Protecting Immigrant Communities Newsletter – December 02, 2020

December 2, 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:

Judge stops Trump policy of ‘expelling’ child migrants, questioning legality of border controls linked to covid crisis
A federal judge on Wednesday ordered the Trump administration to halt its practice of “expelling” unaccompanied minors who enter the United States and requires the administration to once more process the humanitarian claims of unaccompanied minors, rather than returning them to Mexico or flying them back to their home countries without due process. While the judge did not rule on the legality of the government’s practice of expelling other border-crossers — such as adults and families — his decision questioned the entire basis of the Trump administration’s use of emergency public health measures to impose strict border controls, which is based on a 19th-century public health provision that makes no mention of expulsion authorities.
The Washington Post

Biden’s Cabinet and Top Officials Nominations
President-elect Joe Biden has asked Antony Blinken to lead the State Department and Alejandro Mayorkas to lead Homeland Security. As stated by the New York Times, “Blinken is widely viewed as a pragmatic centrist on foreign policy who, like Biden, has supported past American interventions and believes the U.S. must play a central leadership role in the world.” Meanwhile, Mayorkas, who would be the first immigrant and Latino to lead DHS, will have the difficult task of restoring trust in the department after Trump’s contentious policies, such as separating migrant children from their families and building a wall along the southern border.
New York Times

Action Items:

Donate to the Central American Relief Fund
Over the last two weeks Central American nations have been ravaged by Hurricanes Eta and Iota, leaving wide scale destruction in their wake. These disasters are mostly impacting historically marginalized Black and Indigenous communities where poverty is disproportionately concentrated. Funds raised will be quickly put into action in the communities most impacted by this disaster. This fund will leverage Alianza Americas’ long-standing relations with trusted civil society partners in Central American countries to ensure that donations are used effectively.

Virtual Discussion: The Meaning and Purpose of International Human Rights Day
Join Refugee Services of Texas and the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas for a conversation about the meaning of International Human Rights Day! The event will be held Thursday, December 10 at 6:30pm. Register here.


Resources and Reports: 

CTAN Federal Policy Priorities
The Biden-Harris Administration and new Congress must center children of immigrants—both to address the extensive harm to immigrant children and families over the last four years, and to advance public policies, systems, and investments that ensure all children in the U.S. can grow, thrive, and reach their full potential. The Children Thrive Action Network (CTAN) created these federal transition recommendations to lay out shared priorities for COVID relief and early actions across immigration enforcement, health, education, nutrition, and economic security.

Immigration-related Executive Actions During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The Trump administration has issued at least 48 immigration-related policy changes affecting almost every facet of the immigration system during the pandemic. This resource seeks to document and provide some clarity by separating the changes by those impacted and highlighting indefinite and particularly concerning actions.

How Racist Systems Harm Child Health
The Children’s Partnership launched a new series of briefs emphasizing some of the ways that institutions, from policing to medicine to technology, each perpetuate grave harm to the healthy development of children of color, and therefore all children, in this country. This resource is framed by the principles that systemic racism is a root cause of child health inequities and racism impacts every stage of child development, beginning in the womb, and continues to shape the conditions in which children live, learn, develop, and play. The series begins with a brief on the impacts of policing on child health.

Major Management and Performance Challenges Facing the Department of Homeland Security
This report issued by the DHS Office of Inspector General describes that among other issues, the DHS has had difficulty performing effectively during COVID-19; ensuring proper financial management; and ensuring that information technology is supporting essential mission operations. The OIG found that the IT shortfalls contributed to DHS’s inability to properly track migrant families who had been detained and separated at the border. The report states that this has led to uncertainty as to how many families were separated during the “zero-tolerance” policy.

Other Recent News of Interest: 

White House killed deal to pay for mental health care for migrant families separated at border
In 2019, an $8 million settlement for screening and counseling thousands of migrants had been “agreed to in principle” by both lawyers for the Justice Department and lawyers representing migrant families who had been separated. However, the Trump White House, likely influenced by advisor Stephen Miller, blocked the Justice Department from making this deal. Nevertheless, the judge in the case ordered the government to pay for mental health services to migrant families and the nonprofit Seneca Family of Agencies was awarded a $14 million contract in March 2020. The delay not only withheld services from the migrant families, but it also kept Seneca from reaching all of those affected, because some had already been deported.
NBC News

Undocumented and Pregnant: Why Women Are Afraid to Get Prenatal Care
Undocumented pregnant women are risking their health by postponing prenatal care and giving birth at home in order to avoid the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown. Many dropped out of public welfare programs following passage of the administration’s “public charge” rule, which threatens to block legalization for immigrants who use certain public benefits, even though the rule does not apply to pregnant women. After the public charge rule became public, prenatal care appointments sharply decreased, requests for home births from undocumented women soared, and the number of women arriving in emergency rooms with serious complications, or already in labor, spiked.
New York Times

