Immigration News from September 17, 2021

Welcoming refugees is not only a moral imperative, but an economic decision. That is also true of creating a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who already live in the United States. Immigrants and refugees make a large economic contribution to the country, far in excess of costs of resettlement.

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Immigration News from September 16, 2021

Tonight’s news brings a study in contrasts in the treatment of people fleeing Afghanistan and people fleeing Haiti, Cuba, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, and any other country. But especially Haiti, recently devastated by a 7.2 level earthquake and the assassination of its president. On September 15, the Biden administration flew another planeload of people back into that turmoil. The “legal” tool: a bar to all immigrants under the Title 42 “public health” excuse, which was just ruled illegal by a federal district court.  

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Immigration News from September 15, 2021

Snail — photo by Sid Mosdell, Creative Commons license

Tonight’s news leads off with two good news court rulings. The first comes from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Texas, which blocked most of the federal district judge’s order forbidding use of discretion in immigration arrests. That’s a bit complicated, so I’ll break it down.

  • Toward the end of the Obama administration, President Obama modified his high-arrest policy. Instead, he directed that immigration officers should focus on arresting and deporting people who were threats to national security or who had serious criminal records. 
  • Trump reversed that policy. He directed an end to any use of discretion and the arrest of every single immigrant who could possibly be placed in deportation proceedings—regardless of any humanitarian considerations.
  • President Biden ended that policy, directing that immigration officers focus on immigrants who may pose a threat and NOT on long-term U.S. residents with deep community and family ties.
  • Federal District Judge Drew Tipton said immigration officers could not exercise any discretion and that the Biden memo was illegal. Which brings us to the Fifth Circuit ruling.
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Need some encouraging news? People in the United States are opening their doors to Afghan refugees. Literally. They are also donating to refugee resettlement agencies, gathering furniture and supplies, and organizing classes to bring the new arrivals together with their new neighbors. (ABC)

“​​Kenneth and Adi Martinez have an extra bedroom in the home they share outside of Seattle with their 6-month-old son and 3-year-old daughter….

“The Martinezes opened their extra bedroom to a family of four who left Afghanistan with all of their belongings packed in a few bags. The mother is pregnant with her third child….

“The Martinezes said their Christian faith as well as their own experience motivated them to help. The couple immigrated to the United States from Mexico in 2011 when Kenneth Martinez was offered a job with Microsoft.,,,

“‘Little things like this hopefully make you feel like you made the right decision and you’re in the right place and it gives you hope, and that’s what we all need,” [AirBnB host Cameron Steele] said. “[Afghan refugees arriving in the U.S.] is a challenging thing for a lot of people — both for people moving here and for people feeling like people are coming into their communities — but it’s part of the American dream and the foundation of who we are as a country, as a people.'” 

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Immigration News from September 13, 2021

Essential workers risked their lives to keep others fed, housed, and cared for during the pandemic. France has given citizenship to these essential workers, in gratitude for their sacrifice. The United States should do no less. (Washington Post)

“Fouad Kerbage checked online nearly every day to see if he was now a French citizen. When he spotted his name in a list of people whose applications got the green light this summer, it capped a long journey for the 33-year-old oncologist….

“Like him, around 12,000 people have just become French, under a special fast-track program for workers standing on the front line of the battle against covid-19.

“They include doctors, nurses, cleaning staff, cashiers and garbage collectors, France’s citizenship minister, Marlène Schiappa, said Thursday.

“’These front-line workers responded to the call of the nation. It is normal for the nation to take a step toward them,’ she added. ‘The country pulled through, thanks to them.’”

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Immigration News from September 11-12, 2021

Vandals attacked the Hmong Cultural Center in St. Paul last week, leaving behind a white nationalist slogan. Threats of violence against Beth El Synagogue in St. Louis Park led to cancellation of in-person services on Friday and increased police patrols at synagogues and Jewish centers. Vandals toppled 30 grave markers in a Jewish cemetery in St. Paul. Against this local background, an intelligence assessment from the Department of Homeland Securitywarns of threats from white nationalists against people and organizations involved in refugee resettlement. We must stand together against hate. 

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Immigration News from September 10-11, 2021

9/11 affected everything in the country—including immigration, which was temporarily shut down, and immigrants. The anti-Muslim, anti-Arab racism that boiled over after 9/11 brought a new generation of activists to fight for immigration reform. DACA was one of their wins, but the battle continues. (Los Angeles Times)

“Ali-Reza Torabi was a sixth-grader in San Diego when two planes slammed into the Twin Towers in New York on Sept. 11, 2001. 

“Torabi was living in the country without documentation after moving to the United States from Iran with his mother and brother six years before. The attacks would divide his life into two distinct parts: ‘There was pre-9/11 life and post-9/11 life,’ he recalled.

“His father, a baker and construction worker in Shiraz, had been trying to join the family after his visa application was initially rejected pre-9/11. After 9/11, Torabi said, that became “nearly impossible,” and his dad would eventually give up hope of joining his family. They haven’t seen one another in 26 years.

“Following the attacks, Torabi remembers classmates hurling racist slurs at him because of his Middle Eastern ethnicity….

“Cristina Jiménez, the co-founder and former executive director of United We Dream, a youth-led immigrant rights group, and fellow New Yorker, also recalls members of the community becoming ‘caught up in the deportation pipeline’ after 9/11.

