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). 

Monday, April 26, 2021

Investigation Into ICE's Mishandling of COVID-19


Investigation Into ICE's Mishandling of COVID-19

The United States currently has the largest immigration detention system in the world. On any given day, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, holds tens of thousands of people in about 200 facilities across the country. And throughout the pandemic, these facilities have become some of the most dangerous places in the United States when it comes to COVID-19 outbreaks.

Our analysis compared estimated infection rates in ICE detention centers with infection rates in prisons and in the general population. As COVID-19 cases rose last June, ICE detention facilities had an average infection rate five times that of prisons and 20 times that of the general population.

To understand the risks the ICE facilities posed, we talked to former detainees, data scientists, lawyers, county officials and the family of a former ICE contractor about the spread of COVID-19 inside and outside ICE detention centers. We also reviewed court documents, medical records of detainees and government inspection reports from June 2020 to March 2021. Here’s what we found.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Admissions Cap

 Biden’s Commitment to Refugees in Question After Flip-Flopping on Admissions Cap

Throughout his presidential campaign and after the election, Joe Biden repeatedly condemned President Trump’s decision to slash the U.S. refugee admissions level to its lowest in history. He  promised to raise the number of refugees admitted to 125,000 a year.

But on April 16, President Biden instead signed a new refugee determination keeping in place Trump’s 15,000 cap on refugees for the rest of the fiscal year, the lowest level in the history of the U.S. refugee resettlement program. This decision was the first major promise on immigration that Biden appeared to break.

Biden did, however, lift several discriminatory restrictions on the refugee program that had blocked many refugees from the Middle East and Africa. And after refugee groups and members of Congress condemned the administration’s decision, the White House seemingly walked back its original announcement, saying that “We expect the President to set a final, increased refugee cap for the remainder of this fiscal year by May 15.”

The U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program, established decades ago, requires the president to sign a “Presidential Determination” each year setting the number of refugees that will be resettled. In President Obama’s last term, that level was set at 110,000 for fiscal year 2017. Trump lowered the level to 50,000 immediately on taking office, then cut the level each year after that. It plummeted to a historic low of 15,000 for fiscal year 2021, which runs from October 1, 2020 to September 30, 2021. In total, just 2,050 refugees have been resettled through the first half of the fiscal year.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Responding at the Border

 How the Biden Administration Is Responding to Unaccompanied Children, 

Families, and Adults at the Border

The Arrival of Single Adults at the Border

Beginning last spring, after lockdowns lifted across Mexico and Central America, tens of thousands of single adults began coming to the U.S.-Mexico border. Under a policy put in place by the Trump administration known as “Title 42,” individuals who cross the border between ports of entry were rapidly expelled back to Mexico or placed on a plane and sent to their home country.

These rapid expulsions created a situation where single adults—who didn’t have to worry about the health and safety of a child with them—could attempt to cross the border repeatedly. In December 2020 alone, the Border Patrol apprehended single adults over 62,000 times (many of them the same people). This was the highest level since 1999.

The number of single adults coming to the border has continued to increase since then, making up 67% of all border apprehensions since January. In March, the Border Patrol apprehended single adults 96,628 times. Nearly all were expelled back to Mexico—even those hoping to seek asylum.

Single adults do not represent the same kind of processing difficulties as families and children, in part because the Border Patrol was created generations ago for this exact purpose.

The Arrival of Families and Unaccompanied Children

At the same time, a different phenomenon has been occurring with families and unaccompanied children. Though the number of asylum-seeking families and children coming to the border had begun growing last year, that number has skyrocketed since January.

The arrival of record numbers of unaccompanied children has continued to prove an enormous humanitarian challenge for the Biden administration. President Biden has committed to not restoring the Trump-era policy of expelling unaccompanied children, which was blocked in court last November.

