Saturday, December 22, 2018

President Trump's "Dream Wall": Why the U.S. Government Has Shut Down


Unable to reach a budget deal, Congress could not stop a partial government shut-down at December 21 at midnight EST. 

CNN reports that, pushing for funding for a border wall, President Trump tweeted a design of his "dream wall" along the U.S./Mexico border, with steel slats and spikes.  The tweet, not surprisingly, did not lead to a budget deal.

Its been a tough week in Washington with a shutdown of the U.S. government, an abrupt exit from Syria and loss of the Secretary of Defense, and the stock market in a free fall.


December 22, 2018 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Immigration Article of the Day: The The US Refugee Resettlement Program — A Return to First Principles: How Refugees Help to Define, Strengthen, and Revitalize the United States by Donald Kerwin


The US Refugee Resettlement Program — A Return to First Principles: How Refugees Help to Define, Strengthen, and Revitalize the United States by Donald Kerwin (Center for Migration Studies)

This paper examines the integration, achievements and contributions of 1.1 million refugees resettled in the United States from 1987 to 2016.  It does so in three ways. First, it compares the household, demographic, and economic characteristics of refugees that arrived between 1987 and 2016, to comparable data for non-refugees, the foreign-born, and the total US population. Second, it compares the characteristics of refugees by period of entry, as well as to the foreign-born and total US population. Third, it examines the characteristics of refugees that arrived from the former Soviet Union between 1987 and 1999, measured in 2000 and again in 2016. By all three measures, it finds that refugees successfully integrate over time and contribute immensely to their new communities. Perhaps most dramatically, the paper shows that refugees that arrived between 1987 and 1996 exceed the total US population, which consists mostly of native-born citizens, in personal income, homeownership, college education, labor force participation, self-employment, health insurance coverage, and access to a computer and the internet. The paper also explores the successful public/private partnerships — with a particular focus on Catholic agencies — that facilitate refugee well-being and integration, and that leverage substantial private support for refugees. Overall, the paper argues that the United States should expand and strengthen its refugee resettlement program. The program has advanced US standing in the world, saved countless lives, and put millions on a path to work, self-sufficiency, and integration.  

Download the PDF of the article

December 22, 2018 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 21, 2018

SCOTUS Refuses 5-4 to Stay Injunction Halting New Trump Asylum Policy

Supreme court

Amy Howe reports on SCOTUSBLOG reports on the Trump administration's latest defeat in the Supreme Court. 

The administration had asked the justices to block a ruling by a federal judge that bars the Trump administration from denying asylum to immigrants who unlawfully enter the United States from Mexico. The justices turned down the government’s request, which means that the government will not be able to enforce its new asylum policy while the government appeals to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and possibly the Supreme Court.

Chief Justice John Roberts provided the deciding vote.  Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh would have granted the stay.

Peter Margulies comments on the denial of the stay request here.


December 21, 2018 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Growth in the Immigration Court Backlog Continues in FY 2019

TRAC Immigration reports that the immigration court backlog continues to rise. As of November 30, 2018, the number of pending cases on the court's active docket topped eight-hundred thousand (809,041) cases. This is almost a fifty percent (49.1%) increase compared to the 542,411 cases pending at the end of January 2017 when President Trump took office. This figure does not include the additional 330,211 previously completed cases that EOIR placed back on the "pending" rolls that have not yet been put onto the active docket[1].

Table 1. Growth in the Immigration Court Backlog by State
Rank State* Beginning of
FY 2017
End of
November 2018
Percent Increase
1 Maryland 17,074 35,300 107%
2 Georgia 13,955 26,447 90%
3 Florida 32,233 60,793 89%
4 Massachusetts 15,208 28,490 87%
5 New Jersey 27,457 44,096 61%
6 New York 70,303 108,458 54%
6 California 95,252 146,826 54%
8 Virginia 29,467 44,154 50%
9 Texas 91,865 119,401 30%
10 Illinois 23,242 29,922 29%
* Top ten states with largest current court case backlog.

All states are witnessing an increase in Immigration Court backlogs[2]. However, ten states account for the vast majority of the backlog. Four out of five pending cases in the country are before immigration judges in these ten states. The state of Maryland continues to lead the pack with the highest rate of increase in pending cases since the beginning of FY 2017. Pending caseloads in Maryland have increased by 107 percent, over double its caseload at the beginning of FY 2017. Of the top ten states, courts based in Illinois experienced the least amount of growth at 29 percent. Texas barely missed being in the bottom growth rate spot with a 30 percent increase. See Table 1.

