Immigration News from October 27, 2021

The United States has roughly 10 million job openings and only 8.4 million people looking for work. Immigrants usually fill some of that gap, but not now. In a normal year, about one million immigrants come to the country. Last year, that number was down to 263,000. The shutdown continues this year. 

(Vox) “[D]espite job openings hitting historic highs in July and extended unemployment benefits ending in September, Americans aren’t returning to work, especially in low-wage industries. At the same time, workers are resigning in record numbers. And though consumer spending has surged this year, businesses don’t have the people to meet demand — to cope, some companies are raising their prices. Supply chain bottlenecks are even threatening to ruin Christmas….

“The industries currently facing the worst labor shortages include construction; transportation and warehousing; accommodation and hospitality; and personal services businesses like salons, dry cleaners, repair services, and undertakers. All four industries had increases in job postings of more than 65 percent when comparing the months of May to July 2019 to the same time period in 2021, according to an analysis conducted for Vox by the pro-immigration New American Economy think tank. Immigrants make up at least 20 percent of the workforce in those industries.”

First the Trump administration slashed immigration through both outright cuts and a web of executive orders and regulations that snarled and slowed visa processing. Then came the pandemic, virtually stopping employment visa processing. 

(New York Times) “Employers consistently complain that they are struggling to hire, and job openings exceed the number of people actively looking for work, even though millions fewer people are working compared with just before the pandemic. The slump in immigration is one of the many reasons for the disconnect. Companies dependent on foreign workers have found that waves of infections and processing delays at consulates are keeping would-be employees in their home countries, or stuck in America but simply unable to work.

“’Employers are having to wait a long time to get their petitions approved, and renewals are not being processed in a timely manner,’ said Stephen Yale-Loehr, an immigration lawyer who teaches at Cornell Law School. ‘It’s going to take a long time for them to work through the backlog.’…

“Overall visa issuance dropped by 4.7 million last year….

“The State Department reported that as of September, nearly half a million people remained in its immigrant visa backlog, compared with roughly 61,000 on average in 2019.” 

And in other news

The Biden administration had already told ICE to avoid many “sensitive areas,” such as courts and hospitals. The big additions in the 10/27 memo are social services shelters, disaster relief sites, and more locations where children are present. In addition, the memorandum changes the wording from “sensitive areas” to “protected locations.” 

(BuzzFeed) “While ICE officers have for years been largely restricted from making arrests at schools and hospitals, the new list issued by DHS included additional locations such as domestic violence shelters, homeless shelters, and playgrounds, among other locations. Unlike the previous policy, the memo did not include an exception for arrests at the border. It does, however, allow for arrests in certain circumstances, like the existence of a national security threat….

“’When we conduct an enforcement action – whether it is an arrest, search, service of a subpoena, or other action – we need to consider many factors, including the location in which we are conducting the action and its impact on other people and broader societal interests,’ DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas wrote in the memo. ‘For example, if we take an action at an emergency shelter, it is possible that noncitizens, including children, will be hesitant to visit the shelter and receive needed food and water, urgent medical attention, or other humanitarian care.’” 

More than 30,000 migrants from Haiti, Central America, and other countries are confined to Tapachula for months on end, with no work permission and no exit in sight. 

(The New Republic) “‘U.S policy has forced Mexico to use Tapachula as a prison state, caging migrants and creating a bottleneck where they’re barely surviving,’ said Guerline Jozef, co-founder and executive director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance.

“Waiting along with the Haitians are significant communities of Hondurans, Cubans, Venezuelans, Guatemalans, Dominicans, and more. About 800 migrants are being held in the notorious Siglo XXI detention center, but most of them are in an open-air prison bound by the city limits: Migrants must be granted refugee status in Mexico to leave Tapachula, and that onerous process can take months. Frustrated with the situation, about 1,000 people left Tapachula on foot in a caravan headed for Mexico City on Saturday night.”

Immigrant detention centers routinely violate ICE’s rules and procedures. Those violations, documented by an internal ICE investigation, likely led to the death by suicide of Efraín Romero de la Rosa in 2018 at Georgia’s notorious Steward Detention Center, a for-profit prison owned and operated by CoreCivic. 

(The Intercept) “Medical and security staff at a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center violated numerous agency rules when dealing with a detainee with mental illness, according to an internal agency investigation. Efraín Romero de la Rosa, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, took his own life after 21 days in solitary confinement in Georgia’s Stewart Detention Center in July 2018.

“Following Romero’s death, ICE’s External Reviews and Analysis Unit, a nominally impartial body within the agency, opened an investigation that found that staff had falsified documents; improperly dealt with Romero’s medication; neglected to follow proper procedures for his care; and improperly placed him in disciplinary solitary confinement — despite multiple warnings of Romero’s declining mental health.

“The investigative unit’s Detainee Death Review, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by The Intercept, lists 22 separate violations of both ICE and Stewart Detention Center rules by staff during Romero’s four months in ICE detention. It also lists eight separate ‘areas of concern.'”

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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