Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Trump Wants To Speed Up Asylum Cases And Start Charging An Application Fee


President Trump continues to seek to tighten the asylum process.  Hamed Alearez offers the details on the latest presidential directive for Buzzfeed

Here is President Trump's memo to the Attorney General and Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Section 1 outlines the purpose of the latest policy directions:

"As noted in Proclamations 9822 and 9842 of November 9, 2018, and February 7, 2019, respectively, our immigration and asylum system is in crisis as a consequence of the mass migration of aliens across our southern border. In Proclamation 9844 of February 15, 2019, I declared a national emergency to address the security and humanitarian crisis at that border. That emergency continues to grow increasingly severe. In March, more than 100,000 inadmissible aliens were encountered seeking entry into the United States. Many aliens travel in large caravans or other large organized groups, and many travel with children. The extensive resources required to process and care for these individuals pulls U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel away from securing our Nation's borders. Additionally, illicit organizations benefit financially by smuggling illegal aliens into the United States and encouraging abuse of our asylum procedures. This strategic exploitation of our Nation's humanitarian programs undermines our Nation's security and sovereignty. The purpose of this memorandum is to strengthen asylum procedures to safeguard our system against rampant abuse of our asylum process."

UPDATE (May 1): Peter Margulies on Lawfare looks critically at the proposed asylum restrictions.


April 30, 2019 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

How labels affect the perception of migrants in the United States

Guest blogger: Nancy Giesel, Masters in Migration Studies, graduate student, University of San Francisco:

In a time when nationalistic attitudes seem more common than ever in the United States, there is a certain amount of criticism that comes with supporting, representing or otherwise assisting immigrant populations. I distinctly remember talking to a conservative relative about my work with refugees and receiving the following response: “Well at least you’re working with the ones who deserve it.” This is a sentiment that I have heard repeated many times over throughout the years. The simple change of label from immigrant  to refugee completely reframes the way that the person is perceived. This is surrounded by a larger argument of what a “good” or “worthy” immigrant looks like. In this article, Tazreena Sajjad explores “the politics of labelling” in immigration policy and explores how these labels assist in the dehumanization of the migrants they describe. I would like to expand on this idea and add that the protection that comes with  refugee status, while important, should be expanded to include more migrants who are “worthy” of protection. 

While I fully appreciate the functional value of these labels and distinctions, I also question the way that these labels and categories affect the protection of people entering the United States. Although “migrant” and “refugee” are sometimes used interchangeably, I will be using “migrant” to describe any person coming to the United States who is not protected by the 1951 Convention definition of refugee. Refugees are protected if their claim falls within the 5 grounds for asylum listed in the Convention (race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or particular social group). The key difference between entering the United States as a refugee as opposed to an economic migrant is the idea of “non-refoulement.” This is a protection from being sent back to one’s home country. In other words, migrants can be deported, but refugees cannot. While these 5 grounds cover a wide array of persecution, they do not cover everything. For example, with the rise of people migrating because of economic factors, it becomes more difficult to determine where they fall under these 5 protected grounds.

            The overwhelming sentiment is that if someone falls outside of refugee protection, that it must be safe for them to live in their home country. This is not always true and creates a hierarchy of “legitimate” reasons to leave one’s home. Poverty often falls at the bottom of this list. Migrants are expected to stay in their home countries even if they are unable to work or provide for their families. For example, if someone is fleeing violence because of their religious beliefs, that person is eligible for asylum. However, someone from that same country who is fleeing extreme poverty would be considered an economic migrant. In the United States, this economic migrant is not only less protected, but also falls lower on this scale of “worthiness.” Economic migrants are generally perceived as the “bad immigrants” who come to steal American jobs, while refugees are generally perceived as people who are in need of assistance and protection. However, in the words of Mahatma Ghandi “poverty is the worst form of violence” and I believe that it should be recognized as such when it comes to immigration policy. If someone is fleeing their home country in search of a better life, no matter the reason, they should be welcomed and protected in the United States.


April 30, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Mexican Migration Dramatically Decreasing

As migration from Central America surpasses that from Mexico, Kevin Sieff at The Washington Post explores why migration from Mexico to the U.S. has decreased by 90 percent over the past 20 years. “The dramatic changes in migration flows from Mexico are the product of multiple factors. Among them: the growth of the country’s economy, an aging population, more visas for temporary work and increased U.S. border enforcement.”


April 30, 2019 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Is the political science in the Census political or science?

Is the Census political?

In my last post, I examined the empirical evidence behind claims that including a citizenship question on the 2020 census would lead to undercounting of immigrant communities – essentially a matter of accurate measurement. Is such a prospect political? Yes, in three ways.

