on immigration
January 25, 2019

Migrant shelters in Tijuana, Mexico, are overflowing and unable to take on an influx of U.S. asylum seekers who are expected to be sent into Mexico after reaching the U.S. border.

Mexico's foreign ministry spokesman Roberto Velasco said the first group of migrants affected by the Trump administration's Migrant Protection Protocols would be sent to request asylum Friday, per Reuters. The Trump administration announced the policy on Dec. 20, which requires non-Mexican migrants who enter the U.S. through its southern border to wait in Mexico while immigration requests are processed.

Asylum applicants have historically been allowed to stay in the U.S. while waiting for their hearing, but that process can take several years due to a backlog of more than 800,000 cases. Advocates in Mexico say the policy could stretch facilities on border towns too thin. "Shelters are at capacity and we can't receive migrants that are being deported or [Mexican] nationals that are passing through the city," Jose Maria Garcia, who runs a Tijuana shelter, told Reuters.

Migrants attempting to seek asylum may be barred from the U.S. for up to a year before seeing a judge. The policy does not apply to unaccompanied minors, and those fearing persecution in Mexico may be given a modified asylum screening interview, reports Vox. Marianne Dodson

October 18, 2018

U.S. immigration agencies are so overloaded with the influx of arriving migrants that they're housing detainees in Arizona motels, The New York Times reported Thursday.

A record 16,658 migrants were apprehended by Border Patrol in September, in part due to the skyrocketing number of people arriving at the southern border, and in part due to the Trump administration's effort to detain and prosecute a higher proportion of migrants.

"So many people are crossing the border — for the first time ever, we're putting them up in hotels,” Teresa Cavendish, director of operations for the nonprofit group Catholic Community Services told the Times. “I've not seen this in all my years working on this effort.”

Immigration and Customs Enforcement coordinated with the nonprofit to drop 140 migrants at a "seedy motel" between two highways in Tuscon, Times reporter Miriam Jordan explained. The motel was transformed into a makeshift migrant shelter, offering the same services to migrants that other detention facilities do. Most migrants, who arrived at the motel in unmarked ICE vans, only planned to stay for one or two nights, just until relatives in the U.S. could send them bus tickets elsewhere.

Migrant shelters have quickly reached capacity in recent weeks in Arizona, prompting churches and nonprofits to open their doors to travelers. Advocacy organizations say hundreds of detained immigrants have been released every week because of the shortage of space and beds. "At this stage, there is no telling when this will slow," said Cavendish. "It doesn't feel like it's going to go down any time soon." Read more at The New York Times. Summer Meza

September 21, 2018

It's easy to win a battle when your opponent isn't in the room.

That was reportedly senior adviser Stephen Miller's strategy for convincing President Trump to cap refugee admissions at 30,000 in 2019. Miller pushed for the record-low limit in a meeting with top Trump administration officials, NBC News reported Friday — but didn't invite colleagues who he thought might make his job more difficult.

Miller reportedly left U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Defense Secretary James Mattis, and other officials out of the meeting. The ones who weren't invited, curiously, were officials who have consistently voiced opposition to further lowering the refugee admission ceiling. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the change Monday, not commenting on whether he had had a change of heart since his previous preference for a higher cap. Sources told NBC News that Pompeo eventually bent to Miller's will. "Pompeo got rolled," said one former official.

Miller also headed up the Trump administration's efforts to strictly limit immigration from several Muslim-majority countries, as well as the zero-tolerance policy that lead to migrant families being separated at the southern border. He is an increasingly powerful voice on immigration, reports Politico, gaining favor with Trump with his hard-line views. Read more at NBC News. Summer Meza

September 20, 2018

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are increasingly cracking down on noncriminal immigrants.

ICE arrests of people without criminal records has increased 66 percent this year, The Associated Press reported Thursday. Meanwhile, arrests of convicts rose less than 2 percent.

"Unshackling ICE has really allowed it to go after more individuals," Sarah Pierce, an analyst for the nonpartisan think tank Migration Policy Institute, told AP. She called the dramatic increase in noncriminal immigrant arrests "a defining characteristic of this administration's approach to immigration."

In 2017, there was a 174 percent increase in noncriminal immigrant deportations compared to the previous year, while the number of immigrants expelled who had convictions rose less than 13 percent.

The Trump administration has touted an ICE report that said 56 percent of its deportations in 2017 were among people with criminal convictions, but AP notes that President Trump's hard-line approach to immigration has led to a sharp uptick in deportations for people with lower-level infractions. The Bush administration deported even more noncriminal immigrants, ICE data shows, and the Obama administration deported record numbers of immigrants but decreased the number of noncriminal deportations.