In absolute terms, California has the largest Immigration Court backlog - 146,826 cases waiting decision, a number that has increased by 54 percent from its FY 2017 pending caseload level.



December 21, 2018 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

In immigrant children’s shelters, sexual-assault cases are open-and-shut from

ProPublica wordmark

In immigrant children’s shelters, sexual-assault cases are open-and-shut from

Across the country, kids are reporting sexual assaults in immigrant children’s shelters. Alex decided to come forward. He told the shelter two older teens dragged him into a bedroom. There was surveillance video. But Alex's case wasn't investigated. His isn’t the only one. Read the full story.


December 21, 2018 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Memorable 2018 Immigration Pictures

In an article by Nicole Smith Dahmen on The Conversation compiles memorable photographs from 2018, including some dealing with immigration.  She notes that "John Moore’s photograph of a young Honduran girl sobbing instantly came to symbolize the Trump administration’s hard-line immigration policy."


December 21, 2018 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Immigration Article of the Day: Communities in Crisis: Interior Removals and Their Human Consequences


Communities in Crisis: Interior Removals and Their Human Consequences by Donald Kerwin, Daniela Alulema, and Mike Nicholson (Center for Migration Studies)

This paper examines the characteristics of deportees from the United States and the effects of deportation on deportees, their families, and their communities. It analyzes the findings from 133 interviews with deportees at a migrant shelter in Sonora, Mexico and interviews with family members of deportees and others affected by deportation in three Catholic parishes in the United States. These findings include: 1) the deportees had established long and deep ties in the United States, including strong economic and family ties, 2) deportation severed these ties and impoverished and divided affected families, 3) most deportees planned to return to the United States, and 4) the US deportation system treated deportees as criminals and the Trump administration sought to instill fear in immigrant communities. The paper concludes with policy recommendations to mitigate the ill effects of the administration’s policies and promote the integrity of families and communities, including: using detention as a “last resort”; reducing funding to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); and limiting collaboration between police and ICE and Customs and Border Protection.  

Download the PDF of the article


December 21, 2018 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 20, 2018

DHS Secretary Announces Radical Approach to "Confront Illegal Immigration"



Office of Public Affairs


December 20, 2018

Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen Announces Historic Action to Confront Illegal Immigration

Announces Migration Protection Protocols

WASHINGTON – Today, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen announced historic action to confront the illegal immigration crisis facing the United States.  Effective immediately, the United States will begin the process of invoking Section 235(b)(2)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.  Under the Migration Protection Protocols (MPP), individuals arriving in or entering the United States from Mexico—illegally or without proper documentation—may be returned to Mexico for the duration of their immigration proceedings.

“Today we are announcing historic measures to bring the illegal immigration crisis under control,” said Secretary Nielsen.  “We will confront this crisis head on, uphold the rule of law, and strengthen our humanitarian commitments.  Aliens trying to game the system to get into our country illegally will no longer be able to disappear into the United States, where many skip their court dates.  Instead, they will wait for an immigration court decision while they are in Mexico.  ‘Catch and release’ will be replaced with ‘catch and return.’  In doing so, we will reduce illegal migration by removing one of the key incentives that encourages people from taking the dangerous journey to the United States in the first place.  This will also allow us to focus more attention on those who are actually fleeing persecution.

“Let me be clear:  we will undertake these steps consistent with all domestic and international legal obligations, including our humanitarian commitments.  We have notified the Mexican government of our intended actions.  In response, Mexico has made an independent determination that they will commit to implement essential measures on their side of the border.  We expect affected migrants will receive humanitarian visas to stay on Mexican soil, the ability to apply for work, and other protections while they await a U.S. legal determination.”


Illegal aliens have exploited asylum loopholes at an alarming rate.  Over the last five years, DHS has seen a 2000 percent increase in aliens claiming credible fear (the first step to asylum), as many know it will give them an opportunity to stay in our country, even if they do not actually have a valid claim to asylum.  As a result, the United States has an overwhelming asylum backlog of more than 786,000 pending cases.  Last year alone the number of asylum claims soared 67 percent compared to the previous year.  Most of these claims are not meritorious—in fact nine out of ten asylum claims are not granted by a federal immigration judge.  However, by the time a judge has ordered them removed from the United States, many have vanished. 


