Immigration News: January 13, 2022

Miriam Herrera’s plight epitomizes the heartless, soulless application of immigration laws. She and her husband flew to Mexico to finish the long process of getting her green card. Their petition, based on her husband’s U.S. citizenship, had been approved. The final step was an interview at a U.S. consulate in Mexico. Their children—ages 14, 13, and 8—stayed behind in Idaho with a relative. 

But she didn’t get the green card. Instead, a consular official barred her from re-entering the United States for ten years.

[Border Report] “Miriam Herrera, 31, said she was told at the U.S. consulate that she was present in the country unlawfully when she was 5 and then when she was 7 years old. She says her father told her they had been to the United States on two occasions, but that it was for no more than a couple of months. The immigration officer at the consulate told her it had been two years.

“’She asked me if my father could attest to this, but my father is deceased,’ she said. ‘My lawyer says this should’ve never happened. Two other lawyers said I shouldn’t have been banned. They said it was an easy case and should’ve been approved. Now, we’re here in Juarez staying in someone’s house and I don’t know when I’ll be back home, with my kids.’…

“Baldemar Herrera said he’s counting on his lawyers coming up with a solution. ‘It’s kind of hard right now. We haven’t been able to sleep. We’re kind of in shock to what’s going on,’ he said.

Miriam Herrera said she wanted to obtain legal status in the United States to avoid a repeat of a traumatic experience she had as a child.

“’I went through a situation where my mother was deported and it traumatized me. I wanted my kids not to go through something like this and it’s very hard,’ she said, crying.”

Immigration Courts

The immigration court system needs reform, but the Biden administration’s Dedicated Docket—supposedly an attempt to improve the efficiency of asylum hearings—fails in entirely predictable ways, according to a new report from Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC). The report finds that “the program may be doing more to generate higher than usual rates of deportation and wasting immigration judges’ time rather than create a fair and efficient asylum process.” Summarizing the findings, Austin Kocher writes:

“The report provides considerable insight into Dedicated Docket cases, but I want to emphasize three key takeaways.

1) Just 15% of the 72,000 people on the Dedicated Docket have legal representation (so far). …

2) Most of the completed Dedicated Docket cases ended in deportation. …

3) ICE fails to turn in paperwork on time in 10% of cases.” 

California Representative Zoe Lofgren will hold Congressional hearings on the failures of the immigration court system. Lofgren plans to introduce legislation to make the immigration courts independent courts rather than under the direction of the Justice Department. 

[San Francisco Chronicle] “The hundreds of judges at the roughly 70 immigration courts nationwide decide the fate of immigrants seeking to stay in the U.S., many of whom fear for their lives if they are deported. But the system has long faced criticism for its enormous backlog of more than 1.5 million cases, inconsistency across judges and courts, antiquated bureaucracy and labyrinthine structure that’s difficult for immigrants without lawyers to navigate.

“The immigration courts are unique as a court system. It is entirely controlled by the attorney general, a political appointee, who manages the nation’s prosecutors and is ultimately the boss of immigration judges, and who has authority over their rulings equivalent to the Supreme Court.”

And in other news

In a policy shift, the Biden administration now opposes compensation for separated families. 

[Washington Post] “Government lawyers emphasized in the court documents that they do not condone the Trump administration’s policy of separating the children of undocumented migrants from their parents. But they said the U.S. government has a good deal of leeway when it comes to managing immigration and is immune from such legal challenges….

“The legal strategy reflects the Biden administration’s awkward position as it shifts from championing the migrant families politically to fighting them in court. Migrant families have filed approximately 20 lawsuits and hundreds of administrative claims seeking compensation for the emotional and sometimes physical abuse they allege they suffered during the separations.”

Immigrant Minnesotans make up a higher percentage of essential workers than native-born Minnesotans. COVID-19 has disproportionately affected these essential workers, in job losses, in illnesses, and in exclusion from pandemic relief.

[Sahan Journal] “In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, these workers have garnered national praise for risking their health to keep the country functioning. In one dramatic display, the Minnesota National Guard flew jet fighters over the state to show, in the words of Major General Jon Jensen, “solidarity for those who have stepped forward to serve during this pandemic.” 

“In these rosy depictions about essential workers, however, one group has remained underpaid and undervalued: low-wage essential immigrant and refugee workers. These laborers—both documented and undocumented—have often worked unprotected on the front lines of the outbreak, while finding themselves excluded from certain federal and state relief funds.”

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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