Protecting Immigrant Communities Newsletter – December 16, 2020

December 16, 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. We are taking a short break from newslettering over December. The next newsletter will come out in mid-January.

Lead Stories:

Lawyers say Trump administration has handed over new data that will help reunite separated migrant families
There are still 628 separated migrant children who have not been reunified with their families. Legal advocates tasked by a federal judge with helping to find migrant families say that after months of pleas, the government just handed over new data that could be critical to helping them find the families. This new data from the Justice Department includes phone numbers and addresses that were previously unknown. This is evidence that the Trump administration withheld data that could help reunite these families.
NBC News

Bad news–new asylum rules
A new rule that creates “near-total bans on asylum for wide swathes of people and herculean procedural barriers” has been finalized and is set to go into effect on January 11, nine days before Biden is inaugurated. See this twitter thread for more specific information on the new rule and its background. Immigrant advocates demand that the incoming Biden administration not defend this rule in court, and at the same time begin the process of formally eliminating the rule and replacing it with something much better that preserves asylum.

Federal judge restores DACA, orders DHS to accept first-time applications from immigrants
A federal judge in New York issued an order to immediately reinstate the DACA program back to its original form. This means that: people who have never had DACA and are eligible can apply for the first time; advance parole is back in its original form; anyone who received a 1-year renewal of their DACA will automatically have their protections extended to two years; and DACA renewals remain open.
Washington Post

A Trump Immigration Policy Is Leaving Families Hungry
President Trump’s public charge rule has caused thousands of families to drop public benefits like food stamps out of fear that their immigration status may be affected. As a result, which has been magnified by the coronavirus pandemic, hunger is on the rise and  immigrant and mixed-status families are flocking to food pantries and straining relief agencies.
New York Times

Action Items:

What’s Next: Postcard Writing Campaign
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris made several promises during their campaign with regard to immigration policy including to: end MPP, end child detention, reunite families, stop deportation flights, and end for-profit immigrant detention. Send postcards to Joe & Jill Biden, Kamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi and Alejandro Mayorkas to hold them accountable. Click here to participate. A PDF file that you can print on your home printer, the addresses of where to send the postcards, and suggested messaging will be sent to you after you sign up.

Send a Letter to Asylum Seekers who are Detained
Migrant Center for Human Rights offers an opportunity to start a pen pal correspondence with a detained asylum seeker. If you want to learn more and/or sign up, email

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service also connects people with pen pals in detention centers. If interested, fill out this form.

Donate to help DACA applicants and recipients in Laredo, Texas
While DACA was reinstated back to its original form, many residents of Laredo cannot afford to apply for or renew DACA. Donations will help qualifying immigrants get a chance to be a DACA recipient, which allows one to have job security and to stay in the country without fear of deportation. This is an opportunity to help make the immigrant community feel more at home and welcomed in this country! Donate here.

Call Your Members of Congress to Include Immigrant Families in COVID-19 Relief
Mixed-status immigrant families and their children have suffered throughout the COVID-19 pandemic with the rest of the country for over eight months. They must not be excluded from the next COVID-19 relief package. Join the Children Thrive Action Network in urging members of Congress to support relief that includes immigrant families! To find out who your Representative is and how to contact them, call 202-225-3121. To find out who your Senator is and how to contact them, call 202-224-3121.

Organization Sign-on Letter to Biden Re: Public Charge
The Protecting Immigrant Families (PIF) coalition has crafted a letter that urges the Biden administration to immediately after inauguration: issue an Executive Order that directs agencies to rescind the public charge regulations and commit the White House to swift, bold, and comprehensive policy and outreach strategies aimed at ensuring immigrants and their families feel safe in accessing public benefits and services. Read the full letter and sign-on here. The sign-on deadline is Friday, January 8, 2021.

Resources and Reports:

United We Dream has launched this directory of resources aimed to support undocumented youth looking to apply for DACA for the very first time, or submit their renewals.

Resources for Immigrants, Parents, and Educators During the COVID-19 Crisis from the Immigrant Learning Center
These compiled resources include health, finance, legal and employment services, resources for combating discrimination, and immigration-related lesson plans and activities for homeschooling and distance learning.

