Monday, December 21, 2020

Top 10 Immigration Stories of 2020

2020 is coming to an end and it is a good time for reflection.  I reviewed the blog postings for the entire year to identify the Top 10 Immigration Stories of 2020, an amazing, momentous,  and memorable year.  2020 was an historic year, marked by a global pandemic, economic turmoil, mass protests of police killings of African Americans, and more. 

On a celebratory note, July saw the addition of  Professor Ingrid V. Eagly, to the ImmigrationProf Blog! 


Here are my top immigration stories for 2020:


1.  President Donald J. Trump again was the Immigration Story of the year. 

Like it or not, he kept immigration in the headlines with his administration's effort at every turn to restrict immigration and facilitate removals.  Think of the many things that he brought us in the immigration realm in 2020.

I tried to pull a few remarkable Trump immigration measures that have been largely forgotten in the dizzying array of initiatives that will be studied by scholars for decades, if not centuries:

December asylum regulations that arguably mark the "death" asylum in the United States.

New immigration billboards. ICE billboards.  This is truly hard to believe.


Declaration of November 1 as a "National Day of Remembrance for Those Killed by Illegal Aliens."  This is another incredible announcement.

The continuation of family separation and the inability to reunite families.  See here.  This is no less than tragic and we should all wonder what kind of country we live in.

We should not forget the President's frequent creative use of "alternative facts."  For example, the President said most asylum seekers don’t show up for their court hearings. A study showed that 99% do.





2.    President-Elect Joe Biden Wins the 2020 Election and  Promises a Sea-Change in Immigration Policy and Enforcement.

The election of Joe Biden as President promises big changes in immigration policy.  I, for one, am glad that "help is on the way."  The question is just how much change will the nation see.  Will President Biden repeat President Obama's "deporter in chief" approach?  How hard will the Abolish ICE activists push the Biden administration?

There already are signs of change on the horizon.  See Biden Announces Intention to Nominate Alejandro Mayorkas as Homeland Security SecretaryNBC News reports that President-elect Joe Biden has announced that Alejandro Mayorkas will be his nominee for Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  Mayorkas previously served as Deputy Secretary of DHS in the Obama administration.


3. COVID affected the entire world, including immigration.  In 2020, COVID immigration stories just kept coming.

Global Migration On Pause for Coronavirus

President Trump did not allow the pandemic "opportunity" to pass without finding a way to restrict migration.  See, for example, March 2020 Presidential Proclamation—Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus.

At about the same time (March 1, 2020), President Trump called  coronavirus criticism Democrats' "new hoax" and linked it to immigration.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Noncitizens and Across the U.S. Immigration System

The Hotspots in Hiding:  COVID-19 and Immigrant Detention

Latinos as "Essential" Workers

Latino USA:  Immigrants in ICE Detention Face The Threat Of COVID-19


Sadly, the pandemic led by a spike in hate crimes directed at Asian Americans.  President Trump linked COVID-19 to the Chinese in racist references to the "Chinese virus" and "Kung flu."

Anti-Asian Hate Crimes Increase during Pandemic

California study tracks hate crimes against Asian Americans amid COVID-19 outbreak

The Other Problematic Outbreak:  As the coronavirus spreads across the globe, so too does racism

Calling COVID-19 a ‘Chinese virus’ is wrong and dangerous – the pandemic is global



Of course, the pandemic has affected teaching with remote instruction taking over, Teaching Online: Reflections on Week One, and immigration services, A Sign of the Times:  A drive-thru naturalization ceremony.




4.  Immigration Decisions in the Supreme Court, 2019 Term

The Supreme Court decided two major immigration decisions, both of which were issued in the waning days of the 2020 Term. 

The long-awaited decision in Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California surprised some Court watchers.  The Court, in an majority opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts, held that the the Trump administration's attempt to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy was arbitrary and capricious in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.   The plurality rejected an Equal Protection claim that the rescission was a product of anti-Latinx animus.  After the Court's decision rejecting the rescission, the Department of Homeland Security refused to accept new DACA applications.  A federal court ordered the Trump administration to reinstate DACA in full and to once again accept new applications. DHS is complying with the court order.

