Immigration News: January 21, 2022

More than 700 Afghan evacuees have arrived in Minnesota for resettlement here. Want to help? Sahan Journal has a list of ways you can get involved, from donating money to finding homes to material aid to sponsoring a family. 

[Sahan Journal] “Alight is collecting financial donations to get homes ready for Afghan families. The group is seeking new and gently used household items, including larger furniture. Contact action@wearealight.org for more information.

“Alight has also compiled a list of items needed on an Amazon wishlist

“Families are coming with very little; they’ve been in transition for months, and many have gone through traumatic events in Afghanistan,” Anunciacion said. “Our goal is to create a safe and comfortable home for them to land in and build a meaningful life.”

The International Institute, a St. Paul-based refugee resettlement agency, is also collecting financial donations online to support refugees. The International Institute provides a range of services for refugees, including housing support, immigration assistance, language learning, and more….

“To accommodate the everyday needs of a growing number of Afghan families, Maggie Habashy, an International Institute board member, has been hosting donation drives. People wanting to help can purchase winter jackets and household supplies through Habashy’s Amazon Wishlist. Habashy said she’ll be adding donation requests to the list as needed.

“Hennepin County has also organized an Amazon wishlist that includes clothing, household items, children’s toys, and winter clothing. …

Alight is also encouraging people to start fundraisers in their own networks to sponsor Afghan families.”

And in other news

The Biden administration refuses to allow Haitian asylum seekers to apply for asylum in the United States, and has continued near-daily deportation flights. 

[Vox] “Thousands of Haitians are indefinitely trapped in Mexico. They face pervasive racism, and many are unable to work, have no access to medical care, and are targets for criminals. Most have arrived in the last year, hoping that the Biden presidency would open up an opportunity for them to finally seek protection in the US. …

“The Biden administration continues to enforce pandemic-related border restrictions that have kept out the vast majority of asylum seekers, including Haitians; it’s deported nearly 14,000 Haitians since September 2021 despite their country’s political and economic crises. As a result, many Haitians face a difficult choice: Try to cross the US border and risk getting deported to Haiti if caught, or attempt to make a life for themselves in Mexico, at least temporarily….

“The Biden administration briefly paused deportation flights to Haiti in 2021 due to escalating political violence, but has resumed them despite the fact that the situation on the ground hasn’t improved. In just the last month, it chartered 51 deportation flights carrying more than 5,000 passengers.”

A one-year review of the Biden administration’s record on immigration highlights contradictions. 

[CBS] “In its first year, Mr. Biden’s administration made dozens of high-profile and little-noticed changes to the U.S. immigration system, many of them reversals of Trump-era restrictions. But the Biden administration also continued some policies instituted by Mr. Trump.

“A task force created by Mr. Biden has reunited 118 migrant children with families who were separated near the southern border during the Trump administration. It has also identified an additional 370 children who are set to be reunited with their families. But following Republican criticism, the Biden administration also ended court negotiations over financial compensation for these families….

“In an interview, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the administration’s priorities in 2022 include reforming immigration detention, reducing massive immigration application backlogs, reshaping the asylum process and expanding naturalization efforts for eligible permanent residents….

“‘We have fundamentally changed immigration enforcement in the interior. For the first time ever, our policy explicitly states that a non-citizen’s unlawful presence in the United States will not, by itself, be a basis for the initiation of an enforcement action,’ Mayorkas said. ‘This is a profound shift away from the prior administration’s indiscriminate enforcement.'”

Changes in STEM student visas will try to keep talent here. It’s one effort to counter China’s growing influence that can be taken without seeking approval from a miserably deadlocked Congress. 

[Reuters] “The measures will allow specialists in STEM fields to use cultural-exchange visas to stay for up to 3 years of training.

“A program allowing those on student visas to stay for an extended period of training will also be expanded to areas such as data science, cloud computing and data visualization.

“‘Other countries, most notably China, are using STEM talent to try to supplant the United States as the world’s foremost scientific and technological innovator,’ one of the officials told reporters.

“It now far surpasses the United States, long home to many of the world’s top research universities, in the number of undergraduates and doctoral students in the fields critical to economic growth, the official said.”

With Congressional action on immigration blocked by Republicans, President Biden is moving ahead with executive actions, including four recent actions that target science, technology, and entrepreneurship needs. 

[Forbes] “Although Donald Trump said he favored ‘merit-based’ immigration, his policy team never seemed to find high-skilled foreign nationals it wanted to let work in the United States. In contrast, the Biden administration has proposed new policies that take the opposite approach.

“Announced January 21, 2022, the new Biden policies can be divided into four general areas. Each holds the potential for making America more welcoming for talented foreign-born individuals at a time when human capital and innovation have never been more valuable to a nation.”

Carlos Ernesto Escobar-Mejía died of COVID. His death was entirely preventable.

“By the time Carlos Ernesto Escobar-Mejía was finally admitted to the hospital, it was too late. The 57-year-old was intubated in the intensive care unit when he died of COVID-19 at Paradise Valley Hospital in National City.

[San Diego Union Tribune] “He contracted the coronavirus while under the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego. Amid loose or unimplemented COVID protocols and staff members who brought the virus with them as they entered the immigrant prison each day, an outbreak of COVID-19 had predictably infected hundreds, including those with medical vulnerabilities, like Escobar-Mejía. His death marked the first of many in ICE custody.

“Now, as the Omicron variant tears through the immigration detention system at unprecedented speed, the federal government is no more prepared to ensure the safety of immigrants inside detention than it was two years ago.”

While the Biden administration has issued new guidelines directing the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in favor of undocumented immigrants with long residence and ties to the United States, immigration officers frequently refuse to follow those directives.

[NPR] “On paper, Simakovsky says Carol and her husband are exactly the kind of people that the enforcement guidance from Immigration and Customs Enforcement should help: They have no criminal records, long-standing ties to their community, and a potential pathway to permanent legal status through their children. So Simakovsky wrote to ICE requesting what’s known as prosecutorial discretion — when prosecutors agree to put a case on hold, or drop it altogether. 

“The answer was no. …

“ICE says in a statement that it has received roughly 47,000 requests for prosecutorial discretion so far — and that it has granted 70% of those requests. But immigration lawyers around the country remain skeptical. 

“‘The language coming from Washington is not at all the actual practice that we’re experiencing in Boston,’ says Michael Kaplan, a lawyer at the firm Rubin Pomerleau.”

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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