- Eli Kantor
- Beverly Hills, California, United States
- Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com
Tuesday, January 31, 2023
Biden’s Justice Department Finally Stands Up to Out-of-Control Texas Judges
As soon as President Joe Biden entered the White House, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton launched an unprecedented campaign of obstruction to block his agenda in the courts. Paxton took advantage of a quirk—really, a loophole—in the federal judiciary: A state can pick the specific judge who will oversee its case by filing in a small division where only one judge sits. Using this strategy, Paxton has positioned his cases before a rotating cast of the same conservative judges, most of them nominated by Donald Trump. They have dutifully played their role in this pantomime of litigation, issuing an unending series of sweeping injunctions that block Biden administration policies nationwide for months or years. On Thursday, the administration finally said: enough. In response to yet another Texas lawsuit exploiting this loophole, Biden’s Justice Department called out Paxton—and, implicitly, the judges playing along with his scheme. The DOJ highlighted Texas’ “blatant” and shameless “judge-shopping,” urging a transfer to another court “in the interests of justice.” Naturally, Trump-nominated Judge Drew Tipton is unlikely to oblige; that is, after all, why Paxton hand-picked him for this lawsuit. But the DOJ’s filing marks a new phase of battle against Republicans’ judicial gamesmanship: The Justice Department is playing hardball in the lower courts, forcing compromised judges to address their own complicity in a cynical partisan chicanery. ADVERTISEMENT SPONSORED BY THREDUP Fendi Shoulder Bag: Blue Print Bags Fendi Shoulder Bag: Blue Print Bags Learn more The underlying lawsuit in Texas v. Department of Homeland Security is another frivolous effort to shift control over border policy from the executive branch to a single federal judge. Paxton has pulled this off before: In August 2021, he persuaded another Trump-nominated judge, Matthew J. Kacsmaryk, to block Biden’s repeal of a Trump policy that forced U.S.-bound migrants to remain in Mexico. Kacsmaryk even forced U.S. diplomats to negotiate with Mexican officials under threat of sanctions. Texas’ new suit, filed on Tuesday, seeks to do something similar. The state is infuriated by a new agreement between the Biden administration and Mexico regarding migrants from Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Venezuela. (The U.S. cannot send these migrants back to their home countries.) The agreement compels most of these migrants to stay on the Mexican side of the border. But it allows a small number of them to enter the U.S. legally—and remain here for a limited period—if they are vetted and have financial supporters in the country already. This policy, first implemented in December, has already contributed to a dramatic reduction in unlawful entry among migrants from the four relevant nations. But Texas is furious that the new rules will allow some migrants to enter the U.S. lawfully. So its lawsuit asks the judiciary to strike down the entire policy, blowing up negotiations between the Mexican and American governments. Paxton strategically filed the suit in the Victoria Division of the Southern District of Texas, where exactly one judge sits: Tipton, not just a Trump nominee but also a longtime Federalist Society member. This is the seventh case that Paxton has positioned before Tipton. The first, filed two days after Biden’s inauguration, sought to block the new president’s 100-day halt on deportations. Tipton swiftly granted a nationwide injunction against the pause. ADVERTISEMENT Paxton’s suit is also the 25th time he has exploited the single-judge loophole to get a case before an ideological ally in Texas, according to statistics meticulously compiled by law professor (and Slate contributor) Steve Vladeck. (That count shoots up when you factor in suits filed in other red states with single-judge divisions, like Louisiana.) This plot goes way beyond any Democratic forum-shopping under Trump. Democrats filed in favorable district courts and hoped they drew a left-leaning judge. Paxton, by contrast, zeroes in on a handful of divisions within districts where he is guaranteed to draw a hard-right judge. For nearly two years, the Justice Department largely held its tongue about this abuse of the system. Over the past few months, however, its tone shifted. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar’s invective against nationwide injunctions at the Supreme Court in December was inflected with a criticism of states shopping cases to “one single district judge in a forum of their choosing.” And in October, the DOJ fought back when Oklahoma filed a complaint in Texas about a prisoner in Louisiana—even though the case had literally no connection to Texas. There, the DOJ filed a motion to transfer for the obvious reason that no party had any business litigating in the state. (The judge ultimately skirted the issue by denying jurisdiction.) Thursday’s motion to transfer goes much further. The Justice Department, at last, is tackling Texas’ “blatant forum shopping” head-on. Allowing a state to select its preferred judge constitutes cynical “gamesmanship,” DOJ lawyers explained. This practice “undermines public confidence in the administration of justice” and the “impartiality of the judicial system.” It creates the “perception that different forms of justice would be available to litigants, depending upon the division in which a suit was filed.” ADVERTISEMENT From the typically staid and restrained Department of Justice, these are fighting words. The DOJ provided three reasons why Tipton should transfer the case. First, it argued that under state and federal law, Texas “resides” in Austin, the state capital, while the U.S. government “resides” in the District of Columbia. So Tipton should transfer the case to a federal court in either Austin or D.C., where the plaintiff and defendant are located. Second, the DOJ argued that Tipton should transfer the case to Austin or D.C. under a federal law that permits a change in venue “for the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice.” These cities are where “the relevant documents and any potential witnesses likely reside,” and where the relevant state and federal agencies are located. No aspect of the recent migrant-policy case, by contrast, has any connection with Victoria, Texas. So convenience and logic, plus “systemic integrity and fairness,” require transfer. RECOMMENDED FOR YOU Johnson & Johnson’s Scheme to Avoid Cancer Lawsuits Just Fell Apart in Court If You Want a Car This Heavy, You Should Pay Through the Nose How the Supreme Court Likely Handed Control of the House to Republicans Finally, the Justice Department presented a last-ditch offer: If you won’t transfer the case to Austin or D.C., it wrote, at least send it to another division within the Southern District of Texas where multiple judges sit. That way, it’ll be randomly assigned to one of several judges, foiling Paxton’s efforts to pick the jurist who’ll oversee his case. This filing is Tipton’s moment of truth. In the previous six cases, he could pretend that there was some good reason for Texas to come to his court; after all, the United States did not argue otherwise. Now the government has laid out the scheme in which Tipton is a willing participant, forcing him to confront his complicity—really, his collusion—with Republican corruption of the courts. His total lack of integrity thus far certainly does not bode well in this case. But it’s a positive sign that Biden’s Justice Department is ready to bring this fight to the worst offenders, putting judges like Tipton on notice that it will no longer play along. For more information, visit us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/index.html.
Biden grants Hong Kongers in the U.S. a 2-year deportation reprieve
The Biden administration extended a program on Thursday that protects Hong Kong residents in the U.S. from deportation, less than two weeks before it was set to expire. The two-year extension of the program — the Deferred Enforced Departure for Certain Hong Kong Citizens — means that Hong Kongers who would otherwise be deported for having overstayed the duration of their original visas can remain in the U.S. until Jan. 26, 2025. The DED had been set to expire on Feb. 5, and the administration had been under pressure from a number of Democratic lawmakers in recent weeks to extend the program due to concerns about worsening repression in Hong Kong. The White House has also expanded the number of people who may benefit from DED by allowing any Hong Kong residents present in the U.S. today, Jan. 26, to apply for the program. “With this action, we are demonstrating again President Biden’s strong support for the people of Hong Kong in the face of increasing repression by the PRC,” the National Security Council said in a statement. U.S.-based pro-democracy activists who have been lobbying the White House for months to extend DED welcomed the White House decision. Hong Kongers in the U.S. “can breathe a sigh of relief,” said Samuel Chu, president of the nonprofit The Campaign for Hong Kong. The expanded eligibility criteria means that “even more lives will be preserved and protected from persecution, rigged trials, long jail sentences, and loss of freedom,” Chu said. The Chinese government has bristled at the deportation protection provided to Hong Kong residents in the U.S. “The U.S. provided so-called ‘safe haven’ for anti-China insurgents fleeing overseas under the pretext of democracy and human rights, further exposing its sinister intention to jeopardize the peace of Hong Kong and to use the ‘Hong Kong card’ to contain China’s development,” Chinese embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu said in a statement earlier this month. Hong Kong protester: 'The young have every right' to express their anger SharePlay Video The Biden administration first issued the deportation reprieve in August 2021, due to concerns about “the significant erosion” of rights and freedoms in Hong Kong. It granted an estimated 3,860 Hong Kong citizens present in the U.S. on that date the right to live and work in the U.S. for 18 months. But repression in the territory has worsened during that time as government authorities have launched a prolonged crackdown to silence democracy activists and muzzle media. Police enforcement of the National Security Law, which imposes severe penalties for ambiguously defined crimes including “subversion” and “collusion with foreign countries” has led to the arrests of more than 160 people since June 2020 for crimes including organizing informal public opinion polls. Lawyers who represent victims of human rights abuses are fleeing the territory in the face of threats and intimidation. The NSC said in its statement that Beijing is using the National Security Law to “deny the people of Hong Kong their human rights and fundamental freedoms, undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy, and chip away at Hong Kong’s remaining democratic processes and institutions.” House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) urged the White House earlier this month to “take immediate steps” to extend the program. Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) called for a DED extension of “another 18 months at a minimum,” in a letter last week. A look at the realities of U.S. supporting Hong Kong SharePlay Video Hong Kong pro-democracy activists are seeking congressional support to grant Temporary Protected Status to Hong Kongers to eliminate the uncertainty of DED extensions. Renewing DED is “the bare minimum,” said Anna Kwok, executive director of the nonprofit Hong Kong Democracy Council. It “resets a countdown clock for Hong Kongers in the U.S. until the next wave of uncertainty and anxiety inevitably hits.” For more information, visit us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/index.html.
