Immigration News: December 2, 2022

Yellow sign with black lettering, saying "Asylum is a human right."
A reminder: People seeking asylum ARE legal immigrants. They can live in any U.S. state while waiting for immigration authorities or courts to act on their applications. Title 8 U.S. Code, Section 1158

More asylum applications are being granted, but fewer fast-tracked asylum seekers succeed. When people’s cases are fast-tracked, they have less time to prepare and less time to get an attorney. Asylum seekers who do not have an attorney have an 18 percent success rate—those with attorneys have a 45 percent success rate. 

[Syracuse University TRAC] “Latest case-by-case court records through October 2022 reveal that FY 2022 marked the largest number of individuals granted asylum in any year in the Immigration Court’s history. Grant rates averaged 46%, up from 36% in FY 2021. Not only were more asylum applications granted by Immigration Judges than ever before, but many asylum cases moved through the system faster due to a variety of Biden administration initiatives, including the Dedicated Docket. In this program, families seeking asylum were given expedited proceedings and moved to the head of the line, in front of those waiting in the Court’s existing 1,977,988 case backlog. …

“When cases were closed within 3 to 18 months during this recent period, grant rates fell to 31%.”

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Immigration News: December 1, 2022

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) are two administrative tools that can protect people from deportation if it is not safe to return to their home countries. These are temporary protections, with no pathway to permanent residence or citizenship.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website explains:

The Secretary may designate a country for TPS due to the following temporary conditions in the country:

  • Ongoing armed conflict (such as civil war)
  • An environmental disaster (such as earthquake or hurricane), or an epidemic
  • Other extraordinary and temporary conditions

Fifteen countries are currently designated for TPS and three for DED.

Even as temporary measures, TPS and DED provide some protection to undocumented immigrants and allow them to apply for work permits. TPS or DED are available only to people who are already physically present in the United States on the date that their country is officially designated for TPS or DED. Those arriving later are not eligible.

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Immigration News: November 30, 2022

Time to celebrate some victories! The big win story tonight comes from Arizona, home to so many anti-immigrant ballot initiatives in the not-so-distant past. In a victory for hard work and organizing, reported by Mother Jones, Arizonans voted to reverse one of those past measures. The vote in Arizona is consistent with other election results this year. Anti-immigrant scare campaigns failed across the country. 

Two other good-news stories—new citizens in Minnesota and closure of a detention center in Pennsylvania—lead off tonight’s post. 

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Immigration News: November 29, 2022

Photo by Phil Roeder, published under Creative Commons license

ICE does not have resources to arrest and deport 11 million undocumented immigrants. So it has to make choices. 

The Trump administration told ICE agents, “Arrest everyone.” That often meant going for easy arrests of people who had lived in the United States, working, sending their children to school, checking in with ICE on a regular basis, for decades. The Biden administration went back to the pre-Trump priorities: focus enforcement resources on “individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security.”

Texas and Louisiana sued, saying that DHS has no authority to set enforcement priorities. Today (November 29), the Supreme Court is hearing arguments on the case.  The potential consequences of the case go far beyond the policy prioritizing threats to public safety, national security, and border security. 

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Immigration News: November 28, 2022

Biggest immigration news for the next month will come not from the border, but from Capitol Hill. Will Congress finally act to safeguard DACA recipients? Will the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, passed by a bipartisan vote in the House, actually get to a vote in the Senate? Will Congress extend a pathway to safety to Afghan refugees here and to those left behind in Afghanistan? All of these should be easy actions, but Congressional Republicans have shown nothing but opposition and obstruction over the past two (four? twenty? thirty-six?) years. 

The Austin American-Statesman editorial board calls for Congress to act to protect DACA. Texas, they say, needs to keep its young DACA workers. So does the rest of the country.

“Recently, the CEO of a prominent biomedical company in Brownsville shared a cautionary tale: One of his top employees had left Texas due to the state’s poor treatment of immigrants. The young man was a DACA recipient with a valid work permit, but without long-term security in the United States, he could be deported at any time if DACA ended. As anti-immigrant rhetoric from national and state leaders increased, he worried that his home near the border put him at risk. He’s now working at a company in Chicago. …

“The Texas business community can’t afford to lose young people like this. The number of online job postings in Texas more than doubled from 2017 to 2021 … 

“Congress recently passed the CHIPS and Science Act to boost domestic chip manufacturing and scientific research, aimed at increasing U.S. competitiveness against China. Many of these companies will be locating in Texas, including Samsung’s $17 million computer chip plant outside of Austin that will create some 2,000 high tech jobs. That is great news for our state. But where will the workforce come from to staff these new ventures? STEM workers are particularly challenging to find. In 2020, there were 1.36 million job openings for computer-related roles, in an industry with a 1.9 percent unemployment rate.” 

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Immigration News: November 22, 2022

Photo by Joe Frazier, DACA rally in Portland, published under Creative Commons license.

I’m signing off until after the holiday weekend, so I’ll start with two stories that inspire thanks. The first: One more study documents the motivation, success, and contribution to the U.S. economy of undocumented students. Some 86 percent of those surveyed are DACA recipients. 

The second: a profile and interview of one of Minnesota’s new immigrant legislators from Sahan Journal. 

