and in the end, researchers came to conclusions that were overwhelmingly positive.

Monday, November 23, 2020

U.S. Citizenship Test


New US Citizenship Test Makes It Harder for Immigrants to Become Citizens

Lawful permanent residents seeking to become U.S. citizens will now be required to take a more difficult and longer citizenship test. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced the change on November 13.

The new test increases the total number of questions from 100 to 128. Applicants will be verbally asked 20 questions and must answer at least 12 correctly, up from six out of 10.

A longer and more challenging test will likely prevent some immigrants from becoming citizens. It will also delay the citizenship process for hundreds of thousands more who are already waiting in months- or years-long backlogs.

The new test will apply to any person who files a citizenship application after December 1, 2020. These changes come on the heels of other targeted efforts that make it harder to become a U.S. citizen, including higher naturalization fees, increased vetting, and backlogs in citizenship applications.

The New Citizenship Test Questions Are More Complicated

Some of the questions have been made explicitly more difficult—even though there’s no evidence the old test wasn’t challenging enough.

While applicants previously may have been asked to identify one of the branches of government, they may now be asked to identify all three branches of government. Applicants who may have been asked to identify three of the original 13 states may now be asked to identify five of the original 13 states.

USCIS says one of the goals of the new test is to ensure applicants learn more about civics and history and aren’t simply learning names and dates.

For example, the old test asked, “What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution?” The new test asks, “What does the Bill of Rights protect?”

Monday, November 16, 2020

Targeted Sanctuary Cities


ICE Is Targeting ‘Sanctuary’ Cities With Increased Enforcement and Massive Fines

In the final run up to the presidential election, the Trump administration has reinvigorated its attacks on undocumented immigrants in the United States by targeting so-called “sanctuary” policies and jurisdictions.

These attacks have come in two forms. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials started to issue fines against undocumented immigrants who have sought “sanctuary” in U.S. churches.

In a somewhat different vein, ICE has also singled out so-called sanctuary jurisdictions for immigration enforcement actions.

Both tactics are part of a concerted effort by the administration to demonize undocumented immigrants. The agency aims to portray them as a threat to public safety despite an abundance of evidence to the contrary.

Immigrant rights groups recently released documents that show that ICE officials plan to levy massive civil fines against undocumented immigrants. ICE uses the fines to retaliate against outspoken leaders of the sanctuary movement.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Turn Back Policy


Challenging Customs and Border Protection's Unlawful Practice of Turning Away Asylum Seekers

This case challenges the government’s policy – the Turnback Policy – of turning away asylum seekers at ports of entry (POEs) across the U.S.-Mexico border since 2016.

The plaintiffs in the case are Al Otro Lado, a non-profit legal services organization that serves indigent deportees, migrants and refugees in Los Angeles and Tijuana, along with individual, courageous asylum seekers who experienced CBP’s unlawful conduct firsthand. Their experiences demonstrate that CBP has used a variety of tactics – including misrepresentation, threats and intimidation, verbal abuse and physical force, metering, and coercion–to deny bona fide asylum seekers the opportunity to pursue their claims.

In April 2018, the government issued guidance formalizing and focusing the Turnback Policy through a policy of metering. Under the metering policy, CBP officials assert a lack of capacity and refuse to inspect and process asylum seekers, forcing them to wait in Mexico.

The complaint alleges that CBP’s refusal to allow asylum seekers access to the asylum process violates the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, and the doctrine of non-refoulement under international law.

Plaintiffs are represented by the American Immigration Council, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Mayer Brown LLP.

On August 6, 2020, the district court granted Plaintiffs’ motion for class certification, allowing the case to proceed on behalf of all asylum seekers along the U.S.-Mexico border who were or will be prevented from accessing the asylum process at ports of entry as a result of the government’s Turnback Policy. Specifically, the court certified a class consisting of “all noncitizens who seek or will seek to access the U.S. asylum process by presenting themselves at a Class A [POE] on the U.S.-Mexico border, and were or will be denied access to the U.S. asylum process by or at the instruction of [CBP] officials on or after January 1, 2016.” The court also certified a subclass consisting of “all noncitizens who were or will be denied access to the U.S. asylum process at a Class A POE on the U.S.-Mexico border as a result of Defendants’ metering policy on or after January 1, 2016.”

Monday, November 2, 2020

Court neglects to tell


The Government Wants Immigrants to Show Up for Court—But Neglects to Tell Them How to Attend Their Hearings

Over 60,000 people at the southern border have been forced to return to Mexico under the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also known as the “Remain in Mexico” program. As they get sent back, U.S. government officials give them insufficient information about how to attend their immigration court hearings in the United States.

Then when people do not make it to their court hearings, the government asks the court to deport them because they didn’t show up to the hearing. We must do more to uphold our immigration laws and the basic concept of due process.

Under MPP, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials return people applying for asylum at the southern border to Mexico to wait for their immigration court hearings. U.S. immigration law requires certain protections for those placed into removal proceedings—including those sent to wait in Mexico.

One of the most fundamental of these protections is adequate notice of the immigration court hearing, so that migrants can present their case to a judge.

DHS officials are supposed to give notice—informally known as a “tear sheet”—that tells people when and where they need to arrive at a port of entry on the U.S.-Mexico border to be transported to their hearing in the United States.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Naturalization Fee


Naturalization Fees: A Poll Tax Hidden in Plain Sight

The application fee to apply for U.S. citizenship was due to rise from $640 to $1170 on October 2. Though the fee hike was temporarily blocked in federal court, this is not the first time U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has tried to raise the naturalization application fee. But the increase has never been this high—a staggering 82%.

The Center for American Progress found in a 2014 study that 32% of immigrants eligible for naturalization lived below 150% of the federal poverty income guidelines. High application fees will put citizenship out of reach for many—possibly up to 54% of the eligible immigrant population.

If people cannot afford to naturalize as U.S. citizens, they never will earn one of the key privileges of citizenship: the right to vote.