  • Aliens trying to enter the U.S. to claim asylum will no longer be released into our country, where they often disappear before a court can determine their claim’s merits.
  • Instead, those aliens will be processed by DHS and given a “Notice to Appear” for their immigration court hearing.
  • While they wait in Mexico, the Mexican government has made its own determination to provide such individuals humanitarian visas, work authorization, and other protections. Aliens will have access to immigration attorneys and to the U.S. for their court hearings.
  • Aliens whose claims are upheld by U.S. judges will be allowed in. Those without valid claims will be deported to their home countries.

    Anticipated Benefits
  • As we implement, illegal immigration and false asylum claims are expected to decline.
  • Aliens will not be able to disappear into U.S. before court decision.
  • More attention can be focused on more quickly assisting legitimate asylum-seekers, as fraudsters are disincentivized from making the journey.
  • Precious border security personnel and resources will be freed up to focus on protecting our territory and clearing the massive asylum backlog.
  • Vulnerable populations will get the protection they need while they await a determination in Mexico.

December 20, 2018 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Court Enjoins Trump Asylum Rule

Judge Jon S. Tigar of the U.S. Northern District of California yesterday issued extended a temporary restraining order into a preliminary injunction that bars the Trump administration's asylum rule barring applications for all but noncitizens who apply at ports of entry.  Judge Tigar had entered the TRO in NovemberThis Courthouse News Service article reports on the argument and latest ruling.  Peter Margulies ' commentary on the ruling is here.

The court began the ruling as follows:

"Once again, the parties are before the Court regarding a rule issued recently by the Attorney General and the Department of Homeland Security. The rule, in combination with a Presidential proclamation, makes anyone who crosses the southern border of the United States somewhere other than a designated port of entry ineligible for asylum." 

Judge Tigar summarized the ruling:

"The Plaintiffs now seek a preliminary injunction that would keep the new rule from going into effect for an extended period of time. As set forth below, the arguments on both sides are nearly identical to those made earlier to this Court and to the Ninth Circuit. Moreover, what new evidence and argument there is largely supports Plaintiffs’ position. If anything, the inconsistency between the new regulation and the immigration laws has been stated more clearly. The harms to those seeking asylum are also even clearer, and correspondingly the public interest more plainly supports injunctive relief. Not surprisingly then, the result of the present motion is the same: the Court again concludes that Plaintiffs have established an overwhelming likelihood that the new rule barring asylum is invalid. Accordingly, the Court will grant Plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction." (emphasis added).


December 20, 2018 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Immigration Article of the Day: Restoring the Statutory Safety-Valve for Immigrant Crime Victims: Premium Processing for Interim U Visa Benefits by Jason A. Cade and Mary Honeychurch


Restoring the Statutory Safety-Valve for Immigrant Crime Victims: Premium Processing for Interim U Visa Benefits by Jason A. Cade and Mary HoneychurchNorthwestern University Law Review Online, 2019


This essay focuses on the U visa, a critical government program that has thus far failed to live up to its significant potential. Congress enacted the U visa to aid undocumented victims of serious crime and incentivize them to assist law enforcement without fear of deportation. The reality, however, is that noncitizens eligible for U status still languish in limbo for many years while remaining vulnerable to deportation and workplace exploitation. This is in large part due to the fact that the agency has never devoted sufficient resources to processing these cases. As a result, the potential benefits of the U visa remain under-realized and communities are left less safe. In an era of sustained focus on enforcement and increased instability within immigrant communities, the situation becomes ever more urgent. This Essay introduces and defends a simple administrative innovation that would dramatically improve the process: a premium processing route for interim approvals and employment authorization. Although our proposal cannot resolve all the underlying problems, it is pragmatic, easily implemented, and superior to the status quo.


December 20, 2018 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Federal Judge Enjoins Asylum Restrictions


Federal judge Emmet Sullivan has been in the news lately. having made headlines yesterday on his statements at what was supposed to be the sentencing of former President Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Today, Judge Sullivan made immigration news.  As C. Ryan Barber for the National Law Journal reports, Judge Sullivan declared unlawful yesterday new restrictions imposed on immigrants seeking asylum in the U.S. on the basis of domestic violence and fear of gang violence.  The ruling came in Grace v. Sessions.

