Refugee limit lifted and other immigration news – May 30, 2017



Without fanfare, the State Department lifted one restriction on the number of refugees allowed to enter the United States. That restriction was a weekly quota of 830 people, based on Congressional restrictions on funding.

Even with this weekly quota lifted, an overall limit of 50,000 per year, imposed by Trump’s executive order, would limit the number of refugees who could be admitted in the federal fiscal year that ends September 30.  More than 42,000 refugees have already been admitted, leaving less than 8,000 visas available for the final five months, under Trump’s order. Before Trump’s order, the number of refugees to be admitted in this fiscal year was 110,000.

The Trump executive order is tied up in court proceedings. While  the ban on visas for people coming from six mostly-Muslim nations is clearly on hold, the status of several provisions affecting refugee admissions seems less clear. 

U.S. Quietly Lifts Limit on Number of Refugees Allowed In (New York Times, 5/26/18)

“Despite repeated efforts by President Trump to curtail refugee resettlements, the State Department this week quietly lifted the department’s restriction on the number of refugees allowed to enter the United States.

“The result could be a near doubling of refugees entering the country, from about 830 people a week in the first three weeks of this month to well over 1,500 people per week by next month, according to refugee advocates. Tens of thousands of refugees are waiting to come to the United States.”

State Dept. Lifts Limits on Refugee Admissions (The Hill, 5/26/17)

“Jennifer Smith, a department official, reportedly notified refugee groups of the decision Thursday in an email stating that they could begin bringing refugees to the U.S. “unconstrained by the weekly quotas that were in place.”

A Look at the Decline in Refugees Entering the U.S. Under Trump (Los Angeles Times, 5/25/17)

“Monthly refugee arrivals have plummeted in all but four states in the current fiscal year, according to a report published Thursday by the Pew Research Center.

“The study, based on analysis of U.S. State Department data, shows a decline in refugee arrivals from 9,945 in October to 3,316 this April.”

Divided by Law Podcast

Gloria married a U.S. citizen and had four U.S. citizen children — but she was undocumented. Her first try to get a visa stalled out in 2003, due to bad advice and papers filled out incorrectly by a notary. In 2009, she returned to Mexico to finish the process of getting her permanent resident visa. That’s what she and her family thought. Instead, she faced a 10-year ban because she had illegally entered the United States all those years ago.

Divided by Law follows the family as they cope with their lives — Jim, the proud Marine son who had to come home after four years to take care of his increasingly disabled 82-year-old father; Bill, who held the family together during his high school years and then accepted a scholarship to Bowdoin after graduating as valedictorian; Naomi, who became the mother of the family at nine, living “two lives, the student life and the mom life;” and Bobby, not quite four years old when his mom left, growing up between Nogales, Mexico and Tucson.

I read the transcript of this podcast yesterday, having missed it when it was produced in 2015. It’s still just as important and relevant today. Gloria – the mom – still has to remain in Mexico, separated from her family, for two more years before she can get a visa to rejoin them.

Meanwhile in Texas

Republican lawmaker: I called immigration authorities on Capitol protesters (Texas Tribune, 5/29/17) On the last day of the session, people angered by the anti-immigrant SB4 legislation filled the galleries. Republican legislator Matt Rinaldi, angered by Democratic colleagues who welcomed the protesters, called ICE, got into a shouting match with colleagues, and threatened to shoot a fellow legislator.

“He came up to us and said, ‘I’m glad I just called ICE to have all these people deported,’” said state Rep. César Blanco, D-El Paso, whose account was echoed by state Reps. Armando Walle, D-Houston, and Ramon Romero, D-Fort Worth.

“He said, ‘I called ICE — fuck them,'” Romero added. Rinaldi also turned to the Democratic lawmakers and yelled, “Fuck you,” to the “point where spit was hitting” their faces, Romero said.”

AP’s report blamed protesters for the disruption: Opponents of Texas immigration law disrupt legislative session (AP via NPR, 5/29/17)

“Hundreds of protesters opposing Texas’ tough new anti-“sanctuary cities” law launched a raucous demonstration from the public gallery in the Texas House on Monday, briefly halting work and prompting lawmakers on the floor below to scuffle — and even threaten gun violence — as tense divides over hardline immigration policies boiled over.”

And in other news

Court says essentially that Trump is not to be believed. Will Supreme Court conclude the same? (Washington Post, 5/28/17)

“A substantial majority of the judges who sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond delivered a rather remarkable judgment last week: The president of the United States is not to be believed….

“It is hardly clear how the Supreme Court will react to a case that mixes profound questions about the president’s power to protect the country, Congress’s grant of authority to the executive branch to make immigration decisions and the Constitution’s admonition that government not single out one religion for disparagement.”

A U.S. citizen says her rights were violated after she was detained by immigration authorities in San Bernardino (Los Angeles Times, 5/24/17)

“It’s unclear how many hours Plascencia was detained by federal authorities, but she insists she repeatedly asserted her citizenship to deputies and ICE agents. She also says she presented a valid California driver’s license when she was arrested.

“Plascencia’s case comes at a time when President Trump has pledged to increase detentions of undocumented immigrants and speed up deportations — and highlights the increasing challenge of ensuring that American citizens are not caught up in such actions.”

Is It Possible to Resist Deportation in Trump’s America? (New York Times Magazine, 5/23/17)

“[Steve Legomsky, the former chief counsel of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (U.S.C.I.S.)], said that the sweep of Trump’s priorities has also given ICE cover for the use of targeted deportations against activists. The agency doesn’t need to explain why the deportation of a DACA activist or an undocumented organizer is consistent with their announced priorities, he said, “if the announced priorities cover almost everybody….