Monetary barriers to voting are not new. Poll taxes were used after the Civil War Reconstruction era to disenfranchise Black people, poor white people, and immigrant voters.

Starting in the 1870s, many states enacted laws that required every voter to pay before they could vote. The poll tax amount varied by state and ran at most between $10 to $20 in today’s dollars. That figure is low compared to the astronomical new $1,170 naturalization application fee, though it was still unreachable for many during that time.

Monday, October 19, 2020



Border Patrol is Going After Humanitarian Aid in the Arizona Desert—Again

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) launched another military-style raid on a humanitarian aid station in the Arizona desert, close to the U.S.-Mexico border.

On October 5, Border Patrol agents and CBP’s para-military arm Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC) descended on the aid camp. They charged in with assault rifles, an armored vehicle, ATVs, a helicopter, and multiple marked and unmarked vehicles.

Border Patrol’s raid comes less than three months after a strikingly similar show of force. In that instance, at least one agent carried sophisticated video equipment into the camp. The agency claimed to have warrants but did not readily display them when arriving at the camp.

Advocates filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on October 14 to demand CBP’s records related to this and previous raids. The request seeks footage CBP may have recorded during the events, agency communications, and search warrants requested or received.

The aid station known as Byrd Camp has operated for more than a decade under the group No More Deaths/No Más Muertes. The volunteer-based organization maintains a year-round humanitarian presence in remote desert areas of southwestern Arizona, providing life-saving aid and care to migrants in need.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Rock Legend Immigrant


Eddie Van Halen endured a 'horrifying racist environment' before becoming a rock legend

Music fans around the world are mourning the loss of iconic Van Halen rock star Eddie Van Halen. And while many today honor his legacy as one of the all-time greatest guitarists, fans are also highlighting past interviews describing his encounters with painful racism and discrimination because of his mixed race in his early years.

Van Halen, who died of throat cancer at 65, was the son of Dutch and Indonesian immigrants and spent his childhood in the Netherlands. His former bandmate David Lee Roth, a fellow rock superstar, once revealed on the podcast "WTF with Marc Maron" just how painful the experience was for the young Van Halen and his brother, drummer Alex Van Halen.

In the 2019 interview, Roth described how poorly the Van Halens' parents were treated because of their mixed-race relationship in the 1950s.

"It was a big deal. Those homeboys grew up in a horrifying racist environment to where they actually had to leave the country," Roth said in the podcast.

He added that the brothers, who were often referred to as "half-breed" in the Netherlands, still met difficult circumstances after immigrating to the U.S.

"Then they came to America and did not speak English as a first language in the early '60s. Wow," Roth told Maron. "So that kind of sparking, that kind of stuff, that runs deep."

The brothers' mother, Eugenia, met their father, Jan, a traveling musician, in Indonesia when it was under Dutch rule. Shortly after World War II, the couple decided to move to the Netherlands, where the rock stars were born.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Green Card Give Away


The U.S. is once again giving away 55,000 green cards to foreigners. It’s simple and free.

The U.S. State Department announced on Wednesday that it will officially open registration for the Diversity Visa Program for Fiscal Year 2022 (DV-2022), better known as the visa lottery.

The popular program for foreigners who lack U.S. sponsors to come to America will provide up to 55,000 permanent resident cards or green cards in 2022, authorities said.

Foreigners interested in immigrating legally to the United States, must submit their applications electronically starting next Wednesday, Oct. 7, at noon and until Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020.

The winners will be drawn from random selection and there is no cost to register.

visit for more info

Monday, September 21, 2020

Court Rules


ICE Violates the Fourth Amendment When It Detains People Without Probable Cause, 

Court Rules

A federal appeals court recently ruled that the Fourth Amendment requires a neutral decisionmaker to review the detention of anyone held based on an U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer. The decision came after ICE attempted to detain an American citizen without probable cause and flagged him as eligible for deportation from the United States.

In Gonzalez v. ICE, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed ICE’s process for issuing immigration detainers. ICE issues an immigration detainer when it wants state or local law enforcement officers to hold a person after their release date so ICE can arrest and detain them.

Detainers are often issued based on information contained in ICE or other government agency databases. These databases are notorious for their frequent errors.

ICE must have probable cause that a person can be deported before it may detain them. Based on this fact, the judge ruled there must also be a neutral evaluation of probable cause. Such review must occur “promptly,” which is usually defined as 48 hours.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Racism @ the Border

 Institutional Racism Is Rampant in Immigration Enforcement at the U.S.-Mexico Border

A Black former U.S. diplomat recently shared her experience of months of racial profiling by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials while she was stationed at the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. She was tasked with enforcing U.S. immigration law, but nevertheless found herself racially profiled and discriminated against by U.S. immigration authorities.

The problem became so severe that she now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and had to quit her job. Unfortunately, this is just one example of immigration officials’ long history of racism at the border.

CBP Racially Profiles a U.S. Diplomat

In 2018, Tianna Spears was a new diplomat stationed at the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. She frequently crossed the border into El Paso, Texas, as thousands of other U.S. citizens do every day. However, she soon found that she was treated differently than others by CBP officers at the border.

Spears estimates that CBP officers required her to go through “secondary inspection” approximately two out of every three times that she crossed. This outcome should have been extremely rare given her diplomatic passport and SENTRI card allowing for expedited clearance. Her non-Black colleagues never had similar experiences.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Hope for Asylum Seekers

Legal Victory Brings Hope to Asylum Seekers Turned Away at the Border

Asylum seekers got a major win in a lawsuit challenging the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) illegal policy of turning back asylum seekers at ports of entry. In Al Otro Lado v. Wolf, a federal judge decided that the case may proceed as a class action.

This decision means that the named plaintiffs—14 individuals and an organization that assists asylum seekers—can seek relief for both themselves and the thousands of asylum seekers that have been turned away since 2016 or will be turned away in the future. In two ports of entry alone, over 57,640 asylum seekers were turned back in 2018 and 2019.

