Weekly Immigration News: Border Politics and the Washington Immigration Agenda

The child migrant detention complex is once again gripping the nation. For decades, the United States has faced the prospect of unaccompanied minors and families coming to the border seeking asylum, and for decades, the government has struggled to balance law enforcement with humanitarian interests. Although the Biden administration says it is handling the matter differently from Trump, the jury is out. Meanwhile, Congress may hold the key to some of our other immigration challenges.

  • This Thursday, the House Democrats passed two bills that can set a pathway to citizenship for DACA beneficiaries (Dreamers) and several migrant farmworkers. Specifically, the Dream and Promise Act would help Dreamers and TPS (Temporary (Temporary Protected Status) beneficiaries to apply for citizenship. Many Democrats are hopeful for an immigration win, as new arrivals at the US-Mexico border has complicated President Biden’s immigration agenda. Additionally, the House passed legislation aiming to provide eventual citizenship to seasonal migrant farm laborers. Together, the bills give millions of immigrants the opportunity of naturalization, but even then, this total is far from Biden’s eleven million goal.
  • Last Wednesday, forty GOP senators asked the GAO (Government Accountability Office) to look into President Biden’s move to freeze the billion-dollar construction work on the US-Mexico border wall. The group has claimed that President Biden’s move “compromised” control of the border, an observation that comes as immigrant border crossings are dramatically increasing. Moreover, the senators believe that President Biden’s freeze “violated the Impoundment Control Act (ICA), as interpreted by [GAO].”
  • Alejandro Mayorkas (Homeland Security Secretary) stated on Wednesday that the US-Mexico border is “not open,” amid the rapid increase of immigrants at the southern United States’ boundary. Although many lawmakers are calling the influx a crisis, Mayorkas has said that he views the humanitarian crisis surrounding how the US is treating migrant minors from the border as more important, citing the parentless children he encountered stranded in custody. Both the Biden administration and Mayorkas are emphasizing that the people should not come to the United States until the immigration system and COVID-19 testing are ready.
  • The State Department has issued a thirty-day notice and comment request for possible revisions to the current refugee biographic datasheet. All comments are due to the OMB (Office of Management and Budget) by April 16, 2021. The revisions include collection of refugee personal information and other applicant details. Specifics on the changes are detailed here.
  • The United States has moved to offer non-citizens from Myanmar Temporary Protected Status as the country’s coup leaders continue to hold their seats of power. The Biden administration approximates that the change will allow around 1,600 people already residing in the US to continue living in the country for eighteen more months. Only those immigrants already in the United States are eligible for TPS.
  • The Seventh Circuit denied Texas’s attempt to reinstitute the public charge rule under which immigrants who use public benefits (like food stamps) are put at a disadvantage in the immigration system. This comes after the Biden administration refused support for the Trump-era rule. It should be noted that the court did not provide a reason for their denial though it should be pretty clear that Texas doesn’t have legal standing to challenge these rules.
  • Finally, the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) is now helping to process the rapidly growing number of immigrant minors who crossed the border alone, as other facilities are overcrowding. Alejandro Mayorkas (DHS Secretary) has deployed FEMA to aid in sheltering migrant children for the next ninety days. Just in February, around 9,500 minors came into United States custody.

Photo Credit: Tony Webster

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