Friday, October 15, 2021
A special issue of IOM's Migration Policy Practice Journal on children in the current Central America– Mexico–United States context identifies critical blind spots on child-related migration data. It urges readers to look beyond cyclical trends, to instead identify underlying and pressing policy and practice issues that have remained unattended or ignored by past United States administrations, and that are at risk to remain so unless we collectively – and critically – examine our understandings of child migration.
2. Gabriella Sanchez on why the securitized focus on organized crime in irregular migration hides the serious risks children face as migrants and as smuggling facilitators;
3. Yaatsil Guevara González & Alexandra Leston on how asylum may not be the outcome migrant children expect while in Mexico;
4. Lauren Heidbrink, Ph.D. & Amelia Frank-Vitale on the perils of development aid;
6. Caitlyn Yates critical work on racism and discrimination of Asian, African and Afro-descendant migrant children.
The special issue can be accessed here. Questions can be directed to Gabriella Sanchez.
MHC (h/t Jaya Ramji-Nogales)
Wednesday, October 13, 2021
A recent article by Seattle Times staff reporter Esmy Jimenez highlights the role of mental health evaluations in immigration proceedings. As the author explains,
For some people in immigration proceedings, a psychosocial assessment or evaluation is that key document. In many cases, it can help verify someone’s story in the absence of physical evidence, showing immigration officials why someone is in need of a new home country, whether it’s an undocumented mother from Honduras filing for asylum or a victim of torture fleeing from the Philippines.
The article features Henry Hwang, the directing attorney at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project who explains how courts rely on mental health evaluations in analyzing trauma and related aspects of asylum and other types of cases. It also cites to a study published in the Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health that found that 89% of asylum cases that had mental health evaluations were successful.
Friday, October 8, 2021
A RAND Corporation report estimates the number of undocumented and asylum-seeking children enrolled in the nation’s public schools between late 2016 and 2019. Their researchers describe students’ challenges and the needs of their districts for more funding to maintain teacher:student rations. The total number, 321,000, represents a subset of the 491,000 children under age 18 who arrived at the southern border seeking asylum in early 2020 from Central America and more recently from Haiti and Afghanistan.
Roughly 75 percent of the children in the RAND study landed in 10 states: California, Texas, Florida, New York and Louisiana.
“Their needs are fundamentally different from those of many other immigrant children, and they are part of the future of the United States... They also have resilience and hopes and dreams—and by federal law they have a right to a public education.”
said senior policy researcher Shelly Culbertson.
Monday, October 4, 2021
Thursday, September 30, 2021
A new report by UC Berkeley students Brisa Rodriguez and Stephanie Peng (Gaps in Health Services for Immigrants) maps healthcare facilities as well as the demand for healthcare across Arizona to identify the most pressing gaps in health services. It is published in a Berkeley Interdisciplinary Migration Initiative data brief. Their report finds that although federally-qualified health clinics are the only source of medical care for about 1 in 5 foreign-born residents in Arizona's metro areas, these immigrant-serving health clinics appear to remain concentrated in Tucson, a city with a legacy of political activism, relative to other mid-size cities and suburbs that are also home to thousands of immigrants.
Among the key findings:
- Cities with the most demand: Phoenix, Tucson, Mesa
- Cities with the highest access to health services: Scottsdale, Tucson
- Cities with the lowest access to health services: Mesa, Tempe, Chandler, Avondale, Glendale.
The brief is part of a larger BIMI project on Mapping Social Inequality.
Tuesday, September 21, 2021
Despite the Biden administration's avowed commitment to promote naturalization, a U.S. Government Accountability Office report faults the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for not doing enough to reduce its backlog of millions of immigration cases. According to law360, in a 72-page report, the GAO said that although the number of applications and petitions USCIS received annually remained at about 8 million and 10 million, respectively, from 2015 until 2020 — generating $4.8 billion in revenues for 2020 — the USCIS' caseload grew roughly 85% as processing times ballooned in part due to COVID-19-related staffing shortages, competing priorities and policy changes that expanded interview requirements.
The report recommends that the USCIS create performance measures to better monitor how quickly certain forms are processed, and it suggests that the USCIS proactively identify the resources necessary to address its caseload.
Thursday, September 16, 2021
Transforming the Immigration System: A New Report from the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild
Today the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild issued a new report, Transforming the Immigration System: The National Immigration Project's Priorities for Executive and Legislative Action. The report is by Caitlin Bellis and Chris Rickerd.
