Immigration News from August 24, 2021


Two stories dominate tonight’s immigration news: the Supreme Court’s appalling decision to let asylum seekers be barred from the United States, forced into danger in Mexico, and the continuing saga of Afghan refugees.

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court on Tuesday night refused to stay the order reinstating Trump’s Remain-in-Mexico policy. DHS said it disagrees with the decision, but will comply, and has begun discussions with Mexico to see how that could work. (CBS)

“Tuesday’s ruling is a significant judicial setback for the Biden administration, which has maintained it can’t implement the Remain-in-Mexico policy without the Mexican government agreeing to accept migrants returned by the U.S. 

“Last week, the Mexican foreign ministry called the potential revival of Remain-in-Mexico a ‘unilateral’ U.S. action, saying it had yet to be officially notified of a policy change.” 

As Adam Isaacson tweeted:

“A former president’s program that:

-didn’t exist until December 2018

-caused physical harm—assaults, kidnappings, rapes—to thousands pushed into dangerous Mexico border towns

-denied asylum well over 95% of the time…

May be a program so permanent, even presidents can’t end it.”

Yet another report documents the horrific crimes against migrants refused entry to the United States. The report found “a pervasive air of violence and fear” among the migrants who had come to seek asylum. (CBS)

“A lesbian asylum-seeker from Honduras told human rights workers that she was raped and assaulted in Ciudad Acuña, a Mexican city across the border from Del Rio, Texas. Human Rights First researchers who interviewed her this month said she was wearing a cast on her broken arm due to a recent attack.

“Other migrants reported being victimized by cartels and other criminals in dangerous Mexican border towns soon after being expelled there under a Trump-era coronavirus-related emergency policy the Biden administration has maintained.

“A mother from El Salvador and her 7-year-old son reported being kidnapped in Reynosa immediately after U.S. agents expelled them to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. A Guatemalan mother said she was raped in Ciudad Juárez after being expelled there alongside her 5-year-old daughter.” 

Afghanistan

As Minnesotans watch the nightly news from Kabul in horror, Sahan Journal has some ideas for how you can help.

“In the last 10 days, the Afghan community and local refugee resettlement agencies have been thinking about ways to support new Afghan families in Minnesota—from events or fundraisers.

An estimated 500 Afghans currently live in Minnesota, but the population could grow. One refugee resettlement agency in the state has already facilitated the arrival of 13 Afghans in the last week. The Minnesota Department of Human Services has also pledged to accept 65 Afghans with Special Immigrant Visas, a program that grants translators, interpreters, and other workers who aided the U.S. military a chance to seek safety in the United States.”

Visa processing for Afghans was slowed to a crawl and then to a halt under the Trump administration. The Biden administration didn’t get it moving much faster. Now time has run out.(CBS)

“Afghans being evacuated from Kabul who are not eligible for the special visas could still qualify for U.S. refugee resettlement if they are waiting in third countries and fear persecution if returned to Afghanistan. Earlier this summer, the Biden administration created a new refugee category for Afghans who worked with U.S.-based news outlets and nongovernmental groups.

“Advocates and some lawmakers want to speed up the time-intensive application process for these visas to move people out more quickly, before the deadline. 

“They’re calling on the Biden administration to use an immigration tool known as “humanitarian parole” to allow vulnerable Afghans, such as women leaders, to enter the U.S. without a visa. Those paroled could potentially be eligible for other immigration benefits like asylum if they can just reach the U.S….

“​​Other visa applicants and vulnerable Afghans airlifted from Kabul since the Taliban takeover of the country are being sent to U.S. military sites in Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Germany. U.S. officials say Afghans who have yet to undergo security checks will remain in third countries until that processing is completed.”

With visa processing slow and backlogged, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is using a tool called humanitarian parole to allow entrance to the United States to some Afghans. (CBS)

“Among those who could be granted parole are Afghans who assisted the U.S. war effort but whose Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applications have yet to be fully adjudicated, the official said. Afghans allies with approved special visas can travel to the U.S. with their spouses and children.

“Last week, more than 40 senators urged Mayorkas and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to create a humanitarian parole category “specifically for women leaders, activists, human rights defenders, judges, parliamentarians, journalists, and members of the Female Tactical Platoon of the Afghan Special Security Forces.” 