Woman accused of impersonating federal immigration employee, defrauding dozens
EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — A woman allegedly pretended to be a federal immigration employee and defrauded at least 20 people out of thousands of dollars by promising to process their applications. Ana Hernandez, 53, has been charged with 10 counts of wire fraud and one count of impersonating an employee of the United States. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Hernandez posed as an employee of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and had alleged victims provide her with the documentation required to file and adjust their immigration status. ADVERTISING Investigators say she and defrauded people out of more than $400,000, and they believe there could be many other victims. Visit BorderReport.com for the latest exclusive stories and breaking news about issues along the U.S.-Mexico border Hernandez faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on each wire fraud count and three years on the impersonation count. Her sentencing date has not yet been set. Anyone who believes they were defrauded by Hernandez is urged to call HSI at (866) 347-2423, or you may fill out the online tip form. For more information, visit us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/index.html.
These benefits will disappear when Biden ends the Covid national and public health emergencies in May
President Joe Biden intends to end the Covid-19 national and public health emergencies on May 11, the White House said Monday. That means that many Americans could have to start paying for Covid-19 testing and treatment after the declarations cease. The White House, in a statement of administration policy announcing opposition to two House Republican measures to end the emergencies, said the national emergency and public health emergency authorities declared in response to the pandemic would each be extended one final time to May 11. "This wind down would align with the Administration's previous commitments to give at least 60 days' notice prior to termination of the (public health emergency)," the statement said. Benefits allowed by emergencies will disappear The public health emergency has enabled the government to provide many Americans with Covid-19 tests, treatments and vaccines at no charge, as well as offer enhanced social safety net benefits, to help the nation cope with the pandemic and minimize its impact. "People will have to start paying some money for things they didn't have to pay for during the emergency," said Jen Kates, senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation. "That's the main thing people will start to notice." Most Americans covered by Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance plans have been able to obtain Covid-19 tests and vaccines at no cost during the pandemic. Those covered by Medicare and private insurance have been able to get up to eight at-home tests per month from retailers at no charge. Medicaid also picks up the cost of at-home tests, though coverage can vary by state. Those covered by Medicare and Medicaid have also had certain therapeutic treatments, such as monoclonal antibodies, fully covered. Once the emergency ends, Medicare beneficiaries generally will face out-of-pocket costs for at-home testing and all treatment. However, vaccines will continue to be covered at no cost, as will testing ordered by a health care provider. State Medicaid programs will have to continue covering Covid-19 tests ordered by a physician and vaccines at no charge. But enrollees may face out-of-pocket costs for treatments. Those with private insurance could face charges for lab tests, even if they are ordered by a provider. Vaccinations will continue to be free for those with private insurance who go to in-network providers, but going to an out-of-network providers could incur charges. Covid-19 vaccinations will be free for those with insurance even when the public health emergency ends because of various federal laws, including the Affordable Care Act and pandemic-era measures, the Inflation Reduction Act and a 2020 relief package. Americans with private insurance have not been charged for monoclonal antibody treatment since they were prepaid by the federal government, though patients may be charged for the office visit or administration of the treatment. But that is not tied to the public health emergency, and the free treatments will be available until the federal supply is exhausted. The government has already run out of some of the treatments so those with private insurance may already be picking up some of the cost. The uninsured had been able to access no-cost testing, treatments and vaccines through a different pandemic relief program. However, the federal funding ran out in the spring of 2022, making it more difficult for those without coverage to obtain free services. The federal government has been preparing to shift Covid-19 care to the commercial market since last year, in part because Congress has not authorized additional funding to purchase additional vaccines, treatments and tests. Pfizer and Moderna have already announced that the commercial prices of their Covid-19 vaccines will likely be between $82 and $130 per dose -- about three to four times what the federal government has paid, according to Kaiser. Medicare provisions The public health emergency has also meant additional funds for hospitals, which have been receiving a 20% increase in Medicare's payment rate for treating Covid-19 patients. Also, Medicare Advantage plans have been required to bill enrollees affected by the emergency and receiving care at out-of-network facilities the same as if they were at in-network facilities. This will end once the public health emergency expires. Less of an impact But several of the most meaningful pandemic enhancements to public assistance programs are no longer tied to the public health emergency. Congress severed the connection in December as part of its fiscal year 2023 government funding package. Most notably, states will now be able to start processing Medicaid redeterminations and disenrolling residents who no longer qualify, starting April 1. They have 14 months to review the eligibility of their beneficiaries. As part of a Covid-19 relief package passed in March 2020, states were barred from kicking people off Medicaid during the public health emergency in exchange for additional federal matching funds. Medicaid enrollment has skyrocketed to a record 90 million people since then, and millions are expected to lose coverage once states began culling the rolls. A total of roughly 15 million people could be dropped from Medicaid when the continuous enrollment requirement ends, according to an analysis the Department of Health and Human Services released in August. About 8.2 million folks would no longer qualify, but 6.8 million people would be terminated even though they are still eligible, the department estimated. Many who are disenrolled from Medicaid, however could qualify for other coverage. Food stamp recipients had been receiving a boost during the public health emergency. Congress increased food stamp benefits to the maximum for their family size in a 2020 pandemic relief package. The Biden administration expanded the boost in the spring of 2021 so that households already receiving the maximum amount and those who received only a small monthly benefit get a supplement of at least $95 a month. This extra assistance will end as of March, though several states have already stopped providing it. Congress, however, extended one set of pandemic flexibilities as part of the government funding package. More Medicare enrollees are able to get care via telehealth during the public health emergency. The service is no longer limited just to those living in rural areas. They can conduct the telehealth visit at home, rather than having to travel to a health care facility. Plus, beneficiaries can use smartphones and receive a wider array of services via telehealth. These will now continue through 2024. Impact on the FDA The US Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday that when the Biden administration ends the emergency, existing emergency use authorizations for Covid-19 vaccines, tests or treatments will not be affected, and the agency may continue to issue emergency use authorizations. "Importantly, the ending of the public health emergency declared by HHS under the Public Health Service Act will not impact FDA's ability to authorize devices (including tests), treatments or vaccines for emergency use. Existing emergency use authorizations (EUAs) for products will remain in effect and the agency may continue to issue new EUAs going forward when criteria for issuance are met," the agency said in a statement to CNN. Since the start of the Covid-19 public health emergency, it "has allowed the FDA to provide important tools and flexibilities to manufacturers, health care facilities, providers, patients, and other stakeholders," according to the statement. In addition to the public health emergency, HHS has issued two other emergency declarations that provide broader access to medical measures for Covid-19. For instance, the emergency use authorizations for tests, treatments and vaccines are not tied to the public health emergency, but HHS will have to determine when to end the declaration that allows their use. Many tests are available to the public under emergency use authorization, though several have been granted more permanent marketing authorization by the FDA. A few therapeutics, including remdesivir, have been approved to treat Covid-19, though others are still available under emergency use authorization. Paxlovid and other oral antiviral drugs made available under emergency use authorization will remain covered by Medicare even though it has yet to be fully approved by the FDA, thanks to a provision Congress put in place as part of the fiscal year 2023 government spending package that passed in December. Medicare typically doesn't cover treatments available under emergency use authorization but has done so during the pandemic as part of the public health emergency. Vaccines developed by Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson and Novavax were also initially made available through emergency use authorization, though some have since been fully FDA-approved for certain ages. HHS also issued another declaration that provides liability immunity to pharmacists who administer Covid-19 vaccines to children and to healthcare providers who vaccinate people in states outside of the state in which they are licensed. That is set to expire in October 2024. White House response The White House weighed in because House Democrats were concerned about voting against the Republican legislation to end the public health emergency that is coming to the floor this week without a plan from the Biden administration, a senior Democratic aide told CNN. "Democrats were concerned about the optics of voting against Republicans winding down the public health emergency, absent an understanding of whether and how we intended to do so from the White House," the aide said. "As soon as we saw this bill, it obviously concerns the White House. So, it was important for them to weigh in." The administration argues that the bills are unnecessary because it intends to end the emergencies anyway. And it noted that continuing the declarations until mid-May does not come with any restrictions. "To be clear, continuation of these emergency declarations until May 11 does not impose any restriction at all on individual conduct with regard to COVID-19," the White House statement said. "They do not impose mask mandates or vaccine mandates. They do not restrict school or business operations. They do not require the use of any medicines or tests in response to cases of COVID-19." The White House said it would extend the Covid-19 emergencies one final time in order to ensure an orderly wind-down of key authorities that states, health care providers and patients have relied on throughout the pandemic. A White House official pointed to a successful vaccination campaign and reductions in Covid cases, hospitalizations and deaths as a rationale for lifting the emergency declarations. The official said a final extension will allow for a smooth transition for health care providers and patients and noted that health care facilities have already begun preparing for that transition. The administration is actively reviewing flexible policies that were authorized under the public health emergency to determine which can remain in place after it is lifted on May 11. The aide told CNN that it will be up to every member to decide what is best for their district and how they will vote on the legislation this week. Declaring an end to the public health emergency will also end the border restriction known as Title 42, which will also likely set up a showdown on Capitol Hill. For more information, visit us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/index.html.
DHS chief: Cuba, Venezuela, Haiti and Nicaragua border arrivals fell nearly 90%
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Monday defended the Biden administration's new border policy designed to curb illegal border crossings in the face of a lawsuit from Florida and 19 other states challenging the program. Why it matters: The states argue in the suit against the Department of Homeland Security that the program allowing up to 30,000 migrants a month from Cuba, Venezuela, Haiti and Nicaragua to live and work in the U.S is an executive power overreach and in violation of federal immigration law. Context: President Biden announced the policy that offers legal entry into the U.S. under humanitarian parole earlier this month as part of a carrot and stick approach to border crossings, per Axios' Stef W. Kight. What he's saying: "We believe in the lawfulness of this program," Mayorkas told reporters during a visit to Miami, per South Florida broadcaster WLRN-FM. "Why these states would oppose an enforcement program that is proving successful is beyond my comprehension." Mayorkas said the new program had seen a "significant number" of applications and "admitted individuals into the United States" who were granted work authorization. "We've also seen a significant drop in the number of Cubans, Venezuelans, Nicuaraguans and Haitians arriving irregularly in between our ports of entry at the Southern border — nearly a 90% drop in those populations," Mayorkas added. "This is the model that we have built and we will continue to build." By the numbers: Preliminary numbers from January released last week indicate that "encounters of Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans crossing unlawfully between ports of entry at the southwest border declined 97% compared to December," per a Department of Homeland Security statement issued last week. For more information, visit us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/index.html.
