Immigration
September 15, 2020

A divided three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that the Trump administration can end humanitarian legal protections for about 405,500 immigrants from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti, Sudan, Honduras, and Nepal. The migrants were welcomed to the U.S. though the Temporary Protection Status (TPS) program for countries hit hard by natural disasters or civil conflict.

The three judge panel, in a 2-1 decision, rejected arguments that the administration had failed to follow proper procedures and that the decision was tainted by racist comments from President Trump and others in his aides. Two of the judges were appointed by Republicans — Trump and George W. Bush — and the dissenting vote was cast by an appointee of President Barack Obama. The American Civil Liberties Union, which represents the migrants, said it will seek an opinion from the full 9th Circuit and could appeal to the Supreme Court.

"If the decision stands, these longtime lawful residents who were welcomed to the U.S. because their countries were mired in violence or natural disasters could be sent back," the ACLU said. "Because they have several hundred thousand American children — many of whom are school-aged — this decision would force those families to be torn apart."

But that won't happen for months, The Associated Press notes. The TPS holders from Honduras, Haiti, Nicaragua, Nepal, and Sudan could be forced to leave starting March 5, but the Salvadorans have until Nov. 5, 2021, under a special deal worked out with Trump's government. If Democrat Joe Biden wins the presidency in November, he has said he will immediately review the TPS decisions and seek ways for longtime law-abiding residents to remain in the U.S. and seek citizenship. Peter Weber

July 14, 2020

The Trump administration may be caving to criticism — and lawsuits — over a newly-unveiled U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement rule that would bar international students from remaining in the U.S. if their college instruction remained solely online in the fall because of the coronavirus pandemic, The Wall Street Journal reports.

ICE hasn't formally published the rule, so there's still time for the White House to amend it, and people familiar with the matter told the Journal that's a real possibility. The administration may not scrap the idea completely, but could instead scale it back following pressure from students, universities, tech companies, and states. Dozens of colleges and universities have already sued the administration.

Currently, the rules would mean foreign students at schools planning to rely only on online courses next semester, like Harvard University, would have to leave the U.S. Per the Journal, if a school switches to remote classes amid a worsening pandemic, those students would have to up and leave.

If the White House does go through with the changes, however, one new iteration of the rule under consideration would allow returning students to remain in the U.S., while still preventing newly-enrolling students from entering, an official told the Journal. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Tim O'Donnell

June 22, 2020

The White House is citing the coronavirus pandemic as the driving force behind President Trump's executive order issued Monday that extends previously implemented immigration restrictions through the end of the year while also expanding the limits to new visa categories.

The Trump administration claims the restrictions — which apply to several different types of work and cultural exchange visas, including those in the technology sector — are meant to protect U.S. workers who lost jobs because of the coronavirus; the White House estimates the executive order will prevent foreign workers from filling 525,000 jobs.

But, per The Washington Post, the president's critics believe the pandemic is masking the Trump administration's actual motivation, which is to satisfy the administration's longstanding goal of curtailing immigration, a key aspect of the 2016 presidential campaign.

The restrictions do continue to provide exceptions. Agricultural laborers, some health care workers, university professors, and child-care providers will still be able to acquire their visas. Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

April 25, 2020

Los Angeles-based U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Gee ruled Friday that the Trump administration is violating the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement, which generally requires children detained at the border to be released within 20 days. Gee has found the U.S. government to be in violation of some elements of the settlement over the years, though the latest order comes amid the coronavirus pandemic, prompting Gee to express concern about the safety of detention centers.

Gee did not agree with every claim brought forth by the plaintiffs represented by the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, and she did acknowledge U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had improved its response to the pandemic. But she said the agency's "picture of a sanitary, social-distance-compliant, and medically appropriate facilities" was "tarnished by declarations of detainees and their legal services providers."

