Things That Matter

They Were Told To Wait In Mexico And Followed Every US Law, Now They’re Being Denied The Right To Claim Asylum

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and other immigrant advocacy groups believe the Trump administration is using three recent measures to effectively pull a “bait and switch” on migrants seeking asylum. The first measure is referred to as “metering” which limits the number of asylum seekers accepted at the United States and Mexican border. 

The second is the Migrant Protection Protocols which requires Central American asylum seekers to stay in Mexico for the duration of their legal proceedings.

The third measure known as the “safe third country” deals requires that migrants seek asylum in the first country they pass through before applying in the United States. This essentially bans all asylum seekers at the southern border except for Mexicans. 

Advocates say the result of the third measure means thousands of migrants who were stuck waiting due to metering or MPP will never be able to apply for asylum in the U.S. and are being punished for correctly using the legal system.

How the “safe third country” deal works to ban most asylum seekers.

The “safe third country” deals or transit ban, which is being challenged in the courts by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), requires migrants to apply for asylum in the first country they pass through before they’re eligible to apply in the United States. Any migrants from Central America who travel through Honduras, El Salvador, or Guatemala would have to apply there first.

 According to Vox, “under both international torture agreements and the asylum system,” the administration can send migrants, “back to Central America, where rampant crime, violence, and corruption is driving tens of thousands to flee.” 

However, because this policy only took effect on September 12, many asylum seekers who were forced to wait due to metering or MPP before the rule was in place, will now be turned away. 

Attorneys say the government pulled “immoral bait and switch.” 

The Associated Press highlighted one Salvadoran family who was put in the situation many migrants now face. Julio Lopez and his family chose to seek U.S. protection legally. The new ban applies to any migrants who arrived after July 16, the Lopez family reached the border before the cut off date, but are still suffering the consequences because of a different policy. The Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) require asylum-seeking Central Americans to remain in Mexico while their legal proceedings take place. 

This means that although the Lopez family arrived in the U.S. before the July 16 cut off, because they were forced to wait in Mexico long enough for the “safe third country” deals to go in effect last September, they are no longer eligible to seek asylum in the United States — they would have to apply in the country they passed through before. 

“I’m being punished for doing it the correct way,” Lopez told the Associated Press. “It’s unjust.”

The SPLC and ACLU believe this is unfair and have challenged the procedure in court so that the new restrictions do not apply to anyone who was claiming asylum before July 16. 

Advocates are challenging the policies in the courts. 

Multiple lawsuits by the SPLC, ACLU, and advocacy groups like Al Otro Lado have been filed to challenge the three policies. However, the battle to ban asylum seekers has taken a bizarre turn in the courts. The Supreme Court ruled that the ban can take effect while lawyers challenge the policy going against a previous Supreme Court ruling of the same ban. 

“On September 11th, this year, the Supreme Court ruled—and issued a stay, in contrast to what it had done with the first asylum ban. This time the Court said that the second asylum ban could go into effect immediately nationwide,” Lee Gelernt a lawyer with the ACLU told the New Yorker

Gelernt believes the ban assumes that El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras are safe countries with functioning asylum systems, but migrants will “continue to be in danger, that the gangs who have been attacking them—or the perpetrator of the domestic violence they’re fleeing, or other types of danger—can easily locate them in Guatemala or Mexico; they will not be safe.”

SPLC will challenge metering claiming that the daily migrant limits deny the individual’s right to seek asylum under international and U.S. laws. 

“This is not the DMV. This is not the deli counter. There shouldn’t be numbers,” said SPLC attorney Melissa Crow.

Challengers to the MPP assert that the executive branch of the U.S. government does not have the legal authority to force asylum seekers to go to Mexico to wait for legal proceedings. 

While these legal proceedings take place and migrants are forced to wait in dangerous countries their lives are increasingly put at risk. In the meantime, Julio Lopez and his family are prepared to do what is necessary to survive.

“I can go to (immigration) court with my head held high and say, ‘Sir, I have followed the laws of the United States,” he told said. 

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2020 Has Been A Tragic Year As A Record Number Of Migrants Die In ICE Custody

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2020 Has Been A Tragic Year As A Record Number Of Migrants Die In ICE Custody

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The news out of 2020 continues to devastate and it’s getting harder and harder to be shocked by just how horrible things are looking. However, the level of neglect inside ICE detention centers is so shocking that it’s leading to a record number of deaths. No matter what year it is, that is shocking.

It’s been 14 years, during the presidency of George Bush, since ICE detention centers have recorded the level of deaths that they’re recording this year. Despite warnings from health and immigration experts, ICE has largely refused to release immigrants from overcrowded cells despite an ongoing and out of control global health pandemic. This blatant disregard for life has had a huge impact as at least 18 people have died while in ICE detention centers so far this fiscal year.

ICE is responsible for the well-being of individuals in its custody and has broad discretion to release people for humanitarian reasons. The government should test everyone in its custody for COVID-19 and increase releases to prevent further deaths.

Three recent deaths in ICE detention centers bring 2020’s total to the second highest since 2006.

The death toll for immigrants in ICE custody reached the highest level since 2006 after three more people died this week.

Last week, it was reported that two men died while in ICE detention on August 5. One of the men who died last week was James Thomas Hill, a 72-year-old Canadian citizen who tested positive for COVID-19 about a month before his death. He was detained for three months at Farmville Detention Center in Virginia, despite being high-risk due to his age.

A 51-year-old man from Taiwan, Kuan Hui Lee, also died on August 5. Lee had been detained at Krome Detention Center in Florida for 7 months because he had overstayed a visa 16 years ago. While further details of his medical condition and death have not been reported, ICE has a long history of medical neglect of people in its custody with serious health conditions.