The report highlights the racist history of the U.S. immigration laws, which over time have become increasingly intertwined with the criminal laws. The report lays out a bold agenda for the Biden administration to disentangle criminal and immigration law, including by ending immigration detention, creating a right to return home, and reforming the immigration court.
The full report is available here.
Saturday, September 4, 2021
Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor and ImpACT International for Human Rights Policies have released a report regarding the treatment of African migrant workers in the UAE (United Arab Emirates).
The 52-page report focuses on the events of June 24 and 25 of this year when UAE authorities rounded up some 800 African migrant workers (most from Uganda, Cameroon and Nigeria), plucking them from their homes, and taking them to prison. It is grounded in interviews with some 100 of the detained migrants.
The report concludes that the UAE is guilty of human rights abuses including:
- Excessive use of force
- Sexual harassment
- Racial discrimination and insults
- Arbitrary arrests and imprisonments
- Lack of due legal process and denial of access to lawyers
- Physical and psychological torture
- Denial of health care
- Confiscation of personal property
- Forced deportation
Some migrants remain in detention in the UAE, and the report calls for their immediate release.
Friday, September 3, 2021
A new report from U.S. Government Accountability Office was released on August 31, 2021 that explores the immigration courts, titled COVID-19: Improvements Needed in Guidance and Stakeholder Engagement for Immigration Courts. The 76-page report reviews steps that EOIR took to respond to COVID-19, including court closures and court rules, while also identifying shortcomings in their policies. The report makes several recommendations for the court, including "that EOIR issue guidance on mask-wearing requirements tailored to the courtroom setting, and regularly engage with court stakeholders."
The full report is available here.
Monday, August 30, 2021
The American Sociological Association issues a bi-annual e-newsletter titled World on the Move. The spring 2021 issue is out and will be added to the ASA section website. Among other items, it includes notes from a workshop on writing a migration monograph (from dissertation to published book).
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
From the Section Chair 1-3
Current Section Officers 4
Incoming Section Officers 5
IM Communications Team 5
IM Mentoring & Professionalization Committee 6
Reflections on Anti-Asian Racism during COVID-19 7-9
Council Member Spotlight: Hana Brown 10-12
ASA 2021 IM Section Award Winners 12-14
Associate Editor Spotlight: Ulrike Bialas 15-16
ASA 2021 IM Section Sessions 17-20
Writing a Migration Monograph: From the Dissertation to Published Book 22-33
Member News 35-36
Recent Publications 37-42
Recent Books 42-49
Monday, August 23, 2021
In late July, WaPo ran a story with this compelling headline: Social Security judges must resolve 500 to 700 disputes per year. A watchdog says that might be too many. The subheading read: "87 percent of the judges surveyed told the Government Accountability Office the goals were too high."
The article talks about the contrast between the government's "expectation" that individual SSA judges resolve so many cases and the judges' own understanding of the numbers as a "quota" that they'll be disciplined for failing to meet. Indeed, more than 80% of SSA judges met that figure in FY2019.
Here's a few more interesting tibits. Backlocks: there were more than 400,000 SSA claims pending at the end of 2020, down from the more than 1,000,000 pending in 2016. Evidence: each SSA case involves extensive evidence -- thousands pages of medical records. And, finally, the real kicker, in SSA courts, decisions that FAVOR the beneficiary are NOT APPEALED by the government. So, there's an odd incentive for SSA judges to grant benefits.
OK -- so let's talk about what's really of interest to immprofs. How does this compare to IJs?
- The quota for IJs is higher: resolving 700 cases is "satisfactory."
- The immigration backlog is higher: 1.38 million.
- Immigration cases can involve a lot of evidence. (See, e.g., here, here)
- The government is ten times more likely than the non-citizen to appeal an unfavorable ruling (see page 1180).
All of which is to say... this "watchdog" outrage over the SSA sheds a pretty negative light on the current demands facing IJs... not to mention the related negative outcomes for noncitizens who appear before them.
Tuesday, August 17, 2021
Over at Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight blog, Professor Michael Tesler (Poli Sci, UC Irvine) is writing about how Republicans are currently shifting even further right on immigration. Here's a sneak peek:
It turns out that Biden's immigration policy is the #1 issue that Republicans are pissed about at the moment. For contrast, only 61% of Republicans "strongly disapprove" of Biden on his Covid-19 response.
That's a particularly interesting contrast given the connection between the two issues -- immigration and coronavirus. As Professor Tesler points out in his piece, Republicans like Florida's DeSantis argue that the nation's coronavirus cases are linked to "COVID-infected migrants" who "pour over our southern border by the hundreds of thousands.”
