Articles Posted in Immigration in the News

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As the government shutdown drags into its third week, immigration courts around the country have had no choice but to cancel tens of thousands of scheduled hearings over the holidays and the start of the new year.

At least 43,000 immigration court hearings were canceled between late December last year and January 11, this according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC). The researchers also add that this backlog is expected to balloon even further by another 20,000 cases with each week that the shutdown continues.

As the Trump administration and Congress remain at loggerheads over the president’s demands for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, many of the federal government’s non-essential functions have screeched to a halt, and that includes immigration courts. This, in turn, has disabled the country’s immigration system from dealing with the already colossal caseload consisting largely of asylum applications and other immigration claims.

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Earlier this month, White House insiders floated the idea of an immigration deal: a lasting solution for beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)—an Obama-era program that provides temporary work permits to young undocumented immigrants program—in exchange for the Trump administration’s controversial wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi quickly rebuffed talks of such a deal, arguing that funding for the border wall and legal protections for “DREAMers” (named after the failed DREAM Act, a bill that would’ve granted relief against deportation to immigrants who entered the country as minors) are two separate issues that cannot be lumped together.

Publicly, President Trump said he was not in the mood to negotiate over DACA. Sources from within the White House say the administration is instead waiting for the Supreme Court to finally rule on its challenge to DACA. But things could be much different behind the scenes, with advisors like Jared Kushner reportedly reaching out to House Democrats to offer some kind of DACA deal.

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In an effort to reduce the volume of immigration applications rejected simply because of incorrect payments, the U.S. government has rolled out an online tool designed to help foreign nationals apply for immigration in keeping track the filing fees they still owe.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced the implementation of a new feature on the agency’s website—an online fee calculator that accurately outlines the amounts an applicant still needs to pay for each form.

The agency admits that several immigration applications fell through the cracks in recent years largely due to the incorrect fees attached to these applications. In 2017 alone, USCIS processed over 11 million applications.

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While a crackdown on undocumented immigrants was one of the core promises of President Trump throughout the campaign trail, his administration has also made key moves that are all but guaranteed to make it harder for people to go through the legal immigration process. More recently, the Trump administration introduced policy changes allowing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to be more stringent in enforcing immigration laws.

These changes include updates to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regulations and procedures in handling immigrants attempting to legally enter the country—particularly those that involve deportation processes.

The issuance of Notices to Appear (NTAs) also follows a new procedure that expands the list of reasons for which immigrants would be required to appear before an immigration judge and go through the deportation proceedings. Among the items in the expanded list include violations of welfare programs (particularly the reception of public benefits), criminal activity, and denials of immigration benefits (e.g. refusing visas that change their legal migrant status).

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While the Trump administration has seemingly back off on pushing Mexico to pay for a multibillion dollar wall along the border, it is still working with the Mexican government to hammer out deals on the contentious issue of immigration.

Since Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador took office on December 1, 2018, officials from both Mexico and the United States have worked on solutions to better manage the flow of migrants going northward from Central America, crossing into Mexico and then into the U.S.

At present, both countries have arrived at a dual-track approach, which involves:

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President Trump’s shutdown of the federal government has further delayed the resolution of thousands of immigration cases—a backlog that the Justice Department and immigration courts across the country have been struggling with.

Several U.S. immigration courts around the country remain closed as the government shutdown enters its third week, putting on hold the already unmanageable backlog of tens of thousands of immigration cases, many of which involve asylum application and other immigration claims.

The migrants involved, which the records office at the University of Syracuse puts at 800,000 in number, have no choice but to wait for the Congress and the Trump administration to arrive at a bipartisan deal that will finally fund government operations.

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The Trump administration has reportedly been rejecting lawful residence status applications to a startling number of immigrant youth, many of whom have left their home countries to flee abusive environments, because the government believes they are too old.

Young immigrants escaping abuse, abandonment, or neglect by a parent are legally allowed to seek a court-appointed guardian and green card to stay in the U.S., as provided by an immigration program that has been in effect since 1990. While the program clearly states that applicants must file paperwork before they reach the age of 21, the Trump administration insists that applicants beyond 18 are too old to qualify. As such, the government saw it fit to send out denial notices throughout the past year to applicants in California, New York, Texas, and New Jersey.

Immigrant rights advocates have since filed lawsuits against the government in courts in New York and California, arguing about the impact such a policy implementation would have on disenfranchised immigrant youth.

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As shelters on both sides of the border are no longer able to accept more migrants, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have been dropping off hundreds of migrant families onto the streets, leaving border communities overwhelmed.

Hundreds of migrants have been coming to the border seeking asylum, many of whom can no longer be housed in immigrant detention centers and have to be released to the streets. One night, last Wednesday, saw the release of 522 migrants with nowhere to go.

Shelters have run out of space and resources to accommodate more migrants. Across the border, Casa del Migrante has stopped admitting migrants due to a lack of resources. Another reason for doing so, they claim, is President Trump’s Christmas announcement that he and Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrado have come to an agreement to let asylum seekers wait for entry south of the border. The Mexican President and his Foreign Minister, Marcelo Ebrard, deny entering into such an agreement.

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Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers have released over 600 undocumented immigrants onto the streets of Texas—with 500 of them set free in El Paso— and New Mexico, citing the government’s difficulty in holding the massive influx of Central Americans crossing the border.

ICE made several other mass immigrant releases in previous days, claiming that these were foreign nationals who had already been detained for the maximum amount of time legally allowed. Another reason cited by the agency is that accommodations for detained immigrants have already reached their maximum capacity. ICE released 186 immigrants on Christmas Day and at least another 400 two days prior.

“To mitigate the risk of holding family units past the timeframe allotted to the government, ICE has curtailed reviews of post-release plans from families apprehended along the southwest border,” ICE claimed in a statement. “ICE continues to work with local and state officials and NGO partners in the area so they are prepared to provide assistance with transportation or other services.”

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House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi shot down a proposal to vote in favor of President Donald Trump’s border wall in exchange for a deal that would reportedly grant protections against deportation to thousands of young immigrants in the country.

Pelosi argued that funding for the border wall and legal protections for “DREAMers” (named after the failed DREAM Act, a bill that would’ve granted relief against deportation to immigrants who entered the country as minors) are two different issues and should not be lumped together.

As Democrats are set to take the majority of the House in January, Pelosi, who is gunning for the House speaker position, noted that Congress must pass appropriations bills that have already been agreed upon by key committees, along with a separation piece of legislation to ensure funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which is in charge of border security. DHS funding, she added, should address border security but not necessarily include a provision for a wall that will cost American taxpayers billions of dollars.

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