Immigration News 9/15/18
New York Times, 9/12/18 – “12,800 Migrant Children Are in U.S. Custody”
The number of immigrant children in U.S. custody has risen to 12,800, a five-fold increase over last year and the highest number in history. Most of these children are “unaccompanied minors,” many of them teenagers from Central America who crossed the border alone and are seeking asylum in the USA. The numbers increased this summer when the Trump administration separated parents and children of families who’d crossed the border and placed these children in USG shelters as well.
The increase also results from another change in Trump policies. Previously, most of the unaccompanied children would have been placed with relatives or family friends in the USA as they awaited their asylum hearing. These “sponsor” households now have to submit fingerprints, and the data is shared with immigration authorities. Since most sponsors have been undocumented themselves, the new policy has made them wary of stepping forward to federal authorities.
CNBC, 9/13/18 – “USG Settles a Lawsuit over Separating Families”
Under a lawsuit settlement this week, the USG has agreed to allow some 1,000 asylum seekers affected by the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy earlier this summer to have another hearing on their requests for asylum. The lawyers for the ACLU and other organizations filing suit on behalf of the parents argued that the migrants felt extreme trauma at being separated from their children and so failed their initial interview with an immigration officer to determine whether they had a “credible fear of persecution or torture” if they remained in their home country. Under the settlement, these parents will have a second chance at asylum and may now submit additional evidence and testimony to make their case.
Washington Post, 9/13/18 – “Terrorism Experts Reject Link between Terrorism and Immigration”
In January the White House published a report linking terrorist acts in the USA with immigration, and Trump has cited the statistics from that report as justification for changing the U.S. Immigration system. Now 18 former counterterrorism officials have signed a letter asking the USG to retract or correct the report on grounds that it is a “misleading” use of “flawed data.”
The key issue with the report, says Joshua Geltzer, a former National Security Council senior director for counterterrorism, is that it emphasizes a person’s place of birth as a “meaningful predictor” of terrorist activity rather than understanding the radicalization process. The real drivers of terrorism are disaffection, a lack of belonging, “a grandiose desire to be part of something seen as ‘bigger,’ and a gradual numbing to the humanness of potential victims,” the former officials’ letter says.
“The Trump administration wants to blame the immigration system for things that happened 15 to 20 years after people flowed through the system,” Geltzer adds. “That’s a radicalization problem. Not an immigration problem.”
The Guardian, 9/12/18 – “A Litany of Cruelness, Illness, and Filth Inside U.S. Immigrant Detention Centers”
A British newspaper, the Guardian, interviewed many detainees in McAllen, Texas, after they’d been released to await a final hearing on their asylum requests. The interviewees consistently described appalling condition in U.S. detention centers. The detainees call these facilities “hieleras”, or iceboxes, and say they are overcrowded, unhygienic, and generators of outbreaks of vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory infections, and other communicable diseases. Many complained about the cruelty of guards, who they said yell at children, taunt detainees with promises of food that never materializes, and kick people who do not wake up when they are expected to.
The Department of Homeland Security has defended its practices in response to such public reports and also in court. Spokespersons for DHS units Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Border Patrol say that these conditions are not typical of detention centers. The kicker: both ICE and Border Patrol spokespersons say it must be the detention facilities run by the other U.S. enforcement agency the detainees are talking about.
National Immigration Forum, 9/13/18 – “Citizenship Applications Surge; U.S. Bureaucrats Do Not”
In fiscal 2017 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency responsible for processing naturalization requests, received 986,000 citizenship applications, but the agency does not have enough staff to process these in a timely way.
The national average for processing such applications is 5.2 months, though some applicants have waited as long as 20 months. At the end of the first six months of the current fiscal year, there were 753,000 pending citizenship applications, up 44 percent from the previous year.
The reason for the backlog? An election-year jump in applications and USCIS’s administrative incompetence in estimating the number of naturalization requests. The Trump administration plans to increase the size of USCIS’s staff in the future, but it is unclear whether new staff will be assigned to cut the backlog .