Tag: immigrants

Medical Advisors Visit ICE Facilities

Medical Advisors Visit ICE Facilities – The number of active COVID cases in Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers recently hit a new record. Infections have surged 848% since the start of the year to 2673 cases. This composes 12% of the detainee population and is a figure far beyond the previous peak experienced in May 2021.

This dramatic increase has alarmed health experts. Two DHS medical advisors recently raised concerns about the US government’s COVID response in immigrant detention centers. Scott Allen and Josiah Rich penned a letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas detailing their personal inspections of ICE facilities, in which they noted “inconsistent enforcement of mask use,” “inconsistent testing and surveillance,” and “failure to develop facility level infection control plans.” They urged Mayorkas to ensure that detained immigrants receive their vaccinations within two weeks of detention, as required by ICE protocols and to ensure that detained immigrants have access to booster shots, N95 masks, antiviral medicine, and monoclonal antibodies.

This is not the first time officials raised concerns about the Department of Homeland Security’s COVID response in ICE facilities. The DHS inspector general previously documented loose enforcement of COVID protocols in a lengthy report published in September 2021. To the date, ICE has reported 36,000 COVID cases, and the number may be even higher. ICE must commit itself to following the advice of scientific, medical, and public health experts to protect ICE detainees, ICE employees, and the United States.

Immigrant Communities Face Challenges of the Pandemic

Since March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has posed a serious threat to immigrant communities around the country. According to the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, 6 million immigrants work frontline occupations, placing them at heightened risk of exposure. The United States Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that the infection risk was almost double that of native-born citizens.

Before 2020, Trump’s policy set the stage for noncitizens being at higher risk for COVID-exposure and the severe consequences of COVID. In 2019, Trump changed decades-long policy regarding noncitizens ability to use public health benefits without fear of negative impact upon their immigration status. That is, Trump’s rule penalized noncitizens if they used certain public health benefits, considering it grounds for inadmissibility (ineligibility for “green cards” or visas). This policy change created great confusion and damaged trust in government among immigrant communities. Then, with the arrival of the COVID pandemic, many members of the immigrant communities were fearful of seeking healthcare for COVID and later for vaccinations and boosters.

Also, as COVID relief policies were established, many noncitizens were left out of benefits, despite their long and crucial contributions to the US workforce and economy. Without financial benefits available to citizens, many noncitizens were forced to continue working in unsafe conditions or were left without financial support if they lost or left their jobs due to the dangers of COVID.

As vaccines rolled out, undocumented immigrants faced identification barriers. Certain vaccination sites requested documentation such as licenses, healthcare cards, or social security numbers, even though such measures were not mandated by state or federal governments. While the government ensured that the request for documentation only applied to those who already possess it, few states communicated this clearly, leaving many immigrants with anxieties. Recently, we have learned that some noncitizens temporary visas were canceled if they obtained COVID vaccinations in the US that were fully or partially paid for by government subsidies.

Now, new problems have arisen with the Omicron variant. In immigrants in detention centers, vaccine access is limited, and sanitation measures are lacking. The infection rate within these centers is three times higher than the national average. Non-detained noncitizen are also at heightened risk for reasons including their overrepresentation in essential jobs that do not allow for remote work.

As they have been for centuries, immigrants are the backbones of our communities, our workforce, and our economy. Yet, immigrant communities  face life-threatening discriminations at all turns. The Biden Administration must take up the plight of noncitizens, create equal protections for them, and provide pathways for healthy, productive, and peaceful futures for them through major immigration law reform.

Changing Terminology

Changing TerminologyLanguage is a powerful tool. Certain words carry harmful connotations, and their use has major political ramifications. In recognition of this, several states have begun changing terminology and drop the use of dehumanizing words like “alien” from state laws. The term –– dating back to the enactment of the country’s first naturalization law in 1798 –– implies an unjust idea of “otherness.” Colorado took action earlier this year, focusing on eliminating the use of “illegal alien” in public service contracts. The bill was first introduced in February of 2020 and entered law in April of 2020. California passed a similar law in September of this year. The decision echoed previous California laws from 2015 and 2016 that removed the term from state labor and education codes. In total, seven states have considered making the change, many in response to Biden’s related policy initiative. Under the Biden administration, “alien” was changed to “noncitizen” in the terminology of federal agencies, and officials have been discouraged from using the word “illegal” in reference to undocumented immigrants. Libraries and media companies have also been leading a movement towards similar changes around the country.

