ICE continues to ignore COVID-19 regulations in detention facilities, while asylum seekers struggle to gain entry to the United States. However, we had a huge win this week when the Supreme Court held that the Trump administration’s decision to end DACA was arbitrary and capricious. You can read more about that here and sign up for upcoming virtual clinics here.
- ICE refuses to make compromises for the sake of migrant health, and as a result, COVID-19 cases remain high in immigrant detention centers. Alfredo Garcia, a middle-aged widow with preexisting health conditions who was previously detained at an Illinois detention center, is only one example. Not only did the detention facility lack basic sanitation requirements such as masks or soap when Garcia was still in custody, but more than half of the center’s detainees are presently infected with the virus. However, for cases like Garcia’s, there has been a pushback from immigrant help organizations. A Chicago organization filed a lawsuit that allowed for Garcia’s release, in an effort that parallels the attempts of the National Immigrant Justice Center, which has already filed over 18 federal lawsuits in their fight to release migrants in ICE holdings. The organization claims that COVID-19 conditions have only been exacerbated by a delayed immigration system lacking the necessary safeguards against the virus. Although ICE has stated that it is increasing testing in detention facilities and is providing more supplies to prevent COVID-19, many migrants have already tested positive for a disease that currently does not have a cure.
- Similarly, Karina Rodríguez has already spent 8 months in a Louisiana detention center despite being an asylum seeker who has already spent time in Mexico under Trump’s Remain in Mexico Policy. Originally from Cuba, Rodríguez was elated when she was paroled, until she learned about the $10,000 bond that came with it. This is not a new occurrence and organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center have already been fighting against these injustices. Although the groups won a September injunction and ICE is now reporting asylum-seeker data, many believe the numbers are fictitious. Like Rodríguez, more and more people seem to be getting parole with unpayable bonds. Especially now, during the pandemic-created economic recession, it will be more difficult for these migrants to pay and be released from detention facilities.
- There’s much speculation that the Trump administration is planning to ban H-1B visas. An expanded proclamation could bar H-1B, H-2B, L-1 and J-1 applicants pursuant to the Immigration and Nationality Act sections 212(f) and 215(a). Some exceptions are expected, however. Among those are: COVID-19 related exemptions, such as for health care workers, food supply workers and U.S. employers who conduct additional recruitment efforts.
- An increasing number of asylum seekers continue to be denied legal forms of entry into the United States. Imanol Luján, a Honduran teen seeking asylum, was only able to spend days in the United States before being deported. According to Luján, he was denied an interview to explain his reasons for asylum and was unable to see a judge. Instead of following the pre-pandemic pathway (where unaccompanied minors were transferred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement), the teen states that he was taken to an immigration station by the border patrol and then taken to a hotel. Although he was treated humanely once he was in the hotel room, Luján claims that during the four days in the immigration station, he was denied proper bedding and there was no physical distancing. Luján had shown his birth certificate as proof of his age at the border, but despite this evidence, he was denied phone calls, was not shown any other documents, and was barred from requesting asylum. Instead, after a day in the hotel room, he and other Hondurans were put on a bus headed to the airport for a flight back to their country of origin. Despite efforts by the American Civil Liberties Union, there has been a significant decrease in the number of successful asylum seekers in part due to the Trump administration’s abuse of Title 42 regulations during the pandemic. Using the excuse of contagion, the CBP continues to uphold that all detained migrants may be immediately deported for the sake of public health.
- On Thursday, June 18, the Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration could not immediately end DACA, a program that provides immigrants who arrived as children with temporary status and the ability to work. Although the ruling did prevent Trump from fulfilling one of his campaign promises, the Supreme Court did not judge whether or not DACA was constitutional, only denying Trump’s attempt to remove the program due to insufficient justification. Essentially, the ruling only means that Trump and his officials will have to provide better reasoning for DACA’s removal at a lower court in order to end the program. However, this process could take several months. As of yesterday, SCOTUS has reinstated DACA, although it is still unclear when the USCIS will reopen the program. As such, if you are a first-time DACA applicant or want to apply for advance parole, please fill out this consult questionnaire instead of booking a consultation.
- SCOTUS also delivered a big blow to the Trump administration this week by refusing to take up a challenge to California’s sanctuary laws.
Photo Credit: Susan Ruggles