Abraham was an immigrant

August 13th, 2018

Abram, later Abraham, is introduced in Genesis 11 as an immigrant from Ur to Haran. Abram’s Journeys did not stop there: this Ur-born immigrant later journeyed to Canaan, with a stay in Egypt as well. Abram’s decision to leave Haran and bring his family to Canaan parallels the stories of many historical and contemporary immigrants who leave the land they know and cross borders in pursuit of a promise — in this case a divine promise that God would bless him, make of him a great nation, and bless all nations to him (Genesis 12:1-5). Indeed, a Abram’s courage and making the journey and his faith in God’s promise mark one of the pivotal moments in the Old Testament narrative.

From Welcoming the Stranger, by Matthew Soerens and Jenny Yang, revised edition, page 86

Asylum seekers at border face stronger headwinds 8 21 18

August 11th, 2018

The Washington Post reports that a judge threatened to hold Atty General Sessions in contempt over a court review of an asylum appeal by a El Salvadoran woman and her daughter.

Immigration Impact says that for border crosses, fewer are getting approvals for asylum. Per TRAC, the share of asylum requests being turned down by immigration judges has skyrocketed since mid-2017.

How it works

Here is what happens for border crossers without proper documentation. They are subjected to a fast-track deportation process called “expedited removal,” unless they express fear of returning to their home countries. These individuals must be referred to an asylum officer for a “credible fear interview” to assess the likelihood of making a successful asylum claim.

During the interview, if the asylum officer finds that there is not a “significant possibility” that the asylum seeker could establish eligibility for asylum, the asylum-seeker can appeal to an immigration judge for a Credible Fear Review (CFR). The judge’s decision on the matter is final. Currently about 500 CFR cases are decided each month, down from about 700 cases per month in 2015-2016.

The data analyzed by TRAC indicate that the share of positive outcomes nationwide from CFRs had fallen to 14.7% as of June 2018 which is less than half of what it was in June 2017 (32.7%).

Depending upon the particular Immigration Court undertaking the credible fear review, the proportion of asylum seekers passing this screening step varied from as little as 1% all the way up to 60%. Thus, whether or not asylum seekers receive favorable CFR court decisions appears to be largely driven by which Immigration Court and judge heard their cases.

Sessions’ remarks on October 12, 2017

The system is being gamed. The credible fear process was intended to be a lifeline for persons facing serious persecution. But it has become an easy ticket to illegal entry into the United States.

Here are the shocking statistics: in 2009, DHS conducted more than 5,000 credible fear reviews. By 2016, that number had increased to 94,000. The number of these aliens placed in removal proceedings went from fewer than 4,000 in 2009 to more than 73,000 by 2016—nearly a 19-fold increase—overwhelming the system and leaving those with just claims buried.

The increase has been especially pronounced and abused at the border. From 2009 to 2016, the credible fear claims at the border went from approximately 3,000 cases to more than 69,000.

Waiting times for green cards

August 9th, 2018

Family and employment green cards have waiting lists. The waiting times vary depending on the country from which the applicant is immigrating due to country-specific caps. According to Stephen Yale-Loehr, an expert on immigration law at Cornell Law School, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is currently processing green cards for persons who have been waiting for these years (India and Mexico illustrated):

Family based 

Immediate family: spouse, minor child or parent of U.S. citizen, no caps.

First preference (F1) – unmarried sons and daughters, 21 years of age and older, of U.S. citizens.
India May 2011, Mexico August 1997. That is, Indians in this category who applied in May 2011 are now being processed.

Second preference (F2A) – spouses and children (unmarried and under 21 years of age) of lawful permanent residents. India July 2016 Mexico 2016

Employment based

1st preference: Has extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics, or Are an outstanding professor or researcher, or Are a multinational manager or executive who meets certain criteria. India January 2012 Mexico May 2016

2nd preference immigrant worker: Is a member of a profession that requires an advanced degree, or Have exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business, or Are seeking a national interest waiver. India March 2009 Mexico closed as cap was reached.

Here are the procedures for applying for a green card.

