Immigration reform is stuck on stop. Just where it has been for 35 years. A majority of voters still support a pathway to legal residence and citizenship for Dreamers, farmworkers, essential workers, and more. But a loud minority continues to block Congressional action.
[NPR] “You know, there are parts of the Republican coalition that would favor a pathway to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants – you know, like the Chamber of Commerce types, libertarians – but they’re just not as loud right now as the faction of the party that rejects that, that rejects any kind of reform that they would consider amnesty. And so that’s how you have this minority of Americans that can block what the majority says it wants when it comes to immigration. …
“The Biden administration has tried to use its executive authority on immigration, but there, too, it has been blocked repeatedly in court because of these legal challenges that have been brought by Republican-led states, including Texas and Missouri, Louisiana and Arizona. Biden promised on the campaign trail, for example, to end the Trump administration’s Remain in Mexico policy, which forced asylum seekers to, you know, wait in these dangerous border towns in Mexico for their hearings in U.S. courts. But he was forced by a federal judge in Texas to reinstate the Remain in Mexico policy. The administration did eventually win that case, but, you know, it had to fight all the way to the Supreme Court to do it. And we’ve seen that dynamic playing out with other policies.”
The U.S. asylum system needs major changes, including a change in defining qualification for asylum. Just one example: people fleeing war do not qualify for asylum under the current definition.
[The Guardian] “Even the definition of who qualifies as an asylee is vastly outdated. Only those fleeing persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group are eligible for asylum, categories the US Congress copied from a 1951 United Nations convention that was primarily concerned with safeguarding white, European refugees after the second world war.
“A more comprehensive and less anachronistic designation that explicitly recognizes gender-based violence, climate-driven migration, abuse by non-state actors, and unlivable poverty as forms of persecution would better capture the experiences of today’s asylum seekers from the global south.”
Two scholars propose a change that would mean a dramatic increase in immigration.
[The Guardian] “Under our proposal, the US would admit 75 million immigrants over the next decade, which would double the foreign-born population from 15% to over 30%, giving it the largest share of any developed nation. …
“Under our plan, immigrants could enter the US based on family ties or through a revamped humanitarian visa that would recognize factors such as economic hardship and the climate crisis as well as political persecution. …
“Even those who don’t agree that US policy plays a large role in driving migration should embrace our plan. The country’s population growth rate has flatlined. Population growth between 2010 and 2020 was the second lowest in the country’s history, largely because of declining birth rates among native-born Americans. We face a crisis of “age dependency” as the number of seniors rises dramatically relative to working age adults. Demographic decline is feeding a nationwide care crisis and imperils the sustainability of programs like Medicare and social security. Immigration is a necessary solution.”
And in other news
Do asylum seekers and other migrants stay mainly in border states? Not really, according to analysis of the numbers. After crossing the border, they usually head for other states where they have family or community connections.
[Washington Post] “The ‘burden’ of migrants is already widely dispersed. Susan Long, co-director of TRAC, says that while asylum seekers initially arrive in border communities, that’s only the beginning.
“’For most, the next leg of their journey takes them to communities all across the country,’ Long tells me. ‘The two states with the highest current number of pending asylum cases are California and New York.’
“It is not certain that all those awaiting hearings at a particular state’s court are in that state. But Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy director at the American Immigration Council, calls this a reasonable “proxy” for gauging their geographical distribution.
“’Blue states have had skin in the game for a very long time,’ Reichlin-Melnick tells me. ‘Asylum-seeking migrants often go to places where there are already-strong immigrant communities.’”
The Biden administration has made it official: the Trump-era attempt to make it harder for asylum seekers to get a work permit, already thrown out by the courts, has been completely rescinded. Not that it will be easy to get a work permit: asylum seekers still have to wait for 180 days before applying for a work permit and the application process is complicated.
[Reuters] “The U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday said it is repealing a pair of Trump-era rules that made it more difficult for asylum seekers to work in the U.S. while their applications are pending.
“U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the DHS office that processes asylum applications, said it was formally repealing the 2020 rules in light of a federal judge’s February decision that said they were invalid.”
As many as one-third of truck drivers in California are Punjabi migrants, at a time of driver shortages across the industry. Many are undocumented, awaiting immigration court decisions on their cases. With huge backlogs in immigration courts, they may wait for years. During that time, they are monitored by immigration authorities, using methods that include check-ins, ankle monitors, and mobile phone apps.
[The Guardian] “After spending a night in late September driving an 18-wheeler across the country, Gurpreet Singh woke up to see his phone lit up with notifications from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Immediately, Singh called back to acknowledge the contact attempts. Then he snapped a selfie to upload into the mobile app immigration officials used to track his whereabouts.
“Earlier that morning, worn out from a nonstop 11-hour trip that started in Bakersfield, California, Singh, a Punjabi immigrant awaiting asylum, had gotten the time zones confused. When the notification he expected didn’t arrive, he simply submitted an unprompted selfie and fell into a deep sleep. As his co-driver continued the journey from St Louis to Chicago, the first notification arrived, followed by a flood of others, including missed calls from a cousin whom Ice had contacted while searching for him.
“Already stressed about delivering his load on time, Singh now grappled with the fear that this mistake could hurt his immigration case. …
“Migrants from India constitute the largest population from outside the Americas to cross the US-Mexico border. An exodus out of Punjab began in the 1980s and 90s, at the height of forced disappearances, state-sanctioned violence and extrajudicial killings targeting Sikhs in India. In the decades since, migration has been fueled by the reverberations of intergenerational trauma, compounded by other factors, including continued political persecution, unprofitable farmland, bleak economic prospects and a drug epidemic.”
Confused about the Texas and Florida governors’ efforts to send migrants north? The National Immigration Forum has a fact sheet that explains what is going on.
[National Immigration Forum] “Communities that receive immigrants — those on the border and those far from it — know that doing so is a blessing and an opportunity to affirm migrants’ humanity.
“People in California, Arizona, Florida, New Mexico and Texas have been welcoming and caring for asylum seekers for years, helping migrants short- and long-term to access transportation and resources as they enter the United States. These communities are set up to receive these migrants, with shelters, resources and organizations geared toward getting them the aid they need.
“Residents in Washington, D.C., New York City, Illinois, Martha’s Vineyard, New Jersey and Delaware have been welcoming or ready to welcome migrants with open arms, grateful for the opportunity to assist.”