About Me

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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; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com


Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Democrats to Garland, Mayorkas: Ease up on migrant detention bonds

Democratic lawmakers are calling on the Biden administration to change the way it enforces immigration bonds to make the system more equitable amid a skyrocketing immigration detainee population. In a Monday letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Alejandro Padilla (D-Calif.) and Reps. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), said current immigration bond practices do not allow for adequate due process, “raising serious constitutional issues.” “Such detention has had disastrous effects on noncitizens and their families—plunging families into poverty and exacerbating medical or mental health conditions for detained individuals or their loved ones at home,” wrote the lawmakers in the letter obtained by The Hill. “We urge you to amend current immigration bond procedures to mitigate these concerns and improve access to due process in the immigration detention system.” The lawmakers, who are the top Democrats on the Judiciary committees and immigration subcommittees in both chambers, laid out four reforms that would improve due process in immigration detention. They called for the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to flip the burden of proof when determining whether a foreign national needs to be detained while awaiting immigration proceedings. Currently, noncitizen detainees have to prove they’re not a danger or a flight risk, even if they’re not accused of any crimes, unlike in criminal proceedings, where the government has the burden of proof to show an accused criminal merits detention. The lawmakers also asked for a detainee’s ability to pay to be considered when setting bonds. “Immigration bonds can be hundreds of thousands of dollars, imposing huge costs that families are unable to afford. By contrast, the federal Bail Reform Act forbids the imposition of financial conditions which the defendant cannot meet,” they wrote. They also called for immigration detainees to be able to challenge Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) determinations of mandatory detention. Under current policy, ICE officers can tag a foreign national for mandatory detention without the possibility of appeal. “​​For example, ICE may subject an individual to mandatory detention if there is ‘a reason to believe’ that the person has been involved in trafficking in controlled substances, even if the individual was never convicted of such a crime,” wrote the lawmakers. Finally, the lawmakers asked for periodic assessments of people in immigration detention, to ensure individuals are not subjected to unnecessarily long detention. As of Sunday, according to official data reviewed by The Hill, there were 39,920 people in ICE detention centers, though the system is budgeted for a maximum population of 34,000. That’s a 13 percent increase from the last publicly reported figure of 35,289 ICE detainees in September. On a yearly basis, it’s a 38 percent jump from the 28,829 average detainee population in October 2022. And though a broad majority of detainees are not convicted criminals or have pending criminal charges, most detainees are tagged for mandatory detention. Officials with DOJ and DHS did not immediately return a request for comment. ICE is tasked with long-term detention of presumed immigration law violators, though a majority of detainees are transferred to ICE custody from Customs and Border Protection, which detains people at the border and ports of entry. About 28,000 of the 39,920 detainees are in mandatory detention. Nearly 25,000 of those detainees were initially detained by CBP. About 11,000 detainees were not in mandatory detention, 6,000 of whom were detained by ICE and 5,000 by CBP. The average detention time for CBP-detained foreign nationals with no criminal background or charges was 34 days in September, while the average stay for similar individuals arrested by ICE was 15.7 days. In fiscal 2023, ICE booked 267,265 people, removed 135,668 foreign nationals, and released 145,576, though only 17,344 of them were released on bond. For more information, visit us at https://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/.

Indigent migrants can get legal counsel for Operation Lone Star arrests, Texas Supreme Court says

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Low-income migrants arrested in Texas under Operation Lone Star can receive legal counsel, the state’s highest court says, and that’s welcome news for a nonprofit that represents migrants in court. CBP reports all-time highs for yearly, monthly migrant encounters along Southwest border The Texas Supreme Court on Friday renewed a previous order that grants qualifying migrants the right to a defense lawyer if they are arrested in any of the 58 counties that Gov. Greg Abbott has declared a state of disaster concerning border security. This is “to protect the constitutionally and statutorily guaranteed right to counsel of indigent criminal defendants,” according to the court’s renewed “Emergency Order Regarding Indigent Defense and the Border Security State of Disaster.” A group of migrants walks on a levee in Brownsville, Texas, on Oct. 1, 2023, after being apprehended for illegally crossing into the United States. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report File Photo) Migrants must be deemed indigent and brought before magistrates at a designated Texas Department of Criminal Justice facility, the order says. Under federal immigration law, immigrants charged with a misdemeanor have the right to hire legal counsel, but public defenders are not provided for them. But the state’s highest court says the Texas Indigent Defense Commission (TIDC) must “provide for the appointment of counsel to represent defendants arrested and charged with jailable misdemeanors and/or felonies as part of Operation Lone Star in certain counties,” according to an explainer posted by TIDC on its website. The number of indigent defense counsel needed to represent migrants in Texas could greatly increase if the Texas Legislature passes controversial immigration measures that would allow for the arrest and prosecution of those who cross illegally into the state. Texas Department of Safety law enforcement guard the banks of the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass, Texas, on Oct. 24, 2023, during a visit by Texas House Speaker Dad Phelan. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report) Last week, in its third Special Session, the Texas House passed HB4, which would create a Class B misdemeanor for anyone to enter Texas illegally. The bill has been sent to the Senate. State of Texas: Tension, questions of legality shape immigration bill debate Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, a Republican, and three state representatives visited the South Texas border city of Eagle Pass on Tuesday, prior to the debate of HB4 to view Operation Lone Star law enforcement positioned on the banks of the Rio Grande, which has had an increase in migrant crossings in the past few months. Texas House Speaker, lawmakers tour border as they consider spending $1.5B on walls Under the Texas Supreme Court’s renewed order, migrants must request the appointment of counsel and fill out an affidavit of indigence to qualify. And courts must assign lawyers to migrants who qualify within 24 hours. Priscilla Orta, supervising attorney for Lawyers for Good Government’s Project Corazon, which provides free legal aid for migrants, says she is glad that the state’s highest court understands the need for migrants in Texas to have legal representation. “It does help folks. First, it helps them understand what is going on and what the consequences are. Second, it helps those that want to fight, and actually defend their cases. And third, it forces the government to be accountable for their actions,” Orta told Border Report on Monday. “Most of the folks do know that attorneys are free for those that can’t pay for them — it’s a feature of the American justice system that they’ve seen on TV. In fact, some folks think that we give out attorneys for all cases. They don’t realize it’s only for criminal cases,” Orta said. Defense lawyers appointed to represent migrants may include any lawyer authorized to practice within Texas, public defender offices, governmental entities, and nonprofits. A standard fee of $150 per hour will be compensated to private lawyers who represent defendants arrested under Operation Lone Star felony cases, and $120 per hour for misdemeanor cases, according to TIDC. In the two South Texas counties of Maverick and Zavala, where it’s been increasingly difficult to find representation for migrants, lawyers are being paid $200 per hour for felony cases there, the agency says. For more information, visit us at https://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/.

Monday, October 30, 2023

VC boss who came to the U.S. as a child refugee: ‘Without immigration, the American Dream is just a fantasy’

When I was nine, I left the Soviet Union and eventually settled in the United States as a refugee. I studied at Columbia and MIT, developed businesses, ran accelerator programs, and launched my own VC firm to support the growth of U.S. businesses. If the United States’ borders had been more restricted at the time, I likely would have taken those skills to more welcoming climes. This is what I fear is starting to happen as U.S. immigration policy continues to focus on shutting people out rather than drawing them in. America risks losing its reputation as the “land of the free.” It’s a classic case of not knowing how good you have it till it’s gone. Already, skilled foreigners are opting to live in more welcoming countries than the United States, and countries such as Canada are actively poaching foreign talent from within the U.S. If we continue to successfully dissuade people from building a life in our country with border walls and red tape, it will eventually throw the nation into a labor and economic crisis–and all politicians know this. It feels like the country has forgotten the American dream and the values it was founded on, with dire consequences to come for the economy and businesses. It’s time for the private sector to play a greater role in steadying the nation’s moral compass. PAID CONTENT Generative A.I.: Paving the way for the next era of business FROM C3 AI Lost talent Of every 10 international undergraduate students in the U.S., only one stays and lives in the country after their degree (even though 77% of international students who’ve done practical training in the country would like to remain). While the United States seems to be trying its hardest to dissuade people from entering the country with a hellish visa process, other countries are actively trying to entice skilled talent to come and contribute to the knowledge economy. Many foreigners who studied in the U.S. are now moving to other countries. The UK has just issued a special visa for those graduating from top U.S. and international universities. Canada’s new policy encourages all H-1B visa holders to move over with their families. All this is happening while the United States faces a real risk of a knowledge recession of sorts, given how hard the education system was hit during the pandemic. We simply can’t afford to lose talent. Supporting immigration is therefore not just a moral argument but also an economic one. Generation after generation of immigrant families bolsters every echelon of the labor force. Between 1995 and 2022, immigrants and their children represented 70% of U.S. labor force growth. Politicians would do well to remember that when they ponder today’s talent shortages. While it’s true that the U.S. is in a different situation to many countries and that it still receives overwhelming visa requests every year, it can’t rest on its laurels and just expect that foreigners will continue to indefinitely struggle for a chance to live here. The American dream is just that, a dream, and the more at odds it is with reality (while other countries step up) the more that dream will vanish in the global imagination. As politicians worry over how their policy decisions affect their re-election chances, the private sector can step up and do something about immigration policy–or also suffer the consequences. Businesses and academic institutions can collaborate with foreign governments to launch local educational or entrepreneurial campaigns. They can form networks that act as a safety net, support system, and a source of advice for immigrants in specific fields. They can also reach out directly to government officials, inviting them to events about foreign entrepreneurship and academic research, to get them more involved. An uneven tech race Today, countries around the world are pushing to gain an upper hand in innovating around tech and AI. China and the U.S. have been going toe-to-toe on semiconductor development, and may soon be doing the same with generative AI. Global stability requires superpowers to develop technological and defense capabilities at an equal pace. In the U.S., perhaps more than in any other nation, startup innovation is critical to supporting our tech and defense development. If the U.S. wants to keep up with the pace of global development, it’s in our interest to make America an attractive destination for immigrants to work and live. There’s no knowing who will come up with world-changing tech, but one thing’s for sure: They will possess a lot of qualities that immigrants demonstrate–the determination to achieve high goals and the desire to truly impact the place they call home. Many have gone through incredible hardship to get here, and do not shy away from challenging ventures. It’s no coincidence that 77% of the country’s top AI companies were founded by immigrants or their children, according to a just-published NFAP study. Nor that immigrants are more likely to work in STEM fields, contribute to innovation, register patents, and the list goes on. Again, the U.S. private sector can do more to help: supporting academic institutions in their offerings, providing more funding specifically for immigrant entrepreneurs launching companies or carrying out research, and partnering up to build bridges between education and employment or entrepreneurship. More than pitting one country’s tech sector against the other, a free flow of people means a free flow of ideas, tech progress, and knowledge. A depleted domestic workforce Without immigration, the U.S. population would start to shrink within 20 years. That is already true of certain U.S. demographics, and it’s already happening in countries such as China, Russia, and Italy. The consequences of an aging population are vast and include less tax revenue, labor shortages, and lost productivity. Immigrants are empirically more driven and successful entrepreneurs. Though they represent 14% of the population, they are 25% of startup founders and 55% of unicorn founders. A 2021 study found that, if all undocumented migrants in the United States were to have a pathway to citizenship, it would grow the U.S. GDP by $1.7 trillion over the next 10 years, increase annual wages for all citizens, and create almost 440,000 new jobs. Businesses need to be more vocal about how immigration policy affects them. Those who do not see the evident injustices and risks of restricting migration need to open their eyes to the economic reality. If you can, cheerlead the contributions of immigrants working within your company or ecosystem. If you have internal data or case studies that can contribute to the discussion, put them out there for all to see. Elevate the conversation to a place that balances moral imperatives with logical ones. Wealth is not the amount of land a country has–it’s defined by how many people in that land want to create value. And that is precisely what drives so many immigrants–the desire to lead lives, build, earn, and thrive in a new country. We must recognize the potential of all humans. The American dream is a reputation that has been earned–and that mustn’t be squandered. Ultimately, adopting a more moral policy is the right thing to do, and that will, as always, align with what’s best for our country. For more information, visit us at https://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/.