The Court also decided an important case involving the judicial review of an expedited removal decision.  Department of Homeland Security v. Thuraissigiam raised the issue of the constitutionality of expedited removal of a Sri Lankan asylum applicant apprehended shortly after he entered the United States.  Recall that the Trump administration has sought to expand expedited removal, which increased the importance of the case.  

A 5-4 Court, in an opinion by Justice Alito, held that, as applied to the case before it, the expedited removal statute did not violate the provision of the U.S. Constitution barring the suspension of habeas corpus.  Thuraissigiam was apprehended about 25 yards from the U.S./Mexico border after entering the United States without inspection. The majority held that, because it applies to challenges to detention and Thuraissigiam sought review of his asylum claim rather than release from custody, the Suspension Clause did not apply to this case and that the 1996 immigration reforms barred judicial review of the Thuraissigiam's asylum claim.  The Court also rejected the arguments that Thuraissigiam's due process rights had been violated by the lack of a court hearing on his asylum claims.  In so doing, the majority invoked extreme plenary power cases, including Knauff and MezeiBesides reinvigorated the plenary power doctrine, the decision puts into question the bright line rule that noncitizens apprehended in the United States possess the full panoply of Due Process rights. For criticism of the Court's decision, see here.



5.  U.S. Refugee Admissions at Forty Year Low (and here)

The administration cut refugee admissions to 15,000, the lowest since the passage of the Refugee Act of 1980.




6.   Immigration Court Backlog FY 2021 Begins with Largest Immigration Court Backlog on Record

TRAC Immigration reported that Fiscal Year 2021 began with the largest number of immigration court cases in its active backlog to date; in October, 1,273,885 immigration cases were pending. 918,673 or 72 percent of the cases involved nationals from Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and El Salvador. Over four out of every ten immigrants waiting to have their cases heard were from Guatemala and Honduras. Mexicans had fallen to third place, followed by Salvadorans. 


7.  DHS Busts Up BLM Protests 

Summer saw protests across the country as the nation mourned the mourn the loss of George Floyd.  RIP: George Floyd  In an incredible step stomping on fundamental notions of federalism, President Trump used Department of Homeland Security Officers to bring "law and order" to cities seeing Black Lives Matter protests.  See

Trump’s "Paramilitary Units" Trained at the Border for the Assaults on Portland Moms

WTF is Happening in Portland?

U.S.Immigration Officers Were Deployed at Black Lives Matter Protests 





President Donald Trump, then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and then- chief strategist Steve Bannon in the Oval Office of the White House. | AP Photo/Alex Brandon




8.   Steve Bannon, three others charged with fraud in border wall fundraising campaign. 

We later learned that the Border Patrol considered accepting a donation from We Build the Wall, the fraudulent front for Bannon's scheme.  Leaked documents undermined the Trump administration’s attempts to distance itself following Bannon's arrest.

Sad to say, but this story made be laugh.  Bannon was arrested on his yacht.  Can you imagine the reaction if this indictment occurred in any other administration?  Big news!  But only a blip on the radar scheme in the Trump years.




9.  "Racist Conspiracy Theory"? Controversy Over Republican Claim that Kamala Harris is Not Eligible to Be President

Need more be said.


10.  New Citizenship Test (and here) and here.

The more rigorous test no doubt was designed to reduce the number of naturalized citizens (and voters).


Honorable Mentions



Photo courtesy of the National Archives Foundation

1.  40 years of the Refugee Act of 1980 -- The Refugee Act of 1980:  A Forlorn Anniversary 

2020 saw the 40th anniversary of the Refugee Act of 1980, a humanitarian law limited in its application by the Trump administration.


BrexitPhoto courtesy of Don Roth

2.  Brexit Becomes A Reality  The United Kingdom implements Brexit.


3.  First Latino DACA recipient wins RhodesA feel good story for 2020 -- and we needed one

Rhodes winner Santiago Potes is pictured with elementary school teacher Marina Esteva, who he describes as "one of the biggest blessings that I've had in my life so far."  It gives me goosebumps to think how big a difference this dedicated teacher made to a young person's life.


Current Affairs, Film & Television, Photos | Permalink


Post a comment