Military spouses vulnerable to deportation

August 7th, 2018

“As many as 11,800 military families face deportation issues, group says” is the headline in the Military Times in an April 1, 2018 article. It goes on:

No previous estimate, official or unofficial, has been available on just how many of the 1 million married military members currently on active duty, National Guard or Reserve status may be dealing with the stress of having a spouse, dependent or parent deported.

American Families United, a non-profit immigration advocacy group, calculated the estimate using 2011 U.S. Census statistics, which found that 6.3 percent of the 129 million married Americans are married to foreign-born spouses. The Pew Research Center found that one in four of those foreign-born spouses are in the country illegally.

“So we derived the total of military (active and reserves) married to people with inadmissibility-type immigration issues by taking the total (1 million), multiplying by the national percentage of foreign-born (6.3 percent, so 63,000 current U.S. military are married to immigrants), and then the 25 percent of the total which have problems with immigration law: 15,750. Of that, Pew’s data indicates 75 percent are from sources characterized by entry without inspection and similar issues, that would be about 11,800,” American Families United President Randall Emery said.

Balkanization of immigration management

August 5th, 2018

From an analysis of the history of immigration management in the U.S.:

The federal departments tasked with immigration responsibilities are so dispersed that it foments balkanization. Within the Department of Homeland Security, the Commissioner of CBP (Customs and Border Protection, the Director of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), and the Director of USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) currently are among two dozen DHS officials — including the leadership of Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Secret Service, the Transportation Security Administration, and the US Coast Guard — that report to the DHS Deputy Secretary.

At the State Department, the Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs (approving visas) reports to the Under Secretary for Management, and the Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees, and Migration reports to the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights.

Within the Department of State, the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration has primary responsibility for formulating policies on population, refugees, and migration, and for administering the US international refugee assistance and admissions programs

The Office of Refugee Resettlement is within the Administration for Children and Families in Health and Human Services.

EOIR (Executive Office for Immigration Review, or immigration courts) reports to the Dept of Justice Deputy Attorney General, and the Immigrant and Employee Rights Section is part of the Civil Rights Division that reports to the Associate Attorney General at the Justice Department.

At the Labor Department, the Office of Foreign Labor Certification (temporary work visa certifications) is housed in the Employment and Training Administration, which is one of 21 agencies that report to the Deputy Secretary. Similarly, the Wage and Hour Division (also for temporary work visa management), reports to the Deputy Secretary of Labor.

As a consequence, immigration leadership responsibilities are nested at the third tier down within these federal departments and are dispersed across eight agency heads. These agency heads report to deputy secretaries that have many other important departmental responsibilities. In other words, there is no clear chain of command for immigration governance.

The dispersed system of immigration governance already begs for reorganization. An expanded governance would best be led by an Interagency Council on Immigration, staffed by top officials from each department. A strong council could coordinate the administration of laws and could recommend policies to ensure more coherent governance. It could even establish a clear chain of command, especially in times of migrant emergencies (such as the 2014 influx of Central American children). That said, a strong council is unlikely due to bureaucratic turf battles.

From Immigration Governance for the 21St Century


Attitudes about immigration by region

August 3rd, 2018

From a 2015 survey: Americans overall are more likely to say that newcomers from other countries strengthen American society (50%) than they are to believe that they represent a threat to American customs and values (34%). Sixteen percent affirm or reject both statements, or offer no opinion.

Areas of the country that have been historical centers of immigration hold the most positive views of immigrants, but attitudes are more positive than negative in every region. A majority of Americans living in the West (55%) and Northeast (54%) believe that newcomers from other countries provide a positive contribution to the U.S. Fewer than half of those living in the South (48%) and Midwest (46%) agree. Close to four in ten Americans living in the Midwest (38%) and South (37%) say immigrants constitute a threat to traditional American culture and values.

With the exception of Wyoming, attitudes about immigrants are the most negative in the Deep South and the Appalachia region. Nearly half of residents in Wyoming (48%), Alabama (47%), and West Virginia (47%) believe that immigrants pose a threat to American culture. More than four in ten residents living in Kentucky (44%) and Arkansas (44%) also believe that immigrants represent a threat to American culture and values. Conversely, roughly six in ten Americans living in Hawaii (60%), Massachusetts (60%), California (58%), Rhode Island (58%), and New York (58%) say that immigrants are a positive influence on American society.