Large majorities support immigration policies stuck in limbo for a decade
But first: Two of the most popular policies Americans say the new 118th Congress should consider are — drum roll, please — immigration reform and border security. That’s according to our most recent NBC News poll, which tested seven different policy proposals. The ideas with the most support: providing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who meet certain requirements (80% of Americans say Congress should do this), taking a harder line against China (75% say Congress should act) and addressing immigration by increasing border security (72%). The least popular proposals: making cuts to the defense budget (31% support) and passing legislation that place additional restrictions on abortion (26%). What stands out about the support for a pathway to citizenship is that it’s backed by an overwhelming majority of Democrats (94%), independents (77%) and Republicans (67%). (Importantly, our question combines providing a pathway to citizenship WITH meeting certain requirements such as background checks.) Support for increased border security also is backed by majorities of Republicans (90%), independents (72%) and Democrats (56%). (Interestingly, while 71% of Democrats who backed Biden in the 2020 Democratic primaries support increased border security, just 34% of Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren voters do — so there is an ideological divide there in the party. Then again, what’s popular doesn’t always get turned into legislation that will become law. We saw that with comprehensive immigration reform in 2013-14, which combined a pathway to citizenship AND increased border security. And will we see it with police reform — even after the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols? Headline of the day Data Download: The number of the day is … 21% That’s the share of Americans who view Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer positively, the highest rating any of the four congressional leaders received on the feeling thermometer in the newest NBC News poll. When Americans were asked whether they view each leader positively or negatively, just 21% said they viewed him positively (either “very” or “somewhat”), while 34% say they view him negatively. That’s well underwater, but markedly better than his Senate GOP counterpart, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has a 10% positive rating and a 53% negative rating. In the House, Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries is largely unknown or undefined, but sports a slightly higher positive rating than negative rating, unlike Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Read more on the Meet the Press Blog. Other numbers to know: 3: The number of Memphis EMTs fired over their response to the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols. 14: The number of criminal counts for which Solomon Pena was indicted, relating to Pena’s alleged involvement in shootings at Democratic officials’ homes and businesses in New Mexico. At least $25,000: The donation made to an ally of former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows who is pleading guilty to accepting an illegal campaign contribution, according to Politico. $932 billion: The amount the U.S. plans to borrow this year, which is an increase in federal borrowing, despite the fact that the country is about to hit the debt limit. 24: The number of Republican senators who said they will oppose increasing the debt limit without spending cuts, per The Hill. Recommended MEET THE PRESS BLOG Voters uncomfortable with Biden, Trump 2024 candidacies MEET THE PRESS BLOG NRSC backs Jim Banks as Mitch Daniels passes on Senate run 6 months: How long former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is asking to stay in the U.S. on a tourist visa. 3: The number of former Twitter executives who will testify next week in front of the House Oversight Committee. 50 million: The number of people under winter alerts ahead of a snowstorm that’s expected to hit the southern U.S. Eyes on 2024: Trump’s slow fundraising start — plus other baggage Trump’s campaign continues to ramp up, although NBC News’ Jonathan Allen and Marc Caputo report that the former president is struggling to fundraise, with his latest haul being less than the amount he raised before launching another White House run. Meanwhile, a handful of headlines Monday remind us of just how much unique baggage Trump brings to his presidential bid. “Prosecutors convene grand jury in Trump hush money probe” -- a credible investigation into whether allies paid hush money to an adult film star aimed at keeping her allegations she had an affair with Trump quiet. And “Trump Courses Will Host Three Tournaments for Saudi-Backed LIV Golf” — news the former president’s private golf courses will host the controversial golf tournament funded by Saudi Arabia amid questions about the country’s human rights record (after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi) and about Trump’s son-in-law’s business relationship with the Saudis. Of course, his time in office, the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, the attempts to overturn the 2020 election, undercut faith in the electoral process writ large and all the other obvious pieces of Trump’s past that will loom large in any discussion about his candidacy. But would these headlines be seen as afterthoughts for any other presidential hopeful at any other point in time? In other campaign news: Here come the governors: NBC’s Adam Edelman reports on how the group of GOP governors — Florida’s Ron DeSantis, Virginia’s Glenn Youngkin and South Dakota’s Kristi Noem — are positioning themselves ahead of potential presidential bids. Take it to court: Trump has filed a $49 million lawsuit against Bob Woodward, Simon & Schuster and Paramount Global for use of audio from his interviews conducted by Woodward. RNC calls on party to double down on abortion: Among the nine resolutions that passed by a voice vote at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting, the RNC called for candidates to “go on offense in the 2024 election cycle, and expose the Democrats’ extreme position” on abortion. Will she, she won’t: As a handful of other Michigan Democrats weigh a Senate bid, Rep. Haley Stevens announced she won’t run. Will he, will he?: West Virginia Republican Gov. Jim Justice posted a video interview featuring him saying he is “leaning” toward running for Senate and will make an announcement “real soon.” Bad sign for Santos: A whopping 78% of voters in embattled GOP Rep George Santos’ district want him to resign, per a Newsday/Siena College of New York’s 3rd District. That includes a sizable majority of Republicans (71%) as well as 89% of Democrats and 72% of independents. DNC in ATL?: Southern Democrats are pushing for Atlanta to host the 2024 convention, NBC News’ Alex Seitz-Wald reports. ICYMI: What else is happening in the world TikTok’s CEO will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee in March, amid questions about the app’s data security. As violence surges between Israel and Palestinines, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is urging the two sides to remain calm Utah is the first state in 2023 to ban gender-affirming care for minors after GOP Gov. Spencer Cox signed the bill into law over the weekend. CORRECTION (Jan. 31, 2023, 9:55 a.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s comments. He called for calm between Israel and the Palestinians, not Pakistan. For more information, visit us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/index.html.
Monday, January 30, 2023
The Republican case for a Temporary Family Visitation Visa
It is no surprise that the Temporary Family Visitation Act (TFVA) is gathering strong Republican congressional support. In fact, 18 of 43 cosponsors in the House are Republican and, in the upper chamber, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has partnered with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) on the legislation. The reason is simple: The bill aligns with key elements of the GOP agenda. The TFVA, which would create a new nonimmigrant visa for foreign nationals who wish to visit family members in the U.S., would correct a major and obvious failure of the visa system in a way that would strengthen our economy and reduce the number of people applying for immigrant visas. It can also be seen as a way for Republicans to thread the needle on immigration reform as the bill would help Americans with an immigrant background (a growing Republican constituency including Hispanics and Asians who tend to hold conservative social values) without fostering additional immigration (a key objective for the party’s base). The constituent parts of this legislation bear up under scrutiny. The TFVA is clearly a constructive bipartisan measure aimed at responsibly cleaning up a mess that can perversely turn a simple request to visit family in the U.S. into years of frustration resulting in the unintended consequence of driving up green card applications. At present, foreign nationals from countries not included in the Visa Waiver Program, who have no intention to immigrate, are routinely denied tourist visas when they simply want to visit relatives. They are caught in a catch-22 in which strong family ties that give an individual a valid reason to visit also give a U.S. consulate reason to suspect the applicant intends to immigrate. Congress itself detailed the issue in a 2014 Congressional Research Service report noting,“Foreign nationals with U.S. citizen and LPR (lawful permanent resident) relatives, who wish to either tour the United States or visit their U.S.-based relatives, are often denied nonimmigrant visas to visit. The presumption of intention to immigrate is stated explicitly in Section 214(b) of the [Immigration and Nationality Act], and is the most common basis for rejecting nonimmigrant visa applicants.” ADVERTISING The TFVA, which has strict accountability measures and safeguards against visa overstays, would give these relatives of U.S. citizens and LPRs a pathway to visit family in the U.S., and would give their U.S. citizen and LPR relatives an opportunity to retain and strengthen family ties (a core Republican value). The TFVA would give these families the opportunity to gather for such landmark occasions as graduations, weddings and family reunions. Or, sadly, for an ailing or dying loved one. While this population of potential visitors has no intention to immigrate, if they are repeatedly denied a tourist visa a green card can be their only option for visiting loved ones in the United States. Green card applications from this population further stress a system severely backlogged with roughly 400,000 cases, causing applicant wait times of up to 10 years. Passage of the TFVA would divert these green card applicants to a nonimmigrant visa that accurately reflects their intent and free up resources to help restore order to an overburdened system. Reducing the pool of green card applicants would have the systemic effect of reducing the number of potential immigrants. Republicans value economic growth. TFVA advocates argue the bill would be a boon to the U.S. economy. According to the U.S. Travel Association, each overseas traveler visiting the U.S. spends on average $4,200 during the course of a stay in the U.S. With more than 1 million people estimated to take advantage of the TFVA annually, that’s more than $4 billion a year in additional travel spending. Such a boost in tourist spending could lead to the creation of thousands of jobs. AWOL: The anti-war Democratic presidential contender Hardheaded support for a Ukrainian victory Beyond the benefits enumerated above, the TFVA merits more Republican support because it can help Republicans at the polls. According to a Gallup poll conducted in July, the portion of Americans who see immigration as a good thing for the country has steadily grown over the last 20 years — from 52 percent in 2002 to 70 percent today. Moreover, the poll found that 75 percent of independent voters (a key group when it comes to winning federal elections) also view immigration positively. Republican support of the TFVA can signal to these voters a compassion for Americans with immigrant backgrounds. More broadly, the TFVA could serve as a model for a new Republican approach to immigration: respect and strengthen family ties for law-abiding Americans with immigrant backgrounds, clean up the family visa morass, decrease green card applications, and boost the U.S. economy — all this without jeopardizing Republican positions on border security, immigrant labor and immigration limits. For more information, visit us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/index.html.