Gee concluded the Office of Refugee Resettlement and ICE "shall continue to make every effort to promptly and safely release" approximately 2,100 unaccompanied minors, as well as 342 held with their families at ICE detention centers at "greater speed." Read more at CBS News and NBC News. Tim O'Donnell

April 21, 2020

It isn't quite clear exactly what the practical effect President Trump's proposed immigration ban will be, Bloomberg reports, even after obtaining a draft of the anticipated executive order.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, many immigration agencies have stopped processing visas, already preventing people seeking to emigrate to the United States from doing so. Considering the draft of Trump's proposal will reportedly provide exemptions for migrant farm workers "directly helping to protect the supply chain," health care professionals, medical researchers, refugees and asylum seekers, permanent residents, and immediate family members of U.S. citizens, it's difficult to see what else the order could change.

The key in understanding the order might be the fact that Trump reportedly framed the ban through an economic lens — as opposed to one purely based on public health — which mirrors the president's rhetoric about immigration in the days before the pandemic. "I have determined that we cannot jump start the domestic economy if Americans are forced to compete against an artificially enlarged labor pool caused by the introduction of foreign workers," the draft reportedly reads.

Bloomberg did not come across a potential start date for the ban, but if it does eventually get enacted, it would reportedly last for 90 days. Read more at Bloomberg. Tim O'Donnell

March 11, 2020

The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday to allow the Trump administration to continue carrying out its "Remain in Mexico" policy, which forces asylum-seekers from other countries in Central America to stay in Mexico while they await court hearings in the United States.

The order overturns another from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, which said the policy was illegal U.S. law because it risks sending people to countries where their lives and freedom could be threatened because of race, religion, nationality, political beliefs, or membership in a social group, The Associated Press reports.

Judy Rabinovitz, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union who represents asylum-seekers told AP her clients and others affected by the policy face "grave danger and irreversible harm every day."

Per AP, the advocacy group Human Rights First said it found more than 1,000 public reports of kidnappings, torture, rape, and assaults of asylum-seekers who have been returned to Mexico under the policy.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor offered a dissenting vote in the high court's decision. Read more at The Associated Press. Tim O'Donnell

November 27, 2019

A damning new report from the Homeland Security Department's inspector general is out.

The report found that the DHS never had any proper information technology systems in place to track the number of separated migrant families under the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy. Customs and Border Protection officials, per the inspector general, were aware of the technological deficiencies as early as November 2017, but the policy was enacted in May 2018 anyway, even though CBP hadn't adequately addressed the issues. The agency did adopt other methods to track and record separations, but those led to widespread errors, per the report.

"Because of these IT deficiencies, we could not confirm the total number of families DHS separated during the Zero Tolerance period," the report reads.

DHS has estimated 3,014 children were separated and that the agency completed 2,155 reunifications, but the inspector general's office conducted a review of DHS data during the "zero tolerance" period and identified 136 children "with potential family relationships who were not accurately recorded by CBP." In a broader review of the data collected between Oct. 1, 2017, and Feb. 14, 2019, the inspector general found an additional 1,233 children with potential relationships that CBP didn't accurately record. But the numbers couldn't be validated. Read the full findings here. Tim O'Donnell

November 21, 2019

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the federal agency that administers the country's naturalization and immigration system, and two of its newest leaders once worked at an organization that has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

John Zadrozny and Robert Law worked with Ken Cuccinelli while he was still acting director of the agency. Cuccinelli is now the second-highest ranking official at the Department of Homeland Security, and Zadrozny, once his top aide, was promoted to acting USCIS chief of staff. Law, who was Cuccinelli's senior adviser, is now acting chief of policy. Zadrozny has pushed for slashing refugee admissions to zero, Politico reported this summer, while Law has publicly denounced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, saying those who support it favor "immigration anarchy."

Both Zadrozny and Law worked at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), founded in 1979 by anti-immigration activist John Tanton, who once declared that a "Latin onslaught" was coming. The group says its mission is to "reduce overall immigration to a more normal level," but the Southern Poverty Law Center says it is actually a hate group, citing its ties to "white supremacist groups and eugenicists" and people who have made racist remarks.

"These groups, which were basically outside of the mainstream, have been embraced by the Trump administration and their ideas are now policy, which is affecting millions and millions of people of color," the Southern Poverty Law Center's Heidi Beirich told CBS News. FAIR's president, Dan Stein, said the organization has "never had any issue with immigration, per se. All we've ever said is that it should be lawful and that the numbers need to be properly regulated." Catherine Garcia

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