Tuesday, January 4, 2022
A new report issued by the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security on December 28, 2021 finds that USCIS' delivery of benefits was slowed during the pandemic as a result of reliance on manual processing. Here is a summary of the OIG's findings:
USCIS’ technology systems and infrastructure enabled some electronic processing of benefits to continue from March 2020 through May 2021, despite offices being closed or operating at reduced capacity during the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
USCIS used its Electronic Immigration System to continue electronically processing 17 of the 102 types of benefits it delivers. USCIS also relied on various operational flexibilities, such as virtual interviews and biometrics reuse, to continue benefits delivery during this time. We attribute these successes to USCIS’ recent planning efforts to ensure continuity of operations, as well as its ongoing efforts to transition to an electronic processing environment.
USCIS’ primary operational challenge, however, was its continued reliance on paper files to process and deliver benefits. USCIS had limited capability to electronically process more than 80 types of benefits, which still required some manual workflows and paper files to complete cases. Recurring technology performance issues and equipment limitations further constrained USCIS employees’ productivity. We attribute these challenges to funding cuts and lost fee revenue that limited spending during this time.
These challenges further increased processing times and resulted in a backlog of 3.8 million cases as of May 2021. Although USCIS digitized key benefits in recent years, it must further eliminate manual workflows and paper file dependency to achieve its 5-year plan to improve benefit processing times.
Wednesday, December 29, 2021
Escalating Jailhouse Immigration Enforcement: A Report on Detainers Issued by ICE Against Persons held by Local Law Enforcement Agencies in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina from 2016-2018
Earlier this year, Priya Sreenivasan and Azadeh Shahshahani of Project South, together with Jason A. Cade of the University of Georgia School of Law issued a new report, titled "Escalating Jailhouse Immigration Enforcement: A Report on Detainers Issued by ICE Against Persons held by Local Law Enforcement Agencies in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina from 2016-2018." Numerous Georgia Law students also contributed to researching and writing the report while participating in the Community Health Law Partnership clinic at the University of Georgia School of Law.
The report analyzes data data from two Freedom of Information Act requests submitted by Project South and the University of Georgia School of Law’s Community HeLP Clinic.
Here are some of the report's findings, as highlighted in the Executive Summary:
This report analyzes the 35,916 ICE detainers that were issued between Fiscal years 2016 and 2018 in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, as well as the state bills and local policies that foster cooperation between ICE and local law enforcement in these states. Between FY 2016 and FY 2018, the number of detainers issued by ICE doubled in North Carolina, nearly tripled in South Carolina, and nearly quadrupled in Georgia. At least half of these detainers (18,099) resulted in people being jailed in immigration detention facilities and the majority of detainers were issued to persons originating from Latin American countries. Almost 93% of ICE detainers were issued to local law enforcement agencies such as county jails, detention centers, or sheriff's departments, at a total cost of millions of dollars per year.
Local law enforcement agencies routinely jailed immigrants on behalf of ICE even in the absence of formal agreements to collaborate in place. Only three of the top ten local law enforcement agencies with the highest rates of detainer requests across the three states had active 287(g) agreements during the time period of the report. On average, individuals with detainers were held in local jails for a significant period of time, ranging from two weeks to one month. Individuals who were eventually transferred to ICE detention centers were held in jail for longer periods of time, ranging from an average of 19 days to 43 days. The impact of these ICE detainers on local communities was severe. Thousands of immigrants were detained as a direct result of these collaborations. According to the government’s own data, at least 189 of those for whom ICE issued detainers turned out to be not legally subject to removal proceedings, due to U.S. citizenship or other lawful immigration status. Further, the data also show that at least three individuals died while incarcerated subject to a detainer during the time period of this study.
Human rights abuses in ICE detention centers are well documented, and investigative reports have increasingly revealed poor health conditions, abuse, and other problems within local jails. As the data in this report demonstrate, ICE’s collaboration with local law enforcement has also had a costly and detrimental impact on communities in these states. For these reasons, this report closes with specific recommendations, including calls to end local law enforcement agencies’ involvement in federal immigration enforcement and to eliminate immigrant detention.
