Things That Matter

A New Trump Rule Could Leave Thousands Of Asylum Seekers Out Of A Job

The Trump administration has proposed denying work permits to asylum seekers who cross the border illegally, and any that have been convicted of a felony or arrested for certain crimes. The plan would also make it so that qualified asylum seekers have to wait longer to even apply for a permit. Currently, any asylum seeker is allowed to apply for a work permit regardless of how they entered. 

The Department of Homeland Security also wants asylum seekers to pay an application fee to obtain a worker’s permit, which would make it one of four countries on the planet to do so. The proposals are another tactic to deter asylum seekers from the southern border altogether. 

Advocates find the attacks on asylum seekers to be cruel and unlawful. 

“Asylum law explicitly permits applications regardless of the manner of entry,” an asylum officer told BuzzFeed News. “To single out those asylum seekers who couldn’t afford a visa and prohibit them from obtaining lawful employment is cruel and has no basis in the law.”

The policy would make receiving a work permit nearly impossible for any migrant who does not enter at the United States port of entry. It would also change the waiting time to apply for a permit from 150 days to 365 days from the day migrants filed their asylum applications.

“Employment authorization ensures asylum-seekers the ability to support themselves while the government processes their claims. It often means access to a temporary driver’s license that has a huge liberating impact in a ton of car-centric places,” said Andrew Free, an immigration attorney. “These changes would leave more asylum-seekers dependent, vulnerable to exploitation, and in the shadows, which is exactly where the regime wants them.” 

The new guidelines would broaden the scope of which officials could terminate work authorization for asylum seekers who have unfavorable outcomes in immigration court and from asylum officers. For example, immigration officials could request an asylum application or work permit request if a migrant missed an appointment. 

“Make no bones about it, denying asylum seekers the ability to work during the two to three years the asylum process can take—thus forcing them to starve, rely on charity, or work under the table—is arbitrary and capricious,” immigration attorney Eneida M. Román told Common Wealth.

The new policy could affect tens of thousands of people.

According to CBS News, the policy would extend retroactively, which means the government could reject work permit renewals from asylum seekers that are already authorized to live and work in the United States. 

“The effects of this would be seriously significant,” Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy counsel at the American Immigration Council, told CBS. “We’re talking about tens of thousands of people potentially losing their jobs and hundreds of thousands no longer being eligible for work authorization.”  

Some cases can drag on for years, thus a work permit is of the utmost importance for migrants living here while they are being processed. According to Common Wealth Magazine, on average it takes two to three years for asylum to be granted.

“Because of the long delays in asylum processing, this rule means that some individuals would have to wait five or six years without being legally allowed to work,” Reichlin-Melnick said

According to BuzzFeed, the White House began aggressively pushing the policy in April. President Trump signed a memo asking U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to create a proposal for the policy which would then go through a process before being enacted. 

The Trump administration claimes asylum seekers are “gaming the system.” 

“Let’s not forget: People seeking asylum are legal immigrants,” said Doug Rand, a former immigration official under the Obama administration, told BuzzFeed. “This proposed rule sounds like another rush job calculated to scare vulnerable people in advance of inevitable lawsuits.”

However, Ken Cuccinelli accused many asylum seekers of being frauds. 

“Illegal aliens are gaming our asylum system for economic opportunity, which undermines the integrity of our immigration system and delays relief for legitimate asylum-seekers in need of humanitarian protection,” Cuccinelli said in a statement. “These proposed reforms are designed to restore integrity to the asylum system and lessen the incentive to file an asylum application for the primary purpose of obtaining work authorization.”

Following publication in the Federal Register, the new policy will have to go through a 30-day review period where the public can provide feedback. 

“When we wonder if the administration can go any lower, they prove that there is no bottom to the swamp by proposing a fee for asylum applications,” said Mahsa Khanbabai, the New England chapter head of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. 

“These are people who flee their homes with little but the clothes on their back, often enduring precarious conditions because of the dangerous conditions they face back home.”

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In Bombshell Report, ICE Agents Are Accused of ‘Torturing’ African Asylum-Seekers to Get Them to Sign Their Own Deportation Documents

Things That Matter

In Bombshell Report, ICE Agents Are Accused of ‘Torturing’ African Asylum-Seekers to Get Them to Sign Their Own Deportation Documents

Photo: Bryan Cox/Getty Images

A bombshell report published in The Guardian alleges that ICE officers are using torture to force Cameroonian asylum seekers to sign their own deportation orders. The report paints an even starker picture of Immigration and Customs Enforcement–an agency that is already widely criticized as corrupt and inhumane.

The deportation documents the immigrants have been forced to sign are called the Stipulated Orders of Removal. The documents waive asylum seekers’ rights to further immigration hearings and mean they consent to being deported.

The asylum seekers allege that the torture in ICE custody consisted of choking, beating, pepper-spraying, breaking fingers, and threats on their lives.

“I refused to sign,” recounted one Cameroonian asylum-seeker to The Guardian. “[The ICE officer] pressed my neck into the floor. I said, ‘Please, I can’t breathe.’ I lost my blood circulation. Then they took me inside with my hands at my back where there were no cameras.”

He continued: “They put me on my knees where they were torturing me and they said they were going to kill me. They took my arm and twisted it. They were putting their feet on my neck…They did get my fingerprint on my deportation document and took my picture.” Other witnesses recount similar violent experiences.

Experts believe that the escalation of deportations is directly related to the upcoming election and the possibility that ICE might soon be operated under a different administration. The theory is that ICE is coercively deporting “key witnesses” in order to “silence survivors and absolve ICE of legal liability.”

“In late September, early October of this year, we began to receive calls on our hotline from Cameroonian and Congolese immigrants detained in Ice prisons across the country. And they were being subjected to threats of deportation, often accompanied by physical abuse,” said Christina Fialho, executive director of Freedom for Immigrants, to The Guardian.

Many of the Cameroonians who are in the U.S. to seek asylum have legitimate claims to danger back in their home countries. Many of these Cameroonians come from an English-speaking minority in Cameroon that are violently target by the government there–some have died. The violence has been condemned by The United Nations and Amnesty International.

As with many immigrant stories of people who are seeking asylum, these immigrants’ lives are in danger in their home country. They are coming to the United States for a better life. But instead, they are faced with the agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, whom they claim brutally mistreat them.

According to report, the U.S. is deporting entire airplanes full of asylum-seekers back to their home countries–deportations that have not been given due process and have been authorized under duress.

An ICE spokesperson contacted by The Guardian called the reports “sensationalist” and “unsubstantiated” while roundly refuting the claims. “Ice is firmly committed to the safety and welfare of all those in its custody. Ice provides safe, humane, and appropriate conditions of confinement for individuals detained in its custody,” she said.

Read the entire report here.

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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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