Monday, December 16, 2019
2019 had many big immigration stories. The big news at the ImmigrationProf blog was the addition of a new superstar blogger. Welcome Professor Ming Hsu Chen to the ImmigrationProf Blog!
If one is looking simply at changes to U.S. immigration law and policy, the biggest immigration news story of 2019 (like 2017 and 2018) unquestionably was President Donald Trump. He probably has been the biggest immigration news story since his inauguration in January 2017. For better or worse, no modern U.S. President has made immigration the priority that Trump has day in and day out. President Trump is a virtually endless source of immigration comments, insults, tweets, and policy initiatives. Law professors are indebted to the President for providing fodder for law review articles for many years to come.
In addition to President Trump, here are my Top 10 Immigration News Stories from 2019, followed with some awards.
1. Immigration in the Supreme Court
A wide array of immigration cases continue to make their way to the Supreme Court. The biggest immigration case of the 2019 Term will decide the future of President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. In November, the Court heard oral arguments in three consolidated DACA cases in which the lower courts enjoined the Trump administration’s attempted rescission of DACA. See the Argument Recap in DACA Cases. A ruling in the case is expected at the end of the Term in June. I predict a 5-4 vote. Expect fireworks whatever the outcome. Stay tuned!
The high Court has before it a full array of immigration issues, including the availability of damages for cross-border shootings, judicial review of a variety of immigration decisions, federal versus state power over immigration, the legality of expedited removal, and more. For an overview of the Supreme Court's 2019 Term immigration docket, see Immigration in the Supreme Court, 2019 Term: DACA, Judicial Review, Federalism, Etc.
In a blockbuster decision at the end of the last Term in June, the Supreme Court by a 5-4 vote held that the Department of Commerce had provided unconvincing reasoning for adding a question on U.S. citizenship to the 2020 Census. The Trump administration had made the addition of a citizenship question a high priority. Joining the liberal justices, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority. For an explanation of why he sided with the liberals, see Department of Commerce v. New York: Why the Supreme Court asked for an explanation of the 2020 census citizenship question. Many Court watchers were surprised by the outcome of the Census case. To add to the surprises, the Trump administration announced a few weeks after the decision that it was throwing in the towel on the citizenship question; consequently, the 2020 Census will not have a citizenship question.
2. Turnover in DHS Leadership
2019 saw a game of musical chairs in the office of the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. In April, Kirstjen Nielsen, rumored to be on the outs with President Trump, stepped down. See Former Department of Homeland Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen Explains Resignation. Next, the Acting DHS Secretary, Kevin McAleenan, resigned. See Breaking News: Acting DHS Secretary McAleenan Resigns. He was replaced by another Acting Secretary, Chad Wolf, who at least for now remains in the position.
3. William Barr Replaces Jeff Sessions as Attorney General
Who is the smiling man in the picture above? He is the current Attorney General of the United States, Judging from the picture, the current administration makes him happy.
In February, William Barr was sworn in as Attorney General. He replaced Jeff Sessions, who had made enforcement of the U.S. immigration laws a high priority. President Trump had reportedly lost confidence in Sessions. Barr previously served as Attorney General under President George W. Bush.
The Attorney General, of course, heads the Department of Justice, which houses the Executive Office of Immigration Review (the home of the immigration courts and Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA)).
Like Attorney General Sessions, Barr has intervened in cases before the BIA to narrow relief for removal. See, e.g., L-E-A-, 27 I. & N. Dec. 581 (AG July 29, 2019) (narrowing "membership in a particular social group" for purposes of asylum). Put simply, do not expect any slowing down of immigration enforcement under Attorney General Barr.
4. Flores Settlement
5. Public Charge and Other Trump Immigration Policy Initiatives
The Trump administration continued to press forward with new immigration enforcement efforts. There are literally too many to list all of the Trump immigration initiatives. But here are a few.
The Trump administration proposed a new, stricter approach to the public charge exclusion under the immigration laws. The proposed rule has been criticized for making it too tough on immigrants of low- and moderate-incomes to come, or stay in, the United States. The Ninth Circuit -- and later the Fourth Circuit -- stayed a nationwide injunction barring implementation of the proposed rule. See Ninth Circuit Stays Injunction of Trump Public Charge Rule; The Nationwide Injunction in the Public Charge Case; Breaking news: public charge rule enjoined.
