Senate Republican ideas for immigration reform

Most of the 17 points in this document involve very specific changes. Here are the ones which stand out for me:

“Safe third harbor”: makes aliens illegible for asylum if they have transited through at least one country outside their home country unless the aliens can show that they sought and were denied protection in each safe third country.

Parole reform: prohibits DHS from using broad class based criteria to grant humanitarian parole. Narrows the scope of the parole statute to clarify that payroll is to be used rarely. Limits grants and parole to one year with up to one year extension or shorter.

Family detention (referred to as “family unification”) requires that families with children are to be detained intact, vs the Flores settlement of  1997 which strictly limits the duration of detention of children.

Noteworthy is the absence of any effort to reduce the backlog of cases. About 70% of asylum cases are denied by immigration court. And the document does not address issues such as employment-based immigration.

Comment: The 1967 UN Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees doesn’t explicitly tells countries how to assess asylum applications; it requires them to apply the provisions of the 1951 Refugee Convention to refugees, which includes cooperation among countries on managing international refugees. The United States set for itself legal obligations to provide protection to those who qualify as refugees by incorporating the definition of a refugee from the 1951 Convention into U.S. immigration law through the Refugee Act of 1980. U.S. law requires the asylum seeker to be physically present in the United States or at a U.S. port of entry. The law is silent on how or where the person has entered the U.S.

The Tory government in the UK has been blocked by courts from sending ayslee applicants to Rwanda for processing. Italy is arranging with Albania to house ayslee applicants to Italy.

Thumbnail data on immigration courts FY 2023

Number of court cases resolved: 669,000 vs. average past 20 years of about 250,000. However, new cases were 1,448,000. Since 2000 it has taken an average of about 1,000 days for a case to be resolved.

Court ordered deportations: 39% of resolved court cases involved voluntary deportation or deportation in custody — 244,000, the highest number in over 20 years and significantly more than in Trump years.

Court backlog: end of FY23: 2,794,000, in increase of 1,533,000 since 2000.

From Trac

Time line for Trump’s child separation policy

The best documented story of the Trump Administration’s child separation policy’s origins, implementation and deception was written by Caitlin Dickerson in the Atlantic in December, 2022 (go here). Here is a transcript of Dickerson recounting how she did her research.

The Trump Administration took office on January 20, 2017. It appears to have immediately started to plan to separate children from their parents when both crossed the U.S. border without permission (i.e. not at an official border crossing).

February 17, 2017– An interagency meeting was held to discuss a plan.

Reuters reported on March 3 that such a plan was under consideration, other news outlets also reported on the plan.

On March 29, 2017 Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly denied that the administration was planning to separate children from parents. His statement was part of a program of deception which lasted for months after the plan was implemented.

Early 2017: Border Patrol agents in El Paso, began a program that involved separating children from parent upon DHS – mandated policy for arrest and detainment of families.  The first formal document unearthed for this policy is dated later, July 10. Additional documents indicate that Border Patrol personnel along the length of the border gradually learned about and began to implement the policy.

April 6, 2018 – Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy directing authorities to prosecute all instances of illegal border crossings. On May 7, Sessions announced that the Department of Homeland Security would refer 100% of illegal border crossings to the Department of Justice for prosecution. This expands the policy of separating families. These statements were effectively the first highly visible, non-ambiguous publicized statements made by the Administration on the policy.

June, 2018. Media, church, and political concern explode. The ACLU files a class action suit, which is the basis of the ultimate settlement (see below).

June 20, 2018 –  President Trump signed Executive Order 13841 to end family separations at the border. However, the EO does not address reuniting families already separated.

June 26, 2018 – A federal judge ordered that separated children under five years must be reunited with their parents within 14 days, and all children must be reunited by July 26.

February 22, 2021 – the Biden Administration issues Executive Order 14011 establishing a task force to reunite all children not yet reunited.

September 15, 2023 – the Biden task force reports: 4,227 children were separated between spring 2017 and June, 2018. Between then and February 22, 2021, 2,222 or 53% of the children had been reunited. Another 904 were reunited by September. 15, 2023. The remaining 1,101 were on September 15 in process of being reunited or believed to be in the right hands.

October 16, 2023– Biden Administration settles ACLU’s lawsuit. According to the LA Times, people who were separated from their families would qualify for lawful entry, three-year, renewable work permits, and housing, health and legal services benefits. They would be able to apply for asylum regardless of previous denils, and wouldn’t be subject to the usual one year asylum application deadline.





Two websites with easy to read explanations about immigration law

The immigration law community thrives on complexity. These two website help to make the labyrinth more transparent.

Unshackled – a book and a free newsletter “aimed at helping you navigate immigration in America like a champ. Unshackled is the only book in the market that combines expert advice with stories & engaging visuals.”

Boundless – “Insights and expertise from the only visa company recognized by the U.S. government Step-by-step guidance, with live support 7 days a week, and attorney review for all family visa services. “ A lot of free briefs on aspects of immigration law.