Comparatively, ICE is more recently increasing the number of arrests among immigrants already living in the U.S. — often for many years — rather than focusing efforts on illegal border crossings. Experts say ICE will continue targeting "low-hanging fruit," like noncriminal immigrants involved in traffic violations, in order to keep increasing numbers. Read more at The Associated Press. Summer Meza

September 19, 2018

The Trump administration is unable to locate 1,488 migrant children who were placed with sponsors this year, a Senate investigation found on Tuesday. The New York Times reports that the migrant children, who entered the country illegally, were unaccounted for after follow-up phone calls by the Department of Health and Human Services.

The department insisted that "these children are not 'lost,'" explaining that the sponsors of those particular children "simply did not respond or could not be reached when the voluntary call was made." About 11,250 migrant children have been placed with sponsors in 2018.

Senate investigators said that the administration's inability to keep track of migrant children is a "troubling" problem, since the children could end up with human traffickers or in otherwise dangerous situations. HHS says it is not responsible for the children after they are released from government custody.

The congressional report was released along with proposed legislation that would make sure HHS tracks children's safety after they leave custody, and would require background checks for sponsors. An HHS spokesperson said sponsors "have been vetted for criminality and ability to provide for [children.]"

The increasing number of migrant children in federal detention has brought increased scrutiny to the Trump administration's handling of their care and release. In April HHS acknowledged that it could not be sure of the location of an additional 1,475 migrant children who were placed with sponsors last year. Read more at The New York Times. Summer Meza

September 12, 2018

The Trump administration has rolled back refugee programs so substantially that the U.S. is on track to admit just 22,000 refugees this year — one quarter of the number admitted in 2016, Reuters reported Wednesday.

The number of forcibly displaced people in the world, 68.5 million, is at a record high this year, but the U.S. took in fewer refugees than at any other point in the past four decades, when the modern refugee program began. President Trump set a low ceiling of 45,000 for refugee admission in 2018, and the number of arrivals lagged far behind that.

The "travel ban" pushed by the Trump administration has also affected refugee resettlement statistics. Trump signed a disputed executive order that created a stricter vetting process for people from 11 countries, mostly in the Middle East and Africa. Refugees from those nations now make up less than 2 percent of the admissions, whereas they used to account for 36 percent of U.S. refugees.

Nearly two-thirds of the officials who used to conduct refugee interviews have been reassigned to asylum screenings, reports Reuters, focusing on migrants already in the country instead of people who qualify for U.N. refugee status.

President Trump is expected to determine 2019's refugee ceiling this month. Reuters reports that some administration officials who supported maintaining or increasing the cap no longer work in their positions, sparking fears among advocates that the number will soon be even lower. Read more at Reuters. Summer Meza

September 6, 2018

The Trump administration is seeking to override a rule that prevents immigrant children from being detained for more than 20 days, NBC News reported Thursday.

The Department of Homeland Security said it had created a new rule that will allow immigrant children to be detained with their parents indefinitely, and that the rule will go into effect in 60 days. The new rule will circumvent the 1997 Flores settlement, which determined that immigrant children seeking asylum in the U.S. could not be held for more than 20 days at a time, often leading to children being released with their parents at that time.

Officials tried to avoid those releases earlier this year by separating migrant children from their parents upon arrival in the U.S., but the administration ended that practice after significant backlash, though several hundred children remain separated. Now, a DHS official told NBC News that the new rule is a legal workaround because children will be held in Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities that are evaluated by third parties.

In an announcement, administration officials said the evaluations will ensure that the facilities "satisfy the basic purpose" of the Flores settlement and keep children safe, while still closing "legal loopholes" that "significantly hinder" the government's ability to "promptly remove family units that have no legal basis to remain in the country." Summer Meza

August 13, 2018

If Stephen Miller had his way, his own family may never have made it to the U.S.

The senior policy adviser's uncle, David Glosser, told the tale of Miller's immigrant heritage in a Politico article published Monday, revealing that Miller himself is a beneficiary of the immigration programs that he is now dismantling.

"I have watched with dismay and increasing horror as my nephew, who is an educated man and well aware of his heritage, has become the architect of immigration policies that repudiate the very foundation of our family's life in this country," said Glosser. Miller's great-great-grandfather migrated from Belarus, arriving at Ellis Island and working to bring family members to the U.S. through what Miller would disparagingly call chain migration.

"I shudder at the thought of what would have become of the Glossers had the same policies Stephen so coolly espouses ... been in effect," said Glosser, pointing to his family's escape of Nazi persecution. Glosser said that Miller and President Trump have likely become "numb to the resultant human tragedy and blind to the hypocrisy of their policy decisions," drawing parallels between the current administration and the Nazi effort to whip up fear and anger toward immigrants.

Miller, who is working to sharply limit legal immigration and have the U.S. accept fewer refugees, is creating disadvantages based on ethnicity and religion, writes Glosser. The normalization of such policies is a "gateway to tyranny," he continued, and amounts to a threat to all Americans. Read more at Politico. Summer Meza

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