Immigration News: January 12, 2022

Minnesota received 115 refugees in the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2022 (October-December 2021.) The largest numbers came from Syria (33) and Somalia (25). In addition, Minnesota received more than 600 Afghan evacuees for resettlement–these evacuees typically have humanitarian parole, rather than refugee, status.

After pausing refugee admissions to devote all resources to resettling Afghan evacuees, the Biden administration is now restarting regular refugee admissions. 

[CNN] “This week, admissions will kick back into gear, meaning that refugees from around the world who have undergone all processing and checks will be allowed to come to the US. 

“‘As of January 11, there are no restrictions on refugee travel,’ the spokesperson said.

“As of November 30, more than 2,000 refugees have been resettled in the United States in the new fiscal year, according to the latest figures from the State Department’s Refugee Processing Center. The fiscal year 2022 cap — which dictates how many refugees can be resettled in the US — is 125,000.”

Asylum seekers, however, still face nearly insurmountable barriers. Like refugees, asylum seekers flee persecution in their home countries. USCIS explains:

“You may seek a referral for refugee status only from outside of the United States. …

“Asylum status is a form of protection available to people who:

• Meet the definition of refugee

• Are already in the United States

• Are seeking admission at a port of entry”

While the Biden administration is restoring the refugee admission process, they still maintain Trump-era bars to asylum seekers. The two biggest bars are the Title 42 “public health” bar and the reinstated Remain-in-Mexico policy. 

Nonprofit legal aid providers are saying no to any cooperation with the “immoral policy” of Remain-in-Mexico, which has been reinstated by the Biden administration under court order. 

[The Hill] “’It’s actually really more fundamental than ‘We don’t like what you’re doing, and therefore we’re not going to help you do it,’’ said Eleanor Acer, senior director for Refugee Protection at Human Rights First, whose group provided legal assistance to those enrolled in Remain in Mexico under the Trump administration.  

“’Many at this point have real concerns that signing up to officially take part in a program that they believe violates U.S. and international law puts them in a position of potentially being complicit with human rights abuses – and I would say massive human rights abuses.’…

“Human Rights First tracked more than 1,500 kidnappings and other instances of violence against migrants and asylum seekers from 2019 to 2020 during Trump’s oversight of Remain in Mexico. 

“But attorneys for migrants were also wrapped up in much of the chaos, witnessing kidnappings and being threatened by cartels. 

“’The statistics for legal representation in Remain in Mexico were miniscule – they were always very, very low – and attorneys who did cross the border to represent them were constantly risking their safety and security to do so, and the situation has only become more dangerous since 2019,’ Acer said.” 

Locking Up Immigrants

Immigrants fighting deportation sometimes remain in detention for months or years, even though they are not accused of a crime. Should they have a right to apply for release on bond and have a hearing on bond? Antonio Arteaga-Martinez, the plaintiff in one of the two cases argued before the Supreme Court this week, is an immigrant whose next hearing is set for 2023. Any guesses on what SCOTUS will decide?

[New York Times] “Justice Stephen G. Breyer said allowing people to seek release as their cases work their way through the legal system is a bedrock principle with deep historical roots. ‘Given the history of this nation and Britain, where you’re going to detain a person, not even a criminal, you know, for months and months and months, why aren’t they at least entitled to a bail hearing’” he asked. ‘That’s all that’s at issue.’

“Curtis E. Gannon, a lawyer for the federal government, responded that ‘Congress can make rules for noncitizens that it can’t for citizens and that detention during removal proceedings is constitutionally permissible.’”

And this reminder from Camilo Montoya

“The number of detained immigrants being isolated or monitored inside ICE detention facilities due to confirmed Covid-19 infections continues to increase, reaching 1,581 today, the latest government tally shows. 22,000 immigrants are currently detained by ICE.”

And in other news

Big-time earth moving happening on the border, but stories about its purpose differ. A government spokesperson said the construction is a levee. The construction company says it is a wall. 

[Border Report] “National Butterfly Center Executive Director Marianna Treviño-Wright told Border Report she doesn’t see much of a difference between the new barrier and the old one.

“’This is not levee repair. They’re actually destroying the levee to build border wall. They’re continuing this border wall,’ she said Tuesday. 

“Treviño-Wright said the National Guard told her and another environmentalist on Friday to get back on Butterfly Center land and they tried to forbid them entry into the federal wildlife refuge…

“’President Biden said that ‘not another foot’ of wall would be built, but SLSCO has erected more than a kilometer of new border wall in places that never had walls and where the levees were previously untouched,’ [Scott Nicol, an environmentalist who accompanied Treviño-Wright on Friday,] said.”

Gavin Newsom proposes extending health care to all Californians, regardless of immigration status. Immigrants have played key roles as essential workers during the pandemic, and have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. 

[San Francisco Chronicle] “Pro-immigrant advocates Monday heralded the Democrat’s budget proposal, in which Newsom would expand Medi-Cal, the health care program for low-income Californians, to include all people regardless of their immigration status, starting no earlier than 2024….

“The move to expand Medi-Cal coverage caps a nearly decade-long battle led by immigration advocates and progressive legislators. In 2016, the Legislature expanded the full scope of coverage — including preventative, dental and mental-health care — to all undocumented children through age 18, and young adults up to age 26 were added a few years later.”

Stealing cash from immigrants—just “standard operating procedure” in this Texas sheriff’s department.

[Texas Tribune] “Last month, investigators with the Texas Rangers and the Texas Attorney General’s Office raided four Real County Sheriff’s Office locations as part of an investigation into Sheriff Nathan Johnson, according to search warrants obtained this week by The Texas Tribune. The investigating Texas Ranger said Johnson admitted to regularly seizing money from undocumented immigrants during traffic stops, even if they were not accused of any state crime, before handing them over to United States Border Patrol agents.

“One sheriff’s deputy told investigators that ‘seizing currency from undocumented immigrants and the driver has been standard operating procedure for as long as he has been employed by the Real County Sheriff’s Office,’ Texas Ranger Ricardo Guajardo wrote in the warrant requests.” 

If you are looking for one article to sum up changes in immigration policy under President Biden, and pending proposals before Congress, this thoughtful, balanced summary by Pew Research Center is it. One reminder: all of the changes and pending legislation fall far short of the big immigration reforms backed by Biden, which have no chance of passage by the Senate. 

“Since President Joe Biden took office in January 2021, his administration has acted on a number of fronts to reverse Trump-era restrictions on immigration to the United States. The steps include plans to boost refugee admissionspreserving deportation relief for unauthorized immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and not enforcing the “public charge” rule that denies green cards to immigrants who might use public benefits like Medicaid.

“Biden has also lifted restrictions established early in the coronavirus pandemic that drastically reduced the number of visas issued to immigrants. …

“The Senate is considering several immigration provisions in a spending bill, the Build Back Better Act, that the House passed in November 2021. While passage of the bill is uncertain– as is the inclusion of immigration reforms in the bill’s final version – the legislation would make about 7 million unauthorized immigrants eligible to apply for protection from deportation, work permits and driver’s licenses.” 

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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