Immigration in Pandemic Times, Vol. 1, No. 11

By Arantxa Galvan
In July 24, 2020
160 Views

The Trump Administration continues to pass legislation restricting immigrant rights as the pandemic continues – will lawsuits, rulings, and Supreme Court interventions be enough to stop them?

  • A federal judge ruled on July 17, 2020 that the Trump administration must immediately begin to accept DACA applications, saying that DACA needs to be “restored to its ‘pre-September 5, 2017 status.’” Although the judge’s ruling will force the government to stop delaying applications, the immigration rights group (CASA) that began the lawsuit states that the judge has only restated the previous Supreme Court decision on the case. Although the Trump administration could attempt to restrict and possibly completely dismantle DACA, it is unlikely that they will be able to prove reasonable explanations for their action, a necessary aspect of the process. Further, they will most definitely be faced with further litigation on the matter.
  • On Tuesday, July 21, 2020, President Trump signed a memorandum that targets undocumented immigrants in the upcoming 2020 United States Census. The measure excludes these immigrants from counting in congressional districts. Although the Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that the Trump administration could not ask any questions directly relating to US citizenship or lack thereof, this new rule seems to similarly attempt to shift the power balance in the House of Representatives, where state power is determined by a state’s population. If undocumented immigrants do not count, then many states may be unable to have as many representatives as they previously did. However, the presidential memorandum is opposed by many immigration support groups who plan to sue against what they consider to be an unconstitutional abuse of power.
  • As the coronavirus pandemic continues to slow down immigration proceedings, it seems more and more likely that many immigrants will be unable to complete the citizenship process in time for the next presidential election. Even migrants who have begun the process as early as 2019, such as Alex Beric, have been affected by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) slowdowns and budget decreases worsened by COVID-19, with Beric stating that his naturalization interview has been postponed indefinitely. In some states, the deadline for voter registration is fast approaching, and many believe that they will be unable to make it. In fact, an estimated 315,000 people are likely to be unable to vote in the presidential election. Although this backlog is mostly due to the pandemic, it is beneficial for the Trump administration, as only a few of many immigrants plan to vote Republican if given the opportunity.
  • Although Trump has spent a great majority of the COVID-19 pandemic attempting to further restrict immigration, on Wednesday, July 22nd, the House passed legislation that would overturn Trump’s recent moves against refugees. Despite the fact that it is almost certain that the legislation will be shot down in the Senate, the significance of the Democratic Party acting against racist bans against Muslims cannot be understated. Not only does the proposal ban religious discrimination in immigration, but also prevents Homeland Security, the President, and the State Department from restricting immigration to individuals unless they are acting in the interests of the government. If passed, these restrictions would set a precedent for White House limitations in dealing with immigration matters.
  • Despite a judge’s order in late June, immigrant children are still being held in detention centers during the COVID-19 outbreak. The reasoning for the original ruling was that the ICE facilities were too dangerous for kids, and although many immigrants are still dying due to the lack of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) or proper distancing guidelines in the detention centers, the children have not been released. Although multiple groups such as RAICES and ALDEA sued the government, the Trump administration has stated that it is against releasing the children because it would lead to family separation. However, this statement does not match the administration’s past, in which they have separated over 5,000 kids from their families. As of today, the original deadline for the children’s release, or June 17, has been postponed until next Monday, July 27.

Photo Credit: Chuckcars

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