Protecting Immigrant Communities Newsletter – November 18, 2020

November 18, 2020 | Texas

Dear Partners and Friends,

Thank you so much for wanting to stay up to date on what’s happening. Here’s the latest roundup of immigration-related news, and our bi-weekly action opportunity.  Please let me know as things cross your desk that you think might be of value for our next newsletter, and as always, feel free to forward to folks who might want to join our list. If you wish to unsubscribe from this list, follow this opt-out link.

Lead Stories:

Federal Court Invalidates Changes to DACA Because Chad Wolf Was Unlawfully Appointed
On November 14, a federal judge in New York City ruled that Chad Wolf was unlawfully appointed as the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). As a result, the restrictions to DACA that he issued in July are invalid. The federal judge’s decision may also signal that other immigration policies enacted under Wolf could be quickly overturned once President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
Immigration Impact

Biden’s First 100 Days: Here’s What To Expect
The main immigration policies Biden is expected to address early in his presidency include: making the DACA program permanent and providing a path to citizenship for all DACA recipients; stopping family separation at the US-Mexico border; rescinding current restrictions that bar people in some Muslim-majority countries from traveling or immigrating to the US; ending metering and the Migration Protection Protocols; and stopping further construction of a border wall.

Harris County Commissioners Approve $2 Million Deportation Defense Fund
Commissioners in Harris County, Texas, voted to approve the allocation of more than $2 million in funding for a program to help immigrants facing deportation pay legal fees. Working with an attorney greatly increases an immigrant’s chances of winning their case. This is a big win for immigrants because 69% of detained immigrants in the Houston area don’t have access to an attorney. This is a perfect example of what local governments can do on federal issues.
Houston Public Media

Action Items:

Watch “545 Kids Separated From Parents “Will Suffer for the Rest of Their Lives”
During this interview, Lawyer Bridget Cambria discusses the history of family detention, why Central Americans seek asylum in the US, family separation and other Trump policies targeting vulnerable children and families, and the effects of family detention and these policies. This is a great way to learn more about the current asylum process and how to talk to people who do not understand why these policies are harmful and inhumane.

Resources and Reports: 

“Public Charge and Private Dilemmas: Key Challenges and Best Practices for Fighting the Chilling Effect in Texas”
Between 2016 and 2019, Texas experienced a drop in enrollment in benefit programs such as Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and others. Public charge and the climate of fear associated with it (and other anti-immigrant policies) are the culprits behind this drop. CDF-Texas published this report that provides best practices and recommendations for how the state’s government and outreach organizations can navigate the road paved by the Trump administration’s restrictive policies.

Rethinking the U.S.-Mexico Border Immigration Enforcement System: A Policy Road Map
A new brief from the Migration Policy Institute’s Rethinking U.S. Immigration Policy initiative offers a road map for a more effective approach on immigration. They recommend: establishing a network of reception centers and facilities at or near the border, staffed by multiple agencies, to provide initial screening and referral of migrants who are apprehended or turn themselves in to immigration enforcement officials; rebuilding the asylum system based on principles of timeliness and fairness; adopting alternatives to detention programs; expanding visa opportunities; and strengthening DHS leadership and coordination mechanisms to pursue policies that reconfigure a broad array of individual programs.

ICE Air Flights, October and October 2020 Year-to-Date
Witness at the Border is a volunteer organization that monitors, tracks, and reports on internal transports and deportation ICE flights. Their new report documents and contextualizes the number of ICE flights in 2020 so far. This work is important because it provides evidence about ICE actions that would otherwise be unavailable to the public. October was the highest month for deportations in 2020 so far. Since January, there have been 835 deportation flights and 1,922 domestic flights that moved people between different detention centers.

Other Recent News of Interest: 

Lawyers can’t find the parents of 666 migrant kids, a higher number than previously
666 children, 129 of whom were children under age five at the time of separation, remain separated from their parents as a result of a 2017 Trump administration pilot program that separated families.

Asylum Seekers With Disabilities Challenge Trump Admin’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ Policy in New Lawsuit
Texas Civil Rights Project, Al Otro Lado, CREEC, L4GG, and Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP  sued the Trump administration for its Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) policy. It is the first class-action suit challenging MPP’s discriminatory practices on the basis of disability. If it succeeds, not only would it hold DHS accountable for breaking its own rules, hundreds of class members with disabilities would likely be allowed to wait in safer conditions stateside with their sponsors.

