Archive for the ‘Immigration Reform legislation’ Category

Guatemala, asylum applications, and the safe third country concept

Wednesday, September 18th, 2019

What happened?

On July 15, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security issued an interim final rule denying asylum to certain aliens who seek asylum on the southern border of the United States without having sought protection in a third country through which they traveled and where such protection was available. The U.S. District Court for Northern California issued an injunction. On September 11, the Supreme Court lifted the injunction.

What countries have agreed to process asylum applications?

On July 26, President Trump, in the presence of Guatemala’s Interior Minister, announced that Guatemala has agreed to cooperate. Trump also announced by a Twitter post “that took Guatemalan politicians and leaders at immigration advocacy groups by surprise.” Persons attempting to transit Guatemala from El Salvador or Honduras would be affected. The Guatemalan Congress must approve the agreement, which it has yet to. The agreement is here.

Mexico as so far refused to cooperate.

“Safe third country” concept

An article published on August 23, generally challenging the legality of the final rule, interprets the rule as attempting to apply a “little-noticed provision of U.S. law allowing for the transfer of asylum seekers to a third country – 8 U.S.C. § 1158(a)(2)(A).” A Trump tweet on June 17 said that Guatemala was about to sign a safe third country agreement.

The article goes on: The “safe third country” concept, which first found multilateral expression among European States in the 1990 Convention Applying the Schengen Agreement and subsequent 1990 Dublin Convention, is contested in international law. The concept is said to apply when a person travels through a country where they could have applied for international protection, but either did not apply or sought protection and a determination was not made. The essential premise is that the country in question is capable of providing international protection and is willing to do so (or “is able and willing to provide international protection”).

The author asserts that the administration’s action are not in accordance with the safe country rule, but rather emulated what Australia has done with using Nauru as a holding pen.

The case of Turkey

This is likely the biggest use of the safe third party concept. The European Union pledged more than $6 billion to Turkey. In return, Turkey tightened up its border restrictions, and take back from Greece every migrant who travelled through Turkey and reached Greece. Turkey did cut migration flows to Europe drastically, but only a small proportion of migrants who continued to land in Greece have been sent back.Migrants still have the opportunity to apply for asylum in Greece, or for relocation to other European countries, and many do so successfully. From here.

Dairy workers: at least half are immigrants

Wednesday, August 14th, 2019


From 2017 interviews in Spanish with dairy workers throughout New York State: 90% are men, 61% from Mexico, 34% Guatemala, 2% Honduras, 2% Puerto Rico; 93% are undocumented; 73% speak little to no English; 62% are married; 70% have children.

Two-thirds had sustained a work injury; more than 80% were estimated to live and work on farms with too few workers to fall under OSHA’s jurisdiction for inspection and sanctioning (that is, below 11 non-family workers). Typically paid $9 an hour; 97% live in on-farm housing provided by their employers.

New York is a major dairy state. In 2015, it ranked fourth nationally in terms of milk production.

A national survey, done in late 2014, reports much less dependence on immigrant workers but shows better the impact of immigrant workers on the entire dairy industry. It reports that immigrant labor accounts for 51% of all dairy labor, and dairies that employ immigrant labor produce 79% of the U.S. milk supply. Dairy farm workers are paid an average wage of $11.54/hour. Dairy farms employed an estimated 150,418 workers in 2013. An estimated 76,968 of those are immigrants.

A bill was introduced in March, 2019 to expand the current H-2A visa program to allow for its use by dairy farmers. Under current law, dairy workers are not allowed to utilize H-2A visas because the dairy industry is not considered seasonal. The bill would allow for an initial three-year visa with an option to extend for another three years.

Forum participants support immigrants, want laws obeyed

Wednesday, July 31st, 2019


Under the auspices of the Kettering Foundation, the National Issues Forums Institute held 86 nonpartisan public forums in towns and cities in 28 states in 2018 and early 2019 on the issue of immigration. Here are two take-aways from the forums:

Support immigration. When asked at the end of the forums whether they agree with the premise of the third choice, that “current levels of immigration are too high, and the country is now becoming so diverse that we are endangering our ability to assimilate newcomers and maintain our national unity,” most rejected this perspective on the grounds that it reflects an outdated, ethnocentric understanding of who “real Americans” are. These views, which are consistent with recent national polls, help to explain why the percentage of Americans who favor cutting legal immigration is fairly low and has declined in recent years.

Do not want laws disobeyed. While participants often talked about unauthorized immigrants with considerable compassion and empathy, most also felt strongly about the importance of the rule of law. Few were comfortable with a system in which laws were routinely flouted and those who skirt the law were permitted to gain an advantage over those who enter through legal channels. Forum-goers in several communities made a point of noting that they live in “sanctuary cities,” which have declared that they will not cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in rounding up and arresting people who are here illegally. Many people, however, including those who are inclined to support liberal immigration policies, voiced serious misgivings about allowing cities to act in defiance of, and noncompliance with, federal laws.

