Immigration News from October 13, 2021

Immigration law, policy, and administration are incredibly complex. That complicates both change to policy from administration to administration and control of the agencies and agents actually implementing law and policy. 

Biden policies swing back and forth, with efforts to help immigrants already inside the United States often stymied by court decisions and Republican blockages in Congress, but with Bioden border policies looking more and more like those of Trump. 

(Vox) “He backed Democrats’ latest but so far unsuccessful attempt to include a pathway to citizenship for certain categories of immigrants — including DREAMers who came to the US as children, TPS recipients, farmworkers, and essential workers — in a budget reconciliation bill. His administration also recently published a proposed regulation seeking to codify protections for DREAMers who have been allowed to live and work in the US under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which is meant to guard against ongoing legal challenges. 

“Biden has also attempted to expand legal aid resources for immigrants and limit the reach of immigration enforcement inside the US. The administration recently launched an initiative to provide unaccompanied children facing deportation with a government-funded lawyer in eight cities across the US, and has sought to narrow the categories of undocumented immigrants who should be prioritized for arrest, issuing new US ICE guidance meant to focus resources on those who pose public safety threats. And on Tuesday, the administration ended mass worksite raids, which the Trump administration used to arrest hundreds of undocumented immigrants at once….

“But his actions on the border have told a different story: a push to improve the lives of only certain immigrants who are already integrated into American society, while keeping others out of sight and out of mind — even if that means embracing policies designed by the Trump administration.”

Immigration responsibilities are split between multiple agencies: Customs and Border Protection (CBP or Border Patrol) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are responsible for enforcement, which includes arresting people and investigating smuggling. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) is responsible for processing many applications from immigrants and for naturalization of new citizens. All three of these agencies are part of the Department of Homeland Security. The Department of State interviews visa applicants overseas. The Department of Justice has jurisdiction over immigration courts. A new report recommends changes within DHS. 

(The Hill) “DHS must strengthen and institutionalize its intra-agency policy development, resource allocation, policy decision-making and crisis management processes and coordination among CBP, ICE and USCIS. The DHS chain of command and coordination capabilities have not been strong enough to counteract the centrifugal forces of better-resourced, singular operations (e.g., prioritizing border security and immigration detention over legal immigration functions).

“Vesting broad cross-cutting authority in the DHS undersecretary for strategy, policy and plans and the assistant secretary for border and immigration policy is one way the Biden administration could move toward an immigration “systems approach.” Tasking the undersecretary for management — in consultation with the undersecretary for strategy, policy and plans, and the three immigration component heads — to establish a standing process for coordinated budget development and planning aimed at right-sizing the budgets of the immigration components can also advance an immigration systems approach.” 

Changing policies and laws is also complicated: witness the Senate Democrats’ Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C for getting some kind of relief for undocumented immigrants into the reconciliation bill. 

And then there’s a completely different provision (and much smaller) in the House version of the reconciliation bill, which would recapture some unused visa numbers.

(Roll Call) “The U.S. imposes strict per-country caps on visas distributed each year, a process that keeps green card hopefuls from populous countries like India waiting years, even decades, while leaving a surplus of unused visas in less populated nations. Under the the House reconciliation bill marked up in committee last month, unused family-based and employment-based green cards from the past three decades would be “recaptured” and made available.

“The bill also would allow some foreign citizens to pay hefty fees to be exempted from annual visa quotas, helping to stem current backlogs.

“If enacted, the provisions could help cut through some of that logjam — providing relief to some 4 million people waiting for family-based green cards and about 1 million stuck in the employment-based list, according to estimates from the Niskanen Center, a center-right think tank that advocates an immigration overhaul.”

Part C is a broad grant of humanitarian parole that would include people entering the United States and remaining here since before January 1, 2011 would benefit more than 7 million undocumented immigrants, including more than 50,000 Minnesotans. 

(Center for American Progress) “Once paroled into the country, individuals can apply for a work permit on a case-by-case basis. And while parole itself would not offer an independent pathway to a green card or citizenship, it would allow some people who should otherwise already be able to adjust to permanent status and get a green card to do so. …

“On its face, granting parole falls far short of giving people permanent residency and a new pathway to citizenship. Nonetheless, for the up to 7.1 million undocumented immigrants who could qualify—the vast majority of whom have never had status in the past—having a durable, long-term protection would be a positive change. And for people with DACA or TPS who have had to live their lives 18 months to two years at a time, having a longer status could bring additional relief. Nonetheless, the fight will continue to achieve a full pathway to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants. As senators pursue all avenues to grant relief to undocumented immigrants, parole is an important policy consideration that should pass parliamentary muster.”

Some changes can be made administratively, rather than through Congressional action. One example: restrictions will be lifted in November for foreign travelers entering the United States from Canada or Mexico  to visit families or friends or to shop here. They will have to provide proof of vaccinations. Some students and commercial travelers were not subject to the initial ban–by January, they, too, will have to provide proof of vaccination. The announcement follows an earlier decision to allow fully-vaccinated and tested individuals to enter the United States by air, beginning in November. 

(New York Times) “The lifting of the bans will effectively mark the reopening of the United States to travelers and tourism, signaling a new phase in the recovery from the pandemic after the country closed its borders for nearly 19 months….

