- 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; email@example.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com
Tuesday, February 28, 2023
DeSantis accuses congressional Republicans of 'flagrantly' ignoring voters on immigration, leading to Trump election: Book
On storefronts throughout the U.S., “Help Wanted” signs have become about as ubiquitous as the stars and stripes. Today, there are roughly two job openings for every unemployed American. This historic labor shortage is propping up inflation as desperate employers raise wages to attract scarce workers, then boost prices to compensate for higher costs. Or at least this is what the U.S.’s top economic policy-makers believe. Meanwhile in Central America, gainful employment is hard to come by. Before the pandemic, 30 million people in the region were living in poverty, according to the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs. In much of Central America, material deprivation is even more profound today — the area’s growth rate fell by 10.3 percent in 2020. Amid rising economic desperation, the number of Central Americans interested in migrating internationally skyrocketed from 8 percent in 2019 to 43 percent in 2021, according to a report from the World Food Programme, Migration Policy Institute, and Civic Data Design Lab. Sign up for Dinner Party A lively evening newsletter about everything that just happened. Enter your email So in one part of the western hemisphere, there are too many well-paying jobs and too few workers. In another, there are too many workers and few good jobs. As a result, people in Central America are eager to seek work internationally. On paper, this does not look like a difficult policy problem to solve. A precocious grade-schooler wouldn’t need much time to ascertain the basic answer: If the U.S. expands immigration opportunities for international workers, our labor shortage and Central Americans’ economic woes should ease simultaneously. After all, there is no “skills” mismatch between economically desperate Central Americans and open U.S. positions. The U.S.’s labor shortage is concentrated in fields that do not require an extensive education. The U.S. needs more kitchen staff, construction workers, and delivery drivers. Central America is home to a large number of people with the interest in and capacity to perform those roles. Opportunities for “win-win” policy-making are rarely so clear-cut. Yet U.S. policy-makers refuse to take the win. Instead, their answer to the twin problems of a U.S. labor shortage and Central American poverty crisis is, effectively, as follows: To close the gap between job openings and available workers, the Federal Reserve will simply raise interest rates until a critical mass of Americans become too poor to afford discretionary purchases, demand for labor drops, and, in all probability, the U.S. enters a recession. Meanwhile, to mitigate the poverty of those to our south, the U.S. has been allowing Central American children to enter our country, work illegally at brutal jobs, then send remittances home to their adult family members. Specifically, we have decided to let Central American kids do this if — and only if — they embark on a roughly 2,000-mile journey to the U.S. border without a parent or guardian. The first prong of this policy is open and intentional. The Federal Reserve has made no secret of its belief that beating inflation will require killing jobs and lowering wages. The second prong is a different story. U.S. officials have stumbled into what is in essence a child-labor trafficking policy, the cruelty and irrationality of which derive from negligence rather than intention. Over the weekend, the New York Times published an investigation into the U.S.’s vast shadow workforce of child-migrant laborers. The paper uncovered stories of teenage roofers in Florida, delivery workers in New York City, and hotel maids in Virginia. Throughout every state in the union, across a wide variety of industries, minors from Central America are performing some of the most brutal jobs in the economy — in defiance of child labor laws. In some cases, these children were lured into the U.S. by de facto child-labor brokers who promised them comfortable homes and good schools — only to shunt the minors into 12-hour shifts, demanding that they pay back the cost of their passage. In other instances, children have come to the U.S. with the intention of becoming full-time workers so that they can send money to their hungry families back home. This is, of course, an inversion of the conventional relationship between parents and children in the context of labor migration. (Typically, it is the adult who takes on the hazards of traveling thousands of miles, and the burdens of hard labor, in order to secure income for their kids.) But the U.S.’s disordered patchwork of immigration laws has rendered the opposite arrangement more feasible for many families. In 2008, Congress passed the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. As its name suggests, the law was intended to assist the victims of sex trafficking and, therefore, provide broad protections for children who enter the U.S. without a legal guardian (from countries other than Mexico and Canada). Under the law, such migrants are given extensive due-process rights before becoming subject to removal from the country. For this reason, even in cases where migrants are ultimately denied residence in the U.S., it typically takes several years for legal proceedings to reach that conclusion. In the meantime, the law puts the minors in the care of the Department of Health and Human Services, which is directed to place the children “in the least restrictive setting that is in the best interest of the child” and seek to unite them with family members. All of this makes it much easier for unaccompanied minors than it would be for parents to secure a foothold in the U.S. Thus, as the Times reports, “Parents know that they would be turned away at the border or quickly deported, so they send their children in hopes that remittances will come back.” Partly as a result, in the past two years, 250,000 unaccompanied minors have entered the U.S. Eager to comply with the legal imperative to place these children “in the least restrictive setting” and anxious to avoid headlines about desperate children stuck in overcrowded cages, Biden’s HHS has erred on the side of releasing minors into the custody of exploitative labor brokers. It’s hard to overstate the wrong-headedness of this arrangement. There are adults in Central America who want to fill jobs that Americans can’t fill due to a sheer lack of numbers. The U.S. has marginally increased opportunities for such prospective immigrants to work legally in the U.S. but not by anywhere near the amount necessary to meet labor demand. For this year, Congress has capped H-2B visas, which allow international workers to take seasonal positions in the U.S., at 130,716 for nonagricultural workers. Two months into the year, U.S. employers have already requested 142,000 visas for the coming spring and summer. Immigration is no panacea for inflation. Migrants add to the labor supply, but they also add to labor demand. For this reason, right-wing nationalists are mistaken when they imagine a zero-sum contest between immigrants and native-born workers for jobs. Nevertheless, in a context where the U.S. population is aging, and a wave of retirement has rapidly shrunk the labor force, bringing in prime-age workers would likely reduce inflationary pressure. Yet the U.S. has effectively decided that it would rather have the Federal Reserve deliberately make virtually everyone in the country poorer than substantially increase immigration. Meanwhile, while waiting for the Fed’s interest-rate hikes to succeed in killing economic expansion, we’ve been letting Central American families mitigate our labor shortages and their own poverty only if they agree to send their children on a long, perilous journey into indentured servitude. Of course, this is not official U.S. policy. On Monday, in response to the Times investigation, the Department of Labor announced a crackdown on the exploitation of child-migrant labor in the U.S. But it is unlikely that the federal government will be able to fully dismantle the illicit labor force it has accidentally created any time soon. Furthermore, successfully enforcing child-labor laws will be insufficient in relieving the suffering of most young migrants. After all, in many cases, their lives back home were characterized by destitution so profound that traveling thousands of miles to perform hard labor seemed preferable. Immigration policy alone will not address all of the injustices uncovered by the Times. In some instances, the paper describes working conditions that no one should endure. Ridding the U.S. economy of hyper-exploitative workplaces will require radical reforms of labor law. Meanwhile, resolving the tension between price stability and wage growth in a manner that doesn’t concentrate the costs of adjustment on the vulnerable might demand the establishment of sectoral bargaining or a vast expansion of the state’s planning capacity. But radically restructuring a political economy in an egalitarian manner is hard. Letting more adults work in our country should be easy. And yet, for the moment, it looks like we’d rather force Central American families to turn their kids into breadwinners, and force our own economy into a recession, than open our door to migrant workers. For more information, visit us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/index.html.
Washington — The Biden administration on Monday announced a series of actions aimed at preventing the labor exploitation of migrant children released from U.S. custody, citing an increase in workplace violations involving such minors in recent years. The measures unveiled by the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services (HHS) include improving the vetting of adults who sponsor migrant children out of government custody and increased efforts to investigate and prosecute cases of child exploitation in worksites across the U.S. The Department of Labor, which investigates illegal child labor cases, said it had recorded a 70% increase in the number of children illegally employed by companies over the past five years. In the government's 2022 fiscal year, the department found that 3,800 children had been employed by more than 800 companies in violation of child labor laws. Officials are currently overseeing over 600 probes into potential child labor exploitation. The increase in unlawful child labor cases has come as the number of migrant minors entering U.S. border custody without their parents has reached record levels. In fiscal year 2022, 130,000 unaccompanied children were processed by U.S. officials along the southern border, an all-time high, federal statistics show. Under a 2008 law designed to prevent child trafficking, U.S. border officials are required to quickly transfer unaccompanied children who are not from Mexico to the Department of Health and Human Services, which operates a network of shelters to house them. Federal law bars the quick deportation of these minors. HHS is mandated by law to house unaccompanied children until it can place them with sponsors, who are typically family members in the U.S. These children face deportation proceedings unless they apply for and receive permanent legal status, such as asylum or special visas for abused, neglected or abandoned youth. Young unaccompanied migrants wait for their turn at a processing station inside a Department of Homeland Security holding facility in Donna, Texas, on March 30, 2021. Young unaccompanied migrants wait for their turn at a processing station inside a Department of Homeland Security holding facility in Donna, Texas, on March 30, 2021. DARIO LOPEZ-MILLS/POOL/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES While the reasons vary, many migrant children travel to the U.S. to reunite with family and escape poverty and violence. Smugglers have also communicated to would-be migrants that unaccompanied children are generally allowed to stay in the U.S. In interviews with CBS News, migrant teenagers from destitute parts of Central America have said they saw journeying to the U.S. as the only way to lift their families out of poverty. After being released from federal custody, migrant children, most of whom are teenagers, often end up working grueling and dangerous jobs in factories, meat plants and construction sites that violate federal child labor laws, which severely restrict the type of physical work minors can do. Recent investigations by The New York Times and Reuters have found migrant children as young as 12 working in chicken plants and slaughterhouses, making car parts, packaging well-known snacks, operating hazardous machinery and constructing roofs, all in violation of child labor laws. During a briefing with reporters Monday, a senior U.S. official, who requested anonymity to describe the new measures to crack down on illegal child labor, said the government is "seeing more and more children working in hazardous occupations across the country — and those are in dangerous workplaces." The Biden administration announced it was creating an interagency task force led by the Department of Labor to crack down on illegal child labor, including by informing HHS that prospective sponsors need to be subjected to additional vetting due to potential child labor exploitation cases where they live. The Department of Labor said it would launch child labor investigations in areas where statistics indicate that minors could be exploited. It also vowed to go after large companies benefiting from illegal child labor, not just suppliers and staffing agencies. To deal a more significant blow to labor exploitation of minors, the administration said Congress would need to step in by allocating additional funding for Department of Labor investigations and increasing penalties for violators. Officials said the current maximum penalty for violating child labor laws — $15,138 — is "not high enough to be a deterrent for major profitable companies." "This is not a 19th century problem — this is a today problem," outgoing Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh said in a statement. "We need Congress to come to the table, we need states to come to the table. This is a problem that will take all of us to stop." HHS, for its part, said it would require officials to follow up with migrant children who call a hotline to report safety concerns, and committed to expanding services to unaccompanied minors released from the department's custody. Those services are designed to ensure the children's well-being, and help them access legal counsel, education and medical assistance. The department said it would also craft new guidance to inform migrant children and their sponsors that federal law prohibits employers from hiring minors to do dangerous jobs. Moreover, it announced a four-week audit of its sponsor vetting process, which has been under scrutiny in recent years. After a spike in border arrivals of migrant children in early 2021 led to severe overcrowding in facilities that were not designed to house them, the Biden administration set up makeshift shelters across the country and worked to expedite the release of unaccompanied minors from U.S. custody. As part of those efforts to fast-track the release of children, officials removed several steps in the sponsor vetting process for certain cases. HHS has maintained it balanced those efforts with the need to ensure children were not released to sponsors who could harm or exploit them. Another senior U.S. official who spoke at the briefing on Monday said the audit of the sponsor screenings would be conducted "without unnecessarily keeping kids in government funded congregate care settings." For more information, visit us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/index.html.