Asylum seekers’ victory in this case is a welcome development in the face of an otherwise grim situation at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Expelling Asylum Seekers From the Border

The Trump administration has used the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to impose a near-complete shutdown of the U.S.-Mexico border. At the same time, the administration has rapidly “expelled” thousands of unaccompanied minors in the name of public health, even when they test negative for COVID-19.

Over 105,000 adults and children have been expelled through July. Hundreds of those who were not expelled have been sent back to Mexico to wait an unknown period of time for their U.S. immigration court hearings under the indefinitely-suspended “Migrant Protection Protocols.”

Monday, August 10, 2020

COVID-19 Wreaks Havoc


COVID-19 Wreaks Havoc on Immigration Courts With No Clear Plan to Stop Spread

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread throughout the United States, immigration courts around the country remain in turmoil.

The Executive Office for Immigration Review (“EOIR”) initially postponed all non-detained hearings when lockdowns began in March. However, EOIR refused to close all courts. Hearings for detained immigrants and unaccompanied children continued, despite the risks. Now, nearly five months later, EOIR still has no public plan to limit the spread of COVID-19 as it slowly begins to reopen courts around the country.

Immigration Courts Reopen Across the U.S.

Beginning in mid-June, EOIR began reopening some immigration courts, starting with the Honolulu immigration court.

Since then, courts have reopened for hearings in Boston, Dallas, Las Vegas, Hartford, New Orleans, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Newark, Baltimore, Detroit, and Arlington. However, following the rise in COVID-19 cases in Texas, the Dallas immigration court was open for less than a week before shutting again. It remains closed.

After the court reopened in Newark, immigration lawyers filed a lawsuit seeking to halt the court reopening. They explained that the court has not provided enough safety protocols. According to the lawsuit, they believe at least two deaths, including an immigration lawyer and a clerk for ICE in Newark, can already be traced to court hearings that occurred before the initial shutdown.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Fee Hikes

USCIS Fee Hikes Will Go Into Effect for These Applications

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released an advance copy of a final rule on July 31 that will impose significant fee increases across many facets of the legal immigration system. These changes include an astronomical 80% increase to the cost of becoming a U.S. citizen and a first-time fee for asylum applicants. The rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register on August 3.

With this new rule, the Trump administration demands that immigrants, vulnerable individuals, and American businesses take the brunt of USCIS’ financial mismanagement. This could make the legal immigration system inaccessible to millions of people.

These applications will have increased fees starting on October 2:

Green Card Applications
USCIS is “debundling” several forms in the green card application process.

Applicants previously paid one fee for all the forms but will now have to pay for each form separately. This includes a request for work authorization and travel documents that people file so they can work and travel while their application is being processed. In total, the agency will charge an extra $1,150 to apply for a green card and those other documents. That brings the cost from $1,760 to $2,910.

Monday, July 27, 2020

ICE Publishes

ICE publishes June monthly report on 287(g) enforcement actions

A Salvadoran national with a felony conviction, a Mexican national with an outstanding warrant, and a Mexican national charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon are three of the most egregious cases of detainers placed in June by local law enforcement officials with delegated 287(g) authority from ICE, in the latest monthly report.

The reports, which ICE began publishing in October, detail examples of enforcement actions made as a direct result of  the cooperation agreements between state and local law enforcement partners and the federal agency.

The June report includes significant threats to public safety:

In Arkansas on June 4, the Benton County Sheriff’s Office 287(g) program.
In Florida on June 3, the Collier County Sheriff’s Office 287(g) program.
In Texas on June 15, the Nueces County Sheriff’s Office 287(g) program.
In fiscal year (FY) 2019, the 287(g) program resulted in almost 25,000 law enforcement encounters with aliens in the custody of
participating jurisdictions.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Resume Processing DACA

The Administration Must Immediately Resume Processing New DACA Applications

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration’s first attempt to terminate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), in September 2017, was unlawful. Today, 25 days after the decision, the Supreme Court will certify its judgement in the case, and—under the law—the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will have an unambiguous obligation to fully reinstate DACA. As a result, not only must the agency continue processing renewal applications by those who currently hold DACA, but it must also reopen the application process to more than 300,000 new applicants who are eligible under the terms of the program, including 55,500 of the youngest DACA-eligible individuals who have aged into eligibility over the past three years and will now be able to apply for the first time.

Notwithstanding the Supreme Court’s decision to vacate the administration’s 2017 DACA rescission memorandum, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has taken no public steps to restore DACA to the way it operated pre-rescission. Rather, the agency has been silent—with exception of a post-decision statement that opened by questioning the legitimacy of the Supreme Court itself. As of the date of publication, the Trump administration is in open defiance of the law.

More than 825,000 immigrants have benefited from DACA’s protections

Monday, July 13, 2020

Unlawfully Detained

Court Orders ICE to End Its Practice of Unlawfully Detaining Immigrant Youth

Immigrant children who arrive in the United States without a parent are placed in shelters or foster care while their guardianship and immigration process play out. But all too often, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) takes them away as soon as they turn 18 and locks them in an adult detention facility. However, a federal court just ruled that ICE has been systemically failing to follow the law by transferring thousands of teenagers to their facilities.

In the court’s July 2 ruling in Garcia Ramirez, et. al. v. ICE, Judge Rudolph Contreras of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia criticized the agency’s lack of oversight and appropriate legal training, which lead to highly localized practices. The Court also criticized ICE for using misleading technology that never recommends release and doctoring documentation purportedly used to show compliance with the statute.

Under the laws governing unaccompanied immigrant children, ICE must consider the “least restrictive setting” for children who turn 18 and can no longer stay in shelters for children, which are run by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). The statute requires ICE to consider a placement other than detention, such as releasing the teens to live with a family member or friend or placing the child in a group home or shelter.

The case was filed on behalf of Wilmer Garcia Ramirez who left Guatemala alone when he was 17 years old. Wilmer was initially placed in a shelter for unaccompanied immigrant children and was transferred to an immigration detention center on his eighteenth birthday in handcuffs.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Thousands of Immigrants

Why Don’t Immigrants Apply for Citizenship?

