Things That Matter

The Trump Administration Has Made Dozens Of Chilling Changes To Immigration That Haven’t Made The Headlines

QZ has compiled a list of all the ways the Trump administration has quietly and secretly dismantled protections for immigrants. These efforts include revoking citizenship, alleged covert policies, and making it more difficult for poorer migrants and refugees to enter the U.S.

Trump’s anti-immigrant bigotry was always just anti-immigrant bigotry,” Catherine Rampell wrote in the Washington Post. “Trump’s rhetoric may focus on ‘llegals,’ but recent data releases suggest this administration has been blocking off every available avenue for legal immigration, too.”

Denaturalizing citizens.

In one of its most unusually cruel moves, the Trump administration has sought ways to undermine the citizenship of naturalized Americans. The ongoing project since 2017 has wielded little results despite being costly and using questionable methods.

“The Trump Administration has launched a denaturalization operation—a project to strip a large number of Americans of their citizenship. Denaturalization is a drastic measure that should only be taken in the most extreme circumstances. But the administration is dramatically expanding denaturalization, using questionable standards and proceedings,” the ACLU said in a statement.

The efforts required $200 million in funds to investigate naturalized citizens for irregularities. Fewer than 100 citizens were found to have such irregularities between 2017 and 2018.

“In its 2019 budget request, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) revealed its intention to review the files of 700,000 U.S. citizens, putting even more individuals into the denaturalization pipeline,” the ACLU wrote. “Despite the administration’s statements minimizing their denaturalization efforts, their own numbers indicate a dramatic shift from the last several decades—throwing away standards, due process, and fairness, and devaluing the sanctity of American citizenship.”

Credible Fear Interviews

“Credible Fear Interviews” are preliminary interviews to determine if an asylum seeker has a legitimate threat back home. Since July, something strange has happened with these interviews. Before the summer, “experts” who conducted the interviews found that 97 percent of asylum seekers were credible since then only 10 percent have been found credible.

“This administration is trying to end asylum in the United States,” Elora Mukherjee, an attorney who worked on the lawsuit, told the Guardian. “What we’re seeing in the credible fear process is one part of a systemic effort by this administration to end asylum.”

QZ found three factors contributed to this massive drop: the Migrant Protocols Protection requires asylum seekers to apply in any country they pass through to get to the United States, credible fear interviews are being conducted by Border Patrol officers instead of asylum specialists, and according to a September lawsuit the administration is not publishing these new policies.

“This seems to be based on secret policies and procedures that have not been made public by the administration,” said Mukherjee. 

Because the Trump administration is not transparent about their new regulations, if they have modified the credible fear policies in any way, according to the lawsuit, the Trump administration would have circumvented Congress illegally. 

Attorneys believe Donald Trump’s administration made secret changes to the credible fear process at the same time it announced it would force people to seek asylum outside the US before they can seek it at the southern border,” according to the Guardian

Social media tracking of migrants.

In 2018, the Department of Homeland Security implemented a policy that required migrants list their social media handles on forms. The intention is to monitor the applicant’s activity, any of which can be interpreted to deny the migrant legal entry to the U.S.

Even after a migrant becomes naturalized, the social media records are kept. According to QZ, “That detail is worrisome in light of the administration’s push to denaturalize citizens, which includes investigating old records in search of inconsistencies on applications the government could interpret as fraud.”

Denying Temporary Protected Status (TPS)

The Trump administration has attempted to revoke TPS from countries like the Sudan, Nicaragua, Nepal, Honduras, Haiti, and El Salvador and has only been thwarted by various court rulings. Most notably, this September TPS was not granted to the Bahamian victims of hurricane Dorian.

The public charge rule.

The new October rule was designated to hurt the poorest migrants the most. If a migrant will require financial assistance or public services from the government for 12 months out of 36, they can be denied legal entry. The system is particularly cruel, if two different benefits are used in the same month that counts as two months of benefits rather than one. This means migrants would have to prove they won’t use Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps or housing support.

Domestic violence no longer qualifies for asylum.