Then on August 11, Buzzfeed News reported that a 70-year-old Costa Rican man died in ICE custody at a Georgia Hospital on August 10, 2020, after testing positive for COVID-19. The man had been detained at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia. According to AJC.com, the detainee suffered from diabetes and hypertension and had been hospitalized since August 4, 2020. ICE officials confirmed the death to BuzzFeed News, but have not released any additional details yet.

These tragedies increased the total deaths in ICE custody this fiscal year to 18, the highest number since 2006. Many—if not all—of the deaths that occur in ICE custody are avoidable.

“Many of these deaths were avoidable, unnecessary, and a direct result of the Trump administration’s refusal to take basic steps to protect the health and safety of detainees,” John Sandweg, a former ICE director during the Obama administration, told BuzzFeed News.

Many deaths have been attributed to Covid-19 but that’s not the complete picture.

Coronavirus has swept through ICE detention centers like wildfire and this has had a major impact on the health and welfare of detainees, the community, and even ICE employees.

So far this year, more than twice as many people have died in ICE custody over last year. And, unfortunately, there are at least 1,065 active Covid-19 cases in ICE detention centers, meaning more people are likely to get sick and die before the year ends.

The number of deaths is especially alarming considering the average number of people detained has been significantly lower this year than in recent years.

Farmville, an ICE detention center in Virgina, has the largest COVID-19 outbreak in immigration detention. As of August 6, over 97% of people held in this ICE facility had contracted COVID-19. The outbreak began as a super-spreader event caused by a transfer of 74 people from Florida and Arizona.

Advocates have consistently criticized ICE for failing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among the people it detains.

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The Trump Administration Raised Fees For Immigration Cases Including For Refugees

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The Trump Administration Raised Fees For Immigration Cases Including For Refugees

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In its continuing campaign against immigrants and refugees, the Trump administration has increased the costs of immigration proceedings – in some instances by more than 80%. These new fees could make the cost of seeking asylum protection in the U.S. or becoming a citizen out of reach for tens of thousands of immigrants.

The new fees are seen as little more than an additional tool used by the administration to further limit immigration to the U.S. and make life more difficult for those seeking to call the U.S. homes.

The Trump administration announced major changes to the fees charged for immigration proceedings.

On Friday, the Trump administration announced it would dramatically increase the fees for U.S. immigration services on everything from refugee asylum requests to naturalization services. The new fee structure, released by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), is expected to take effect on October 2.

The new fees are seen as little more than an additional tool used by the administration to further limit immigration to the U.S. and make life more difficult for those seeking to call the U.S. homes. It will also have an outsized impact on business that hire foreign workers.

The agency, which has closed offices and suspended most services during the pandemic, has said it faces a significant revenue shortfall that could trigger furloughs. Earlier this year, the agency requested $1.2 billion in emergency funds from Congress.

The U.S. will now be one of just a few countries that actually charge refugees to file asylum requests.

Credit: Gregory Bull / Getty Images

With the new fee charged to refugees and asylum seekers, the U.S. will become one of just four countries that actually charge for this application. The new fee for asylum is a blatant attack on the most vulnerable among us and is another way for the administration to target and restrict protections for those fleeing their home countries.

The $50 application fee for asylum applications now puts the U.S. in the same ranks as Iran, Fiji, and Australia. The new rule would also raise the cost for an asylum applicant to apply for an employment authorization document (EAD) from the current zero to $490, one of many policy changes to discourage potential asylum applicants. DHS commented, “DHS does not believe that the EAD fee is unduly burdensome for asylum seekers.”

However, one asylum officer who spoke with BuzzFeed News on condition of anonymity said the fee was discouraging.

“The larger problem is that humanitarian applications by their nature should be free,” the officer said. “The idea of charging people who are fleeing — and not helping if they don’t pay up — is disgusting.”

Another asylum officer said it will cost the agency more to collect the fee than $50, “which doesn’t come close to covering the cost of adjudicating an asylum application.”

Other fees – from green card replacements to citizenship applications – will also be going up.

The new fee changes impact several categories of services offered by USCIS that will impact our community. Two of the most common types of visas issued by the agency (L and H-1B visas) will increase by 75% and 21% respectively.

The L visa – which is used for short term work in the U.S. – will increase from $460 to $805. The fee for an H-1B petition (which is used by employers to hire highly-skilled workers) will rise from $460 to $555.

For season workers in the U.S., of which there are hundreds of thousands, their fees will also increase by almost 50%. The current fee for these visas is $460 but the H-2A (season agricultural) will rise to $850 and the H-2B (seasonal non-agricultural) will rise to $715.

USCIS would increase the cost of the application (N-400) to become a U.S. citizen by more than 80%, rising from $640 to $1,160 (for online filings, although a separate $85 biometrics fee would be eliminated). 

The new increased fees come as the agency faces a financial crisis that many say are of its own making.

Many are concerned about the timing of these fee increases because USCIS is in the midst of historic mismanagement, that has face the agency from a substantial surplus to a deficit so severe USCIS has requested a $1.2 billion bailout from Congress.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, chair of the House Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship, held a July 29, 2020, oversight hearing that helped explain how the Trump administration caused the financial problems at USCIS through its policy choices on immigration.

“Under the Trump Administration, USCIS has issued a flurry of policies that make its case adjudications more complicated, which reduces the agency’s efficiency and requires more staff to complete fewer cases,” testified Doug Rand, a founder of Boundless Immigration and a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists. “There are dozens if not hundreds of such policies.” 

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