This year, the administration entered into agreements with El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras in an attempt to better manage the flow of asylum seekers to the United States and deny relief to migrants who failed to seek asylum in countries on their way to the United States. See DHS FACT SHEET: DHS AGREEMENTS WITH GUATEMALA, HONDURAS, AND EL SALVADOR.
Departing from the practice during the Obama administration, the Trump administration has used immigration raids as an immigration enforcement tool. During the summer, the President threatened to direct Immigration & Customes Enforcement to conduct mass immigration raids in cities across the country. The threat struck fear in communities from coast to coast. In August, the Trump administration on the first day of school conducted immigration raids at food processing plants in Mississippi. Many children came home from school unable to find their parents. See ICE Raids in Mississippi, 680 Arrested.
In November, news reports made the rounds that senior White House aide Stephen Miller had promoted white supremacist, anti-immigrant articles in emails to Breitbart. Miller has been said to be the architect of the Trump administration's immigration policies.
In April, there were rumors that President Trump was considering the possibility of completely closing the US/Mexico border. Business interests raised concerns. Such a measure would dramatically affect trade as well as migration between the two neighboring nations. In the end, the President never followed through on the threat to close the border. See Trump backs off threat to close the U.S.-Mexico border.
The state of California continues to resist the Trump administration's immigration enforcement efforts. In April, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected most of the administration's challenges to California's sanctuary laws, which sought to distance the state from federal immigration enforcement. President Trump and others in his administration continue to rail against the public safety risks caused by sanctuary cities. See Ninth Circuit Rejects Bulk of Trump Administration's Challenge to California "Sanctuary" Laws.
In September 2019, the backlog of cases in the U.S. immigration courts' surpassed one million. The enormous backlog affects every noncitizen with a hearing in the immigration courts, their attorneys, and the immigration judges. The Trump administration's aggressive enforcement efforts contributed to the rapid growth of the backlog. Noncitizens seeking relief from removal can expect long -- years in some insttances -- waits for a hearing.
7. President Trump Lowers Refugee Admissions
It has been said that the world is experiencing a global refugee crisis. Still, President Trump again decreased the number of refugee admissions. See Presidential Determination on Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2020; Trump administration sets lowest cap on refugee admissions in four decades. Again. On November 1, President Trump released the Presidential Determination on Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2020. It provides for "[t]he admission of up to 18,000 refugees to the United States during Fiscal Year 2020 . . . ." (emphasis added). Criticism followed the announcement. In 2016, President Obama had capped refugee admissions at 85,000.
8. Immigrants and Impeachment
As the nation well knows, Congress has been considering the impeachment of President Trump. Over the last few months, Democrats and Republicans have regularly and literally been screaming at each other about impeachment. In stark contrast, several key immigrant witnesses in the impeachment hearings kept their heads for the good of the nation.
In hearings on the impeachment in November, immigrants played a vital role. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch is the child of immigrants who fled the Soviet Union and later the Nazi occupation of Europe. Born in Canada, she grew up in Connecticut and became a naturalized U.S. citizen. Born in Ukraine when it was part of the USSR, Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman and his family fled to the United States. He joined the U.S. Army, earning numerous commendations including a Purple Heart for wounds suffered in combat in Iraq. Vindman is the Director for European Affairs on the National Security Council (NSC). Fiona Hill, who until recently served in a senior position on the NSC, opened her testimony by describing herself as “American by choice.” Born in a hardscrabble coal mining town in Northern England, Hill came to the United States, attended Harvard, and became a citizen. All of the immigrant witnesses left enduring competent impressions and important testimony.
9. The Retirement of Professor Michael Olivas
One of the leading immigration scholars of his generation, Michael Olivas of the University of Houston Law Center, has retired from law teaching. Here is a Guest Post: Celebrating Michael Olivas's Retirement.
At the January 2019 annual meeting, the Association of American Law Schools honored Olivas with a lifetime achievement award. See Immigration Law Values Program, Michael Olivas Honored.
In 2010, Olivas was the ImmigrationProf blog's Outstanding Immigration Professor of the Year. A mentor to countless law professors, myself included, Olivas is an esteemed immigration scholar (as well as a renouwned scholar in higher education, civil rights, and other areas) . For a review of his body of work, see Law Professor and Accidental Historian: The Scholarship of Michael A. Olivas (Ediberto Roman ed., 2017).