Professor Tesler also points out a 12 point uptick in Republican support for the deportation of unauthorized migrants. (Numbers are up among independents as well.)
That pairs with data suggesting a whopping 18-point increase Republican opposition to creating a path to citizenship for undocumented migrants.
Thanksgiving is going to be a blast this year.
Saturday, August 14, 2021
Over at Cyrus Mehta's Insightful Immigration Blog, immprof Stacy Caplow (Brooklyn) has posted some thoughts about The Sinking Immigration Court: Change Course, Save the Ship.
Caplow argues that Biden's plan to hire an additional 100 immigration judges isn't the best approach to reforming the overburdened and franky broken immigration courts system. Instead, she offers these concrete suggestions for change:
Under the heading of "Changes to the Practices and the Culture of the Immigration Court," Caplow suggests:
1. Assign Trial Attorneys to Cases Promptly
2. Require Pre-Hearing Conferences
3. Enforce the Practice Manual Equably
4. Encourage Prosecutorial Discretion as a Case Management Tool
5. Apply Disciplinary Rules to Government Lawyers as well as Immigration Advocates
6. Be Attentive to Professional Standards in the Courtroom
Under the heading of "Changes to the Selection Process of Immigration Court Judges," Caplow proposes:
- elevating the selection standards to require more than 7 years’ experience and more direct knowledge of immigration law;
- assuring a neutral merit selection process that incentivizes applications from immigrant advocates;
- opening the selection process for more public input;
- improving training and oversight that emphasizes competence more than productivity;
- restoring morale by recognizing and respecting the responsibility placed on IJs and treating them not as employees but as judicial officers; and
- overseeing and questioning the basis for abnormally high denial rates.
Caplow's piece would be a truly fantastic addition for folks looking to bring a bit more immigration practice into a podium course.
Monday, August 9, 2021
The argument that noncitizens will fail to appear for immigration court hearings has been used to support mandatory detention and border security enhancements. Yet there are multiple methods for measuring the in absentia rate that show wide variation in these rates. The Congressional Research Service has a brief report titled "At What Rate Do Noncitizens Appear for Their Removal Hearings? Measuring In Absentia Removal Order Rates" that shines light on the debate. The abstract says:
The CRS brief explains the legal requirements for in absentia removal orders, how EOIR calculates in absentia rates, and how to interpret those rates based on initial case completion. It notes that this rate does not account for noncitizens who have appeared for hearings but whose cases are still pending in the backlog of immigration cases; those whose cases have been administratively closed or moved to an inactive pending docket while the respondent pursues an application with another agency; and outcomes from subsequent case completions once a noncitizen is granted a motion to reopen. This can distort the true in absentia rate by failing to account for good faith court appearances in cases that are not completed in one hearing.
The brief closes with an alternative method for calculating in absentia rates that accounts for pending cases that provides a more comprehensive account of court appearances.
Tuesday, August 3, 2021
Every year, roughly 55,000 people from countries with low levels of immigration to the US are chosen via a lottery to apply for a diversity visa. Very few win -- 1% of 23 million entrants -- but for those who do, it’s a golden ticket to a better life.
The program is once in limbo, after coming under attack during the Trump Administration. President Trump sought to end the program and spoke disparagingly of the immigrants who arrive from "shithole countries." The deprioritization of the program led to a massive backlog that Biden has not cleared, despite campaign promises to restore and expand the program.
The State Department says that the US government's capacity to review these appliations depends on US embassies and consultates that have been largely shut down during COVID-19 travel restrictions. If the government cannot resume processing in tie for the September 30 deadline, lottery winners will miss out on their chance to come to the U.S.
Based on State Department data, here are the 10 countries that most benefited from the DV-2022 program and who now await processing:
▪ Egypt — 6,005
▪ Sudan — 6,001
▪ Russia — 6,001
▪ Algeria — 6,001
▪ Uzbekistan — 6,001
▪ Iran — 5,739
▪ Ukraine — 4,949
▪ Morocco —4,138
▪ Nepal — 3,802
▪ Congo Democratic Republic — 3,347
Monday, August 2, 2021
President Joe Biden's plans to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan does not initially include a clear procedure to evacuate Afghan interpreters who aided the U.S. war effort and expedite their visas. Leaving behind these interpreters leaves them vulnerable to torture or killing in retaliation for aiding the U.S. For this reason, many qualify for Special Immigrant Visas or would otherwise be classified as refugees.