Tuesday, December 21, 2021
The National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild has published an informative advisory on the recent decision in United States v. Carillo-Lopez by Judge Miranda Du of the District of Nevada. As we have posted previously, in Carillo-Lopez the court granted a motion to dismiss an unlawful reentry prosecution (under Section 1326) on the ground that the law is unconstitutional because it has a disparate impact and was passed with a racist intent. This advisory is a helpful update and an excellent teaching tool about the equal protection challenges being brought throughout the country by persons charged with violating Sections 1325 and 1326 of Title 8 of the U.S. Code.
Tuesday, December 14, 2021
Asian Americans are often cited in the debate over affirmative action. Sometimes the differences of opinion are philosophical. Other times they focus on the diversity within a pan-ethnic category, created by the federal government, that occludes challenges faced by Southeast Asian, Pacific Islander, and other ethnic groups whose experiences and profiles differ from East Asians more prominently featured in these debates.
This NPR article profiles Southeast Asian scientists who have sought to enter STEM-related professions and find themselves excluded from programs designed for underrepresented groups, despite the scarcity of Southeast Asians and the barriers to breaking into an increasingly prestigious, highly-paid profession.
Among their contrasting examples:
- Hmong American ineligible for Howard Highes Medical School's Gilliam Fellowship, in party based on NIH standards that do not recognize Asians and white people as underrepresented
- Less than 10% of Vietnamese, Filipino, Hmong, and Cambodian Americans have graduate degrees (Pew analysis of census data)
Groups like AAPI Data seek to inject data into these debates -- such as the increase of Asian American support for affirmative action (70% in 2020)-- and advocate data disaggregation to permit more nuanced understandings of challenges faced by Asian Americans as a larger group and specific to ethnic subgroups. New York state legislators have introduced bills to support more data disaggregation as well.
Saturday, December 11, 2021
Check out this new report from the Economic Policy Institute, authored by Ron Hira and Daniel Costa--New evidence of widespread wage theft in the H-1B visa program: Corporate document reveals how tech firms ignore the law and systematically rob migrant workers.
Here is the summary version:
What this report finds: Thousands of skilled migrants with H-1B visas working as subcontractors at well-known corporations like Disney, FedEx, Google, and others appear to have been underpaid by at least $95 million. Victims include not only the H-1B workers but also the U.S. workers who are either displaced or whose wages and working conditions degrade when employers are allowed to underpay skilled migrant workers with impunity. The workers in question were employed by HCL Technologies, an India- based IT staffing firm that earned $11 billion in revenue last year. HCL profits by placing workers on temporary H-1B work visas at many top companies. The H-1B statute requires that employers pay their H-1B workers no less than the actual wage paid to their similarly employed U.S. workers. But EPI analysis of an internal HCL document, released as part of a whistleblower lawsuit against the firm, shows that large-scale illegal underpayment of H-1B workers is a core part of the firm’s competitive strategy.
Why it matters: This apparent blatant lawbreaking by one of the leading H-1B outsourcing companies should finally prompt action by the federal government to curb abuses of the H-1B program. Such abuses are likely widespread among H-1B employers because the Department of Labor (DOL) has done virtually nothing to ensure program integrity by enforcing the wage rules. More broadly, DOL props up the abusive outsourcing business model by treating contractor hires differently than direct hires when enforcing the wage and other provisions in the H-1B statute that are supposed to protect H-1B and U.S. workers. This outsourcing loophole allows firms like HCL and the big tech companies that use outsourcing firms to get around those provisions. Thanks to its failure to enforce the wage laws or close the outsourcing loophole, DOL is in effect subsidizing the offshoring of high- paying U.S. jobs in information technology that once served as a pathway to the middle class, including for workers of color.
