Immigration News: November 21, 2022

U.S. Capitol, photo by David Mall, used under Creative Commons license

There’s a small window of time to pass important immigration legislation before a Republican majority in the House in January makes it even harder. Two proposals that have at least a chance of passage before January are the Farm Workforce Modernization Act and some sort of path to citizenship for Dreamers. Both have strong bipartisan support in the country. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act passed the House with some Republicans joining Democrats, but Senate Republicans have not allowed it to come to a vote.

None of the proposed legislation is perfect. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act, for example, is criticized as not providing strong enough protection for workers. Even imperfect legislation protects more people than no legislation at all. But will at least 10 Republicans in the Senate agree to allow a vote on anything?

[Denver Post] “Lulu Guerrero wakes up at her home in Wiggins, sometimes as early as 3 a.m., to get out to the farm fields that spread across Weld County in every direction and start her days planting and harvesting watermelons, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers and pumpkins.

“Guerrero, who entered the United States illegally nearly 20 years ago and has worked in Colorado’s $41 billion a year agricultural industry ever since, lives in constant worry about her future and that of the hundreds of thousands of other immigrant workers who labor in America’s farm fields. …

“Guerrero, 53, spent last week in Washington, D.C., pushing for the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, a federal bill that would create a path to legal residency — and potentially eventual citizenship — for undocumented farmworkers in the United States.”

[CNN] “Senate Democrats are racing against the clock to try to strike an agreement with Republicans to provide a pathway to citizenship for recipients of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

“The program, launched in 2012, allows undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children to live and work in the United States. But its fate is uncertain amid ongoing litigation that threatens to end the policy. …

“Senate Democrats need at least 10 Republicans on board to break a filibuster and advance legislation, which is why Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin and Menendez have restarted talks within the Senate to try to get some Republicans on board to pass legislation to help DACA recipients.”

And in other news

Arizona is a case study in change. In 2006, state voters passed a draconian, anti-immigrant referendum. This year, they reversed course. The reason: grassroots organizing and advocacy changed minds. 

[MSNBC] “During last week’s midterm election, 51% of voters in that same state, a state whose voters have become increasingly young, Latino and progressive, rejected the past. That majority supported Proposition 308, a ballot measure allowing all who’ve attended Arizona high schools for at least two years, no matter their immigration status, to pursue their college dreams while paying in-state tuition.

“’I was a 19-year-old college student when Arizona voters decided to take away in-state tuition and state-funded scholarships for undocumented youth who grew up in the state,’ immigrant rights leader Erika Andiola told me. ‘I lost the scholarships I had worked so hard to get and was asked to pay thousands more. Sixteen years later and after years of organizing by undocumented youth, we changed the minds and hearts of Arizona voters.’”

New York continues to welcome immigrants and work to meet the needs of immigrant children. While their families wait for asylum applications and work permission—both long delayed in processing—children find help and support in schools.

[CBS] “Ten-year-old Cesar said his favorite part of school in the U.S. is the hot meals. While he’s not a big fan of vegan Fridays, he said he enjoys the chicken and pizza served by the school.

“In crisis-stricken Venezuela, Cesar said in Spanish, ‘there was no food, there was no money.’…

“New York City public schools have absorbed more than 7,200 children this year who were placed in repurposed hotels or homeless shelters with their parents, according to the city’s Department of Education. While the department said it does not track students’ immigration status, most of the children are likely migrants who arrived in New York this year, often after being bused to Manhattan by officials in Texas.

“The arrival of thousands of students who don’t speak English, lack permanent legal status, live in temporary housing, need basic necessities and often have endured dangerous, traumatic journeys to reach the U.S. has posed significant operational challenges for New York City’s public schools.”

The Trump administration separated thousands of families as a deliberate policy. The Biden administration has no such policy–but separations still happen. The most frequent reason for separation has been jailing parents on charges of illegal entry. Victoria and Anton were separated from their son, Felipe, in May. The separation continues. 

[Texas Observer] “‘We weren’t running or hiding,’ Victoria later said. ‘I brought evidence to show immigration officials in support of our asylum application and told the immigration officials about why we fled Colombia to save our lives.’

“Despite her preparations, Victoria became nervous when, a few days into their detention, agents took Felipe away, saying that they were taking him to an appointment. He was gone most of the day. That evening, another agent brought him back; his mother hugged him tightly. 

“One or two days later, on or about May 29—the exact date is unclear—Victoria and Felipe were taken to another room from which they could see, but not speak to, Anton. After some paperwork and an interview, an officer told Victoria that they were taking Felipe to have a snack. 

“’They opened the door, took him away, and then closed the door,’ Victoria said. She had heard about family separations, but didn’t think the U.S. government was still taking kids away from their parents. …

“From the start of the new administration to August 2022—the latest month for which data has been published—U.S. authorities have reported at least 372 cases of family separation.

“’We said never again, but here we are,’ said Kassandra Gonzalez, an attorney at the Texas Civil Rights Project. “

Now that a federal judge has ordered an end to Title 42, what will the Biden administration do? While the “default option” may be beefed-up border security, Felipe de la Hoz suggests a more humane approach: processing immigrants from Latin America outside the United States as refugees, and admitting them under the expanded (and unfilled) refugee quota. Other necessary steps: improve asylum processing and transport asylum applicants to logical destinations around the country instead of concentrating them at the border.

[The New Republic] “In response to a long-running lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, Sullivan—much like the bewildered child observing the emperor’s lack of clothes—pointed out that there were obviously many more sensible ways for the government to prevent the spread of Covid-19 than to issue a sort of blanket prohibition on asylum-seekers, going on to explain that it couldn’t just ignore the entirety of asylum law in issuing this policy. Title 42 is thus, at long last, vacated, with the order stayed at the government’s request until December 21. …

“Fundamentally, this is a fork in the road that has been a long time coming. Biden officials have gotten used to the ease of using Title 42 to evade humanitarian obligations, but the policy was always destined to end, if not for moral reasons then at least for legal ones. Now they can respond with more militarization that will never, ever fully dissuade people from coming, or work to actually build out a better system.”

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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