In a report from Politico, Rep. Jason Crow, who served the US army in Afghanistan, said: “It’s my view that the evacuations should have started right after the announcement of our withdrawal. That evacuation started too late.”
Under continuing criticism from members of Congress in both parties, Biden ordered evacuation flights for 700 applicants and their family members (a total of up to 3,500 people) beginning in August.
For a personal take on the risks faced by military interpreters and the need to assist them with resettlement and integration, see this inspiring TedX talk from Maytham Alshadood, a military interpreter who became a community organizer mobilizing Muslim and Arab refugees to naturalize and vote and who now works for Rep. Crowe. For more general context on noncitizens in the military and the challenges they are facing re-entering American life and obtaining expedited naturalized citizenship, see this GAO report and this symposium essay in the Denver University Law Review. These reports show that, despite the congressional mandate that their SIVs be approved quickly, Afghans have waited years and the delays were exacerbated during the Trump administration.
Sunday, August 1, 2021
While Biden will own this unwelcome distinction, former president Donald Trump staged this disaster last year by barring most immigrants sponsored by their family members from entering the United States. This caused 120,000 family green card slots to go unused.
Green cards permit holders to permanently live and work in the United States, and immigration law provides two primary routes to obtain them — sponsorship by family members or by employers. If fewer family-based green cards are issued than are allotted, the law requires that the unused family-based number from one year be added to the cap for employment-based green cards in the following year — in this case, an additional 120,000 slots (on top of the annual 140,000).
But here’s the problem: If those additional employment-based slots aren’t used by Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year, they are lost forever. And the administration is now saying that most won’t be, largely because of bureaucracy and a lack of preparation by the federal government.
The Trump administration should have known a huge effort would be needed to adjudicate the additional 120,000 employment-based applications. And it had plenty of time to mount a response: Trump signed his executive order banning most family-based immigrants in April 2020. But no plan ever materialized.
Instead, the State Department refused to allow anyone to submit applications until the first day of the new fiscal year in October 2020 — half a year wasted. That meant the government had just 12 months to process applications that often take much longer in a normal year. What happened next is a window into the United States’ devastatingly broken immigration system.
The delay resulted in a mass filing scramble in October. Because the United States is probably the only government in the world that has failed to produce an online immigration filing system, these paper forms had to be sent by mail. The government’s mailroom staff had to manually enter each applicant’s information into its system and issue a receipt. Precious weeks disappeared as too few staff attempted to rip open the flood of envelopes.
The next stage was no better. Government regulations require that every applicant be fingerprinted for backgrounds checks. This rule may seem reasonable — except nearly all employment-based applicants have lived and worked legally in the United States, many for a decade or more, with temporary residency status. This status they maintained by — you guessed it — repeatedly being fingerprinted and passing background checks.
During the pandemic, Trump closed all the fingerprinting sites for months, creating a massive backlog of green card applicants, work visa holders and others waiting for appointments. Neither the Trump nor the Biden administrations waived the need for fingerprinting, even though the government already had fingerprints for nearly all green card applicants.
What’s worse is that all these green card applicants were booking multiple appointments for fingerprinting, one to continue their underlying temporary status and another for the green card. Mercifully, Biden stopped requiring double booking, but he waited until mid-May to do so — way too late to stop the disaster.
At the same time, most green card applicants must request permission to travel internationally and work without the restrictions of their temporary work status while the green card application is pending — benefits they could obtain with a green card. In other words, the government is reviewing applications that are only necessary because it is taking so long to review a different application.
The lost green cards will disproportionately harm Indian immigrants. That’s because while they make up about half of all applicants, federal law says immigrants from a single country usually cannot make up more than 7 percent of green cards in a year (the remnants of a racist system going back to the 1920s). As a result, many Indian immigrants face a lifetime wait, while others pass them in line.
Yet the extra green cards have given Indian applicants a once-in-a-lifetime chance to far exceed that 7 percent threshold this year because there are not enough other applicants to use them. But that chance will be lost for thousands waiting in the queue if the government fails to get the cards out the door before Oct. 1.
The Biden administration can change course, but at this stage, it would need to take extreme action to work through the backlog — such as issuing approvals en masse without any reviews but revoking later if an issue pops up.
But by saying that it expects 100,000 green cards to go to waste, the administration is implying it would rather take the extreme step of violating the law that requires them to be issued. Unless there is a change of heart soon, Biden will assume responsibility for denying thousands of immigrants the path to citizenship that Congress promised them.