Also — if you are interested, this will be my seventh year writing weekly “Advent Riffs” in my Fragments blog. I should have the First Sunday of Advent post up some time on Saturday, November 26. Comments welcome!

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Immigration News: November 21, 2022

U.S. Capitol, photo by David Mall, used under Creative Commons license

There’s a small window of time to pass important immigration legislation before a Republican majority in the House in January makes it even harder. Two proposals that have at least a chance of passage before January are the Farm Workforce Modernization Act and some sort of path to citizenship for Dreamers. Both have strong bipartisan support in the country. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act passed the House with some Republicans joining Democrats, but Senate Republicans have not allowed it to come to a vote.

None of the proposed legislation is perfect. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act, for example, is criticized as not providing strong enough protection for workers. Even imperfect legislation protects more people than no legislation at all. But will at least 10 Republicans in the Senate agree to allow a vote on anything?

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Immigration News: November 18, 2022

Image of earth with fire behind globe.
Image by Tommaso.sansone91, published under Creative Commons license.

In a news cycle dominated by Twitter and U.S. politics, immigration news is scarce this week. Many of the stories I read are rehashes of old news or political horse race analysis of how immigration issues did or did not affect the election. I haven’t included those in the articles linked in this post, the most interesting of which offers an analysis of the growing impact of climate change on worldwide immigration. As the COP27 climate conference draws to a close with no substantial movement or new agreements, we can expect continually increasing numbers of climate refugees. 

Some of the world’s most populous countries are also among the countries hardest hit by climate change, with heat and drought expected to drive increasing migration.

[Quartz] “In these circumstances, migration will become inevitable, with millions of people leaving their overheated villages and cities in search of a kinder climate. (By 2050, according to one estimate from the Institute for Economics and Peace, there could be 1.2 billion climate refugees.) Just as inevitably much of this migration will run northwards—from South and Central America to northern North America, for instance, or from Africa and the Middle East towards Europe. …

“This can, in one sense, be a gift-wrapped solution for the wealthier countries of the north, where the populations will have grown older, and where governments will be rapidly running out of workers to tax. Migrants can fill out the thinning ranks of the labor force—as long as the political will to accept them exists.”

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Immigration News: November 16, 2022

Can any immigration bill pass a Republican-majority House of Representatives? House Democrats doubt it, so they are preparing to pass immigration legislation now, and hope that the Senate will also pass it before the end of the year and the inauguration of a new Congress. It’s not at all clear that any Republicans in the Senate would vote for even a DACA bill with massive public support. 

Which brings the next question: can any immigration bill garner enough Republican votes in the Senate to defeat a filibuster and actually get to a vote? 

[The Hill] “The DACA bill is separate from a House-passed bill to grant a path to citizenship to millions of farmworkers, and a broader immigration proposal to implement a rolling registry – a sort of statute of limitations on illegal entry – for immigrants.

“The House approved the farm workforce bill in March, 2021, meaning the Senate could take it up before the current Congress ends in January, and a registry bill was introduced in both the House and Senate.”

For Congress, the next six weeks include many crucial decisions. A pathway to citizenship for Dreamers leads the list of immigration bills that have a chance of passage. I’d say that the farm workforce bill and the Afghan Adjustment Act also have a chance of passage. So – call your Senators, email your Senators, and tell them you want a path to citizenship for Dreamers … and you want it this year. 

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Immigration News: November 15, 2022

Yellow sign with black lettering, saying "Asylum is a human right."

Title 42 is dead: so says Federal District Judge Emmett Sullivan, ruling in a suit brought by the ACLU. The unconstitutional policy of expelling all migrants, including asylum seekers, without a hearing, is permanently enjoined. From Judge Sullivan’s ruling:

“It is unreasonable for the CDC to assume that it can ignore the consequences of any actions it chooses to take in the pursuit of fulfilling its goals, particularly when those actions included the extraordinary decision to suspend the codified procedural and substantive rights of noncitizens seeking safe harbor.”

The Department of Homeland Security announced an unopposed motion to stay the judge’s ruling for five weeks, “to prepare for an orderly transition to new policies at the border.” The DHS statement also said that this means “Title 42 would remain in place for some period,” and warned of smugglers who “will lie to try to take advantage of vulnerable migrants, putting lives at risk” while expulsions continue.   

An unopposed motion means the ACLU has agreed not to argue against this five-week delay. That also means that the Biden administration is not going to appeal the ruling, but instead plans to end Title 42. Agreeing to end Title 42 is consistent with the Biden administration’s initial effort to end Title 42 at the beginning of President Biden’s term. That move was met with a lawsuit and an order from a Trump-appointed judge to keep Title 42 in place.

The Title 42 expulsion policy was technically a public health policy based on COVID concerns, but that was never more than a ruse, with public health officials saying repeatedly that the policy had no legitimate public health impact.  

[Washington Post] “In his ruling, Sullivan noted that the government never proved its claims that there was a risk of migrants introducing covid into the United States. During the first seven months of the Title 42 policy, he wrote, Customs and Border Protection found an average of one migrant a day who tested positive.

“When the Biden administration extended the order in August 2021, he said, the rate of daily cases in the United States was almost double that of Mexico.

“Sullivan wrote that Title 42 also was not an effective border control measure, and instead served to boot migrants into countries where they could easily try again, and recidivism soared.”

You can read Judge Emmett Sullivan’s 49-page opinion in full.

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