  1. First, the census is literally used to apportion funding and redistrict representatives.
  2. Second, the census question on citizenship is predicted to have a concentrated impact on communities with noncitizens, many of which are urban areas with Democratic leanings.
  3. Third, the census questions are not mere measurements of societal attributes and attitudes. The census has shown itself to be a device to instantiate social categories and groupings in ways that reflect political interests.

As described in an insightful History Channel program, “Many of the changes the census has gone through have to do with race and power in America. This is particularly evident when looking at the censuses taken between 1850 and 1930, a period of rapid change that saw the end of slavery and the beginning of Jim Crow. During this time, the census sought to classify how much African ancestry a person had, thereby reinforcing a social structure that denied full citizenship to people with any amount of African heritage. As Melissa Nobles, author of Shades of Citizenship: Race and the Census in Modern Politics explains, “The ‘mulatto’ category was added in 1850 at the request of a ‘racial scientist,’ Josiah Nott, who thought that blacks and whites may have been different species.”

The census has also shaped the politics of being Latinx. Cristina Mora in Making Hispanics and Clara Rodriguez in Changing Race: Latinos, the Census, and the History of Ethnicity show very clearly that the idea of ethnic grouping was historically constructed and institutionalized in the United States. During the 1960 census, reports classified Latin American immigrants as “white,” grouping them with European Americans. Not only was this decision controversial, but also Latino activists claimed that this classification hindered their ability to portray their constituents as underrepresented minorities. Therefore, they called for a separate classification: Hispanic.

Over time, the census shifted toward what David Hollinger, in Post-Ethnic America, calls the "ethnoracial pentagon." This term describes a five-part classification commonly used in government programs and that derives American is now routinely classified: African-American, Asian-American, European-American, Latino and Native American. This "pentagon," Hollinger believes, is built on a foundation of color categories -- black, yellow, white, brown and red -- that are relevant to understanding racism. However, Hollinger they obscure cultural groupings. The point is underscored by ongoing battles within each racial category, including the pan-ethnic category of Asian-American that obscures political and cultural blurring of groups that consider themselves quite distinct, such as Taiwanese-Americans who resisted being lumped together with Chinese-American political adversaries or Southeast Asians who feel little common cause with East Asians and recognize the need for data disaggregation to highlight demographic differences in income, education, and health outcomes that are consequential for apportionment.

The official US Census form from 2010, permitted people to check multiple races. The movement for multiracialism was driven by two animating goals: to permit people to self-identify (admitting the subjectivity in the exercise) and to allow for the counting of multiple racial categories, rather than forcing awkward choices among multiple identities. The results were revealing: Census reports found a rising share of multiracial people once they were given the opportunity to claim their multiple identities.

As we move to the 2020 census, the political battles may shift to citizenship, but they will undoubtedly be political and not merely about empirical evidence and objective measurement.


April 30, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 29, 2019

Living with fear

Guest blogger: Khojiakbar Gayratbekov, Masters in Migration Studies, graduate student, University of San Francisco

Lately, I have been actively working with undocumented immigrants who are facing ICE raids and threats. As a recent immigrant to the United States myself, my reaction is overwhelmingly sympathetic. Coming from a hybrid regime and post-communist country where autocratic regime is still active and human rights violations become part of the government’s everyday agenda, I had expected United States to be more respectful towards human rights. However, I noticed a number cases in which certain government organizations become the main human rights violators. 

Creation of ICE was the first step after many years of colonization to treat people in an inhumane way that is morally unacceptable. I have had to listen to many stories by undocumented immigrants about their experiences living in the United States.  Many of them share one common feeling - fear.  Waking up to the thought that you are in danger not by criminals but regular government officials is the worst part of being undocumented in the United States. Current laws and immigration enforcement policies make people think that everyone is untrustworthy. From my personal experience working with undocumented immigrants I learned that trust becomes the least feeling they have. Immigration officers often want to find more undocumented immigrants by threatening those who are already detained. Some of the demanding questions for detained immigrants seem to leave no choice but to reveal the identities of their friends and loved ones.  Being held at an immigration detention center is traumatic, and the way officers treat them adds fuel to the flame.

I have noticed that officers approach immigrants differently depending on how well noncitzens know their rights. If one speaks pretty good English and knows their rights well, they get released or treated better than those whose English or knowledge about their rights is weak. In addition, undocumented immigrants are exposed to invasion of privacy. They even have to sacrifice their most expected privacy: at their homes and in their private vehicles. ICE enforcement strategies are troubling. ICE agents’ unnecessary questioning, abuse of privacy, racial profiling are violations of fundamental human rights and U.S. constitution. In fact, current immigration law enforcement policies strike fear in the minds of millions of vulnerable immigrants. This is hypocrisy: often the United States demands fair practice of human rights from other countries, while at the same time, it fails to comply with basic principles of the law. 

