Immigration News: January 27, 2023

Having trouble keeping track of Biden administration immigration actions? There’s a reason: during the first two years, the Biden administration took 403 immigration-related executive actions, almost as many as the Trump administration’s 472 immigration-related executive actions during its entire four years. These include extension and expansion of Temporary Protected Status for several countries, reining in ICE arrests of long-time undocumented residents, restrictions on asylum, continuation and expansion of Title 42 bars, large increases in exceptions to Title 42 bars, and many actions blocked by lawsuits and still being fought out in the courts.

The Migration Policy Institute has a good overview of the first two years.

“On his first day in office, President Joe Biden announced sweeping plans to reform decades-old U.S. immigration laws, undo many of the restrictive policies of the predecessor Trump administration, and provide a pathway to legal status for the nation’s estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants. Two years later, few of those ambitions have been realized and the administration presents an image of one struggling to find its footing on immigration. Despite the slim Democratic majority in both houses of Congress during the president’s first two years, lawmakers remained paralyzed on immigration and did not advance the Biden agenda. Meanwhile, Republican state officials successfully used the courts to halt many of the administration’s executive efforts. …

“While some executive actions have been stalled by the courts, Biden’s measures have nonetheless affected the lives of hundreds of thousands of immigrants, including many seeking protection. Among these changes were more targeted interior enforcement; regulations to fortify the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which provides work permits and protection from deportation to unauthorized immigrants who arrived as minors; expanding humanitarian protection through Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and other programs; and unblocking legal immigration channels that had been chilled by the pandemic.”  …

“Midway through its term, the Biden administration has notched some significant advances. The quiet transformation of immigration enforcement in the U.S. interior, use of parole and other mechanisms to grant humanitarian protection, and restoration of legal immigration to pre-pandemic levels will have a lasting legacy.

“Yet on the whole, its work appears unfinished. The record numbers of arrivals at the border have become a constant challenge that have prevented the administration from focusing on other efforts. Without more order there, significant legislative action on immigration faces an uphill battle.”  

And in other news

It’s an evergreen story: at least a couple of times in every Congressional session, news media dutifully report that a bi-partisan group of Senators/Representatives is working on possible immigration reform. And then nothing happens. 

[Roll Call]”’I’m open to any reasonable effort and compromise, but my own personal sense after having dealt with this for years, and most recently in the last Congress, is that Republicans want the issue more than they want a solution,” [Senator Bob] Menendez [D-NJ] said. …

“Still, despite the political challenges, Senate members said they aren’t giving up. [Senator Chris] Coons [D-DE]  described the 2013 immigration deal as ‘one of the best moments I’ve had in the Judiciary Committee.'”

Some 77 Democratic members of Congress sent a letter to President Joe Biden, criticizing his immigration policies and specifically asking that he not proceed with proposed restrictions on asylum.

[NBC] “’Instead of issuing a new asylum transit ban and expanding Title 42,’ the Democratic lawmakers said in the letter to Biden, ‘we encourage your administration to stand by your commitment to restore and protect the rights of asylum seekers and refugees.’ The letter noted that asylum is an international right that should not be restricted.”

Reuters reports that the Biden administration plans to restart a fast-track asylum process. Fast-track, that is, to deportation.

[Reuters] “Under the plan, asylum seekers detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) would have remote interviews with a U.S. asylum officer within days, the sources said. If the person failed to establish a fear of persecution, known as a “credible fear” test, they would be deported. …

“While the speedy processing could help Biden deter crossers by demonstrating swift resolution of cases, opponents argue that legitimate asylum seekers would not have adequate access to lawyers and could be unjustly deported.

“‘Imagine fleeing your home and loved ones, arriving at a new country to seek safety, and then being forced to present a complicated legal claim less than two days later, from jail,’ said Heidi Altman, the policy director at the National Immigrant Justice Center, calling it a ‘mockery of justice.’

“The new policy would be similar to pilot programs from the Trump administration, the sources said. Biden ended those programs in an executive order issued soon after he took office in January 2021.”

Private citizens can now sponsor refugees for resettlement. The refugees will be individuals or families who have already been approved for resettlement by the U.S. government, after extensive application and vetting processes. The new program is called Welcome Corps. Annie Nolte-Henning, director of the Americas for Alight, a Minnesota humanitarian aid organization, describes the program. 