However, in some places, things are not moving as quickly. A similar proposal  recently failed in Texas. The two states that have made these changes in language are small compared to the larger whole of the country. Furthermore, as progressive as these changes are, they must be accompanied by strong policy plans that will help immigrants in more tangible ways.

 

Senator Bob Menendez and the Fight for the US Citizenship Act of 2021

Shortly after his inauguration, President Biden sent his progressive immigration bill to Congress. This bill, titled the US Citizenship Act of 2021, would offer millions of undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship. The following day, Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey held a virtual briefing on the act. The Senator is the highest ranking Latino in the United States Congress. He has a long history with immigration reform, and has been a life-long advocate for immigrants and the Latino population. He will be leading the legislative effort for the US Citizenship Act of 2021 in Congress. Menendez takes great pride in this fight. The Senator is already in talks with his colleagues, but he still faces strong Republican opposition. Regardless, Menendez remains optimistic. He believes in the power of immigrants. The Senator wants to make his case to Americans of all walks of life. Senator Menendez plans to emphasize why immigration reform is in the “moral, economic, and best interests” of the country. Throughout the briefing, Senator Menendez praised Biden’s commitment to reform and expressed optimism for the future of immigration reform under Biden. The US Citizenship Act of 2021 has yet to face a vote, and its future is still uncertain. During these next few weeks, it is leaders like Senator Menendez that will help shape the future of immigration law. It is a fight that must be followed.

 

Read Our Breakdown of the US Citizenship Act of 2021 Here: https://ellensullivanlaw.com/president-biden-sends-progressive-immigration-bill-to-congress/ 

 

Read About Senator Bob Menendez’s Briefing Here: https://www.menendez.senate.gov/newsroom/press/menendez-holds-virtual-briefing-on-us-citizenship-act-of-2021-and-his-role-as-the-lead-sponsor-in-the-senate 

President Biden Sends Progressive Immigration Bill to Congress

Shortly after taking office, Biden introduced his immigration bill to Congress as part of a wider effort to modernize the current immigration system. The bill, titled the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, has the power to change millions of lives. This legislative proposal would:

 

  1. Create a Pathway to Citizenship for Undocumented Individuals
  2. Change Government Rhetoric Regarding Immigrants: Immigration laws will now use the word “noncitizen” instead of “alien.”
  3. Keep Families Together: The bill allows immigrants with pre-approved family sponsorships to temporarily live with family in the United States while waiting on a green card.
  4. Optimize the Current System
  5. Embrace Diversity: The bill introduces the No Ban Act which would prohibit religious discrimination and limit presidential power to impose bans based on religion. The number of Diversity Visas will also be increased.
  6. Promote Integration: Government funds will be allocated to organizations promoting integration, teaching English, and helping immigrants on their pathway to citizenship.
  7. Protect Workers from Exploitation and Improve Employment Verification Process
  8. Grow our Economy: The bill helps those who graduated with advanced STEM degrees from U.S. universities and dependents of H-1B Visa holders stay in the U.S. It also eliminates unnecessary hurdles for employment based green cards.
  9. Supplement Existing Border Resources with Technology and Infrastructure 
  10. Manage the Border and Protect Border Communities: The bill provides funding to promote officer professionalism and to DHS to develop protocols for the safety of individuals in CPB custody.
  11. Crackdown on Criminal Organizations
  12. Increase Assistance to Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala
  13. Support Asylum Seekers and Other Vulnerable Populations: Eliminates the one-year deadline for filing asylum claims and raises the cap on U Visas
  14. Create Safe and Legal Channels for People to Seek Protection
  15. Improve the Immigration Courts

 

The bill still must face Congress, and its future is uncertain. There will be much to follow in the weeks ahead. Still, this bill provides hope for many, and is a promising beginning for the Biden administration. In this nation of immigrants, it is time for the government to uphold the idea of equal opportunity for all.

 

More information can be found at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-

releases/2021/01/20/fact-sheet-president-biden-sends-immigration-bill-to-congress-as-part-of-his-commitment-to-modernize-our-immigration-system/

Biden’s Preservation and Fortification of DACA Memorandum

steps to become a naturalized citizenOn his very first day in office, President Joseph R. Biden began to act on his campaign promises of immigration reform. Within hours of inauguration, the White House released a presidential proclamation titled “Preserving and Fortifying Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.” In Section 1 of the memorandum, Biden refers to former president Barack Obama’s original 2012 initiative to temporarily defer the deportation of certain undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country as children. Obama’s 2012 executive memorandum, titled “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA),” offered no pathway to permanent residency or citizenship, and was described by Obama as a “temporary stopgap measure” as he awaited legislative approval for the more comprehensive DREAM Act. This DREAM Act was not passed, and as of today, legislators have yet to develop a pathway for citizenship for Dreamers, the undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as minors. However, the Biden administration shows promise on this front. In Section 2 of Biden’s 2021 DACA memorandum, Biden directed the Secretary of Homeland Security to “take all actions he deems appropriate, consistent with applicable law, to preserve and fortify DACA.” This memorandum offers hope to the millions of Dreamers in the country, and hopefully, with Congressional legislation, they may begin to visualize a stable future in the United States they have grown up in.

