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.