In response, the Biden administration has worked to rapidly expand the capacity of the Office of Refugee Resettlement through the creation of new “emergency influx shelters.” This strategy seems to be having a positive impact, with the number of children in Border Patrol custody beginning to drop through the first weeks of April.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Eagle Pass

Texas border town mayor says illegal immigrants have been hiding in homes

Eagle Pass, Texas Mayor Luis Sifuentes says border agents in his area have been catching about 300 illegal immigrants a day.

The mayor of a Texas border town told "America Reports" on Monday that illegal immigrants have been hiding in the homes, backyards and patios

Eagle Pass borders the city of Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico, which is to the southwest and across the Rio Grande. The Eagle Pass-Piedras Negras metropolitan area (EG-PN) is one of six binational metropolitan areas along the United States-Mexican border.


Monday, March 29, 2021

The House Passes Historic Dream


The House Passes Historic Dream and Promise Act and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act

The U.S. House of Representatives passed two immigration bills on March 18, signaling that Congress might finally enact major immigration reform for the first time in over three decades.

These bills—the Dream and Promise Act and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act—both offer pathways to U.S. citizenship for many immigrants with longstanding ties to the United States.

Who Benefits from the Dream and Promise Act?

Millions of immigrants living in the United States may soon be eligible for permanent status, thanks to the passage of the Dream and Promise Act of 2021. The bill passed by a 228-197 vote in the House.

If the legislation also passes in the Senate, it will provide an estimated 4 million Dreamers—young immigrants who came to the U.S. as children—a pathway to American citizenship. This would go further than the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative, which only provided temporary protections from deportation and the ability to work lawfully.

Another 400,000 people with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) would also receive a pathway to citizenship. Countries are designated for TPS or DED due to ongoing armed conflict, natural disaster, or other extraordinary conditions. Most recipients have lived in the U.S. for decades.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Farm Workforce Modernization Act


The House Passes Historic Dream and Promise Act and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act

The U.S. House of Representatives passed two immigration bills on March 18, signaling that Congress might finally enact major immigration reform for the first time in over three decades.

These bills—the Dream and Promise Act and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act—both offer pathways to U.S. citizenship for many immigrants with longstanding ties to the United States.

Who Benefits from the Dream and Promise Act?

Millions of immigrants living in the United States may soon be eligible for permanent status, thanks to the passage of the Dream and Promise Act of 2021. The bill passed by a 228-197 vote in the House.

If the legislation also passes in the Senate, it will provide an estimated 4 million Dreamers—young immigrants who came to the U.S. as children—a pathway to American citizenship. This would go further than the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative, which only provided temporary protections from deportation and the ability to work lawfully.

Another 400,000 people with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) would also receive a pathway to citizenship. Countries are designated for TPS or DED due to ongoing armed conflict, natural disaster, or other extraordinary conditions. Most recipients have lived in the U.S. for decades.

What Does the Dream and Promise Act Provide?

The legislation—introduced on March 3 by Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard—would give current, former, and future undocumented high school graduates and GED recipients a pathway to citizenship.

Those who are eligible would need to follow a three-step process to obtain citizenship through college, work, or the armed forces.

Upon meeting certain eligibility requirements, a person could apply for conditional permanent residence status.

After maintaining that status, they can apply for lawful permanent residence (LPR)—also known as a green card—after completing two years of college, two years in the armed services, or three years of employment. Individuals can apply for a “hardship waiver” if they don’t meet any of these requirements but have a disability or work as a full-time caregiver. The applicant may also receive a waiver if an LPR or U.S. citizen-spouse, parent, or child would face extreme hardship if they were deported.

Monday, March 15, 2021

How the COVID-19 Pandemic Has Affected Immigration: One Year Later


How the COVID-19 Pandemic Has Affected Immigration: One Year Later

It’s been one year since the COVID-19 pandemic first affected immigration on a global scale. The impact has been swift, devastating, and long-lasting.

On March 11, 2020, former President issued a proclamation announcing travel restrictions on two dozen European countries. It was one of the first major signs from the U.S. government that the landscape of travel—and immigration in particular—would be significantly altered by the pandemic.

