This Week In Immigration – Week of June 21, 2021

This Week In Immigration

Wednesday June 23, 2021 – The vice president’s office announced Wednesday that she would go to El Paso, to address immigration issues. She traveled with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Tex.), who represents the El Paso area. Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas who has been critical of the Biden administration’s handling of the border, said in a statement on Friday that “if the Vice President came to Texas without a concrete plan to secure our border and is unwilling to reverse her administration’s failed immigration policies that caused the crisis, then her visit is nothing short of a glorified photo-op.” In a news conference on Friday at the end of her trip, she continued to emphasize the administration’s focus on the “root causes” of migration, saying you can’t deal with a symptom of a problem without dealing with the causes. “My trip to Guatemala and Mexico was about addressing the root causes,” she said. “The stories that I heard and the interactions we had today reinforce the nature of those root causes.” At the onset of her remarks, Harris named the root causes that she sought to address in Guatemala and Mexico — a lack of economic opportunity, violence, corruption, food insecurity and basic needs not being met. “So, the work that we have to do is the work of addressing the cause — the root causes,” she said. “Otherwise, we will continue to see the effect — what is happening at the border. It is going to require, as we have been doing, a comprehensive approach that acknowledges each piece of this. ” Earlier in the day, the vice president brought up the Trump administration’s handling of immigration. “We inherited a tough situation,” she said before a roundtable discussion, where she met with advocates from faith-based organizations, as well as shelter and legal service providers, to discuss the immigration situation. 

Thursday, June 24, 2021 – The Immigration Court System is heavily backlogged with 1.3 million asylum cases. With the historic increase in the influx of immigrants entering the United States, immigration judges fear the system will experience a further slowdown. Customs and Border Protection reported that agents encountered more than 180,000 migrants at the southern border in May alone, the largest number in the last two decades. Syracuse University has estimated that an average wait for a hearing date before the immigration court is 1642 days (54 months). Backlog of Cases in Immigration Court System Currently in the immigration courts throughout the United States are about 500 immigration judges. These are the first-level judges who decide on asylum cases, cancellation of removal cases for both lawful permanent residents and undocumented immigrants, and immigrants who are facing removal proceedings. When President Biden took office, the estimated backlog of immigration cases pending a hearing was at 1.3 million, with the number of immigrants entering the United States only adding to that number. In its budget, the administration has allotted funds for the appointment of 100 new immigration judges. Immigration judges are appointed for life by the attorney general and are employees of the Department of Justice. Immigration judges have often complained of the need for more judges to be appointed to ensure speedy adjudication; they have also expressed the need for more support staff.

Friday June 25, 2021  – Immigration detainees in ICE custody were force-fed in retaliation for going on hunger strikes to protest conditions inside U.S. immigration detention facilities, according to a new report. Hunger strikers were subjected to forced hydration, forced urinary catheterization and other involuntary and invasive medical procedures, placed in solitary confinement and experienced retaliatory deportations and transfers, according to the report by the American Civil Liberties Union and Physicians for Human Rights. 

Friday June 25, 2021 – Immigration Judges’ Union Under Threat – Immigration judges have been represented by a union, The National Association of Immigration Judges, since 1979. Former Attorney General William Barr petitioned to decertify the union. Then the Federal Labor Regulations Authority overturned years of precedent by ruling that immigration judges are management officials and must not be part of any collective bargaining unit. The Association is opposing the ruling and waiting for the Federal Labor Relations Authority to rule on their motion to reconsider. Many Congressional Democrats have urged Attorney General Merrick Garland and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco to rescind Barr’s petition. Attorney General Garland asserted that “immigration judges should be left alone to do their work.” He further expressed that he had not considered the issue regarding structuring the immigration system differently. A Justice Department spokesperson said that Garland has not yet decided on the issue of decertification of The National Association of Immigration Judges.

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