Immigration Policy Update

Posted by Ryan J. Suto on August 09, 2019 in Blog

The past few weeks have seen a flurry of developments in immigration law and policy that have been dizzying for immigration advocates, those who could potentially be impacted, and the American public alike. What follows is a recap of these developments in a concise timeline.


Expansion of Expedited Removal

On July 22 DHS announced ICE will fast-track deportations of any undocumented immigrants who cannot prove residence in the United States for longer than two years. Previously, expedited removals were only available for immigrants within 100 miles of the border. In response, the ACLU has sued, arguing the expedited process has led to unlawful removals in the past, and expansion of the policy would place hundreds of thousands of people at risk for deportation with no meaningful recourse. 


Certification Limitation on Asylum Availability

On July 29, Attorney General William Barr issued an administrative decision which would no longer allow individuals to claim persecution based on being a member of a particular family, a decision which has overturned years of legal precedent. In the case at hand, a Mexican man claimed he was threatened by gangs based on his father’s refusal to give-in to their coercion. Under the new rule, U.S. asylum law will not consider family relations when determining whether an individual has a credible fear of persecution in their home country. 


Report: Remain in Mexico Policy is a Farce

Traditionally, asylum seekers who are determined to have a credible fear of persecution at home are allowed to remain in the United States while their full case is adjudicated, a process which can take anywhere from six months to several years. However, Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, enacted in January, requires asylum seekers to stay in Mexico during this time. One of the many problems with this policy is that asylum seekers are unable to secure assistance from U.S. lawyers while in Mexico. On July 30, a report by a Syracuse University records project found that, at present, of the 1,155 asylum applicants who are in Mexico under this policy, only 14 of them have legal representation. As a result, after five months of the policy being in effect, not a single asylum seeker has been granted asylum. 


Family Separation Continues

Also on July 30, the ACLU submitted a filing in federal court claiming the Trump administration has continued separating families, despite a court-ordered end to the program last year. The ACLU claimed that nearly 1,000 children have been taken from their parents since the program was directed to end, outlining outrageous conditions which led to family separation, such as CBP officers claiming one parent did not change his daughter’s diapers, a parent being charged with destroyed property valued at $5, and another being unable to answer CBP questions due to a speech impediment. 


Senator Lindsey Graham’s Asylum Bill Push

Senator Lindsey Graham introduced a bill which would modify the 1997 Flores agreement which limits the conditions in which children are held in federal custody, and includes a number of changes to asylum law designed to deter migrants from coming to the United States. at all, including lowering the standard of care requirements for federal detention facilities. On August 1, over the objections of Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Lindsey Graham pushed the bill through the committee on a party-line vote. He stated his intention to use the bill in negotiations with any immigration bill which may pass the Democratically-controlled House of Representatives. 


Federal Court blocks Trump’s 2018 Asylum Ban

The next day, on August 2 the D.C. District Court ruled in O.A. v. Trumpholding that the Trump administration cannot prevent asylum seekers from crossing into the U.S. between ports of entry. 


U-Visa Process Modification

In 2000, Congress created the U-visa, allowing victims of crime abroad special protection in the United States. It was designed to allow undocumented victims of crime in the U.S. to come forward and cooperate with law enforcement without fear of deportation. Until now, ICE worked with USCIS to decide whether to halt a deportation if an individual was likely to obtain a U-visa. However, on August 2, the Trump administration cut USCIS out of the process completely, allowing ICE to remove individuals even if they might have a high likelihood of qualifying for a U-visa. 


Largest Workplace Immigration Raid in a Decade

On August 7 immigration officials raided food processing facilities in Mississippi, arresting 680 undocumented workers, the largest workplace immigration raid in at least a decade. The arrests left many children at home without their parents. 


The Tragic Death of Jimmy Aldaoud

Later that same day, the death of Jimmy Aldaoud was reported. He was an Arab American who was deported to Iraq, likely as a result of Trump’s Executive Order 13768, despite having never lived in the country. Having several chronic medical conditions, but unable to speak Arabic and having no family in the country, Jimmy died homeless on the streets of Baghdad.


Viewing each development described above, two clear themes arise. First, all three branches of the federal government are grappling with the Trump administration’s attempt to rapidly reshape America’s immigration system. And second, the changes being made--and attempted--severely limit opportunity for, and often endanger the wellbeing of, any individual seeking to enter the United States, regardless of immigration status. Notably, this administration has made obtaining employer-sponsored green cards more difficult and subject to longer delays, and rejected 13,450 visa applications during the 2018 fiscal year, compared to only 1,076 denials in the 2016 fiscal year, the last under the previous administration. 

As the administration reportedly considers further limited refugee admissions from already record low numbers, the bulk of America’s immigration system, including nonprofit and faith-based resettlement and immigrant services organizations, is straining under the weight of President Trump’s nativist policy agenda.