Immigration News from July 30, 2021

The photo is from 2006, but the message remains just as relevant today.

Every night, I try to figure out the best way to present the day’s immigration news. Often, including tonight, I highlight some of the more hopeful stories. I hope that gives you courage, as it does me, to plow on through the not-so-good news. 

Today’s news leads with the beginning of the Afghan evacuation: both Congressional action and the first flight out of Afghanistan. Next up: two inspiring personal stories of action to help immigrants. Then the latest numbers on the immigration court backlog, and one family’s very personal story of the impact of that backlog. And more—today was a big day for immigration news.  

Finally something that gets bi-partisan support: both the House and Senate passed the bill providing for additional visas for Afghans who are now in danger because they have worked for U.S. forces. (CBS)

“Shelby urged his GOP colleagues to allow for the Senate to take up the legislation and warned if Congress did not act, there could be deadly consequences for Afghans who aided U.S. troops during the 20-year war and face threats from the Taliban.

“The security spending package directs $100 million to the Capitol Police and $300 million to boost security in the Capitol, including for new cameras and hardening windows and doors. It also provides $1 billion for the Pentagon, which includes $521 million for the National Guard and $500 million to evacuate Afghan allies ahead of the U.S. troop drawdown in Afghanistan. Another $600 million would go to the State Department for refugee and migration assistance and $25 million to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement for the visa program.”

The first flights bringing Afghan interpreters and their families to safety have begun.These 200 people are the first among thousands fleeing Taliban vengeance for their assistance to U.S. troops. (Washington Post)

“The flight departed Kabul with Afghans on their first leg of travel to Fort Lee, Va., where they will finish the last rounds of processing over the next several days, Ross Wilson, head of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Afghanistan, said Friday. The Afghans will then be resettled across the country….

“The Senate on Thursday cleared more than $1 billion to pay for the evacuations, including transportation and housing provided by the Defense and State departments. The bill would also reduce requirements for applicants and allow 8,000 more visas on top of the 26,500 currently allocated for the program. Biden is expected to sign the bill.”

President Biden will support including pathway to citizenship provisions in the budget reconciliation bill, saying that “we should include in the reconciliation bill the immigration proposal.” The Congressional parliamentarian has not yet indicated that office’s position on the question. (New York Times)

“That means throwing the White House’s weight behind using the budget maneuver to provide a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, should bipartisan talks on providing a pathway to citizenship fall apart….

“Speaker Nancy Pelosi last month endorsed the idea of using reconciliation to push through an immigration measure, citing the ‘budget impacts of immigration in our country.'”

Backlog: the numbers and a very personal story

The immigration court backlog has increased by 100,000 cases since the beginning of Fiscal Year 2021 on October 1 of last year. As of the end of 2020, the average wait for a hearing date was 1,642 days, or about 4.5 years. (Syracuse University TRAC)

“The number of new deportation cases filed by the Biden administration is on the rise. Deportation orders sought by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) jumped by nearly 50 percent in June, compared with the number filed in May. The number of new cases continues to severely outpace the rate at which judges can keep up, resulting in a growing backlog that is approaching 1.4 million. These findings come from case-by-case court records obtained and analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University. …

“The court backlog currently appears to be growing at a slower rate that it had during the Trump administration. The decline in new deportation cases during the pandemic may contribute to this, but other factors may play a role, as well. Some decline of the backlog’s rate of growth may also have resulted from the cumulative impact of the recent hiring of more immigration judges. Immigration judges may also become more productive the longer they serve on the bench. And we may expect more productivity gains as the Biden administration restores judges’ abilities to manage their own dockets more efficiently.” 

Immigration courts have a backlog that has soared to 1.3 million. The wait to have a case heard is years long. Among the people caught in the backlog are Claudia and Francisco Mendez and their now-12-year-old U.S. citizen daughter. (NPR)

“Mendez explains, his daughter was born with spina bifida. Twelve-year-old Emily requires special treatment, constant care and uses a wheelchair. She’s a U.S. citizen, unlike her parents who immigrated from Mexico….

“Mendez says when they first came to the U.S., their visa expired, but they stayed anyway. After their daughter was born, they realized they had to fix it. They couldn’t risk deportation, knowing their daughter would be helpless without them. They came to Elizabeth Mendoza to make it right. Almost a decade later, they’re still waiting.”

People making a difference

Dr. P.J. Parmar, himself the son of immigrants, serves immigrants and others who have no insurance or who rely on Medicaid. His Mango House clinic also provides food and clothing assistance, English classes, and much more. His goal: to be of service to refugees, even when that means employing practices that go against established norms. (KHN)

“Parmar said he realized back in medical school that few doctors were motivated to treat Medicaid patients. If he limited his practice to just Medicaid, he said dryly, he’d have guaranteed customers and no competition.

“So how does he survive on Medicaid rates? By keeping his overhead low. There are no appointments, so no costs for a receptionist or scheduling software.

“He said his patients often like that they can drop in anytime and be seen on a first-come, first-served basis, much like an urgent care clinic, and similar to the way things worked in their native countries….

“’Really none of our innovations are new or unique; we just put them together in a unique way to help low-income folks, while making money,’ Parmar said. ‘And then, instead of taking that money home, I put it back into the refugee community.'”

Leading the Haitian Bridge Alliance, Guerline Jozef advocates for Haitians and for other immigrants, especially immigrants of color. Her consciousness and her advocacy when she was a little girl and  her father took her to visit Abner Louima, a Haitian-American victim of police brutality. (Forbes)

“‘As a little girl, I had a chance to bear witness to real violence against Black bodies. I remember holding my father’s hand as he took me to visit Mr. Louima in the hospital,’ said Jozef, Co-founder and Executive Director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance.