Trump’s bid to exclude undocumented immigrants from reapportionment arrives at Supreme Court
The Supreme Court heard arguments on President Trump’s efforts to exclude undocumented residents when counting state populations to determine congressional representation. If the Court rules in the government’s favor, meaning the president has the authority to decide whether or not to count undocumented immigrants in the census, it could change the congressional map dramatically— not just for “blue” states with historically high immigrant populations, but for “red” states too. Meanwhile, opponents argue that it should be ruled illegal under more than 200 years of practice, the text of the Constitution, and the authority granted the president by Congress. Three lower courts have ruled against Trump.
The Washington Post 

Immigrant Children Who Were Denied The Chance To Request Asylum Under An Illegal Rule Are Facing Deportation
Judges can’t stop the deportation of 28 children, even though they’ve found that the policies leading to their deportations are illegal. These children and their families were subjected to the Trump administration’s asylum transit ban, which required immigrants to first seek protection in a country they traveled through before asking for refuge in the US. Under this policy, migrants were denied asylum during their credible fear interviews and subjected to expedited removal, which allows the government to deport undocumented immigrants without a hearing in front of an immigration judge. Even though two federal courts struck down the travel ban this summer, federal courts have said they don’t have the authority to weigh in on expedited removals.

Federal judge blocks new criminal disqualifiers to asylum
While asylum has long been denied to people convicted of “particularly serious crimes,” a new rule would have added more crimes that would have been disqualifying including: convictions for domestic violence, assault or battery, re-entering the country illegally, identify theft, public benefits fraud, immigrant smuggling, and driving under the influence. A federal judge in California blocked this proposed rule, arguing it was unnecessary because current federal law already includes a host of disqualifying crimes.
Associated Press

Immigration arrests along the Mexico border surged again in October
Immigration arrests at the U.S.-Mexico border totaled more than 69,000 in October, up 21% from September. One reason for the increase is because the number of repeat arrests resulting from the Trump administration’s practice of quickly ‘expelling’ people to Mexico after they enter the country illegally is rising. Many of those sent back across the border are trying to enter over and over because they won’t be detained or criminally prosecuted. Recent data indicates that at least one-third of those taken into custody each month are repeat offenders.
Washington Post

Farmworkers Say The Government Is Trying To Cut Their Wages
In early November, the U.S. Department of Labor published some controversial new rules dealing with farm labor. The wages of seasonal farmers who have a H-2A visa were previously determined every year and have been going up faster than inflation in recent years because there’s a shortage of farmworkers. The new rule freezes the wages for H-2A workers at this year’s level for the next two years. Then starting in 2023, farmworker wages will be calculated differently so that they won’t rise as fast. The administration estimates that the change will result in farmworkers earning about $170 million less in wages each year.

Trump Administration Wants to Deny Work Permits to Some People Released From ICE Detention
On November 17, the Trump administration announced a proposed rule to deny work permits to people who have been ordered deported, but who have been released from ICE because they cannot be deported. The rule would affect the tens of thousands of individuals who have been ordered removable but are unable to be deported because of humanitarian reasons, inadequate travel documents, or foreign government decisions regarding who can and cannot travel into the county. A stated purpose of this new rule is to encourage people to self-deport.
Immigration Impact

Court Hearing Shows Businesses Could Prevail Against H-1B Visa Rules
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White heard arguments focused on a single question: “Did DHS and Department of Labor (DOL) have ‘good cause’ to bypass standard rulemaking procedures and publish emergency regulations to restrict H-1B visas?” The case, U.S. Chamber of Commerce et al. v. DHS et al., focuses on two Trump administration regulations that could impact hundreds of thousands of H-1B holders. Businesses and universities led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce  argued that no good cause exists for the emergency rules and asked the court to vacate the H-1B restrictions that would force many of their employees to leave the U.S. The DOL’s own estimates find their rule would cost employers $198 billion over 10 years, making it potentially the most expensive regulation imposed on businesses in modern U.S. history.

Good News:

Americans Want More, Not Less, Immigration for First Time
Thirty-four percent of Americans, up from 27% a year ago, would prefer to see immigration to the U.S. increased. This is the highest support for expanding immigration Gallup has found in its trend since 1965. Meanwhile, the percentage favoring decreased immigration has fallen to a new low of 28%, while 36% think it should stay at the present level. This marks the first time in Gallup’s trend that the percentage wanting increased immigration has exceeded the percentage who want decreased immigration.

Feds Barred From Arresting Immigrants at San Diego Federal Courthouses
A federal judge in California barred immigration officials from making immigration arrests in San Diego-area courthouses. The ruling granted a temporary restraining order blocking a 2018 directive that allowed immigration officers to make arrests in courthouses. The judge argued that the practice deters parties and witnesses from coming to court, instills fear, and is inconsistent with the decorum of the court. Prior to the 2018, ICE only made arrests at or near courthouses in circumstances in which the individual was deemed a danger to national security or a risk to public safety. But the 2018 directive lead to a sharp increase in immigration arrests at courthouses, and a subsequent decline in court appearances by immigrant defendants.
Courthouse News Service

Thanks so much for reading and staying informed.