Immigration News from October 28, 2021

What does the new Build Back Better framework say about immigration? Short answer: no one knows.

(Roll Call) “The White House framework notes the $100 billion investment aims to ‘reform our broken immigration system,’ as well as reduce backlogs, expand legal representation and improve asylum and border processing. But the section includes an important caveat: These provisions must be ‘consistent with the Senate’s reconciliation rules.’

“Democrats have so far faced an uphill battle to include sweeping immigration changes in the reconciliation bill, which advocates stress could be the party’s last chance for years to help undocumented immigrants before Democrats risk losing their congressional majorities in 2022.” 

Immigrant Worker Rights

Federal wage and hour laws apply to immigrants as well as citizens. Workers are sung because they were paid less than the prevailing wage, and were not paid overtime wages. 

(AP) “The lawsuit filed in western Louisiana claims Sterling Sugars Sales Corporation obtained federal H-2A work visas identifying the six as farm workers, with job duties including harvesting sugarcane and maintaining farm equipment at wages less than $11 an hour….

“The workers’ suit argues that the off-the-farm work carrying products to a mill for an employer who did not produce the sugarcane required a different type of visa, an H-2B visa. And, the suit said, they should have been paid at a rate just over $20 an hour under federal “prevailing wage” law.”

A jury in Washington State said the private, for-profit prison corporations must pay immigrant detainees the minimum wage. These detainees are in civil detention, waiting for their immigration cases to be heard. 

(ABC) “’This multi-billion dollar corporation illegally exploited the people it detains to line its own pockets,’ Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in an emailed statement. ‘Today’s victory sends a clear message: Washington will not tolerate corporations that get rich violating the rights of the people.’…

“The jury will now consider how much the immigrant detainees who worked at the facility are owed — an amount expected to run into the millions …

“During the first trial, GEO acknowledged it could pay detainees more if it wanted. In 2018, the company made $18.6 million in profits from the facility; it would have cost $3.4 million to pay the minimum wage to detainees.” 

And in other news

That promise from the Statue of Liberty never was actual U.S. immigration policy.

(CNN) “The history of US immigration policy is one of ever-expanding restrictions and deportations of the poor and huddled masses, from Chinese Exclusion through the rapid removal of over 10,000 Haitians last month. 

“Even before the Statue of Liberty was dedicated in 1886, the United States had begun to close the door on non-White and poor immigrants. The country did not have any federal immigration restrictions until 1875, but many states set up their own limits. Massachusetts and New York implemented limits on poor and sick immigrants, Southern states banned the entry of free Blacks at their ports, and California set limits on the entry of the Chinese after the Gold Rush. The Supreme Court invalidated these state-level immigration laws in 1849 and again in 1875. 

“That same year, Congress passed the Page Act, the country’s first national immigration restriction on Chinese laborers and women. In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which banned the entry of all Chinese immigrants. Sen. John Miller of California said on the Senate floor, ‘Of Chinese, we have enough and would be glad to exchange those we have for any White people under the sun.’ In 1882, Congress also passed a separate immigration act that banned ‘convicts, idiots, lunatics, or any person unable to take care of himself or herself without becoming a public charge.'” 

Laws criminalizing illegal entry into the United States were passed in 1929, at the urging of a segregationist southern senator. These laws were rarely used, until 2005. The first entry is a misdemeanor–a second entry can be prosecuted as a felony, potentially barring any future admission to the country under any type of visa, no matter how desperate the individual migrant’s circumstances. A federal court has held the law unconstitutional because of its racist intent and application, but the Biden administration has appealed that ruling. 

(HuffPost) “Prosecutions have become an increasingly controversial part of the immigration enforcement system, and have accounted for around half of the federal criminal caseload since 2009.

“These prosecutions were a key feature of former President Donald Trump’s hardline approach to immigration. In 2018, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy requiring all U.S. attorneys in the five districts that touch the U.S.-Mexico border to systematically prosecute every unauthorized migrant Border Patrol apprehended. The family separation debacle that year resulted from the Trump administration extending zero tolerance to parents traveling with their kids, shunting mothers and fathers into criminal courts while their kids remained in civil custody.” 

U.S. crime rates rose in 2020 for the first time in four years, Crime rates along the U.S.-Mexico border remained lower than the national average and lower than in comparably-sized cities across the United States. 

(Axios) “The Axios analysis using FBI data and the 2020 census found 11 border communities had a violent crime rate of 340.2 per 100,000 residents, around 15% lower than the national average of 398.5.

“Also, in the 11 communities from San Diego to Brownsville, Texas, taken together, the average murder rate was 4.1 per 100,000 residents — well below the FBI’s reported national average of 6.5.”

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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