While we may not be able to change the laws, we can encourage and teach immigrants to demand their rights. Immigrant advocates, activists and immigrants themselves should act collaboratively to fight against the abusive system. That is the only way to preserve dignity and fairness in the lives of undocumented immigrants.


April 29, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (1)


Guest blogger: Kenny Lee, Masters in Migration Studies, graduate student, University of San Francisco

A month ago, I had the opportunity to lobby with an immigrant rights organization called ASPIRE. Our objective was to convince California assembly members to support SB 29 or AB 4, which was a proposal to expand Medi-Cal healthcare coverage to all undocumented immigrants regardless of status in California, and it would bypass federal requirement of status by using California state taxes. Because Governor Gavin Newsom did not offer his support for healthcare to all undocumented immigrants with the exception of young adults, many stakeholders, including ASPIRE, were there to persuade assembly members to be more inclusive of the proposed health coverage under SB 29 or AB 24.

Unlike my peers at ASPIRE, I had no prior experience with lobbying and had no idea what to do. I felt like a country bumpkin in the field of politics, but my veteran peers, of course, reassured me: “Just tell your personal story—how did [the lack of] healthcare affect you or your family?” In my view, I was struggling to understand how personal stories could reach the hearts of politicians. And in all honesty, I had a stereotype regarding politicians as stone-cold and calculating based on news accounts.

As I braced myself walking into the room of one assembly member with my fellow peers, thoughts raced through my mind about what I should say regarding my experience with healthcare—have I ever been without healthcare? How did it affect me? And how much should I share? Then one of my peers spoke first and recounted their experience. It became obvious to me that I was underestimating the power of personal narrative from that point on.

I was dazzled, and I was filled with emotions by their stories. I could not help but feel extreme sympathy and compassion and gave my undivided attention. I looked around the room and everyone else was listening and looking at the speaker. Not a word of interruption until everyone spoke their piece. After we finished, it was apparent to me that personal stories are the most powerful tool in lobbying because it can connect people to their humanity. Numbers, statistics, and articles are nothing compared to the power and persuasion of people’s experience.

It was hard in the beginning to know what to say since I have healthcare and my family has both legal status and health insurance. But watching my peers encouraged me to think outside my family circle. After we spoke with the assembly member, we appeared at a subcommittee hearing along with many other stakeholders waiting for our turn to speak at the podium. When it was my turn, I testified before the subcommittee about how healthcare impacted my friends and elders. It was an exhilarating experience to know that a few years ago I would have been too scared to even speak about my immigration status, let alone civic engagement. Activism, at the end-of-the-day, seems less scary than the word entails. In the end, it’s about activating yourself to fight about issues that matters to you.

It was a privilege to learn about activism from my friends. But I could not help but wonder why social problems still exist if these narratives serve as powerful testimonies? In other word, what was taking so long to achieve social justice? I did not have answers, but I knew activism is part of a process in which justice and dignity can be obtain by speaking with lawmakers themselves.  I think it is also important to talk to those who are not affected by immigration status to see that immigration law and policies impacts all of us directly or indirectly through our connections with others. Our social connections ties us tightly which intersects with many social issues that affects all of us, like healthcare. One does not have to be affected by the issue directly to speak on behalf of those who do not have a chance to voice to their concerns due to their work and familial obligations. Perhaps all of us can be an activist in our own way.


April 29, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

How Nativism became the norm in the Dominican Republic

Guest blogger: Nancy Giesel, Masters in Migration Studies, graduate student, University of San Francisco

Last summer, I lived and worked in the Dominican Republic in an area known as “the bateyes.” Historically, the bateyes were settlements that were built around sugar cane fields to house Haitian migrant workers. These migrant workers ended up settling in the Dominican Republic without documentation and have continued to live in these  now-abandoned settlements for generations, often isolated, both physically and socially, from society. My time in these communities made me question: what does being Dominican mean for the descendants of migrant workers, living outside the traditional definitions of citizenship?

The sugar cane industry is the cause of much of the migration from Haiti to the DR, and also a central reason for the success of the Dominican economy. Haitian labor migrants were a critical part of the development of the Dominican Republic, but their status as migrant workers meant they were  seen as “less than” by the general population. As General Rafael Trujillo took office in 1930, the leader used anti-Haitian sentiments as a political tool. Trujillo wanted to ‘Dominicanize’ (read: de-haitianize) the sugar cane industry. This strategy was almost impossible considering the dependence on cheap migrant labor within the industry. This did not stop Trujillo from massacring Haitian migrants by the thousands. Although Trujillo is generally considered a violent and evil dictator, the nativist values that he instilled are still prevalent today.

