Immigration In Pandemic Times, Vol. 2, No. 1

As immigration has been impacted by health concerns surrounding COVID-19, many migrants have been stripped of their rights. The injustices are only continuing as application fees increase, the wall is deemed constitutional, migrant children are expelled without being able to see lawyers, and other cases.

  • The Trump administration has increased many immigration application fees, especially on first-time asylum and naturalization applications. The increase has shifted the cost for naturalization from an original $715 to $1,160. Further, there is now a $50 application fee for asylum seekers. The USCIS has stated that the new naturalization cost reflects overhead fees and has no correlation with their recent budget shortfalls. Both the asylum fee and the naturalization fee will undergo the changes as of October 2, 2020. It should be noted that along with these increases there have also been fee reductions as the $275 proposed DACA fee was removed and the USCIS lowered proposed genealogy fees. You can see a full list of the changes here, or read our latest news on this topic on the Lal Legal bulletin.
  • The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) director, Matt Albence, will be retiring from his position at the end of August. Albence has been the acting director of ICE since last summer when Mark Morgan left to work for Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and has stepped into the role various times throughout Trump’s presidency when there was an agency shake-up. It is unclear who will take his place as director once he leaves.  
  • On Friday, July 31, the Supreme Court upheld the construction of the Trump border wall in California, New Mexico, and Arizona. The American Civil Liberties Union led the opposing side. Despite the fact that the Supreme Court ruling is only for a section of the entire wall, it is highly likely that the entirety of the wall construction will be completed before the Supreme Court can rule on the matter again.
  • Last month, the Trump administration quietly added a policy that mandates that immigration officials need to weigh “discretionary factors” before accepting or denying migrants’ employment authorization while their green card applications are pending. Prior to this change, immigrants had always been able to have the right to work if they had a pending green card applications. These new changes will most likely mean that many applicants will be unable to work legally while they wait for their green cards. Although this new policy seems to violate the Administrative Procedures Act, there have been no publicized challenges against it.
  • DOJ lawyers have stated that the children who will be deported from the United States due to the emergency coronavirus order do not have the same rights as other minors in immigration holdings. DOJ lawyers argued that the migrant children are in the custody of public health officials and so are not eligible for the same legal safeguards. Further, the Trump administration has supported these statements and has stated that the migrant minors are not protected by the Flores Settlement Agreement. As such, the majority of children who have been detained this year have not been able to request asylum, have been immediately deported, and do not have access to lawyers. Instead of being processed by the United States immigration agency, migrants are now quickly categorized as “Title 42” and are expelled.

Photo Credit: Tony Webster

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