Food Over Fear: Overcoming Barriers to Connect Latinx Immigrant Families to Federal Nutrition and Food Programs
This report sheds light on why many immigrant families are forgoing vital assistance from federal nutrition and food programs and lifts up recommendations aimed at ensuring that all families and individuals, regardless of immigration status, are nourished and healthy.

Hotbeds of Infection: How ICE Detention Contributed to the Spread of COVID-19 in the United States
This new report by Detention Watch Network adds to the body of research that points to ICE’s abuse and medical neglect of people in detention and its failure to adequately respond to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. ICE’s failure to control COVID-19 in detention centers caused an additional 245,000 cases in communities, almost 5.5% of all U.S cases, by August 1. Higher numbers of cases were reported In counties where detention centers are located and the economic areas that surround them. This report also outlines recommendations for ICE moving forward.

Other Recent News of Interest:

“Public Charge and Private Dilemmas”: The Cost of Health Care for Immigrant Families
In 2019, the Trump administration enacted sweeping changes to the public charge regulations in order to make it harder for a low-income applicant to get their green card. Families, terrified of being deported, left social programs in droves. Fortunately, there are some clear steps to help undo the harm that include: community-facing organizations investing in frequent, repeated education on policies for their staff and their communities; advocacy organizations checking with their state agencies to make sure that personal data collection efforts are in line with federal guidance and that reassuring language on privacy protections is stated clearly in all applications; and the new Biden administration working to reverse the policy.
Ms. Magazine

The Pain of Family Separations Is Still Being Felt. What Could Biden Do?
In addition to committing additional resources to the search to reunite families, ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt recommends that the Biden administration: allow those parents to return to the US and take the time they need to be reunified with their children without fear of being deported; provide families with some sort of legal immigration status to stay in the US; create a government fund to help families access physical and mental health care; and put an end to continued separations at the border.

US Agrees To Pause Deportations For Women Alleging Abuse At ICE Facility
The US government has agreed to freeze any planned deportations of the immigrant women alleging medical abuse at a detention facility in Georgia. However, at least six women who were victims of the alleged nonconsensual, unnecessary, and potentially sterilizing gynecological procedures had previously been deported.

A lesser-known Trump immigration policy needs Biden’s attention
Expedited removal is a process by which a noncitizen is deported by enforcement officials without a hearing before an immigration judge. In October 2020, DHS announced that it would largely expand expedited removal to apply everywhere and to any undocumented immigrant who has been in the country for less than two years. Although expedited removal is not largely covered in the media, Biden can have a positive broad impact on immigrant communities by restricting the use of expedited removal.
Washington Post

How ICE Became The Face Of Trump’s Immigration Crackdown And Where It Goes From Here After Biden Is In Charge
The Trump administration has used ICE to carry out many of its harsh and controversial anti-immigrant policies.. As President-elect Joe Biden prepares to take office, ICE is at a crossroads, its reputation in tatters and the scope of its mission in question. Sandweg said the Biden administration should prioritize a cultural reset: deportation officers less focused on statistics and more focused on a smaller number of “high-quality” arrests of serious convicted criminals that may take more time and effort. Biden is expected to lead to changes in messaging and acceptable ICE actions, but this will likely be difficult and take time.
BuzzFeed News

Good News:

Ninth Circuit Rules Against Trump Administration’s Public Charge Rule
On December 2, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled against the Trump administration’s public charge rule, stopping implementation of the rule within the 19 states that were co-plaintiffs in the lawsuits. The rule is still being enforced in Texas. This decision is the latest in the on-going legal battle over the policy since its introduction in October 2019, which has seen the rule repeatedly go into and out of effect in individual states and across the country.

DHS Extends Temporary Protected Status (TPS) For Six Countries
On December 9, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a 6-month extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for more than 300,000 individuals from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua and Sudan. TPS is granted to eligible foreign-born individuals living in the U.S. who are unable to return home safely due to violence or other circumstances in their home country. Protections for each of those countries were set to expire in January, but will now expire on October 4, 2021.

Federal Courts Rule in Favor of High-Skilled Immigration Worker Programs
On November 30, a federal judge in D.C. ruled in favor of the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, which allows graduating international students to temporarily stay in the US and work in a field related to their degree. On December 1 and 2, two different federal courts issued decisions blocking two Trump administration rules that restrict the H-1B nonimmigrant visa program for high-skilled “specialty occupation” workers.

Thanks so much for reading and staying informed.