Texas Latino Democrat slams GOP for state bill to detain, remove people suspected of illegal immigration status

SAN ANTONIO — The Texas House approved a bill that would allow local and state peace officers to detain and remove to Mexico people who they think are here illegally, dismissing pleas from a Latino lawmaker who scolded, "Y'all don't live in our f---ing skin." The bill's passage came early Thursday morning after Republicans truncated debate on the legislation, employing a rarely used procedure to cut off amendments Democrats could propose beyond those that were on the House speaker's desk. State Rep. Armando Walle poses for a portrait in Warren Park in Houston. Texas state Rep. Armando Walle.James Nielsen / Houston Chronicle via Getty Images file After Democrats failed to undo that restriction, Rep. Armando Walle, D-Houston, lit into Republican members. Several versions of the passionate, expletive-laced video posted on social media show Walle chastising Republicans on the bill and for their refusal to allow for a longer "civil" debate that would "let us blow some steam." Recommended ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR Trapped Palestinians refusing Israeli orders to evacuate from Gaza hospital U.S. NEWS Matthew Perry's 'Friends' cast mates say his loss is 'utterly devastating' Rep. Cody Harris, R-Palestine, whom Walle addressed as his friend, sponsored the motion to cut off debate. "You're my friend, man, I love you, but this f---ing hurts. The s--- that happens on this godd---ed floor hurts. I can't go hang out with my," Walle said, swallowing the end of the sentence as he became emotional. "I can't hang out with my brother, my cousin, OK. I can't take them anywhere, bro? I can't go to a boda (wedding), I can't go to a baptism, because my community is being attacked?" Reached Thursday afternoon, Walle told NBC News he does not regret his comments. He sees a direct connection between the legislation and the 2024 election season. “I’ve been in the Legislature 16 years and over time there has been this salacious appetite to feed Republican primary voters by demonizing border issues,” Walle said. In a statement, Harris defended his motion to limit the number of amendments that Democrats could propose, saying Democrats had filed 50 more amendments as a stalling tactic. He said spikes in numbers of people arriving at the border or crossing illegally has spurred passion on both sides. "While Democrats argue that this motion was an attempt to shut down debate over the bill, that simply isn’t true. My motion prevailed and we went on to debate the bill and their amendments until 4:00 in the morning when the House passed HB 4," Harris said in the statement. ‘Open season on people of color’ Jennefer Canales-Pelaez, Texas policy attorney and strategist for the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, said the state deportation bill the House approved is worse than Arizona’s SB 1070 law, signed in 2010, that allowed officers, while enforcing other laws, to investigate the citizenship or immigration status of suspects and people they’ve stopped. Passage of that law led to court challenges, boycotts, protests and demonstrations and invigorated voter mobilization among Latinos who favored Democrats. The Texas bill goes further than SB 1070 because it would allow any peace officer to not only question, but arrest and remove them, Canales-Pelaez said. The authority is not only extended to law enforcement, but the broad definition means a peace officer could be “someone who sits on the dental examiners board," she said. “The way that the law is written is just so vague, so essentially it is just open season on people of color throughout the state of Texas,” Canales-Pelaez said. She said the bill does not address some of the logistics involved in removals, such as what the line of questioning would look like, where it would happen, or what would happen if Mexico does not accept the non-Mexican people Texas tries to remove. Immigration enforcement, including deportation, is a federal responsibility. The House bill now goes to the state Senate. Walle's comments were also referring to a bill on its way to the governor that sets a 10-year mandatory minimum penalty for human smuggling and another still to go to the Senate that provided $1.5 billion to buy land and construct a border wall. "Y'all don't understand the s--- that you do hurts our community. It hurts us personally, bro. It hurts us," he said. "It hurts us to our f---ing core and y'all don't understand that. Y'all don't live in our f---ing skin." For more from NBC Latino, sign up for our weekly newsletter. Hispanics outnumber whites in Texas and the state is majority minority. Though Walle lives in and was born and raised in Houston, as was his mother, his father is from Mexico. His parents and many other relatives live along the border, he said. The border has its problems, he acknowledged, but "nobody wants to solve the problems, at least from a state perspective. This has been a big bag of flaming horse manure that people are throwing back and forth, and instead of putting the fire out, the state of Texas wants to put more gas on the fire." "But in that process it affects families. It demonizes communities of color like mine," he said. Walle said it was offensive that Republicans cut off debate on future amendments to the immigration bill since under the Legislature's rules anyone can propose an amendment to a bill brought to the floor. Legislation authors should "stand by their bill," he said. Republicans were able to cut off amendments by obtaining signatures and subjecting the cutoff proposal to a vote. Several members were not in the House when the vote was taken. "I will never lie down when I feel my community is being attacked. I don't regret what happened last night, period. If I had to do it all over again, I would do it all over again," Walle said. "We are not going to take it anymore." The Legislature has approved the bill in the midst of a special session rocked by revelations that the leader of the conservative political action committee Defend Texas Liberty met with white supremacist Nick Fuentes. The PAC gave Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican, $3 million in political contributions. House Speaker Dade Phelan, also a Republican, has called for Patrick and several state GOP members who also got money from the PAC to return it, causing a rift in the party. Lawmakers should have gone home in May, but Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has called them back for three special sessions as he has pushed to get approval for tax money to be used for subsidizing private school tuition. Along with that, he made border and immigration issues an item for the latest special session, which began Oct. 9 and ends Nov. 7. In 2017, Texas passed its own "show me your papers" law that allows law enforcement officers to ask people about their citizenship and immigration status and allowed for those who didn't to be removed from their jobs, including elected officials. It was upheld on appeal. For more information, visit us at https://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/.

