Immigration News for Friday, May 28, 2021

Border wall mural, photo by Jonathan McIntosh, used under Creative Commons license

In a new plan set to begin in Denver, Detroit, El Paso, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, New York City, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle, immigrant families who are picked up by agents after crossing the border will get speedier consideration for their cases and services to help while they wait for a decision. The plan begins on Friday, May 28. Some advocates say the plan will “fast track” asylum seekers, rather than giving them a full hearing. According to BuzzFeed’s report, the plan rejects strict timelines and limits on judicial discretion.

“The so-called dedicated docket plan will apply to certain immigrant families who are arrested after crossing the border on or after Friday. The families will not be detained but will be monitored by immigration officials through the alternatives to detention program. The Biden administration has largely moved away from keeping families in detention facilities.

“The Biden administration selected the cities, officials said, because of the number of available judges to handle the cases, along with a robust network of legal providers available to help the arriving immigrants. Officials say they will provide the families services to help them understand the immigration system and find possible representation. The courts will attempt to issue a decision within 300 days of an initial hearing….

“Biden administration officials claim that the plan is different from the Trump administration’s efforts because they will not only make a concerted effort to help families who are thrust into this program with support services, but they “will work closely with pro bono legal services providers to maximize legal representation,” according to a DHS official. In addition, they emphasized that while they anticipate that judges will make decisions 300 days after initial hearings, they won’t be subject to strict timelines.

“Elsewhere, the policy memo sent to court staff on Friday says that judges retain the discretion to push back cases for good cause as they consider the immigrant family’s right to counsel and due process.” 

The recent spike in immigrant arrivals at the border has plenty of precedent, most recently in similar spikes in 2019 and 2014. Despite this, the U.S. government does not have a plan to deal with these recurring events. Such a plan could include housing and processing for arriving immigrants, increasing the authority of asylum officers to grant asylum rather than the current more cumbersome and lengthy process, and generally separating processing and enforcement responsibilities. (Vox)

“In a plan laid out in a recent report by the think tank, migrants apprehended at the border would be taken into temporary influx facilities jointly operated by CBP, FEMA, and the Department of Health and Human Services where they would receive shelter, food, emergency medical care, and access to other relief. Only minimal processing, such as recording basic biographical data, would occur at these facilities. 

“People suspected of criminal activity or who have outstanding warrants would still go to secure holding facilities currently operated by CBP. But everyone else would be transported to newly created Regional Migration Processing Centers, where non-uniformed staff (as opposed to CBP officers) would administer legal and medical services to migrants and care for children and trauma victims. There would be separate spaces to house families and children and single adults.” 

Militarization does not stop desperate migrants, and rampant corruption does not help. (Border Report)

“The Biden administration in March asked for help from Mexico and Guatemala to manage migrant flows at their common border. The Mexican National Guard has stepped up patrols and is manning dozens of highway checkpoints in the southern state of Chiapas, but migration to the United States continues, he said.

“In April, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported 178,622 encounters or apprehensions of unauthorized migrants. That was up from 172,000 in March.

“Gonzalez said ‘invisible’ caravans of up to 300 people continue to cross the Mexico-Guatemala border. He alleges that buses or trailers carrying migrants often pass right through some checkpoints after paying a $100 per-head fee.” 

Making Changes—Or Not

Backlogs for visa applicants include backlogs for biometrics appointments. Now some visa renewal applicants will be allowed to use their already-submitted biometrics instead of waiting in line for new ones. (Miami Herald)

“It has become sort of a nightmare for hundreds of thousands of immigrants in the United States who have seen their immigration processes stalled while they wait for appointments to provide their fingerprints, photographs and/or signature to federal authorities….

“Since the biometrics backlog has caused delays in the adjudication of immigration forms overall, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that it was suspending the biometrics requirement for certain applicants filing one of the most common immigration forms to extend or change a non-immigrant legal status. This suspension will last until May 2023.”

The Legal Immigration Family Equity (LIFE) Act would remove the reentry bars that separate families and prevent millions of undocumented immigrants from applying for green cards. Of course, like all legislation, this bill will likely be blocked by a recalcitrant, always-say-no Republican Senate. (Center for American Progress)

Current immigration laws do not provide U.S. citizens or employers with a viable pathway to sponsor their undocumented family members or workers for lawful permanent residence, even if they would otherwise be eligible for a green card, if those individuals entered the United States without inspection and are still living in the country. Undocumented immigrants must first leave the country and apply for an immigrant visa at a consulate abroad. But once they leave, they face a lengthy ban on returning due to a cruel Catch-22 law put in place in 1996 that subjects anyone who was in the United States without legal immigration status for more than six months to a reentry bar of three or 10 years. This makes getting a green card effectively impossible for millions of people who should have a legal pathway to do so.” 

Immigration Marathon

GQ tells a heart-warming story of community and caring, set against a backdrop of the unfolding violence and tragedy of Ethiopia. Tadesse, who finished 6th in the 2016 New York marathon, is seeking asylum in the United States. He is one of a dozen or two elite Ethiopian marathoners stranded here by the pandemic and by ever-worsening political violence at home. Their one ray of light: 81-year-old former Peace Corps volunteer Bill Staab. He has fed, housed, supported, and advocated for the Ethopian marathoners. 

“Tadesse still hasn’t raced since the 2019 marathon. While the pandemic has cut off his primary source of income, another crisis has left him isolated from his family and friends back home. For decades, Ethiopia has been mired in civil war and deadly ethnic conflict, with a strongman government quick to crack down on any perceived threat to its authority. According to Tony Carroll, an expert on Ethiopian politics who teaches at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, untold numbers of Ethiopians have spent time in prison for crimes they didn’t commit, or for no reason at all. Before he came to the U.S., Tadesse, too, was detained and beaten. ‘When the police arrest you, they hit you,’ he says. ‘Your eyes, your nose, whatever they want.’ In prison, he says, it’s worse. ‘They hit you more. Badly.’…

“Tadesse isn’t the only runner on WSX for whom deportation could mean death. Take the story of a 25-year-old named Urgesa Kedir Figa, who says he was detained in Ethiopia for three months, in 2016, for his family’s support of human rights. He says his uncle was killed by government forces. In prison, Urgesa says he was tortured at night with an electric cable. He has a deep, three-inch-wide scar that goes all the way around his left arm, just below the elbow, and a circular one on his right hip measuring five inches across.” 

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, www.tcdailyplanet.net, 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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