The judge ruled that the Trump administration had violated the Immigration and Nationality Act. He permanently enjoined the U.S. government from continuing the new policies, which were announced last summer by then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and demanded the return of immigrants named in the case who he said were unlawfully deported.

The article opines that

"Sullivan’s ruling marked the latest smackdown of the Trump administration’s asylum policies. In November, U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar in San Francisco ruled against the administration’s move to restrict asylum-seekers along the U.S. southern border with Mexico. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit this month upheld a temporary restraining order, and the Justice Department has taken that dispute to the U.S. Supreme Court."



December 19, 2018 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Urban Institute: Immigrants make up 17 percent of the US workforce, and they merit investment



This Urban Institute paper (Hamutal Bernstein & Carolyn Vilter) looks at immigrant workers and the need to invest in them (and their success).  Here is part of the intro:

"Immigrants are a key pillar of our country’s economic strength and vitality. They make up 17 percent of the US workforce, with higher shares in many cities. And as immigration policy debates rage on and as families and communities suffer the consequences of toxic rhetoric, uncertainty, and family separations, immigrant workers are still showing up for work. They are still clocking in to support their families, employers, and communities and contribute to our economy’s stability and growth."


December 19, 2018 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

In reversal, White House shifts border wall funding demands, wants to avoid shutdown

A high stakes game of chicken continues.  With a federal government shutdown looming, the Trump administration appears to have blinked and now seems open to a possible compromise with Congress -- with congressional funding for the border wall along the US/Mexico border.  CNN reports that "White House press secretary Sarah Sanders suggested [yesterday] that the White House has found an alternative way to get its requested $5 billion in funding for a US-Mexico border wall, marking a reversal from President Donald Trump's previous position."


December 19, 2018 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Learning in 'Baby Jail': Lessons from Law Student Engagement in Family Detention Centers by Lindsay Muir Harris


Learning in 'Baby Jail': Lessons from Law Student Engagement in Family Detention Centers by Lindsay Muir Harris, 25 Clinical Law Review 155 (2018) 


Between 2014 and 2017, more than 40 law schools and likely well over 1000 law students engaged in learning within immigration family detention centers. The Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy and implementation of wide-scale family separation in 2018 led to increased involvement by professors and students in the constantly shifting landscape of immigration detention. As the detention of immigrant families becomes increasingly entrenched, this article hits the pause button and assesses the benefits and challenges of the various approaches to, and proposes some principles for, law student engagement in this crisis lawyering in immigration detention centers, for families, and beyond.



December 19, 2018 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Gallup: Immigration Less Concerning to Americans Than Our Government


Check out this data from the most recent Gallup poll: some 16% of Americans cite immigration as the nation's top problem. That's down from 21% just last month.

A bigger problem, according to those surveyed, is the federal government itself. Nineteen percent said government is our nation's top problem. As bad as that sounds, it's apparently close to average for the year (22%) and shy of the all-time high of 33% which was hit during the October 2013 governmental shutdown.

That said, last month, immigration unseated the government as a top problem. Now it's back to second place. Both are far ahead of the next round contenders (unifying the country: 8% and race relations: 7%).


December 18, 2018 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Statue of Liberty Immigration Protester Convicted

What a July 4 celebration it was!  Therese “Patricia” Okoumou, who was arrested for climbing the Statue of Liberty in July, was convicted on Monday of trespassing, interference with government agency functions and disorderly conduct.

News from New York.  An immigration protester has been convicted. A New York woman who scaled the Statue of Liberty on July 4 to protest the Trump administration’s immigration policies has been found guilty of three misdemeanors.

Therese “Patricia” Okoumou faces up to 18 months in federal prison after being found guilty of trespassing, interference with government agency functions and disorderly conduct. She will be sentenced on March 5.

Okoumu pleaded not guilty to the charges. She said she was motivated to take a public stand on behalf of immigrant children who were separated from their families and detained at the U.S.-Mexico border earlier this year.

“Unfortunately, as long as our children are being placed in cages my moral values call for me to do something about it,” Okoumou testified. 


December 18, 2018 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

International Migrants Day 18 December

Today is International Migrants Day.  Here is the statement from the United Nations website:

"Throughout human history, migration has been a courageous expression of the individual’s will to overcome adversity and to live a better life. Today, globalization, together with advances in communications and transportation, has greatly increased the number of people who have the desire and the capacity to move to other places.