All told, immigration to the United States dropped a staggering 92% during the second half of fiscal year 2020. This was the largest drop off in immigration in the history of the United States.

Immigration amid the pandemic continues to evolve. Here are some of the changes to immigration in the last year.

Immigration Bans and Restrictions: Then

The United States officially declared COVID-19 a public health emergency on January 31, 2020.

Upon that declaration, all people other than U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and their immediate family were barred from traveling to the U.S. within 14 days of being in China, where the first known outbreak occurred.

On March 11, 2020, during a primetime address to the nation, The President banned all foreign nationals from European countries for 30 days. The President continued to roll out and extend travel restrictions after that announcement.

The next large ban—targeting the legal immigration system—came on April 24 and was set to last until December 31, 2020.

The President blocked the issuance of all new permanent visas to many immigrants that the prior administration had targeted for exclusion for years. The ban blocked immigrant family members of U.S. citizens, including parents and children. The ban also covered winners of the diversity visa.

On April 24, the administration extended the ban to include certain employment-based nonimmigrant visas.

At the same time, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) suspended all in-person services at its domestic and foreign offices. The Department of State had already closed all of USCIS’ visa processing services at embassies and consulates worldwide on March 20. Limited services—such as socially-distanced naturalization ceremonies—resumed on June 4.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Why Immigration Visa Wait Times Are So Long


Applying for an immigrant visa to the United States is an all-consuming process. Applicants have to submit paperwork that sometimes spans several years of their lives and make their case in front of immigration officers multiple times. Over the years, the number of applications for immigrant visas has reached record levels. During the Trump administration, we also saw higher denial rates and Requests for Evidence (RFEs) in many categories of immigrant visas. Visa wait times seem to just grow longer.

All of these steps, plus the annual limits in some visa categories, make wait times exceptionally long. During 2020, many applicants for immigrant visas experienced significant delays in their cases due to U.S. immigration offices and embassies’ closures based on COVID-19 protocols.

We know that applying for a U.S. immigrant visa involves “getting in line” with hundreds of thousands of people. But why exactly are visa wait times so long? And what will President Biden do to improve it?

The Immigrant Visa Process, in a Nutshell

An immigrant visa allows you to live and work in the United States permanently. Most people know it as a permanent resident card or “green card.” There are many ways in which a person can become a permanent resident in the United States, but most immigrant visas fall under these categories:

Family-Based Immigrant Visas

Employment-Based Immigrant Visas

Diversity Visas

Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Regardless of the category under which you may qualify, the process involves multiple government agencies, including U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the U.S. Department of State (if you’re abroad). USCIS manages most of the immigration process.

Monday, March 1, 2021

J-1 Visa Benefits


What Are the Benefits of the J-1 Visa?

Over the past year, sweeping orders have banned many non-immigrant visa holders from entering the United States. The COVID-19 pandemic gave many former Trump administration officials the opportunity to restrict immigration based on fears surrounding the spread of the coronavirus and U.S. unemployment and immigration.

The extended executive order—in effect until March 31—has consequently kept J-1 visa holders out of the country for almost an entire year.

What is the J-1 visa?

The J-1 visa, often referred to as the “exchange visitor visa,” allows for people from all over the world to gain crucial skills in the U.S. that they take back to their respective home countries.

This could mean learning specialty skills in everything from hospitality to finance to mental health training or law. Individuals train in these skills and return home with knowledge, insight into American culture, resources, and connections.

This return home is often enforced through a feature of the J-1 visa called the “home residency requirement,” which requires individuals in different categories to return home for at least two years.

Unlike other visa categories which require approval through the Department of Labor, the J-1 visa is approved through the Department of State. This allows for programs to be curated by host-employers, highlighting what the visa recipient can expect to learn and for how long and who will oversee the program. Unlike other visa categories, spouses and dependents can be approved along with the J-1’s application.  This means that extensions are approved through sponsoring organizations and not with other government agencies.