Thousands of immigrants celebrated Independence Day this weekend by becoming U.S. citizens at naturalization ceremonies across the country. However, there are also millions of immigrants who want to become citizens of the United States but cannot just “apply for citizenship” because of our nation’s outdated immigration laws.

Many people wonder why all immigrants do not just come to the United States legally or simply apply for citizenship while living here without authorization. These suggestions miss the point: There is no line available for current unauthorized immigrants and the “regular channels” are largely not available to prospective immigrants who end up entering the country through unauthorized channels. Even though most unauthorized immigrants have lived in the United States for nearly 15 years, many could live out the rest of their lives without any opportunity to become legal residents of this country.

No “line” is available for the vast majority of unauthorized immigrants.

Immigration to the United States on a temporary or permanent basis is generally limited to three different routes: employment, family reunification, or humanitarian protection.  Each of these possibilities is highly regulated and subject to numerical limitations and eligibility requirements. As a result, most unauthorized immigrants do not have the necessary family or employment relationships and often cannot access humanitarian protection, such as refugee or asylum status. This means that no matter how long they have been in the United States, most unauthorized immigrants have no path to legal status. Even those who pay taxes, work hard, and contribute to their communities, have no way to "get in line" unless Congress were to create a new path to legal status.

Monday, June 29, 2020

ICE Deployed

ICE and CBP Agents Were Deployed at Black Lives Matter Protests

People have taken to the streets across the country to protest the murder of George Floyd, who died at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department. This exercise of First Amendment rights has been met with a militarized response—including the deployment of Homeland Security personnel and technology.

The presence of immigration enforcement agencies at peaceful demonstrations protesting police brutality is deeply troubling.

According to a leaked internal government document, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) deployed more than 700 personnel in the Washington, D.C. area alone. Most of the officers were from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). They provided “support” to other federal law enforcement bodies responding to protests in the city and near the White House.

The DHS memo lists over a dozen agencies that had personnel called or sent to cities across the country. Cities under surveillance included Houston, Texas; Detroit, Michigan; Spokane, Washington; Saint Paul, Minnesota; and Jacksonville, Florida, among others. In some cases, officers went to locations where protests were merely planned. The dispatched officers include those with tactical and military style training on special teams within CBP and ICE.

Some localities are responding to the protests by demanding accountability for Floyd’s death. The White House, by contrast, called in the cavalry.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Who are the DREAMers

What is DACA and Who Are the DREAMers?

On June 18, 2020, the Supreme Court blocked the Trump administration’s attempt to end DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) in a 5-4 ruling. The ruling maintains the program and allows DACA recipients to renew membership, which offers them work authorization and temporary protection from deportation. The ruling leaves open the possibility that the Administration could still end DACA in the future if they give a proper justification.

In 2017, Trump Administration Orders End to DACA
On September 5, 2017, President Trump ordered an end to the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This program shields some young undocumented immigrants —who often arrived at a very young age in circumstances beyond their control—from deportation. In 2012, President Obama issued the DACA executive order after the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act did not pass in Congress several times. The young people impacted by DACA and the DREAM Act are often referred to as “Dreamers.”

In making the announcement, then Attorney General Sessions stated that the Trump Administration was ending the DACA program. This decision meant that over time, 800,000 young adults brought to the U.S. as children who qualify for the program, would become eligible for deportation and lose access to education and work visas. Attorney General Sessions asserted that “the executive branch, through DACA, deliberately sought to achieve what the legislative branch specifically refused to authorize on multiple occasions. Such an open-ended circumvention of immigration laws was an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the Executive Branch.”

Monday, June 15, 2020

The Dark Gasoline Baths

The Dark History of “Gasoline Baths” at The Border

In 1917, American health officials in El Paso, Texas, launched a campaign to use toxic chemicals, including gasoline baths, to disinfect immigrants seeking to enter the United States through the US-Mexico border.

Only a few days after the alarming practice was launched at the border, one Mexican woman refused to go through it, sparking a protest of thousands of Mexicans at the El Paso border. Her name was Carmelita Torres; she was a 17-year-old maid from Juarez who crossed the border daily for work.

Although Torres and the riots briefly shut down the border, the campaign would continue for decades and even go on to inspire Nazi scientists. In this video, we trace the dangerous policies that lasted well into the 1960s, from the forced kerosene baths to the use of the poisonous gas Zyklon B to the fumigations of migrant workers in the “Bracero program” using the pesticide DDT. Watch the video to learn more about this long history of toxic chemicals at the border.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Migrants Testing

ICE has been testing migrants before deportation. 
But how it’s doing so is problematic.

The Department of Homeland Security is only testing a sample of the detainees it is removing from the United States and using a 15-minute rapid test to determine if they have the coronavirus.

The response by DHS to a Miami Herald inquiry comes as immigration advocates continue to call for an end to deportations amid surging COVID-19 infections in Latin America and the Caribbean and as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns about the accuracy of the test being used, called the Abbott ID NOW.

Earlier this month, the FDA cautioned that early data “suggests potential inaccurate results from using the Abbott ID NOW point-of-care test to diagnose COVID-19. Specifically, the test may return false negative results.”

Made by Abbott Laboratories, the test, promoted by the Trump administration, is said to provide inaccurate results that could have patients falsely believing they are not infected with the coronavirus.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Unemployment Benefits for Immigrants

Unemployment Benefits for Green Card Holders and Other Immigrants

It’s happening to millions of Americans. And immigrants are no different. The COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent stay-at-home orders have shut down the economy and left many people unemployed. What’s more, many immigrants are left wondering if it is safe to apply for unemployment benefits. Unemployment insurance (UI) rules are complicated. And the Trump administration’s new public charge rule has created a level of fear that just adds to the anxiety of having no job. The good news is that there are unemployment benefits for green card holders and certain other immigrants. Here’s what you need to know.

Unemployment Insurance Explained:

Unemployment insurance (UI) provides payments to certain workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own. An employee who quits a job is generally not eligible. However, those that have been laid off or fired are typically eligible to receive benefits. The amount that workers receive depends on the wages that worker earned during a “base period.” The base period varies by state, but it generally covers the past 12 to 18 months of employment.