Migration could prevent a looming population crisis. But there are catches
To developmental economist Lant Pritchett, "population decline" is a mild way to describe what could be a global demographic crisis. "The reaction is often 'ho-hum' as the rates [of population decline] are slow and hence the issue seems small and in the future," he told NPR in an email. But the problem is not small, he said, and falling birth rates could upend economies. Last week, China reported population decline for the first time in more than 60 years, raising questions about its future economic growth. Other countries are heading towards a similar fate. Slowing birth rates in the developed world are resulting in aging populations and smaller workforces. But in parts of the developing world, the youth population is still growing, and some countries are struggling to create enough jobs for an expanding working-age population. To economists, migration is the obvious solution. But the political implications could be harder to overcome. The problem has already begun According to the United Nations, two thirds of all people live in countries where the average birth rates are lower than the replacement rate — that is, the birth rate required to maintain a steady population. Sponsor Message Consistently low birth rates across some regions have resulted in quickly aging populations. And across the developed world, youth populations are starting to shrink relative to elderly populations. "The problem isn't so much that the overall population shrinks," Pritchett said. "It's that during the period after birth rate falls, it's something we call inverting the demographic pyramid." This baby could push India past China to become the world's most populous country GOATS AND SODA This baby could push India past China to become the world's most populous country In countries like Japan and Italy, where birth rates have fallen from high to low rates, the effect is more pronounced. "You go from having lots of people in the labor force to support the elderly [to] equality of people in the labor force and people in the aged population," Pritchett said. "And that just has never happened in the history of the world. And it's not clear it's a sustainable way to sustain the social contract we have in which the young support the old." As populations age, labor for low wage jobs in particular is in high demand, Pritchett said. The U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics predicts many of the fastest growing job types don't require a college degree. The Bureau predicts that in the next decade, there will be close to one million new jobs in home health and personal care alone. Sponsor Message "And yet over that same period, we're going to have three million less workers [aged] 20 to 40," Pritchett said. But while rich countries get older, the developing world is getting younger. Fertility in Sub-Saharan Africa was well above the replacement rate at an average of 4.7 births per woman in 2020. The challenge in these countries is creating enough jobs to sustain a growing workforce. To economists, the simplest way to solve both problems is through migration. As Workforce Ages, South Korea Increasingly Depends On Migrant Labor WORLD As Workforce Ages, South Korea Increasingly Depends On Migrant Labor "A real bellwether for the future is South Korea," said Michael Clemens, a professor of economics at George Mason University. At 0.79 births per woman, South Korea has the lowest birthrate in the world. To augment the number of young, energetic workers relative to the number of old people, the country relies on migrant workers to fill labor shortages, Clemens said. It's a win-win, according to Pritchett: Immigration solves labor shortages in the developed world, and emigration solves job shortages in the developing world. Politics and fears of exploitation linger over the idea As easy as the solution could be from an economic perspective, the politics of it all are much more complicated. In a future where much of the world's working age population will be from countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, anti-immigrant sentiment could be a sticking point, Clemens said. "The opportunities for lawful migration of Africans are extremely constrained [in the U.S.]. And the main route into the U.S. right now for Africans is the diversity visa," Clemens said. "That visa is vastly oversubscribed for every visa that's given ... Again and again, politicians have proposed eliminating that entirely." Increasing the amount of temporary work migration would address the economic problem while avoiding the political sticking points, Pritchett argued, adding that his solution is to create an industry that "recruits, prepares, places, protects" migrant workers. Almost a billion people would migrate permanently if they could, research shows. Scott Olson/Getty Images Tara Watson, an economist and the director of the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institution, argues that a solution like Pritchett's would pose challenges and not necessarily solve the problem in the long term. Sponsor Message "It's not easy to make temporary migration work in a way that's not exploitative," Watson said. Part of the problem, she said, is most temporary work options are "tied to a specific employer, and that gives that employer a lot of discretion over your work environment and really limits the worker's ability to advocate for themselves." And to Watson, temporary labor mobility is only a temporary solution. "I am a proponent of moving more towards a permanent visa space," Watson said. According to Gallup, almost one billion people around the world would migrate permanently if they could. "It's the permanent immigrants who generate the long run population growth for us," Watson said. To Pritchett, the current landscape of migration is comparable to the U.S. prohibition of alcohol. "We wanted to ban all alcoholic beverages and it just wasn't enforceable. And so the path to more control of alcohol was through less control of alcohol, through legalizing these flows. I feel the path to better migration is through more migration," Pritchett said. "Some part of this labor mobility is going to be a path to citizenship. That's terrific," he said. "But some of this is going to have to be temporary. And the sooner we wrap our heads around that, the sooner we get to out of prohibition mode." For more information, visit us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/index.html.
It's great timing for the US's first immigration boost in years — but experts say Biden needs to reverse more Trump-era policies for the economy to feel the maximum effect
The US labor force has been struggling to recover from pandemic turmoil, but there may be a bright spot: a recent increase in immigration. A post last month by Anthony Knapp and Tiangeng Lu of the Census Bureau highlights just how much net international migration has bounced back from the massive slowdown it has seen over the past few years, one that experts say has reduced the number of workers the US could rely on. It's been one of the major factors in the country's ongoing labor shortage. David Kelly, chief global strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management, previously told Insider that "if we increased the number of people who were allowed to immigrate into the United States based on the skills they bring to the marketplace, we could fix this huge excess demand for labor problem pretty quickly." But Knapp and Lu's post shows that after a decade-low net international migration figure in 2021 — with only about 376,000 more people moving into the country from abroad than moving out between July 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021 — that number soared in 2022 to about a million. While net international migration in 2022 wasn't as high as in 2016 — the high point for immigration between 2010 to 2022 — it's still the highest since 2017. Additionally, the authors note that 2022 is the "first time net international migration increased since 2016." Cory Stahle, an economist at Indeed, told Insider that he's optimistic about the data. "Seeing the numbers from the Census Bureau are really, really encouraging," he said. "We are in a pretty tight labor market right now, and immigration can play a really important role in filling a lot of those positions and providing additional labor to employers." Why business alliances are a triple-win for your company, partner, and customers SPONSOR CONTENT by HUB International Why business alliances are a triple-win for your company, partner, and customers He warned that one data point doesn't indicate a trend on its own, but since the drop in immigration was in part due to pandemic-specific factors, it gives him confidence that the US is in an immigration upswing. Additionally, policies enacted by former President Donald Trump also restricted immigrants from entering the country, which also kept them out of the US workforce. The US would have had about two million more immigrants if not for those policies, Insider estimated based on the average growth rate from 2011 to 2016 for net international migration. And immigrant workers typically fuel the industries experiencing shortages, such as transportation and construction. "We have a case where jobs continued to be added during the pandemic, but immigration was going down," Stahle said. "This one point is an encouraging sign of turning back, but we still have far fewer foreign-born workers than would have been here had the pandemic not happened," he added. Immigration is rebounding, but federal laws are still holding numbers back Giovanni Peri, professor of economics at the University of California, Davis, told Insider that the increase since 2016 in net international migration to the US actually isn't too surprising given what it's coming back from. Peri noted that it shows a rebound "because immigration had decreased so drastically in 2020 and in 2021 as a consequence of all the restrictions that had been with Covid," where many visas and permits weren't being processed. "So there was a little bit of a backlog of immigrants who wanted to come into the United States and were essentially blocked because of all the Covid restrictions," Peri said. "So in part it's expected — this rebound." He's less optimistic than Stahle for what that means going forward. "I would say that it makes up for some of the immigration that we lost during COVID, but I would say also it makes me think that this slow trend of decrease in immigration is probably going to continue because it's linked to more long-term and structural types of issues," Peri said. According to Peri, "the number of immigrants who can come in legally is constrained" by laws and procedures that haven't really changed. The last major change was decades ago in 1986. "This is not likely to change unless there is some change in legislation," he said. "And so in that respect, probably this slow decline or stagnation of immigrants will continue." And that means the essence of the labor shortage persists. Since entering office, President Joe Biden has reversed a number of Trump's restrictive immigration policies, although a number of them are still in place. This month, for instance, the Biden administration announced that it would expand one of Trump's policies, which expels migrants from certain countries attempting to seek asylum at the Mexican border. "There is a very big gap between the job and the people who are searching for a job," Peri said. "I would say that we will need this type of immigration to stay at 1 million plus people net per year for the next four or five years to fill the gap. And my prediction is that that's not very likely to happen," Peri added. He did say, however, that in the short-term, this is some "good news" for the labor market. Nikolai Roussanov, a finance professor at the University of Pennsylvania, told Insider that above all, these numbers reflect a "pent-up need" among people who couldn't enter the country during the pandemic immigrating now, as the restrictions have been lifted. "They also reflect the dire need for workers, but given the ongoing labor shortage it is far from being fulfilled," he said. "In fact, additional immigration restrictions are being put in place for purely political reasons. In order to make a real difference in easing the labor shortage the U.S. would need to significantly revamp immigration policy, in particular to simply and encourage skill-based migration." "Immigration has been a crucial force behind the US economic growth" As employers are finding, immigrants are key to building different aspects of the US economy. Chinese students have helped bankroll US universities, for instance, as well as the industries they enter once they graduate. But the US has declined significantly as their top choice for academic expatriation, recent data shows. "Immigration has been a crucial force behind the US economic growth," Oleg Itskhoki, an economics professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, told Insider. "It kept the population growing and age structure relatively young, especially in comparison with other developed countries." He added that a young, growing population is important to keeping the labor supply high, but also the creation of new businesses, which "translates into sustained economic growth." "This is why the decline in migration since 2016 is very troublesome from the point of view of growth prospects," he said. For more information, visit us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/index.html.