Understanding nativism in the Dominican Republic is dependent on this historical context, but is not contained by history itself. These attitudes have continued into the modern age. In 2013, a ruling known as “La Sentencia” passed in the Dominican Republic. It revoked birthright citizenship for anyone born on Dominican soil and did so retroactively. This means that many Haitian migrants who had been living in the Dominican Republic for generations were suddenly stateless people because they did not possess the documents necessary to prove Dominican residency. Many of these migrants were stripped of their citizenship because they could not regularize their status by showing proof of their birth on Dominican soil. In my time at the legal aid office in the DR, I met many people living in the bateyes who had no formal record of their birth, which is needed to prove that they were born in the Dominican Republic. Many of the people who came through the doors of our office would never think to label themselves as “Haitians” or even “Haitian Dominican.” In their eyes, they were Dominicans, just as their parents and grandparents were. Even though they had been living in the Dominican Republic for their whole lives and for generations before them, they were being threatened with repatriation to a country that most of them had never been to before, Haiti.

These people who were once Dominican citizens were now stateless people in a limbo of citizenship between Haiti, a place where many had no familial ties, job prospects, or language skills, and the Dominican Republic, where institutional barriers and nativist attitudes prevented them from living freely in the only country they had ever known. By stripping these sugar plantation workers of their citizenship, the Dominican Republic was only further legitimizing the anti-Haitian sentiment that has prevailed in the country for decades. These sentiments have not only been normalized, but formalized into the legal system of the Dominican Republic.


April 29, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Take a Small Step": A Lesson for Law Students


Immprof Liz Keyes (Baltimore) gave us a tip about this article over at Medium: Laziness Does Not Exist. In the article, psychology professor Devon Price writes: "When a person fails to begin a project that they care about, it’s typically due to either a) anxiety about their attempts not being 'good enough' or b) confusion about what the first steps of the task are. Not laziness."

Liz writes: "I love this. It rings very, very true to my experience as a clinical law professor, where students are sometimes paralyzed by the immensity of the responsibility they are assuming. And the skill of identifying and taking the first step is not intrinsic. It can be taught, though, and it can be learned."

It's why Liz starts the semester giving students the poem Start Close In by David Whyte.

Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way to begin
the conversation.

Start with your own
give up on other
people’s questions,
don’t let them
smother something

To hear
another’s voice,
your own voice,
wait until
that voice
becomes an
private ear
that can
really listen
to another.

Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
don’t follow
someone else’s
heroics, be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don’t mistake
that other
for your own.

Start close in,
don’t take
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

Y'all know how much I love poetry. This is a wonderful one. It's going on my office door. Thanks so much for sharing it with us, Liz!


April 29, 2019 in Books, Current Affairs, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Immigrants Rising Fellowship Applications

Immigrants Rising Fellowship Applications Due This Weds 5/1!

At Immigrants Rising, we believe education is the key to personal transformation. The opportunity to learn, whether it is in a classroom, at a job site or in other forms, gives individuals agency to improve their own lives. Undocumented young people, however, have limited access to professional learning opportunities that offer hands-on experience. We offer fellowships to develop the leadership capacity of undocumented young people as well as foster community building and peer support. Our fellows benefit from career training, mentorship, professional development, and opportunities to educate and empower the undocumented community. 

In this upcoming year, we are offering four fellowship programs: three Bay Area fellowship programs and one nationwide fellowship program.

2019-2020 Fellowship Applications must be submitted by Wednesday, May 1st at 11:59 PM PST.


  • High School Engagement Fellowships: Expand your knowledge about educational access and topics affecting undocumented young people while supporting high schools to develop and implement sustainable support systems for undocumented students.
  • Higher Education Fellowships: Expand undocumented students’ access to higher education through training, resource creation and outreach.
  • Immigration Law Fellowships: Receive hands-on training in immigration law in order to educate undocumented people about their immigration options. 


  • Entrepreneurship Fellowships: Learn to promote entrepreneurship opportunities open to all immigrants regardless of status; research and build a network that supports entrepreneurs in your community.  



April 29, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Supreme Court oral argument discounts empirical studies predicting census undercount

As Kevin Johnson posted on ImmigrationProf blog last week, The Supreme Court heard oral argument on April 25, 2019 in the dispute over the Trump administration’s decision to include a question about citizenship on the 2020 census. The issue in the case is whether the district court erred in enjoining the secretary of the Department of Commerce from reinstating a question about citizenship to the 2020 decennial census on the ground that the secretary’s decision violated the Administrative Procedure Act. At the oral argument, the justices seemed divided along ideological lines, with the most media outlets reporting that the conservative majority seems ready to uphold the use of the citizenship question.

What’s at stake? The federal government argued that the Department of Justice wants data about citizenship to better enforce federal voting rights laws. But the challengers in the case counter that asking about citizenship will lead to an inaccurate count because studies show households with Latinos and immigrants may not participate, resulting in an undercount that distorts political representation and dispersion of federal funding for their communities. Beyond the immediate parties to the lawsuit, a Republican and a Democratic former director of the U.S. Census Bureau sent the current director a letter of concerns and filed an amicus brief to similar effect in an earlier lawsuit.