“However, President Biden will continue to use a separate border policy, implemented early in the pandemic, to turn away migrants who are seeking protection or economic opportunity — a policy that has been criticized by a top State Department official and the administration’s own medical consultants.” 

And, in case you missed it yesterday: 

(New York Times) “Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, said in a statement that enforcement efforts at work sites would instead focus on “unscrupulous employers who exploit unauthorized workers, conduct illegal activities or impose unsafe working conditions.” He also asked for recommendations from the department’s immigration agencies over the next 60 days to identify policies and agreements that affected the enforcement of labor laws and how to “alleviate or mitigate” concerns and fear that undocumented workers had about exploitative employers. 

“The new policy comes during a critical labor shortage in the United States, precipitated by the coronavirus pandemic, and offers reassurances that undocumented workers are not at risk of being deported en masse. The new strategy also reflects promises that President Biden has made about taking a softer approach to immigration policy than his predecessor did.”

And in other news

Two of the “kids in cages” now live in MInnesota, and they’re suing over the abuses they endured. They tell appalling details of their treatment in immigration detention.

(Sahan Journal) “The amount of food was never enough for Sanchez Villalobos, and the young women said agents made kids compete for leftover food. Sanchez Villalobos said she sometimes took part  in the games. They don’t remember ever being given water and said they were too afraid to ask. The guards also taunted children by saying they were being taken back to Honduras. 

“At one point, Sanchez Villalobos said an officer berated her for eating her lunch while sitting on the ground. The officer then kicked her twice, she said, once in her right ankle and once in her back. Today, more than two years later, Sanchez Villalobos said her right ankle still swells periodically from the injury. When that happens, she wears a medical boot….

“The agents confiscated the girls’ clothes, backpack, and the medication Y.S. needed for a previous leg and hip injury when she was assaulted on her way to school in Honduras. During her detention, she alleges she was never examined or provided medication. Despite telling her she would get her medicine back, Y.S. said she instead witnessed an officer throw it away. ” 

Congratulations to Mukhtar Ibrahim and Sahan Journal! Ibrahim, the executive director and founding editor of Sahan Journal, won the Emerging Leader of the Year award from the Institute for Nonprofit News. 

(Sahan Journal) “Mukhtar, 33, was born in Somalia and came to Minnesota as an immigrant in 2005. After starting a pre-med track at Inver Hills Community College, he graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. He later received a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University, in New York. 

“Mukhtar started his reporting career at Minnesota Public Radio and the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the state’s two largest newsrooms. But those experiences convinced Mukhtar that Minnesota needed a news source that reflected the growing diversity of the state’s population. He found that mainstream media was not yet prepared for that change of perspective.” 

More than 53,000 Afghan evacuees continue to wait at U.S. military bases, as refugee agencies try to gear up to resettle them.

(Roll Call) “[A]n infusion of $6.3 billion in government funds, allocated in the stopgap spending bill signed into law Sept. 30, could provide a much-needed boost to the resettlement effort. The additional funding authority may help clear problems stemming from a combination of mandatory medical quarantines, scarce resources and sheer volume of people in need.

“Only around 7,000 of the Afghans who have arrived in the U.S. after the Taliban takeover have been ‘matched with resettlement agencies and affiliates to join communities in 46 states across the country where they will receive initial relocation services,’ a State Department spokesperson said last week.”

Nearby residents heard screams coming from an abandoned semi-trailer. Guatemalan police found 126 migrants locked inside, with 106 from Haiti, 11 from Nepal, and 9 from Ghana. 

(Washington Post) “The treacherous journey appears to have begun in Honduras, said a spokeswoman for Guatemala’s migration authority, Alejandra Mena, the BBC reported. After first-aid checks on the migrants and asylum seekers, Guatemalan officials said, they would be deported back to Honduras and taken into custody there.

“Countless migrants and asylum seekers have died or been detained while taking increasingly risky routes to reach the United States.

“On Thursday, police in Mexico found 652 migrants crammed into six trailers near the U.S. border. About half of them were children, nearly 200 of whom were not accompanied by an adult.” 

Even though President Biden denounced the Border Patrol’s horseback pursuit of Haitian refugees at Del Rio, peremptory deportation of Haitians continues–as it has for more than 60 years. 

(The Nation) “Since the early 1960s, when the first known group of Haitian “boat people” landed in South Florida, it didn’t take long for immigration authorities to round them up and send them back to their impoverished island. Immigrant agents repeated that response in the decades that followed, irrespective of the political affiliation of the man occupying the Oval Office….

“[In the 1970s] Whatever the Haitians’ background, immigration officials, once again, didn’t give them a chance to make their case before a judge. Instead, said Jocelyn McCalla, a policy analyst in New York, immigration officers pressured them to sign voluntary departure forms that made official their return to Haiti. ‘They were quickly rounded up by the Border Patrol,’ McCalla told me. ‘They didn’t use horses like they recently did in Texas. But they were detained. One of them committed suicide in detention.’…

“For Nana Gyamfi, executive director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, a national racial justice and immigration rights group, race is clearly at play in America’s long history of excluding Haitian asylum seekers. ‘In fact,’ Gyamfi told me during a recent interview, ‘it can safely be said that the system of detention and deportation which has gone so big over these decades began as an effort to criminalize asylum seeking by Haitian people. So there’s an unforgivable Blackness about Haiti.’”

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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