What Biden's new immigration policies mean for the United States — and Latin America
AYESHA RASCOE, HOST: After years of record apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border, the Biden administration is trying a tougher approach. And while there's been a lot of criticism of this approach, immigration authorities say it's working so far. That's according to preliminary data released last week, which show a sharp decline in the number of migrants crossing into the U.S. illegally in recent weeks. We're going to take a closer look now at what's happening on both sides of the border with NPR's Eyder Peralta, who is based in Mexico City. Hey, Eyder. EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Hey, Ayesha. RASCOE: And NPR's Joel Rose, who covers immigration, is here with me in D.C. Hi, Joel. JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Hi. RASCOE: OK. So, Joel, let's start with you. It's been a few weeks since the administration announced these new enforcement measures. Can you walk us through what they are? ROSE: Sure. These are new restrictions for migrants coming from Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti and Venezuela, who made up a large and growing share of the migrants who've been crossing in recent months. The administration announced earlier this month that it would begin rapidly expelling these migrants under the pandemic restrictions known as Title 42, which had been difficult because it was impossible before now to send them back to their home countries, and Mexico had refused to take them either. At the same time, the administration announced a legal pathway that allows up to 30,000 migrants a month from those four countries to enter the U.S. temporarily under a process known as parole. And that allows them to live and work in the U.S. legally for two years. But this new process is only open to migrants who have a financial sponsor in the U.S. And crucially, they also have to apply from abroad without crossing the border illegally. RASCOE: Eyder, you've been talking to migrants trying to make their way across Mexico and Central America. How does this policy look to them? PERALTA: It's left them in limbo. A lot of them have decided to stay here in Mexico. So they make these huge lines at immigration offices. And recently, I went to talk to a few of them. They were sleeping outside, waiting for a work permit because they say that all these new requirements make it impossible to get to the U.S. And it's not necessarily the big things, like the sponsors that Joel mentioned. For a lot of them, it's that they don't have a passport. They left home in a hurry. Or they've gotten wet or destroyed along the way. And it takes hundreds of dollars to replace them in Haiti. Since the new requirements went into place, the price of a passport doubled. And the immigrants I was talking to here in Mexico City told me that one of their friends, Kelvin Jimenez (ph), was lucky because he had this raggedy passport. But he laughed and said that he couldn't even apply even if he had a passport. Let's listen. KELVIN JIMENEZ: (Non-English language spoken). PERALTA: So he said that he has a passport but no sponsor. But he says they've gotten used to the hardship, and they've gotten used to sleeping on the streets. A lot of the migrants I spoke to here over the past few months describe themselves as this kind of floating society - that they're moving through the jungle from city to city. And they feel that no one, really, is willing to offer them refuge. RASCOE: Joel, we're hearing what Eyder is reporting, but we said at the top that immigration authorities think these policies are working. So what is that based on? ROSE: Yeah, immigration authorities say they are having a significant effect on the number of illegal crossings. And authorities did release some data this week that backs up that claim. They say the number of migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela apprehended at the border has plummeted more than 90% in recent weeks compared to December. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas says that is proof that this new approach is working. We should note it is very unusual for immigration authorities to publicly release preliminary data about the border before the month is over, which I think shows a couple of things. The administration, for one, really wants to show a drop in illegal border crossings. And two, they seem to be worried about a lawsuit that was filed last week by a group of 20 states led by Texas. It was filed on Tuesday in federal court in south Texas. And they're seeking to block the new parole program for migrants from these four countries. They say the Biden administration is overstepping its authority here by basically creating a new visa program without authorization from Congress. The states argue that parole is supposed to be exceptionally limited and only on a case-by-case basis and that the Biden administration is abusing that power by letting in potentially hundreds of thousands of migrants. RASCOE: So, Eyder, let's talk about the role of Mexico in all of this. Why is the government there going along with these new enforcement policies? PERALTA: I mean, on the surface, what they say is that they're trying to make migrants safer. They say that these policies take migrants out of the hands of human smugglers. But this is also about pragmatism. Mexico is getting more temporary worker visas for their citizens. And in the end, Mexico wants fewer Latin Americans leaving their countries. So they don't end up here. What immigrants rights activists tell you is that these policies discourage migration, and that's exactly what the United States and Mexico want. RASCOE: There seems to be a real shift by the Biden administration toward tougher enforcement at the border. But how is that sitting with immigrant advocates and with Democrats? ROSE: They're mad. They say that President Biden campaigned against some of the very Trump administration immigration policies that his administration is now emulating. More than 70 Democrats signed a letter this week calling on the White House to reconsider some of these new enforcement measures. Those who signed that want the administration to stop expelling migrants under Title 42. They also want the Biden administration to drop plans for sharp new limits on asylum for migrants who crossed the border illegally or after passing through another country without seeking protection there. Here's Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey last week. (SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING) ROBERT MENENDEZ: Anyone who tells you that the only way to secure our border is to punish asylum seekers is lying. It's why we are appalled to see President Biden replicate President Trump's immigration strategy. ROSE: The Biden administration disputes that it's replicating anything. But immigrant advocates do see these policies as basically identical and say they will go to court to block this proposed asylum rule if they have to. RASCOE: That's NPR's Joel Rose in Washington, D.C. and Eyder Peralta in Mexico City. Thank you both for your reporting. ROSE: You're welcome. PERALTA: Thank you, Ayesha. For more information, visit us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/index.html.
Thursday, January 26, 2023
Texas, 19 other states sue Biden admin over migrant parole program
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is leading 20 states who are suing the Biden administration over a federal migrant parole program announced earlier this month. The program established a pathway for up to 30,000 migrants each month from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela to petition for asylum in the U.S. President Joe Biden launched the program as part of a series of new border enforcement actions, which also includes a commitment from the Mexican government to accept up to 30,000 migrants from those four countries if they don't meet the requirements for asylum or parole. In a press release, on Tuesday, Paxton's office argued that the program "unlawfully creates a de facto pathway to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of aliens." Along with Texas, 19 mostly GOP-led states joined the suit filed in the U.S. District Court's Southern District of Texas. "Every state in America, especially border states like Texas, is being crushed by the impacts of illegal immigration. The Biden open borders agenda has created a humanitarian crisis that is increasing crime and violence in our streets, overwhelming local communities, and worsening the opioid crisis," Paxton said. Recent Stories from ABC News "This unlawful amnesty program, which will invite hundreds of thousands of aliens into the U.S. every year, will only make this immigration crisis drastically worse," he continued. MORE: Title 42 actually contributes to increased migration numbers, data suggests An administration official who briefed reporters Wednesday on the Biden's enforcement actions said they are confident they have the legal authority to implement this program. “Many leaders of these states keep claiming we need to secure the border, but then they turned around and try to block every measure that we take to do just that,” the official said. “They don't want real solutions They would rather just keep using immigration to try to score political points.” That view echoes what the White House said earlier this month, accusing Republicans in office of "playing political games and obstructing real solutions to fix our broken immigration system." "Until and unless Congress delivers the funding as well as comprehensive immigration reform measures President Biden requested, the United States' broken immigration system will indeed remain broken," the White House said then. Preliminary data released Wednesday by the Department of Homeland Security showed the new border enforcement measures, which include the parole program, are working, department officials insisted. Border Patrol apprehensions of Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans are down 97% since December. The average number of migrant apprehensions from those countries -- a key indicator of illegal migration -- is at 115 per day, down from 3,367 per day at the beginning of December, according to the agency. But some immigration advocates and Democratic lawmakers have also criticized the president's parole program for, they say, providing too-narrow a pathway for migrants to seek asylum. PHOTO: In this Dec. 2, 2022, file photo, immigrants register with authorities after being permitted to seek political asylum in Brownsville, Texas. In this Dec. 2, 2022, file photo, immigrants register with authorities after being permitted to seek political asylum in Brownsville, Texas. They had been granted exceptions to Title 42, a U.S. public health order used to expel migrants seeking asylum. John Moore/Getty Images, FILE In order to apply, asylum-seekers must meet strict requirements like applying from their home countries and must have a sponsor in the U.S. who can be financially responsible for them. The agreement with Mexico to expel up to 30,000 migrants each month from the four countries also opens the door for more expulsions under Title 42, a public health policy implemented under President Donald Trump in the early days of COVID-19 that quickly expels and prevents migrants from seeking asylum, citing the threat of viral spread. Democratic Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico and California's Alex Padilla issued a joint statement after the president's announcement earlier this month. The three took particular issue with the continued use of Title 42 for migrant expulsions. Recent Stories from ABC News "Continuing to use this failed and inhumane Trump-era policy put in place to address a public health crisis will do nothing to restore the rule of law at the border. Instead, it will increase border crossings over time and further enrich human smuggling networks," they said. "We are pleased to see an increase in the access to parole for Cubans, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans, and Haitians, but this narrow benefit will exclude thousands of migrants fleeing violence and persecution who do not have the ability or economic means to qualify for the new parole process." MORE: With Supreme Court halt, controversial Title 42 is now in limbo -- but still in effect at the border America First Legal, a conservative group launched by former Trump aide Stephen Miller, is also involved in the case. Alaska is one of the 20 states as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, claiming they face "substantial, irreparable harms from the Department's abuses of its parole authority, which allow potentially hundreds of thousands of additional aliens to enter each of their already overwhelmed territories." The lawsuit claims, in part, that 5,000-11,000 immigrants live illegally in Alaska, which claims it spends up to $72 million a year in education, health care, public assistance and general government services for them. Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, the policy director at the American Immigration Council, said Alaska's involvement in the suit shows "how fundamentally unserious" it is. "That Alaska is trying to claim that a program allowing Cubans to enter the country legally is going to create an increase in undocumented immigrants in Alaska is fundamentally unserious," Reichlin-Melnick said. "No person should be able to say that with a straight face. Alaska is not going to be overwhelmed by migrants -- that's just reality." PHOTO: In this April 26, 2022, file photo, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton talks to reporters in Washington, D.C. In this April 26, 2022, file photo, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton talks to reporters in Washington, D.C. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, FILE "They are not attached to the continental United States and that would require migrants to travel all the way to the border, cross the border, cross into Canada, travel through Canada and then cross back into the United States to get to Alaska," Reichlin-Melnick said. The suit is the latest legal battle that border-adjacent and largely GOP-led states have waged against the Biden administration's immigration policies, which they call "reckless." These states have tried in multiple cases to undermine the federal government's agenda on a wide range of issues, including Biden's attempt to dismantle Trump's "Remain in Mexico" policy and to continue to exclude young migrants from imminent deportation. The new lawsuit also takes issue with the fact that the parole program was rolled out without going through the notice and comment rule-making process, which the states allege the administration is required to do. However, another program targeting Ukrainian citizens fleeing the Russian invasion that was launched in April 2021 establishes similar requirements for asylum-seekers. It has not been met with a legal challenge, Reichlin-Melnick noted. "We're seeing them filing a lawsuit attempting to block Cubans, Nicaraguans and Haitians and Latinos from entering the United States through the exact same means by which Ukrainians have been allowed in to no legal challenge at all on the part of the same plaintiffs," he said. For more information, visit us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/index.html.