One-way plane tickets: NYC offers migrants free travel anywhere to move

NEW YORK — Here’s one approach to discourage migrants from settling in New York City: Give them a free, one-way plane ticket out of town. Mayor Eric Adams is ramping up efforts to fly migrants to the destination of their choice, figuring it’s cheaper than sheltering them for months on end. And he’s simultaneously warning that those opting to stay in New York may be in for a winter of sleeping outside with shelters full. “When you are out of room, that means you’re out of room,” Adams told reporters Tuesday. “Every year, my relatives show up for Thanksgiving, and they want to all sleep at my house. There’s no more room. That’s where we are right now.” In recent days, the mayor of the nation’s largest city has been steering people who were vacated from city shelters to a Manhattan office devoted solely to booking plane tickets, creating more uncertainty for the new arrivals. Dispersing them across the nation and world harkens back to when the Democratic mayor ripped Republican governors in Texas and Florida for sending migrants from the southern border to liberal enclaves. But City Hall officials defend their effort as different because the migrants aren’t being coerced to leave. Still, critics say Adams’ actions sends a message lacking in compassion. “What we’ve witnessed from this administration — even if they’re not directly saying ‘you’ve got to get out of here’ — is that they’ve consistently created hysteria and chaos and confusion and have not used a tone of inclusivity and welcome,” City Council member Shahana Hanif said in an interview. More practically, Hanif said, tracking a migrant’s applications for work authorization or asylum can be impossible once he or she leaves the city’s care. The new, more aggressive “reticketing” plan comes as the city deals with the 130,000 migrants arriving since last year and as it tightens how long they can stay in shelters, forcing the newest arrivals out after 30 days. Migrants have opted to fly to destinations as far as away as Colombia and Morocco. The city has been at odds with the White House over the lack of a national remedy to the migrant surge, pitting Adams against President Joe Biden. One-way plane tickets, even international ones, are cheaper than the cumulative daily, per-migrant cost that has risen to $394 this month from $363 in the city. “With no sign of a decompression strategy in the near future, we have established a reticketing center for migrants,” City Hall spokesperson Kayla Mamelak said in a statement. “Here, the city will redouble efforts to purchase tickets for migrants to help them take the next steps in their journeys.” Adams is threatening that migrants who end up on the streets — “when,” not “if,” it comes to that — would be clustered only with bathroom facilities. He has also weighed distributing tents to them. “Nothing is off the table,” Mamelak reiterated. The message from Adams comes as a record 4,000 newcomers arrive to the city each week. Limits on shelter stays, combined with casework services that include “reticketing” to other places, are necessary to drive down the population in the city’s care and make room for new arrivals, City Hall officials say. City Hall officials say the squeeze has been working. Less than 20 percent of migrants who received 30- and 60-day vacate notices have reapplied to return to the city’s care, a rate that officials tout as a success. But it’s still unclear where a majority of the people kicked out of shelters go. This week, migrants out on the streets followed directions the city gave them to the new reticketing center: a repurposed church office in the East Village. The group included dozens of migrant adults who were forced to leave a midtown Manhattan shelter site Monday because of fire safety concerns. A green awning marks the entrance to a Manhattan church and school where migrants can get one-way plane tickets out of New York City. A church and school in Manhattan's East Village serve as New York City's new "reticketing center," where Mayor Eric Adams has been directing migrants to get one-way plane tickets to the destination of their choice. | Emily Ngo/POLITICO On Wednesday, a trickle of men, carrying their belongings in small suitcases, pillowcases and even trash bags, emerged from the reticketing site confused. Several were asylum-seekers from Mauritania, a West African nation with heightened racial tensions, and they said in interviews in French that they rejected the flight offer because they wished to stay in the city to seek work. MOST READ ybor-city-shooting-52526.jpg DeSantis offers to boost security after multiple people killed or wounded in Tampa shooting ‘The rise is real’: Haley’s breakout is jolting 2024’s undercard race The stage was set for the non-Trump field. He stole the show. Joe Biden’s Big New Hampshire Blunder Judge reinstates gag order against Trump At least one man was rushing to the airport to make a flight to Michigan. “We tried our luck here, but there is no room,” Savi Qhlil, 30, said. There is no immediate guarantee of an open bed for those who opt to return to the city’s care. Some migrants hop from shelter to shelter seeking vacancies, and some bide their time by sleeping on the subway. The city has used reticketing since the crisis began about 18 months ago, but it now has a dedicated site separate from the Roosevelt Hotel intake center in midtown Manhattan. Officials did not have immediate information on how much they’ve spent more recently on tickets or where the bulk of the travelers requested to go. Murad Awawdeh, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, said it “doesn’t make any sense for reticketing to be the main prime focus.” He added that while some migrants in the early stages of the crisis were forced to come to New York City, including via buses chartered by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, more recent arrivals want to be in the city. “It’s unconscionable that this is the tone and tact this administration is taking when immigrants have been the lifeline and lifeblood of this city for centuries,” Awawdeh said. Adams told reporters this week that he’s talking with other countries about how they’ve managed migrants sleeping outdoors, a prospect that the Legal Aid Society and the Coalition for the Homeless stress runs contrary to the city’s right-to-shelter obligation to provide a bed for any one who needs it. “We have to make sure that people have some type of restroom facilities, some type of shower network,” Adams told reporters Tuesday. A possibility floated Wednesday of distributing tents for outdoor living was confirmed by his spokesperson. Adams repeatedly notes that he has kept children off the streets thus far. What Day 61 will look like for migrant children — a newer policy announced last month that evicts even families — remains to be seen. “We’re still formulating that, and we’ll get back to you on it,” said Molly Schaeffer, interim director of the Office of Asylum Seeker Operations, at a City Council hearing Monday. The city has a network of hotels, churches and state facilities used to house migrants across the five boroughs, and Adams has pegged the city’s cost to ultimately hit $12 billion over three years. City Council member Diana Ayala said the most cost-effective approach is longer-term solutions including publicly subsidized housing vouchers that get conventional shelter residents into permanent housing. “I do really understand the complexity of what they’re being asked to do under the circumstances,” Ayala said in an interview about the city’s response. “But I don’t think that their policies are helpful. I think they have the potential to leave thousands of individuals out on the street.” Jason Beeferman and Janaki Chadha contributed to this report. For more information, visit us at https://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/.

Tensions rise between new and established migrants

Tensions are reaching a fever pitch between newly arrived migrants and longtime immigrant and minority communities over perceptions of unfair distribution of government benefits. The frustration, which is centered in big cities, is twofold: Many undocumented and mixed-status families feel overlooked as new arrivals become eligible for work permits, and in many communities of color, spending on shelter for asylum-seekers is viewed in contrast to scarcity in other social programs. “The narrative out there has been somewhat distorted to present the picture where it looks like new immigrants are living in plush conditions. That’s not the case. They’re undergoing very difficult conditions,” said New York Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D). The tension is especially felt in Democratic strongholds such as New York and Chicago, where community leaders and elected officials have spent decades organizing their constituents with limited success. “Mixed-status families, people who have lived here for 10, 20, 25, 30 years, who have been working, paying taxes, sending money back to Mexico, abiding by the laws, laying low — probably being better citizens than most Americans — are frustrated,” said Illinois Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García (D). “Because political leaders, community leaders, religious leaders have told them, ‘If you advocate for yourself, if you march in the pro-immigration reform events in Chicago, across the country’ — and Chicago was sort of the spark of a lot of this — that something would happen,” added García. But immigration reform as most communities understand it — access to paperwork to get straight with the government — was last enacted in 1986. What has changed is the pattern of migration to the United States, everything from demographics to the immigration status of new arrivals. And those two factors are linked: The historic trend of Mexican single adults crossing the border has over time given way to families from other countries with stronger asylum claims. But by and large, the public does not make a distinction between asylum-seekers and undocumented immigrants, creating the impression of a two-tiered system. “I go to my district, and I walk my district and I meet with people — this is more a result of what they hear on TV and what they read in the papers, that is sometimes creating this tension that in so many ways is more fictional than based on the reality of the communities where we have the migrants coming in,” said Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) That’s made assimilation of new arrivals more difficult, in particular for asylum-seekers from Latin America. “I think some of it is xenophobia. I think some of it is disinformation. And it’s driven by uncertainty,” said García. He added that the perception of a migrant threat has dovetailed with concerns about urban violence in Chicago, adding a layer of distrust among communities. That distrust came to a head Tuesday in Chicago’s Brighton Park, a predominantly Latino neighborhood with a large Chinese immigrant population where the city is building a migrant camp on a privately owned lot. Local protesters attempted to physically block machinery from entering the construction site, days after Alderwoman Julia Ramírez fled another protest that turned violent. Ramírez hosted a tense town hall meeting Tuesday night where a majority of neighborhood residents spoke in favor of sheltering migrants, but many expressed frustrations over the city’s lack of transparency in choosing the shelter site and implied that migrants encumber public safety. One resident, a teacher, ceded her time at the microphone to a recent arrival from Colombia, a student of hers identified as Juliet. ADVERTISEMENT “Many people think it’s frustrating that new people, new migrants, arrive to this place. I understand that — obviously it’s not gratifying to have new people come to your place and to feel that there’s a change in the place where you live,” said Juliet, adding that sending migrants to hotels is not an option, because they are for-profit enterprises that won’t provide full board. “People should put themselves in the shoes of others. We don’t want to spend a winter on the street. So please don’t hate us for wanting better stability for our people,” Juliet said in Spanish. García said refugees from other parts of the world receive less media attention and have an easier time assimilating. “We’ve been able to, in Chicagoland, integrate about 30,000 Ukrainian immigrants who came to Chicago, and they did not get this much reporting over that period, much less stories about crime and drugs and prostitution,” he said. Still, there is growing rancor among communities of color and in general among low-income communities, and the work permit disparity is exacerbating those feelings. “You’re seeing it in the Black community in Chicago and now you’re seeing the intensity of the anger and hurt in the Mexican community, who say, ‘What about us? We’ve been working here for 20 years,’ and some of them are actually being displaced by new migrants who are coming in with a work permit,” said Rebecca Shi, executive director of the American Business Immigration Coalition. Advocates for longtime undocumented immigrants are calling on the Biden administration to address that disparity by granting immigration parole to large swathes of the population, clearing the way for them to work legally. On Wednesday, García and fellow Democratic Reps. Pramila Jayapal (Wash.), Verónica Escobar (Texas) and Delia Ramírez (Ill.) had been set to call on President Biden to grant parole to undocumented or expatriate spouses of U.S. citizens, but their press conference was interrupted by the vote to elect Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) as the new Speaker. Undocumented immigrants can’t apply to change their immigration status or be considered for work permits. Immigration parole essentially clears an individual’s immigration record, allowing them to file applications to get papers. According to the lawmakers, 1.7 million U.S. citizens have an undocumented spouse, and 4.9 million U.S. citizen children have at least one undocumented parent. Though mixed-status families are a priority for many lawmakers, there is also momentum to push for parole for Dreamers and farmworkers, among other groups of undocumented immigrants. “I have some colleagues who I’ve worked with on a letter to the president about parole for mixed-status families. We’re going to urge the White House to do that, but there are a number of different groups of people with different immigration challenges and restrictions,” said Escobar. But Escobar, who along with Rep. María Elvira Salazar (R-Fla.) is pushing a bipartisan immigration and border security compromise bill, said parole doesn’t go far enough. “What frustrates me is that we continue to punt on this issue in the hopes that one day we will have large enough majorities in the House and the Senate, and control the White House, and get everything that we Democrats want in order to help the vulnerable residents of our communities and throughout the country who deserve legal status.” Still, advocates see parole as a powerful tool for the Biden administration to calm the waters between different immigrant communities, paired with ongoing measures to hasten work permits for asylum-seekers and funds for cities to receive them. A meeting Wednesday between members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas centered on the budget and how to get more funds to cities, rather than on parole, according to Espaillat. The simmering tension, which Democrats hope to defuse with a combination of funding and work permits, could fuel a political backlash. Chicago is due to host the Democratic National Convention in August, and Democrats are keen to avoid an escalation of the kinds of protests local officials have endured. And for many mixed-status communities, which overwhelmingly vote Democratic, political inaction could be another factor in suppressing voter participation. That incentivizes elected Democrats, most of whom don’t believe a bipartisan solution is within reach, to push the Biden administration for decisive action. “It’s become really tough. Because those of us in elective office have told people it’s going to happen, and be patient, and don’t give up, and let’s keep trying. So things get complicated. And migration is a hemispheric challenge. It’s global,” said García. “So you try to convey to people all the forces at work, at play, that create these challenges for us. And you also hope that young people will see the humanity of the recent arrivals and help bridge that gap and help create empathy and hope.” For more information, visit us at https://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/.