How the detention center crisis blew up: timeline

Monday, July 8th, 2019

2009 – 2012 and later. Unaccompanied minors apprehended at border in 2005 at about 5,000 a year, picks up in 2011 and is 10,000 in 2012. Compare with month of October 2018 — 5,000 unaccompanied minors were apprehended in and May 2019 12,000 were apprehended.

Apprehended and detained unaccompanied minors are the responsibility of Office of Refugee Resettlement of Health and Human Services. Per its website, “HHS is legally required to provide care for all children until they are released to a suitable sponsor, almost always a parent or close relative, while they await immigration proceedings.”

November 6, 2018 Open letter in New York Review of Books condemning “concentration camps for kids.”

Oct 2018 – May, 2019. Apprehensions along southern border were in October 2018, 93,000 in March 2019, and 133,000 in May 2019. Total apprehensions Oct 2018 – May 2019 were 594,000. This is almost double the 251,000 for the same period one year before. Apprehensions of unaccompanied minors grows from Oct 2018, 5,000, to May 2019, 12,000. The Oct. through May total for unaccompanied minors was 56,000, ten times the total annual numbers ten years ago.

March 27, 2019. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan said “CBP is facing an unprecedented humanitarian and border security crisis all along our Southwest Border.” Nationwide, CBP had more than 12,000 migrants in custody. The agency considers 4,000 to be a high number of migrants in custody and 6,000 to be at a crisis level. More than 12,000 migrants in custody is unprecedented.

May 29, 2019. “We are in full-blown emergency and I cannot say this stronger, the system is broken,” acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner John Sanders told reporters.”

June 6, 2019. Trump administration curtails education and legal services at detention centers for children. “Approximately 13,200 minors [both unaccompanied and with an adult] are currently being held in federally contracted shelters as of June 2, an HHS spokesperson told NPR.”

June 17, 2019. On June 17, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, posted an Instagram live video discussing the detention camps along the southern US border as “concentration camps” in which she used the phrase “Never Again.”

June 24, 2019 Holocaust Museum states, “The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum unequivocally rejects efforts to create analogies between the Holocaust and other events, whether historical or contemporary.”

July 1, 2019. Open letter published in New York Review of Books defending Ocasio-Cortez’s use of the term.

July 1, 2019. Pro Publica reports that “The three-year-old [Facebook] group, which has roughly 9,500 members, shared derogatory comments about Latina lawmakers who plan to visit a controversial Texas detention facility on Monday, calling them “scum buckets” and “hoes.”

July 1, 2019. More than a dozen U.S. House members visited migrant detention centers in Texas on Monday on the heels of a report revealing current and former Border Patrol agents joking on Facebook about throwing burritos at the visiting officials.

Compare Canada’s plans for immigration vs the U.S.

Wednesday, June 12th, 2019

Canada will take in 40,000 more immigrants in 2021 than it planned for 2018. immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen (a lawyer with (Somali origin) said in December, 2018. The target for new arrivals in Canada will rise to 350,000, which is nearly 1% of the country’s population. The equivalent for the U.S. would be about three million new immigrants a year, three times current levels.

The vast majority of Canadian immigrants come under economic programs designed to address skills shortages and gaps in the labor market.

Canada also plans to increase the number of refugees it will accept from 43,000 in 2018 to reach 51,700 by 2021. The equivalent for the U.S. would be about 500,000 refugees. Trump is seeking to cap refugee settlement at 50,000 a year.

From here.

Beto O’Rourke’s Immigration Plan

Thursday, May 30th, 2019


The O’Rourke campaign issued a plan for immigration reform on May 29. It starts with a critique of Trump administration practices on the border. When O’Rourke gets to his ideas they include the following:

1. Solidify and by implication increase family-based immigration;
2. Introduce a community-based visa program for refugees. State and local governments were denied making immigration laws back around 1880 by the federal government
3. A provision for meeting the labor needs of certain (but unnamed) industries by what looks like a guest worker program. For agriculture, perhaps?
4. Make it easier for some types of skilled workers to get into and stay in the U.S.
5. Make it easier for green card holders to become naturalized.
6. Strengthen controls on the southern border
7. Invest in programs in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to lessen hardships and demand the end of corruption,
8. Improve Mexico’s migration and refuge policies.
9. Legalize the status of 11 million unauthorized persons, including persons covered by DACA

Missing from the plan is any role of employers, any new system of federal oversight, and a long term policy on skilled workers.

IN OUR OWN IMAGE: Beto O’Rourke’s Plan for Rebuilding Our Immigration and Naturalization System is here.

Why aren’t Dem candidates talking about immigration?

Monday, April 22nd, 2019

The only Democratic presidential candidate who has a platform for immigration reform is former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro. Not only is Castro calling for a reversal of Trump’s Muslim ban and wall spending; he also wants to decriminalize of the very act of crossing the border illegally. Unauthorized border crossings were first criminalized in 1929.

Castro proposes scaling back the existing enforcement regime by ending the use of for-profit detention facilities, breaking up Immigration and Customs Enforcement, dialling back Customs and Border Protection’s mandate to act within the United States, and refocussing deportation efforts on people who are convicted of serious crimes or considered a threat to national security.