10. 25th Anniversary of Proposition 187
Contrary to popular belief, California, which produced two Republic Presidents in the twentieth centiry (Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan), was not always a sanctuary state and liberal haven. Far from it. In 1994, California voters passed the anti-immigrant milestone known as Proposition 187, which would have barred undocumented children from the public schools and stripped undocumented immigrants of virtually all non-emergency public benefits. A federal court enjoined most of the initiative from going into effect. Nonetheless, Proposition 187 prodded Congress in 1996 to pass two major pieces of tough immigration reform and and to eliminate immigrant eligibility for major public benefits program in welfare reform.
Times have changed and, in response to the Trump administration's immigration initiatives, California has declared itself to be a sanctuary state. By spurring naturalization and increasing Latinx voter turnout, Proposition 187 contributed to the political transformation of the state and the ascendancy to dominance of the Democratic Party. For analysis of Proposition 187 and its legacy, see
UC Davis Law Review Symposium: The 25th Anniversary of Proposition 187: Challenges and Opportunities for Immigrant Integration and Political Identity in California Be on the lookout for the symposium issue from this conference, which will be available in spring 2020.
The Interior Structure of Immigration Enforcement by Eisha Jain, 167 University of Pennsylvania Law Review 1463 (2019). This article is a deep dive into immigration enforcement, going well beyond removals. It calls for restructuring immigration enforcement to consider the full impact of enforcement in light of the impacts of the immigrants present in the United States.
Honorable Mention: Self-Deportation Nation by K-Sue Park, 132 Harvard Law Review 1878 (2019). Besides writing an incredible article, Professor Park should be praised for convincing the editors of the venerable Harvard Law Review to publish an immigration article. The article analyzes the long history of self deportation policies in the United States.
Honorable Mention: Immigration Litigation in the Time of Trump by Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia. How did Shoba keep up with all the challenges to Trump’s immigration policies?
Book of the Year
Ghosts of Gold Mountain: On the Chinese Immigrants Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad by Gordon H. Chang (2019). A groundbreaking history of the Chinese workers who built the Transcontinental Railroad, helping to forge modern America only to disappear into the shadows of history. I loved reading this book while vacationing in the Sierras, not far from where the Chinese workers once toiled on the railroad.
Honorable Mention: America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States by Erika Lee (2019). The time is perfect for reading a book on the history of xenophobia in the United States. Will a supplement and pocket part be necessary?
Honorable Mention: Migrating to Prison: America’s Obsession with Locking Up Immigrants by César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández (2019). After the events of the last few years, the entire nation should be considering the morality and policy-sense of mass immigrant detention. Cesar Garcia's book offers critical analysis on "America's Obsession" with immigrant detention.
José de Jesús Rodríguez Martínez, a professional golfer, currently plays on the PGA Tour. He grew up in poverty in Irapuato, Mexico. At age 12, he dropped out of school and began caddying full-time at Club de Golf Santa Margarita. At age 15, Rodríguez crossed the Rio Grande and entered the United States. He worked in the United States for a decade, mostly as part of the maintenance crew at a country club in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Rodriguez then became a pro golfer. See ‘The most unbelievable story in golf’: A treacherous border crossing was just the beginning of José de Jesús Rodríguez’s journey to the PGA Tour. The Golf Channel is working on a documentary about Jose Rodriguez.
Photo of the Year
I could not resist ending the year without recognizing this photograph. The photo was posted on March 3, 2019 in the post A Sign of the Times: Arkansas church sign -- ‘heaven has strict immigration laws, hell has open borders'.
In April, the photo that showed the world the cruelty of the Trump administration's family separation policy, was honored with the World Photo of the Year Award. See "Crying Girl on the Border" Wins World Photo of the Year Award. This photo helped fuel the public outcry against family separation and led to the policy's demise.
2019 marked the 35th anniversary of the classic refugee film El Norte. The film tells the powerful story of a young Guatemalan brother and ister who fled the war-torn nation and journeyed to the United States. It is a true classic. Sadly, El Norte remains topical today as Central Americans continue to come to the United States seeking asylum from violence in their homelands.