“’Many of us in the immigrant youth movement became involved because we increasingly experienced targeting and deportation by [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] agents and by local police, and we got activated to defend people from deportation.'”

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Immigration News from September 9, 2021

Worthington storefront shows the community’s diversity.

Soom Chandaswang came from Laos to Worthington, starting first grade 30 years ago. Modeste Zinzindohoue, from Benin, arrived in Austin 10 years ago—now he’s part of a community of 500 immigrants from Benin, drawn by the promise of peaceful small-town living. Worthington, Austin, Willmar: stories of immigrant contributions to rural Minnesota abound, and Sahan Journal does a great job at reporting them.

“Soom Chandaswang remembers the first day she walked into her first-grade class in Worthington and realized she was the only student of color. Her family had just moved from Laos. This was 30 years ago and, at the time, there were probably 10 Asian families in the area, according to Chandaswang.

“’Now it’s the opposite,’ she said. ‘You go into a classroom now and the majority are the minorities.’…

“Minnesota’s small cities are becoming more diverse. According to the 2020 U.S. Census, over the last decade, Nobles County, with its county seat of Worthington, experienced the state’s largest increase in people of color. In 2010, the county’s population was two-thirds white, but in 2020, its residents were 43 percent people of color. The census results show that the nation as a whole is diversifying, but some counties in southern Minnesota are ahead of the curve….

“‘There’s a feeling of similarity to home in that many people are from small towns in their birth countries, so they like the small-town feel and are used to agricultural settings,’ [ILCM attorney Sara] Karki explained.” 

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Immigration News from September 8, 2021

As people across the United States come together to welcome and support Afghan refugees, today’s news includes reminders of just how badly we are failing migrant children and asylum seekers from other countries.

The good news first—every morning the National Immigration Forum newsletter has been posting new listings of efforts to welcome Afghan refugees:

Team Rubicon, a disaster relief organization in Wisconsin’s Coulee Region, is partnering with Catholic Charities to gather donations for Afghan refugees. (Alex Loroff, WEAU)

Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston is partnering with a range of organizations, including Rice University student organizations, to prepare for the arrival of Afghan refugees. (Prayag Gordy, The Rice Thresher

Todd Blakesley and Lee Lawless of San Diego welcomed an Afghan family of six into their home on Saturday. (Megan Healy,  Fox 5 News

At Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, Afghan refugee donations have reached capacity. (Nicole Maxwell, Alamogordo Daily News)

Northwood Church in Texas trained some 150 volunteers to assist Afghan refugees with resettlement and employment. (Elizabeth Campbell, Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

Lutheran Community Services Northwest is supporting Afghan refugees resettled in Seattle. (Matthew Hipolito, The Daily)

British Afghanistan veteran Matt Simmons was “brought to tears” after receiving donations for his campaign, Ems4Afghans, a community-based organization that provides a taskforce to support other agencies and Afghan refugees. (Danielle Desouza, Independent)

The United Arab Emirates welcomed 41 Afghan evacuees, including members of the Afghan girls’ cycling and robotic teams, along with human rights activists and family members. (Tawfiq Nasrallah, Gulf News)

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Immigration News from September 7, 2021

A September 6 New York Times article exemplifies the problems with reporting on immigration. The article uses unnamed “Biden officials” as its primary sources, though anonymous sources are always suspect. Based on these anonymous sources, the article speculates that the Biden administration might actually be glad that the Supreme Court struck down one of its first major policy actions.  (New York Times)

“Concern had already been building inside the Biden administration that the speed of its immigration changes may have encouraged migrants to stream toward the United States, current and former officials said.

The article goes on to assert that Biden “loosening the reins on migration” caused a “surge” of migrants to the border. Rather than “loosening the reins,” the Biden administration actually extended indefinitely the Trump administration’s Title 42 “public health” bar to all admissions. That bar is even more stringent than the Remain-in-Mexico (MPP) policy that sends asylum seekers back to Mexico to await court dates. Under Title 42, asylum seekers don’t even get a court date. If stringent bars to entry worked to keep out migrants, then Title 42 should do the job. Neither Title 42 nor MPP stops desperate migrants from coming, and that fact belongs somewhere in the article.

“In fact, some Biden officials were already talking about reviving Mr. Trump’s policy in a limited way to deter migration, said the officials, who have worked on immigration policy but were not authorized to speak publicly about the administration’s internal debates on the issue. Then the Supreme Court order came, providing the Biden administration with the political cover to adopt the policy in some form without provoking as much ire from Democrats who reviled Mr. Trump’s border policies.

“Now, the officials say, they have an opportunity to take a step back, come up with a more humane version of Mr. Trump’s policy and, they hope, reduce the enormous number of people arriving at the border.

“As migrants surged to the border, Republicans attacked the new administration on multiple fronts, forcing the president to retreat from key campaign promises and angering some in his base.” 

“Political cover.” That’s the point of the New York Times article. Is Biden administration policy driven more by domestic politics than by U.S. asylum law—which says asylum seekers must be heard and their cases decided on the merits? Does “political cover” trump humanitarian concerns? I sincerely hope that the anonymous “Biden officials” do not speak for the administration.   

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