Is ’90 Day Fiancé’ having an effect on visa approvals? A new report argues it is

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Since it first aired in 2014, TLC’s “90 Day Fiancé” has shown viewers the complexities of long-distance, international romances between U.S. citizens and people from foreign countries. But as the reality TV series has grown in popularity over the last decade, the approval rate for fiancé visas has dropped. Those things could be linked, according to a report released Monday by Boundless Immigration, a tech company that helps people navigate immigration processes. The organization is looking into the ways in which the series might be affecting regular visa applicants, and says that while the show raised awareness about the visa process, it may have led to increased scrutiny of applications. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, however, said there isn’t any correlation between the show and the approval process. “Requests for immigration benefits are not determined based on television entertainment or other forms of media content,” spokesman Matthew Bourke said. “USCIS adjudicators individually evaluate every request for immigration benefits fairly, humanely and efficiently before issuing a determination.” in PARADISE HOTEL: L-R: Bobby Ray and Tatum in PARADISE HOTEL airing Thursday, May 16 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. (Photo by FOX Image Collection via Getty Images) COMPANY TOWN In past strikes, networks turned to reality TV. Now it’s more complicated. April 10, 2023 Viewership for “90 Day Fiancé” has steadily increased since the show launched in 2014, according to the report. Meanwhile, the approval rate for fiancé visas dropped nearly by a quarter, from 87% in fiscal year 2015 to 63% in 2022, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services data. Before the show started, the approval rate was 75% in 2013. Data through the third quarter of this fiscal year show a 75% approval rate of applications processed so far. Still, Boundless Immigration said, the drop after “90 Day Fiancé” began airing is worth continuing to examine. “The vast majority of Americans and even members of Congress would agree that keeping people in purgatory or keeping families from starting their lives together is probably not the best way of operating for the country,” said Boundless Immigration’s chief executive Xiao Wang, adding that the company has had clients who were featured on the show. Representatives for TLC did not respond to requests for comment. Illustration of a woman's arms holding a sign reading "We're not here to make friends" TELEVISION FOR SUBSCRIBERS Reality TV stars say they’re subject to grueling conditions and low pay. A union could change that Oct. 27, 2023 The six words that will put you out of business? “I’ve always done... PAID CONTENT The six words that will put you out of business? “I’ve always done... By National Cattleman's Beef Association Watch Episode 1 of ‘Cattle Calling,’ A Story of Family and Environmental Stewardship The K-1 visa is designed to reunite U.S. citizens with their foreign fiancés, giving them 90 days to get married before the visa expires. But as with all immigration processes, the pandemic caused significant delays for fiancé visas. Early this year, the average processing time for the I-129F petition by the U.S. citizen fiancé for their foreign partner — a critical step in the visa process — ballooned to 21 months from seven months, according to the report. On an episode of “90 Fiancé: Before the 90 Days,” participant Gino Palazzolo lamented how difficult it was leaving his partner, Jasmine Pineda, after he proposed to her in Panama. “As soon as I got home, I filed the K-1 visa to bring Jasmine to the United States,” Palazzolo says on the episode. “But, you know, it’s taken a long time to process. We’re at, like, 12 months. So that makes Jasmine frustrated, because she wants to be with me now, and it causes friction between us.” ‘90 Day Fiancé’ star Larissa Dos Santos Lima says she’s ‘good’ after ICE release Sept. 21, 2020 Though the show hasn’t led to an increase in fiancé visa applications, the backlog of applications waiting to be processed has more than doubled since before the pandemic to 51,500, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services data. Although visa issuances have risen since 2020, they are still nowhere near pre-pandemic levels, according to the report. Fiancé visas make up less than half a percent of all yearly non-immigrant visa admissions. Bourke of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said the agency recently implemented changes to reduce the backlog of fiancé visa cases after the pandemic caused an agency-wide hiring freeze. Appropriations by Congress last year have been critical to reducing the backlog, he said, and proposed application fee increases would also help. California is among the most common states for fiancé visa holders, as well as Texas, Florida and New York, according to the report. For more information, visit us at https://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/.

Takeaways from AP’s reporting on Chinese migrants who traverse the Darién Gap to reach the US

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The U.S. is seeing a big increase in Chinese immigrants arriving using a relatively new and perilous route through Panama’s Darién Gap jungle, thanks in part to social media posts and videos providing step-by-step guidance. Chinese people were the fourth-highest nationality, after Venezuelans, Ecuadorians and Haitians, crossing the Darién Gap during the first nine months of this year, according to Panamanian immigration authorities. Chinese migrants using this route fly to Ecuador and then make their way north to the U.S.-Mexico border. Chinese migrants interviewed by The Associated Press said they are seeking to escape an increasingly repressive political climate and bleak economic prospects. Here are some takeaways from the AP’s reporting: OTHER NEWS Devon Dabney, a candidate for city council in Johns Creek, Ga., stands outside her home and discusses her candidacy on Monday, Oct. 23, 2023. The contest is nonpartisan and Dabney calls herself an independent, but she faces criticism from some voters in this historically Republican-leaning enclave because she says she has voted for Democrats in the past. The political dynamics in some of Atlanta's suburbs reflect how partisan and cultural divisions have trickled down to local campaigns. (AP Photo/Bill Barrow) The Trump era has changed the politics of local elections in Georgia, a pivotal 2024 battleground Residents, standing on an overpass, look at damaged caused by Hurricane Otis, in Acapulco, Mexico, Friday, Oct. 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Felix Marquez) Mexican security authorities raise Hurricane Otis death toll to 39 Residents hold help signs that read in Spanish "We need food. Support. We are homeless" two days after the passage of Hurricane Otis as a Category 5 storm in Los Coyotes near Acapulco, Mexico Friday, Oct. 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte) Desperate Acapulco residents demand government aid days after Hurricane Otis HOW MANY CHINESE MIGRANTS ARE COMING THROUGH THE DARIÉN GAP? The monthly number of Chinese migrants crossing the Darién has been rising gradually, from 913 in January to 2,588 in September. For the first nine months of this year, Panamanian immigration authorities registered 15,567 Chinese citizens crossing the Darién. By comparison, 2,005 Chinese people trekked through the jungle in 2022, and just 376 in total from 2010 to 2021. At the U.S.-Mexico border, the Border Patrol made 22,187 arrests of Chinese people for crossing the border illegally from Mexico from January through September, nearly 13 times the same period in 2022. Arrests peaked at 4,010 in September, up 70% from August. The vast majority were single adults. The increase comes as more people are leaving China. The United Nations has projected China will lose 310,000 people through emigration this year, compared with 120,000 in 2012. WHY TRAVERSE THE DARIÉN? The route is viable for Chinese immigrants because they can fly into Ecuador without a visa. From Quito, they join Latin Americans to travel through the once-impenetrable Darién and across several Central American countries before reaching the U.S. border. The journey is well-known enough it has its own name in Chinese: walk the line, or “zouxian.” Short video platforms and messaging apps have popularized the route. They provide on-the-ground video clips and step-by-step guides from China to the U.S., including tips on what to pack, where to find guides, how to survive the jungle, which hotels to stay at, how much to bribe police in different countries and what to do when encountering U.S. immigration officers. Translation apps allow migrants to navigate through Central America on their own, even if they don’t speak Spanish or English. WHY ARE MORE PEOPLE LEAVING CHINA? Emigration from China began to rise significantly in 2018, when President Xi Jinping amended the constitution to scrap the presidential term limit. The pandemic and China’s COVID-19 policies, which included tight border controls, temporarily stemmed the exodus, but emigration has resumed, with China’s economy struggling to rebound and youth unemployment high. “This wave of emigration reflects despair toward China,” said Cai Xia, editor-in-chief of the online commentary site of Yibao and a former professor at the Central Party School of the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing. “They’ve lost hope for the future of the country,” said Cai, who now lives in the U.S. “You see among them the educated and the uneducated, white-collar workers as well as small business owners, and those from well-off families.” This latest wave even has an internet meme, “runxue.” The term, which means the study of running away, started as a way to get around censorship, using a Chinese character whose pronunciation spells like the English word “run” but means “moistening.” “The unemployment rate is very high. People cannot find work,” said Xi Yan, a Chinese writer who came to the U.S. with her daughter in April. “For small business owners, they cannot sustain their businesses.” WHAT HAPPENS ONCE THE MIGRANTS ARRIVE IN THE U.S.? Those who cannot obtain a visa but travel to the U.S. by crossing the border illegally to seek asylum usually unite with relatives and friends in major cities such as Los Angeles and New York, where they will find work and establish a foothold. Many enter the U.S. in the San Diego area. In September, 98% of U.S. border arrests of Chinese people occurred in that area. They are also part of a broader presence of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border — Asians, South Americans and Africans — who made September the second-highest month of illegal crossings and the U.S. government’s 2023 budget year the second-highest on record. Some migrants who enter the U.S. at San Diego wait for agents to pick them up in an area between two border walls or in remote mountains east of the city covered with shrubs and large boulders. They wait there to turn themselves in to U.S. authorities to make asylum claims. U.S. Border Patrol agents sometimes take migrants who have been processed to a transit station in San Diego, where they can charge phones, snack, browse piles of free clothing and get travel advice. For more information, visit us at https://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Advocates denounce city's idea to give migrants tents to sleep in

On the heels of news that Mayor Eric Adams is looking to possibly house migrants outside, dozens of New Yorkers and advocates protested outside of his Fort Lee, New Jersey co-op that he owns with his longtime partner. “When immigrant rights are under attack, what do we do? Stand up! Fight back! When housing rights are under attack, what do we do? Stand up! Fight back!” advocates chanted outside the building where Adams owns a co-op. What You Need To Know Homeless and immigrant advocates rallied outside of Mayor Eric Adams' New Jersey condo on Thursday, calling on him to stop pushing to suspend the right-to-shelter law Advocates argued that any change to the mandate will cause irreparable harm to new arrivals and vulnerable New Yorkers One advocate suggested it might be an effort by Adams to show the magnitude of the crisis versus actual policy The city has been in courts for months, looking to suspend the longstanding consent decree that requires the city to provide a bed to anyone in need. The city argues it cannot sustain housing every new arrival under the law. “For him to go ahead and suspend the right-to-shelter, which is going to turn New York City into a tent city. We are here to say no Eric Adams. Migrants, immigrants are human beings,” said James Inniss, public safety advocate for New York Communities for Change. The rally comes just a day after reports emerged that Adams is floating the idea of possibly giving arriving migrants tents to sleep in. In a statement, City Hall Deputy Press Secretary Kayla Mamelak said, “All options are on the table.” The controversial idea comes as the mayor has been emphasizing that the city is past its breaking point housing asylum seekers. About 4,000 migrants have been arriving weekly, according to officials. Adams reiterated that warning Tuesday. “I cannot say this enough. You know, we are out of the room. And it’s not ‘if’ people will be sleeping on the streets, it’s when,” Adams said on Tuesday at his weekly off-topic briefing. At that same press conference, Adams noted that the city is looking at alternative and arguably controversial new ways of housing migrants. “Yeah, outdoor spaces. Whatever space we can find. When you run out of space, whatever space you can find, we’re going to use and we want to do it as humane as possible,” he said. “Believe or not, tents are costly also. Tents are costly, everything is costly.” Adams said his administration is in talks with other countries on how best to provide services to migrants when they start sleeping in the streets. “We have to make sure that people have some type of restroom facilities, some type of shower. This is brand new. I’ve been having a series of meetings with those in other countries on how do you not deal with the sanitary issues that come with it,” he added on Tuesday. However, advocates have denounced the idea, saying it runs afoul of the city’s mandate to provide help. “The mayor might need to be reminded that the city still has the legal obligation,” said David Giffen, executive director of the Coalition for the Homeless, the organization that represented the original plaintiff in the case. “The right to shelter was established 42 years ago. And when it was established back in 1981, it was done so in recognition that its dangerous to sleep outside exposed to the elements.” Giffen suggested it might be an effort by Adams to show the magnitude of the crisis versus actual policy. “This is some kind of stunt the mayor is pulling to think he can just hand out tents and that’s an adequate solution to the crisis,” Giffen said. For more information, visit us at https://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/.

Police in Texas could arrest migrants under a bill that is moving closer to approval by the governor

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas is closer to giving police broad new authority to arrest migrants and order them to leave the U.S. under a bill the state House advanced Thursday, putting Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on the path toward a potential new confrontation with the Biden administration over immigration. Tempers flared over the proposal in the Texas Capitol, where Hispanic Democratic lawmakers led hours of emotional protests over issues of race and the legality of the plan before House Republicans passed the bill on a party-line vote before sunrise. A similar proposal has already cleared the Texas Senate, meaning Republicans must now agree on a version before sending it to Abbott’s desk. “Our cries for help in the enforcement of existing federal immigration laws have been ignored by President Biden. We have had enough,” said Republican state Rep. David Spiller, author of the House bill. OTHER NEWS Signage is seen near the infield at Globe Life Field ahead of the World Series between the Texas Rangers and the Arizona Diamondbacks, Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) Former President George W. Bush to throw out ceremonial first pitch before World Series opener FILE - Republican presidential candidate radio show host Larry Elder speaks to fairgoers at the Iowa State Fair, Aug. 11, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa. Elder says he is ending his 2024 Republican campaign for president. Elder said in a statement Thursday that he was endorsing former President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File) Radio host Larry Elder ends Republican presidential campaign and endorses Donald Trump Jennifer Lozano of the United States celebrates her victory over Canada's Mckenzie Wright in a women's boxing 50kg semifinal bout at the Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile, Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa) Boxing ‘troublemaker’ Jennifer Lozano becomes the 1st Olympian from Laredo, Texas Two years into Texas pushing the boundaries of immigration enforcement — busing migrants out of state, stringing razor wire along the border and installing water barriers in the Rio Grande — new plans to let police arrest migrants and order them to leave the country is setting up another test that would likely face a court challenge. Opponents say handing all Texas law enforcement such power would risk inadvertent arrests of U.S. citizens, put families of mixed immigration status in danger during routine outings and make crime victims fearful of going to the police for help. As anger mounted among Democrats Wednesday night, one lawmaker recorded and then posted video of a colleague lashing into Republicans during a private huddle on the floor of the Texas House. “Y’all don’t understand the (expletive) you do hurts our community,” state Rep. Armando Walle is seen saying in the video. “It hurts us personally.” ADVERTISEMENT Texas has arrested thousands of migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border on criminal trespassing charges since 2021. But the new law would dramatically expand arrest powers to all Texas police and allow to them to take migrants to ports of entry along the border and order them into Mexico. The power to regulate immigration lies primarily with the U.S. government, and legal experts said Texas’ latest plan flies in the face of U.S. law. “The idea that the state would now take up the power to deport people from the United States is truly radical, even more than the idea of the state creating parallel criminal law to federal criminal immigration law,” said Ahilan Arulanantham, co-direcor of the Center for Immigration Law and Policy at the UCLA School of Law. Critics have compared the proposal to a 2010 Arizona law that required police, while enforcing other laws, to question the immigration status of people suspected of being in the country illegally. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down key provisions of that law two years later. J. Anna Cabot, director of the immigration clinic at the University of Houston Law Center, expressed skepticism of even the high court’s current conservative majority taking up the Texas bill if it became law. “It’s just too cut and dry constitutionally,” Cabot said. For more information, visit us at https://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/.

Advocates call on Biden administration to extend work permits

Immigration advocates are warning that hundreds of thousands of immigrants stand to lose their jobs unless the Biden administration issues an extension for expiring work permits. A prior extension issued by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will expire Friday. In May 2022, the USCIS announced that people whose Employment Authorization Document (EAD) was up for renewal would receive a document granting them 540 extra days of work authorization after the expiration date on their EAD. But that rule came with a sunset clause, meaning that as of Friday, renewal papers will only cover EAD holders for 180 days after expiration, much less than the 16 months the USCIS is currently taking to renew EADs for asylum seekers. “Absent another extension, the automatic extension period is once again only 180 days, but it’s taking USCIS much much longer to issue those renewals. Unless the government acts soon, immigrant workers are going to be in a situation where they’re going to lose work authorization for several months while their work permit is renewed,” said Leidy Perez, policy and communications director at the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project. Asylum seekers are not the only immigrants in a pickle — as of April, there were 263,354 EAD applications pending for more than 180 days, 191,368 of which were linked to asylum applications. And the pipeline for EAD applications is relentless. According to the USCIS, the agency was processing 535,764 total pending EAD petitions in April. New York Democratic Reps. Adriano Espaillat and Jamaal Bowman last week led a letter signed by 35 members of Congress asking the USCIS to issue a new rule maintaining the automatic extension for EADs at 540 days. The Hill has reached out to the USCIS for comment on this story. Though the lawmakers praised the USCIS’s work to reduce the median wait time for EAD renewals, they said the agency would simply not be able to catch up to the backlog without an extension. “Given the hundreds of thousands of immigrants that remain subject to USCIS’s continued delays, it is highly unlikely that, as of October 26, 2023, USCIS will be able to adjudicate all or nearly all renewal applications before the shorter, 180-day automatic extension period expires—which will inevitably cause applicants to lose their work authorizations before receiving a new EAD,” the lawmakers wrote. For more information, visit us at https://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/.

After She Was Nearly Killed in Her New Jersey Apartment, Law Enforcement Delayed Her Path to Justice

On the night of June 19, 2022, the life of Francis Yanet Mendoza was suddenly transformed. She had spent the evening stuffing goodie bags with chips and candy in the living room of her Elizabeth, New Jersey apartment for her daughter Alexa’s quinceañera the following week. Afterward, she retreated to her bedroom. It was some time after midnight when a still-unidentified masked man entered Mendoza’s apartment and stabbed her 18 times on her legs, back, chest, arms, and neck. He later escaped through the window after removing the air conditioner. Immigration News, Curated Sign up to learn about immigration news from New York and beyond with expert analysis from Documented journalists. Enter your email here... Sign Up for Free “The bedroom was unoccupied but in disarray,” according to the Elizabeth police report filed by officer Mario Cavalheiro, which described the incident as “stabbing” and “aggravated assault.” It described that aid was provided to “the female who was bleeding profusely from an unknown injury. Her clothing and floor was completely covered in blood.” Mendoza, now 48-years-old, spent eight days in an intensive care unit and a total of two weeks at University Hospital in Newark, where surgeons reconstructed her trachea. “I was basically born again after the attack. I had to relearn how to walk, talk and eat,” Mendoza told Documented in an interview in Spanish. In September 2022, as soon as she was able to talk and walk again, Mendoza went to the Elizabeth police station to file a police report and share information about her attacker with the detective assigned to the case. Mendoza, an immigrant from Honduras, decided to apply for a U visa, which was created by Congress in 2000 to encourage immigrant crime victims to cooperate with government authorities on the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity. The program grants U visa holders work permits and protections against deportation. But, to receive a U visa, immigrants must obtain a certification from law enforcement or certain local government agencies that prove they cooperated in an investigation or a prosecution. A residential street outside the home of Francis Mendoza in Elizabeth on Sunday evening. Photo: Anna Watts for Documented. Mendoza filed her paperwork to obtain the U visa certification and thought the process would be quick. But as weeks turned into months, she became increasingly distraught that her certification would never arrive. Because U visa certifications are processed by local jurisdictions, in New Jersey, the process can take anywhere from a couple of weeks up to five years. This is because the wait time is dictated by the local agency where the incident occurs, who decides how fast certifications are issued. Crime victims, regardless of where they live, are left at the hands of these local authorities. Also Read: The Yonkers Police Department Is Refusing to Help a Stabbing Victim Get a Visa “I was afraid to walk on the street by myself and, at home, even the shadow of my daughter in the bathroom makes me scream at the top of my lungs,” Mendoza said, still scared from the attack. “I’m still terrified — always looking around, wondering who is chasing me.” To this day, Mendoza is still unable to perform routine tasks at the warehouse where she works. She can no longer eat or swallow liquids as before — she often chokes or has coughing fits that make her vomit. She waited almost eight months to obtain her U visa certification from the Union County Prosecutor’s Office in New Jersey, while according to advocates and Newark’s Police Department records, the average wait is a couple of weeks. Mendoza described the uncertainty of the wait period as agonizing, especially considering that her attacker is still on the loose. To this day, the detective in charge of her case has told Mendoza that no suspect has been arrested. “A year after the attack, I’m still pretty unwell physically and psychologically,” she said. Neither the Union County Prosecutor’s Office nor the Police Department of Elizabeth answered repeated requests to comment on the case of Mendoza, including the status of the investigation. Mendoza received assistance from a nonprofit organization that provides legal services, but the process can seem endless for other survivors trying to get a certification on their own. “Many women [crime survivors] just stop trying because they feel it’s impossible,” said Glendy Tsitouras, a community organizer in Newark of the American Friends Services Committee, a nonprofit organization advocating for social justice and immigrants’ rights, which is helping Francis and dozens of other women victims of crime in New Jersey to navigate legal proceedings. In crimes that do not require weeks of hospitalization, such as domestic violence cases, the struggle for legal representatives to get a U visa certification for clients is even more challenging, Tsitouras said. A photo of Francis Mendoza, 48, with her daughter Alexa Portillo, 16, sits on a mantel in her home in Elizabeth on Sunday afternoon. Photo: Anna Watts for Documented. According to advocates, if an immigrant is a crime victim in a locality where law enforcement does not know the process or does not want to follow the federal guidelines, they simply don’t get a certification. Even when they do receive certifications, applicants must contend with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) backlog of U visa cases, which stands at 326,000 as of the second quarter of fiscal year 2023. Applicants are now waiting about 20 years to obtain a U visa. A pattern of inconsistency New Jersey is not alone in its inconsistency in the U visa certification process. In 2022, hundreds of certifications were denied in Chicago in an apparent violation of state law and federal guidelines, as many of the requests were on behalf of cooperating victims of crimes that qualified under the law. In Portland, Oregon, the city’s police bureau denied more than half (53%) of the certification requests in 2021 and the first half of 2022, compared to less than 11% in 2020. Portland’s Office of the Ombudsman cited “insufficient policies and training, a poor understanding of the law, inconsistent review practices, and a high turnover of [case] reviewers,” as reasons for the increase in rejected certifications. Also Read: Immigrant Victims Who Cooperate With Police Must Wait 20 Years for U Visa In 2016, the Newark Police Department denied 70% of the 101 requests it received, according to an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request filed by Documented. The next year, the denial rate fell to 13% and has stayed around 10 percent since then. A Newark Department of Public Safety spokesperson declined to comment on the reason for these dramatic declines. In many instances, the process runs smoothly. According to the Newark Police Department records, in the first five months of 2023, more than 90% of the 48 U visa certifications requests were granted, often within a couple of weeks and, in some instances, on the same day. But the County Prosecutor’s Office of Passaic, for example, does not compile the U visa certification requests it receives, according to a separate OPRA request. So, it is impossible to know if they adhere to federal guidelines to issue U visa certifications and if corrections are needed. In their response to the OPRA request, the office claimed it is not required “to manually search through all of the agency’s files, analyze, compile and collate the information.” Along with submitting a U visa certification request through law enforcement, the demand for nonprofit and pro-bono attorneys for assistance in applying for a U visa is substantial, said Maritza Darch-Escuderos, a Department of Justice accredited representative in New Jersey of the Immigrant Rights Program at the American Friends Service Committee. She said she is currently handling more than 100 cases, so spending months or even years trying to get a U visa certification impedes her ability to help other survivors of crimes. For nonprofits like hers, facing obstacles to getting the certification and completing the U visa application is “the pattern in New Jersey.” Lauren Herman, legal director of Make the Road New Jersey, a grassroots organization advocating for immigrant and working-class New Jerseyans said the certification process is “an arbitrary process” that is “very uneven,” adding: “whether or not someone is going to get the U visa certification comes down to where they were the victim of a crime, which is pretty unfair.” ALSO READ < > She said that the obstacle to getting a U visa certification is often not an official denial, but that the law enforcement agency simply ignores the request. “In my experience, we’re not getting a lot of denials,” she said. “The bigger problem is that we just don’t get responses.” When Mendoza got the certification earlier this year, eight months after her attack, she wept. “I have suffered a lot, but at least I won’t have to leave this country, and I may be able to stay here as a resident.” Francis Mendoza, 48, and her daughter Alexa Portillo, share a moment while 16, posing for a portrait in their home in Elizabeth on Sunday afternoon. In June of 2022, Mendoza was brutally attacked in her previous apartment the day before they were supposed to celebrate Alexa’s quinceañera. Photo: Anna Watts for Documented. Mendoza’s U visa application is underway, and she’s hopeful that it will come through so she can stay in the United States with her daughter Alexa. That is her consolation after the stabbing. But just like her pursuit of a U visa, her road to recovery from the attack appears long. It is no consolation to Mendoza that her attacker is still at large. Police have yet to inform her of an arrest or any updates regarding the investigation. She sent a message to the detective assigned to her case in August, more than a year after her assault. He’d last spoken to her in February, but still had no news to share about her case. “As of today,” she said, “he has not given me an answer.” For more information, visit us at https://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/.

Filing Location Change for H-2A, H-2B, CNMI-related Form I-129 Petitions, Form I-129CW Petitions, and CNMI-related Form I-539 Applications

Beginning Nov. 1, 2023, all H-2A, H-2B, CNMI-related Form I-129 petitions, Form I-129CW petitions, and CNMI-related Form I-539 applications must be filed directly at the Texas Service Center. To allow the public time to transition to filing at the Texas Service Center, there will be a 60-day grace period for forms filed at the California Service Center (CSC) or Vermont Service Center (VSC), during which misdirected forms will not be rejected. After the 60-day grace period, on and after Jan. 1, 2024, we will reject H-2A, H-2B, CNMI-related Form I-129 petitions, Form I-129CW petitions, and CNMI-related Form I-539 applications if they are filed at the CSC or VSC. Previously, all H-2A, CNMI-related Form I-129 petitions and Form I-129CW petitions, were filed at the CSC, and H-2B-related Form I-129 petitions were filed at the VSC and CSC. We will reject any of these petitions and applications if they are received at the Texas Service Center before Nov. 1. The petitions and applications should be mailed to the Texas Service Center at the following addresses: Form New Address - USPS New Address -FedEx, UPS, DHL deliveries I-129 H-2A USCIS Texas Service Center Attn: I-129 H2A 6046 N Belt Line Rd. STE 117 Irving, TX 75038-0018 USCIS Texas Service Center Attn: I-129 H2A 6046 N Belt Line Rd. STE 117 Irving, TX 75038-0001 I-129 H-2B (not including H-2B Guam petitions) Non-premium: USCIS Texas Service Center Attn: I-129 H2B 6046 N Belt Line Rd. STE 118 Irving, TX 75038-0018 I-907/Premium Processing: USCIS Texas Service Center Attn: I-129 H2B Premium Processing 6046 N Belt Line Rd. STE 907 Irving, TX 75038-0022 Non-premium: USCIS Texas Service Center Attn: I-129 H2B 6046 N Belt Line Rd. STE 118 Irving, TX 75038-0001 I-907/Premium Processing: USCIS Texas Service Center Attn: I-129 H2B Premium Processing 6046 N Belt Line Rd. STE 907 Irving, TX 75038-0001 I-129 H-2B Guam Non-premium: USCIS Texas Service Center Attn: I-129 H2B Guam 6046 N Belt Line Rd. STE 118 Irving, TX 75038-0018 I-907/Premium Processing: USCIS Texas Service Center Attn: I-129 H2B Guam Premium Processing 6046 N Belt Line Rd. STE 907 Irving, TX 75038-0022 Non-premium: USCIS Texas Service Center Attn: I-129 H2B Guam 6046 N Belt Line Rd. STE 118 Irving, TX 75038-0001 I-907/Premium Processing: USCIS Texas Service Center Attn: I-129 H2B Guam Premium Processing 6046 N Belt Line Rd. STE 907 Irving, TX 75038-0001 I-129CW USCIS Texas Service Center Attn: I-129CW 6046 N Belt Line Rd. STE 116 Irving, TX 75038-0018 USCIS Texas Service Center Attn: I-129CW 6046 N Belt Line Rd. STE 116 Irving, TX 75038-0001 I-129 CNMI USCIS Texas Service Center Attn: I-129 CNMI 6046 N Belt Line Rd. STE 129 Irving, TX 75038-0013 USCIS Texas Service Center Attn: I-129 CNMI 6046 N Belt Line Rd. STE 129 Irving, TX 75038-0001 I-539 CNMI Non-premium: USCIS Texas Service Center Attn: I-539 CNMI 6046 N Belt Line Rd. STE 119 Irving, TX 75038-0018 Premium Processing: USCIS Texas Service Center Attn: I-129 CNMI Premium Processing 6046 N Belt Line Rd. STE 907 Irving, TX 75038-0022 Non-premium: USCIS Texas Service Center Attn: I-539 CNMI 6046 N Belt Line Rd. STE 119 Irving, TX 75038-0001 Premium Processing: USCIS Texas Service Center Attn: I-129 CNMI Premium Processing 6046 N Belt Line Rd. STE 907 Irving, TX 75038-0001

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Biden officials shelve plan to require some migrants to remain in Texas after local backlash

Washington — A Biden administration plan to require some migrant families to remain in Texas while immigration authorities determined their eligibility for asylum collapsed due to local opposition in the Democratic-led border city of El Paso, according to two U.S. officials and government documents obtained by CBS News. Officials in El Paso initially agreed to provide 400 hotel rooms to house migrants enrolled in the initiative, which was set to start in mid-September, according to internal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) documents. But local officials reversed course on hosting the migrants after parts of the plan became public, the U.S. officials said, requesting anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. The episode, which had not been previously reported, illustrates the immigration dilemma vexing the Biden administration, which faces escalating pressure from Republicans and a growing group of Democrats to reduce the record levels of migration along the U.S. southern border in recent years. The migrant influx has strained federal and local resources, including in large cities like New York City and Chicago, with Democratic leaders who have found themselves openly criticizing a Democratic White House. In a statement, DHS said department officials regularly review policy proposals and talk to local and state officials to discuss ways to manage migration flows. Not all proposals, the department noted, are implemented. Estrella Escobar, a spokeswoman for Democratic El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser, said the city agreed to increase the number of hotel rooms for migrants released from federal custody. But she said the city "never agreed" and "never will" agree to participate in a policy that would require migrants to remain in El Paso under strict monitoring. Those conditions were the source of the mayor's "opposition," she added. "We have conversations with all our federal partners on the humanitarian crisis we are facing on a daily basis," Leeser said in a statement to CBS News. "The City of El Paso never agreed to any program in which migrant families would be subject to home curfews or ankle monitoring while under our care." Migrants El Paso Texas Immigrants wait to be transported and processed by U.S. Border Patrol agents at the U.S.-Mexico border on May 12, 2023 in El Paso, Texas. GETTY IMAGES A plan to deter migrant family crossings The scrapped plan was part of a broader Biden administration program set up in May to deter illegal crossings along the U.S.-Mexico border by speeding up deportations of migrant families who failed their initial asylum screenings. The policy, known as the Family Expedited Removal Management program, requires certain migrant families traveling with children to undergo a daily curfew and GPS monitoring until asylum officers decide whether they should be allowed to apply for humanitarian protection or be deported. It was set up as an alternative to detaining migrant families, a practice the Biden administration discontinued in 2021. The Biden administration has been expanding the so-called FERM program to dozens of cities across the U.S. amid record arrivals of migrant families along the southern border in recent months, enrolling several thousand parents and children so far. But the plan to expand the policy to El Paso would have significantly changed the program, limiting the movement of some migrant families by requiring them to remain near the U.S.-Mexico border. Officials believed the move would've discouraged migrant families from crossing into the U.S. illegally due to the risk of being placed in a program that would force them to remain near the Mexican border, insteading of being allowed into the country with court cases that typically take years to complete. But after The Los Angeles Times reported that the administration was weighing the move, Republicans and Democrats alike voiced strong objections. Texas' Republican Gov. Greg Abbott threatened to sue the Biden administration, saying federal officials should be requiring migrants to wait in Mexico — like the Trump administration did — not Texas. Progressives and advocates also denounced the proposal, saying it infringed on the rights of migrants by limiting their movement. Luis Miranda, a DHS spokesman, said officials are still working to "scale up" the initiative "significantly." "FERM is one of the tools this Administration is using to manage border encounters in a safe, orderly and humane way, while imposing consequences under the law for those who fail to avail themselves of a lawful pathway," Miranda said in a statement to CBS News. Another setback for Biden's border strategy The collapse of the El Paso curfew initiative is another setback for President Biden's border policy, one of his worst-polling issues. In June, when illegal crossings along the southern border dropped to a two-year low, administration officials touted a strategy that paired expanded opportunities for migrants to enter the U.S. legally with stricter asylum standards for those who opted to cross the border illegally. But unauthorized migrant crossings began spiking the following month. In September, Border Patrol apprehended more than 218,000 migrants who entered the U.S. illegally, the highest level in 2023, federal data shows. The tally included a record 103,000 parents and children traveling as families, a population that officials struggle to process due to the legal and humanitarian concerns around the detention of minors. In response to the influx, the administration has ramped up deportations, including by carrying out the first direct removal flights to Venezuela this month. But Democratic officials in New York and Illinois have continued to say their communities are receiving too many migrants too quickly. "We're out of room," New York Mayor Eric Adams said this week, warning that some migrants could find themselves on the street given the dwindling space in the city's shelter system, which is housing more than 60,000 new arrivals. For more information, visit us at https://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/.

Migrant bus conditions 'disgusting and inhuman,' says former veteran who escorted convoys

A retired veteran hired to work security for migrants being bused out of Texas alleges he witnessed pervasive mistreatment during the long trips to other cities. David Dillard claims he saw migrants being misled about their destinations amid "disgusting and inhuman" conditions on board. He also claims he received an email that directed him to stop communicating with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) seeking to coordinate assistance for the migrants. “This job, from Day One, was never meant to be done the right way. The job meant from Day One was just to get people on a bus and out of Texas. That's it. They didn't care about their health. They didn't care about where they were going,” Dillard told ABC News. More than 50,000 asylum seekers have been bused from Texas to mainly Democratic-led cities since April of last year as part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star. PHOTO: Migrants from Venezuela, who boarded a bus in Texas, wait to be transported to a local church by volunteers after being dropped off outside the residence of Vice President Kamala Harris, at the Naval Observatory in Washington, DC, Sept. 15, 2022. Migrants from Venezuela, who boarded a bus in Texas, wait to be transported to a local church by volunteers after being dropped off outside the residence of Vice President Kamala Harris, at the Naval Observatory in...Show more Stefani Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images The state of Texas tapped bus company Wynne Transportation to handle the project for more than $100 million. Wynne Transportation then hired security firm Mayhem Solutions, which brought on Dillard as a contractor. Advertisement Dillard, who served in the U.S. Army, says he holds “Republican values” and at first supported the busing of migrants out of Texas. But he says he had a change of heart after being hired. “I started asking questions and the questions were not meshing at all with reality. At that point, I remember texting a friend of mine saying, ‘I'm only staying here because I want to make sure that the migrants get treated right.’ Because there were migrants who were getting yelled at, told no, weren't no stops being made. They cannot stop in Texas. Those migrants, once they're on the bus, they're getting out of Texas,” Dillard said. Getting the buses out of Texas, the second largest state in the U.S., would take anywhere from seven to 12 hours, depending on the destination, Dillard said. “You got one bathroom and the bathroom, you cannot have No. 2, you can only use for No. 1, but you got women's tampons, babies’ diapers, everything in that one bathroom. It'll start overflowing and leaking down the thing. We tell them, stop using it after that,” Dillard said. Dillard says photos he took show urine running down the aisles of the bus, calling it “disgusting and inhuman.” MORE: NYC dealing with new migrant surge as number of buses nearly triples in recent days Dillard said he was involved with “well over 100” bus trips and at one time was making up to $450 per day for the job. NGO representatives in Texas help process migrants who have chosen to board Operation Lone Star buses and coordinate with groups in destination cities to meet them when they arrive. The state does not get involved in that coordination effort. PHOTO: Unable to be placed by the city, migrants live on the sidewalk by the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown on August, 1 2023, in New York City. Unable to be placed by the city, migrants live on the sidewalk by the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown on August, 1 2023, in New York City. John Lamparski 2023/Sipa USA via AP Dillard says he initially would let the NGOs know how many migrants were on board the buses and when they would arrive at their destination. But suddenly, in August 2022, Dillard says he and other contractors were told via email to stop speaking or coordinating with the NGOs altogether. According to an email provided by Dillard, Mayhem Solutions manager Bryan Smith also said the state wouldn’t be sharing information with aid organizations going forward, either. The email also instructed staff to keep bus numbers and identifying information hidden from sight, including from the passengers themselves. Recent Stories from ABC News Smith has not responded to ABC News’ request for comment. Dillard also claims he was instructed to stop letting passengers use his Wi-Fi hotspot on the bus, “because they found out the migrants were using their phones to figure out where they're at.” In a statement to ABC News, the Texas Division of Emergency Management said it is “not aware of any directive to remove Wi-Fi service on any bus” or “any effort to conceal the identifying bus numbers.” Dillard says he was on one of the buses going to Washington, D.C., on Sept. 14, 2022, when Wynne Transportation personnel instructed him to wait overnight in a parking lot for another bus to catch up with him, because they wanted to drop off the migrants in front of Vice President Kamala Harris' home. MORE: Texas Gov. Abbott sends 50 migrants to VP Harris' home “Abbott coordinated the whole thing just to say F-you to the VP. That’s petty politics of people’s lives. It’s inhuman, man,” Dillard said. Recent Stories from ABC News Abbott tweeted later that day, “We’re sending migrants to her backyard to call on the Biden administration to do its job & secure the border.” A spokesperson for Abbott told ABC News the governor's office was “not aware of directives” to either stop communicating with NGOs or coordinating the drop-off at the vice president's home. Wynne Transportation referred all questions to the state’s emergency management agency, which told ABC News that migrants sign waivers consenting to their destinations. PHOTO: Migrants who entered the U.S. from Mexico are loaded on to a bus at a processing center, Sept. 21, 2023, in Eagle Pass, Texas. Migrants who entered the U.S. from Mexico are loaded on to a bus at a processing center, Sept. 21, 2023, in Eagle Pass, Texas. Eric Gay/AP Meanwhile, Dillard says that all the hours spent on the buses changed his view on those coming to the U.S. in search of a better life. “We went around a corner and the White House was on the left, and I said, ‘Hey, there’s the White House.’ And then went down, I said, ‘There’s the Washington Monument right there,’” Dillard said. Dillard continued, “And they started clapping and crying. People were hugging. And as from a U.S. soldier standpoint, that's why I do this. That right there. They were more American in that moment than I'd ever been in my entire life. And that was the greatest feeling in the world.” Dillard says he was eventually terminated after a pay dispute with his supervisor and says he can’t get work as a result. When asked what he’d say to being called a “disgruntled employee,” Dillard said, “Not at all. I am disgruntled in the fact that people were treated, [how] humans were treated on my watch.” For more information, visit us at https://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/.

USCIS Extends Parole by Two Years for Certain Afghan Nationals Under Age 14

USCIS announced today that we will consider two-year extensions of the initial parole period on a case-by-case basis for certain Afghan nationals who: Were paroled into the United States between July 30, 2021, and Sept. 30, 2022, with an OAR or PAR class of admission; Were under 14 years old as of Sept. 26, 2023; and As of Sept. 26, 2023, have not yet filed: Form I-131, Application for Travel Document (to apply for re-parole); Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status; or Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal. Because of their age, and because many of these minors may be in the United States without a parent or legal guardian, they may lack the capacity, access to resources, and general ability to navigate a complex immigration system. If they do not maintain parole, they will lose their eligibility for essential benefits, such as those offered by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement. Losing parole could also mean they fail to maintain a lawful status for purposes of adjusting their status to lawful permanent resident in the future. These actions are part of the federal government’s ongoing commitment to support Afghan nationals who worked alongside the United States in Afghanistan as Afghans continue to seek safe resettlement in the United States.