[Sahan Journal] “Sponsor groups consists of five individuals who really work to help give refugees permanent homes here in the United States. Much of the work that goes into that are things like: making sure children can get enrolled into school, ensuring that families get set up for health insurance and public benefits, helping families find jobs and a stable place to live.

“There is a financial obligation for sponsor groups; it’s a little over $2,000 per person in a family. And I will say, anecdotally, that as you talk to sponsor groups who have done this already, raising the money is the easiest part, because so many people want to be able to help in this effort.”

The U.S. government now requires prospective asylum seekers who want an exception to the Title 42 bar because they are particularly vulnerable to apply for an appointment via CBP One, a smartphone app.

[Fronteras] “Chelsea Sachau, an attorney with the pro-bono legal advocacy group Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, has worked on exemption requests for asylum seekers in Nogales for more than a year. She says the wait to get an appointment in Nogales under that process could take months, and disproportionately relied on NGOs or other aid groups.

“’So any step, including CBP One, that … places the responsibility back into the U.S. government’s hands, is a step in the right direction,’ she said. ‘Because you don’t have to rely on a third party for help, necessarily, and so it is providing more individuals with access to trying to get an appointment spot.’

“Still, Sachau warns the app is no substitute for an actual asylum process …

“Sachau says CBP One has its own problems. It’s only available in English and Spanish right now, and doesn’t work on all smartphones. In Nogales, she says appointment slots fill up within a few minutes each morning.”

“’It’s still functionally closed,’ she said.”

One of the requirements for the new humanitarian parole process for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans is that they can only apply from a country where they are legally present. That has led to long lines outside Mexican immigration offices, with people from the four countries waiting to fill out paperwork for Mexican visas. 

[Spectrum News] “That’s why the last two weeks there have been long lines all day long.. …

“For some, patience has paid off as they’ve come out with documents in hand. Phillipe is among the folk that have. He felt relieved as he reviewed his application outside the building. But he knows he just started the process and it will take two months to get his temporary humanitarian visa.  …

“”What can we do about it if immigration is saying that you have to wait for two months? You just have to wait. There’s no other option,’ Phillipe said with resignation.”

Minnesota’s Office of New Americans, now up for renewed funding, helps with economic integration of immigrants and that’s good for Minnesota communities. In Austin, Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota managing attorney Sara Karki explained how it works. 

[KAAL-TV] “Karki said in similar offices around the [country], they’ve worked on making foreign credentials more understandable for American employers. They’ve streamlined the process of licensing for immigrant entrepreneurs. And they’ve helped new Americans understand American work culture. …

“Karki also said the whole community benefits from supporting immigrant communities.”

A proposal in the New Mexico legislature would prevent local government bodies from contracting with ICE to detain immigrants. At this stage, it’s only a proposal, which would have to be passed by both houses of the legislature and signed by the governor to become law.

[AP] “The bill introduced Tuesday could unwind contractual arrangements at the Otero County Processing Center in Chaparral in southern New Mexico and spur closer oversight at others. The Otero County facility is operated by Utah-based Management & Training Corporation on behalf of ICE, and typically holds about 600 male and female migrants seeking asylum or legal status in this country.

“The bill as presented would not directly compel changes at two other immigration detention facilities in New Mexico that are owned and operated by Nashville, Tennessee-based CoreCivic. Those facilities are the Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan and Torrance County Detention Facility in Estancia.”

An Afghan soldier who arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border seeking asylum was arrested by U.S. immigration authorities and held in jail for months. He has finally been released,

[AP] “Wasi Safi, an intelligence officer for the Afghan National Security Forces, fled Afghanistan following the withdrawal of U.S. forces in August 2021, fearing reprisals from the Taliban because he had provided U.S. forces with information on terrorists. In the summer of 2022, he began a treacherous journey from Brazil to the U.S.-Mexico border, where he was arrested in September near Eagle Pass, Texas. He had hoped to join his brother, who lives in Houston. … 

“Sami-ullah Safi, Wasi Safi’s brother, was employed by the U.S. military for several years as a translator. Sami Safi said he is pleased the criminal case has been dropped but that he remains frustrated about how his sibling has been treated in light of his family’s support for the U.S in Afghanistan….

“The lawyers, lawmakers and military organizations that have been working to free Wasi Safi say his case highlights how America’s chaotic military withdrawal continues to harm Afghan citizens who helped the U.S. but were left behind.”

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,, 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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