“’While a Haitian, just like me, it was clear that those two officers saw his color before they ever considered his immigration status or country of origin,’ Jozef continued. ‘Seeing Abner Louima laying in that bed, barely breathing and missing most of his teeth made it clear that my blackness and my immigration status are interconnected.’…

“‘Our citizenship status, as Black immigrants, doesn’t protect us from what it means to be Black in America,’ Jozef said. ‘And this understanding should unite us all as Black people in a collective struggle for a fair and just immigration system,’ she said. “

And in other news

Mixed-status families were denied stimulus checks. Now some have been left out of child tax credits–in error. (Washington Post)

“Many families were erroneously left out of the first batch of child tax credit payments on July 15, apparently for one reason: They are “mixed status,” meaning that one spouse has a different citizenship or immigration status than the other. For example, one spouse may be a U.S. citizen, the other a legal permanent resident or green-card holder. In other cases, a spouse might be undocumented but still paying taxes….

“Mixed-status families are eligible to receive the monthly advance child tax credit payments as long as everyone claiming the children as dependents has a Social Security number or an IRS-issued Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). They will receive the payments only if they used their Social Security number or ITIN when they filed a 2019 or 2020 tax return, or when they entered information into the non-filer tool on irs.gov. Each qualifying child has to have a Social Security number that is valid for employment in the United States….

“Like so many other families, Garcia [a U.S. citizen by birth] said she and her husband, who is in the process of getting a green card, were already working hard to make ends meet before the pandemic. That’s why this latest glitch in payments is so painful.

“’Last year, my husband was out of work for about three months, so we fell really behind in bills,’ Garcia said. ‘We’re just trying to catch up and get out of the hole and give our kids some semblance of normalcy.’” 

The official Federal Register announcement is now scheduled for August 3: Haitians living in the United States on July 29 will be eligible to apply for Temporary Protected Status. The original announcement said May 21, but the later date of July 29 is the official word. (BuzzFeed)

“The Biden administration will grant more than 100,000 Haitians in the US the opportunity to gain temporary protected status, shielding them from deportation and allowing them to obtain work permits, according to a Department of Homeland Security document provided to BuzzFeed News.

“The decision, which immigrant advocates have been pushing for several months, comes as Haiti suffers from a growing political crisis after the opposition party’s calls for the president to step down failed. Reports of increased gang violence and kidnappings have roiled parts of the country, which is already struggling to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.”

Nerio should never have been arrested, even under Texas rules. Eventually, because news media and the county sheriff were on site, he was released. Confusion reigns on the border, the sheriff is not everywhere, and dozens of other arrests may be equally illegal. (Texas Tribune)

“Nerio stepped out of the Rio Grande with his wife last week, put his feet on the sandy Texas ground and quickly found himself in handcuffs.

“He should not have been arrested. But law enforcement on the Texas border has become a blur of overlapping agencies as Gov. Greg Abbott floods the region with state troopers and Texas National Guard personnel in an unprecedented state effort to arrest migrants after they enter the country illegally.

“So the 61-year-old Venezuelan man who came seeking asylum found himself on a private dirt road in the border town of Del Rio, kissing his wife goodbye and walking blank-faced to the awaiting SUV of a state trooper. His wife sobbed quietly, wiping away tears with trembling fingers flecked with purple nail polish.”

Naga Sreeram came to the United Statesat age 7,  with a legal visa as a dependent of his father, who entered on an H-1B work visa. He has lived here, with legal but temporary status, ever since. Now, at 21, he is no longer eligible for the dependent visa and has no way forward. He is not alone–an estimated 200,000 children of foreign workers are in the same legal limbo. (The Verge)

“As a kid, Naga Sreeram would spend all his time at his friend’s garage in San Jose, California, building Lego machines and coding them for his school robotics team. In high school, he taught himself web development and created apps that won competitions. But despite his passion for computer science and presence in Silicon Valley, his dream of working in the global tech hub remains on shaky ground. 

“Sreeram came to the United States from India in 2007, at age seven. He was accompanying his father, who had obtained an H-1B work visa, as foreigners employed in the U.S. tech industry often do. Now, at 21, Sreeram has aged out of his dependent visa and has no clear pathway to citizenship. His only options are to “self-deport” and return to a country he no longer knows, or scramble for legal ways to stay that are neither easy nor guaranteed.”

The “new strategy” unveiled by the White House doesn’t look much different from traditional foreign aid. (NPR)

“Senior Biden administration officials on Wednesday described the plan as “the first of its kind,” but much of the proposal is expanding on previous efforts that have done little to curb migration from the region….

“The five-point plan unveiled Thursday seeks to address economic inequality, combat corruption and strengthen democratic institutions, protect human and labor rights, and counter criminal gangs and combat gender violence.”

A federal judge last year ordered ICE to stop the deportation of these children–but ICE deported them anyway. Then the judge ordered that they be brought back. That hasn’t happened yet. (BuzzFeed)

“’It has been months since these children were expelled in violation of a court order and we need answers immediately,’ said Lee Gelernt, an attorney with the ACLU who led the lawsuit challenging the Trump-era policy. ‘The children need to be given a chance to speak to us as counsel and the option to return to the US if they choose.’…

“US officials maintained in court that they would pay for the flights of any of the children who wished to return and were working to bring them back as efficiently as possible.

“But since that filing, ACLU attorneys say that the government has yet to follow through. A source with knowledge of the case said that the Guatemalan government has contacted nearly all of the families, but many had questions over what would happen to the children when they reached the US.”

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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