Immigration News: March 17, 2023

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Start the weekend with a couple of good-news stories from Maine and Atlanta. Maine might just expand MaineCare to include immigrants, and Atlanta is home to some pretty impressive volunteer Grannies, who make life a little easier for migrants. . 

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Immigration News: March 16, 2023

U.S.-Mexico border wall, San Diego sector
Photo by Amyyfory -Creative Commons license, U.S.-Mexico border wall, San Diego sector, November 26, 2021

Migrant apprehensions at the southern border were at a two-year low in February. The Biden administration claims credit for the low numbers, citing its parole-and-sponsorship program for migrants from Haiti, Nicaragua, Cuba, and Venezuela, along with rapid expulsion of migrants back into Mexico. 

[CBS] “While migrant apprehensions continue to be at historically high levels and are projected to increase sharply in May, the two-year low is a dramatic change from the situation along the U.S.-Mexico border just two months ago, when a massive spike in unlawful migration strained federal and local resources. …

“Ruben Garcia, who leads the Annunciation House, a network of shelters in El Paso, said migrants expelled by the U.S. are in danger of being victimized by criminal groups in Ciudad Juárez, one of the most violent cities in Mexico. …

“[DHS Secretary Alejandro] Mayorkas noted that approximately 740 asylum-seekers are being processed along the southern border every day under the CBP One process. Moreover, the sponsorship program has allowed 22,000 Venezuelans, 7,800 Cubans, 5,100 Haitians and 1,600 Nicaraguans to enter the U.S. as of mid-February, DHS statistics show.”

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Immigration News: March 15, 2023

Protesters holding sign saying "Seeking asylum is a human right - #WelcomeWithDignity - #NoAsylumBan
Photo of protesters in Washington DC on February 23, 2023, courtesy of CASA.

Bishop Mark Seitz denounces the Biden administration’s new restrictions on asylum, writing: “Policies that fail to secure protections for the vulnerable are morally deficient. Death simply cannot be an acceptable part of the overhead costs of our immigration policies.”

[America] “The administration will provide temporary entry to a limited number of individuals from Latin America. But those options are not connected to asylum, which is what the most vulnerable coming to the border are hoping to access. And the administration has not provided those options for those fleeing northern Central American countries, perpetuating a longstanding pattern of discriminatory policies in that region. A policy that leads to adverse outcomes because of the national origin of those in need is indefensibly regressive. …

“The only crisis at the border is a moral crisis. And the only failure is one of courage and justice.”

When the Biden administration tells asylum seekers to apply in Mexico, they know that will not work. Mexico’s asylum system is overburdened and rife with roadblocks.

[National Immigration Forum] “Despite some recent strides, Mexico’s asylum system is struggling to keep up with the massive uptick in hemispheric migration over the past half-decade, and Mexican economic and demographic numbers pose challenges to absorbing large numbers of asylum seekers. Persistent struggles with domestic violence and gang violence also pose a challenge in serving as refuge for those fleeing similar violence in their countries of origin.”

And in other news

Despite political posturing and insistence on border enforcement, punitive policies do not work, according to a recent study from Rice University.

[Houston Public Media] “The report found that politically motivated, high-profile moves like former President Donald Trump’s wall along the Mexican border and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s stationing of the state national guard at the border had very little impact on illegal immigration into the U.S.

“‘It does not stop people from coming. It does not stop the organized crime cartels from pushing people forward,’ said Gary Hale, a fellow in drug policy and Mexico studies at the Baker Institute and co-author of the study. ‘It’s really kind of eye candy to demonstrate to the public that the government of Texas is doing something or that the federal government is doing something, but it has very little to no deterrent effect.’ …

“‘The migrants themselves are really victims of poverty and natural disasters and, ultimately, of organized crime,’ Hale said. ‘We shouldn’t place the blame so much on the migrants themselves but on the criminal entities that are moving those migrants.'”

The Minnesota legislature is considering new penalties for wage theft, which disproportionately affects immigrant workers. Employers have threatened them with deportation if they insist on being paid wages they are due. In Hennepin County, one employer who repeatedly failed to comply with orders to pay back wages has been criminally charged. 

[Star Tribune] “On Dec. 30, Hennepin County prosecutors filed the first criminal charges against an employer under the 2019 wage theft law after painters working for Integrated Painting Solutions filed a whistleblower complaint. Frederick Newell, the company’s owner was charged with shortchanging regular pay, plus overtime, for months of 13-hour shifts.