US reports drop in migrants from countries in Biden initiative
Border agents have reported a dramatic drop in encounters with migrants from Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Haiti in recent weeks, as Republican lawmakers ramp up criticism of the administration’s border policies. There has been a roughly 97 percent decline in encounters with migrants from those four nations who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border without authorization between December and January, according to Biden administration officials who briefed reporters Wednesday on the condition of anonymity. On Dec. 11, the seven-day average of daily encounters with migrants from the four countries was 3,367. But on Tuesday, that seven-day average was down to 115, the administration officials said. The administration officials attributed the reduction in border crossings to the expansion earlier this month of a migration initiative that each month would allow 30,000 migrants from those four countries to apply for a temporary immigration status known as parole. “These expanded border enforcement measures are working,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a news release Wednesday. The parole program was also paired with additional immigration enforcement, in a “carrot-and-stick” style approach. Under the program, 30,000 migrants from those countries could also be expelled back to Mexico each month under a pandemic-related order, called the Title 42 policy, if they crossed the border without authorization. The program was initially limited to Venezuelans, but was expanded to include migrants from Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua in early January. According to the administration officials, roughly 1,700 migrants from those three additional countries have entered the U.S. in the last three weeks through the program, though many more have been approved. Republican backlash The release of the data follows a week of backlash from Republican lawmakers over record-high migration levels reported in December, which were released publicly Friday and showed more than 250,000 unauthorized border crossings that month alone. Republican leaders of the House Judiciary and Oversight and Accountability committees have announced they will hold border-related hearings in early February. The Judiciary Committee blared its intent to hold more, calling the upcoming hearing, “The Biden Border Crisis: Part 1.” And House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., told reporters Wednesday morning that House Republicans plan to put together a “big border security package” that would go through the Judiciary and Homeland Security committees. The data release also comes one day after a group of 20 Republican-led states sued the Biden administration over the parole component of the program. The states argued in their suit, which was filed in a Texas federal court, that the program “amounts to the creation of a new visa program” that will allow hundreds of thousands of migrants to enter the country per year who would not have otherwise been eligible. Mayorkas, in the news release, said that it is “incomprehensible that some states who stand to benefit from these highly effective enforcement measures are seeking to block them and cause more irregular migration at our southern border.” An administration official also told reporters that the Mexican government’s “willingness to make the independent decision to accept returns of third-country nationals has been contingent on the U.S.’ ability to provide lawful pathways for individuals from those counties to come directly to the United States.” “If our ability to provide those lawful pathways is impacted, Mexico may revisit this independent decision they made,” the official said. For more information, visit us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/index.html.
Republicans Run Risk of Losing Latino Voter Gains By Targeting Asylum
Abill put forward by Republican Representative Chip Roy of Texas that proposed changing how asylum claims are handled is raising concerns among other Republicans, who fear that their party could lose new hard-won support from Hispanic voters by going too far on immigration. The bill, which proposed barring all undocumented immigrants from entering the country, was seen as an attack on an asylum process that has been a hallmark of American immigration policy for 75 years. Republican Representative Tony Gonzales of Texas, the lawmaker who represents the largest stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border, took to Fox News last week to argue against it. "I'm particularly concerned with this Border Safety and Security Act," he said. Essentially, what it does is it bans asylum—all asylum—to include legitimate asylum. I'm very concerned with that." "About a year ago, there were these three little girls that the cartels abandoned on one of these fields outside of Eagle Pass," he explained. "If this bill were to become law, what do you do with those little girls? Do you just throw them over the other side of the fence? I don't think that's the American way." tony gonzales Republican Congressman Tony Gonzales of Texas arrives with other representatives at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on November 13, 2020. SAMUEL CORUM/GETTY IMAGES Although in its current form the bill is dead, more immigration bills are sure to follow, after Speaker Kevin McCarthy made a pledge to recalcitrant members to bring a border security bill to the floor in exchange for their votes to make him Speaker of the House. Some longtime Republicans and Latino campaign experts who have helped bring Hispanic voters into the Republican fold fear that although efforts to undo asylum protections might play well to a portion of the conservative base, they also could erode the party's gains in the Latino community. NEWSWEEK SUBSCRIPTION OFFERS > "The language was way too broad and could have resulted in the asylum system being shut down," Abraham Enriquez, the founder of Bienvenido US and a speaker at CPAC Texas, told Newsweek. "Republicans are making gains with Latino voters. Now is not the time for a bill that shuts down the asylum system." A Los Angeles Times poll in December found that 62% of Hispanics support continuing asylum, 17% oppose it, and 21% aren't sure. Bienvenido US did electoral work on behalf of candidates in Texas, Arizona, Georgia and Florida to the tune of nearly $2 million during the 2022 election. Enriquez said Republicans must understand that the media narrative goes beyond the Fox News echo chamber, and includes the influence of Spanish-language TV network giants. "Hispanics do favor an all-of-the-above approach on immigration, which means they're pro-border security and pro-immigrant, not anti-immigrant asking for an anti-asylum bill," he said. "It would lead to Telemundo and Univision saying Republicans were pushing an anti-asylum bill." Mario Lopez, a presidential appointee under George W. Bush, who was also appointed to the U.S. Senate Republican Task Force of Hispanic Affairs by former Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, told Newsweek the House Republican approach is a mistake. "The notion that you can keep doubling and tripling down on senseless immigration policies, and Latinos are OK with hating immigrants?" he asked rhetorically. "I don't think it's going to pay the rewards some delusional people think it will." These Republicans noted that Bush also had a high-water mark with Hispanics in 2004, one that the party erased with the rise of right-wing voices on immigration like Tom Tancredo, who once advocated for abolishing both the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and ran for governor of Colorado unsuccessfully three times from 2010 to 2018. But Bryan Lanza, a former Trump campaign and transition team official, told Newsweek that "nobody's rhetoric with respect to immigration was harsher than Donald Trump," and he still made gains with Hispanics. "I don't know if I buy [that] Stephen Miller and Tancredo messaging sinks us with the community," he said, noting that under Trump immigration became about jobs, which was more of a winning message. "It became an economic message instead of a social message." Still, Republicans who oppose the gambit to chop away at asylum in the U.S. believe House Republican bills like Roy's will not limit illegal immigration, but actually increase it, because migrants who truly fear for their lives will make the trek to the United States anyway. "If Chip Roy and other Republicans are frustrated about illegal immigration, just wait until it skyrockets when they get rid of asylum," Lopez said. "That's just a recipe for more illegal immigration, and completely counterproductive to what they say they want." Enriquez said his views are informed by spending a lot of time in Mexico and having the opportunity to see families making their way to the border. "When someone is fleeing legitimate persecution and legitimately needs asylum they will figure out a way to make it across our border," he added. "These bills will increase the illegal crossings of families looking for asylum and figuring out another way to get into America." READ MORE Ruben Gallego set to launch Senate campaign against Kyrsten Sinema Dems, allies acknowledge saving DACA may require border security tradeoff Democrats have answer to 'Latino men problem': Recruit them as candidates Ruben Gallego: January 6 coup attempt won't be last, Next will be 'legal' It's not just fellow Republicans who are watching what the House majority does. Vanessa Cardenas, the executive director of America's Voice, an immigration advocacy organization, said the Republican Party is also targeting the expansion of legal pathways to enter the country, citing Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's lawsuit against the Biden administration on Tuesday. The suit follows a move announced in December that would allow 360,000 people a year from Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti, and Nicaragua to immigrate if they apply for the program from their home countries, pass background checks, and give proof of financial support in the United States. "Based on what we've seen from last year to this year, Republicans are intent on ending migration in all its forms, even legal migration," Cardenas said, "which shows us how much the extremists have taken ahold of the GOP." Cardenas leveled a charge against Republicans on immigration that they have long aimed at Democrats, arguing that their party is not interested in solutions on the issue, only in castigating Democrats. "They're using migration as a strategy to agitate their base," she said. For more information, visit us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/index.html.
Joe Biden’s Immigration Plan Was Supposed to Be a Compromise—Republicans Are Suing Him Anyway
Despite announcing what some saw as a centrist plan to address America’s ongoing immigration crisis, Joe Biden doesn’t seem to have won points on either side of the aisle. The president—who sparked progressive backlash this month over new policies aimed at expelling more migrants and opening more avenues for asylum-seekers—is now facing a lawsuit from a group of 20 Republican-led states arguing that his new agenda constitutes flagrant government overreach. The suit, filed by the Texas attorney general’s office Tuesday, urges a federal court to strike down the administration’s program that would grant temporary asylum to 30,000 approved migrants per month—a quota counterbalanced by Mexico’s promise to accept 30,000 unauthorized migrants from the US every month. The states—which include Florida, Missouri, Ohio, and Texas—specifically argue that the Department of Homeland Security lacks the authority to develop a policy that “amounts to the creation of a new visa program.” “The Plaintiff States…face substantial, irreparable harms from the Department’s abuses of its parole authority, which allow potentially hundreds of thousands of additional aliens to enter each of their already overwhelmed territories,” reads the lawsuit. Citing claims that the parole program would—among other things—place undue stress on their healthcare and education systems, the plaintiffs claim that the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas “should enjoin, declare unlawful, and set aside the Department’s lawless parole program.” In a statement of his own, Texas attorney general Ken Paxton further accused the president of enacting an “open-borders agenda [that] has created a humanitarian crisis that is increasing crime and violence in our streets, overwhelming local communities, and worsening the opioid crisis.” Over the past two years, the White House has been barraged by a steady stream of immigration-related lawsuits from Republican-led states, including challenges to Biden’s efforts at lifting the green card and asylum strictures put in place by his immediate predecessor, Donald Trump. Republican attorneys general went to the Supreme Court last month to block the White House from lifting Title 42, a law that the Trump administration used to rapidly increase border expulsions by claiming that migrants posed a pandemic-related health risk. (Under Title 42, migrants are not afforded the right to appear before an immigration judge prior to expulsion.) Ironically, even as the Biden administration prepares arguments in favor of lifting Title 42, the president’s new immigration agenda heavily relies on bolstering it—a contradiction that has drawn heavy criticism from immigration advocates and progressive lawmakers. “Expanding Title 42 is the wrong approach,” Vanessa Cárdenas, the executive director of the immigrant advocacy organization America’s Voice, told me last week. “The president actually ran on ending a lot of Trump’s policies, and yet his administration continues expanding them, which creates a credibility problem with this president and Democrats in general.” For more information, visit us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/index.html.