“While it remains unclear how many Afghans will benefit, the decision to use humanitarian parole could be a game changer for those trapped in the special visa program’s massive backlog of applications, as well as other vulnerable Afghans being airlifted from Kabul.”

Once Afghans are airlifted to third countries, conditions remain dire. U.S. officials say they moved swiftly to remedy the situation at the Qatar air base, installing more than a hundred toilets and providing food. But the base remains un-airconditioned in 100+ degree heat. (Axios)

“Shortly before 8 a.m. last Friday, an official at U.S. Central Command sent a searing wake-up call to colleagues: The sweltering Qatar air base where the Biden administration is housing thousands of Afghan evacuees was awash with loose feces and urine and a rat infestation, according to internal emails shared with Axios.”

And in other news

The Asian population of the United States is growing, nearly tripling in the past 30 years. (New York Times)

“The Asian population is complex, made up of nearly 20 million people who trace their roots to more than 20 countries in East Asia, Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent, regions that the Census Bureau includes as places of origin for Asians.

“In 1990, the country’s Asian population numbered 6.6 million and was largely concentrated in a few pockets in cities on the coasts. Thirty years later, those enclaves have grown significantly, and the Asian population is more spread out, with families building lives in the suburbs of the South and in rural areas of the Midwest….

“Nearly 60 percent of all people of Asian descent, including those who are mixed race, were born outside the United States, and a majority are naturalized citizens. A vast majority of Asians in the United States are citizens, either naturalized or U.S.-born.” 

Graduate student and TPS holder Lys Isma faces the double challenge of racism and undocumented status. After 26 years in the United States, she has no permanent status and no way to get a permanent resident visa. She also has a message: (The Hub)

“Humans aren’t temporary. It is so hard to live life in increments of 18 months at a time with the uncertainty of whether a Re-designation will even happen hanging over your head. Permanent residence would allow me to be competitive for long term jobs and I would be able to complete research anywhere in the world. I would be able to purchase a home and not have to live in fear of separation from my family.” 

A federal judge ordered that any immigrant detainees being transferred to a detention center in Tacoma must first be tested for COVID. (Seattle Times)

“The ruling by Judge James Robart grants, in part, a temporary restraining order requested by lawyers representing vulnerable detainees in a class-action suit.

“ICE is also ordered to take ‘all reasonable’ measures to prevent cross-exposure at the Northwest ICE Processing Center to ensure that detained persons testing negative are not exposed to those who test positive.” 

Andy Harvey, the Pharr, TX chief of police and a member of the Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force, wants help, legislated solutions and an end to anti-immigrant political posturing. (Rio Grande Valley News)

“[P]oliticians and other influential voices must first stop weaponizing the border for political gain. Many of the migrants at our border are fleeing persecution, gang violence, extreme poverty and social unrest.

“The complex situation at the border requires both short- and longterm solutions that avoid partisan political pitfalls.

“Right now, the government needs to emphasize both order and compassion. Border communities like mine, as well as faith groups and nonprofits, are responding with compassion — as we have in the past. We need support from our state and federal leaders.”

Thirty members of the El Paso National Guard had been staffing a food bank, keeping it open throughout the pandemic. Now Governor Greg Abbott has ordered them to the border to help build a wall—which means closing the food bank. (El Paso Matters)

“El Pasoans Fighting Hunger grew exponentially during the pandemic, becoming the third largest food bank in the national network behind Houston and Los Angeles, Feeding America spokesperson Zuani Villarreal said. The food bank quadrupled the amount of food it gave away, from 32 million pounds in 2019 to 139 million pounds in 2020, to people who needed support in the pandemic. “

Entirely apart from delays in processing refugees and SIV visas, the pace of regular, legal visa processing is seriously backlogged. Many prospective immigrants are losing their chance entirely. (Washington Post)

“​​Immigrant advocates and business groups point to more than 100,000 unused employment-based green card slots that are set to expire by the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30. Roughly 60,000 immigrants who have been selected through the Diversity Visa lottery since 2020 are at risk of losing the chance to come to America legally, many because they cannot get a consular interview….

“Covid-related closures of USCIS processing centers created a backlog of nearly 1 million cases, Escobar said, in part because immigrants could not submit the biometric information to move their applications forward. Biden administration officials have streamlined the process, Escobar said, so data on file with USCIS would not need to be resubmitted….

