Ricardo Querales is an HIV-positive Venezuelan man living in Florida. Originally, Querales was granted asylum 13 years ago and didn’t have to worry about his immigration status. A minor drug offense, according to WPLG Local 10, landed him in the legal system and cost him his safety in the U.S. The man was given adjudication withheld, which in Florida means he was never formally convicted of a crime and was given probation as his punishment. Despite never being convicted of a crime, the arrest was enough to strip him of his asylum leaving him at the mercy of Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents at his routine check-ins.
For Quealres, the fear is more than being deported, but losing access to necessary medication. “I have friends dying everyday because they don’t have medication,” Querales told WPLG Local 10.
Venezuela is in the middle of a major economic crisis after global oil prices plummeted. The result is people going without food, education, and even life-saving medication. That is Querales’ fear, according to WPLG Local 10. NBC News reports that the antiretroviral medication that is used to slow down the progression of HIV and stop infections that could be life-threatening has become scarce. Hospitals have stopped testing for the virus and people are dying from HIV and AIDS because there just isn’t medication to treat the patients.
Querales is worried about being sent to a country in the middle of an economic turmoil so severe that the life-saving medication he would need to survive does not exist. According to WPLG Local 10, Querales is trying to use the humanitarian issue of sending him back to stay the deportation proceedings. As of now, he is expected to report to ICE offices in Miramar, Fla. at the end of February with his passport and plane ticket to Venezuela.
Becoming a U.S. resident or citizen has never been an easy process. The country’s immigration system is a convoluted mess that sharply leans in favor of high-wealth individuals and under the Trump administration that is becoming more apparent than ever.
But 2020 has been an especially challenging year for immigrants seeking to complete their citizenship process.
Although it’s common for interest in naturalization to spike in the months leading up to presidential elections, the Coronavirus pandemic forced the citizenship process to a grinding halt in March. The outbreak shut offices of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) all across the country. And although many of these offices reopened in July, there is a widening backlog of applications.
Meanwhile, on October 2, looming fee increases could leave applications and citizenship out of reach for tens of thousands of immigrants, as the process becomes significantly more costly.
Many migrant advocacy groups are hosting events meant to help immigrants complete their applications before prices are set to rise.
In South Florida, the Office of New Americans (ONA) — a public-private partnership between Miami-Dade County and non-profit legal service providers — launched its second Miami Citizenship Week on Sept. 11. This 10-day event is designed to help immigrants with free legal support so participants can beat the October 2 deadline.
In addition, the event will host a mix of celebrations meant to highlight the social and economic contributions of South Florida’s large immigrant communities.
“I think in Miami we talk about how we are diverse and how we are adjacent to Latin America, but we never take a moment to celebrate immigrants and the amazing work that they do whether it’s the nurses in our hospitals, the drivers that drive our buses, small business owners,” said Krystina François, ONA’s executive director. “We need to reclaim the narrative around immigrants and around our communities because it’s what makes us great.”
However, thanks to Covid-19 restrictions, the events will all be hosted online.
Much like any other event, Covid-19 has greatly impacted this year’s “Citizenship Week.” Therefore, the event will be hosted virtually. That includes the Mega Citizenship Clinic, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 16-20. At the event, pro-bono lawyers from the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Americans for Immigrant Justice and other groups will connect with attendees one-on-one on Zoom and walk them through the process of filling out the 20-page citizenship application form.
The clinic is open to immigrants eligible to become naturalized citizens, meaning permanent residents who have had a green card for at least five years.
Cities like Dallas are also getting in on similar events, meant to welcome new residents and citizens into the city.
Dallas’ Office of Welcoming Communities and Immigrant Affairs is hosting a series of virtual events from Sept. 12 to Sept. 20 in honor of Welcoming Week. The virtual events aim to promote Dallas’ diverse communities and to unite all residents, including immigrants and refugees.
According to the City of Dallas, this year’s theme is Creating Home Together, and it emphasizes the importance of coming together as a community to build a more inclusive city for everyone.
A Council Member, Jaime Resendez, will host a virtual program on Tuesday at 11 a.m. that celebrates Latinx art and culture. The event will celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. Mayor Eric Johnson will read the Welcoming Week Proclamation, and the event will feature art exhibitions and performances showcasing the talents of performers and artists across Dallas.
Attendees will also have a chance to learn more about the availability of DACA and a citizenship workshop will take place where articipants will learn how to complete their N-400 application for citizenship. Volunteer immigration attorneys and accredited representatives from the Department of Justice will be there for assistance.
The events come as fees for several immigration proceedings are set to rise by dramatic amounts come October 1.
Starting on October 2, the financial barrier will grow even taller for many immigrants as fees are set to increase. The fee to apply for U.S. citizenship will increase from $640 to $1,160 if filed online, or $ 1,170 in paper filing, a more than 80% increase in cost.
“In the middle of an economic downturn, an increase of $520 is a really big amount,” François told the Miami-Herald.
