The Golden Door: July 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.
Family Separation Border Crisis
Last month, thousands of Mainers protested the administration's inhumane policy of separating asylum seeking families at the border.
The court-imposed deadline for the government to reunite separated families was last week. The government says that they met the deadline for reunification, and that 711 children were found "either not eligible for reunification or not available for discharge at this time." Of these, 431 children have parents who are no longer in the United States. These parents have most likely been deported, and the government has not said how or if they would be reuniting those children with their parents.
Disturbingly, it appears that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents coerced parents into waiving their rights to seek asylum because the parents thought they would be reunited with their children more quickly.
We will keep you updated on any developments in this horrific policy.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Issues Memos Aimed At Initiating Deportation Proceedings for Thousands
USCIS has issued two memos in the last month aimed at initiating deportation proceedings for thousands. One USCIS guidance instructs its staff to issue a Notice to Appear (NTA) to anyone who is unlawfully present when an application, petition, or benefit request is denied. This includes almost every undocumented person who is applying for status, as well as individuals whose lawful status expires while waiting for a decision.
An NTA is a document issued to individuals when the government believes there are grounds for deporting them from the United States. When a person receives an NTA, they must appear in immigration court and possibly be deported.
By issuing an NTA to all people who are out of status and have an application denied, USCIS is adding potentially thousands of cases to a system with over 700,000 cases in the backlog. This policy will just contribute to the fear and anxiety being felt by immigrants all over this country. This policy will also discourage immigrant survivors of violence, who already face enormous obstacles, from coming forward. USCIS just announced they are postponing implementation of this guidance.
Another guidance from USCIS furthers the administration's "zero tolerance" approach. This guidance allows USCIS employees to deny any application, petition or request without asking for further evidence or letting the applicant know the application will be denied. Currently, officers will let an applicant know of deficiencies in her application so that she can remedy them and continue with the application. Now, officers will not have to give an applicant that opportunity.
This policy combined with the guidance on NTA's means that if you mess up on your immigration application, the next step could be immigration court. This will be an unprecedented change in immigration policy and yet another attack on immigrants.
Call to Action: Census Question on Citizenship
The government is pressing forward with its plan to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.
Getting an accurate count in the 2020 census is critical to Maine communities, and with a citizenship question many people will be too scared to answer, whether they have status or not. In 2010, we saw that refugees and green card holders, and undocumented immigrants, were scared to answer the census and it required a lot of outreach, even without a citizenship question.
This will not only be harmful to immigrants. This will hurt all low income Mainers because census data is used to distribute SNAP, TANF, Medicaid, and other programs. Further, communities use census data to distribute resources like disaster response, education, and hospitals.
Go to www.censuscounts.org to tell the Commerce Department to withdraw its citizenship question from the 2020 census. The window closes on August 7.
Somalia TPS Extended
Last week, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it extended Somali Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 18 months until March 17, 2020. ILAP has several clients with Somali TPS.
While the extension of Somali TPS is a relief, TPS provides no path to permanent legal status. Moreover, the administration has cancelled other TPS programs, including those for El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti. This has affected ILAP clients, many of whom have lived in their communities for decades, work here, own homes, and have US citizen children.
Call Maine's Congressional Delegation today and demand that they pass legislation providing TPS holders a pathway to permanent status!
Sen. Susan Collins: (202) 224-2523
Sen. Angus King: (202) 224-5344
Rep. Chellie Pingree: (202) 225-6116
Rep. Bruce Poliquin: (202) 225-6306
Proposed Public Charge Rule
A few months ago, the Washington Post published a leaked proposed rule from the Trump administration. This rule concerns "public charge." In order to become a legal permanent resident (get a green card), the government needs to believe the person applying to immigrate will be unlikely to become a "public charge," meaning, she will be able to support herself without needing public benefits like TANF.
The "public charge" rule does not apply to green card holders applying for US citizenship; refugees; applicants or recipients of asylum; applicants or recipients of visas for survivors of trafficking or domestic violence; people applying for or re-registering for Temporary Protected Status (TPS); and several other types of noncitizens. BUT, this could impact anyone wanting to help family members immigrate to the U.S., so contact an immigration lawyer if you have specific questions.
The leaked proposed rule adds numerous programs to what the government may use to determine someone may be a "public charge" in the future. The proposed rule would add the Earned Income Tax Credit, General Assistance, medical coverage like Affordable Care Act subsidies and/or Medicaid, nutrition assistance like food stamps or WIC, housing assistance, energy assistance, and other programs, even when used for the family's U.S. citizen children.
This will increase fear and anxiety among immigrants and their U.S. citizen family members in Maine. Families that include immigrants could choose to go without vital anti-poverty programs and risk the health and wellbeing of themselves and their children. Our communities will suffer because our neighbors and classmates will not be getting the help they need. This affects even immigrant families who use these programs for their US citizen children. While we don't know how many are children, one in twelve Maine residents is a US citizen with at least one immigrant parent.
Remember - this is just a leaked rule and has not been published yet. We are hearing that it will be published soon.
What can you do before the rule is published?
- Spread the word! The Maine Immigrants' Rights Coalition (MIRC) has a form to organize people and organizations willing to comment about the devastating impact of this proposed rule. https://goo.gl/anZrGS
- Gather stories! If you would like to share how the rule may impact you or someone you know, email Julia Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call her at 207-699-4416.
- After the rule is published, ILAP will send out a call to action with requests for public comments.