This new era has created challenges and opportunities for societies throughout the world. It also has served to underscore the clear linkage between migration and development, as well as the opportunities it provides for co-development, that is, the concerted improvement of economic and social conditions at both origin and destination.

Migration draws increasing attention in the world nowadays. Mixed with elements of unforeseeability, emergency, and complexity, the challenges and difficulties of international migration require enhanced cooperation and collective action among countries and regions. The United Nations is actively playing a catalyst role in this area, with the aim of creating more dialogues and interactions within countries and regions, as well as propelling experience exchange and collaboration opportunities.

On September 19, 2016 the United Nations General Assembly adopted a set of commitments during its first ever summit on large movements of refugees and migrants to enhance the protection of refugees and migrants. These commitments are known as the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants (NY Declaration). The NY Declaration reaffirms the importance of the international protection regime and represents a commitment by Member States to strengthen and enhance mechanisms to protect people on the move. It paves the way for the adoption of two new global compacts in 2018: the global compact on refugees and the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration."


December 18, 2018 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 17, 2018

Sweden: By Turns Welcoming and Restrictive in its Immigration Policy


Admir Skodo on Migration Information Source reports on changes in Swedish immigration policy:

" In 2015 a record-breaking 162,877 asylum seekers entered Sweden, which along with Germany was the preferred destination for a wave of Syrians, Afghans, and others who reached European soil in search of protection and better lives. In response, the Swedish government introduced border controls, followed in mid-2016 by a highly restrictive asylum and reunification law—a major policy shift for a country that has long prided itself on its generous asylum stance. Even as asylum applications and grants plummeted, concerns over immigration grew among the Swedish public. The nationalist, anti-immigration Sweden Democrats received 17.6 percent of the vote in September 2018 elections, while the center-left Social Democrats, in power for much of the 20th century, posted their worst results since 1908. Three months after an election that gave neither the center-left or center-right a majority, the country still struggled to form a government."


December 17, 2018 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

AALS Immprof Programming


Are you headed to New Orleans for the AALS annual meeting this January? I hope that you'll plan to attend these great immprof programs:

  • Saturday, January 5, 2019, 10:30AM-12:15PM: Immigration Law Values
  • Saturday, January 5, 2019, 1:30-4:30PM: Asylum and Refugee Rights in Islamic Law
  • Saturday, January 5, 2019, 3:45-5:15PM: New Voices in Immigration Law
  • Saturday, January 5, 2019: Celebration of Immprof Michael A. Olivas (RSVP to Shoba)
  • Sunday, January 6, 2019 10:30AM-12:15PM: Civil Rights, Liberty, and Immigration Control

There's still room to participate as a reader in the New Voices session. Contact me and I'll send you the papers. (I promise, the reading isn't burdensome.)


December 17, 2018 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Immigration Article of the Day: The Search for Protection for Stateless Refugees in the Middle East: Palestinians and Kurds in Lebanon and Jordan by Susan M. Akram


The Search for Protection for Stateless Refugees in the Middle East: Palestinians and Kurds in Lebanon and Jordan by Susan M. Akram, International Journal of Refugee Law


Most Arab countries have not ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention/1967 Protocol or the 1954 Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons, and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness has no ratifications in the Middle East. While regional conventions dealing with refugees in the Arab world have been developed, they have been honoured primarily in the breach. Further, many Arab countries do not have domestic laws governing the status of refugees or stateless persons per se, but have applied ad hoc policies to the waves of refugees that have entered and stayed – some for decades – in their territories. The Palestinian refugee/statelessness problem has been both the main driver and the main obstacle to the policies governing refugees in the region, so understanding how the Middle East deals with refugees who are also stateless requires a knowledge of the history and legal trajectory of Palestinian refugees in their host territories. The Middle East States that host the majority of Palestinian refugees are persistent objectors to the Refugee and Statelessness Convention norms for historical reasons; yet certain regional norms have developed that are consistent with these and they could provide more robust frameworks for providing protection to the significant populations of stateless refugees. This article examines the two main protracted cases, the Palestinians and the Syrian Kurds, to illustrate the problem and possibilities of the double jeopardy in which stateless refugee populations find themselves: neither recognized as stateless nor as refugees, with durable solutions and national status remaining out of reach for generation after generation.

December 17, 2018 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)