The purpose of unemployment insurance is to help you while you’re between jobs. It provides temporary financial support with the expectation that you will actively search for a new job.

UI Eligibility for Immigrants:

There are three basic requirements for unemployment insurance eligibility. Applicants must meet all of the following requirements:

Be unemployed “through no fault of their own”

If you were laid off due to the coronavirus outbreak, you meet this requirement. If you quit a job, this generally will disqualify you from UI.

Have enough wages earned or hours worked in their “base period” to establish a claim

If you worked full-time over the last 18 months, you almost certainly meet this requirement. Each state has a different base period. Your benefit is likely reduced if you did not work full-time or did not work the entire base period.

Be “able and available” to work

If you were authorized to work in the United States, you generally meet this requirement. Anyone with a valid green card or work permit is authorized.

For more info contact:

Monday, May 25, 2020

U.S. Opens

Exchange Visitor Program Faces Uncertainty as US Opens but Embassies Remain Closed

The coronavirus pandemic has affected day-to-day life for everyone, including foreign nationals who planned to participate in the U.S. Department of State’s Exchange Visitor Program. These programs use on-the-job training and are often planned months in advanced.

Many large organizations and companies that sponsor and host exchange visitors—who come to the United States on J-1 visas—have been left wondering if their programs will happen at all this year.

In response to the ongoing pandemic, the State Department released guidance that recommended pausing exchange programs for 60 days starting on March 12. The department said it would reevaluate every 30 days after that.

Soon after the pause in programs, the State Department announced there would be an ongoing suspension of routine visa services worldwide. Since then the agency has not provided further guidance on how or whether embassies and consulates will reopen in the near future.

This has impacted those host organizations and companies who believed that their exchange visitors would be arriving shortly after May 11, when the State Department pause was due to expire.

Programs that were set to start in May, June, and July are still facing uncertainty. Individuals who had embassy appointments have had to delay their arrival. Others who received their visas before the embassy closures are still not able to travel due to the continued restrictions on arrivals from certain countries. In other cases, countries have implemented their own strict lockdowns, which have prevented people from being able to leave their own country.

Monday, May 18, 2020

ICE suit

Council Sues to Make ICE COVID-19 Plans Public

The Council filed a lawsuit after Immigrant Customs Enforcement (ICE) failed to respond to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request asking for information about steps ICE has taken to protect detained individuals from an outbreak of COVID-19 and steps the agency will take to identify and treat detained individuals who are at risk of infection or who have become infected.

The need for this litigation is urgent. Individuals in detained settings are particularly vulnerable to outbreaks of infectious diseases.

Agency records responsive to the Council’s request will provide attorneys—including pro bono attorneys who represent detained clients as part of Plaintiff’s Immigrant Justice Campaign (“Justice Campaign”) initiative—and advocates with up-to-date information about policies governing criteria for release, medical treatment, and communication access for those who remain detained. These records also will allow concerned stakeholders, including policymakers, to hold immigration agencies accountable for their treatment of detained individuals during the rapidly evolving public health crisis.

Though ICE granted Plaintiffs’s request for expedited processing of the FOIA request, the Council has not received any correspondence or responsive records from ICE since the beginning of April. As a result, Plaintiff filed a preliminary injunction in addition to a complaint to compel quick release of the COVID-19-related documents.

Monday, May 11, 2020

The First

What ICE Must Do Following the First Coronavirus Death in Its Custody

The prognosis for people in immigration detention facilities during this global pandemic is grim. On Wednesday, news broke of the first person to die while in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody after testing positive for the coronavirus.

Carlos Ernesto Escobar Mejia was a long-time member of the Los Angeles community. He died in a hospital’s intensive care unit due to COVID-19 complications. The 57-year-old had been detained in Otay Mesa Detention Center in Southern California since January 2020. Unless immediate action is taken, Escobar Mejia’s death in ICE custody will not be the last.

On May 7, immigrant advocacy groups filed a complaint over ICE’s neglect with several government oversight agencies. The complaint calls for ICE to ensure immigrants in its custody are protected during the pandemic. It also highlights the accounts of 17 men and women in detention facilities around the United States.

Each account is disturbing. They confirm ICE’s pattern of willfully and actively disregarding the health and welfare of thousands of individuals in its custody.

The complaint urges ICE to take several actions during the pandemic.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Deporting COV Immigrants

US Endangers Other Countries by Deporting People With the Coronavirus

Countries around the world that still have few coronavirus cases are bracing themselves for the spread of the pandemic. Many have restricted international arrivals to prevent a surge in cases like the one in the United States, which they would not have the resources to fight. Meanwhile, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) continues to deport infected people to these countries.

ICE Deports Immigrants Infected with the Coronavirus to Guatemala

Guatemala has been at the forefront of the response to these deportation flights. The country was receiving U.S. flights of Honduran and Salvadoran asylum seekers under an asylum cooperative agreement. Guatemala halted that program in March in reaction to the pandemic.

Hesitation to accept the flights stems from fears that many of the more than 30,000 people in ICE custody have contracted the virus. Social distancing is largely impossible in detention facilities where detained individuals are forced to sleep in crowded unsanitary conditions with little access to medical care, soap, or hand sanitizer.

ICE’s Failure to Test for the Coronavirus

As of April 22, ICE confirmed that 287 people in its custody had tested positive for the coronavirus. However, ICE Acting Director Matthew Albence recently stated that ICE has only tested 400 people, or approximately 1% of those in its custody. This likely means that other detained individuals have unconfirmed cases of COVID-19. If deported, these people can then spread the virus to their home countries.

Monday, April 20, 2020

What is an ITIN?

The Facts About the Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN)

Stimulus checks were sent by the federal government this week. However, millions of immigrants who pay billions in taxes were left out if they paid through the Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN), rather than a Social Security number.

The Supreme Court could make a decision on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals as soon as this week. For over two decades, lawmakers have introduced policies to protect young undocumented immigrants.