Despite international asylum law, migrants fleeing domestic violence, largely women and LGBTQ people, no longer qualify as refugees. Attorney general Jeff Sessions claimed it wasn’t the United States’ job to provide refuge for those whose countries didn’t protect them — a so-called point that literally contradicts the entire purpose of a refugee program in the first place.

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Undocumented Residents Could Be Excluded From The 2020 Census After All, Thanks To New Supreme Court Case

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Undocumented Residents Could Be Excluded From The 2020 Census After All, Thanks To New Supreme Court Case

Phil Roeder / Getty Images

The drama over the 2020 Census continues.

First, was a Supreme Court decision that found the Trump administration wasn’t being totally honest about it’s reasoning for including the citizenship question on the 2020 Census – so the court effectively removed the question from the census. 

Then, Trump tried to delay the constitutionally mandated census to give his administration more time to come up with a better reason to tell the courts.

None of that worked as planned by the administration, and the Census has continued as normal. However, so many in minority communities – particularly migrant communities – have been fearful of completing this year’s census. Well, a new Supreme Court case could erase all the progress we made to make sure all residents – regardless of immigration status – were fairly counted.

The Supreme Court will hear a case that could allow the Trump Administration to exclude undocumented residents from Census data.

On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments next month over whether President Trump can exclude undocumented immigrants from the census count used to apportion congressional districts to the 50 states.

The court’s announcement means that the court – which could soon have a 6-3 conservative majority – will hear arguments in the case on November 30.

In July, Trump issued a memorandum asking the Census Bureau to subtract undocumented immigrants from the count for the purposes of congressional apportionment — the reallocation of the nation’s 435 House districts every 10 years. Trump’s memo came after the Supreme Court had rejected his last minute efforts to add a citizenship question to the census.

By the time the high court hears this case, federal Judge Amy Coney Barrett could be confirmed as the ninth justice, cementing a conservative majority. Senate Republicans hope to confirm her nomination to the Supreme Court before the election on Nov. 3.

However, the U.S. Constitution explicitly calls for the counting of all residents within the country.

Credit: Tetra Images / Getty Images

The 14th Amendment requires districts to apportion congressional seats based on “counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed.”

Since the first U.S. census in 1790, the numbers of U.S. residents who are counted to determine each state’s share of congressional seats have included both citizens and noncitizens, regardless of immigration status.

“President Trump has repeatedly tried — and failed — to weaponize the census for his attacks on immigrant communities. The Supreme Court rejected his attempt last year and should do so again,” said Dale Ho, a lead plaintiffs’ attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who successfully argued against the now-blocked citizenship question the administration wanted on the 2020 census forms.

Removing those immigrants from the population counts would shift power to less diverse states. A Pew Research Center study last year found that it could result in House seats that would otherwise be assigned to California, Florida and Texas going instead to Alabama, Minnesota and Ohio — each of which is set to possibly lose a House seat in the next decade due to population shifts.

And drawing new districts within the states based only on the counts of citizens and legal immigrants would likely benefit Republicans, shifting power from cities and immigrant communities to rural parts of the states, which vote for GOP candidates at higher rates

The announcement comes shortly after the court also allowed the Trump Administration to end the Census count early.

Earlier last week, the Supreme Court allowed the Trump administration to stop the census count, blocking lower court orders that directed the count to continue through the end of the month. 

The decision, which the Trump administration favored, came with a candid dissent from Justice Sonia Sotomayor – the court’s only Latina justice.

“Meeting the deadline at the expense of the accuracy of the census is not a cost worth paying,” Sotomayor wrote in her dissent. “Especially when the Government has failed to show why it could not bear the lesser cost of expending more resources to meet the deadline or continuing its prior efforts to seek an extension from Congress. This Court normally does not grant extraordinary relief on such a painfully disproportionate balance of harms.”

But it wasn’t long ago that Trump tried to completely derail this year’s census.

The Trump administration has decided to print the 2020 census forms without a citizenship question, and the printer has been told to start the printing process, Justice Department spokesperson Kelly Laco confirms to NPR.

The move came shortly after the Supreme Court ruled to keep the question off census forms for now and just a day after printing was scheduled to begin for 1.5 billion paper forms, letters, and other mailings.