“Workers who were part of the complaint — who are not being named by the Star Tribune because they are unauthorized immigrants and fearful of retribution — said Newell repeatedly promised to catch up on the next payday, but never did. …

“One of the painters, a father of four, said through an interpreter he was paid even less when Newell discovered he was without legal status. When he complained to supervisors, he said he was threatened with calls to the police. …

“The painters eventually put fears of deportation aside and sought help from the city.

“‘I do not have papers,’ the worker said. ‘But it was and is important to me that this does not happen to other people. I have a family. I have children. I am a human being, and so are other workers, whether or not they have papers.'”

The CBP One smartphone app, now the only way to obtain an asylum interview at the border, has serious problems. Lack of accessibility, language access, are problems with required photos, especially for anyone with a dark skin, are just a few of the more prominent defects. 

[Roll Call] “Nearly three dozen House Democrats raised concerns Monday about the Biden administration’s use of a smartphone application for migrants to request an appointment to seek asylum, the latest in mounting criticism from the president’s own party over his border policies.

“The group of 35 Democrats, led by Reps. Jesús “Chuy” García of Illinois and Raul M. Grijalva of Arizona, called on Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to “take immediate steps to resolve the serious equity and accessibility issues migrants are facing” when using the CBP One app, in a letter sent Monday and obtained by CQ Roll Call. …

“The lawmakers further asked Mayorkas to “reverse course” on plans to implement a policy proposal that would limit asylum eligibility for migrants who arrive at the border and request protection, unless they had secured an appointment through the CBP One app or attempted to seek asylum in another country first, among other exceptions. That proposed asylum rule was publicly released last month.”

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Immigration News: March 14, 2023

logo with Ukrainian flag background and words "Uniting for Ukraine"

Some good news! The Biden administration will extend the one-year humanitarian parole for the first refugees to escape to the United States after the war in Ukraine began. Those who arrived before the Uniting for Ukraine program began received only a one-year grant of humanitarian parole. That will be extended by at least one year. Those who came under the Uniting for Ukraine program received two-year grants of humanitarian parole. Humanitarian parole does not provide any path to permanent status. 

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Immigration News: March 13, 2023

Too often, we in the United States look at migration as if it is a movement of people limited to this country, That’s not true: most refugees live in other countries, most migration goes to other countries, and other countries also have immigration policies that help or hurt migrants. 

In an opinion column in El Pais, the president of Colombia points out that his country and others in Latin America have given refuge to far more migrants than the United States, and critiques short-sighted U.S. policies.

[El Pais] “Too often, migration in the Americas is viewed simplistically – migrants fleeing the region for the United States. The truth, however, is far more complex. Consider the nationalities at the center of so much attention given to the US-Mexico border in recent months – Venezuelans, Nicaraguans, and Haitians. While it is true that until last month individuals from these three countries were arriving in numbers never before seen, those numbers mask a complex reality that, if disrupted, could intensify, not lessen, activity at the US-Mexico border.

“Since the beginning of last decade, countries throughout the hemisphere have taken in millions from Haiti, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. All told, more than seven million Venezuelans and hundreds of thousands from each of the other two countries have fled in search of survival; nearly all have found a new home in Latin America and the Caribbean. …

“The LA Declaration’s implementation, however, is imperiled by a hard-to-shake impulse, especially in the United States–the pursuit of short-term, imposed solutions thought to deter migration. The Biden Administration´s recent proposal to limit access to asylum is just such a misguided move.”

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Immigration News: March 11, 2023—Let’s Talk About Refugees

Photo of protesters with signs saying "Asylo Es Un Derecho Humanitarian" and #NoAsylumBan" and "Restore Asylum"
Photo of protesters in Washington DC on February 23, 2023, courtesy of CASA.

Refugees are admitted into the United States after they have been certified as refugees abroad, mostly while living in camps, and have passed multiple forms of vetting, a process which takes years. Under U.S. law, a refugee must show that they were persecuted or fear persecution due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.

Asylum seekers must make the same showing of persecution or fear of persecution as refugees, but they apply either at the border or from inside the United States. Our system fails both refugees and asylum seekers.

A new poll shows continuing high support for integrating immigrants into the United States and for opening doors to asylum seekers fleeing persecution. But that is not reflected in U.S. policy, which continues to impose near-impossible barriers to entry for asylum seekers.