What is an ITIN?

It was created for tax purposes.  The ITIN program was created by the IRS in July 1996 so that foreign nationals and other individuals who are not eligible for a Social Security number (SSN) can pay the taxes they are legally required to pay.

ITINs are not SSNs.  The ITIN is a nine-digit number that always begins with the number 9 and has a 7 or 8 in the fourth digit, for example 9XX-7X-XXXX.

Many immigrants have ITINs. People who do not have a lawful status in the United States may obtain an ITIN. In addition, the following people are lawfully in the country and must pay taxes but may not be eligible for a SSN and may obtain an ITIN:

A non-resident foreign national who owns or invests in a U.S. business and receives taxable income from that U.S. business, but lives in another country.

A foreign national student who qualifies as a resident of the United States (based on days present in the United States).

A dependent or spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.

A dependent or spouse of a foreign national on a temporary visa.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Shortage of Farmworkers

Shortage of Farmworkers Threatens Americans’ Food Supply During the Coronavirus

The U.S. agricultural industry depends on seasonal guest workers to produce the food Americans eat. Since 1986, the H-2A visa program has allowed employers to fill labor shortages with temporary and seasonal workers from other countries.

The Trump administration recently classified agricultural employees as “essential critical infrastructure workers” during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). At the same time, the pandemic is complicating the guest worker application process. This in turn threatens farmers’ ability to provide the food we serve on our tables.

Last month, the State Department announced that it would pause the processing of all new H-2A applications because they require an in-person interview at a U.S. consulate.

The State Department began limiting their services in all countries with a level 2, 3, or 4 Travel Advisory due to the coronavirus. The State Department issues these warnings when it’s considered dangerous to travel to certain countries.

As a result, the consulate in Mexico—where many seasonal farmworkers are from—is currently unable to process H-2A applications.

The government took some measures to compensate for the setback.

Visa processing continued in countries without travel warnings. Interviews for certain returning workers were waived. For the first time, the Department of Labor committed to helping workers finishing their seasonal contract with one farm to transfer immediately to another farm. Normally, H-2A workers can only work for the employer who petitioned for them.

Still, thousands of positions remain at risk of going unfilled. Mexico is home to more than half of H-2A workers. About half of those are new applicants, and most are issued in the spring months.

Monday, April 6, 2020


The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act)

Many Immigrant Families Won’t Receive Direct Payments

Millions of immigrant families across the United States will not benefit from the $2 trillion in COVID-19 relief money contained in the package. It provides direct payments on a sliding scale of up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child, depending on income and immigration status.

Only those with a Social Security number who have a green card or are “resident aliens” will qualify. This includes people with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS). But many people who meet these prerequisites will still be disqualified from receiving cash payments if they have a spouse or child who does not have a valid Social Security number.

The impact will be significant. Many mixed status families will be disqualified from receiving payments from the government. They can be excluded even if the head of household has status in the United States and is paying taxes.

Recent estimates indicate that 16.7 million people live with at least one unauthorized family member. This includes approximately 5.1 million U.S. citizen children under the age of 18.

While most unauthorized immigrants don’t have valid Social Security numbers, many still pay federal, state, and local income taxes by using an Individual Tax Identifying Number.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Immigrant Health Care Workers

Immigrant Health Care Workers Play a Vital Role in the United States’ COVID-19 Response

As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, the U.S. health care system will likely be pushed to its limits. During this time, it is important to remember the role that immigrant health care workers play alongside their native-born colleagues on the front lines of this fight—and how strongly our health care capacity depends on the expertise of these workers.

From physicians to nursing home aides, immigrants play critical roles in the health care infrastructure of the nation. These roles will likely become even more critical in the weeks and months ahead.

A study in the medical journal JAMA found that roughly 30 percent of all physicians in the United States were born in other countries. The same is true for one-in-five pharmacists and one-in-six registered nurses. About 23 percent of home health, psychiatric, and nursing aides are immigrants as well.

Immigrant workers are found at all points along the health care occupational spectrum, at all levels of skill and education.

Immigrant doctors in particular play an out-sized role in providing health care to rural towns and disadvantaged communities. And immigrant health care workers more generally are critical in serving the elderly and people with disabilities in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Military Members Children

Congress Passes Bill Ensuring US Citizenship for Children of Military Members

A bill that would ensure automatic U.S. citizenship for the children of U.S. military service members will soon hit the president’s desk. The Citizenship for Children of Military Members & Civil Servants Act passed the House and Senate with bipartisan support last Thursday.

Until recently, children born abroad to U.S. service members and federal employees were generally considered to have residence in the United States, which meant that they had access to an easy process to have their children recognized as U.S. citizens.

This was no longer the case when the Trump administration announced changes to the definition of U.S. “residency” for military service members stationed abroad in August 2019.

Although the changes were largely technical, they sparked widespread confusion when first announced. The impact of this policy change on military personnel created an unusual moment of bipartisan agreement, and Congress decided to create a legislative fix.

A child born outside of the U.S. can still obtain citizenship at birth if one or both of their parents is a U.S. citizen who meet certain residency requirements. In most cases, the parent needs to have lived in the United States for five years, two of which must have occurred after the age of 14. Special rules were in place for military service members who had children while stationed abroad.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Coronavirus Impact on Immigration

How the Coronavirus Is Impacting Immigration

Spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, has caused panic across the United States. With the number of confirmed cases on the rise, the coronavirus has started to affect several facets of immigration.

How government officials handle the virus could have a significant impact on people navigating our immigration process, their health, and the immigration system at large. Some government responses have already made an impact.

USCIS Office Closures Over Coronavirus

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) shut down its Seattle field office on Tuesday, March 3 due to concerns over the coronavirus. An employee of the USCIS office had visited a family member at the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington before it was confirmed the facility had an outbreak of the virus.

Other USCIS offices may close as the virus spreads across the United States. USCIS is tracking office closures on their website.

Those waiting outside the Seattle office last week were surprised to find it closed. One man, who had been ordered to leave the country for Mexico, couldn’t get to his passport—it was locked inside the office. Another man had been waiting for his biometrics appointment but would need to reschedule.

