Three recent changes make it easier to deport victims of domestic violence or gang violence, applicants who are denied a benefit by USCIS, and applicants who don’t have all their paperwork in order.
Victims of domestic violence or gang violence are the newest targets of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who said in June that they do not qualify for asylum. Last week, USCIS issued a directive implementing the Sessions order, and going even further. The directive says that pleas for asylum based on domestic or gang violence must be immediately rejected by agents. The directive also says that illegal border crossing can count against any asylum seeker.
The result: a higher percentage of asylum seekers failing the first-stage “credible fear” interviews. The Sacramento Bee says the changes mean that, “Asylum for abused women and those fleeing gang violence has all but ended in the U.S., regardless if a case has been pending for years or is a fresh plea at the border.”
There will be resistance, notably through appeals to federal courts which, unlike immigration courts, are independent and can overturn Sessions’ ruling. The appeals process takes months or years.
Changing the rules on Notices To Appear (NTAs) sounds like a small technical adjustment to procedure, but it’s much more, changing USCIS into a third deportation agency and dramatically increasing the avenues to deportation. The June 28 change applies to all undocumented immigrants and to any immigrants whose status expires while their request is pending. A “benefit” is anything from an extension of a student visa to a permanent resident visa for a spouse of a U.S. citizen or an application for naturalization. Denials are frequently reversed on reconsideration or appeal, but when someone is put into deportation proceedings, that can get much harder. Quartz gives examples of cases falling under the new change, such as failure to appear for an appointment or to have all documents ready, and points out:
“It’s not always easy to stay in status. Life happens. Deporting everyone who fails to dot every “i” and cross every “t” is shelling a peanut with a sledgehammer. Under the new USCIS policy change, the United States’ already unforgiving system will become draconian.”
Another technical-sounding change with potentially huge impact came in a July 13 directive from USCIS, telling officers they may deny applications without issuing Request for Evidence (RFE) or Notice Of Intent to Deny NOID) an application. That means someone who has not signed an application form on the right line or has overlooked some necessary document can be denied without giving an opportunity to fix the problem.
Today’s court order on the children: stop deporting families for one week. Judge Dana Sabraw barred deportation of reunified families for one week, with a further ruling expected at that time. The ACLU said families need time to decide what to do next, and cited government moves to push parents to agree to speedy deportation. The ACLU said that government records sow at least 100 parents have been deported without their children.
Suffering and trauma show clearly, as very young children reunite with parents after months in detention. What happens to a five-year-old boy who doesn’t hear his father’s voice in 25 days? The Los Angeles Times tells their dramatic reunion story, and describes the child’s vacant eyes, bruises, and fear, but cannot predict what happens after such trauma, or even whether father and son can remain in safety or will be deported together.
In an open letter to the American people, 54 adult detainees in Port Isabel wrote:
“Each day is more painful that the last. Many of us have only had the chance to speak to our children once (this is very difficult because the social workers never answer). The children cry, they don’t recognize our voices and they feel abandoned and unloved. This makes us feel like we are dead.”
Immigrant economic contributions are highlighted in series of reports from the National Immigration Forum: immigrants as entrepreneurs; refugees as a fiscal success story, contributing billions to the U.S. economy; immigrants’ vital role in the new American workforce; the need for immigrants to fill the gap in specific industries; and more to come.
Close to home, a forum in Worthington highlighted immigrant contributions in Greater Minnesota. Local bankers cited high numbers of immigrant-owned businesses and said immigration will help rural Minnesota grow again. A human resources manager at JBS said the majority of his plant’s workers are immigrants, who speak 58 different languages, and are “the most hardworking workforce I’ve ever had in any industry I’ve ever been in.”
Opposition to Trump’s anti-immigrant policies continues, with a majority of Americans continuing to oppose family separation and the border wall. Former President George W. Bush said he is disturbed by the “rhetoric” in the immigration debate, and that “the system is broken and needs to be fixed.”