But his proposal contains few concrete suggestions for the establishment of a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented or for the reform of the existing system for legal immigration.

From The New Yorker

Letter from two former American ambassadors

Friday, April 12th, 2019

“If you thought the caravans were bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet” was written on April 9 by James Nealon, former US Ambassador to Honduras and John Feeley, a former US Ambassador.


So you hate undocumented and irregular migration from Central America? Well you’re going to hate it more now that the President has cut off aid to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, the countries from which the families and children we’re seeing at the southwest border are fleeing.

We have to ask ourselves, after seeing illegal border crossings drop to historic lows in 2017, why are we seeing a spike now? Three reasons: First, because we have a booming economy. As long as U.S. per capita GDP is 25 times that of Honduras, and as long as there are more jobs than job seekers, there will be a significant pull factor.

Second, though things have gotten better in the Northern Triangle (the murder rate in Honduras has been more than halved since 2012), all politics is local. For many people living in conflictive communities or rural poverty, things haven’t gotten better enough, quickly enough to meet their rising expectations.

And third, and maybe most importantly, the President doesn’t get that his own rhetoric is helping fuel the current surge of migrants at the border. The smugglers use the President’s own bombastic words as proof that the border is going to close and that if they don’t go now, it will be too late.

The reason we have “catch and release”, in which asylum seekers are released into the United States pending a far-in-the-future court date to adjudicate their case, is because those courts have a backlog of 800,000 cases. So rather than making a decision on an asylum request in real time, and repatriating those found not to have a valid case, everyone who makes a claim gets in, at least for awhile.

Rather than spend billions on a wall, rather than close the border, rather than cut off foreign assistance meant to fix the problem, why don’t we spend the resources necessary to fix the immigration courts? We wouldn’t tolerate an 800,000 case backlog at the DMV, so why should we tolerate it at the border?

Trump creating an opportunity for Democrats to lead on immigration

Tuesday, April 9th, 2019

The president’s purge of Homeland Security leadership this week does two things: first, that whatever might be called the Administration’s immigration policy has become hostage to a Mexican border enforcement policy, one which the courts have repeatedly curtailed and to a fight with the countries of origin for migrants at the border. Second, the shakeup is punishing the congressional Republicans, who are more attuned to the complexities of immigration on America’s main streets. Congressional Republicans have no independent voice on immigration.

This gives to congressional Democrats an opportunity to show leadership on immigration – something they have avoided — and likely will continue to avoid. Is there any Democratic presidential candidate whose immigration views are known, much less designed to lead as opposed to react?

An immigration policy needs to take into account three things: the impact on the United States, the impact on the countries of origin, and the migrants themselves.  Democrats have a golden opportunity to articulate a constructive, achievable approach to all three.

The Democrats could show (probably will not) an awareness of both the pluses and minuses of immigration today in America. The minuses generally involve problems in cultural integration.  They could show (this will be easy) a better understanding of how to work with Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, the key countries of origins. And they could give a lot more attention to crafting immigration policies which place the right emphasis on who is admitted (limiting family related immigration to immediate family and expanding economic categories of immigrants).


Atlantic Monthly article calls for reduced immigration

Sunday, March 24th, 2019

David Frum, a senior editor of the Atlantic, writes correctly that immigration’s “most important effects are social and cultural, not economic.” He does not cite any social or cultural reasons in favor of immigration. He associates and implies there is a causal relationship between increased immigration in Europe and the U.S. in the past 40 years with societal breakdown, and even with economic inequality. But immigration’s rise worldwide is just one aspect of globalization. Reducing immigration rates will only partly correct for globalization’s effects.

He believes that by lowering immigration (meaning the reduction in permanent visa awards) we can “more quickly and successfully absorb the people who come here.”

He is right that absorption of immigrants into the country’s civic culture is key. He is somewhat careless and too summary in identifying where and why the absorption is not going well. It has gone well in major urban areas which have been absorbing immigrants for over a century. It is probably going well with college educated immigrants, who make up an ever larger share of recent immigrants.

It has not gone well for inland and especially non-urban areas where the immigrant share of the population went from, say, 1% to 5%. It is not going well with persons with very little formal education (mainly from Latin America).

Dailing down immigration is a deceptively simple solution. It would be a good thing for those wedded to inclusion of immigrants (such as I) to address the absorption issue accurately and to offer sensible policy changes. That will counter the Trump administration’s alarms of panic, which go pretty much unrebutted.

He ends the article this way:

The years of slow immigration, 1915 to 1975, were also years in which the United States became a more cohesive nation: the years of the civil-rights revolution, the building of a mass middle class, the construction of a national social-insurance system, the projection of U.S. power in two world wars. As immigration has accelerated, the country seems to have splintered apart.

Many Americans feel that the country is falling short of its promises of equal opportunity and equal respect. Levels of immigration that are too high only enhance the difficulty of living up to those promises. Reducing immigration, and selecting immigrants more carefully, will enable the country to more quickly and successfully absorb the people who come here, and to ensure equality of opportunity to both the newly arrived and the long-settled—to restore to Americans the feeling of belonging to one united nation, responsible for the care and flourishing of all its people.