Immigration News from November 19, 2021


A path to citizenship is still the most important immigration reform that is needed and we continue to urge our elected officials to work toward this absolutely necessary goal. The Build Back Better bill passed by the House this morning includes a temporary parole provision, which would not provide a path to citizenship. Now the bill goes to the Senate. 

(Washington Post) “Roughly 7 million of the 11 million undocumented immigrants would be eligible to apply for work permits, permission to travel abroad, and benefits like state driver’s licenses, a major step for immigrants from Mexico, Central America and other lands who remain vulnerable to being deported.

“Separately, the measure would also restore more than 400,000 green cards that went unused because of bureaucratic or pandemic-related delays. Green cards are for permanent residents, who are on a path to citizenship, and are typically sponsored by immediate relatives or employers. Others win green cards through the annual diversity visa lottery.”

Representative Veronica Escobar speaks for many, including me. 

(Roll Call) “Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, called the immigration provisions ‘woefully unacceptable’ compared with what lawmakers originally hoped to include. ‘But at the very, very least, it’s movement and a step in a direction that gives us time to hopefully get more done,’ she said ahead of the vote.” 

And in other news

Protecting Afghans? Not so much—the incredibly slow processing of applications for humanitarian parole leaves tens of thousands in danger. Meanwhile, USCIS has collected millions in application fees from Afghans in the United States who are desperate to save their family members. 

(AP) “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has struggled to keep up with the surge in applicants to a little-used program known as humanitarian parole but promises it’s ramping up staff to address the growing backlog.

“Afghan families in the U.S. and the immigrant groups supporting them say the slow pace of approvals threatens the safety of their loved ones, who face an uncertain future under the hard-line Islamic government because of their ties to the West….

“Each parole application comes with a $575 filing charge, meaning USCIS, which is primarily fee-funded, is sitting on some $11.5 million from Afghans in the last few months alone, she and other advocates complain.”

While the reasons for continuing low refugee admissions lie mainly in the Trump administration’s strenuous efforts to dismantle the entire U.S. refugee system, the Biden administration can and must take stronger action to restore this system. Currently, the arrival of 70,000 Afghans takes up all the available resources for refugee resettlement–despite their non-refugee status of humanitarian parole.

(Vox) “That has consumed refugee agencies still in the process of rebuilding after being gutted by the Trump administration, which set a cap of 15,000 refugee admissions in 2020, a record low. Both the international and domestic infrastructure has suffered as a result, with refugee agencies forced to close many of their offices amid funding cuts, and fewer refugees being interviewed and vetted by federal officials abroad….

“The number of refugee applicants interviewed annually dropped from 125,000 to just 44,000 between fiscal years 2016 and 2019, O’Mara Vignarajah said.

“’This is the government’s responsibility,’ [Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, the president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service,] said. ‘We need to increase the efficiency of vetting and application processing, without compromising stringent security integrity standards.’

“That requires staffing up in the USCIS refugee corps, which decreased in size by roughly a third between 2017 and 2020. But it also involves getting rid of overly repetitive or burdensome aspects of refugee processing. There are, for example, multiple and likely duplicative biographical and biometric checks for refugee applicants conducted by different US government agencies that could be consolidated, O’Mara Vignarajah said.” 

California passed a law banning private, for-profit immigration detention centers. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and The Geo Group Inc., one of the largest private prison corporations in the country, sued to overturn the law, arguing that it infringed on federal power over immigration. 

(AP) “The ruling last month by a three-judge appellate panel kept in place a key piece of the world’s largest detention system for immigrants — despite a 2019 state law aimed at phasing out privately-run immigration jails in California by 2028.

“’They treat people like commodities, they pose an unacceptable risk to the health and welfare of Californians, they prioritize profits over rehabilitation — making us all less safe,’ said Attorney General Rob Bonta, who wrote the lawwhen he was in the state Assembly and filed the request for the review by a broader cross-section of the court.”

End Title 42 now. 

(New York Times) “The Biden administration says that border patrol agents are simply following orders from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that were put in place to keep the country safe from Covid-19. But there is little doubt that the administration has used the policy as a stopgap measure to quickly remove migrants who are gathering at the southern border in large numbers, pushed by the economic fallout from Covid in South and Central America and pulled by the rumors of lenient treatment under a more welcoming American president, among other factors.

“On Friday, congressional investigators released excerpts from testimony by a former senior C.D.C. official who admitted that there was little public health rationale for instituting the policy, since the virus was already spreading in the United States by the time the Title 42 order was signed.” 

A November 12 “policy alert” from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) will make it easier for veterans to become citizens.

(Univision) “The three-page ‘policy alert’ memo, dated November 12, is part of an initiative ‘to remove barriers to naturalization,’ and comes in response to the case of a former U.S. Marine in central Florida, Paul Canton, who enlisted in 1991 hoping to become a U.S. citizen.

“After almost 30 years in the United States, he learned he was undocumented and faced deportation.

“‘It’s been hell,’ he told Univision by telephone on Wednesday as he was still coming to terms with the news. ‘It’s hard to get my head around it. Is it real or not?’ he added.

“It also came as a complete surprise to his pro-bono lawyer, Elizabeth Ricci in Tallahassee, who has been fighting the case for three years.

“‘I nearly fell off my chair when I read it this morning. I had to look at the words several times. I couldn’t believe it,’ she said. ‘I’m sure there are other people in this situation who may now be able to get naturalized. I’m so happy for these people,’ she added.”

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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