Immigration news from June 7-8, 2021


The Biden administration’s task force on reuniting families filed an initial report showing progress and commitment, but a painfully long way to go. So far seven families have been reunited by bringing the parents to the United States. Some 37 more applications have been approved and 50 requests are pending. 

The task of reuniting families is much harder because the Trump administration did not keep records when they separated parents from children. The search for both parents and children has been ongoing now for years, but some families may never be reunited because of the lack of information. 

(CBS News) “In addition to the 3,900 separations deemed to fall under the purview of the task force, DHS said it is analyzing 1,700 more separation cases to determine whether they were justified.

“Once in the U.S, reunited families have access to mental health services through HHS. The task force said it is also considering offering families case management, clinical treatment, parenting support and other services. 

“Eligible separated families are being granted three-years of protection from deportation to try to acquire work permits. While the periods can be extended, the relief is temporary and does not allow families to apply for permanent legal status in the U.S. If families lose their asylum cases, they could face deportation.” 

(DHS Report)”The Task Force has also announced in its report the anticipated 29 additional families to be reunified in the United States in the coming weeks. More reunifications are to follow, as nearly 50 requests have been filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Thirty-seven of these requests have already been reviewed and granted humanitarian parole. Once they enter the United States, these individuals will be allowed to remain for an initial 36-month period with the opportunity to apply for work authorization. This includes individuals from the families who were reunited in May as well as the 29 families that will reunite in the weeks ahead….

“In close coordination with NGOs, the Task Force has identified 3,913 children who were separated from their families at the U.S.-Mexico Border between July 1, 2017 and January 20, 2021, based on the “Zero-Tolerance” policy. Through the support of NGOs, 1,779 children were reunified with their parents in the United States under past court orders. Over the last 30 days, through the Task Force and NGO coordination, 7 additional children were reunited with their parents, bringing the total number of reunified children to 1,786. There are 2,127 children for whom the Task Force does not have a confirmed record of reunification. Additional reunifications are in process and the Task Force expects that the pace will increase as procedures fall into place.” 

(CBS News) “Up to 2,100 children who were split up from their families near the U.S.-Mexico border during the Trump administration may still be separated from their parents, according to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report prepared for President Biden.

“Some of those children may have found a way to reunite with their parents, but the U.S. government has no records documenting their reunifications, the Family Reunification Task Force created by Mr. Biden said in its first progress report, which was made public Tuesday.”

Kamala Harris in Guatemala

Vice President Kamala Harris delivered a clear message to Central Americans during her visit to Guatemala: “Do not come.” It’s the same message the Biden administration has been pushing since it took office. But is anyone listening? (Vox)

“’It’s not that messaging has no effect,’ Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy counsel at the American Immigration Council, an immigrant advocacy and legal aid group, said. ‘It’s just that the role of messaging as something that could potentially stop people from choosing to come in the first place — there’s no evidence of that actually occurring.’

“Sounding the alarm over a border crisis, however, could contribute to the perception that the border is porous when it is not. 

“Official US messaging may play some role in determining whether people migrate, but it’s only one factor among many sources of information. 

“Migrants typically get information about the conditions on the border from people in their network who have successfully made the journey, rather than from top-down declarations from US officials. Smugglers have also sought to spread misinformation about the Biden administration’s plans to process asylum seekers. Immigrant advocates on the border have reported hearing rumors spreading that migrants staying in certain camps will be processed or that the border would open at midnight.” 

SCOTUS on TPS

Yesterday’s Supreme Court decision denying green card access to people with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) highlights the need for Congress to provide permanent protection for immigrants. (Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota)

“Congress must act to protect individuals with temporary protected status and the millions of Dreamers and immigrant workers who lack a pathway to permanent legal status and citizenship,” said Veena Iyer, executive director of the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota (ILCM). “Changing the law underlying the Supreme Court’s decision today is one way for Congress to support a subset of TPS holders, but broader immigration reform is needed so long-term residents are able to obtain a green card and citizenship regardless of how they initially entered. All of us need these parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, nurses, doctors, farm workers, artists—these absolutely essential members of our communities.”

Individual Stories

Aida fled for her life, escaping beatings and knife attacks by a former partner, coupled with police indifference to her pleas for help. She arrived in the United States in 2012 and applied for asylum. As her case dragged on, she met Mario and they had a child together. On November 19, when Mario, Jr. was two months old, she left the house to return to work. (BuzzFeed News)

“What Aida had not known as she left for work that morning was that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers had been watching the couple, tracking their routines and confirming her address and likeness, as they do in all of their targeted arrests made in communities. The officers on the scene had in possession what they mistakenly believed was an international arrest warrant in the form of an Interpol Red Notice, part of an effort by the immigration agency to use the opaque process to target certain immigrants….

“The Department of Justice states that the US ‘does not consider a Red Notice alone to be a sufficient basis for the arrest of a subject because it does not meet the requirements for arrest.’ That’s because all it takes in most cases is a country essentially requesting a red notice from Interpol for one to be issued, according to Ted Bromund, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, who has closely studied the issue.