When unauthorized persons are not legally able to drive

There are 19, mostly blue states, which provide to unauthorized persons documents to allow them to drive. (Go here).  Wisconsin is one of 31 states which do not provide a satisfactory document to permit them to drive. A Propublica report captures the actual experience of law enforcement dealing with unauthorized persons: a lot of informal accommodation.

Normally, states require a would-be driver to prove identity and age, usually with documents like a birth certificate, passport, or Social Security card, pass required written and driving tests, and have lawful immigration status if not a U.S. citizen. The REAL ID standards for state-issued documentation such as driver’s license requires proof of legal status (The mandatory adherence to REAL ID for states is now in 2025). Thus a state needs to create another document, valid in that state alone, to enable unauthorized persons to drive.

A typical instance of where this authorization is valuable is for rural dairy workers, who do not have access to public transportation and need to drive to work, get groceries, etc. Propublica reports on dairy workers in Wisconsin.

From the Propublica article: Elected district attorneys in several counties have stopped bringing criminal charges against people caught driving without a license; both Democrat and Republican prosecutors say they want to dedicate their limited resources to crimes with victims.

And in four counties in southwestern Wisconsin, community advocates worked with local law enforcement agencies and dairy farmers a few years ago to create identification cards that workers could show officers during traffic stops to prove that they worked in the area and, potentially, keep those encounters from escalating.

“It did not prevent them from getting a ticket, but it prevented them from being handcuffed and hauled off to jail,” said Shirley Barnes, the recently retired co-director of the MultiCultural Outreach Program in Dodgeville. “The fact is, all the police officers in all of these counties know exactly where these people work. They know it is local farmers who are employing these people.”

Example of an authorizing law, Massachusetts: Massachusetts license for otherwise eligible individuals who present proof of identity, date of birth and state residence. Prohibits inquiries and recording of an applicant or license holder, citizenship or immigration status, with limited exceptions. Includes confidentialities provisions.

The DeSantis Immigration bill

Florida’s new immigration bill, Senate Bill 1718 was signed by Governor DeSantis on May 10. It goes into effect July 1.

Pew Research estimated in 2016 that 775,000 unauthorized persons were living in Florida. As the total national number of unauthorized persons has not risen since, this is a reasonable figure to use. Nationwide, 40% of crop workers are unauthorized. This implies a workforce of about 500.000. Many of them are in agriculture. The average hourly wage is about $13. (Go here and here.)

It will be a criminal act to drive an unauthorized person across state lines into Florida. (Go here.)

Companies with 25 or more employees will have to use the federal E-Verify system when hiring workers. Failure to do so will trigger $1,000 a day fines. Penalties for employers who don’t verify their employees’ status could face suspension of their licenses to operate.

Local governments will be banned from contributing money to organizations creating identification cards for undocumented immigrants.

Driver’s licenses issued to non-citizens in any state will be barred from use in Florida. These states are CA (2013), CO (2013), CT (2015), DE (2015). HI (2020), IL (2013), MD (2013), NV (2013), NJ (2019), NM (2003), NY (2019), OR (2013), and UT (2020).

Florida hospitals would need to include a question asking patients whether they’re United States citizens, and whether they are lawfully in the country. The form should inform patients that their answer does not affect patient care or result in a report to immigration authorities. (Go here.)

Death of Title 42; continuation by other means

Title 42, which has been used to turn back over two million migrants at the Mexican border, is being terminated today, May 11, 2023. New measures by the administration severely cut back the effective access to asylum applications for migrants.

The new measures were laid out in a regulation issued on May 10.  In with words of Dan Gordon of the National Immigration Forum, “The rule will reportedly disqualify most all asylum seekers who fail to pursue refuge in a third country on the way to the U.S. or otherwise follow a limited number of lawful immigration pathways to get here.”

In the words of the Wall Street Journal’s Michelle Hackman, “I think the administration’s theory [in its new post Title 42 rules] is that if they’re able to deport enough people quickly enough, using these new tools that they have, then that will really quickly send a message that it is not worth it to even try.”

About 80% of asylum applications are denied in formal hearings and by courts. But applying formally for asylum can enable a person to live in the U.S. for years. This has led to immense backlogs of open asylum cases. The core idea of the Biden strategy is to cut off this opportunity.

The formal citation for Title 42 is “Title 42 of the United States Code, Section 265: Suspension of Entries and Importations of Persons from Designated Foreign Countries.” Here is a timeline for the introduction and use of Title 42 in 2020 and 2021.  Here is a posting on the November 2022 court decision that ruled Title 42 a violation of federal regulatory law.

Title 42 has already been largely replaced by the use of Title 8, which provides broad powers for migrant control. This article summarizes the effect of this phase out, when linked to other Biden administration orders that effectively bar migrants who come to the border between official entry points and those who do not apply for asylum in countries they pass through. These new rules are covered by Title 8 of the immigration statutes (8 U.S.C. §§ 1101-1504, covering many topics including deportation and removal procedures, and more).