The point of the J-1 visa category isn’t to take American jobs—rather, it’s designed to help train and create a network within global industries and tie countries together with common experiences.

Monday, February 22, 2021

A Win for Transparency


In a Win for Transparency, Court Orders Board of Immigration Appeals to Make Immigration Court Decisions Public

The Second Circuit has found that the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) must publish immigration decisions, reversing an earlier federal district court decision.

The case challenged the Department of Justice’s longstanding practice of failing to publish immigration decisions by the BIA—the highest administrative court deciding immigration cases—in any forum that could be easily accessed by the public. The decision in the case, brought by the New York Legal Assistance Group, highlights agencies’ obligations under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to make certain records publicly available without individuals or organizations having to file individual FOIA requests to obtain them.

The provision of FOIA that requires agencies to proactively disclose certain agency records is sometimes called the “reading room provision” because agencies maintain FOIA Reading Rooms on their websites that can be accessed by the public. Documents that must be provided to the public without specific requests include: policies that have been adopted by the agency; agency manuals and instructions to staff; and “final opinions . . . as well as orders, made in the adjudication of cases.”

Under FOIA, documents that fall under the reading room provision cannot be “relied on, used, or cited as precedent by an agency” unless they are publicly available, or the party opposing the agency has “actual and timely notice of the terms thereof.” The fact that the unpublished decisions were cropping up in immigration court and BIA decisions was very problematic.

The Second Circuit reversed a previous ruling, finding courts do have the ability to order the BIA to make documents publicly available, not just available to an individual FOIA requester. In doing so, the court also disagreed with the D.C. Circuit, finding it had wrongly interpreted FOIA to prevent courts from ordering public disclosure.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Plan to Process


The Administration Unveils Plan to Process Asylum Seekers Subject to 

the Migrant Protection Protocols

The Trump administration sent over 70,000 people who came to the U.S border seeking asylum back to Mexico to wait for court hearings. This so-called “Migrant Protection Protocols” (“MPP”) program placed people in serious danger and made it nearly impossible for anyone to win protection. Court hearings under MPP were indefinitely suspended in March 2020. This left thousands of people stuck in Mexico in limbo.

One of President Biden’s first actions instructed U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) not to put any new people into the program. Three weeks later, his administration has announced a plan to allow the thousands of people still waiting in Mexico to enter the United States.

Who will be allowed to enter?

Under the Biden administration’s plan, the only people who will be allowed to reenter the United States are the roughly 25,000 individuals who have pending MPP cases.

Importantly, far fewer people are likely still waiting at the U.S.-Mexico border. While exact figures are not available, it is likely that many have already returned to their home countries or left for safer locations in Mexico.

Monday, February 8, 2021

The ENV Program

The Electronic Nationality Verification Program: An Overview

U.S. immigration agencies use a range of programs to deport—or remove—certain noncitizens from the United States. Under the Trump administration, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and two of its component agencies, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), expanded their avenues for removal. One method, the Electronic Nationality Verification (ENV) program, was touted as a way to expedite the repatriation of certain Central Americans.

There is little public information about the ENV program—only fleeting references by officials or in obscure reports. Yet since 2019, the government has used ENV to rapidly deport thousands of people. This fact sheet describes the ENV program, whom it affects, and highlights concerns regarding the program.

What is the Electronic Nationality Verification Program?

Under the ENV program, CBP coordinates with ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) to “remove eligible [individuals] with a final order of removal to their native countries.” As of 2019, the agencies can remove nationals of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras through ENV. It is not clear whether more countries participate as of January 2021.

A pre-existing program with Mexico—called the Interior Repatriation Initiative (IRI)—provided the framework for ENV. ICE ERO piloted IRI with Mexico in 2012 and made it a permanent initiative a year later.