Biden administration touts initial success of border program
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Wednesday said unauthorized border crossings plummeted following the rollout of a new program that allows migrants to apply from their home country to enter the U.S. — a program now being challenged by a coalition of conservative states. The program — limited to migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela — resulted in a 97 percent drop in irregular migration from the four countries, according to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data. “These expanded border enforcement measures are working,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. Migrants from those four countries accounted for 91,264 of the 251,487 migrant encounters at the border in December. Under the program, up to 30,000 migrants from those countries can enter the U.S. each month, and the United States can quickly expel to Mexico an equal number of migrants from those nations who show up at the border uninvited. ADVERTISING In its news release, the Department of Homeland Security touted the just 115 daily average crossings in the week leading up to Jan. 24, compared to 3,367 daily average crossings in the week leading up to Dec 11. But administration officials also took shots at GOP-led states who are suing to stop the parole program, despite its apparent initial success. “It is incomprehensible that some states who stand to benefit from these highly effective enforcement measures are seeking to block them and cause more irregular migration at our southern border,” said Mayorkas. The attack line shows an administration frustrated with a GOP it sees as eager to perpetuate a narrative of crisis at the border at all costs. Texas claims ‘unlawful amnesty program’ The lawsuit, led by Texas, claims the Biden administration is overreaching in its use of immigration parole, a figure that allows the executive to grant entry into the country to foreign nationals who are not otherwise eligible. In announcing the lawsuit, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the policy would ultimately attract more unauthorized entrants. “This unlawful amnesty program, which will invite hundreds of thousands of aliens into the U.S. every year, will only make this immigration crisis drastically worse,” said Paxton in a statement. But Biden administration officials moved forward with the plan, in large part based on the results of an earlier pilot program that granted similar paths to entry for up to 24,000 Venezuelans. According to CBP data compiled by the Washington Office on Latin America, border encounters with Venezuelan nationals dropped from 22,045 in October to 7,957 in November and 8,130 in December, once the pilot program started running. Still, advocates say it is too early to tell whether the numbers will stay down, and they are wary the administration is pairing the parole program with harsh restrictions on asylum for those who enter the country by land. Vanessa Cárdenas, executive director of America’s Voice, a progressive immigration advocacy group, said it was “too early to tell” if the change would hold. “Historically, numbers at the border during the holiday season tend to go down. Having said that, what we at [America’s Voice] are looking for are policies that create legal channels and to uphold the rights of people who seek asylum. We believe we can do both without undermining our asylum process,” Cárdenas said. A new border narrative? Administration officials admit the policy is one born of necessity, given legislative gridlock on immigration, rather than the ideal tool to address regional migration pressures. “We recognize that these are temporary solutions and not a permanent fix. We need Congress to act and pass comprehensive immigration reform measures, including measures to reform our asylum system,” an administration official told reporters. 66 percent in new survey support increased border security Texas sues to stop Biden immigration parole program But the new policy is shifting the political narrative around immigration and the border, creating common ground for the administration and its critics on the left to strike back at the GOP. “A notable point here is that while the Biden administration is trying to do something to handle the challenges at the border, Republicans are focused on obstruction. As their latest lawsuit shows, the GOP is now on the record showing that they are even opposed to creating legal pathways for migration,” said Cárdenas. For more information, visit us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/index.html.
Afghan soldier seeking US asylum freed from immigration hold
HOUSTON (AP) — An Afghan soldier seeking U.S. asylum who was arrested while trying to cross the Mexico border has been freed and reunited with his brother after spending months in immigration detention, his attorney said Wednesday. Abdul Wasi Safi’s release from custody in a detention center in Eden, Texas, came after a judge dropped an immigration charge against him at the request of federal prosecutors. Wasi Safi, an intelligence officer for the Afghan National Security Forces, fled Afghanistan following the withdrawal of U.S. forces in August 2021, fearing reprisals from the Taliban because he had provided U.S. forces with information on terrorists. In the summer of 2022, he began a treacherous journey from Brazil to the U.S.-Mexico border, where he was arrested in September near Eagle Pass, Texas. He had hoped to join his brother, who lives in Houston. Prosecutors filed a motion asking a federal judge in Del Rio, Texas, to dismiss the immigration charge “in the interest of justice” and on Monday the judge granted that request. ADVERTISEMENT Zachary Fertitta, one of his criminal defense attorneys, said Wednesday that Wasi Safi is receiving medical care at an undisclosed location but that he plans to speak at a news conference on Friday in Houston. POLITICS Past US presidents, VPs asked to recheck for classified docs Trump impeachment leader Schiff joins California Senate race Blinken headed to Mideast as US alarm over violence grows US expands sanctions on Russia's 'brutal' Wagner Group Fertitta said Wasi Safi and his brother “are overjoyed to be reunited.” Jennifer Cervantes, one of Wasi Safi’s immigration attorneys, said there was no reason to keep him in custody, especially given that the FBI has already spoken to him and found no problems. “He’s certainly not a danger to the United States. He’s done a lot of good service for the United States,” Cervantes said. U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Houston Democrat, belongs to a bipartisan group of lawmakers that has been working to free Wasi Safi. She said in a statement Tuesday night that she expects him to arrive in her hometown by Friday. The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees Customs and Border Protection and ICE, has not responded to an email seeking comment Wednesday. Sami-ullah Safi, Wasi Safi’s brother, was employed by the U.S. military for several years as a translator. Sami Safi said he is pleased the criminal case has been dropped but that he remains frustrated about how his sibling has been treated in light of his family’s support for the U.S in Afghanistan. ADVERTISEMENT “If we categorize my brother’s service, how many lives he has saved because of his service and how many lives I have saved because of my service being a combat translator?” Sami Safi said. Wasi Safi’s case was first reported by The Texas Tribune. On his journey from Brazil to the U.S., Wasi Safi suffered serious injuries from beatings, including damaged front teeth and hearing loss in his right ear. Fertitta said Wasi Safi’s injuries were not sufficiently treated while he was detained but it’s unclear how serious of a concern they have become. “I’m going to have to wait to be advised by the medical personnel on that,” Fertitta said. The lawyers, lawmakers and military organizations that have been working to free Wasi Safi say his case highlights how America’s chaotic military withdrawal continues to harm Afghan citizens who helped the U.S. but were left behind. ADVERTISEMENT Nearly 76,000 Afghans who worked with American soldiers since 2001 as translators, interpreters and partners arrived in the U.S. on military planes after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. But their immigration status remains unclear after Congress failed to pass a proposed law, the Afghan Adjustment Act, that would have solidified their legal residency status. Cervantes said Wasi Safi’s case is not unique and that other Afghans seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border have also faced difficulty getting their cases properly reviewed. She said she hopes her work “sheds some light on that and (helps) these guys get what I think is the right thing to do, what I think is fair for them.” For more information, visit us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/index.html.
