There is just so much happening on the immigration front under this draconian administration and its cohorts in the Senate weekly that it feels like you miss a lot with just a blink. Here’s a look back at some of the top news headlines you may have missed in the past week alone:
1: Under a pilot program that has reportedly been running for months, immigrant asylum seekers to the U.S. are now being interviewed by U.S. Customs Border Patrol agents rather than asylum officers, immigration authorities confirmed to CBS News. Of course, attorneys and immigrant advocates have said enforcement officers should not be responsible for interviewing migrants expressing credible fear and seeking a haven in the U.S., but since when has that stopped this administration? Their claim? That CBP agents would not approve as many “credible fear” interviews.
2: We have now moved from ‘tent cities’ to ‘tent courts’ at the U.S.’ southern border. The Trump administration has built courts using tents and shipping containers in Brownsville and Laredo, Texas, solely to hold asylum hearings for immigrants forced to remain in Mexico until a judge, under the Migrant Protection Protocols, hears their case. In one case, the judge and the government lawyer appeared remotely from the immigration court in Harlingen, Texas and there was no translator for the migrants or attorney provided unless the immigrant had secured a volunteer rights attorney. A CBP official told CBS News that the agency was also instructing migrants to show up four hours before their court hearing appointment “to allow for processing and transportation.”
3: The backlog in deportation hearings now pending in U.S. immigration courts officially surpassed 1 million cases in August, according to The Wall Street Journal. The figure has nearly doubled since Donald Trump took office in January 2017, when about 542,000 cases were pending. It comes despite the Trump administration’s varied attempts to cut back on asylum claims.
4: The administration on Sept. 19 filed a 71-page federal in a NYC appeals court trying to overturn a New York federal judge’s decision earlier this year that blocked them from ending Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, for Haitians, according to the Miami Herald. Filed on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, lawyers argued that U.S. District Judge William F. Kuntz of the Eastern District of New York “erred” when he issued a nationwide temporary injunction that prevented DHS from taking steps to force Haitian TPS holders to return to Haiti.
5: The ACLU was back in court again on Friday, Sept. 20, pushing to block the Trump administration from continuing to separate families at the border. As this column reiterated last week, this is still going on in defiance of the nationwide injunction issued last year. At least 950 parents and children—including babies—have been separated since then, the ACLU says, noting that the administration is manufacturing flimsy reasons to justify separating families under the guise of child welfare. They include an instance where a CBP agent blamed a father for neglect when his two-year-old daughter developed a fever and then separated the family and deported the father.
6: Immigrants seeking to appeal a deportation ruling may now be required to pay almost $1,000 in fees to appeal. According to Buzzfeed News, the Trump administration has proposed increasing the $110 fee immigrants now pay to $975, in order to request an appeal of an immigration judge’s ruling. That’s more than a 700% increase. They also may have to shell out $895 to request a case be reopened or reconsidered with the Board of Immigration Appeals. If instituted, the escalated costs could dramatically overhaul the immigration system and impact whether immigrants are able to appeal judges’ decisions in their deportation cases. The proposal requires a 60-day public comment period before it goes into effect.
7: One immigrant called the U.S. ICE to help quell fears about deportations and now is facing deportation. A judge on Monday, Sept. 16, denied bail for Roland Gramajo, an undocumented community activist in Houston, Texas. He was arrested by immigration agents’ weeks after hosting a forum with ICE to quell concerns about immigration raids. The 40-year-old father of five, who was born in Guatemala, has been living in the U.S. for 25 years and has been an outspoken activist for immigrants in Houston. Family and friends say they believe Gramajo’s activism made him a target of ICE agents. The judge’s decision to deny bond clears the way for the government to prosecute him for an illegal re-entry charge.
8: A bill that would eliminate per-country caps on employment-based green cards, effectively opening the door to more high-skilled immigrants from India and China, failed on the Senate floor on Thursday, Sept. 19, after Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) blocked the bill. The bill would have been a boon to Silicon Valley, which overwhelmingly relies on high-skilled foreign labor especially from Asia, particularly in the field of engineering.
9: After widespread uproar, the Trump administration has now reinstated protections from deportation for sick migrants. It’s a rare reversal but a welcome one for these sick children, immigrants and their families. The DHS says it notified Congress that Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan instructed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, to resume considering all applications for Deferred Action, as the relief is officially known.
10: Fifteen children have so far died at the U.S.-Mexico border under the Trump MPP plan, which has forced over 40,000 migrants seeking asylum to wait there, according to data from the International Organization for Migration and reported by BuzzFeed. That is the highest number of dead children since 2014, which is when the organization started tracking deaths along migratory routes for its “Missing Migrants Project.” Previously, the highest number of children who died at the U.S.–Mexico border was nine, in 2018, and before that it was eight in 2016. Seven of the 15 children who died in 2019 so far have drowned or were presumed drowned, according to IOM.
The writer is publisher at NewsAmericasNow