“Marco Tulio Coss Ponce, who had been living in Arizona under an order of supervision since 2013, appeared at ICE’s field office in Phoenix with his lawyer, Ravindar Arora, for a check-in. ICE officers, Arora said, knew that Coss Ponce was about to file an application for asylum — several of his relatives had been recently killed or threatened by the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico — and they had assured Arora several times that Coss Ponce would not be removed. They said he simply needed to wear an ankle monitor to make sure he didn’t disappear. The fitting was delayed several times until finally Arora had to leave to argue a case in court. After he departed, ICE officers handcuffed Coss Ponce and put him in a van, alone. Three hours later, he was in Nogales.”

ICE Air: How U.S. Deportation Flights Work (CNN, 5/24/17))

“Last year, more than 110,000 people were removed from the United States on flights chartered by ICE Air.”

Fuse is lit for Roseville as state’s first ‘sanctuary suburb’ (Star Tribune, 5/29/17)

“The City Council has agreed to take up the subject this summer, the result of a two-day, city-sponsored citizen engagement effort focused on issues of race and ethnicity that produced a strong turnout and a forceful push to support immigrants….

“But city officials warned participants in a series of sessions this month to brace for a backlash as word gets out, since not everyone will be quite as enthused.”

Scam artists target immigrant communities, promising legal status for cash (Chicago Tribune, 5/28/17) The scam is often called “notario fraud” – notarios can perform some legal services in Latin American countries, and “notario” sounds a lot like notary public. But a notary public in the United States has no legal training and no authority to assist in any legal matters, including immigration.

“Immigration fraud comes in many forms but often includes people who illegally pose as lawyers, then demand excessive upfront fees for assistance, according to Karolyn Calbert, a managing attorney with the National Immigrant Justice Center….

“Immigrants who have been misled sometimes spend hundreds and thousands of dollars on legal and application fees only to be denied. What’s more, their applications reveal their information to immigration officials — and the consequences can be very serious.”

Number of juveniles gaining special immigration status from federal authorities doubled in 2016 (San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/28/17) Children have flooded into the United States from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador in recent years, fleeing gang violence and threats. They find no protection from police or government in their home countries, and little welcome in the United States. One way that some have gained safety is through the Special Immigrant Juvenile petitions. Now Congress is looking at legislation to restrict this status.

“In 2011, the government granted 1,869 of the petitions. Last year, the number reached 15,101, which was nearly double the 8,739 granted in 2015….

“To get this status, the children first go to a state juvenile or probate court, where they have to persuade a judge they are in need of protection because they have been abused, neglected or abandoned in their home country, and can’t be safely returned there.

“If the judge makes that legal finding, the minors can then file a petition with the federal government seeking an adjustment in their legal status that allows them to stay in the U.S. They also can then apply for permanent legal residency.”

How America’s immigrant work force is changing (CNN, 5/26/17) Without immigrants, many jobs in construction and agriculture would go unfilled.

“Baby Boomers are retiring and U.S. birth rates are falling. With fewer native born workers coming into the job market, the country is becoming more reliant on immigrants than ever before to keep its labor force growing, according to the Pew Research Center.

 “Today, immigrants make up about 17% of the U.S. labor force — and nearly one-quarter of those immigrants are undocumented.”

Immigrants keep an Iowa meatpacking town alive and growing (New York Times, 3/29/17) In Storm Lake, Iowa, immigrants keep the town in business — even if the business is low-paid and low-skilled.

“Fierce global competition, agricultural automation and plant closures have left many rural towns struggling for survival. In areas stripped of the farm and union jobs that paid middle-class wages and tempted the next generation to stay put and raise a family, young people are more likely to move on to college or urban centers like Des Moines. Left behind are an aging population, abandoned storefronts and shrinking economic prospects.

“Yet Storm Lake, hustled along by the relentless drive of manufacturers to cut labor costs and by the town’s grit to survive, is still growing. However clumsily at times, this four-square-mile patch has absorbed successive waves of immigrants and refugees — from Asia, from Mexico and Central America, and from Africa.

“They fill most of the grueling, low-paid jobs at the pork, egg and turkey plants; they spend money at local shops, and open restaurants and grocery stores; they fill church pews and home-team benches. While more than 88 percent of the state’s population is non-Hispanic white, less than half of Storm Lake’s is. Walk through the halls of the public schools and you can hear as many as 18 languages.”

Storm Lake, Iowa is the new rural America (MPR NewsCut blog, 5/29/17)

“Storm Lake, apparently, is considered a model of how to keep rural America alive. Attract plenty of immigrants who’ll work in the drudgery of a processing plant for poor wages, go through the communal growing pains, and weather the hostility toward them as if what happened to rural America is somehow their fault.”

The steep cost of under-employing highly skilled immigrants (CNN, 12/7/16) While many immigrants fill low-skilled jobs, many are under-employed, such as an electrical engineer featured in this story who was shunted into a job flipping burgers.

“According to a new report from the Migration Policy Institute, nearly 1.5 million college educated immigrants were employed in low-skilled positions between 2009 and 2013. If this group had worked in middle or highly skilled jobs, researchers found that they would have earned nearly $39.4 billion more a year. That would translate into nearly $10.2 billion more in federal, state and local taxes, the institute reported.”



About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet,, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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