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Immigration News: March 9, 2023

The United States needs health care workers: doctors in rural areas, front-line workers in long-term care facilities, home health aides and personal care assistants. The United States needs infrastructure work, but doesn’t have the workers to do the job. The United States needs highly skilled and highly educated information technology workers and engineers. The United States still closes the door on immigrants who could do all of these jobs. 

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Immigration News: March 8, 2023

Immigrants make great Americans! From Congress to construction workers and long term care facilities, from opera to activism, immigrants make huge contributions to this country. 

While there’s plenty of bad news (just scroll down), tonight’s summary starts with four good-news stories of immigrant achievements.

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Immigration News: March 7, 2023

Good news/bad news today: The good news is that Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed Driver’s Licenses for All on Tuesday morning, surrounded by legislators and advocates who have worked for this moment for 20 years. The bad news—the Biden administration is considering incarcerating migrant families, a failed Trump policy that Biden denounced less than three years ago.  

[Sahan Journal] “After the signing, Walz took questions from the media and addressed undocumented immigrants, saying Minnesota is a state “where we protect your human dignity.”

“He also reaffirmed his approval for comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level.

“’We want to move you out of the shadows and make sure that in Minnesota, you are going to be respected, protected, and have the opportunity to thrive,’ Walz said.” 

Laura Yuen wrote about the impact of the new law on children: 

“What Jenni remembers most when police pulled over her father was the fear in his eyes.

“Her dad had been driving the family in their old boxy van. They weren’t far from home. When the officer walked by the vehicle, Jenni, who was about 10, closed the window blinds from the back seat. Even as a child, her response to the traffic stop was instinctive: Be small. Hide. Stay in the shadows. …

“The officer let her dad go, but the experience left her shaken. For nearly Jenni’s entire life, immigrants like her parents who lacked legal status have not been allowed to obtain driver’s licenses in Minnesota. Each trip to work or to their kids’ schools carried the risk of being jailed or deported. But state lawmakers wisely restored Minnesotans’ ability to apply for driver’s licenses, regardless of immigration status, in a bill on its way to be signed by Gov. Tim Walz. …

“Jenni said the law will lift a tremendous weight from the shoulders of many immigrant families. She remembers praying for her dad every night that he would make it to work and back without being pulled over.

“‘Knowing that any other little girl or boy won’t have to go through that constant fear,’ she says, ‘I think a little part of me has finally healed.'” 

The Biden administration is considering—or perhaps already planning—to resume incarcerating immigrant families and children, reinstituting a failed Trump policy. Biden strongly criticized that policy during his campaign, tweeting:  “Children should be released from ICE detention with their parents immediately. This is pretty simple, and I can’t believe I have to say it: Families belong together.” Now both The New York Times and the WashingtonPost report that policy may be coming back soon.

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Immigration News: March 3, 2023

U.S. Department of Labor investigators found massive child labor law violations. They found children working in extremely hazardous conditions, working much longer hours than permitted, working overnight shifts and falling asleep in school. Now that they have found the violations, who is paying the highest price? The children. And their families. 

[Washington Post] “At 13, she was too young to be cleaning a meatpacking plant in the heart of Nebraska cattle country, working the graveyard shift amid the brisket saws and the bone cutters. The cleaning company broke the law when it hired her and more than two dozen other teenagers in this gritty industrial town, federal officials said.

“Since the U.S. Department of Labor raided the plant in October, Packers Sanitation Services, a contractor hired to clean the facility, has been fined for violating child labor laws. The girl, meanwhile, has watched her whole life unravel.

“First, she lost the job that burned and blistered her skin but paid her $19 an hour. Then a county judge sent her stepfather to jail for driving her to work each night, a violation of state child labor laws. Her mother also faces jail time for securing the fake papers that got the child the job in the first place. And her parents are terrified of being sent back to Guatemala, the country they left several years ago in search of a better life. …

“Packers has faced no criminal charges, despite evidence that it failed to take basic steps to verify the age of its young employees. Last month, it quickly resolved the case by paying a $1.5 million civil fine. The families of the teen workers, by contrast, have been exposed to child-abuse charges and potential deportation. None have applied for work permits and the protection against deportation that is available to the child workers, fearing retaliation in a company town where almost everyone’s job is somehow tied to the meatpacking industry.”

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