The ENV and IRI programs enable DHS to quicky deport from the United States a person with final removal orders without obtaining travel documents from the foreign national’s government. Prior to ENV, if an individual arrived at the border without a valid passport from their home country, ICE was required to contact the individual’s consulate to verify their nationality, as well as to obtain formal travel documents. ICE could obtain “electronic travel documents” for nationals of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic. Under ENV, not only are travel documents produced electronically but a person’s nationality is verified electronically, sometimes through the use of biometric identifiers. In some instances, people are deported within hours of arrival.

DHS announced in 2019 that it was expanding ENV. CBP has deemed ENV a successful “migration mitigation” strategy and indicated plans to implement ENV and other strategies in full after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Immigrants in Court Hearings


Immigrants Appear for Their Court Hearings, New Data Shows

Do most immigrants show up for their immigration court hearings? A new report released by the American Immigration Council reveals that the answer to this question is a clear “Yes.”

As the Biden administration begins its overhaul of the immigration enforcement system, we must ensure that our policies are based on facts. The report makes clear that many of our harsh detention policies relied on flawed data that suggested immigrants “disappear” before court hearings.

The Overwhelming Majority of Immigrants Appear for Their Immigration Court Hearings

The new study—authored by Professor Ingrid Eagly with the UCLA School of Law and Steven Shafer with the Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project—is based on government data of nearly 3,000,000 immigration court hearings spanning more than a decade. The study found that 83% of all nondetained immigrants attended every single one of their court hearings.

15% of those immigrants who did miss a court hearing and were ordered deported were later able to successfully reopen their cases and had their removal orders rescinded. This finding suggests that many of the small number of individuals who fail to appear in court wanted to attend their hearings, but never received a hearing notice or faced some hardship in getting there on time.

Government Statistics are Flawed

The study found that official government statistics significantly overstate the rates at which immigrants are ordered removed for missing court. The government only counts initial decisions by an immigration judge, which are just a subset of all cases.

But when you measure each decision made by a judge as well as pending cases, the picture changes. This complete view reveals that the government’s measurement produces results that suggest immigrants miss court twice as often as they actually do—34% of the time compared to just 17% of the time.

Monday, January 25, 2021

8 Actions on Immigration


President Elect Took Eight Administrative Actions on Immigration. 

Here’s What You Need to Know.

On his first day in office, President Biden took significant steps towards undoing the harm of the Trump administration’s immigration policies—and reforming our punitive and inhumane enforcement system.

In response to years of work by immigrants and advocates, Biden quickly signed a series of executive actions related to immigration. Here is a summary of eight immigration-related changes the new administration just implemented:

1. Scaling back Trump’s unchecked immigration enforcement.

An executive order and a related Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memo rescinding Trump’s enforcement policy that indiscriminately targeted anyone who could be deported. Starting on February 1, interim priorities will focus enforcement on people suspected of terrorism, most people who have arrived to the United States since November 1—and some people who are currently incarcerated and determined to be a public safety risk.

It will be important to watch how these interim enforcement priorities are applied in practice, especially given the United States’ history of racism in the criminal justice system and anti-terrorism initiatives and excessively harsh immigration consequences for many crimes.

2. 100-Day moratorium on most deportations.

A DHS memo implementing a 100-day moratorium on most deportations, starting on January 22. There are a few narrow categories of people who will still be deported, including people who have recently arrived to the United States and people who are suspected of terrorism. The State of Texas has filed a lawsuit against the moratorium claiming it violates agreements of questionable legality made by the Trump administration in its final days.

During the moratorium, DHS is required to review its enforcement practices and make recommendations for new priorities. Additionally, the Biden administration has not yet specified what will happen to the approximately 15,000 people currently in Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention. It is essential that further plans include an end to our country’s cruel immigration detention system.

For more Actions visit

Monday, January 18, 2021

Bond Eligibility For Detained Non-Citizen


Supreme Court hears arguments in complex case over bond eligibility for detained non-citizens

The US Supreme Court on Monday heard oral argument in Pham v. Guzman Chavez, which addresses the detention of aliens who are both in the process of removal from the US and subject to a reinstated removal order.