What we can do about it: The Department of Labor should launch a sweeping investigation into whether companies are systematically underpaying H-1B workers in violation of the law. If violations are found, penalties should be imposed that are significant enough to deter all H-1B employers from such behavior. DOL should also close the outsourcing loophole that supports the outsourcing business model by requiring both direct employers like HCL and the secondary employers that use H-1B staffing firms to attest that they will comply with H-1B wage rules. DOL and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should take additional measures to ensure the H-1B program achieves its purpose of filling genuine labor market gaps. Such measures include raising minimum wages to realistic market levels, allocating H-1B visas to workers with the highest skills and wages, and adopting a compliance system that ensures program accountability and integrity. Finally, the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Civil Division, in conjunction with DOL and DHS, should vigorously prosecute visa fraud under the False Claims Act, consistent with a recent federal court decision applying the False Claims Act to H-1B visa fraud.
Tuesday, December 7, 2021
The Russell Sage Foundation is pleased to announce a dissertation research grants (DRG) program to support innovative and high-quality dissertation research projects that address questions relevant to RSF's priority areas: Behavioral Science and Decision Making in Context; Future of Work ; Race, Ethnicity and Immigration; Immigration and Immigrant Integration; and Social, Political, and Economic Inequality. Proposed projects must be closely aligned with the funding priorities listed on the RSF website for any of these areas, contribute to RSF's mission to improve social and living conditions in the U.S., and demonstrate appropriate use of relevant theory, innovative data, rigorous research methods, and measures. The application period is January 18-February 1, 2021.
Government responses to COVID-19 have involved severe restrictions on the freedom of movement of people all around the world. In late November, many countries including the U.S. and European countries, instituted bans on travel from South Africa to thwart the spread of the Omicron variant. Until early November, the U.S. imposed restrictions on nonessential travel from many other high infection or low vaccination countries.
The University of Oxford Covid19 Government Response Tracker taps a new data set that records a wide range of government responses globally, including various “stay-at-home” measures, restrictions on internal movements within a country, and international travel control measures. It shows that both internal and international migration controls were quickly put in place by the vast majority of countries around the world, with the peak occurring in late March to early April 2020. (The chart can be manipulated from the IOM tracker website.)
Also, the highest increases to migration occurred in Europe and Asia. Additional maps, timelines, and data appear in the report. They are both visually striking and informative!
Transactional Research Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) of Syracuse University has found new and troubling inconsistencies in EOIR's juvenile case data. As TRAC reports in a recent press release, TRAC has been "forced to suspend its publication of data on juveniles facing deportation in Immigration Court due to serious, unresolved deficiencies in the EOIR's data. TRAC's analyses indicate that the data used by the Immigration Court for tracking and reporting on juveniles who are facing deportation appear to be seriously flawed to the point that we question whether the agency has the ability to meaningfully and reliably report on juveniles in its caseload."
Sandra Sanchez at the Border Report underscores just how crucial these data are given that the "Remain in Mexico" program is being reinstated and there is an urgent public need to understand how cases are being handled. The article also quotes TRAC's Director, Professor Sue Long of Syracuse University, explaining that EOIR record keepers have also lost 50,000 pending asylum applications.
A spokesperson for EOIR said that it would "look into these concerns."
Sunday, November 28, 2021
"The whole situation is something that most people don't really know even exists: that it's possible for an immigrant child to be brought here legally, do all their education here, but still not have a chance to become an American."
Wednesday, November 17, 2021
Head over to Open Doors for the latest data on international student enrollment. Their website has an interactive version of this chart:
See that big divot in the blue mountain at the top right corner? That's international student enrollment dropping another 15% for 2020-2021, adding to enrollment losses the year before. The U.S. had less than a million enrolled international students in 2020-2021.
The conclusions from Open Doors are consistent with the MPI study released in August.
Tuesday, November 16, 2021
Monday, November 15, 2021
One of the most valuable research tools I saw emerge over the last five years is the Immigration Policy Tracking Project (IPTP) that was painstakingly compiled by Lucas Guttentag and his former students at Yale Law and Stanford Law. The project directors share this update:
IPTP, the go-to source for tracking Trump Administration immigration policies -- ranging from executive orders to policy minutiae -- has shifted focus. We now follow every detail of those policies' fates as they are addressed (or not) by the Biden-Harris Administration, courts, and other actors. Glance at the home page and you'll know right away that out of 1,059 known Trump policy actions, 214 are no longer in effect. And that 220 have been acted on in some manner by the Biden-Harris Administration, plus 92 addressed by the courts. Digging a little deeper, you can now easily find how many, and which, policies have been revoked, enjoined, modified, delayed, or otherwise acted on. Discover at your fingertips which ones remain in place.