Aside from the fee increase, many non-citizen immigrants never truly felt the need to become citizens. That was until the Coronavirus pandemic hit and had many questioning their status in the country.
“There are people who up until this COVID crisis, their status as a permanent resident didn’t impact their day-to-day life … but then the pandemic has given them another reason of why it’s important to take that extra step and become a citizen, because of the additional rights and protections that are afforded to you, but also to just have a sense of security and stability in a crisis.”
A coalition of people is coming together to stand up for Temporary Protected Status beneficiaries. Federal judges recently gave the Trump administration the approval to end the status for 300,000 people in the U.S.
A group of Temporary Protect Status holders is on a road trip to save the program for 300,000 people.
The National TPS Alliance is driving across the country to engage voters about the need to protect the program. The “Road to Justice” road tour started in Los Angeles and will be stopping in 54 cities in 32 states. The tour ends in Washington, D.C. where the TPS holders will petition Congress directly to save the program.
The program was started in 1990 and offers safe refuge for people who’s countries have experienced disaster, civil unrest, or other extraordinary circumstances. Some people who have been granted TPS in the U.S. include Central Americans after Hurricane Mitch, the second-largest hurricane in the Atlantic, devastated large swaths of the region in 1998. Haitians were also given TPS after the earthquake that devastated Port Au Prince in 2010.
The organization is hoping to engage voters and get them to care about the immigration crisis facing the nation. Activists have already praised the group and pledged to support their cause at the ballot box.
“We are going to vote for justice, for the TPS community,” Angélica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, told NBC News. “President (Trump) and his administration are racist and do not care about the damage they are causing to our community.”
Original: A federal court just handed a huge ‘victory’ to the Trump administration, which has been eager to restart mass deportations. Despite a global health pandemic, the administration has been pressing forward with plans to deport hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants.
Until now, many of these migrants were safe from deportation thanks to Temporary Protected Status, which shields some immigrants from deportation under humanitarian claims. However, the recent court decision – in San Francisco’s 9th Circuit – gives Trump exactly what he wants right before the elections.
But how will it affect immigrant communities across the country? Here’s everything you need to know about this major decision.
The 9th Circuit Court just ended TPS for more than 300,000 undocumented immigrants.
A California appeals court on Monday gave the Trump Administration permission to end Temporary Protected Status for immigrants from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Sudan, clearing the way for officials to force more than 300,000 immigrants out of the country.
The decision affects people from all walks of life, many of whom have lived in the U.S. for decades, have U.S.-born children and have been considered essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic.
This week’s ruling from the circuit court comes after a district court (also in California) temporarily halted Trump’s plan to end TPS in late 2018 after a group of lawyers sued, arguing that Trump was motivated by racial discrimination.
“The president’s vile statements about TPS holders made perfectly clear that his administration acted out of racial animus,”Ahilan Arulanantham, a lawyer for the ACLU of Southern California, wrote in a statement. “The Constitution does not permit policy to be driven by racism. We will seek further review of the court’s decision.”
But today’s 2-1 decision reversed the district court’s temporary order and allowed the federal government to take away TPS protections while the court case continues.
ICE and DHS has promised to wait several months before taking away TPS status if the agency won in court. As a result, the ACLU told NPR that it expects the protections to start ending no sooner than March, meaning that Joe Biden could reverse the administration’s decision if he wins in November, though the organization plans to fight back in the meantime.
Temporary Protected Status was created to protect people in the U.S. from being sent back to dangerous places – and it’s saved lives.
The TPS program was first introduced in 1990, and it has protected immigrants from more than 20 countries at various points since then. More than 300,000 people from 10 different nations currently use the program, some of whom have lived and worked in the United States for decades.
Trump has sharply criticized the program, sometimes along racial lines, and in one infamous and widely criticized incident two years ago, the president reportedly referred to the program’s beneficiaries as “people from shithole countries.”
TPS provides protection for short periods of up to 18 months, but the federal government has continuously extended it for the countries mentioned in the lawsuit “based on repeated findings that it remains unsafe to return.”
As a result, it said, most TPS holders have been living in the U.S. for more than a decade, contributing to their communities and raising their families. Many of the more than 200,000 U.S.-citizen children of TPS holders have never been to the country their parents are from and would have to choose between their families and their homes.
The ruling will have a major impact on migrant families and communities across the U.S.
Immigration advocacy groups are slamming the court’s ruling, noting it will impact hundreds of thousands of TPS holders as well as their families and communities. In a statement, Beth Werlin, executive director of the American Immigration Council, said the decision will “plunge their lives into further turmoil at a time when we all need greater certainty.”
As the global pandemic stretches on, immigrants with protected status make up a large portion of the country’s front-line workers. More than 130,000 TPS recipients are essential workers, according to the Center for American Progress.
“TPS recipients have deep economic and social roots in communities across the nation,” said Ali Noorani, president and CEO of the National Immigration Forum. “And, as the U.S. responds to the COVID-19 pandemic, TPS recipients are standing shoulder to shoulder with Americans and doing essential work.”