“The Trump administration made scores of procedural and administrative changes at USCIS, and Escobar said it has taken time for Biden administration officials to study them and decide which ones to roll back. Ur M. Jaddou, Biden’s appointee to be USCIS director, was confirmed by the Senate this month, and her arrival is expected to bring more stable leadership and a greater urgency to clear backlogs.”

Heavy summer rains blew off floodgates and wrecked large parts of the “impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful” border wall in Arizona. Though the floodgates were open, the wall was still no match for this year’s storms. (The Guardian)

“Photographs published by the website Gizmodo appear to show sections of the partially constructed wall in southern Arizona in severe disrepair, torn apart by summer monsoon rains that the site said ‘literally blew floodgates off their hinges’….

“At least six gates were washed out in a single location near Douglas, according to a quote on the website from José Manuel Pérez Cantú, director of an environmental nonprofit, Cuenca de Los Ojos….

“’Who could have predicted this? Ah yes, just about everyone,’ author Brian Kahn wrote, linking to an article highlighting environmental threats the wall would encounter.” 

The Ninth Circuit ruled that, because of their skills and training, nurses can constitute a “particular social group,” and thus be eligible for asylum consideration. IReuters)

“According to the decision, Plancarte claims that on several occasions after she became a licensed nurse, cartel members came to her home, blindfolded her, and took her to various locations to treat injured individuals.

“In one instance, she said, she witnessed three men raping and torturing a woman who later died, and was told the same thing would happen to her if she refused the cartel’s demands, according to the decision.

“On a later occasion, Plancarte initially refused to leave her home and cartel members kidnapped her infant son, who was returned after she agreed to treat a man who had been shot, according to Friday’s decision. Shortly afterward, Plancarte fled to the United States.”

Claudio Rojas, one of the stars of The Infiltrators, planned to speak when the film was shown at the Miami Film Festival in 2019. Instead, he was arrested at a routine immigration check-in and deported to Argentina. Rojas, who had overstayed his visa 20 years ago, had no criminal record, and had raised a family in the United States. (NPR)

“‘They didn’t like that the film had come out,’ Rojas told NPR in Spanish through an interpreter. ‘If I would have shown up at the Miami Film Festival, I was going to talk a lot. And they wanted to avoid that. So they silenced me.’

“Immigrant rights advocates have argued for years that ICE is deliberately retaliating against them, despite the agency’s denials. Lawyers for Rojas say his case is especially egregious and raises big questions about immigrants’ freedom of speech.

“A federal appeals court heard arguments in his case last year and is now poised to issue a ruling that could have lasting implications.”

Should an immigrant held in detention be entitled to a bond hearing before a judge? The Supreme Court agreed to consider the question. (SCOTUSblog)

“The justices granted review in Johnson v. Arteaga-Martinez and Garland v. Gonzalez. Both cases involve noncitizens who have been ordered deported but claim they are entitled to “withholding” protection – a form of humanitarian relief in which noncitizens cannot be deported to their home country because they may be tortured or persecuted there. The noncitizens argue that, after spending more than six months in immigration detention awaiting the resolution of their withholding claims, they are entitled to a hearing before an immigration judge to determine whether they can be released on bond. Two federal appeals courts agreed with the noncitizens.” 

The Southern Poverty Law Center is representing black immigrants challenging a racist rule that denies citizenship to out-of-wedlock children of U.S. fathers. (SPLC)

“Enacted in 1940, the Guyer Rule prevented U.S.-citizen fathers, but not U.S.-citizen mothers, from passing their citizenship status to foreign-born, nonmarital children – in other words, children who were born “out of wedlock.” The rule disproportionately restricted how nonwhite parents could secure citizenship for their children – and for decades was maintained for just that reason….

“The Guyer Rule exemplifies the same type of anti-father discrimination that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional in Sessions v. Morales-Santana in 2017,” said Meredyth Yoon, a lead attorney with the SPLC’s Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative, which is representing Silva….

“The racist Guyer Rule originates from an 1864 Maryland court decision, Guyer v. Smith, in which the court ruled that two sons born overseas of a white U.S.-citizen father and a Black mother from St. Barthélemy were ‘not born in lawful wedlock’ and thus were not U.S. citizens. The Guyer Rule was subsequently incorporated into federal nationality laws, first through administrators’ policies and practices, and later by Congress through the Nationality Act of 1940.” 

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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