The case stems from a dispute over whether a group of eight non-citizen immigrants, initially detained by the US government for illegal entry, could seek release via bond hearings before immigration judges. A further complication arose when examining the US government’s actual statutory authority in detaining immigrants seeking to overturn deportation decisions after reinstated removal orders—removal orders which are reinstated after an immigrant lawfully re-enters the US.

The case revolves around two sections of the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act, which significantly modified federal law as it relates to immigration and migration policy in the US. Typically, noncitizens with reinstated removal orders are swiftly removed by the government. However, immigrants may challenge the removal orders with “withholding claims,” which, if granted, bar their removal as a means of protection from feared persecution or torture if they return to their home countries.

In the lower US District Court, the government argued that Section 1231 of the Act automatically subjected the immigrants to “mandatory detention.” The immigrants argued that another section of the Act, Section 1226, allowed them to appear in front of immigration judges. The court determined that the group was detained under Section 1226, ruling for the immigrants. On appeal, the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the ruling, concluding that the petitioners were entitled to individualized bond hearings. The court held that the Act requires that plaintiffs receive individual bond hearings, where a judge determines if they pose a “flight risk.” If the judge makes no such finding, the government must release the individual from detention.

Matthew Albence, in his official capacity as Acting Director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), filed a petition with the Supreme Court in January 2020.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Strong Ties

 Why Immigrants With Strong Ties to the US Should Be Allowed to Stay

This article is part of the Moving Forward on Immigration series that explores the future of immigration in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election. 

The Biden administration will soon lead a vibrant nation of immigrants—a nation that includes millions of noncitizens with deep ties to the United States who are at risk of deportation.

This important and diverse population includes immigrants who have lived in the United States for many years, have close family in this country, and make meaningful contributions to their communities, the workforce, and the economy.

Until we have a legislative solution, the administration must use all available tools to provide stability and protection for long-residing immigrants and their families.

Protect People with Temporary Protected Status

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a legal status available to people from certain designated countries suffering from natural disasters, armed conflict, or other extraordinary circumstances. People living in the United States at the time their country is designated for TPS may apply for protection, which includes temporary permission to stay and work authorization.

The Biden administration should issue new designations for those countries that the Trump administration sought to terminate—El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Sudan.

While court orders have delayed the termination of TPS for these countries, TPS holders will be in legal limbo unless the new administration acts.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Spouse Green Card


Helping Your Spouse Get a Green Card

A U.S. citizen or permanent resident can help a spouse get an immigrant visa (green card). Here's how to start the process and get the quickest processing.

A “spouse visa” in this article is a term to refer to an immigrant visa (green card) for spouses. The U.S. government may issue a spouse visa to the foreign national spouse of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. For couples who have been married more than two years, the U.S. Department of State will issue an “IR1” visa. On the other hand, spouses who have been married less than two years get a “CR1” visa. This code indicates that the new permanent resident (green card holder) is a conditional resident. In fact, most spouse visa beneficiaries are approved as conditional residents.

Immigration officials, from the U.S. Department of State and also U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), scrutinize spouse relationships more than other types of immigrant visa applications. That’s because there’s been an historically high rate of visa fraud for marriages as compared to other relationships. Therefore, immigration officials want reassurance that the marriage is legitimate and that the foreign spouse is obtaining a green card based on a genuine relationship.

Requesting the Spouse Visa

To start the process of applying for the spouse visa, you have to submit some forms. In other words, all of the forms are not filed together. Initially, the U.S. citizen or permanent resident files Form I-130 and I-130A with USCIS. Form I-130 is a request by the U.S. citizen or permanent resident to make a visa available to a foreign national spouse.

It’s extremely important to prepare a complete I-130 petition package with all of the necessary supporting documents when filing for a spouse visa. USCIS may send a Request for Evidence (RFE) if any information is missing. This additional step will delay the case and increase the time it takes to approve the petition. The typical I-130 petition package.