Friday, November 12, 2021
Immigrant integration is the secret sauce as to whether immigration policy is successful or not. Yet the issue often receives far less attention, especially in the United States, than questions around border security, immigration flows, or the unauthorized population. What policy levers exist to make sure that immigration can bring net positives to both immigrants and receiving societies? And how do approaches to integration differ in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere?
The latest two episodes of the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) special 20th anniversary podcast series, World of Migration, focus on the essential role that integration plays in immigration policy, and which policies can help harness the value of immigration.
“In the immigration debate in the [United States] we often think of it just in terms of numbers and categories. Of who is going to get into the country or who might be subject to deportation or removal,” the director of MPI’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy, Margie McHugh, says in the first of the two episodes. “We don’t put nearly as much energy into trying to make sure that immigration works when you are close to the ground.”
In the next episode, MPI Senior Fellow and former President Michael Fix explains how labor market integration measures, including a greater focus on credential recognition, could allow immigrants to more fully utilize the academic and professional skills they bring with them and address persisting economic and social inequities. The episode also delves into the fiscal costs and benefits of immigration, taking on the question of whether immigration is a net positive or cost.
“Brain waste, which is by no means limited to immigrants, represents an important unrecognized face of inequality in the United States,” Fix explains.
You can listen to all the episodes of World of Migration, including these two, wherever you get your podcasts or on the MPI website: www.migrationpolicy.org/about/world-migration.
Private companies running immigration prisons, such as Geo Group Inc., Management and Training Corporation (MTC), and CoreCivic Inc., are familiar to readers of this blog. These contractors run major immigration detention facilities throughout the country.
A terrific new article by Emma Peca in the LA Progressive shows how these companies are "funneling millions of dollars in campaign donations to candidates at the local, state, and federal levels." In total, according to Peca, they have given more than $4 million to campaigns since 2016.
The below figures created by Peca break down how each of these three prison companies distributed their campaign contributions:
Wednesday, November 3, 2021
Toward a Better Immigration System: Fixing Immigration Governance at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security: a New Report by MPI
The Migration Policy Institute has released a new and timely report, Toward a Better Immigration System: Fixing Immigration Governance at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The report, authored by Doris Meissner and Ruth Ellen Wasem takes a deep dive into the structure and function of DHS and ask what it would actually take for the agency to foster a more coherent set of policies and fix existing problems. As they explain in the introduction:
The report’s analyses and recommendations reflect research and discussions with more than 50 individuals, including former senior DHS career and non-career government officials and immigration stakeholders who work closely with DHS on immigration matters. The report identifies four organizational areas that are key to the vitality of the immigration system: the missions of the immigration components, institutional structures, funding priorities, and institutional culture.
The report presents 17 recommendations. Among them are two overarching recommendations that should be adopted to better manage crises and to advance an immigration policy agenda that serves key national interests going forward.
For those interested in hearing more from the authors, they present on the new report in a terrific episode of "This Week in Immigration," a podcast by the Bipartisan Policy Institute.
Monday, November 1, 2021
Building upon 14 principles for how international law should protect migrants, refugees, and other displaced persons during the COVID-19 pandemic -- which has been endorsed by more than 1,000 scholars worldwide – a group of international law scholars have collaborated to create a series of short essays looking at a set of pressing legal and policy issues relevant to this and future pandemics and the rights of migrants under international law. The result is a symposium on "Human Rights and Human Mobility" published in the Cornell International Law Journal.
T. Alexander Aleinikoff, Ian M. Kysel, & Monette Zard
Kristin Bergtora Sandvik
Concluding Comments: Revisiting the Principles of Protection for Migrants, Refugees and Other Displaced Persons, One Year On
Guy S. Goodwin-Gill
Concluding Comments: (A) Few Promising Avenues for Promoting the Rights of Migrants in the Post-Pandemic
Ian M. Kysel
Tuesday, October 26, 2021
The White House recently released a Report on the Impact of Climate Change on Migration. Here are some choice excerpts from the introduction:
From those forced to move to those left behind, U.S. policy can aid in supporting human security by, among other things, building on existing foreign assistance to a reconsideration and development of legal mechanisms to support those who migrate....
