Despite a court order instructing the Trump administration to reunite migrant families who were forcibly separated at the US-Mexico border, The New York Times reports that the number of children still in custody has reached a record high level. The Times reports that there are currently 12,800 migrant children in federally-contracted shelters this month, five times as many since last summer, when 2,400 children were being held. Most of the children did not have their parents with them when they crossed the border. The information was shared with members of Congress, who in turn shared it with the Times.
Many of the migrants trying to enter the United States at the Mexico border are seeking asylum, or protection from persecution. These asylum seekers may not know much about how the process works or what kinds of protection it offers. They may also not know how to apply for asylum or whether they qualify. The American Immigration Council has created a document to answer those questions that’s available for downloading.
Court battles over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) have left the program in limbo. On Friday, a federal judge in DC ruled against the Trump administration’s efforts to end the immigration program. Now, a federal judge in Texas is holding hearings on a case that would shut down the DACA program. Vox reports that the Texas judge is an immigration hawk likely to rule in favor of ending DACA. That ruling could leave DACA under mutually contradictory orders from two federal judges. Vox explains the legal limbo that could end with the Texas judge’s ruling.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that he is taking away a vital lifeline to immigrant victims of severe domestic and gang violence. Sessions issued a decision unilaterally overruling important precedent recognizing that such individuals may qualify for asylum in the United States.
Critics say Sessions’ decision to end asylum for most victims of domestic abuse and gang violence takes US “back to the Dark Ages,” according to The Washington Post. The American Immigration Council has also criticized the decision.
The following is a statement from Beth Werlin, Executive Director of the American Immigration Council. “From its earliest days, the United States has opened its doors to individuals fleeing oppression and persecution. Today’s decision by the Attorney General is yet another attempt to close our doors. Through our work serving detained mothers and children in Dilley, Texas, we see firsthand the trauma of domestic and gang violence and the desperate need for protection. The Attorney General’s decision—if permitted to stand—will no doubt result in sending countless mothers and children back to their abusers and criminal gangs. Turning our backs on victims of violence and deporting them to grave danger should not be the legacy sought by any administration.”
Sessions’ decision on asylum follows another controversial action that allows the separation of immigrant parents from their children.
Leila Fajardo-Giles was scheduled to receive her law degree from Suffolk University Law School this week, but she’s already chosen the path she’ll be focusing on in her new legal career: immigration. Fajardo-Giles is a dreamer, one of the hundreds of thousands of young people whose future remains cloudy because of the ongoing legal and political battles regarding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program created by the Obama administration that is under siege from his successor. During her last year at Suffolk, Fajardo-Giles got some valuable experience working for the university’s immigration clinic, and helped a teenager gain asylum status. Read more about her ambitious plans at The Boston Globe.
The Justice Department is imposing quotas on how quickly immigration judges can close cases in an effort to speed up the process, raising serious questions about the independence of the judicial branch of law. The ABA Journal, The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal report that the Justice Department is taking the action to help relieve a backlog of immigration cases. According to The Washington Post:
The judges will be expected to clear at least 700 cases a year to receive a “satisfactory” performance rating, a standard that their union called an “unprecedented” step that risks undermining judicial independence and opens the courts to potential challenges.
The new measures will take effect October 1, at the start of the new fiscal year. The quotas were announced by the Executive Office of Immigration Review.
Over the weekend, President Donald Trump tweeted that there would be “NO MORE DACA DEAL” and blamed the failure on Democrats. At CNN, attorney Raul Reyes writes that Trump is ignorant of the nation’s immigration laws, pointing out that it was Trump himself who ended DACA in September of last year. Reyes says there has never been any realistic chance that a DACA deal could be struck. Read more about Reyes’ opinion at CNN.
The Washington Post also has analysis of Trump’s threats to DACA and how it reflects his presidency.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been in the news a lot lately, and not always in a good light. Does the US need a mass deportation strike force? A civil rights lawyer who’s running for Congress doesn’t think so. In an interview with The Nation, Dan Canon says he believes ICE should be abolished. “I don’t think a lot of people have any kind of direct experience with ICE, so they don’t really know what they do or what they’re about. If they did, they’d be appalled,” Canon told The Nation. He says ICE is “devoted almost solely to cruelly and wantonly breaking up families. The agency talks about, and treats, human beings like they’re animals.” Read more about Canon’s argument at The Nation.
As Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ war on asylum cities and states continues, the Justice Department has begun to change the definition of who qualifies for asylum protection. Sessions is placing stricter limits on who can qualify for asylum in America. Immigration lawyers are warning that this could result in thousands of people fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries being turned away once they reach the US. NPR takes a look at how these changes could affect those seeking asylum.
The National Advocates member Garrett Wilkes helped one of his immigration clients win a one-year stay of deportation after he sought refuge in a Phoenix church. 30-year-old Jesus Armando Berrones-Balderas was granted the yearlong stay on a humanitarian basis. Wilkes says Berrones checked in regularly with Immigration and Customs Enforcement every six months until December. That’s when ICE agents told him he’d be deported in January. CNN has more on Berrones’ fight to stay in the US.