Title 42 has mostly affected Mexican and Northern Triangle citizens. Recently it is rarely used for other migrants.





Bureaucratic nightmares of immigrants that Biden can end without Congress

The Migration Policy Institute has identified 21 opportunities for Executive Branch action not needing Congressional approval.  Here are six examples of problems solvable by executive action.

Only 17% of non-immigrant application processing is occurring online and the government allows online filing for just 15 of it more than 100 application types. Applicants often still file on paper even when the electronic filing is available. (Under “make online filing workable.”)

The form to apply for a permanent residence has grown from 6 pages to 20.(“Shorten forms.”)

Temporary workers have a period of up to 60 days after ending work with their sponsor employer to find a new job with employers sponsorship. After that any worker without a new job or who has not transitioned to another type of immigration status must leave the United States. Highly skilled in specialized workers often need more than 60 days to secure a new job. This is also a very short transition period for workers who have sometimes been in the United States for decades and have deep community ties. (“Extend job-search periods for temporary workers.”)

Temporary visa holders who wish to travel outside the United States must renew their visas at a U.S. consulate abroad. Long wait times mean the temporary workers who travel for work, vacation, or family visits can get stuck outside the country. Wait times in Kolkata are 199 days and 189 days in Hyderabad. (“Renew visas in the United States.”)

Spouses of visa holders of the extraordinary ability visas (O-1) can come to the United States but are not allowed to work. Spouses of H1-B workers are authorized to work only in limited circumstances. (“Expand access to work authorization for the spouses of highly skilled temporary workers.”)

A list of occupations (Schedule A) which Department of Labor considers the need of workers is so high that comparable labor market studies are not necessary has not been revised since 1991. (“Update schedule A.”)

Many thousands of amnesty seeking persons from U.S. sanctioned countries are crossing at the Mexican border

A significant share of persons crossing the Mexican border in search of amnesty come from countries which has incurred the official wrath of the United States.

In October 2022, U.S. Customs and Border Protection had about 240,000 encounters at the Mexican border (many may be the same persons from prior months trying again). About 180,000 were from seven countries.  The country with the most persons was Mexico (66,000). Three countries with which the U.S. has an officially hostile relations – Cuba (29,000), Venezuela (22,000) and Nicaragua (21,000) — totaled about 72,000.  Given as the U.S. considers their governments as oppressive and (for Venezuela) illegitimate, it is reasonable to expect that many of these 72,000 will qualify for amnesty.  (Go here.)


The Wall Street Journal reports that In the 12 months through October, around 244,000 Cubans were apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol after fleeing economic misery and political repression at home. Most of them came via this expensive airlift through Nicaragua, and were released into the U.S., according to U.S. officials.

It is the largest number of Cubans to arrive in the U.S. in a single wave since the late Fidel Castro came to power in 1959, twice the 125,000 who came in the Mariel boatlift of 1980 and almost six times as many as in the comparable 2021 period.

U.S. policy regarding Cuban refugees: the U.S. embassy in Havana has issued a statement that the following are acceptable reasons for amnesty: Members of persecuted religious minorities; Human rights activists; Former political prisoners; Forced-labor conscripts (1965-1968); and Persons deprived of their professional credentials or subjected to other disproportionately harsh or discriminatory treatment resulting from their perceived or actual political or religious beliefs or activities.


On September 2022 White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said Nicaraguans are “fleeing political persecution and communism.” (Go here.)


In October 2022 the Biden administration said it would accept up to 24,000 Venezuelans via a humanitarian parole plan. (Go here.) This number is about equal to the number of Venezuelans to appear at the Mexican border each months. The administration in 2021 had provided for Temporary Protection Status though March 2024 to 320,000 Venezuelans in the U.S. without authorization. Yet as a sign of conflicted policy, the U.S. is expelling Venezuelans at the border (go here).



Georgia’s audit of voters among non-citizens

There are about 600,000 non-citizen foreign born persons in the Georgia, in addition to about 400,000 foreign born persons who have naturalized.

George Secretary of State Raffensperger conducted the first audit of Georgia’s voter rolls for citizenship status in the state’s history.  He focused on attempted registrations. He reported the results in March, 2022. (Here and here.)

The review involved the Georgia Department of Driver Services and USCIS’s Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program.

The attempts spanned from 1997 until as recently as February 24, 2022. 1,319, or 80.7% of the attempted registrations, have occurred since 2016.

The search found 1,634 individuals who had attempted to register to vote in Georgia despite not being citizens. None of these individuals have cast ballots in Georgia elections.

Assume that 85% of the non-naturalized foreign born are adults, or 510,000 persons, This means that 0.3% attempted to register to vote.  however, is it very likely that some of these persons had incorrectly labeled themselves as non-citizens in their drivers license forms. Databases do not match 100% each other and the facts in the ground.

I have posted here and here about spurious allegations of voter fraud by non-citizens.