Sunday, July 18, 2021
CLINIC submitted FOIA requests regarding USCIS asylum terminations. Here are their findings:
Asylees need and merit protection. That is why asylee status is supposed to be “indefinite,” meaning it does not have an end date.
However, it is possible for the U.S. government to terminate asylum status. For asylees who were granted asylum affirmatively, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS, Asylum Office has the authority to issue a Notice of Intent to Terminate asylum status, or NOIT. Following the issuance of a NOIT, the asylum office schedules an interview with the asylee, and makes a determination whether the asylee should continue to hold their status, or whether the asylum status should be terminated, and the former asylee placed into removal proceedings. Only an immigration judge can terminate asylee status that has been granted by the court, so the USCIS statistics only reflect termination proceedings before the USCIS asylum offices, not those before the Executive Office for Immigration Review, or EOIR.
Concerned about the Trump administration’s remarks targeting asylum seekers and a potential increase in asylum terminations, on Oct. 3, 2019, CLINIC submitted a Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, request to USCIS seeking information about the numbers of NOITs issued by each asylum office, how many asylum grants were terminated and how many left in place, and the grounds for the asylum offices issuing NOITs.
Here are some key takeaways from the data:
- The overall number of NOITs issued by the asylum offices was relatively low—a total of 892 over a the 12-year period from 2009-2020
- Of those issued NOITs, the Asylum Office issued Notices to Appear in immigration court, following termination, in 655 cases
- Of those issued NOITs, the Asylum Offices issued Notices of Continuation of Status, meaning the asylees retained their asylee status, in 231 cases
- “Fraud in the application” was far and away the number one reason for termination, accounting for 562 terminations out of 717 during this period. It is worth noting, however, that 106 of these terminations occurred in the New York Asylum Office, most likely as a result of a significant criminal investigation into asylum fraud by several attorneys.
- By contrast, “reavailment” only accounted for 14 terminations, a number worth noting as advocates must often counsel asylee clients about the risk of securing a passport from their country of feared harm, or of returning to visit a sick family member
- Other grounds for termination included: changed country conditions; Terrorist Grounds of Inadmissibility; committing a particularly serious crime; Grounds of Denial Act; and “null”
- The offices with the highest number of NOITs issued were the NY Asylum Office with 211, followed closely by the Arlington, VA Asylum Office with 203
- In addition to principal asylees who had their status terminated, 380 dependents lost their asylee status.
Monday, July 12, 2021
Freedom for Immigrants, the Immigrant Defense Project, and the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic at Cardozo School of Law today released a new report, Immigration Cyber Prisons: Ending the Use of Electronic Ankle Shackles. The report highlights the severe harms caused by ICE’s electronic ankle shackling program. It is the first empirical study to document the nature and scale of the harms, racial disparities and lack of efficacy of the program, using data from legal service providers regarding almost 1,000 immigrant clients, about 150 survey responses from directly-impacted people, and several long-form interviews with people who wished to share experiences with ankle shackling. The Guardian ran a story about the findings this morning.
Some key findings include:
- Over 90% of people experienced physical harm due to the ankle shackle, and those harms included: open wounds even causing permanent scars, excessive heat, and electrical shocks.
- The psychological consequences are also extremely negative. The constant sight and feel of a shackle around one’s ankle is agonizing, and possibly retraumatizing to people who were fleeing persecution. 88% of survey participants reported the shackles harmed their mental health, and an alarming 12% of immigrants reported suicidal thoughts.
- The stigma associated with shackling results in social isolation and financial hardship--78% of respondents reported financial hardship as a result of ankle shackling, including over two-thirds of respondents who reported that they lost or had difficulty obtaining work as a result of their electronic ankle shackle.
- Finally, our study found that Black immigrants were disproportionately subjected to ankle shackles by ICE. Black immigrants were represented in the shackled cohort at more than twice the rate of their representation in the non-shackled cohort.
We hope that the report will be useful to illustrate to judges and policymakers that electronic ankle shackling is harmful to people, and that effective supportive services are available instead.
Today at 2 PM EDT we also are sharing the report with calls to action to Congressional and policy leaders. If you would like to amplify that request, please join the Twitter storm using the link below.
Monday, June 21, 2021
if the Biden administration wants to be truly courageous and turn the page completely on former President Donald Trump's xenophobic immigration agenda, it must go further and rescind its own policies against asylum-seeking families.