USCIS office closures can have a large impact on immigrants and their families. They often wait months or longer for their scheduled appointments. Rescheduling missed or cancelled appointments can result in further delays.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Immigration and Coronavirus

Immigration judges want to know how to handle coronavirus

The union representing immigration judges urged the Trump administration in a letter Monday to "immediately" implement steps to protect judges and their staff and provide guidance on how to proceed amid the coronavirus outbreak, which also has the potential to exacerbate the overwhelming backlog of pending cases.

The letter calls for the Executive Office for Immigration Review, an agency within the Justice Department that oversees the nation's immigration courts, to inform employees about the plan "as it relates to a potential pandemic," noting that some immigration court functions "may not lend themselves to telework."

"As you know, our work requires us to be in close contact with the public on a daily basis, often in very large numbers and groups," wrote Judge Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges.

She continued: "Beyond our own employees, the respondents who come before us may also be at high risk for developing serious illness. Because we order their appearance and they face the prospect of removal if they don't appear, sick respondents and respondents vulnerable to serious illness will keep coming to court unless we take action."

Monday, March 2, 2020

U.S. Citizenship for Children

Derivative Citizenship for Children of U.S. Citizens

U.S. Citizenship for Children Under INA Section 320

Child Citizenship Act

Adult permanent residents apply for U.S. citizenship by filing Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. But minor children (under age 18) may not use this form. Under Section 320 of the Immigration and Naturalization Act, also known as the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, children under 18 automatically acquire U.S. citizenship if the following three conditions have been fulfilled:

At least one of the child’s parents is a U.S. citizen by birth or naturalization;

The child is a permanent resident under 18 years of age;

The child is residing in or has resided in the United States in the legal and physical custody of the
U.S. citizen parent.

Once all three conditions are met at the same time, the child is a U.S. citizen by matter of law. The order of events makes no difference. If a child is a permanent resident and under 18, and then at least one parent naturalizes, the child automatically becomes a U.S. citizen. If a parent naturalizes and then the child gets permanent residence, the child becomes a U.S. citizen the moment he or she becomes a permanent resident, if that happens before the child is 18.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Greyhound will stop

Greyhound will stop allowing immigration checks on buses

Greyhound, the U.S.’s largest bus company, said on Friday that it will stop allowing Border Patrol agents without a warrant to board its buses to conduct routine immigration checks.

Greyhound Lines will no longer allow Border Patrol agents to conduct immigration checks on its buses without warrants, the company announced on Friday — one week after a leaked government memo revealed that agents could not board buses without consent.

The memo appeared to take Greyhound by surprise. For years, the company, the largest operator of intercity buses in America, had been allowing border agents to board its vehicles without warrants, citing a law that it said it didn’t agree with.

“C.B.P. searches have negatively impacted both our customers and our operations,” the company said in 2018, referring to Customs and Border Protection, the Border Patrol’s parent agency. “Greyhound does not coordinate with C.B.P., nor do we support these actions.”

But in the leaked memo, which was first reported by The Associated Press, the Border Patrol chief confirmed that agents were prohibited from boarding buses and questioning passengers without warrants or the company’s consent.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Immigration Restrictions

Immigration Restrictions Extend to Nearly 7% of the Entire World

The President issued the fourth travel ban of his presidency on Friday. This ban comes almost three years to the day after the first one brought thousands of protesters to airports around the country.

People from Nigeria, Eritrea, Myanmar, and Kyrgyzstan are now barred from immigrating to the United States. Those from Sudan and Tanzania will also be barred from the diversity visa program under the new ban. In total, people from 13 countries now face immigration restrictions based on where they were born.

Individuals from the newly affected countries will still be able to travel to the United States on other visas, such as student or tourist visas. But they cannot, however, become permanent U.S. residents.

Although the ban is supposedly based in national security, it only blocks those who had ties to the United States strong enough to permanently immigrate. This fact has long undermined the administration’s national security rationales.

This will have the greatest effect on U.S. citizens seeking to bring over family members, including spouses and children. Many Americans fear that they won’t be able to bring over adopted children under the new ban.

As with the last travel ban, some people can apply for waivers that would let them immigrate. But the current waiver process is often criticized as inadequate.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Voter Registration Error

Voter registration error risks deportation for immigrants

CHICAGO (AP) — The day Margarita Del Pilar Fitzpatrick applied for an Illinois driver's license upended her life. When a clerk offered to register her to vote in 2005, the Peruvian citizen mistakenly accepted, leading to long legal battles and eventually deportation.

A decade and a half later, she struggles to find work at 52, is nearly homeless and hasn't seen two of her three American citizen daughters in years because of a secretary of state's office mishap.
“It has derailed our lives,” she said in a phone interview from Lima. “Immigrants should not be put in this situation.”

A handful of other immigrants could face a similar fate, or criminal charges, after a mistake in Illinois' automatic voter registration system allowed of hundreds of people who identified themselves as non-U.S. citizens to register. Sixteen cast ballots.

The fiasco in a state with a reputation for election shenanigans triggered a partisan battle, infuriated voter advocacy groups and left immigrant rights activists doing damage control.
“It’s disappointing because the situation could have been avoided,” said Lawrence Benito, head of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Separations at the Border

Judge Allows Certain Family Separations at the Border to Continue

The Trump administration received an unfortunate victory in the case against their family separation policy.

On January 13, 2020, Federal Judge Dana Sabraw sided with the government in a lawsuit challenging continued separations at the border. Although the judge ordered an end to most family separations in 2018, he has allowed families to be separated under certain exceptions.

These exceptions have let the practice continue on a smaller—yet still devastating—scale. Over 1,000 children have been separated since the judge’s earlier ruling.

Under the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, immigrant parents were systematically separated from their children at the U.S.-Mexico border and prosecuted for entering the United States without authorization. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit shortly after the policy was announced in April 2018. Judge Sabraw ordered an end to the policy two months later. He also ordered the reunification of the over 2,800 families who had been separated under the policy.
He allowed, however, for separations when there is “a determination that the parent is unfit or presents a danger to the child.”