What does the empirical evidence actually show? Numerous studies show that there is merit to the empirical prediction of an undercount. Demographer Jennifer Van Hook explains why in a Democracy Works Podcast and other scholars have summarized similar research in op-eds. Most recently, the Census Bureau conducted studies using survey data and focus groups demonstrating the reduced participation and inaccurate responses likely to result from including this specific question. Secretary Ross discounts these studies. He basis his disagreement, ironically, on a 2014 study by the same Jennifer Van Hook who is advocating against adding the citizenship question. It turns out the 2014 study differentiates between the response rates garnered from private surveys and government-sponsored surveys, presumably because fear of immigration enforcement shapes the willingness of individuals to participate, and it contains the important caveat that “conclusions drawn from data preceding “the widespread emergence of immigrant enforcement measures at federal, state and local levels… may not apply in the more recent enforcement context.” The anticipated chilling effect of inquiring in the current enforcment-dominated climate is that 6.5 million people will not respond to the 2020 census themselves if a citizenship question is included, and that estimate may elevate after the agency conducts a field test of the question on a 2020 census form beginning in June.

In short, including a citizenship question during the current climate of immigration enforcement would impede the Constitutional mandate of the federal government obtain a “full, fair, and accurate census,” compounding a well-established phenomenon of undercounting racial minorities, immigrants, and other vulnerable groups throughout U.S history.


April 29, 2019 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 28, 2019

The Closure of Detention Centers in California

Guest blogger: Pamela Baez, Masters in Migration Studies, graduate student, University of San Francisco:

“The way I have been treated makes me feel like trash” said an 11 year old boy to NBCnews for his experience after being separated from his mother at the Southern Border. A 7 year old girl from Guatemala named Jakelin Caal died after being apprehended by the border patrol. Felipe Gomez Alonso died at the age of 8 due to a fever and vomiting. After 2014, the number of Unaccompanied Children crossing the Southern border began to increase rapidly. The United States believed the best solution was to fund or create more detention centers. From the apprehension of children and adults at the border to their experience in a detention center it continues to shape and affect the lives of undocumented people physically and emotionally by creating a CRISIS.

Throughout the years many states, non-profits, families, lawyers, activists and more continue to unite to help the immigrants arriving to the U.S. One of the states that continues to support undocumented immigrants is California. In 2017, the state of California approved The Dignity Not Detention Act. Kemi Bello explains, “ The bill also prohibits cities or counties from entering into new, or modifying existing, contracts with private prison companies for the purposes of expanding immigration detention.” This act and the harsh conditions immigrants are undergoing has contributed to the closure of some detention centers in California. Even though detention centers are being used as a profit for the government of the United States, California wants to continue protecting and helping immigrants. I believe this is not just a HUMANITARIAN act but also a RIGHT.

Two of the counties that have ended contracts with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement in California have been Contra Costa and now Sacramento. For instant, Adelanto is one of the largest immigration detention facility in San Bernardino, California. With the support of many different activists speaking up about the conditions inside the center now they have ended its contract with ICE. Although some have shut down there are still many that remain open and have renewed their contracts with ICE such as Mesa Verde in Bakersfield. 

Currently the main concern with centers being closed is how this will affect the immigrants. When a facility closes the detainees can be transferred to another center, but not always. Many undocumented people get deported as well. I believe the closure of these centers are necessary because it is a human right VIOLATION. There are other measures that can be taken when a facility closes. For example, they should have the right of being reunited with their sponsor. Undocumented people are not criminals. They are humans running away from natural disasters, persecution, family reunification and more. A misdemeanor should not define a person as a whole. One detention center is traumatizing enough. Lauren-Brooke Eisen demonstrates in her book titled Inside Private Prisons: An American Dilemma in the Age of Mass Incarceration how the business of detention centers might not end anytime soon. Many different media outlets have reported that ICE has estimately provided $800 million dollars to private detention facilities around the United States. This is why I want to highlight California and how this act has helped contribute to the closure of some facilities. I believe through the power of UNITY as a community great movements can occur.  


April 28, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

On the Other Side

Guest blogger: Marina Garcia, Masters in Migration Studies, graduate student, University of San Francisco

During my visit to Tijuana, as a volunteer for the Border Rights Project, I found myself saying ‘al otro lado’ several times a day.

From asking migrants if they had been to the organizational hub that provides support for asylum seekers, to looking into a four-year-old’s eyes as she hung onto me while her mother loaded their belongings onto a truck that would transport them to the other side. “Allí voy a estar,” I assured her, as I pointed to the iron gate where I would soon be waving goodbye through the white columns.