Deferred Enforcement Departure for Certain Venezuelans

On the last day of his horrendous administration, disgraced Donald Trump did one kind act for some immigrants in the US: Venezuelans. He signed an Executive Order granting Deferred Enforcement Departure for certain Venezuelans. After such an order, USCIS should institute certain processes that allow Venezuelans to apply for this benefit, which will include an 18-months stop on on pending or future deportation actions. Also, eligible Venezuelans will be able apply for a work permit (or Employment Authorization Document) using some version of Form I-765. To date, USCIS has not posted any rules or procedures to execute this memo. Keep an eye on USCIS.gov for updates on this possible benefit for some Venezuelans.

To be eligible, the person would need to

  1. Be a national of Venezuela, or stateless person who last habitually resided in Venezuela
  2. Is present in the United States as of January 20, 2021
  3. Have not voluntarily returned to Venezuela or their country of last habitual residence outside the United States;
  4. Have continuously resided in the United States since January 20, 2021;
  5. Are not inadmissible under section 212(a)(3) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) (8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(3)) or removable under section 237(a)(4) of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(4))
  6. Have not been convicted of any felony or 2 or more misdemeanors committed in the United States, or who meet the criteria set forth in section 208(b)(2)(A) of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1158(b)(2)(A));
  7. Have not been deported, excluded, or removed, prior to January 20, 2021;
  8. Are not subject to extradition;
  9. Whose presence in the US is in the national interest;
  10. Who is not a danger to public safety;
  11. Whose presence poses no serious adverse foreign policy consequences for the United States.

 

 

January 6th Insurrection: A Different Perspective

The past four years have been extremely painful for many communities, including the varied and diverse communities of immigrants and noncitizens in the United States. Racism and xenophobia (not to mention sexism, heterosexism, and classism) targeted and harmed immigrants and people of color on a daily basis. January 6th was a horrendous but predictable culmination of the despicable policies and practices of the Trump administration and its base supporters. Make no mistake: Trump’s base supporters are white supremacists.

Yesterday, after two weeks of learning more and more about the horrors of January 6th Insurrection, I heard a different, uplifting perspective on what that insurrection means for Trumpism and white supremacy: January 6th was a desperate last act of a people who know that their beliefs, their tactics, their movement have reached the end. January 6th was not the beginning of a movement; it was a funeral. Trump and his supporters have no hope, no vision for the future; they only have anger and a tortured attempt to hold on to a past that they never had. (White supremacists may have ruled the US, but they were never the only Americans.)

Sometimes at a funeral we celebrate the life of the deceased. Here there is no cause to celebrate the life of the white supremacy movement. However, if January 6 was the funeral for the Trump era and the rule of white supremacy, then at least I find solace knowing that, freer from the chains of white supremacy, we can work to build a country that we love. Let’s get to work.

Thank you to Egberto Willies for posting Anand Giridharadas’s perspective on the events of January 6, 2021. My thoughts on the funeral for the Trump era come directly from this Facebook post: In strikingly optimistic prose, Anand… – Politics Done Right with Egberto Willies | Facebook.

 

Marijuana and Green Card Applications

US immigration laws prohibit the issuance of nonimmigrant or immigrant visas to anyone who has been convicted of or admits to the essential elements of federal controlled substances crimes. Generally, an admission to a drug crime happens in court as part of a plea or, in Massachusetts, a “continued without a finding.”

However, USCIS interviews can be the site of “admissions” to federal controlled substances crimes. In a green card interview, for example, a USCIS officer can ask an applicant if s/he has ever used, possessed, distributed, sold, etc. marijuana or any other federal controlled substances.

Apparently, just that has been happening at recent green-card interviews in Seattle. USCIS officers use the attached sworn statement to

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Marriage-Based Green Card Document Guide

We work hard to make your immigration case easy for you. Use this easy guide to help you organize the documents that you would use if you are eligible to submit an application for a marriage-based green card application. You should consult with an attorney to figure out if you are eligible for a green card before you submit any applications or documents to the U.S. government.