Changing Immigration Policies—June 11, 2021

Besides the articles linked below, a whole lot of immigration policy change happens with behind-the-scenes changes that, while small, affect people’s lives in big ways. One example: withdrawing a Trump regulation that would have imposed onerous new requirements for student visas. For a detailed look and links to many of these regulatory changes, check out this Twitter thread from Doug Rand. Below: recent news articles on changes from the Biden Administration and on state immigration policies.

President Biden is returning to the military the money Trump took for the border wall. Funds appropriated by Congress for the wall will be used to repair the damage done in construction. No word yet on more than 140 eminent domain cases filed to take private land for the wall: that’s still under review. (CBS News)

“The Biden administration announced Friday it would begin funneling congressionally allocated border wall funds to address ‘urgent life, safety, and environmental issues resulting from the previous Administration’s wall construction.’

“Last month, Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas announced the department would begin to fix environmental harm caused by border wall construction during the Trump administration, including physical damage to Rio Grande Valley’s flood barrier system and 14 miles of soil erosion near San Diego.” 

Sixty House Democrats signed a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland urging speedy and far-reaching reform of the immigration court system. (The Hill)

“Under the prior administration, the backlog of cases sitting in court more than doubled to 1.3 million — a figure that could leave migrants waiting more than four years for a hearing in their cases.

“But lawmakers, in an effort spearheaded by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), are urging Garland to take a number of actions, ranging from blanket removal of cases from the docket to unwinding a number of decisions they say politicized the immigration court system run by DOJ….

“At the heart of the letter is a call for the new administration to review Board of Immigration Appeals decisions that limited asylum along with regulations that limited the discretion of immigration court judges.” 

The Biden administration allows unaccompanied minors from Central America to remain in the United States while their cases are adjudicated, rather than immediately expelling them. But that’s not the case for unaccompanied minors from Mexico. Asylum is a right under U.S. and international law. (The Intercept)

“According to interviews and data obtained by Amnesty, the U.S. and Mexico have engaged in the systematic violation of those laws in their treatment of unaccompanied Mexican children, 95 percent of whom were returned to Mexico over a six-month period, often without screening to determine whether they faced threats in their home country. …

“From November through April, roughly one in five of all unaccompanied children apprehended by the Border Patrol were Mexican. In May, CBP informed Amnesty that it had returned more than 10,000 of those children to Mexico, while referring “only a few hundred” to ORR….

“It is true that there are people who would seek asylum but do not qualify, [Amnesty researcher] Griffey said, ‘but to suggest that the thousands who do qualify for asylum protection should nonetheless stay in deadly situations at home, or be unlawfully sent back to that harm by the U.S. if they do run for their lives is, in my view, an abrogation of U.S. legal commitments and just basic humanity in the treatment of people in need — and that especially applies for the situation of children who are at risk every step along the migrant trail.’”

States have immigration policies, too. Colorado is taking action to protect undocumented immigrants, who make up about three percent of the state’s population. (NBC News)

“Gov. Jared Polis has signed into law measures aimed at expanding access to housing, jobs and state benefits to undocumented immigrants. Supporters say the laws will make the state a more equitable place. Opponents argue the measures will siphon money and services from other residents.

“‘We can’t just sit around waiting for the federal government to fix our broken immigration system,’ Polis said at a signing ceremony for a law eliminating the requirement that regulatory agencies verify a person’s immigration status before issuing or renewing a license, certificate or registration. ‘Colorado needs the contributions from everybody in our state with all different talents and skills to have good jobs and work and employ their abilities to make us all better off.’”

President Biden says he wants to expand legal representation for immigrants facing deportation. New York’s program offers a model that works. (Vox)

“New York was the first state to recognize the importance of providing universal representation to immigrants in detention, and it has since inspired similar state and local initiatives nationwide. There are now 43 publicly funded local and state deportation defense programs nationwide within 11 states, from Harris County, Texas, to Prince George’s County, Maryland….

“By 2017, the Vera Institute of Justice estimated a 48 percent success rate for immigrants in the program — a more than 1,000 percent increase from the success rate of immigrants at Varick Street prior to the program’s implementation. And immigrants in the program had been released from detention at almost twice the rate of unrepresented people at comparable immigration courts.” 

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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