These conversations and experiences are from my time accompanying migrants at El Chaparral, the border crossing in Tijuana named after the ecosystem of entangled and impenetrable shrubs found in the arid desert Mexico shares with the U.S.  At El Chaparral, I witnessed our government’s immigration policies at work – with the cooperation of the Mexican government.  Policies that dehumanize those fleeing persecution and deplorable conditions in their countries.

Asylum seekers are corralled through a caution-tape lined aisle in order to be placed on “La Lista” – a list maintained by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Grupos Beta – the “humanitarian” arm of the National Migration Institute (INM) in Mexico. Through this system, asylum seekers are handed a tiny piece of paper with a hand-written four-digit number that they must retain as they wait several weeks and even months before they are able to cross the border and exercise their right to seek asylum in the U.S.  Asylum seekers have virtually no information about their assigned number.  They do not know where they are in the process, when their number might be called, or how many numbers are called each day.  When asked questions about the process by migrants, I observed Grupos Beta officials say sternly, “De la lista no les vamos a dar información./We will not give you information about the list.”

Each morning at the site was extremely cold and migrants would arrive with their entire families, including infants and young children, at dawn and with all of their belongings in case their number might be called that day.  Lists like the one in use at El Chaparral exist across the U.S.-MX border and subject migrants to a system that is entangled in rumor and speculation that circulate every minute.  This system – opaque and discouraging by design – is as impenetrable as the desert chaparrals that thousands of migrants attempt to cross on their arduous journey to this country. 

We too, should feel challenged by the entanglement of illegality and cruelty, also meant to discourage us from looking too closely.  As advocates, we must examine and expose the twisted injustices at the core of these policies.  Al Otro Lado is doing just that, through fearless advocacy and innovative organizing.  Staff and volunteers work on the ground through collaborative, binational efforts that challenge inhumane policies like metering at the border, the remain in Mexico law, and the arbitrary rejection of unaccompanied asylum seeking children at U.S. ports of entry.  The Border Rights Project works with a network of more than 1000 volunteers (a number that grows each day) to provide medical attention and legal orientation to asylum seekers stuck in this illogical system.  Volunteers document and respond to human rights violations in Tijuana, and prepare asylum seekers for what to expect al otro lado

Al otro lado - on the other side.

Back home now, I find myself on the other side of this experience, reflecting on my time at a border reinforced to divide families like my own.

Watching waves churn the earth on the coast, I consider my own fluidity -

the privilege I have to move from one side to the other, and to thrive on both.

In Tijuana, I gazed through giant metal pillars and saw my life al otro lado -

absorbed by the columns that divide and obstruct until the clear ocean takes over.

Juxtaposed with the beauty of the open sea,

I saw the ugliness of a barricaded border – militarized to suppress human agency and mobility.

I witnessed the hostility of enforcement measures used to deny human beings the right to seek protection.

Asylum seekers are arriving at the border of our country – the most powerful nation in the world. 

A country that is largely responsible for the conditions they are fleeing -

seeking dignity, survival, and dreaming of a better life on the other side.

Instead, they are forced to remain inside holding cells that are cold as ice -

hieleras that are meant to discourage them from seeking asylum.

“No va funcionar/It won’t work, a group of Nicaraguan migrants told me as I explained this function.

When you look into the eyes and speak to asylum seekers on cualquier lado, you face resilience.

Seguimos adelante./We continue forward,” they repeated.

Despite their taxing journey and the orientation to what lies ahead, people I met held on to their faith in destiny.

Asylum seekers I encounter are keenly aware of their rights as human beings to do all they can to survive and seek a dignified life for themselves and their families.

Even children recognize that the barriers they confront can and should be overcome through movement -

moving across borders and transcending structures meant to repress their growth.

Creciendo sin duda - growing in ways that are unimaginable to those who have not experienced such repression.

As I stood with a radiant teenager from Chiapas, we spoke about music and struggle.

She told me about the reasons she was fleeing with her father, what they had encountered in transit, and when this all weighed too heavily, we quickly shifted topics and bonded over our love for music.

I felt as if I was speaking to another adult but she was fifteen-years-old -

a quinceañera traveling with her papá, shy about changing into the warm clothes I handed her in preparation for the hielera.

I stood with her for some time; our eyes locked when I began to explain why the thickest layer needs to touch her skin and why we need to write her father’s information on her arm with sharpie in case they are forced apart.

“No lo entiendo,” she said, staring into my eyes awaiting an explanation for the cruelty.

“Yo tampoco lo entiendo,” I said, shaking my head with shame and disappointment for not being able to explain these methods of enforcement - designed to keep her and her father out.

It reminded me of the confusion I’m met with on the other side – “porque nos tratan así, como criminales?/Why do they treat us like that, like criminals?”

“Tampoco lo entiendo” - I don’t understand these policies – my own country’s policies – and I find that I can only do my small part to shine light on the injustice of it all.