Since that 2018 decision, thousands of children have been separated. The government relies on different “exceptions” to continue the separations.

In some cases, the government cites the parent’s criminal history or health condition. In others, they have expressed doubts of a legitimate parent-child relationship. They allege criminal history—even if the offense took place years ago and was non-violent. It can be as simple as a traffic citation. In some cases, the parent has not been charged with a crime but is simply suspected of one by the U.S. government.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Deporting Students

Student’s Deportation Shows a Pattern of US Government Targeting Iranians

Iranian students coming to the United States are being stopped at airports, having their visas revoked, and are being deported. Advocates warn this trend is emerging less than a month after hundreds of Iranian Americans were stopped and interrogated at a port of entry between Washington State and Vancouver, Canada.

Shahab Dehghani, an Iranian student studying economics at Northeastern University, was detained at Boston Logan International Airport on Monday. He had previously studied in the United States for two years and was returning for the new year with a new student visa issued last week.

After hours in the custody of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Dehghani was deported. The 24-year-old was removed even though a federal judge had ordered the deportation to be temporarily blocked.

Advocates argue that CBP defied the judge’s order, issued late Monday night. Although the exact timeline is still in dispute, one of Dehghani’s lawyers indicated that the plane he was on did not depart until more than 30 minutes after the order came down.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Illegal Crossings

Illegal crossings plunge as US extends policy across border

Adolfo Cardenas smiles faintly at the memory of traveling with his 14-year-old son from Honduras to the U.S.-Mexico border in only nine days, riding buses and paying a smuggler $6,000 to ensure passage through highway checkpoints.

Father and son walked about 10 minutes in Arizona's stifling June heat before surrendering to border agents. Instead of being released with paperwork to appear in immigration court in Dallas, where Cardenas hopes to live with a cousin, they were bused more than an hour to wait in the Mexican border city of Mexicali.

“It was a surprise. I never imagined this would happen," Cardenas, 39, said while waiting at a Mexicali migrant shelter for his fifth court appearance in San Diego, on Jan. 24.

Illegal crossings plummeted across the border after the Trump administration made more asylum-seekers wait in Mexico for hearings in U.S. court. The drop has been most striking on the western Arizona border, a pancake-flat desert with a vast canal system from the Colorado River that turns bone-dry soil into fields of melons and wheat and orchards of dates and lemons.

Arrests in the Border Patrol's Yuma sector nearly hit 14,000 in May, when the policy to make asylum-seekers wait in Mexico took effect there. By October, they fell 94%, to less than 800, and have stayed there since, making Yuma the second-slowest of the agency's nine sectors on the Mexican border, just ahead of the perennially quiet Big Bend sector in Texas.

Illegal crossings in western Arizona have swung sharply before, and there are several reasons for the recent drop. But Anthony Porvaznik, chief of the Border Patrol's Yuma sector, said the so-called Migration Protection Protocols have been a huge deterrent, based on agents' interviews with people arrested.

“Their whole goal was to be released into the United States, and once that was taken off the shelf for them, and they couldn't be released into the United States anymore, then that really diminished the amount of traffic that came through here,” Porvaznik said.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Proposed Fee

Ways USCIS’ Proposed Fee Increase Fails to Solve the Agency’s Problems

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) recent proposal to increase most of their fees has been met with strong opposition. The proposal drew widespread attention, garnering nearly 10,000 comments.

The agency claims the new fees will help reduce the growing application backlog. Yet the agency offers no solution as to how that will be achieved. Instead, the proposed rule may create unnecessary financial barriers to many of USCIS’ services.

Here are ways the recently proposed rule could hurt both USCIS and their customers if it becomes finalized:

1. Increased Fees for Decreased Services
The quality of USCIS’ services has decreased over the years. It takes longer to process cases, adjudications have slowed, and access to case information assistance has decreased.
Yet the proposed rule does not address how the agency’s own policies contributed to the decline in quality services. Instead, it places the burden on customers to pay for inefficiencies with higher fees.

2. Unnecessary Financial Barriers
USCIS’ increased fees could price many people out of accessing the legal immigration system.
The cost of a naturalization application would rise to over $1,000 for the first time in history, an 80% increase. Many people, including citizenship applicants, would be prohibited from applying for a fee waiver.

The new rule would also impose a $50 fee for affirmative asylum applications—when no fee has ever been charged before. The fee could be insurmountable to many who had just fled their countries.

3. Failure to Properly Assess USCIS Policies
The agency claims they are assessing how changes to their policies have driven the increase in costs. Yet nowhere in the proposed rule does USCIS outline what those policy changes were or how they have contributed to the need for increased fees.

The proposal only makes vague references to the “growing complexity of the case adjudication process” and “increased background investigations” of applicants. It does not, however, say how the agency’s policies shifted to accommodate those changes.

By not taking clear stock of their own internal changes and affected costs, USCIS keeps their customers in the dark about how their money is used. It’s also shortsighted of the agency to not take their own policy shifts into account.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Detention of Pregnant Women

Detention of Pregnant Women Increases 52% in ICE

The rate at which U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detained pregnant women increased 52% during the first two years of the Trump administration, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released last week. 2,098 pregnant women were detained by ICE in 2018, compared to 1,380 in 2016.

The increase aligns with a December 2017 ICE policy change, ending a presumption of release for pregnant women. Instead, they are now subjected to the same case-by-case custody determinations applied to the general detained population. The change was publicly announced in March 2018, four months after it had gone into effect.

Previously, ICE’s policy was to release any pregnant women not legally subject to mandatory detention, absent “extraordinary circumstances.” This policy understood that the health of a pregnant woman and her pregnancy could not be appropriately cared for in a detained setting.

Unofficial policies shifted at some ICE detention centers, even before the official change.

Higher numbers of pregnant women arriving to the United States were detained by ICE at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas. Before then, they were almost always released from the border and permitted to fight their immigration cases outside a detention center.