The Golden Door: December 2018


Legal and Policy Issues

We are closely monitoring state and federal immigration law and policy. Please check our social media accounts for more frequent updates.

Asylum Under Attack, But Legal Advocates Fight Back

The past month has been filled with the administration's brutal onslaught against asylum seekers. Over Thanksgiving weekend, the administration's manufactured crisis at the border reached unimaginably cruel heights when border agents shot tear gas into Mexico at families. Children have become very ill and even, tragically, died while in detention facilities at the border. The administration has even gone directly to the Supreme Court to try to push through its enjoined asylum proclamation.

The attacks keep coming. Just yesterday, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen announced the latest inhumane policy her department is employing against families fleeing persecution. The plan will force these families to wait in Mexico while their asylum claims are processed in the United States. This plan violates our duty to protect asylum seekers and evaluate all claims for asylum, the legal protections we promise families and individuals fleeing persecution, and due process. Without access to legal services, families will find it almost impossible to navigate the immigration court system, and this plan will lead to even more families being erroneously denied asylum. Finally, this plan is incredibly dangerous to children and families applying for asylum. Many families seeking asylum are not safe in Mexico and are targeted by smugglers and organized crime. 

However, all of the terrible news coming from the border is matched by court victories for hard-working immigration advocates. On December 19th, judges on both coasts blocked two of the administration's unlawful and cruel asylum policies. In Washington, D.C., U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan blocked the government from enforcing a cruel new policy essentially preventing victims of domestic and gang violence from seeking asylum.  Meanwhile, in San Francisco, U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar extended his temporary order from November stopping the administration from denying asylum to immigrants who cross the U.S. border outside of a port of entry. These decisions confirm that the right to asylum is enshrined in both national and international law.

Public Charge Rule Receives over 210,000 Comments!

Over the two month comment period for the proposed public charge rule, ILAP gave 25 presentations to the immigrant community, agency providers, general public, and congressional delegation staff. Nationally, over 210,000 comments were submitted, and most of those were opposed to the proposed rule.

What's next? By law, DHS must review ALL public comments, and respond to them in the preamble of their final regulation. If DHS does not incorporate a comment, they must explain WHY. If a regulation is "arbitrary or capricious" (for example, if it ignores evidence or research contravening the alleged benefits of the regulation), advocates can challenge the regulation in court.

Last Friday, December 14, a group of immigrant community members as well as Maine immigration and health experts including ILAP, met with Senator Angus King to discuss the potential harm of the proposed public charge rule. Senator King is concerned about the proposed public charge rule, and vowed to help in any way he can. Please call Senator King to thank him for his position against this cruel rule: (207) 883-1588. Representative Chellie Pingree has also spoken out against the rule and co-sponsored legislation to block implementation of the proposed rule. Call Representative Pingree to thank her for her position against the proposed public charge rule: (207) 774-5019. 

Call Senator Susan Collins to urge her to speak out against the proposed public charge rule: (207) 780-3575. We will provide Representative Jared Golden's contact information when he takes office in January. Make sure you follow ILAP on Facebook and Twitter to stay updated.

Government Reverses Background Check Policy for Sponsors of Unaccompanied Children

As a result of the Flores Settlement Agreement, the government is required to release detained children as quickly as possible. In order to do so, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) must identify an appropriate sponsor, which includes a background check. In May, ORR began sharing information about potential sponsors with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and in June, began fingerprinting potential sponsors AND their household members. ICE has used the information to arrest and deport potential sponsors and household members alleged to be in the country without lawful status. 

This week, the government announced that it will reverse its draconian policy of taking fingerprints of household members of potential sponsors and sharing them with ICE. One reason for this change is the sheer amount of children in government shelters. The government has custody of almost 15,000 children, up from 9,000 when the fingerprint policy started this summer, and only 3,000 when President Trump took office.

Administration Targets Naturalized Citizens

The administration also has its sights on naturalized citizens. The administration's program "Second Look" grew out of a program called "Operation Janus" that began under the Obama administration. The goal of both operations is to identify cases in which people naturalized as citizens despite past fraud or criminal charges or deportation orders.

This is another attempt to cause chaos and fear in the immigrant community. In a case described by the New York Times, the government alleged that a woman, a naturalized citizen, had filed a fraudulent asylum application because her fingerprints matched those in a 1997 asylum application of someone with a different name. Due to that fingerprint match, ICE showed up to her door, arrested her, she was charged criminally by the US Attorney's office, and she had to somehow prove in court that she had nothing to do with that 1997 application. Despite having an attorney, the woman was convicted, jailed, and lost her citizenship. The government now plans to deport her.

The administration has plans to centralize its denaturalization efforts and to create an office with additional lawyers dedicated to this purpose. Advocates are concerned about the administration revoking citizenship of individuals who have made small or unintentional mistakes on their naturalization applications.