Transformation of Mexico in one generation

August 1st, 2018

“Since the early 1990s average income in Mexico has increased by a third and educational attainment by more than half. Today a quarter for young people in their teens will end up going to college, three times a percentage of those who did in the early 1990s. The Mexican economy is now the 15th largest in the world and is projected to become the seventh or eighth largest by 2050. Mexico is gradually becoming a more middle class society as well, with around 40% of all Mexicans and a majority in most big cities part of the middle class. In many ways, Americans in the 1950s and 60s took a similar journey in the postwar economic boom. Life expectancy has expanded by four years over the past generation. It is now only two years less than that in the United States.

“Mexico has managed to transform itself over the past generation in surprising ways and this transformation is a big piece of the puzzle why Mexicans suddenly stopped migrating in large numbers a decade ago and haven’t started again since. Mexico may have a long way to go to become the country most Mexicans wanted to be, but few if any would have predicted the dramatic changes in a generation.”

From Andrew Selee, Vanishing Frontiers, 2018

200 years of immigration to the U.S. in one graphic

July 30th, 2018

The National Geographic has compressed close to two hundred years into a graphic that mimics the rings in a tree.

The creators say:

These immigration “rings” expand during years when certain welcoming factors are prevalent, such as when American immigration policies become less restrictive and its economy offers greater opportunity. The “rings” tend to stay slim during years of war or economic upheaval.

The origins of U.S. immigrant populations also transform from era to era. In the 1840s and 1880s, European immigrants came mainly from northern and western Europe, whereas the famous influx of the early 1900s, symbolized by Ellis Island’s gateway, emanated mostly from southern and eastern Europe. Immigration from Asia rose between 1970 and 2000, while large-scale immigration from Latin America began in 1950 and lasted for half a century. Immigration from Africa only becomes visible in the 21st century, though early U.S. Census data omits populations of slaves and indigenous communities.

A Unitarian view’s on immigration

July 28th, 2018

We Unitarians understand that our shared covenant is not just an internal dialog but also a conversation with the world. The spark to right action is inclusion, expressed in our covenant. This leads to community, then to the safe and culturally prosperous city, then to a safe and more culturally prosperous society. No matter what is said in Washington to fracture America, we are masters of our covenant. And we choose inclusion.

The America that we know best is a society that practices the arithmetic of addition. In truth, our inclusion of people from other countries is part of our inclusion of all others here. That is, our approach to immigration should be in part informed by our advocacy of civil rights over the past 70 years. The immigration act of 1965 was in some respect an extension of the civil rights movement. Civil rights are expressed in the courts, but are expressed more fundamentally in recognizing the other, and in championing the value of lifting all boats in all aspects of life.

Any democracy is founded on the principle of self-determination. Our Unitarian covenant is an expression of this principal. We need, as Unitarians, to say to other Americans that inclusion of others from other countries works.

Including is how we strive to act. It strengthens our self-determination. To say this is not a wistful remembrance of past waves of immigration. We are speaking about today’s world. We as Unitarians not just here but nationwide, are called upon to speak truth for inclusion for our country.

From my reflection at the North Chapel, Woodstock, Vermont, July 8, 2018

Recent rapid immigrant-growing states

July 26th, 2018

Between 2010 and 2016 the immigrant population grew by 9%. Among the 15 states with the fastest growth, immigration grew by 15%. These states include six northern plains states and two large states – Pennsylvania and Florida. They accounted for 40% of population growth in these 15 rapid states, compared to 33% of population growth nationwide. In PA and WV, immigrants made up for a decline in the native-born population.

Immigrant adults in the 15 states with the fastest immigrant growth have higher levels of education than U.S. immigrants overall: about 76% in 2016 reported having earned a high school degree or higher, compared to 71% of all foreign born and 91% of all U.S. born in the United States. But they have more higher ed experience than the entire U.S. population: 53% have a college BA, some college or an associate’s degree, compared to 40% for the entire country.

Immigrants in the 15 states participate in the labor force at a somewhat higher rate than their native-born counterparts—66% in 2016, compared to 62% of the U.S. born.

About 16% of immigrant families had an annual income below the federal poverty line, compared to 12-14% among the U.S. born.

From Migration Policy Institute