April 28, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Welcome Professor Ming Hsu Chen to the ImmigrationProf Blog!


We are pleased to announce that Ming Hsu Chen, associate professor of law at the University of Colorado, Boulder, has joined ImmigrationProf Blog as co-editor!

In addition to her law teaching, Ming directs Colorado Law's immigration law and policy program. She also holds faculty affiliations in both political science and ethnic studies.

We're excited to bring her interdisciplinary perspective on issues of  immigration, civil rights, and the administrative state to the blog. 

Welcome, Ming! We're so happy to have you.


April 28, 2019 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

"My Sick Idea": President Trump on Sending Immigrants To Sanctuary Cities

Scott McDonald reports for Newsweek on President Trump's Saturday night rally ally in Green Bay Wisconsin, "mostly touting his work in office, calling out Democrats, name-shaming Democrats and spinning a rolodex of cliches often heard at his rallies." The president recalled his recent statement that he would start sending immigrants who overstayed their visits at holding facilities to the so-called sanctuary cities. “Last month alone, 100,000 illegal immigrants arrived at our borders, placing a massive strain on communities and schools and hospitals and public resources, like nobody has ever seen before,” Trump said to the crowd. “Now, we’re sending many of them through sanctuary cities, thank you very much.”  “I’m proud to tell you that was actually my sick idea,” the president said.  

Two weeks ago, President Trump said that, because detention facilities had become overcrowded, he would bus immigrant to "sanctuary cities," which limit assistance in federal immigration enforcement efforts.


April 28, 2019 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Immigrants Who Use Legal Marijuana May Be Denied U.S. Citizenship for "Lacking Good Moral Character"


The legalization of marijuana by the states has caught on like wildfire.  The federal government, however, remains slow to join the trend.

Under a new guidance issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, immigrants may find themselves barred from obtaining citizenship if they possess or use marijuana—even if doing so is legal where they live. The new policy provides that employment in the industry may prevent an immigrant from being a naturalized citizen.

Under the federal Controlled Substances Act, marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance. Possession of even small amounts of marijuana can qualify as a federal misdemeanor. Giving marijuana to another person—even for no money—can qualify as trafficking.

To be eligible to become a naturalized citizen, an immigrant must demonstrate they had “good moral character” for the past five years before filing their application. But the law presumes that a person does not have “good moral character” if they have committed any violations of controlled substance laws. There is an exception for those with a “single offense of simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana.”



April 28, 2019 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sarah Rogerson Honored With M. Shanara Gilbert Award


It has been announced that Professor Sarah Rogerson, Clinical Professor of Law and Founder and Director of the Immigration Law Clinic at Albany Law School, has been selected as this year’s recipient of the Clinical Section’s M. Shanara Gilbert Award.  The award will be presented during the luncheon at the Clinical Legal Education Conference in San Francisco on May 5.

Designed to honor an "emerging clinician," this award honors a clinical professor with ten or fewer years of experience who has (1) a commitment to teaching and achieving social justice, particularly in the areas of race and the criminal justice system; (2) a passion for providing legal services and access to justice to individuals and groups most in need; (3) service to the cause of clinical legal education or to the AALS Section on Clinical Legal Education; (4) an interest in international clinical legal education; and (5) an interest in the beauty of nature (which is desirable, but not required).  The Clinical Section’s Awards Committee noted a consistent theme in Sarah’s nominations—that Professor Rogerson regularly goes “beyond what would be expected.”

Professor Rogerson founded the Immigration Law Clinic at Albany.  After the clinic’s formation, she further broadened the scope of the clinic to serve the unmet legal needs of unaccompanied minors.  The clinic provides direct legal representation and also utilizes a wide variety of other advocacy strategies.  Students have drafted city council resolutions and legislation and conducted pop-up intake and referral clinics.  Under Professor Rogerson’s guidance, students have created their own projects—including an innovative program that trains undergraduate students to become legal interpreters and a unique, pre-release re-entry program for those detained in the Albany County jail.  Professor Rogerson is committed to increasing social justice awareness in her community through media and community education trainings.  She is a weekly panelist on a local, award-winning public radio broadcast discussing issues relating to the human condition. She has also collaborated with other legal service providers and community partners to travel throughout the state of New York to conduct immigration law trainings for private attorneys, clerks, court staff and personnel, and dozens of area Board of Immigration Appeals accredited representatives. She and her students have been directly involved in recruiting volunteers (and working alongside those volunteers) to provide relief to migrants who were detained at the southern U.S. border and transported to the Albany County jail. 


April 28, 2019 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

HUD Proposes to Evict Citizens and Immigrants from Public Housing if They Have Undocumented Family Members


Ericka Cruz for the American Immigration Council analyzes looks at recent efforts by the Trump administration to restrict access to public housing for mixed status families.

