The Golden Door: June 2019
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.
Impact of Administration's Attacks on Asylum Seekers Felt Near and Far
Portland Welcomes Newly Arrived Families from Central Africa
In recent weeks, Portland has welcomed dozens of families from Central Africa who are fleeing persecution and seeking safety in Maine. It is heartwarming to see the City and people of Portland coming together to assist these newly arrived families. We recognize that they bring opportunity to our state, and that we have a humanitarian duty to provide any and all support that we can to those seeking safety and protection.
ILAP spent thirteen hours at the Expo on Friday, June 21, along with dozens of attorneys, interpreters, and other incredible volunteers. We are so grateful to the community for banding together and helping us reach everyone staying at the Expo with legal presentations, intakes, one-on-one attorney meetings, and changes of address with immigration court. We will continue to perform similar outreach work for asylum seekers who have come from the southern border.
Heartbreaking News About Detained Children
Even as we welcome the newly arrived families to Maine, we must remember and work to assist the thousands of children detained at the southern border in unspeakably inhumane conditions. The administration is detaining children in violation of the Flores settlement and improperly refusing to release them to awaiting relatives. More and more children are dying in government custody, and we hear more details of the horrific conditions of their detention every day.
The government argues that they do not have the resources to properly care for children in their custody, but Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has more than twice the budget it had in 2003. Holding children in prisons to deter asylum seekers from seeking safety here is unconscionable and must be stopped.
So-Called Remain in Mexico Policy Is Cruel and Inhumane
The "Remain in Mexico" (also known as "Migrant Protection Protocols") policy orders immigration officers at the southern border to conduct an "assessment" to determine if an asylum seeker from Central America must wait out their claim in Mexico. Frighteningly, access to an attorney during this "assessment" is prohibited. Asylum seeking families are now waiting in Mexico for an unknown amount of time, and facing trafficking, kidnapping, sexual assault, and other violence.
In the midst of a lawsuit challenging this policy, the labor union for asylum officers condemned the Migrant Protection Protocols. Asylum officers have specialized training in asylum law and working with people who have experienced trauma. The officers are witnesses to the humanitarian crisis at the border. The asylum officers' union wrote that this policy is a "widespread violation" of international and domestic law. You can read their amicus brief here. This unusual criticism by federal employees of a sitting president's policy shows how cruel the policy really is.
CALL, and keep calling, Maine's congressional delegation to alert them of the need for emergency action ending the Remain in Mexico policy and child detention.
Representative Jared Golden: 202-225-6306
Representative Chellie Pingree: 202-225-6116
Senator Susan Collins: 202-224-2523
Senator Angus King: 202-224-5344
If you would like to volunteer to help Maine asylum seekers, check the Maine Immigrants' Rights Coalition's Facebook page for opportunities.
State House Wrap Up
The Maine Legislature has ended its exciting and busy session. Here are some key bills that were signed by the Governor and enacted into law that will improve lives for immigrants in Maine:
LD 1596, "An Act To Enhance the Long-term Stability of Certain At-risk Youth." ILAP worked with a coalition of: students and professors from University of Maine School of Law, ACLU of Maine, The Maine Business Immigration Coalition, and expert immigration and family law attorneys to get this bill drafted and passed. Thank you to Representative Donna Bailey for sponsoring this bill! LD 1596 fixed the age gap between Maine and federal law regarding the age of someone applying for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). SIJS is a pathway to permanent status for vulnerable abused, neglected, or abandoned noncitizen children in the United States. While the federal immigration laws provide SIJS protection for children under age 21, there was no way for a child between 18 and 20 in Maine to get the special state court order needed to apply for SIJS. The enactment of this law means that dozens of young people in Maine will be able to access permanent status and live their lives without fear. It is life-changing legislation.
LD 1475, "An Act To Eliminate Profiling in Maine." The law prohibits profiling on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, socioeconomic status, age, national origin or ancestry by requiring the establishment of anti-profiling policies. It also directs the Attorney General to study data collection techniques. The law requires that law enforcement officers receive anti-profiling education and instruction. This is a great step toward addressing bias-based profiling in Maine.
LD 777, "An Act To Establish the Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous and Maine Tribal Populations." This law creates the Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous and Maine Tribal Populations to promote, carry out and coordinate programs designed to improve opportunities for those groups. We know that causes of disparity are structural, and we must explore structural changes in order to remove these disparities and achieve racial equity. A permanent commission will bring together experts to study and fully understand these problems, and to identify and evaluate potential solutions.
Anti-Immigrant Proposed Housing Rule - Comments Due By July 9th!
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has issued an anti-immigrant proposed rule that would prohibit mixed-immigration status families from living in public housing. An analysis by HUD shows that a shocking 55,000 children could be displaced under this cruel plan.
Currently, mixed status families receive housing subsidies that are prorated so ineligible family members do not receive any housing assistance. Individuals can just declare themselves "ineligible" for subsidized housing rather than reveal their immigration status to government officials.
Comments are due by July 9th. You can find template comments at https://www.keep-families-together.org/. Remember to personalize your comment!
***IMPORTANT: THIS RULE IS PROPOSED AND NOT IN EFFECT***
The Supreme Court of the United States just ruled that for now, the citizenship question will NOT be on the 2020 Census.
In a complicated, multi-part decision, the Court determined that the Department of Commerce did not have a good reason for adding the citizenship question. The Court remanded the case back to the lower court, giving the Department of Commerce an opportunity to give a better reason for adding the question to the Census. It is unclear whether there will be enough time for the government to come up with an adequate reason, particularly with the evidence that an architect of the citizenship question had specifically designed the question to "advantage non-Hispanic whites." The government is running out of time to print the Census questionnaires.
Make no mistake, this is a huge victory. Adding a citizenship question to the census would be harmful for Maine. Getting an accurate count in the 2020 census is critical to Maine communities, and many people would be too scared to answer, regardless of status. A citizenship question, and low turnout, would not only be harmful to immigrants. This would 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. This is a win for democracy and Maine communities.