Immigration News: December 2, 2022

Yellow sign with black lettering, saying "Asylum is a human right."
A reminder: People seeking asylum ARE legal immigrants. They can live in any U.S. state while waiting for immigration authorities or courts to act on their applications. Title 8 U.S. Code, Section 1158

More asylum applications are being granted, but fewer fast-tracked asylum seekers succeed. When people’s cases are fast-tracked, they have less time to prepare and less time to get an attorney. Asylum seekers who do not have an attorney have an 18 percent success rate—those with attorneys have a 45 percent success rate. 

[Syracuse University TRAC] “Latest case-by-case court records through October 2022 reveal that FY 2022 marked the largest number of individuals granted asylum in any year in the Immigration Court’s history. Grant rates averaged 46%, up from 36% in FY 2021. Not only were more asylum applications granted by Immigration Judges than ever before, but many asylum cases moved through the system faster due to a variety of Biden administration initiatives, including the Dedicated Docket. In this program, families seeking asylum were given expedited proceedings and moved to the head of the line, in front of those waiting in the Court’s existing 1,977,988 case backlog. …

“When cases were closed within 3 to 18 months during this recent period, grant rates fell to 31%.”

The backlog in asylum cases could be reduced if asylum officers simply granted asylum to people with obviously valid claims. Instead, they usually refer these applicants to immigration court (EOIR). That adds to both the backlog and delays for individual applicants. Retired U.S. Immigration Judge and former Chair of the Board of Immigration Appeals Paul Wickham Schmid writes

“But, the real “sleeper” here is that over three quarters of the cases “referred” by the Asylum Office are GRANTED by the Immigration Courts. This shows a gross “over-referral” of cases to the Immigration Courts that could and should be expeditiously granted at the Asylum Office. The Administration’s regulation change to give Asylum Officers more authority to grant asylum at the first instance has not had the positive effects it should have.”

And in other news

New York will fund more legal assistance to immigrants, channeling aid through nonprofits.

[Spectrum News] “Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office on Wednesday announced the funding amid the ongoing arrival of migrants and asylum seekers in New York City, many of whom face ongoing immigration and legal status questions. 

“‘New York State has always been a beacon of hope, welcoming newly arrived immigrants with the promise of opportunity,’ Hochul said. ‘By providing them with the legal tools and resources they need to thrive, New York State will continue to uplift those who are trying to build better lives for themselves and their families.'”

After years of restrictions on immigration, followed by COVID, immigration levels are finally returning to normal. Backlogs in processing, however, are still huge. 

[Migration Policy Institute] “Although final data have not yet been published for all of fiscal year (FY) 2022, the country looks to have accepted 1 million immigrants as permanent residents, edging up to the 1.1 million average in immigrant visa issuance over the last two decades. This represents a marked turnaround from the low of 707,000 permanent immigrants accepted in FY 2020, the fewest since FY 2003.

“The recovery is most pronounced in the processing at U.S. consulates abroad, which issued more visas in FY 2022 than in FY 2019, the last full year before the pandemic began. Similarly, officials issued more temporary (nonimmigrant) visas in August and September 2022 than in August and September 2019, before the onset of the pandemic. …

“Nearly 385,000 immigrant visa applicants who had completed their paperwork were awaiting consular interviews at the end of October. This marked a decline from a high of 532,000 in July 2021 but was still much higher than the pre-pandemic level of 61,000.”

Is the Biden administration planning new restrictions on asylum? The New York Times says it is “debating” such measures, despite their obvious illegality. .

[New York Times] “People familiar with the discussions said the new policy, if adopted, could go into effect as soon as this month, just as the government stops using a public health rule that was put in place at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic by the Trump administration and became a key policy to manage the spike in crossings during Mr. Biden’s tenure. A federal judge has ordered the administration to stop using the health rule on Dec. 21.

“But the idea of broadly prohibiting migrants from seeking asylum strikes directly at the heart of decades of American and international law that has shaped the United States’ role as a place of safety for displaced and fearful people across the globe.”

An estimated 7 million Venezuelans have fled their country in recent years. Most live in nearby countries, which can ill afford to provide the help they need. Now the United Nations is seeking funding to provide assistance to host countries. 

[Reuters] “The United Nations will seek $1.72 billion for 2023 to aid Venezuelan refugees and migrants in Latin America and the Caribbean, member agencies said on Thursday. …

“The 2023 funding appeal is in line with the $1.79 billion requested for 2022, of which only a quarter has yet been received, the agencies said, with economic worries and events elsewhere diverting global attention.”

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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