House Republicans on Tuesday once again seized on the issue of U.S. immigration following a trip to see the Biden administration's border security apparatus firsthand. The House Homeland Security Committee -- now under Republican control -- held its first full hearing on immigration since President Joe Biden took office. The panel heard from a variety of witnesses, including a mother whose two sons died of opioid overdoses and a hospital executive from Arizona who spoke to the level of uncompensated care provided to migrants who entered the country illegally. Ahead of the hearing, Chairman Mark Green told ABC News that "we're going to show the human costs to every American. We're going to show the financial costs. We're going to show the criminal costs." Green led members on a trip to the Mexican border last week to meet with regional officials and observe U.S. Customs and Border Protection operations. "It's been eye-opening," he said, adding that he heard extensively from border officials about the diversionary tactics used by criminal smuggling organizations. MORE: Title 42 actually contributes to increased migration numbers, data suggests Drew Angerer/Getty Images Rebecca Kiessling, a mother from Michigan who lost two sons to fentanyl poisoning, wipes away tears during a House Homeland Security Committee about the U.S-Mexico border on Capitol Hill, Feb. 28, 2023 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images Drew Angerer/Getty Images Committee chairman Rep. Mark Green (R-TN) speaks during a House Homeland Security Committee about the U.S-Mexico border on Capitol Hill February 28, 2023 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images Much of Tuesday's hearing focused on the hotly debated link between the Biden administration's border policies and illegal narcotics smuggling. The testimony from the mother who sons both died from the synthetic opioid fentanyl quickly became an emotionally charged moment. Rebecca Kiessling, a lawyer from Michigan, explained how her boys thought they were taking the pain killer Percocet. In reality, the pills they got from a drug dealer contained deadly amounts of fentanyl, she said. Her sons were 18 and 20 when they died in 2020. "You're talking about children being taken away from their parents," Kiessling said, nearly overwhelmed recounting her sons' deaths. "My children were taken away from me … this should not be politicized." Kiessling believes the fentanyl her sons took was illegally smuggled across the southern border, which tracks with the majority of known seizures of narcotics coming into the U.S. However, attempts by Republicans to link illegal drug smuggling to immigrants coming into the country are not as clear cut. The vast majority of narcotics are seized from the hands of U.S. citizens at legal ports of entry, despite record apprehensions of unauthorized border crossers in more remote areas. "The committee is right to investigate the scourge of fentanyl deaths," David Bier, associate director for immigration research at the CATO Institute, a libertarian think tank, said in his own testimony. "But immigrants are not the cause." Bier instead advocated for stronger, health care-focused solutions for illegal narcotics consumers, including the legalization of drug testing products. "I do not believe that there is a solution to fentanyl smuggling and ports of entry," he said. "At the end of the day, the black market is supplying drugs to U.S. consumers who are paying for it." Republicans have simultaneously cheered and derided increases in drug seizures by U.S. authorities, sometimes suggesting they reflect how trafficking is getting worse at the border. But while increasing the ability of authorities to confiscate drugs -- which Democrats have supported -- often results in more drugs seized, the level of smuggling that goes undetected is still much less clear. At one point in the hearing, Bier became locked in a heated exchange with Republican Rep. Dan Bishop of North Carolina, who appeared to blame criminal behavior at the border on legal attempts at immigration. After asking for assurances that legal forms of immigration are not susceptible to criminal activity, Bishop repeatedly cut off the witness, accusing him of launching a "filibuster" in his response. "Well, we actually have experienced with legal immigration of Mexicans and Central Americans–" Bier started in response. "You're not going to answer my question about why they have continued to charge the fees?" Bishop interrupted, raising his voice. "You asked me a question. You attacked me," Bier shot back before the chair called the committee to order. "I'm gonna let you answer my question," Bishop said. "If you answer my question, and that question is: What would prevent cartels from charging legal immigrants if they were coming across in mass?" "We already have experienced with this, sir," Bier replied. "We have legal immigration. It's just extremely unusual and constrained. We have no year-round guest worker program –" "I'm not talking about guest worker programs," Bishop interrupted again. "You don't want to answer it, that's fine." "That's legal immigration, sir," Bier said. After working to roll back many of the hardline immigration measures under former President Donald Trump's tenure, the Biden administration has more recently instituted policies it says are designed to incentivize lawful and humane travel to the U.S. while maintaining other restrictions, including on asylum. "Under this administration, our department has been executing a comprehensive strategy to secure our borders and rebuild our immigration system," Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in testimony before the House last year. He contended then that "we inherited a broken and dismantled system that is already under strain." Over the past two months, the Biden administration has rolled out a crackdown on asylum claims -- drawing the ire of immigration advocates -- while ramping up efforts to more quickly expel or deport migrants who illegally cross the southern border. At the same time, the administration has offered new, yet narrow, pathways for migrants to obtain temporary status in the U.S. that allows them to seek humanitarian protections. MORE: Migrant surge at southern border prompts ramped up enforcement Biden officials maintain that the dual-track approach is essential for deterring frivolous claims for refuge in the U.S. while keeping options open for those fleeing violence and persecution, predominately in Central and South America. The change in policy is the latest target for Republicans who have repeatedly challenged the administration with legal action over its immigration moves. Last month, 20 states with Republican attorneys general sued to stop some of the Biden administration's latest immigration policies which the party has largely attempted to link to drug smuggling. Drew Angerer/Getty Images Mark Lamb, Sheriff of Pinal County, Arizona, and Robert J. Trenschel, CEO of Yuma Regional Medical Center, testify during a House Homeland Security Committee about the U.S-Mexico border on Capitol Hill February 28, 2023 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images GOP critics often point out -- as Bier did in his appearance on Tuesday -- that the vast majority of smuggled narcotics are trafficked through legal ports of entry. They say the surge in unauthorized migration is a separate matter. Green told ABC News ahead of the hearing that criminal organizations are engaging in diversionary tactics, forcing authorities who would otherwise stop smuggling to turn their attention to stopping migrants. MORE: Border apprehensions exceed 2 million this year: Enforcement increases as GOP buses migrants elsewhere However, the U.S. Border Patrol is a distinct federal agency and guards the vast stretches of land between official border crossing stations. And while the Department of Homeland Security has at times surged resources from elsewhere to address large numbers of migrants, Democrats have also proposed record funding for Border Patrol staffing as well as new resources for ports of entry. Congress has repeatedly been stymied on passing bipartisan immigration legislation -- given the sharp policy differences on the issue, largely among Republicans -- much less the level of comprehensive reform called for by nearly every party involved in the debate. For more information, visit us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/index.html.
House Oversight Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) wants to hear from every chief patrol agent overseeing parts of the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a new letter provided to Axios. Why it matters: House Republicans show no signs of slowing down on their investigation of Biden border policies, and Homeland Security has hired counsel to prepare for potential impeachment inquiries. Driving the news: The committee heard from two sector chiefs in its first border hearing in early February. Now, Comer is asking for transcribed interviews with the remaining seven chiefs overseeing sections of the land border between the U.S. and Mexico. "The uniqueness of each sector demonstrates a need for the Committee to obtain additional information regarding other sectors on the southern border," Comer writes in the letter sent Sunday. Comer plans to conduct the interviews at the border to "accommodate the Chief Patrol Agents’ schedules and minimize impact to agency operations." The request comes shortly after a series of congressional visits to the border — including by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy — and as Republicans make clear they have no intention of moving on from the topic. What to watch: The letter claims Homeland Security "tried to prevent the four Chief Patrol Agents invited by the Committee from testifying" in a hearing earlier in February. In response to the committee's request to hear from four sector chiefs, DHS offered U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz for a national perspective and agreed to remote, member-level interviews with the four agents requested, according to a copy of the Jan. 26 letter obtained by Axios. Comer responded by accusing DHS of "obstructing congressional oversight." Two agents from sectors in Texas and Arizona ultimately testified. The big picture: Republicans have been hammering the Biden administration for "open borders" after two years of larger than usual border crossings, which have created humanitarian and logistical crises for the government. Three committees are already digging into the issue, with early attention on the issue of fentanyl trafficking. The vast majority of fentanyl is seized at legal ports of entry, while most migrants and asylum seekers cross unlawfully between ports. In recent months the Biden administration shifted its strategy on the border — offering new legal pathways for migrants and asylum seekers and imposing harsher penalties on those who attempt to cross illegally. Border numbers fell drastically in January following the roll out of some of these new, controversial policies targeting Venezuelans, Nicaraguans, Cubans and Haitians. The administration also announced a new proposal last week that would significantly restrict access to the asylum system following the end of pandemic border policies in May. For more information, visit us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/index.html.
