The COVID-19 pandemic continues to shed light on the basic inequalities of our society. This week’s immigration news related to the virus, below:
- On May 19, the Trump administration announced that border restrictions would continue indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the CDC has defended the restrictions, the now-stringent policies regulating entry into the US have severely decreased the amount of people legally allowed into the country.
- Despite outbreaks, ICE continues to transfer immigrant detainees throughout various immigration centers, leading to further contagion in the United States. A couple of cases in Haskell, Texas at the Rolling Plains Detention Center spiraled into over 1,400 infected detainees in Texas, and later throughout Ohio, Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Although ICE screens detainees before transfers, COVID-19 testing is reserved for the symptomatic, disregarding the importance of testing possible “silent spreaders.” Experts say that ICE is not testing enough and many believe that the inevitable close proximity of the detainees and the constant movement of transfers and workers will only escalate the severity of the coronavirus.
- The White House has restricted some Chinese students from coming to the United States for higher education. On May 29, President Trump issued a presidential proclamation limiting the issuance of visas to some graduate students from China. The proclamation bars the entry of or issuance of visas to Chinese students in F or J status in graduate level programs, or who are involved in the “strategy” to divert technology to the Chinese military. The proclamation also calls on the State Department to consider revoking visas.
- A lawsuit filed against the Trump administration claims that the recent immigration ban unfairly discriminates on immigrant children that are 21 years or older. Although the executive order expires on June 23, 2020, The Migration Policy Institute estimates that Trump’s executive order will still affect over 50,000 people. Furthermore, this order places immigrant children that are 21 or older in a “non-prioritized category,” where the waiting period could last up to 76 years, undoubtedly creating severe long-term effects.
- In a landmark victory for many asylum seekers, the Supreme Court ruled that immigrants who fear torture can appeal their deportations in federal appeals court. In a 7-2 decision on June 1, the Supreme Court ruled against the Trump administration, holding that immigrants slated for deportation have a right to judicial review if their request for relief under the Convention Against Torture (CAT) is denied. The CAT protects asylum seekers from being deported if they are at risk of being tortured in their home country. In Justice Kavanaugh’s majority opinion, he wrote that Congress could preclude judicial review of CAT orders, but since Congress has not done so, the Supreme Court could not “rewrite the laws.” Many congratulations to Attorney Helen Parsonage, a friend of the firm, on this win!
- The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is preparing to open some domestic offices and other non-essential services to the public beginning on June 4, 2020. Any asylum interviews and/or Application Support Center Appointments that were cancelled due to the agency’s temporary closing will be automatically rescheduled. Those with rescheduled Application Support Center Appointments will receive more information via mail. Similarly, the USCIS will send applicants a notice to reschedule any naturalization ceremonies that might have been postponed. Finally, any applicants or petitioners that had cancelled appointments will also receive a notice from the USCIS with more information and should follow the USCIS guidelines on their website. For more detailed information and update, please visit USCIS.
- Following offices reopening, the USCIS has also started to provide for premium processing for some applications. On May 29, USCIS announced that it had resumed premium processing for Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, and Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers.
- On May 28, 2020, the New York City Council voted against the use of the terms “alien” and “illegal immigrant” on official documents, with Speaker Corey Johnson stating that the words only serve to “dehumanize.” The term “noncitizen” will be used instead.
- As borderland owners between the US and Mexico are disrupted by the pandemic, the Trump administration rapidly moves to secure land for the border wall. Continuing the desperate land grab from the beginning of the year, Trump claims that a wall will help curve the COVID-19 pandemic, despite Mexico’s relatively low percentages as compared to the United States. Many landowners are also opposed to selling their land to the federal government.
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Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk