Immigration News from July 14, 2021

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and his family fled Cuba in 1960 and were admitted to the United States. Legally, the United States can refuse entry to asylum seekers who are intercepted at sea, before actually reaching U.S. soil. Morally? Not so much. (CBS)

“People fleeing Cuba and Haiti by boat will not be allowed to enter the U.S., even if they demonstrate fear of being persecuted or tortured in their home countries, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas warned on Tuesday….

“Mayorkas said those trying to reach the U.S. by sea will be intercepted by the Coast Guard and immediately returned to their home countries. Even if asylum-seekers manage to get interviews with U.S. officials, Mayorkas added, they will not be permitted to set foot on U.S. soil, regardless of the outcome of their screenings….

“‘The U.S. government shouldn’t be using this system of off-shore processing to evade our refugee protection laws,’ Kennji Kizuka, the associate director of research and analysis at Human Rights First, told CBS News. ‘They should allow people to land in the United States and go through their full asylum proceedings.'” 

Immigration and the budget bills

Republicans can and will block any immigration bills through a filibuster. The only way forward for Democrats is to include some immigration reform provisions in the budget bill. These provisions must be classified as affecting spending or revenue in a way that isn’t “merely incidental.” AND the whole package will have to gain the support of every single Democrat in the Senate. (AP)

“The budget will be pivotal in two ways. First, it will contain language preventing Republicans from filibustering the subsequent bill funding Biden’s priorities. By law, the budget resolution itself cannot be filibustered.

“Second, the budget will set overall spending and revenue limits for that forthcoming spending bill, expected to be several trillion dollars. It will also assign congressional committees specific amounts to spend or raise in revenue as they write language bolstering climate, family support and other priorities.

“In an early budget draft, [Vermont Senator Berrnie] Sanders proposed creating multiyear pathways to legal permanent residency, and potentially citizenship, for four groups of immigrants without legal status.” 

In a smaller, but still important, move, the DHS funding bill will include some “recaptured” visas. These are visa numbers in specific categories that were not used in prior years. This does not extend visa eligibility to anyone outside those categories.(The Hill)

“Lawmakers voted to include an amendment from Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) that would allow unused visas from fiscals years 2020 and 2021 to remain available into next year.

“Doing so will help the 55,000 winners of the diversity visa lottery, many who were unable to be fully processed as COVID shuttered many State Department consulates and vastly limited their capacity.

“The amendment also allows unused family-based and employment based visas to continue to be available.”

Afghan allies

The Biden administration has heard the pleas of Afghans who worked with the U.S. military and of advocates and Congress members and veterans demanding that they be protected. Now the argument is over how to offer protection: will they be flown to U.S. territories, where they would have more due process rights, or to third countries? (NBC)

“‘There seem to be two sides that haven’t reached a consensus in the administration itself,’ said one refugee rights advocate, who was not authorized to speak on the record. ‘They’re wasting time. These are people’s lives.’…

“Refugee and immigration rights groups criticized the administration for not launching the evacuation earlier and said the rationale for avoiding flights to U.S. territory was baseless, as the Afghans had already been vetted as interpreters for American troops and diplomats.”

Senate Democrats’ supplemental spending bill for Capitol security includes provisions to protect Afghans who worked with the U.S. military by allocating funds for their rescue, increasing the number of visas available to them from 26,500 to 46,500, and making other important changes. Senate Republicans oppose the measure. (Roll Call)

“The legislation would reduce the employment requirement for eligibility from two years to one year, postpone the required medical exam until the applicant reaches the United States, overhaul the appeal process for denials and provide SIV status for family members of murdered applicants, among other changes.,,,

“The measure includes $100 million in “emergency aid” for Afghan refugees, citing United Nations estimates that 500,000 Afghans will flee their homes in the coming months as the Taliban gains ground in the country.”

And in other news

Finally! (CNN)

“The Department of Homeland Security is administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to immigrant detainees as part of an effort to scale up vaccinations for Covid-19 at Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities, ICE told CNN in a statement. 

“DHS received an initial allocation of 10,000 vaccine doses and nationwide distribution is underway, according to ICE. The doses will be replenished on a rolling basis…

“Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, ICE detention facilities have wrestled with a growing number of positive cases, totaling more than 19,879 confirmed cases and nine deaths. The issue garnered fresh attention last month when three whistleblowers urged the Biden administration to do more to vaccinate immigrants in ICE detention.”

Elena fled Honduras with her daughter after her husband and sister-in-law were killed, Their killers threatened her and her daughter. Honduran police said they could do nothing to protect her. The Trump administration refused to hear her plea, instead sending her to Guatemala–a country she found unsafe and unwelcoming. Now the Biden administration has allowed her to return to the United States to make her case for asylum. (BuzzFeed)

“In her effort to come to the US, Elena had become one of hundreds of immigrants forced into an unprecedented plan that was often overshadowed by other restrictions implemented by the Trump administration. The ‘safe third country’ plan was rushed into effect in November 2019 and led to hundreds of immigrants being sent to Guatemala, a country also racked by poverty, violence, and instability and whose own citizens made up a sizable portion of those apprehended at the US–Mexico border.

“A Senate Committee on Foreign Relations report in January also found that ‘not one of the 945 asylum seekers transferred from the United States to Guatemala has been granted asylum.’…

“In May, US officials agreed to allow six plaintiffs, including Elena, who sued over the safe third country plan to return to the US and seek asylum protections. But immigrant advocates believe more should be done for the hundreds of other immigrants sent to Guatemala. Biden administration officials have previously discussed allowing others sent to Guatemala under the policy a chance to apply for refugee status.” 

ICE can request drivers’ license information from states. ICE says it does not use this data for enforcement, but many are skeptical of that assurance. (Public Integrity)

“Sixteen states, plus Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., allow undocumented immigrants to receive driver’s licenses or similar IDs known as driving privilege cards, eliminating the chance of arrest for driving without a license, a common fast-track to deportation. More places are considering it as research shows earlier adopters reduced the likelihood of hit-and-run accidents, lowered insurance costs for drivers, increased the number of insured motorists on roads and improved poverty rates.

“But immigration authorities are using driver’s license data to find the very people who are supposed to benefit from the new laws.

“At least seven states have shared personal information from drivers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement since January 2020, according to a Center for Public Integrity investigation…. 

“Agents often say these immigrants are suspects in crimes, but sometimes they are searching for people they believe committed only a civil immigration infraction, such as overstaying a visa.” 

“Border theater:” that means lying about what is happening at the border and with immigration generally in order to win votes and sabotage immigration. And Republicans are good at it. (Slate)

“Six months into Biden’s presidency, Republicans seem to be winning the debate over immigration, if it’s a fight that is at least in part about theatricality and energizing voters. This doesn’t mean that Republicans are telling the truth about immigration, or that the policies they advocate are better. It also doesn’t mean that Biden isn’t fulfilling his immigration-related campaign promises to undo the damage caused by Trump, of which there’s a lot. It does mean, though, that Republicans are better than Democrats at border theater, utilizing immigration to cudgel their opponents, and setting the terms of the debate.”

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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