The Biden administration announced new steps to crack down on child labor violations, including tougher investigations of the companies who may benefit from the work. It comes days after a New York Times investigation into the explosive growth of migrant child labor across the U.S. Hannah Drier, the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who broke the story, joined Geoff Bennett to discuss. Read the Full Transcript Geoff Bennett: The Biden administration announced new steps today to crack down on child labor violations, including tougher investigations of the companies who may benefit from the work. It comes days after a New York Times investigation into the explosive growth of migrant child labor across the U.S. The Times found a major surge in child migrant labor in every state and under punishing working conditions, on factory floors, inside slaughterhouses, and atop buildings with children working as roofers. The Times found at least a dozen underage migrant workers have died on the job since 2017. Hannah Dreier is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who broke the story, and she joins us now. So, Hannah, tell us about some of the children you encountered and the harrowing stories you uncovered. Hannah Dreier, The New York Times: Thank you so much for featuring this story. And, I mean, when I first started this reporting a year ago, I thought that this would really be an agriculture story. I thought that kids would be working, but mostly on farms, maybe in restaurants. And I was shocked that I actually found most of these kids outside of factories, so in parking lots of meat processing plants, outside of auto parts suppliers. And the kids were young. I talked to a 13-year-old who had just come to this country a few months ago. He was looking for his first day of work at a day laborer site. I talked to a lot of kids who were making snack foods. Some of them were making Nature Valley bars, Chewy bars. And I ended up spending a lot of time talking to one girl who came to this country when she was 14 and ended up making Cheerios. Geoff Bennett: Tell us more about her. Hannah Dreier: So her name is Carolina. She found herself in Guatemala living with her grandmother during the pandemic. There wasn't a lot of food. There wasn't a lot of electricity, and she decided to come to the U.S. So she came walking. And she was encountered at the border. She went through a government shelter and was released to her aunt, who she'd never met, in Michigan. And her aunt said, sure, you can come and stay with me, but I can't really provide for you. We are living on $600 a week. And so when I met her, Carolina was going to ninth grade every day. And then every night, she was working eight hours a night in a dangerous factory, a place where there are fast-moving conveyor belts, there's mechanical arms, and she would work until midnight each night, get a couple hours' sleep, and then go back to school the next day. Geoff Bennett: We should emphasize something that you note in your reporting, and it's that these children didn't sneak into the U.S. undetected. The federal government knows they're here. And the Department of Health and Human Services is responsible for matching them with sponsors. But you note in your reporting that the systems meant to protect children have really broken down, especially since 2021, when this problem really exploded. Hannah Dreier: I mean, one thing to understand here is that the nature of who's coming across the border has changed. So, there used to be some number of kids who would come here unaccompanied. And they were mostly released to their parents. Now the majority of these kids that are coming here, they're really being sent by their parents. And they're living with more distant relatives, family friends, sometimes strangers. And once they're released by the government to these people who are supposed to take care of them, there's no follow-up for the majority of these kids. They get a phone number for a hot line that they can call. And several of these children told us that they ended up in real trafficking situations, called the hot line and never heard back. Geoff Bennett: Well, the Labor Department is supposed to find and punish child labor violations. But you spoke with inspectors in a dozen states, and each said that their offices are understaffed, and that they could barely respond to complaints, let alone open new investigations. Now the Biden administration, because of your reporting, says it's going to crack down on these violations. How is that going to work when the Department of Labor is saying they can't keep up with the current demand? Hannah Dreier: That is a great question. One thing that I found really surprising and kind of appalling with this reporting was how easy it was to find these kids. I mean, I thought I would have to crack some kind of subterranean trafficking ring. But what I actually did was, I showed up in different towns and cities, and, by the next day, I was usually talking to a migrant child who'd come here without their parents and was working in illegal conditions. So, throughout this whole process, I just kept asking myself, why isn't the Department of Labor here? And one thing that inspectors told me is, there hasn't been an emphasis on proactive child labor investigations. And that's one thing that hopefully will change. With this new Biden initiative, the Department of Labor is going to launch a new operation to go out, not just respond to tips, but go actively try to search for these kids. And the same staffing issues that have been there will be there. But I think a lot of people who work with these children are celebrating that part of the announcement, at least, today. Geoff Bennett: Yes. Help us understand. I mean, these kids aren't working because they want to. They're working because they have to. They are under intense pressure to earn money, to send it back home as remittances. What do solutions look like, when that pressure will still remain? Hannah Dreier: I mean, solutions for immigration issues are tortured. In a lot of cases, I think they're going because their parents can't go to the U.S. Their parents would like to be here instead of them working and sending home remittances. But the way the system is set up right now, those parents know they will be turned around at the border. And so, instead, these kids come. One thing that a lot of child welfare advocates think is, at least, at the very least, the government could provide these kids with social workers, with someone to check up and monitor if they have fallen into a bad, exploitative situation. Another thing that struck me is that a lot of these kids actually could work legally. They're not here undocumented. The government knows they're here. And if they had access to legal services, they could get work permits and be working at McDonald's. But because they can't get that lawyer, they end up in these jobs that will take fake Social Security numbers. And it's sort of the worst-case scenario in every way. Geoff Bennett: Hannah Dreier, thanks for your time and for sharing your reporting with us. We appreciate it. Hannah Dreier: Thank you. For more information, visit us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/index.html.
Monday, February 27, 2023
Two White House officials involved in crafting immigration policy are preparing to depart as the Biden administration rolls out new asylum restrictions that critics say mirror those from the Trump era. Lise Clavel, deputy assistant to the president and senior adviser for migration, and Leidy Perez-Davis, special assistant to the president for immigration, are set to leave the White House, according to two sources familiar with the plans. Clavel’s last day will be March 1, but Perez-Davis was asked by the White House to delay her departure and will leave in a couple months, according to a person familiar with the plan but was not authorized to speak publicly. Both Clavel and Perez-Davis have been in their roles for roughly a year. Clavel has been with the administration since the start, previously serving as chief of staff at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection before moving to the White House. She was on a one-year detail with the White House and stayed longer than intended, a White House official noted. Perez-Davis, who was previously policy director at the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project, is departing for family reasons, the official said. Both exits are unrelated to the administration’s policy rollout this week, a White House official said. Staff departures from any administration are common following a midterm election. But news of the impending exits comes days after the Biden administration announced its most restrictive border control measure to date: a proposed rule that will bar some migrants from applying for asylum in the U.S. if they cross the border illegally or fail to first apply for safe harbor in another country. The proposal — which immigrant advocates refer to as the “transit ban” or the “asylum ban” — will take effect on May 11 and serve as its policy solution to the long-awaited end of Title 42, a pandemic-era restriction that lifts the same day. The policy prompted immediate backlash from immigrant advocates and Democrats who accused the White House of perpetuating a Donald Trump-like approach to border politics that President Joe Biden pledged on the campaign trail to end. Advocacy groups also said they were considering lawsuits. Amid the blowback, administration officials criticized Congress, arguing that the White House has been left to roll out new policies to fill the “void” left by inaction on the Hill. “To be clear, this was not our first preference or even our second. From day one, Biden has urged Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform and border security measures to ensure orderly, safe and humane processing of migrants at our border,” a senior administration official said in a call with reporters on Tuesday. The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the departures. Clavel and Perez-Davis’ exit from the administration are just the latest changes on Biden’s team handling migration and the border in his first two years. Tyler Moran, Biden’s senior adviser for migration, left in January 2022, after replacing Amy Pope the previous summer. Esther Olavarria, the deputy assistant to the president for immigration at the Domestic Policy Council, also retired that month. Roberta Jacobson, Biden’s “border czar” left in April 2021, and some mid and low-level aides have also departed. Jason Houser, who POLITICO reported was preparing to depart as chief of staff at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, will also leave in the coming days. He was the highest-ranking political appointee at the DHS agency since there is no Senate-confirmed director. For more information, visit us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/index.html.
Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), whose district includes parts of the U.S.-Mexico border, has long been critical of how Republicans and Democrats have dealt with immigration. But he says a new asylum rule proposed by the Biden administration is a "reasonable" way to deal with the record number of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. The rule, which was proposed last week, would presume that migrants are ineligible for asylum if they cross illegally, don't ask for protection in countries they pass, and don't notify U.S. authorities of their intention to seek asylum through a mobile app. Immigration rights advocates have criticized the rule as a violation of President Biden's own promises to restore asylum and have compared it to a Trump-era asylum ban. Congressman Cuellar says the number of migrants arriving at the southern border is overwhelming local officials and resources. "If somebody is 1,500 miles away, it is so easy for people to say, 'Oh, yeah, let everybody in,' " he says. "But if you're a mayor, you're a county judge, you're a landowner, you're somebody down here at the border — and you see this day after day after day... you're going to have a very different perspective. I think I'm speaking for my community [when I say] we just want to have order." Sponsor Message Below are highlights from Cueller's interview with All Things Considered on Sunday, edited for length and clarity. On how he responds to criticism that the proposed rule is similar to Trump immigration policies, like the so-called "Remain in Mexico" program: I know some of the immigration groups are saying, "Oh, it's a Trump-like rule." No, Trump wanted to ban people from coming in. All this is asking is that it would be an unlawful pathway to get into the U.S. People can still ask for asylum to come in. On whether this rule change could alienate Democrats who support a more expansive approach to immigration: If a person thinks that the immigration activists are the only part of the Democratic base, then they're wrong. They are a very important group. But like I've said, when we talk about the issues down here at the border, I've always said immigration activists are one [voice]. And I think the White House listened to them too long without taking consideration to the men and women down here that have so many families down here. Who's listening to the border communities? When a rule like this comes out, the media automatically goes to the immigration activist. Who calls the border mayor in Webb County or in Starr County or in El Paso? Or who calls the county judges or the mayors or the sheriffs down here? Sponsor Message On the exceptions to the asylum rule for migrants arriving from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela: You can return some people that don't qualify for asylum easier to a lot of countries. But there are countries where our relationships are not good: Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti. It's a different situation there. So if the countries are not going to take them, then I think we need to figure out how we can try to help those folks, but still screen every person that comes in to make sure that there are no reasons for keeping them out. For more information, visit us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/index.html.
WASHINGTON — Inside a tent near the Rio Grande in Matamoros, Mexico, Jeyson woke up every day for a month before 3 a.m. to fill out applications to request asylum for his family of four through a U.S. government mobile app. The 25-year-old from Venezuela eventually secured appointments for himself and his wife, but the slots filled up so quickly that he couldn’t get two more for their children. They weren’t worried though — they had heard about families in similar situations being waved through by border officials. Instead, he said, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent told them last week that because each member of the family did not have an appointment: “You two can enter, but not your children.” Jeyson asked The Times to withhold his last name out of fear for his family’s safety. ADVERTISING Now many families like Jeyson’s have found themselves confronted with a seemingly impossible decision: Wait indefinitely for enough appointments for the whole family, or split up. It is unclear just how many migrants have been affected. Venezuelan and Nicaraguan migrants are transferred by agents of the Border Patrol after crossing the Rio Grande. Venezuelan and Nicaraguan migrants are transferred by agents of the Border Patrol after crossing the Rio Grande from Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, Mexico, to El Paso, Texas, to ask for political asylum on Dec. 27.(Herika Martinez / AFP via Getty Images) The CBP One mobile application, which was rolled out last month, was intended to reduce the number of illegal crossings between ports of entry. Now the only government-sanctioned way to request humanitarian protection at the border, it requires all members of a family to have confirmed appointments. But with such high demand, families have found it practically impossible to secure enough slots. Migrants and advocates near the Texas, Arizona and California borders said that initially, CBP agents overlooked the requirement and accepted families as long as at least one person had a registered appointment. Earlier this month, however, as demand for appointments grew, agents began enforcing the policy. “Now what you have is a system that privileges single people,” said Priscilla Orta, a supervising attorney at Lawyers for Good Government in Brownsville, Texas. Migrants in northern Mexico near the U.S. border say they’ve encountered a variety of technical issues while attempting to secure appointments with border agents: Daily appointments run out within minutes on the app, which has been prone to crashing and is unavailable in most languages. Users of the app have also reported that the facial recognition feature has failed to capture users with darker skin or fidgeting babies. The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees CBP, said errors during submission are due to appointments no longer being available, not problems with facial recognition, and that the feature thwarts scammers who could book appointments to later sell them. CBP said it has updated the face capture process to resolve the issue, now allowing migrants to submit still photos during registration. DHS spokesman Luis Miranda said the free app cuts out smugglers, decreases migrant exploitation and improves security and efficiency. He said CBP updated the app this week to make it easier for family units to secure appointments by releasing them in larger batches at fewer intervals of time. For example, instead of 20 appointments released every 15 seconds, 40 appointments could be released every 30 seconds, giving families a better chance to compete before the slots run out. “DHS is committed to family unity,” he said. “The CBP One app is a transparent and publicly accessible way to schedule appointments for migrants seeking to arrive at a land port of entry.” Seeking asylum is a legal right under U.S. and international law, regardless of how someone arrives on U.S. soil. But under a pandemic-era public health policy called Title 42, migrants are prevented from seeking asylum at the border. On Jan. 12, immigration authorities started allowing migrants to request exceptions to the policy if they met certain “vulnerability criteria” such as having immediate safety or medical concerns. Use of Title 42 at the border is expected to end on May 23, and officials have said they are negotiating a deal to deport non-Mexican migrants to Mexico after that time. On Tuesday, the Biden administration announced a policy that would limit asylum access for migrants who cross into the U.S. without authorization and fail to apply for protections on the way to the southern border. Meanwhile, many migrants live in unsanitary tent encampments without regular access to food and clean water. Human Rights First has tracked more than 13,480 reports of violent attacks on migrants blocked in or expelled to Mexico, including murder, kidnapping and rape, since President Biden took office in January 2021. DHS is under federal court order to track and report the number of people allowed into the country through exceptions. Filings show nearly 21,900 people used CBP One to enter the U.S. in January, a slight decrease from just over 23,000 people who entered under a similar process in December. Republican-led states that sued to keep Title 42 in place have closely monitored those monthly reports and in November filed a motion accusing DHS of increasing exceptions without properly notifying the court, which the federal government denied. Mostly Haitian migrants prepare to board a bus taking them from a shelter to a U.S. port of entry. Mostly Haitian migrants prepare to board a bus taking them from a shelter to a U.S. port of entry to start legal paperwork in Reynosa, Tamaulipas state, Mexico, on the border with McAllen, Texas, on May 19.(Pedro Pardo / AFP via Getty Images) DHS officials said that border agents have occasionally used their discretion to allow unscheduled family members entry, but that large numbers of people recently began showing up with just one appointment scheduled for an entire family. The agency hasn’t seen an indication that any particular group is being disadvantaged based on appointment data, officials said, and more improvements to streamline scheduling will roll out soon. Pedro de Velasco, advocacy director at the Kino Border Initiative, a Catholic humanitarian aid group based in Nogales, Ariz., disagreed that migrants intentionally failed to schedule enough appointments. He said CBP should dedicate some employees to process migrants who need help troubleshooting the app, much like cashiers available to help customers who get stuck when using the self-checkout line at a grocery store. He also recommended the agency designate appointments each day for larger families. Tom Cartwright, who tracks deportation flights for the organization Witness at the Border, said DHS should publicly communicate all changes to the process so applicants aren’t left in the dark and have a clear understanding of the requirements. Applying for asylum through the app is a two-step process: Migrants must first register and then schedule an appointment, which could require trying daily until a sufficient number of spots are secured. Many migrant families were unaware that they should register as individuals under the same group. Jean, 31, of Haiti, who asked to be identified by his first name for his safety, had scheduled two appointments last week in Laredo, Texas, which was six hours from the shelter in Reynosa, Mexico, where his family has lived for the past three months. He, his wife and daughter rode two buses to avoid cartel-controlled roads and paid about $300 in transportation and lodging to get to the appointments, only to be turned back. Despite daily attempts on the app for the past week, they haven’t been able to secure three new appointments. “It’s too complicated, too difficult,” he said of the app. “Now we have nothing. When I returned here, I asked a woman for a little food to eat.” Jeyson said his family’s journey to the U.S.-Mexico border was harrowing. They left Venezuela in September after government-affiliated armed groups threatened them, he said, crossed the dangerous jungle between Colombia and Panama, were jailed three times in southern Mexico and arrived in Matamoros to find migrant shelters full. Some days, they don’t eat, he said. The squalid living conditions at their tent encampment, where hundreds of migrants share five portable toilets, left his son with an eye infection and his wife with a urinary tract infection. Penniless and too afraid to travel to a different city, Jeyson hoped four spots would open up at the Brownsville, Texas, port of entry. On the international bridge last week, they and several other families tearfully pleaded with a CBP agent, who replied that he would start taking photos of those who refused to leave, Jeyson said. His family fled, forgetting a suitcase that contained all their spare clothes. Jeyson’s wife has since managed to secure a single appointment for next month. Their new plan is for her to go alone and Jeyson to stay behind with their children until he can get three additional appointments. “We already risked it all,” he said. “What can we do? We are hopeful that we can get three appointments. Three, in the end, is less than four.” Advocates said some parents are making the decision to leave their children in the care of extended family or friends and keep their appointments with CBP. Jeyson said another couple from the tent encampment did just that, leaving their five children at the border bridge and entering the U.S. after managing to get only two appointments. Children who are unaccompanied by a parent are exempt from Title 42. Those in the care of adults who are not their legal guardian — even if they are extended family — are separated until a guardian can be properly vetted. Jeyson said he watched as the children walked up to a border agent and were taken into custody. Felicia Rangel-Samponaro, director of the Sidewalk School, a nonprofit that offers education, medical care and other assistance to migrants in Mexican border towns, has organized sessions with parents at various shelters and encampments in Matamoros and Reynosa to explain what will happen if they send their child across the border unaccompanied. “We don’t want them to think you cross and then your child crosses and will come back to you a day later,” she said. “We were surrounded by parents who were showing us, one after the other, how they have an appointment but their child does not.” Rangel-Samponaro recommended to parents that they cancel the appointment and restart their search. But after the sessions, some parents told her they would separate from their kids anyway. “Family separation has never stopped,” she said, referencing the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” border policy that led to thousands of migrant children being taken from their parents, prompting outrage and investigation. “The only difference here is that CBP One is now doing it instead of the other ways it’s been done since 2018.” For more information, visit us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/index.html.
More than 100 immigration advocacy organizations have launched a public campaign to raise awareness and voice their concern to the Biden administration over its new proposal to restrict access to asylum at the southern border. The policy would make undocumented migrants crossing the southern border ineligible for asylum if they did not first make a claim in a country they passed through on their way to the U.S. The Biden administration has said it wants to incentivize more migrants to apply for asylum in their home countries, before making the dangerous trip. The immigrant advocacy groups have launched a website, noasylumban.us, to rally opposition to the policy and spur opponents to contact the Biden administration. The proposed policy is currently open for public comment, meaning citizens can express opinions on the proposal to the Department of Homeland Security. Trump ally and immigration hard-liner Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, meanwhile, offered qualified support for the new policy. The endorsement by a conservative Republican and the rebuke by organizations that have previously aligned themselves with Democratic-led border policies illuminate the strange position the Biden administration has found itself in as it tries to prevent a surge at the border when the Covid ban known as Title 42 expires in May. When presented with the new policy in an interview with NBC News while visiting the border in Yuma, Arizona, Jordan said, “Good,” but then said the lower numbers at the border seen in January have started to climb in recent weeks. Jordan then said President Joe Biden should bring back Trump-era policies like Remain in Mexico and said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas should be impeached. Rep. Jim Jordan speaks during a House Oversight and Accountability Committee hearing in Washington, D.C. Rep. Jim Jordan speaks during a House Oversight and Accountability Committee hearing in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 8.Francis Chung / POLITICO via AP file Immigration groups have likened the Biden policy to a similar strategy known as a “transit ban” that was championed by Stephen Miller, the former senior adviser to President Trump who drove many of that administration’s tough immigration policies. For more information, visit us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/index.html.
The ramping up of rhetoric against anything associated with China in Congress sparked outrage this week. Appearing on Fox News, Rep. Lance Gooden (R-TX) questioned the loyalty of Rep Judy Chu (D-CA). “I question her either loyalty or competence,” Gooden told Fox News on Wednesday, reported The Hill. “If she doesn’t realize what’s going on then she’s totally out of touch with one of her core constituencies.” ADVERTISING Gooden maintained that Chu should be denied access to classified materials for defending Dominic Ng, saying Biden’s nominee to head U.S trade interests in Asia, is working on behalf of Communist China. “Insinuating that Chair Chu is disloyal to the United States because she is Chinese American is categorically wrong,” said the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus in a statement to AsAmNews. “This type of racist targeting and profiling of Chinese Americans by right-wing extremists is not only xenophobic, it is incredibly dangerous. After centuries of being targeted for not being ‘American enough’ and viewed with suspicion based on looking ‘foreign,’ this type of insinuation and fear mongering only further endangers our communities.” Chu herself also responded to Gooden during an interview with NBC News. “Rep. Gooden’s comments on Fox News questioning my loyalty to the USA is absolutely outrageous,” said Chu. “It is based on false information spread by an extreme, right-wing website. Furthermore, it is racist. I very much doubt that he would be spreading these lies were I not of Chinese American descent.” Gooden, however, is doubling down on his statement saying he questions Chu’s “loyalty and competence.” “I’m really disappointed and shocked that someone like Judy Chu would have a security clearance and entitled to confidential intelligence briefings until this is figured out.” However, according to the America’s Voice, Gooden’s comments are part of a trend from Texas elected representatives who “have recently turbo-charged their embrace of ‘replacement theory’ and ‘invasion’ rhetoric as part of “their non-stop anti-immigrant focus.” The group in its new report called out Reps. Brian Babin, Jodey Arrington, Beth Van Duyne, Ronny Jackson, Chip Roy, Louie Gohmert, and Gooden. “Every Texas Republican, whether running for federal or state office must disavow such ideas and rhetoric, otherwise, they too own it,” said Mario Carrillo, Texas-based Campaigns Manager for America’s Voice. “We have seen the deadly effects of letting conspiracy theories and racist lies go unchallenged. When they are amplified by some of the most powerful people in the nation and left to fester, the problem will only get worse.” Please support our Unforgettable Experiences Auction fundraiser. Bid to win dinner with the Houston Rockets including Filipino American Jalen Green. The winning bidder will also meet Houston Rockets legend Hakeem Olajuwon and tour the team’s private plane. Two other winners will receive a meet and greet with Asian American artist Nina Kuo. Her work has been displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Bidding closes February 26 at 8:30 pm Pacific Time. Your tax-deductible donation will be matched up to a combined $11,000 by our Board of Directors. For more information, visit us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/index.html.
The Biden administration this week unveiled a plan to impose new restrictions on who can seek asylum in the United States, by penalizing migrants who cross the border without authorization or fail to apply for protections in another country if they pass through one en route. The proposed regulation, which will make it easier to quickly deport asylum seekers who are disqualified under the new rule, was widely condemned by immigration and human rights advocates. They compared it to a 2019 Trump administration measure known as the asylum “transit ban,” a policy that required asylum seekers from anywhere but Mexico to request asylum in one of the other countries they traveled through before reaching the United States. “Instead of reversing the previous administration’s cruel attacks on the immigration system, the Biden administration is now leading its own shameful assault on refugees seeking safety,” said Laurie Ball Cooper, U.S. legal services director at the International Refugee Assistance Project. Kimiko Hirota, a policy adviser at the Women’s Refugee Commission, said in a statement that she and her colleagues “are horrified by this updated version of President Trump’s transit ban,” calling the proposal “a slap in the face to families seeking safety and to U.S. and international law.” Speaking to reporters on background Tuesday, Biden administration officials rejected comparisons to the Trump “transit ban,” which was eventually struck down in federal court, insisting that the proposal is not “a categorical bar on asylum eligibility.” Rather, officials said the Biden administration is trying to discourage vulnerable migrants from relying on dangerous routes and ruthless smugglers to help them cross the border illegally, by offering them safe and legal pathways to the U.S. “As we have seen time and time again, individuals who are provided a safe, orderly, and lawful path to the United States are less likely to risk their lives traversing thousands of miles in the hands of ruthless smugglers, only to arrive at our southern border and face the legal consequences of unlawful entry,” the secretary of homeland security, Alejandro Mayorkas, said in a statement. Administration officials framed the proposal as the best option for preventing what they predict will be a surge in migration to the southern border after the end of Title 42, the pandemic-era public health restriction that has been used to turn away migrants, including asylum seekers, at the southern border more than 2 million times since March 2020. The termination of Title 42 has been repeatedly delayed, due to multiple ongoing lawsuits from Republican-led states who want to keep it in place. It’s currently expected to be lifted on May 11, the day the new asylum rule is slated to take effect. But first, the government has opened the proposed rule to a 30-day public comment period. So far, the proposal hasn’t yielded public support from Republicans, who have tried to frame Biden’s immigration policies as a wedge issue ahead of the upcoming 2024 elections. Here’s what you should know about the new proposal, and some of the key questions surrounding it. Donald Trump at the microphone. Former President Donald Trump addresses the New Hampshire Republican State Committee's annual meeting on Jan. 28 in Salem, N.H. (Scott Eisen/Getty Images) What was the Trump transit ban? Throughout his time in the White House, former President Donald Trump set out to put in place a number of policies to block access to asylum along the U.S.-Mexico border — policies, which advocates point out, that Biden promised to reverse as president. Among those policies was a rule introduced in 2019 that, with limited exceptions, made anyone who had to pass through another country to get to the U.S. (i.e., everyone except Mexican nationals) ineligible for asylum if they had not applied for and been denied safe harbor in another country along the way. Advocacy groups successfully sued to block implementation of the “transit ban,” arguing that it violated U.S. law, which guarantees the right to seek asylum for anyone on U.S. soil who expresses a credible fear of persecution in their home country, regardless of how they reached the country. It has since been repeatedly struck down in federal court. President Biden at a podium marked with the presidential seal. President Biden gives a speech in the Royal Castle Arcades in Warsaw, Poland, on Feb. 21. (Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images) How is Biden’s plan different? On a call with reporters this week, Biden administration officials pushed back on the suggestion that the new asylum proposal is simply a continuation of Trump’s policies, insisting that “This is definitely different.” “The purpose of this is not to cut off people from seeking asylum the way the Trump administration was trying to do,” said one official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity. For one thing, the officials also noted that the Biden administration proposal does not apply to unaccompanied children, and allows for various humanitarian exemptions, including for migrants with acute medical conditions, human trafficking victims and those fleeing "imminent and extreme" danger.” They also emphasized that the presumption of asylum ineligibility created by the new rule is “rebuttable,” meaning that migrants can overcome that presumption by proving that they were denied refuge in another country before reaching the U.S. or were unable to schedule an appointment at an official port of entry before arriving at the border. Advocates and attorneys who work with asylum seekers have said that while they welcome the exceptions outlined in the Biden proposal, they remain skeptical how easy it will be for those who qualify to access those exceptions. “The problem with the exceptions is that most of them are legally complex, and you're dealing with an area of the law where literally 99% of these folks do not have representation,” said Jeremy McKinney, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. McKinney told Yahoo News that even with the exceptions, the Biden administration is opening itself up to the kind of legal challenges that the Trump ban faced, by restricting asylum in a way that, he said, “clearly violates” federal law. “It's just creating a complicating factor on asylum seekers that is not present in the statute,” McKinney said. “And that, ultimately, is the problem.” A U.S. Border Patrol agent checks immigrants' identification. A U.S. Border Patrol agent checks for identification of immigrants as they wait to be processed after crossing the border from Mexico on Dec. 30, 2022, in Yuma, Ariz. (Qian Weizhong/VCG via Getty Images) What 'legal pathways' are the Biden administration providing for asylum seekers at the border? Central to the Biden administration’s new asylum rule — and the argument that it’s different from the earlier Trump bans — is the promise that the new restrictions will be offset by expanded access to “legal, orderly” pathways to the United States, and specifically, the ability to request asylum at an official port of entry along the southern border. Where Trump’s transit ban applied to migrants who tried to seek asylum anywhere along the southwest border, under the proposed Biden rule, migrants who fail to seek protection in a third country would only be considered ineligible for asylum in the U.S. if they tried to cross the border unlawfully, between ports of entry. Those who present themselves at an official port of entry, on the other hand, would only be considered ineligible for asylum if they failed to schedule an appointment in advance through a smartphone app called CBP One. Originally introduced two years ago, to help commercial truckers schedule cargo inspections, the CBP One app is now being used by migrants requesting exemptions to Title 42 restrictions, as well as those who have been granted temporary humanitarian parole under a new program that promises to welcome up to 30,000 migrants a month from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela. Under the proposed rule published this week, the administration soon plans to expand implementation of the app “to allow an increasing number of migrants who may wish to claim asylum to request an available time and location to present and be inspected and processed at certain ports of entry.” Advocates and attorneys who work with migrants along the southern border, however, have raised concerns about the plan’s reliance on the CBP One app, which they criticize as exclusionary and riddled with glitches. “While the Biden administration has launched a smartphone app for asylum appointments and expanded a temporary parole option for an extremely limited subset of four nationalities, these measures are no substitute for the legal right to seek asylum, regardless of manner of entry,” Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, said in a statement Tuesday. “It is generally the most vulnerable asylum seekers who are least likely to be able to navigate a complex app plagued by technical issues, language barriers and overwhelming demand.” Internal CBP reports obtained by Yahoo News provide further detail on the problems with the CPB One app. “Thousands of migrants in northern Mexico were unable to schedule CBP One appointments for Title 42 exceptions due to lack of availability, migration stakeholders reported,” states the CBP Indications and Warnings Daily report dated Feb 12. The same report notes that some migrants “were using ‘auto-clicker’ applications to get appointments as soon as they become available, and slots filled within minutes every morning.” The platform’s process for scheduling appointments also put families at a disadvantage compared to single adults. The Feb. 4 version of the same CBP daily report says that migrants are increasingly frustrated with the app, citing error messages and issues with connectivity and photo uploads. The report also notes that “Shelter activists are continuing to warn these issues are leaving migrants susceptible to extortion by actors attempting to monetize the application process.” Hours before the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice announced the release of the proposed asylum rule on Tuesday, Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., sent a letter to DHS urging that it “shelve the CBP One app immediately,” writing that “This expanded use of the CBP One app raises troubling issues of inequitable access to — and impermissible limits on — asylum, and has been plagued by significant technical problems and privacy concerns. “Rather than mandating use of an app that is inaccessible to many migrants, and violates both their privacy and international law, DHS should instead implement a compassionate, lawful, and human rights centered approach for those seeking asylum in the United States,” Markey wrote. A CBP spokesperson referred Yahoo News’s request for comment to DHS, which declined to address the specific issues with the app highlighted in the internal CBP reports, citing a policy against commenting on leaked documents. Instead, DHS provided a general statement on the use of the app. “CBP continues to make improvements to the app based on stakeholder feedback, including updates this week that are specifically intended to make it easier for family units to secure appointments as a group,” a DHS spokesperson told Yahoo News. “The CBP One app is a transparent and publicly accessible way to schedule appointments for migrants seeking to arrive at a land Port of Entry, which disincentivizes illegal crossing in between ports.” While DHS officials acknowledged that users may experience delays due to the fact that demand for appointments is far greater than the slots available, they’ve also pushed back on claims that the app’s facial recognition technology or language features put any one group at a disadvantage. A DHS official told Yahoo News that even before a Haitian Creole version of the app was launched last week, 40% of migrants who applied for Title 42 exceptions through the CBP One app were Haitian. A Border Patrol agent talks to some women in a long line of prospective immigrants. A U.S. Border Patrol agent checks immigrants' ID as they wait to be processed after crossing the border from Mexico on Dec. 30, 2022, in Yuma, Ariz. (Qian Weizhong/VCG via Getty Images) 'The implementation is going to be really key' In addition to addressing the problems with the CBP One app, McKinney, of the American Immigration Lawyers Association said the Biden administration will have to drastically increase staffing, operating hours and physical capacity at ports of entry, to accommodate the increased demand this new rule is going to create. Right now, he said, “the demand for people seeking the protection and safety of the United States is relatively spread out, because people can seek asylum in between ports of entry.” But, he warned, that will change when everyone who wants to seek asylum is being funneled to the ports. At the end of the day, Julia Gelatt, a senior policy analyst at the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute, said: “What this rule really means for access to asylum at the border completely depends on how possible it will be to get an appointment at a port of entry. “If those appointments are really restricted, and then, everyone who can't get an appointment (and comes between ports of entry or comes to the port without an appointment) has a really tough road to asylum, then that's really restricting access to asylum,” she added. “If the appointments are easy to get, they keep improving the app, making it available in more languages, fixing the bugs, making the error messages be not in English, but in the language the person is using, all of those things, that could be quite an expansive pathway through which many people can come to into the United States and seek asylum.” “The implementation is going to be really key,” she said. For more information, visit us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/index.html.
Friday, February 24, 2023
House Republicans had hoped to pass a narrow border security bill within the first two weeks of their new majority, notching an easy win and delivering on a key campaign promise in the process. But a three-page bill from conservative Texas Rep. Chip Roy has run into fierce opposition from moderates, forcing GOP leaders back to the drawing board and exposing deep divisions in the party along the way. The party's struggles to pass a messaging bill that's dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate — and on an issue that uniformly excites the GOP's base, no less — underscores the challenges of governing in a razor-thin majority, and dashes whatever hopes there were for a bipartisan package to address border security and reform the nation's broken immigration system. For his part, Speaker Kevin McCarthy has defended the House GOP's inaction on border security thus far, arguing it's still early in their new majority and reiterating that Republicans are committed to addressing the issue. The California Republican made his first trip to the southern border last week as speaker, while Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee are slated to hold a field hearing Thursday afternoon in Yuma, Arizona, on what they describe as "the Biden border crisis." "Committees have just now been constituted, not all of them have even been constituted. So I don't think it's really an opportunity to say you haven't acted," McCarthy said during a news conference in the Tucson Sector, near a stretch of border wall. "This isn't my first trip. This is my sixth trip. ... So no, Republicans have been taking action. We've got a lot of ideas inside Congress." But the GOP's early internal disagreement over the issue of border security has inflamed tensions between the party's moderates and conservatives, even as Republicans are united in their belief that the record level of migrant encounters along the border amounts to a crisis. In a sign of how tense things have become, a staffer for Roy recently blasted out an op-ed to other congressional offices that was critical of GOP Rep. Tony Gonzales, a moderate who represents a Texas border district and has been an outspoken opponent of Roy's border bill, according to a screenshot of the email shared with CNN. The op-ed, written by a conservative advocacy group, dubbed Gonzales a "RINO" and accused him of "helping Joe Biden undermine our border." One senior GOP source said the email was "just pouring gasoline on the fire." Asked for comment, Gonzales told CNN: "Anyone who thinks a 3 page anti-immigration bill with 0% chance of getting signed into law is going to solve the border crisis should be buying beach front property in AZ." Roy had some choice words for the critics of his bill, though he didn't name names. "If someone is calling a bill 'anti-immigrant,' that carries out the very policies that that same someone has supported in the past," Roy told CNN, "then that someone should do a long, hard look in the mirror at what they're trying to sell their constituents and the rest of the American people." As House Republicans struggle to unite behind a border bill, Democrats have their own internal disagreements over immigration policy. The Biden administration released a new rule Tuesday that largely bars migrants who traveled through other countries on their way to the US-Mexico border from applying for asylum in the United States, marking a departure from decadeslong protocol. The Biden policy has garnered wide condemnation from Democratic lawmakers and immigrant advocates. GOP leaders look for Plan B on border security As part of his bid to win the speaker's gavel, McCarthy promised to pass a border security plan. His top deputy, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, outlined a dozen bills and resolutions in December that were supposed to come straight to the floor within the first two weeks of the new Congress, while committees were still being organized. That included a three-page measure from Roy, dubbed the "Border Safety and Security Act," which would allow the Homeland Security secretary to turn away migrants at the border if it was deemed necessary to maintain "operational control" of the border. But the bill — which was initially seen as a straightforward measure that could be quickly moved on the floor — rankled the party's moderate and Hispanic lawmakers, who worry it would block legitimate asylum claims. Republican leaders, who can only afford to lose four votes on any partisan bills, yanked the bill from tentative floor consideration and instead promised to move it through the normal committee process, hoping to assuage those members' concerns that way. Yet the Roy bill, which has over 60 co-sponsors, has remained stalled, with skeptics unmoved in their opposition to the measure. Now the House Judiciary Committee is exploring a broader package focused on border security and protecting border communities, senior GOP sources tell CNN, which they hope can win wider consensus in the conference. But even if Republicans are able to move it through the House, such a measure is unlikely to be considered in the Senate. Roy said there's a lot of "misinformation" about his border plan, and rebutted the notion it would ban legitimate asylum seekers -- though he did acknowledge it would make it more difficult to claim asylum and get quickly released into the United States. He also said he'd be willing to make some tweaks to the bill, but not if the end result is watered down. "I'm open to words that will clear up that which I don't think needs to be cleared up," Roy said, in reference to the claims that his bill would ban asylum seekers. "So long as it doesn't change the purpose of the bill: which is to ensure that people are not being released into the United States until they've been processed and adjudicated as having an actual, credible fear of persecution." Some moderates said they still harbor some resentment toward the 20 House GOP rebels -- a group Roy was a part of -- who initially opposed McCarthy's speakership, forcing him to make a number of concessions, many of which benefited the holdouts. "There's deep anger across the conference on the 20 who hurt the team in early January. Deep resentment," one GOP lawmaker told CNN. "Folks don't want to lift a finger for them." Perhaps the GOP's best opportunity to address the border will be in upcoming spending fights, since House Republicans will actually have leverage now that they are in power. But it could also take the government to the brink of a shutdown — and some conservatives are already agitating for a fight. "Don't think for a minute that I'm all that inclined to fund a government that isn't securing the border," Roy said. 'Coordinating and keeping the pressure constant': The strategy for trying to break through In the absence of legislative momentum, House Republicans have continued to move ahead with their messaging efforts to call attention to problems at the southern border. The field hearing in Yuma hosted by House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan, marks the third Republican-led trip to the border so far this year. The House committee on Energy and Commerce and McCarthy both led trips to the border last week, just a day apart. The House committee on Homeland Security also has an upcoming trip, billed a "border bootcamp" for Republican freshman members, while the House committee on Oversight and Accountability is also planning something for the near future as well, a source familiar with the plans tells CNN. In a sign of the intense focus on trips, House Judiciary Republicans have requested $262,400 for travel this Congress, compared to the $7,986 the committee spent on travel in 2022 in the last Congress when the House was under Democratic control, a Democratic committee source tells CNN. Back in Washington, DC, both the House Oversight and Judiciary committees have held hearings on the border. And both committees have sent a flurry of requests for documents and interviews to the Department of Homeland Security. The House Homeland Security panel will dedicate its first full committee hearing to the border next week. In preparation for a slew of field hearings, the House Administration committee put together a field hearing guide, in consultation with various House offices, which was provided to Republican committee staff, a senior aide told CNN. Titled "Running an Effective Committee Field Hearing," the purpose of the memo was to sync House Republicans on a variety of fronts including technical specifics about livestreaming, best practices for communication strategy, and what to consider when choosing a location site. House Republicans contend that multiple committee hearings and border trips reflect an aggressive strategy in their effort to build a public case against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who according to a department spokesperson has already testified before Congress more than any other Biden administration cabinet secretary, and the Biden administration at large. GOP Rep. Kelly Armstrong, who serves on both the Energy and Commerce and Oversight panels, told CNN that "the only way we have a chance to break through is by coordinating and keeping the pressure constant." "Nobody overlapped. Everybody is working hard to make sure we are communicating with each other" Armstrong said. "And we are forcing the Democrats to respond." House Democrats and the Biden administration, however, view the multitude of trips and hearings as political stunts. The top Democrat on the House Homeland Security committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson, said in a statement to CNN, "it's clear that House Republicans have gotten ahead of themselves with their proposed anti-immigrant legislation and so-called border oversight. Republicans are eager to make trips to the southwest border, but seem unwilling to do the actual work necessary to address the challenges we face." Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar, who hosted House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries in his Texas border town last week, told CNN, "For me, being from the border, I wonder how much all of this border activity at the end of the day that the Republicans are doing will actually become law? Or is it more trying to get publicity?" But, Cuellar is not surprised by the numerous trips. "It's really a byproduct of their political campaign that they ran this last November in many ways," he said. White House spokesperson for oversight Ian Sams told CNN that instead of working with President Joe Biden on the immigration reform bill he proposed, "House Republicans driven by their most extreme MAGA members are wasting time on politically motivated stunts." The messaging battle has left each side to dig in with their respective camps. House Judiciary Democrats are not attending Jordan's Thursday field hearing, over scheduling disagreements. Instead, an outside Democratic messaging group, the Congressional Integrity Project, will station a mobile billboard ad outside of Jordan's field hearing in Yuma attempting to discredit Judiciary Republican efforts. For more information, visit us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/index.html.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis is using his sway over the Republican-dominated Legislature to urge lawmakers to repeal state laws that offered additional legal rights to undocumented immigrants, protections that less than a decade ago were popular with many Florida Republicans, including DeSantis’ own lieutenant governor. The new proposals were outlined in an immigration package DeSantis unveiled Thursday during a Jacksonville press conference. DeSantis has focused on immigration as he prepares for a likely 2024 bid for president and in the process changed how the issue is treated by many Florida Republicans. Not that long ago, they were voting to give additional legal protections to undocumented immigrants. “Florida is a law and order state, and we won’t turn a blind eye to the dangers of Biden’s border crisis,” DeSantis said. “We will continue to take steps to protect Floridians from reckless federal open border policies.” Included in DeSantis’ proposal is the repeal of a 2014 law sponsored by Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez when she was a member of the Florida House that offered out-of-state tuition vouchers to some eligible Dreamers, those brought to the United States illegally at a young age. It applied to Dreamers who attended a Florida high school for at least three years. The proposal received wide-ranging Republican support at the time, including from CFO Jimmy Patronis, DeSantis-appointed Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, former House Speaker Jose Oliva — whom DeSantis recently appointed to the Board of Governors of the State University System — and Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson, each of whom were members of the Legislature when lawmakers first approved the bill. None returned a request seeking comment about whether they support repealing the law or if they regret their 2014 vote. At Thursday’s press conference, DeSantis touted Florida’s low cost college or state university system but said the law still needs to be repealed to keep down tuition costs. “If we want to hold the line on tuition, then you have got to say ‘you need to be a U.S. citizens living in Florida,’” DeSantis said. “Why would we subsidize a non-U.S. citizen when we want to make sure we can keep it affordable for our own people?” ‘Florida is where woke goes to die’: DeSantis celebrates second term SharePlay Video Then-Gov. Rick Scott, who is now a Republican U.S. senator, signed the proposal in what was seen as a signal Florida Republicans had shifting views on immigration issues as they tried to make inroads with Latino voters, who have a much larger political footprint in Florida than in most states. Since DeSantis took office, however, he has rewired that approach, taking a much harder-line stance on immigration as he gains political support, including with Latino voters. In 2022, DeSantis won reelection by a historic 19.4 percentage point margin, including winning the Latino vote over Democrat Charlie Crist. Scott defended the earlier legislation when asked about it in Tampa on Thursday. “It’s a bill that I was proud to sign. I believe in it. I believe that these individuals ought to have the opportunity to live their dreams in this country,” Scott said.” It’s a bill I would sign again today.” DeSantis last year drew widespread criticism from Democrats and immigration advocates after he transported nearly 50 migrants, mostly Venezuelans, from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, a move opponents called a political stunt. Since then, the governor persuaded the Legislature to expand the program. DeSantis’ proposal would also repeal a second law passed in 2014 with bipartisan support that allowed noncitizens to be admitted to the Florida Bar. The proposal was signed into law by Scott and got “yes” votes from Diaz, Nunez and Oliva. Simpson and Patronis, both of whom are seen as eyeing bids for governor in 2026, did not vote on the measure when legislators approved it on the House and Senate floors. The law allows the Florida Supreme Court to admit noncitizens to the Florida Bar if they meet certain qualifications, including being brought to the United states as a minor and living in the country for a decade or longer. It was passed for José Manuel Godinez-Samperio, who came to the United States at age 9 with his mother and went on to graduate Florida State University College of Law with honors. He was in the House chamber when the bill passed and got direct shoutouts from Republican leadership at the time. DeSantis said he has no idea why lawmakers at the time made that decision. “I don’t know why they did this in Florida before I became governor, but they are letting illegal aliens become licensed attorneys in Florida,” DeSantis said at the press conference. “It’s, like, how could you be violating the law and then be practicing the law.” During the press conference, he did not address the fact that a large number of elected Florida Republicans in the past supported some of the provisions he wants repealed and his office did not respond to questions about that situation. Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, a Spring Hill Republican who was at the event and will be a likely sponsor of the bills, also did not return requests seeking comment. DeSantis is also pushing lawmakers to require all Florida employers to use the E-Verify system, a federal database that allows employers to check workers’ employment status. During DeSantis’ first term, he pushed for universal E-Verify but that was opposed by the state’s business lobby. The bill lawmakers approved only required public employers to use the system. Conservatives have been lobbying DeSantis to again try and expand the requirement to all employers, and DeSantis now has post-midterm Republican supermajorities in both chambers, which he says should make it easier to overcome opponents from the business and hospitality industries who are concerned changes could cut off their supply of cheap labor. “It’s a different political context now having super majorities,” DeSantis said. DeSantis’ immigration package also includes: Making it a third-degree felony to “transport, conceal, or harbor illegal aliens,” and a second-degree felony if the person being transported is a minor. Mandating that hospitals collect data on the immigration status of patients and submit reports on costs associated with providing care to undocumented immigrants. Requiring people registering to vote check a box affirming they are U.S. citizens and Florida residents. Prohibiting local governments from issuing ID cards to unauthorized aliens and invalidating out-of-state licenses issued to unauthorized aliens. For more information, visit us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/index.html.
