Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Invisible Immigration Wall

 Trump has failed to place one brick to his infamous wall between the US and Mexico, but his administration this year has quietly built an invisible wall that limits migration to the USA. Trump has attacked the immigration process aggressively and in ways which they used the administrative processes so skillfully to create very real hurdles and barriers that didn’t require any changes in the law. 

There has been  three versions of a travel ban on people from Muslim-majority countries. The latest approved by the Supreme Court bars most citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad, Venezuela and North Korea from entering the US. 

Also the cancellation of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) – an Obama-era program that protected undocumented youth raised in the US. Programs to help people fleeing natural disasters, violence and persecution have either been cancelled or slowed by bureaucratic hurdles under Trump. 

The Trump administration has also suspended refugee programs such as the Central American Minors program, which allowed parents lawfully in the US to bring their minor children to the country – IRC estimated the program protected nearly 2,700 people last year. And administrative hurdles like expanded security checks and paperwork requirements have put a further burden on an already slow system where cases can take up to 200 days to clear.

This year, the administration has also gone after a program that grants temporary status to people affected by events like natural disasters or conflict: Temporary Protected Status (TPS). In November, TPS was terminated for more than 50,000 Haitians and 5,300 Nicaraguans who must leave by 2019 or face deportation. The largest group of (TPS) recipients, Salvadorans who fled their home country after it was struck by earthquakes in 2001, are waiting to hear whether their protection will be extended before it expires in January.

There has been an increased scrutiny of the H-1B visa for people in specialty occupations and a new requirement that people seeking employer-sponsored green cards be interviewed. For all visas, immigration lawyers have also seen an increase in challenges, or requests for evidence, from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which oversees immigration. USCIS  new ombudsman is Julie Kirchner, who for 10 years was director of Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group that has advocated extreme restrictions on immigration.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) called for her removal in May. “We do not believe that a person who has spent over a decade attacking immigrant communities will now work effectively and thoughtfully to advance the rights of immigrants and fulfill the important duties that are required of this role.” 

There has been a dramatically shifted how the federal government speaks about asylum, going as far as to suggest in public communications the unproven claim that asylum is a routinely abused legal loophole.
“We also have dirty immigration lawyers who are encouraging their otherwise unlawfully present clients to make false claims of asylum providing them with the magic words needed to trigger the credible fear process,” the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, said in October. Even though USCIS said it does not have data that shows widespread abuse of the asylum system.

 In September, the White House restricted refugee admissions in 2018 to 45,000 people – the lowest ceiling since the president began capping refugee admissions in 1980.

 Hans Van de Weerd, vice-president of US programs at the International Rescue Committee (IRC), said US efforts to restrict refugee admissions signals to other countries that it is OK to kick out refugees. “It makes the global challenge of offering protection to refugees so much bigger.” He continued, “The country’s reputation as a beacon of safety and the values of this nation are really about offering protection to those who are in danger. The US is losing that reputation.”

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