President Trump had said he wanted to delay the constitutionally mandated headcount to give the Supreme Court a chance to issue a more “decisive” ruling on whether the administration could add the question, “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” A majority of the justices found that the administration’s use of the Voting Rights Act to justify the question “seems to have been contrived.”

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Guatemala Shifted Tactics With The Latest Migrant Caravan And Here’s Why

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Guatemala Shifted Tactics With The Latest Migrant Caravan And Here’s Why

Jose Torres / Getty Images

The Coronavirus pandemic hasn’t reduced violence or poverty or many of the other reasons that people flee their homes in an attempt to reach the United States. In fact, in many places violence and poverty are at record levels as the virus leaves millions of people without work, access to medical care, or education.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that even though the Coronavirus pandemic continues to pose a serious health threat, thousands of Central Americans banded together in another caravan. However, this time it barely made it out of Honduras before being forced back by Guatemalan security forces.

The country has completely changed its approach to how it handles these ‘migrant caravans.’ Previously, the country had allowed many of them safe passage. However, under pressure from the Trump administration, the country’s president has decided a heavy-handed approach is better.

Under pressure from Donald Trump, Guatemala halted more than 3,000 migrants set for the U.S.

As a caravan containing roughly 3,500 Honduran migrants attempted to cross into Guatemala on their path to the United States, Guatemala halted their progress and ordered their removal from the country. This was a starch contrast to the migrant caravans of year past as many were allowed to seek asylum or even cross Guatemala’s border with Mexico.

In a televised message, Giammattei said Guatemalan security forces were able to “contain” the caravan, that according to the president was a factor in the transmission of the Coronavirus.

According to the Guatemalan Migration Institute (IGM), the caravan entered eastern Guatemala on Thursday, pushing over a military barrier setup along the border before splitting into groups to reach Mexico, which had already closed its borders in anticipation of the caravan’s arrival.

By Friday and Saturday, hundreds of Guatemalan police and military personnel set up roadblocks forcing migrants — including young children and people in wheelchairs — to turn back.

Guatemala’s president said the containment efforts were to protect the country from further Coronavirus infections.

Credit: Jose Torres / Getty Images

Shortly after the caravan entered Guatemala by foot and overwhelming the border security forces, the country’s president – Alejandro Giammattei – vowed to send them back to Honduras, citing his efforts to contain the pandemic.

“The order has been given to detain all those who entered illegally, and return them to the border of their country,” Giammattei said in a broadcast address to the nation. “We will not allow any foreigner who has used illegal means to enter the country, to think that they have the right to come and infect us and put us at serious risk.”

Giammattei issued an order that would suspend some constitutional rights in the provinces they were expected to pass through, apparently in order to facilitate detaining them.

“We are experiencing a pandemic in Guatemala which has cost us to control with months of efforts,” said the president, adding it was an “obligation” to reduce the risk of further contagion.

At the onset of the pandemic, Guatemala instituted a strict lockdown of the country, even closing its airports and borders to all travel. So far, the country of about 17 million has seen more than 94,000 Covid-19 infections and 3,293 people have died since March.

These so-called caravans have become more common in recent years as migrants band together for protection.

In recent years, thousands of Central American migrants traveling in large groups have crossed into Mexico, with the aim of reaching the U.S. border. In the U.S., these caravans have become a hot-button issue for political conservatives, including President Trump.

During the 2018 caravan that occurred close to the midterm elections, Trump threatened Mexico with steep tariffs and economic pain if the country didn’t do more to stop the caravans before they reached the U.S. – Mexico border. The country bowed to Trump’s demands and deployed its National Guard and more immigration agents to break up attempted caravans last year. They dispersed large groups of migrants attempting to travel together in southern Mexico.

The odds of a large migrant caravan reaching the U.S. border, already low, have grown increasingly slim over the past year. In fact, crossing into the U.S. legally is virtually impossible now thanks to inhumane policies implemented by the Trump administration. Meanwhile, attempting an unauthorized crossing into the U.S. is as difficult as ever.

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