An 80-strong group of civil society, racial justice, and immigration advocacy organizations have urged the Department of Homeland Security to cancel Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) $22 million contract with data broker giant LexisNexis, which is set to renew later this month. In internal ICE emails, ICE officials have said one of LexisNexis’ products should be used for the removal of non-citizens. ADVERTISEMENT The news highlights the continued use of data brokers by U.S. law enforcement agencies, who typically don’t need a warrant to query such datasets because they have been purchased from a third-party which has compiled the data instead, streamlining the investigative process. Similar issues arise with the sale and use of smartphone location data. With LexisNexis, that data can include billions of records, such as driver’s license information, phone and email search, and addresses that it obtains from public and private sources. The data also includes information that may be in the hands of state authorities which do not share it with ICE because of sanctuary laws, such as jail records, meaning that ICE turns to LexisNexis instead. “LexisNexis sells ICE access to an unprecedented amount of sensitive and granular personal data and massively expands the agency’s surveillance of Black, brown and immigrant communities, including citizens and non-citizens alike,” the letter, signed by Just Futures Law, Mijente, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law, and many more, reads. “We urge DHS to cancel ICE’s contract with LexisNexis and stop ICE from using data brokers to circumvent local laws, erode civil rights and civil liberties, and conduct mass surveillance to fuel raids and deportations.” The letter is addressed to Alejandro Mayorkas, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. ADVERTISEMENT Do you know about any other sales of data to government agencies? We'd love to hear from you. Using a non-work phone or computer, you can contact Joseph Cox securely on Signal on +44 20 8133 5190, Wickr on josephcox, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Just Futures Law previously obtained records through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that showed ICE queried LexisNexis’ database more than 1.2 million times across a seven month period, The Intercept previously reported. ICE has turned to LexisNexis’ data as a work around to laws in sanctuary cities that ordinarily protect such data from law enforcement. In a publicly accessible procurement document, ICE writes that “due to policy or legislative changes, ERO has experienced an increase in the number of law enforcement agencies and state or local governments that do not share information about real time incarceration of foreign-born nationals with ICE.” For that reason, ICE believes it is “critical” to have access to LexisNexis data. ADVERTISEMENT One of LexisNexis’ powerful tools is the Virtual Crime Center, a system that links public records with customers’ own internal datasets and information from other agencies. Beyond ICE, the Secret Service is also a Virtual Crime Center customer, Motherboard reported this month. Paul Eckloff, senior director, public relations, government for LexisNexis Special Services, told Motherboard in an emailed statement that “LexisNexis Risk Solutions was awarded a contract on March 1, 2021 to provide an investigative tool to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The contract complies with the policies set forth in President Biden’s Executive Order 13993 of January 21, 2021 which revised Civil Immigration Enforcement Policies and Priorities and the corresponding DHS interim guidelines. These policies, emphasize a respect for human rights, and focus on threats to national security, public safety, and security at the border.” “LexisNexis Risk Solutions supports the responsible use of data in accordance with governing statutes, regulations and industry best practices. As with our other customers, the Department of Homeland Security must use our services in compliance with these principles,” the statement added. An ICE spokesperson told Motherboard in an emailed statement “Like other federal agencies, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) maintains various contracts for a wide range of services. This contract provides an investigative tool that allows the agency to manage information that assists with law enforcement investigations, to include national security and public safety cases, narcotics smuggling, transnational gang activity, child exploitation, human smuggling and trafficking, illegal exports of controlled technology and weapons, money laundering, financial fraud, cybercrime, and intellectual property theft. The contract complies with all laws, policies, and regulations that govern data collection, while appropriately respecting civil liberties and privacy interests.” The current end date of ICE’s LexisNexis contract is February 28, according to online procurement records. The contract could extend until February 2026, the records show. For more information, visit us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/index.html.
Washington — A year into the war in Ukraine, Americans across nearly 10,000 zip codes in all 50 states have applied to sponsor the arrival of more than 216,000 Ukrainians displaced by the Russian invasion of their homeland, according to federal statistics obtained by CBS News. So far, more than 115,000 Ukrainians have arrived in the U.S. under the sponsorship program, which the Biden administration set up two months after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a large-scale military offensive against Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, triggering the largest refugee exodus in Europe since World War II. In just a matter of days last year, millions of Ukrainians, mostly women and children, fled the country. While some have returned, eight million Ukrainian refugees remain scattered across Europe, in countries like Poland and Germany, according to the United Nations. Another five million have been internally displaced inside Ukraine. US-UKRAINE-REFUGEES-JOBS Ukrainian refugees wait in line to attend a job fair in the Brooklyn borough of New York on Feb. 1, 2023. ANGELA WEISS/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES By all measures, the U.S. sponsorship program, called Uniting for Ukraine, is an unprecedented policy, allowing tens of thousands of Americans to facilitate the entry of an unlimited number of refugees through a free and entirely-online application system that, in stark contrast to most immigration programs, adjudicates cases in a matter of weeks or even days. It has also become one of the main symbols of the Biden administration's steadfast support to the Ukrainian war effort, which has received billions of dollars in aid and weapons from the U.S. Last week, during a surprise visit to Kyiv, President Biden vowed to continue American assistance to the beleaguered country. Since it was created in late April 2022, the Uniting for Ukraine program has garnered interest from across the U.S. As of Feb. 21, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) had received 216,210 requests to sponsor Ukrainian refugees from individuals living in 9,766 zip codes in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, according to the unpublished federal data obtained by CBS News. Two-thirds of the Uniting for Ukraine sponsorship requests have originated in eight states: New York (28,974), Illinois (26,191) California (24,776), Washington (18,546), Florida (14,463), Pennsylvania (12,177), New Jersey (11,395) and Ohio (7,700). But Americans in 13 other states have applied to sponsor more than 2,000 Ukrainian refugees each, and only eight states have fewer than 300 sponsorship applications filed by their residents. Over half of the applications to sponsor Ukrainians have been filed by individuals in 10 metropolitan areas, including New York City (33,347), Chicago (25,900) and Seattle (12,373). But overall, the government has received sponsorship bids from Americans in over 700 metropolitan areas and cities, the statistics show. In less than a year, Uniting for Ukraine has become the largest private refugee sponsorship program in U.S. history; though the program's beneficiaries are not legally refugees. While they are fleeing a war, these Ukrainians don't have refugee status, which offers a path to permanent U.S. residency. Instead, they have been granted permission to live and work in the U.S. for two years under an authority known as parole. Many of those sponsoring Ukrainians are members of the Ukrainian diaspora in the U.S., helping their family members and friends. Indeed, the states with the largest Ukrainian-American communities — New York, California, Washington and Illinois — are also the states with the highest number of sponsorship bids. But Americans with no connections to Ukraine have also signed up to sponsor strangers. Welcome.US, an organization based in Washington, D.C., has connected more 1,500 Ukrainians with American sponsors through an online platform, according to the group's chief executive officer, Nazanin Ash. "There are so many types of civic-minded Americans," Ash said. "It belies what we perceive as the toxicity of our immigration debate. Below the level of the toxicity about the way our politicians talk about immigration is a nation of welcomers who have been looking for an opportunity to be a good neighbor." When she heard of Welcome.US's matching platform last year, Mary-Catherine Oxford, a dean at a community college in northern California, jumped at the chance to sponsor a refugee family, a long-held dream. Through that platform, she met Anna Tereshchenko, a 33-year-old mother hoping to escape Dnipro, a city in central Ukraine targeted by Russian missile attacks. An IT worker, Tereshchenko had signed up for the matching platform since she lacked ties to the U.S. The two exchanged messages to get to know each other, and after having conversations with her husband, Oxford offered to sponsor Tereshchenko and her 12-year-old daughter. Days after Oxford submitted an application, Tereshchenko and her daughter were approved to come to the U.S. under the Uniting for Ukraine program. "It's definitely a leap of faith," Oxford said about the decision to sponsor and host strangers from half a world away. But Oxford said it was also a leap of faith for Tereshchenko to agree to live with strangers in the U.S. Tereshchenko and her daughter arrived in the U.S. on Aug. 31, and have been living in Santa Rosa, California, with Oxford, her husband and their 9-year-old daughter ever since. Tereshchenko is currently working part-time at a retail store, while her daughter is learning English at a middle school. Ukrainian refugees From left to right: Mary-Catherine Oxford and her daughter, along with Anna Tereshchenko and her daughter. February 2023. OXFORD FAMILY Life in the U.S. has not been easy, Tereshchenko said, noting she has struggled to find a full-time job in her profession. But she said she's thankful that her daughter is safe in the U.S. As the war rages on, it will become increasingly difficult to return to Ukraine, she added. "It's very difficult to start to build a new life and then just have to move somewhere," she said. For Oxford, a recent conversation with her daughter demonstrated that she had made the right decision in sponsoring Tereshchenko's family: "She said, 'I'm really glad we're helping people.' If that's the lesson my daughter walks away with, that's successful to me." In addition to the Uniting for Ukraine arrivals, an additional 156,000 Ukrainians have entered the U.S. since the start of the war under other immigration pathways, including those with visas or formal refugee status, and more than 20,000 Ukrainians processed along the U.S.-Mexico border last spring, government data show. In fact, it was the sudden arrival of thousands of Ukrainian refugees to the U.S. southern border last year that prompted the Biden administration to implement the sponsorship policy. After launching the program, it largely stopped processing Ukrainians along the Mexican border, warning that they would be expelled if they attempted to enter the U.S. unlawfully. The number of Ukrainians flying to Mexico subsequently plummeted. Since then, the Biden administration has used Uniting for Ukraine as a model to reduce illegal border crossings. In January, it announced it would allow up to 30,000 Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans to enter the U.S. legally each month if Americans agreed to sponsor their arrival. At the same time, it said migrants from these countries would be expelled to Mexico if they crossed into the U.S. illegally. The State Department also unveiled a first-of-its-kind initiative last month that will allow groups of private American citizens to sponsor the permanent resettlement of refugees from all corners of the world through the traditional refugee program. The program is hoping to recruit 10,000 sponsors in the next year. Unlike other refugee and migrant populations, Ukrainians have largely received a warm welcome and robust bipartisan support in the U.S., including from Republicans who traditionally back stricter immigration controls. The rapid arrival of tens of thousands of Ukrainians, however, has prompted some advocates to accuse the Biden administration of favoring certain migrant groups over others. Biden administration officials have justified the scale and pace of the Uniting for Ukraine process, in part, by saying that unlike other populations, most Ukrainians intend to return home once the war ends — an assessment supported by surveys conducted by United Nations officials. Mariana, 20, who arrived in the U.S. last July with her mother, said she's thankful to be living and working in America. Her new life in the Chicago suburbs is "peaceful," she mentioned. But the young refugee said she wishes to return to Ukraine eventually; though there's no telling when that will be possible. "It depends how long the war will continue," said Mariana, who asked for her surname to be omitted. "I miss my friends. I miss my family. And I miss my home. But it's still not safe to be there." Ukrainian refugees Mariana and her mother after coming to the U.S. from Ukraine. February 2023. MARIANA Mariana and her mother, who lived in the western Ukrainian city of Ivano-Frankivsk, were able to come to the U.S. through a Uniting for Ukraine sponsorship bid filed by her aunt in North Carolina. The 20-year-old is finishing up her Ukrainian college studies online, and working as a dispatcher at a trucking company. While she's glad to no longer live under constant war sirens and curfews, Mariana said she's hoping to be able to go back to Ukraine before her permission to be in the U.S. expires in 2024. In the meantime, she said she's rooting for her country thousands of miles away. "I'm very glad that they are not surrendering, and I hope that with the help of Europe and America, the war will end soon," she added. For more information, visit us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/index.html.