“Interpol is not an investigative agency, so in almost all cases, red notices are approved and posted no matter how flimsy “

Despite the flimsiness of the pretext for arrest, despite her still-pending asylum case, despite her young children’s need for their mother, Aida has been locked up continuously since that November day, missing her baby’s first Christmas and many other milestones. 

Omar Ameen was thoroughly vetted by agencies including the CIANSAFBI, DHS and the Department of Defense and granted refugee status in 2014. He became one of the targets of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ vendetta against Muslim refugees. A federal judge threw out the extradition case against Ameen on April 21, but ICE continues to hold him, threatening deportation back to Iraq. (Newsweek)

“According to Taub’s reporting, the U.S. government used an FBI paid informant to drive Iraq’s flawed investigation into Ameen, instigating and assisting with drafting the extradition packet, vastly exceeding the role typical for countries receiving extradition requests. Yet the charges against Ameen did not stand up in the face of a mountain of evidence proving what the federal judge called the most salient point in the case: Ameen was in Turkey, not Iraq, on the day of the murder. He had been living in Turkey since he sought asylum there in 2012, fleeing threats to his life in Anbar Province, Iraq.

“Though the federal court that considered Ameen’s extradition soundly rejected the shoddy government evidence linking Ameen to ISIS, Ameen’s attorneys told me that ICE continues to detain Ameen on the same grounds.” 

And in other stories

Dry spells, drought, flooding, rising sea levels: climate crises combine to drive people from their homes, and sometimes from their countries. U.S. and global legal theories have not caught up to the grim realities of climate refugees. (The Conversation)

“National laws focus primarily on violence and conflict as drivers of forced migration and rarely consider environmental stress. In fact, no nation’s immigration system currently has environmental criteria for admission. International agreements such as the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and the Global Compact for Refugees mention the impacts of natural disasters and environmental degradation, but they are not legally binding….

“Often, the environmental stressors associated with climate change are only one factor pushing people to migrate. For example, many migrants from Guatemala trying to enter the U.S. have struggled under severe droughts or storms, but many also fear crime and violence if they move to cities in their homeland to find work. …

“Disasters caused more than 23 million people a year to relocate over the past decade, the majority of them within their own countries, according to the World Meteorological Organization’s State of the Global Climate Report. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that this will increase as global warming intensifies. The World Bank projects that climate change will drive 143 million people in Latin America, Africa and South Asia alone to leave their homes by 2050. Many come from poor regions that have contributed little to global warming.”

Under Biden, ICE is arresting fewer migrants in the interior of the United States, and plans call for less than half the deportations of the Trump years, going forward. But the proposed ICE budget for next year keeps Trump-era funding levels. (Roll Call)

“[A] budget proposal maintaining Trump-era funding levels for ICE enforcement and detention would be ‘unacceptable,’ said Gabriela Viera, advocacy manager at Detention Watch Network, which opposes the use of immigration detention.

“’People should be able to navigate their immigration cases with their loved ones and not fear the violent overpolicing of their communities or the threat of immigration jail and ultimate deportation,’ she told reporters during a recent call….

“Randy Capps, research director for U.S. programs at the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute, said the Biden administration’s enforcement directive, while narrower, could involve more resources per enforcement action. 

“’It takes more manpower, resources and costs more to find and arrest people who are more serious criminals than it does to cast a wide net and pull in people sort of willy-nilly,’ he said.” 

Reluctance to report and confusion over what constitutes a hate crime make record-keeping difficult, but Asian Americans in Minnesota know that hate crimes have escalated. (Minnesota Reformer)

“Asian Americans are alarmed at the more recent spike in hatred directed their way since the onset of the pandemic, which originated in the Hubei province of China. Understanding just how widespread anti-Asian discrimination is can be challenging because of inconsistent reporting. Victims sometimes are hesitant to report their brushes with hate, and agencies receiving those reports may keep incomplete records. And, in many cases, a hateful remark at the grocery store isn’t illegal, so it’s not a matter of public record.  …

“Confusion over what constitutes a hate crime left Chen, the Woodbury engineer, hesitant to report her brushes with hate to the police, because she didn’t think they could do anything. ‘I didn’t take a photo, I didn’t record it, there isn’t evidence,’ Chen said. 

“She’s not alone. An Austin, Minnesota, resident, whose lawn was vandalized with the words “China Virus” did not report the incident to the police, according to a city official. (The resident declined an interview, citing ongoing internet harassment.) 

“And neither did Hao Nguyen’s mother, a Vietnamese immigrant who experienced multiple incidents of racial harassment. Someone in St. Cloud spit at her and told her to leave a grocery store.”  

The immigration court backlog doubled under the Trump administration, to an appalling 1.3 million. (The Hill)

“’We’re looking at four years for people to get to their next hearing. A significant portion of those people are entitled to legal status and are in legal limbo with family hanging in the balance because of this lack of an effective system,’ said Peter Markowitz, an immigration law professor at the Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University.

“’There’s no way to do justice with a caseload like that,’ he added….

“The White House has been eyeing administrative fixes, including a memo to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) prosecutors released Friday giving them greater discretion to drop cases and outlining a number of criteria to help steer the agency’s lawyers away from the deportation cases that surged under Trump.”

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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