This Week In Immigration – Week of August 8-14, 2021

This Week In Immigration


IIRIRA Act Has Led to Doubling of Illegal Immigration – 

In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA). It was supposed to stop undocumented immigration by increasing enforcement and punishing people for being in the US undocumented. However, it had the opposite effect. Before 1996, Mexican immigrants who came to the U.S. unlawfully were about 50% likely to return to Mexico within a year. But in the years that followed, more people started staying in the US, according to data from the Mexican Migration Project. There were around 5 million undocumented immigrants living in the US before IIRIRA. Today, this amount is at least doubled. 

Build Bridges, Walls and Gates to Fix U.S. Immigration

More than 79% of computer science engineers in American universities and more than half of students in STEM graduate departments are international students. However, America struggles to retain this potential labor force. One of the biggest hurdles for the international students is the current backlog of work visa applications. Other ways for them to legally remain in the U.S. are to be sponsored by a U.S. citizen relative, being chosen through a lottery, or invest over a million dollars in a depressed community to gain a permanent residency over the course of five to 10 years.

Immigrants’ Pivotal Role in TeamUSA’s Olympic Success

The 600 athletes representing TeamUSA at the 32nd Summer Olympics won 113 medals, including 39 gold. At least 34 of the of them were foreign-born naturalized citizens. Thirteen are from Europe, followed by seven from Asia, six from Africa, six from South America and two from Australia. These foreign-born athletes comprise approximately 5% of the U.S. delegation and represent the best of U.S. athletics in track and field, equestrian, fencing, table tennis, volleyball, water polo and 15 additional sports. 


Biden Railed against Trump’s Immigration Policies, Now Defends Them in Courts

Donald Trump relentlessly focused on immigration during his presidency, reshaping virtually every aspect of the U.S. immigration system through executive actions, policy guidance, and regulatory changes. Despite having criticized Trump’s policies, Biden seems to be supporting some of them. Recently, the Biden administration defended a Trump-era policy in court that prioritizes the highest wage earners for a high-skilled worker visa program, a move that was expected to hurt foreign students, among others. The Biden administration also continues to defend Title 42, a public health order issued by Trump, as a way to expel most migrants without allowing them to seek asylum during the pandemic. 


How the Democrats Can Strengthen the Immigration Provisions in Reconciliation

Earlier this week, Senate Democrats released instructions for the budget reconciliation bill. The Judiciary Committee is instructed to include provisions for “lawful permanent status for qualified immigrants,” reportedly intended to cover Dreamers and other undocumented immigrants. Congress would also have to include in reconciliation those immigrants forced to wait in line because of wasted green cards. 

Immigrants under TPS and DACA are Entering a Crucial Phase in Confronting the Future of Immigration Policy

In June 2021, the United States Supreme Court unanimously ruled Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in the United States is not a legal means of entry into the country. In a separate ruling, in July, a federal judge in Texas ruled that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is unlawful, blocking new application approvals and denying pending petitions. The Biden administration said it hopes to appeal the decisions.


Immigration Bureaucracy Leads to Wait Time of Up to 62.5 Months – 

USCIS is the part of the immigration system that processes applications for immigration benefits, including applications for lawful permanent residence, naturalization, work authorization, and visa extensions. In the 2020 fiscal year, USCIS received 7.7 million applications. Due to the current backlog, millions of people have to wait a long time for their applications to be processed. For instance, the wait time for a decision on an application for a green card being processed at the USCIS Texas Service Center is currently 27 to 62.5 months. Applicants cannot inquire about the status of their applications unless they have been pending since May 24, 2016. These wait times do not even take into account the visa backlogs that leave applicants unable to even apply for years or, in some cases, decades.


Business Leaders Pressure Congress for Immigration Changes

A bipartisan coalition of business leaders announced a nationwide campaign to push Democrats to include in their $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants and deliver on long-promised revisions to the U.S. immigration system. Democrats hope to pass a path to permanent status for certain categories of undocumented immigrants, including those brought to the U.S. as children, farmworkers, and other essential workers, through the budget reconciliation process.

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