USCIS Updates Guidance on EB-5 Regional Center Program

We are updating the USCIS Policy Manual with new guidance on the EB-5 Regional Center Program and new content on regional center designation and obligations, project applications, and direct and third-party promoters. This update incorporates changes from the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022 into the Policy Manual, building on the initial update that incorporated such changes on Oct. 6, 2022. This update reorganizes Part G, Volume 6 of the Policy Manual, and includes a few revisions to the content published in October 2022 to reflect the new organization. It also updates the chapter on adjudication of investor petitions for classification and adds new content on regional center designations and obligations, project applications, and direct and third-party promoters, including registration. Further updates to EB-5 guidance in the Policy Manual are forthcoming, and will include revisions to Chapter 5, Removal of Conditions. The new guidance is effective immediately and is controlling, and supersedes any related prior guidance.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Immigrants are coming to North Dakota for jobs. Not everyone is glad to see them

WAHPETON, N.D. — The newest residents of this small city on the Great Plains have come a long way to get here. "Beautiful country, beautiful people," Roman says in halting English. He doesn't want to use his last name, because some of his family are still in Nikopol, Ukraine, just a few miles from Russian-occupied territory, and he fears he might endanger them. "Right now, my city — every day, bomb," Roman explains during a break from his job on the factory floor at ComDel Innovation, which makes medical devices and other precision equipment in the southeastern corner of North Dakota. Sponsor Message Roman is one of several Ukrainians working at ComDel. In North Dakota, the percentage of the population that was born outside the U.S. jumped more than 13% between 2021 and 2022. Zayrha Rodriguez/NPR Like a lot of employers in the state, ComDel is having a tough time filling open jobs. North Dakota is rural. It's cold. And it's hard to get Americans to move here, according to CEO Jim Albrecht. "This climate is not necessarily for everyone," Albrecht deadpans. But for ComDel, this is not a joke. If the company can't find more employees, he says, it can't keep growing. "For the last three years, we have been in a position where customers have come to us and asked us if we would take on work," Albrecht says. "And we've had to say no because of the ability to find people. "The beginning of this year, we made a decision that, hey, we've got to do something," he says. That's when ComDel started looking seriously into a program called Uniting For Ukraine, a legal pathway for Ukrainians to come to the U.S. and work for up to two years. So far, the company has hired about a dozen Ukrainians this way, Albrecht says, and has extended invitations to more than 40 others. The U.S. immigrant population is growing fast in North Dakota and other states that are a long way from the southern border. ComDel CEO Jim Albrecht says the company, which makes medical devices and other precision equipment, has had to turn down business because it can't hire enough workers. Zayrha Rodriguez/NPR In North Dakota, the percentage of the population that was born outside the U.S. jumped more than 13% between 2021 and 2022, according to an analysis of Census Bureau estimates by William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, a center-left think tank in Washington, D.C. Frey notes that states such as West Virginia, Iowa, Indiana, Arkansas and Alabama also saw significant growth in their foreign-born populations over the same period. As hard as this is, it's been easier to get 40 Ukrainian people here into these jobs than 40 people from you name the other state. Brent Sanford, former lieutenant governor of North Dakota "That tells me that there's been a dispersion," Frey says, as immigrants have moved beyond traditional gateways in states that already have large immigrant populations. "And what it says is that there may be opportunities there for jobs or maybe opportunities there that aren't available to the people in the big immigration states." In North Dakota, the flow of immigrants is more of a steady trickle than a flood. But in a state with fewer than 780,000 residents, those numbers stand out. The foreign-born population here is growing in a way it hasn't in more than a century, as immigrants are pulled to North Dakota by employers desperate to fill jobs. Still, there's deep-seated ambivalence about immigration in a state that remains overwhelmingly white, rural and conservative. Employers say they're desperate for more workers There's a labor shortage across much of the U.S., but in this part of the country, it's extreme. North Dakota's unemployment rate is under 2%. It's the same in South Dakota, while Montana and Wyoming are under 3%. That's pushing businesses across North Dakota to recruit immigrants to fill open jobs in manufacturing, in oil production and in nursing. Sponsor Message "A lot of my friends are also in the U.S.," says Roi Lubian, who recently immigrated from the Philippines. "And they say why? Why North Dakota? It's so freaking cold." Roi Lubian poses for a portrait in her home in Bismarck, N.D. Originally from the Philippines, Lubian is working as a nurse in North Dakota. She says she moved to the United States in search of better economic opportunities. Zayrha Rodriguez/NPR Lubian moved to Bismarck, the state capital, for a job at Sanford Medical Center. The hospital says it plans to hire about 200 Filipino nurses in all. Despite the weather, Lubian says she likes the laid back pace of life in North Dakota. And she's found a close-knit Filipino community in Bismarck that gets together for monthly potluck dinner parties. Still, living so far from her family sometimes feels lonely, Lubian admits during an interview at her sparsely furnished studio apartment a few blocks from the hospital. But mostly, she's here to work. She's been able to save money to send back to her family in the Philippines, including a cousin undergoing treatment for cancer. "For sure, my family, they are the reason why I'm here in North Dakota," Lubian says. "There's a lot of opportunities for you to secure your financial status. A lot of overtime. Pick up shifts." Sanford Medical Center in Bismarck, North Dakota's capital, says it plans to hire about 200 Filipino nurses. Zayrha Rodriguez/NPR Immigration is "bringing in new folks that are really wanting to work," says Brent Sanford, who until January was North Dakota's lieutenant governor. Sanford now works for the state's petroleum industry, trying to fill jobs in the Bakken oil fields in western North Dakota. He's heading a project called Bakken GROW — short for Global Recruitment of Oilfield Workers. "As hard as this is, it's been easier to get 40 Ukrainian people here into these jobs than 40 people from you name the other state," Sanford says. North Dakota once had more immigrants per capita than any other state This isn't the first time North Dakota has seen a sudden influx of immigrants. In the late 19th century and early 20th centuries, hundreds of thousands of Europeans settled across the state. Norwegians were the largest single ethnic group, though there was also a sizable contingent of Germans from an area that is now part of Ukraine. Sponsor Message In the 1900 census, North Dakota had the largest share of immigrants of any state in the country. At the time, more than a third of the state's residents were born outside the U.S. Today, less than 5% of North Dakota's population is foreign-born. No one expects North Dakota to suddenly rival Florida, Texas or California as a magnet for new arrivals. But the state's labor shortage is driving modest changes. In April of this year, the Republican-led legislature and Gov. Doug Burgum created an Office of Legal Immigration, with the explicit goal of helping businesses in the state recruit foreign workers. The office is small — just two employees. But in a statement, Burgum said it will help to "alleviate our extreme workforce shortage, which remains North Dakota's No. 1 barrier to economic growth." Still, the name of the office itself — with its clear emphasis on "legal" immigration — hints at how divisive the issue remains in North Dakota. Former Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford, pictured in his office in Bismarck, now works for North Dakota's petroleum industry. He's trying to find workers to fill jobs in the Bakken oil fields in the western part of the state. Zayrha Rodriguez/NPR "It does get mixed up in illegal immigration," says Sanford, "because all we hear from the news is the frustrations of the southern border." Those concerns about immigration have occasionally erupted into moments of bitter disagreement. An argument over refugee resettlement in Bismarck For a little while in 2019, North Dakota was at the center of a nationwide debate about refugee resettlement. The Trump administration had just empowered local communities to say no to accepting refugees. Although that policy was later struck down in court, it touched off an impassioned argument in Burleigh County, which includes Bismarck. The city wasn't a major destination for refugees. In 2019, it got only two dozen refugees. The state as a whole received 124 refugees that year — mostly from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as smaller numbers from Afghanistan, Somalia and Sudan. Still, hundreds of people showed up at a local school, debating for close to four hours. Sponsor Message Many of the speakers argued that the resources dedicated to refugees would be better spent caring for the homeless or other local groups in need. And some did not trust the local refugee resettlement agency to follow through on its commitments to help. Supporters of refugee resettlement argued that the community could easily absorb a few dozen refugees and accused the other side of using arguments about fiscal responsibility to hide their racism and xenophobia. Finally, the county commission voted 3-2 allowing resettlement to continue, though it capped the number of refugees at 25 for the year. Retired welder Robert Field, pictured on his property near Bismarck, N.D., is concerned about the costs of refugee resettlement. Zayrha Rodriguez/NPR A lot of people were unhappy with that outcome, including Robert Field, a retired welder in Bismarck. "It isn't that we're racists and we're out burning crosses and against anybody," Field says. Rather, he recalls, there was a lot of concern about whether refugees would strain local services, like schools and hospitals. "It wasn't anything about trying to keep outsiders out," Field says. "We just didn't want people dumped here." Refugee advocates were at that meeting too, trying to defend the program. "I felt really frustrated with what I was hearing from the people sitting around me," says Leah Hargrove, executive director of the nonprofit Bismarck Global Neighbors, which helps new arrivals with integration. "You know just things that aren't true. And they are not true anywhere in the U.S." For example, refugees do not get free cars. They are legal immigrants, who are extensively vetted before they come to the U.S. The federal government pays for some benefits, and most costs do not fall on the state or local community. Still, Hargrove says she understands why there's concern. "It's wild, just the amount of diversity we've seen in North Dakota rapidly," Hargrove says. "I think it's fair to acknowledge that there are increased costs, and increased things you have to figure out. That's not different than the rest of the country is trying to figure out though. It's just new for us." Sponsor Message Changing attitudes in Fargo Immigration is still relatively new in Bismarck. But refugee resettlement has been going on for decades in North Dakota's largest city, Fargo. There's been pushback there, too. "We have people making obligations for the taxpayers of Fargo. That's the bottom line," City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn said in an interview with a local news outlet in 2021. The City of Fargo commissioned a study that found that refugees are an economic plus for host communities in North Dakota. Zayrha Rodriguez/NPR For years, Piepkorn has raised concerns about the costs of resettlement. In 2015, a petition at change.org drew thousands of signatures against continuing refugee resettlement in Fargo. But refugee advocates say attitudes have shifted in Fargo — driven in part by more vocal support from employees in the area. "I credit our employer community very much for that because they are clamoring for workers," said Dan Hannaher, the North Dakota field director for Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. "The voices of the progressive community and the congregations — those are always there. But when you have fervent voices at the Chamber of Commerce on your side," Hannaher says, "it creates an entirely new dynamic." Multiple studies — including one commissioned by the City of Fargo — have shown that refugees are an economic plus for their host communities over the long run. Nyamal Dei was born in what is now South Sudan. She was elected to the Fargo Public Schools Board of Education in 2022 — the first Black woman to be elected to public office in Fargo, N.D. Zayrha Rodriguez/NPR "Refugees are not a burden. They just looking for opportunity, just like anybody else," says Nyamal Dei, who was elected to the Fargo Public Schools Board of Education in 2022. That makes her the first Black woman to be elected to public office in Fargo — and possibly anywhere in North Dakota. Dei was born in what is now South Sudan, moved to Fargo for college 15 years ago and never left. She says attitudes about refugees in the city are changing. "Once you get to know your neighbor, you get to know who they really are. You know, we want to make sure that we support our kids," Dei says. "We want to see them succeed in life, just like any regular families in America. Or in the state of North Dakota in general. That's how I look at it." Sponsor Message Dei hopes the whole state will look at it that way, too. Because a lot more immigrants might be heading here, whether North Dakota is ready or not. For more information, visit us at https://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/.