US deports migrant women who alleged abuse by Georgia doctor
ICE has already deported six migrant women who accused a doctor of operating on them without their consent, performing procedures that were medically unnecessary and potentially endangered their ability to have children. At least seven others at the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia who had made allegations against this doctor have received word that they could soon be removed from the country. Advocates protest these deportations of key witnesses in ongoing federal investigations.
Washington Post

While Americans voted, the Trump administration quietly revoked the union rights of immigration judges, which could jeopardize their independence
While the nation’s attention was fixated on the election, Trump-appointed Federal Labor Relations Authority officials voted to decertify the National Association of Immigration Judges, meaning the country’s federal immigration judges could lose their collective bargaining power. The decision could enable the federal government to dismiss judges that fail to hew to its line on asylum-seekers and deportations, treating them as at-will employees and thus undermining their ability to exercise independence. Another concern is that this will allow the government to de-unionize other federal employees in the future.
Business Insider 

It just got harder for immigrants: the U.S. naturalization test is about to change
The Trump administration has made the US naturalization test harder by increasing the number of questions that must be answered in the interview and civic test portion of the test, and altering other questions, such as requiring applicants to name three branches of government instead of one. These changes will increase the cost of administering the tests, reduce efficiency, and add to the backlog. Critics say that these changes are unjustified and only serve to make it harder for legal permanent residents to become US citizens. The new test will be used after December 1, 2020.
The Miami Herald

USCIS Officials Instruct Employees Not To Communicate With Joe Biden’s Transition Team
An official at USCIS instructed employees not to communicate with President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team until a Trump appointee “deems the results ‘clear’” and recognizes the winner. This could delay Biden’s efforts to undo the myriad changes to immigration policy instituted by the Trump administration.

US-based Somali Bantu Face Deportation to a Country They’ve Never Known
The US chose to resettle an estimated 12,000 Somali Bantu refugees in the early 2000s, granting them special status as persecuted minorities. But today, some of these refugees who arrived in the US as children face deportation threats back to Somalia, a country they don’t know. A 2016 study by the Black Alliance for Just Immigration found that Black immigrants were disproportionately detained and deported on criminal grounds. While the spike in deportations of Somalis under the Trump administration has been recorded, deportations of Somali Bantu, who face added risk, have mostly gone unnoticed.
The World

Trump’s Border Wall Builders Carry On Even Though Projects May Never Be Completed
Biden has promised to end the construction of the border wall, but the work is continuing at a faster pace. Currently, 11 different contractors are hurrying to complete as much as possible before Biden can cancel their contracts. Land is being dynamited and bulldozed to clear a path for a wall that will likely not be built. Around $8 billion has been spent on the wall.

‘A stain on our country’: ICE efforts to stop COVID-19 spread fail to protect immigrant detainees from virus
ICE detainees are more than 13 times more likely to contract COVID-19 than the general population, according to an October report from the Journal of the American Medical Association. The report makes it clear that ICE is failing to prevent the spread of the virus in its facilities.
USA Today

Good News:

250 detainees have been released from the Adelanto detention center
On October 13, a U.S. District judge in California ordered the state’s largest ICE detention facility to release over 250 migrant detainees because ICE had failed to take appropriate measures to reduce overcrowding and prevent the spread of COVID-19 within the facility. ICE has reported that 162 detainees in Adelanto, or roughly 20% of the current detainee population, have tested positive for the virus. On October 27, ICE criticized the ruling, stating that it has “resulted in the release of dangerous criminal aliens into various communities.” In response, a representative for the ACLU said that “everyone released either had no criminal convictions or had finished serving their time.”

Trump administration settles with Latino farm activists who said they were targeted over political work
The Trump administration has settled a high-profile lawsuit with three Latino activists, who had sued the agency after being arrested for deportation because of organizing they did with other farmworkers for better working and living conditions. As part of the settlement, DHS has agreed to pay $100,000 to the three activists and to grant them deferred action, effectively stopping their deportation cases and allowing them to obtain work permits. The First Amendment protects undocumented workers from being targeted for political speech.
The Washington Post

Temporary Protected Status Extended for South Sudan
On November 3, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf extended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for South Sudan for 18 additional months. While status was extended for current South Sudanese TPS holders, it was not redesignated, meaning those who arrived in the U.S. after January 2016 remain vulnerable to deportation. TPS is granted by the Secretary of DHS to eligible foreign-born individuals who are unable to return home safely due to violence or other circumstances in their home country.

Thanks so much for reading and staying informed.