New labor protections for migrant workers ‘a movement win’
Migrant workers in California gathered for an exuberant press conference in downtown Los Angeles on Jan. 13 that ended with the destruction of a piñata in the shape of Scabby the rat, the unofficial mascot for organized labor. There was major cause for celebration: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had announced a new process that morning by which undocumented workers could apply for protection against deportation when reporting labor violations. “As Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘I have a dream.’ We immigrants also have a dream, and our dream is not illegal. We work hard when we come to this country, we want to be respected, and we want to also have our workers’ rights,” said Solange, an immigrant worker associated with California’s Pasadena Community Job Center. Solange was one of several workers who spoke at the press conference, and one of thousands of migrant workers nationwide who successfully pushed the Biden administration toward stronger labor protections for immigrants. Last year, the Department of Labor (DOL) released new guidance for immigrant workers involved in worksite labor disputes, which allowed them to obtain DOL’s support to receive immigration-related prosecutorial discretion from DHS. Effectively, the policy protects undocumented workers who file labor complaints from worksite immigration enforcement, deportation, and other forms of retaliation from employers. But because only DHS can grant immigration relief—and because DHS did not move as swiftly as DOL—attorneys and advocates were unsure about how DHS was processing workers’ requests for deferred action. “It didn’t make DOL’s policy toothless; workers were able to submit applications and letters of support and get deferred action,” said Sean Goldhammer, the director of employment and legal services at the Workers Defense Project. “But we didn’t have a lot of clear direction, and each DHS field office seemed to take these applications differently and some would require more material than others. With DHS’ announcement, we now have the information we need to better understand the process.” Broadly, this is how the process works: When immigrant workers report a workplace rights violation through DOL, the agency can provide workers with a “statement of interest,” or what is essentially a declaration of support for the worker’s deferred action. The second step in the process, which was more clearly outlined by the federal immigration agency in its Jan. 13 announcement, is for DHS to actually grant deferred action to the worker. According to DHS’ new guidelines, the agency will have a centralized intake process, allowing for speedier processing times and enabling workers, advocates, and attorneys to circumvent difficult DHS field offices that are uncommunicative or have excessive wait times. Workers requesting deferred action can now also simultaneously apply for work authorization, which enables undocumented workers to legally work in the U.S. Not only can federal labor and employment agencies like DOL, the National Labor Relations Board, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission support requests for deferred action, but DHS confirmed that state and local agencies can as well. According to Marisa Díaz, director of the National Employment Law Project’s (NELP) immigrant worker program, this is an important development. “In some states, there are broader workplace protections than what federal law provides,” Díaz explained. “That means if a worker asserts their rights under one of those broader laws, they can receive support from a state agency to pursue deferred action.” Conversely, DHS’ centralized intake process also means that deferred action should be just as accessible to undocumented workers in states with anti-labor laws as it is to workers in states with more progressive labor laws. “How will workers know they can access this?” Notably, DHS also made it clear that guest workers are eligible to request deferred action for workplace disputes. This is an important step to protect some of the nation’s most vulnerable immigrant workers, many of whom feel forced into silence because of how guest worker programs are structured. In programs like the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Program, a worker’s visa is tied to a single employer, which means that, when an employer engages in wage theft or labor trafficking, the exploitative employer maintains control of the immigrant’s ability to legally work in the U.S. In many cases, the employer is also in control of the worker’s housing, access to food, and transportation. Ángel, a former H-2A worker, chose to speak to Prism using a pseudonym because he said it’s risky to speak out against a U.S. government program and American employers. The farmworker is very familiar with why guest workers are reluctant to report labor abuses. Ángel worked in the H-2A program for several years until 2019. During his time picking tobacco and doing other agricultural work in the U.S., three different employers stole wages from him. Ángel was also coerced into paying hundreds of dollars in illegal fees by a labor recruiter—money he was promised would be reimbursed in his first paycheck. The funds never came. “Maybe some Americans can’t understand why [immigrants] keep quiet because they can’t imagine being in such a position,” Ángel said. “If you keep quiet, you will be rehired, and you can return to the U.S. to work. Even though an employer doesn’t pay us what we’re owed or give us breaks in the heat or give us adequate housing, we endure the abuse because we have families to take care of and it is better to be able to legally work in the U.S. then to sit in Mexico distraught, hungry, and with no way to feed your family.” Ángel explained that he has many undocumented friends and family members who migrated to the U.S. for work and that they are “terrified” of immigration enforcement and losing what they’ve built through blood, sweat, and tears. The farmworker was pleased to hear of DHS’ new process for providing deferred action to migrant workers, but he was surprised to learn from Prism that the policy extended to guest workers. “It sounds like a good policy, but how will workers know they can access this?” he asked. “A lot of times, we are not informed of our rights, and employers do not tell us new rules. More than anything, I want to know how this information will reach workers. If we do not find out or we do not know what it says or what it does, how can it be useful?” Defend, amplify, and promote Ángel’s questions are good ones, and they are the same questions that Salvador Sarmiento is struggling with. Sarmiento is the national campaigns director at the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON). The network’s cross-movement, migrant-led labor organizing, by way of the Desde Abajo Labor Enforcement (DALE) campaign and the Blue Ribbon Commission (BRC), was instrumental in pushing the Biden administration to remove the threat of deportation for immigrant workers in labor disputes. Migrant workers participating in DALE bravely spoke out against labor abuses and took to the streets to demand that the administration use existing executive authority to protect them, while the BRC held assemblies, public hearings, and demonstrations to highlight the workplace abuse, wage theft, and violations of health and safety standards routinely experienced by migrant workers. “This is a movement win—it’s a win for working people that are trying to make visible the abuses that they face,” Sarmiento said. “This is an important step in dismantling the contradiction that exists between the federal government’s role and responsibility to enforce immigration laws and also protect workers’ rights.” NDLON’s national campaigns director also said it’s a “big deal” that this is perhaps the first time DHS is making it clear that in particular circumstances, the agency will prioritize workplace rights instead of trying to deport workers. “Now we need to hear a solid plan for informing workers that this exists, and we need to see President Biden defend, amplify, and promote this policy very loudly,” Sarmiento said. According to advocates who spoke to Prism, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas first announced DHS’ new policy to labor organizers and worker centers during Zoom meetings Jan. 13. When asked directly by attendees what the agency’s plan was for publicizing the process for deferred action and disseminating the information to migrant workers, sources who spoke to Prism said the agency “didn’t really seem to have a plan for educating workers.” Initially, information about DHS’ deferred action policy was not available in Spanish. According to Sur Legal, an immigrant and worker rights nonprofit legal organization in Georgia, immigrant workers experience 300 more workplace fatalities and 61,000 more workplace injuries per year than native-born workers, while 37% receive less than minimum wage and 76% experience wage theft. A large percentage of these workers are monolingual Spanish speakers. DHS did not respond to repeated requests for comment regarding the agency’s plans to work alongside DOL to promote the deferred action policy to undocumented workers. A DOL spokesperson told Prism in an emailed statement that the agency “recognizes that in order for it to carry out the laws it enforces, workers need to feel safe to participate in enforcement without fear of consequences related to their immigration status.” The statement went on to say that DOL will continue to work with DHS “and across the federal government to make workplaces safer and more equitable for more workers.” As of Jan. 24, neither President Biden nor Labor Secretary Marty Walsh—both strong defenders of worker rights—have issued statements or publicly commented on DHS’s deferred action policy. An imperfect offering Though NDLON, the Workers Defense Project, Sur Legal, NELP, and other organizations focused on immigration and labor are ready to fill in information gaps for migrant workers; Goldhammer said that, without further support from DHS, the deferred action policy on paper “is still a very long way from being a reality for immigrant workers.” Requesting deferred action is also relatively slow and complicated, which means most migrant workers will need professional legal help. “This isn’t ideal,” Goldhammer said. “In labor cases where workers are reporting serious abuse, you need to immediately be able to protect the worker from immigration-based retaliation so that workers are actually protected and feel empowered to stand up and denounce abuses. Moving forward, I’d like to see the system even more streamlined and more accessible to workers so that they don’t need outside support to go to the government, file a complaint about an abusive labor situation, and be protected.” As co-founder of Sur Legal, former DOL attorney Shelly Anand now represents immigrant workers experiencing abusive, exploitative, and often dangerous working conditions. This includes migrant workers employed by Foundation Food Group in January 2021 when six of their coworkers died from a negligent and preventable nitrogen leak at the company’s Gainesville, GA poultry processing plant. Six weeks later, workers at the same plant were exposed to an ammonia leak. With Sur Legal’s assistance, migrant workers who participated in investigations into these incidents were able to access deferred action and work permits. Anand told Prism that she is tempering her feelings about DHS’ new deferred action policy because, while she recognizes it as an important step and one she is “excited about,” she also doesn’t want to overstate what the policy is. “We need to make it very clear that not every worker that has a labor dispute or issue will receive this benefit,” Anand said. “It is very discretionary. We want immigrant workers to speak to labor attorneys and immigration attorneys and to assess whether this is something they qualify for and understand any potential risks. My fear is that without proper information, workers will think that if they file a wage and hour claim, or any other labor complaint, they’re going to get deferred action and that’s not necessarily the case. This [policy] does not mean that all workers can file labor complaints without fear of deportation. That’s just not true. I just really want to make sure that folks are fully informed about what this is and what this isn’t.” Sarmiento said NDLON is ready to take on the responsibility of ensuring that “the maximum number of workers” are informed of DHS’ new deferred action policy and that they can access any assistance needed to pursue it. But even before DHS’ recent announcement—which workers and advocates had pushed for since the Obama administration—deferred action was successfully obtained in a few cases. After DOL announced its deferred action process in July, the DALE campaign put the policy to the test. According to Sarmiento, workers in Nevada, Illinois, Florida, Texas, and Georgia filed labor complaints and successfully obtained deferred action. But NDLON’s national campaigns director clarified that these developments, as important as they are, are not enough to turn the tide on the national crisis of workplace abuse that has engulfed undocumented workers for decades. “It’s not every day that we move the federal government to do something or that we are able to advance migrant workers’ rights without the help of Congress,” Sarmiento said. “But we’re just now digging ourselves out of a hole that’s 30 years deep. The message that the federal government has sent to undocumented workers for 30 years is that if they speak out, they will be deported. That messaging is going to take a very long time to undo.” Sarmiento is referring to the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). Signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1986, IRCA granted green cards to nearly 2.7 million immigrants—“roughly three-quarters of the undocumented population at the time,” according to Vox. But the law also made it illegal for employers to hire undocumented workers, and it implemented the I-9 process that requires employers to verify employees have lawful status and are authorized to work in the U.S. In effect, IRCA criminalized undocumented labor and pushed migrant workers into precarious work arrangements, including inherently exploitative low-wage jobs and positions as unprotected “contractors” in some of the nation’s most dangerous industries. A worker’s citizenship status has no bearing on whether they are protected by employment laws. However, undocumented workers have effectively gone without labor protections because of the way employers have been empowered to wield immigration enforcement against workers who file complaints or otherwise speak out against abuse and exploitation. In 2019, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) carried out one of the largest enforcement actions in U.S. history, detaining 700 migrant workers across seven Koch Foods poultry plants in Morton, Mississippi. According to advocates, these workers were targeted for immigration enforcement because in 2018, Koch Foods was forced to settle a $3.75 million lawsuit for racial discrimination, national origin discrimination, and sexual harassment against Latinx workers in one of Morton’s Mississippi poultry plants. According to the lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, supervisors “touched and/or made sexually suggestive comments to female Hispanic employees, hit Hispanic employees, and charged many of them money for normal everyday work activities.” As reported by Reuters, some undocumented workers at the Mississippi plant alleged in court documents that “supervisors threatened to turn them in to authorities if they spoke out about their concerns.” According to Sarmiento, despite all of the calls to keep immigrant families together under the Trump administration, there appears to be little public concern regarding how U.S. labor laws trigger family separations. “For decades, employers have been allowed to punish migrant workers who speak out and every immigration negotiation and compromise that has happened in Congress since 1986 has maintained the framework that says undocumented labor is wrong and needs to be criminalized,” Sarmiento said. “So the DHS announcement is very much a positive step in the right direction, and it’s vindication for workers that have bravely spoken out about abuses and risked deportation. But it’s a first step.” For more information, visit us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/index.html.
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