From Visas to Voters, Immigration Policy Remains a Mess

U.S. Capitol dome_mct

On the (somewhat) brighter side: members of Congress oppose Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric by inviting immigrants to be their guests at tonight’s State of the Union address. Among those attending:

  • Linda Clark from Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District. Clark came to the United States in 2000, fleeing the Liberian civil war. A resident of the United States for over 18 years, Clark is now threatened with deportation because of President Trump’s decision to terminate Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for Liberian Americans. She will be a guest of Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar.
  • Victorina Morales, an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala seeking asylum in the United States, who has risked deportation by immigration authorities for the past 19 years. Until she recently went public and quit, she worked for one of Trump’s golf clubs. She will be a guest of New Jersey Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman.
  • Jin Park, a DREAMer from South Korea who will graduate from Harvard University this spring with a degree in molecular and cellular biology. He has DACA status, and recently won a Rhodes scholarship to continue his studies at Oxford University. Except—if he leaves the United States, he will not be allowed to return. He will be a guest of New York Representative Grace Meng.

Work Visas

He has a graduate degree, a job he held for a year, an employer who wants him, and all his paperwork filled out, but USCIS’s massive delays in processing are taking Leo Wang’s future away:

“I’ve never felt so helpless,” he said. “I came here, all the way to a place where I don’t know anybody, in hopes of fighting for my American dream. There seems to be a crack in the system, and I happen to be the one who fell through.”

“But Wang isn’t alone. Many tech workers say the process of applying for and getting H-1B visas has become increasingly murky and difficult under President Trump’s administration. While many people zero in on Trump’s crackdown against illegal immigration, his administration has also tightened or ended various paths to legal immigration.”

Wang is not alone. Current H1-B visas protocols are scaring away much-needed professionals, many of whom opt to go to Canada, where the welcome mat is out for them. Writing in Forbes magazine, Stuart Anderson concludes:

“We should recognize that when the president and others in his administration use the term “merit-based” immigration, they do not mean welcoming more high-skilled foreign nationals to immigrate to or work in the United States. They simply mean fewer immigrants, including refugees, asylum seekers, family-based and, ironically, even employment-based immigrants.”

Going After the Little Guys

Instead of looking at massive, and widely-reported, ballot fraud in North Carolina,

Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney Robert Higdon Jr. went after 20 immigrants and charged them with voting illegally. Among the 20 was 70-year-oid Hyo Suk George, arrested as she fed her rabbits and chickens at her rural home. George said church members encouraged her to register to vote in 2008.

“Public defender Sherri Alspaugh said George did not know she was breaking the law. When George presented her residency card, driver’s license and Social Security card to register, the person processing her application accepted it, Alspaugh said during a court hearing last month.

“So they see a green card and they say, ‘That’s fine, you can register’?” U.S. District Judge Terrence W. Boyle asked Alspaugh.

“Yes, sir,” Alspaugh replied.

“Because they don’t know what they’re doing!” the judge said.”

Also arrested:

“Italian immigrant Alessandro Cannizzaro, who has lived legally in the Raleigh area since 2000. Cannizzaro, who is married to a U.S. citizen and has two children, applied for citizenship in 2003. He passed the test but was told he had to come back to take the oath because the room was too full, according to a transcript of his October sentencing hearing.

“I called and called to check on it, and they said I had to wait,” Cannizzaro said at the hearing last fall, according to a transcript. “I never received any notification.”

Both pled guilty and received $100 fines. Non-immigrant voting is rare and often, as in these cases, misguided rather than intentional, but it’s a loudly Trump-eted priority and that makes it a higher priority than actual ballot fraud for Higdon:

“He would always say by name, ‘President Trump and Attorney General Sessions have directed that we do X, Y and Z, and we’re going to do that,’ ” said a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District who requested anonymity to describe internal discussions. “And he would note that during meetings — how things are going to change in the office.”


ICE contracts with 106 prisons to hold immigrant detainees. During FY 2017, their average daily population was more than 25,000 immigrants. A new report from the DHS Inspector General found major problems with ICE lack of oversight. Remember—this is not an outside report, not a report from activists, but an internal government report:

“ICE does not adequately hold detention facility contractors accountable for not meeting performance standards….

“Between October 1, 2015, and June 30, 2018, ICE imposed financial penalties on only two occasions, despite documenting thousands of instances of the facilities’ failures to comply with detention standards. Instead of holding facilities accountable through financial penalties, ICE issued waivers to facilities with deficient conditions, seeking to exempt them from having to comply with certain detention standards.”

The prisons do not come cheap. Enforcement spending, including spending on private prisons, continues to soar.  

“Federal contract spending for immigration enforcement and processing surged nearly 40 percent over the past four fiscal years with two of the top earners being private prison companies that have faced multiple allegations of inhumane treatment of migrants.

“Total spending in fiscal 2018 was $7.4 billion compared with $5.3 billion spent four years ago. CoreCivic Inc. and the GEO Group Inc., which provide detention services, migrant transportation, and other services, received boosts of $85 million and $121 million respectively over the four-year period, a Bloomberg Government analysis of contract data from the U.S. General Services Administration shows.”

Yes—Families Are Still Separated

In a court filing, the government also took another startling position: we don’t know where the separated kids are or how many there are, it’s too much trouble to find out, and anyway they are better off with sponsors instead of parents.

“The administration outlined its position in a court-ordered response to a government watchdog report last month that found many more migrant children may have been split from their families than previously reported. The government didn’t adequately track separated children before a federal judge in San Diego ruled in June that children in its custody be reunited with their parents….

“Sualog, echoing White’s concerns, said the government would lack legal authority to take children from their sponsors and “doing so would be so disruptive and harmful to the child.”


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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