Close Immigration Courts and Release Detainees

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Court staff, attorneys, and family members attending hearings in immigration courts have tested positive for COVID-19. The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) have failed to respond sensibly or consistently. Instead, they have issued inconsistent and dangerous orders to re-open courts after closure, or to keep them open despite clear and present danger from COVID-19.

One example: when a staffer and multiple immigration attorneys tested positive for COVID-19, EOIR closed New York’s Varick Street immigration court on March 24, and then reopened it two days later, overruling protests by attorneys and judges. On March 27, EOIR again closed the Varick Street court. Will it re-open soon? No one knows for sure. Continue reading

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Immigrants, Prisoners, and Coronavirus

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Photo by Michael Coghlan, used under Creative Commons license

The Center for Disease Control’s warnings are clear: Wash your hands with soap and water, often and thoroughly. Avoid crowds. Keep a distance between yourself and other people.

The government is not following its own advice.

During this crisis, immigration courts remain open, crowding people into small rooms where they wait elbow to elbow for hours. Staying away is not an option: miss your court appearance and you get an order of deportation. Continue reading

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Catching Up On Immigration News

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Between norovirus (actual, at home) and coronavirus (threatening, in news) and Super Tuesday, I haven’t been keeping this blog up to date. Some of the highlights (or low points) from the past week or two include another proposed fee increase, the on-again, off-again injunction against Remain in Mexico, threats to deport Hmong and Lao immigrants to countries where they have never lived, U.S. Army and Border Patrol blowing up a national monument on the border, implementation of the Trump administration’s new wealth test for immigrants, more Trump administration attacks on sanctuary cities, and continuing gross violations of human rights of asylum seekers. Read on … Continue reading

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Bitter-sweet Valentine’s Day Stories

Broken Heart by Suzanne Schroeder

Broken Heart by Suzanne Schroeder, published under Creative Commons license

I have three immigration stories so share on Valentine’s Day, with a message that love and hope survive despite every hardship. The first is a story of love and marriage, the second a story of food, and the third a story of solidarity.  Continue reading

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Denying Asylum Turns Deadly

2vrqe9ePQUSFPSDs5uptiQOne hundred and thirty-eight people have been killed after being deported from the United States to El Salvador since 2013. The United States sent them back to the country they fled. Then they were killed. Human Rights Watch reported on these 138 deaths:

“We found these cases by combing through press accounts and court files, and by interviewing surviving family members, community members, and officials. There is no official tally, however, and our research suggests that the number of those killed is likely greater.

“Though much harder to identify because they are almost never reported by the press or to authorities, we also identified or investigated over 70 instances in which deportees were subjected to sexual violence, torture, and other harm, usually at the hands of gangs, or who went missing following their return.

“In many of these more than 200 cases, we found a clear link between the killing or harm to the deportee upon return and the reasons they had fled El Salvador in the first place.”

Continue reading

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Good News, Bad News: Immigration Stories

statue-of-liberty-landmark-close-new-york.jpgBad news about immigration can crowd out the good news stories of people who have immigrated here, made lives for themselves and their families, and contribute every day to their communities. Their stories show what we as a nation stand to gain from immigration—and what we lose when the gates swing shut. Here are seven good news and bad news stories. Continue reading

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Public Charge Changes: Far Beyond Food Stamps

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The new public charge regulation penalizes people who have received a range of public benefits, but its focus on barring permanently barring poor immigrants goes far beyond that. The rule targets a grandmother planning to live with her daughter and son-in-law and help care for their children. The rule targets a bright, ambitious immigrant without a college education, who is still ready to do any kind of work to make a better life for their children. In short, the rule targets family reunification and immigrants who have helped to build this country and whose energy and contributions we still need. 

News accounts describe the rule as denying visas to people who have received food stamps, Medicaid, and three federal housing programs. That’s the fear-inspiring part of the provision, clearly intended to scare legal immigrants and citizens away from these and any other public benefits to which they are entitled. Fear is the point, and it is working. The proposed rule was announced almost two years ago, and hundreds of thousands of immigrants pulled themselves and their children out of public programs for fear that noncitizen parents and other family members could be denied the more secure status of legal permanent resident.”

And yet the actual number of people who could be affected by the public benefit portion of the regulation is small compared to the number affected by the rest of the rule. The Catholic Legal Immigration Network describes these provisions: Continue reading

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