An estimated 25,000 families in public housing are of mixed-status, meaning that at least one family member is a citizen, legal permanent resident, or refugee and another member is undocumented. Although undocumented immigrants do not qualify for housing benefits, current rules allow them to live with their families who do qualify.

Under a new rule proposed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), U.S. citizens and legal immigrants in public or subsidized housing may be evicted if they have an undocumented family member living with them. Under current law, a family only needs to declare the number of family members who are eligible or ineligible for the subsidies. If an undocumented family member lives in public housing with the eligible applicant, then the family only receives partial subsidies, which cover only the family members who are eligible citizens or qualifying immigrants. The current system ensures that undocumented family members do not receive any public housing assistance benefit. Because of these strict guidelines, mixed-status families usually end up paying close to market-rate for rent.

HUD’s new proposed regulation would make it so that any family currently receiving a public housing benefit or subsidy, including Section 8 vouchers, would automatically be ineligible for any housing benefit if even one member of their family living in the house is undocumented. The new rule could affect as many as 32,000 people in mixed-status families who currently receive federal housing benefits. Those families would have to choose between eviction or breaking up the family. This puts at risk vulnerable Americans and immigrants who rely on these subsidies for their housing.


April 28, 2019 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, April 27, 2019

U.S. Military on the Southern Border: What's Their Proper Role?

The U.S. Army Follow Texas National Guard observes Rio Grande River, photo by U.S. Army

In my last Crimmigration classes, we've been discussing the different players who at the border: the OFO at ports, Border Patrol between ports, ranchers, residents, Native Americans, humanitarian groups, private militias, and the U.S. military. It's that last player that's currently on my mind: the U.S. military.

As tends to happen when teaching any immigration-related course, it feels like the world has changed dramatically during the course of the semester.

My old spiel was this: The U.S. military can aid federal immigration enforcement through projects like adding new concertina wire to fencing or manning information control centers, freeing up agents from doing those tasks to work on the border directly with migrants.

Then came this comment from the president on April 10:

Trump_Military_Tweet copy

So, that's interesting. As Vox pointed out, the comment seems to fly in the face of 18 U.S.C. § 1382:

Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

This provision, from the Posse Comitatus Act, indicates that the U.S. military cannot be used to enforce domestic law. That's why the military has been serving only in limited support roles on the border.

But the changes on this front just keep coming. Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that DHS has asked the Defense Department for additional waivers to its longstanding policy of no contact between the U.S. military and migrants. The goal: to get the help of "military lawyers, cooks and drivers to assist with handling a surge of migrants along the border."

Again, there's so much to unpack here. What's up with the lawyers? Immigration law is pretty complex to pick up on command. The WaPo piece covers that angle.

But what about this one: There are a finite number of courtrooms and IJs on the border. And they only work regular hours. So it's not possible to expand capacity or make any headway into the backlog of cases by adding more government attorneys. The only way to expand capacity is to increase the number of courtrooms or to have 24-hour shifts of lawyers and judges to maximize the physical courtroom space that we currently have.

Now, adding more individuals who could do CFI screenings? That might do something. But that's not apparently up for discussion.


April 27, 2019 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Measles Misinformation Gets an Immigration Twist

The measles outbreak has been in the news.  Not surprisingly given the climate, immigrants have been blamed for the outbreak.  Factcheck.org puts the lie to the test:

"A Facebook meme incorrectly blames the measles outbreak in the U.S. on immigrants from South America. The virus, however, was eliminated there in 2016. The recent uptick in measles cases is due to travelers returning from countries with outbreaks.

The outbreak of measles in the U.S. and around the world is due largely to inadequate vaccination rates in some communities, not illegal immigration, as one popular meme on Facebook claims.

`The meme shows a picture of a baby who appears to be infected with measles and says: “Thanks to a highly effective vaccination program the Measles virus was eliminated from the U.S. in 2000. Thanks to the immigrants who illegally cross the U.S. Mexican border, and the Democrats who refuse to stop them, the Measles virus has been declared a public health emergency in 2019.'”

Here is some informed measles information for international travelers from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.



April 27, 2019 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

ICE is holding $204 million in bond money, and some immigrants might never get it back

Meagan Flynn for the Washington Post reports that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is holding on to more than $200 million in bond money that belongs to immigrants who have been in the agency’s custody, cash that has yet to be returned to thousands of immigrant families or the U.S. citizens who bailed them out, according to data obtained through open records requests.  

The unreturned bond money stood at $204 million as of July 31, 2018, according to the data, which immigration law clinics at Stanford University and the University of California at Davis. The pot of immigrant bond money grew by $57.3 million between September 2014 and July 2018, the data shows.  More than 18,000 bond payments went unclaimed in that four-year period, according to the data.

For more details about the report, click here.


April 27, 2019 in Current Affairs, Immigration Law Clinics | Permalink | Comments (0)