The use of U.S. foreign assistance is one lever to respond to climate change related migration....
It is also critical to support people who desire to stay as long and as safely as possible in their home areas through investments in disaster risk reduction (DRR) measures and local adaptation, including capacity building to assist countries with managing environmental risks and land use....
Existing legal instruments to protect displaced individuals are limited in scope and do not readily lend themselves to protect those individuals displaced by the impacts of climate change, especially those that address migration across borders. Given the growing trend in displacement related to climate change, expanding access to protection will be vital. The United States will need to strengthen the application of existing protection frameworks, adjust U.S. protection mechanisms to better accommodate people fleeing the impacts of climate change, and evaluate the need for additional legal protections for those who have no alternative but to migrate....
Most notably, this report recommends the establishment of a standing interagency policy process on Climate Change and Migration to coordinate U.S. Government efforts to mitigate and respond to migration resulting from the impacts of climate change that brings together representatives across the scientific, development, humanitarian, and peace and security elements of the U.S. Government.
Most of the report's recommendations are in the "analytics" vein, that is to say, "let's collect data and think more about this topic."
Among other harms wrought by COVID-19, there's been an uptick in hate toward AAPIs. Some of the most effective advocacy I've seen is the Hollaback bystander intervention trainings. They have now partnered with Asian Americans Advancing Justice| AAJC and Woori Show to produce short videos for children on 5Ds on how to be a "super ally" in response to hate and bullying. The cartoons are designed for ages 3-10 and include AAPI characters.
Monday, October 25, 2021
MPI Report--From Jailers to Case Managers: Redesigning the U.S. Immigration Detention System to Be Effective and Fair
From Jailers to Case Managers: Redesigning the U.S. Immigration Detention System to Be Effective and Fair is a recent MPI report authored by Randy Capps and Doris Meissner.
The report begins by noting that the "sprawling immigration detention system" in the United States "has long been controversial for its prisonlike conditions and health risks." The authors note that this detention also comes with a hefty price tag: $2.8 billion annually.
The authors envision something altogether different:
replacing the longstanding system of detention for most immigrant adults apprehended in the U.S. interior and at least initially for many of those who arrive at the border without authorization and seek asylum, with a system that makes release with supervision and case management (i.e., monitoring, check-ins, legal advice, and other support services) the prevailing method for exercising immigration custody whenever possible. A redesigned system would also need to attend to the situation of apprehended families with children, as by court order they cannot be detained for lengthy periods. It does not address the custody system for unaccompanied children, whose cases are governed by separate statutes and requirements managed by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Here are their key points:
- Detain individuals who pose public safety risks.
- Use the least restrictive feasible custody options.
- Provide legal counsel, case management, and social services.
- Design nondetention custody options to ensure that immigrants appear in immigration court and comply with the removal process.
In the end, they write: "responding to current and likely future immigration realities both at U.S. borders and in the interior calls for rethinking the role and nature of the immigration custody system, steering it away from a punitive, detention-centered approach and toward more proportionate and cost-effective policies that still ensure compliance with immigration court and removal proceedings."
Tuesday, October 19, 2021
Long Island City in Queens is a burgeoning site for Asian food, cutlure, and politics in what is becoming a mecca for a new migrant community. According to the NY Times, there has been a fivefold increase in Asian residents in Long Island City since 2010 so that the Asian population of 11,000 is now one-third of the total city population. There are at least 15 Asian-owned businesses — including a Mandarin child care center and hair salon and several restaurants — that have opened in the neighborhood since March 2020.
Residents, many of whom are Chinese and Korean students (Japanese is the third largest ethnic group), are attracted by the close proximity to Manhattan and comparatively lower rents for luxury apartments. They are changing the profile of the community from its Italian immigrant and artist roots.