Slow movement on immigration reform is discouraging. The focus right now is on Congress’s failure to act. A few weeks ago, the focus was on the horrendous and forcible expulsions of Haitian refugees who crossed into the United States at Del Rio. While the Biden administration has not managed to deliver on most of its promises yet, it has managed to end massive and indiscriminate arrests in the interior of the United States—and that’s a sign of hope worth holding onto.
(Washington Post) “Immigration arrests in the interior of the United States fell in fiscal 2021 to the lowest level in more than a decade — roughly half the annual totals recorded during the Trump administration, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement data obtained by The Washington Post.
“ICE arrests in the interior plunged after President Biden took office and set new limits on immigration enforcement, including a 100-day “pause” on most deportations. A federal judge quickly blocked that order, and ICE’s arrests increased somewhat in recent months.
“But enforcement levels under Biden’s new priority system remain relatively low. Officers working for ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) made about 72,000 administrative arrests during the fiscal year that ended in September, according to agency data, down from 104,000 during fiscal 2020 and an average of 148,000 annually from 2017 through 2019.”
And then there’s Congress:
(Washington Post) “The most pressing question confronting Democrats is what to do about millions of undocumented immigrants seeking a path to legalization. One option under discussion is a plan to provide protected status that stops short of a path to citizenship. Another, which is seen by some of the people with knowledge of the situation as something of a placeholder, is to include a proposal that would enable immigrants who arrived in the United States before 2010 to apply for a green card.”The talks, which were described by the people with knowledge of the situation, some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose sensitive discussions, are said to remain fluid, with no final resolution yet reached and failure to tackle immigration in the plan still possible.”
And in other news
Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for government benefits–even when they work and pay taxes. Their U.S. citizen children are eligible–but getting the children what they are entitled to is difficult.
(Washington Post) “Laura, a 27-year-old Hyattsville, Md., mother of two young children, should have been receiving $550 a month since July, when payments began on the expanded child tax credit program. Laura — who declined to give her last name because she is undocumented — first had to apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to file her income taxes to access the benefit for her U.S.-born children. The ITIN is a nine-digit number issued by the IRS for people who do not have a Social Security number but need to file a tax return.
“But, Laura said recently, her ITIN has yet to come through, meaning her family still hasn’t received the money.”
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service was already overwhelmed, unable to process applications in a timely manner and with a huge and growing backlog.
(VOA) “As recently as last week, the U.S. immigration service was using six officers to process about 14,000 humanitarian requests for Afghans seeking relocation to the United States following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August.
“That’s what the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services told congressional staff, Congressman Jim Langevin, a Democrat from Rhode Island, said Thursday during a House Homeland Security Committee meeting.
“‘I want to say that again: 14,000 humanitarian parole applications with just six officers,” Langevin said. ‘That is completely and utterly unacceptable, and I call on USCIS to address the shortcoming immediately.'”
The Biden administration plans to provide legal representation for certain immigrant children. That’s a first step, but a retired immigration judge says it is far from enough.
(The Hill) “Imagine, if you can, a child — 2 years old, 10 years old or 17 years old — appearing before an immigration judge alone. How does a child, already intimidated and confused by the courtroom setting, understand the nature of the court proceedings and the charges against them? How can a child understand the complexities of immigration law, their burden of proof, and possible defenses against deportation? The short answer is they cannot.
“And yet, day in and day out, immigration judges across the United States are charged by law with conducting hearings with unaccompanied and unrepresented children. Many of these judges do their best to humanize the proceedings and explain that the children have rights, but the judges are not advocates. They have no relationship with the children and often lack access to critical facts. There is simply no substitute for competent counsel standing next to these children in court. Even as unaccompanied children have continued to cross the border in recent months, we do not have a plan for giving them counsel, the critical safeguard they need. “