This Week In Immigration – Week of June 28, 2021

This Week In Immigration

Tuesday, June 29, 2021 – A group of 30 immigrant detainees in Newark, New Jersey, were quietly transferred to an unknown location in the early hours of Tuesday. Among them were some men who were on a hunger strike for over a day who had worries about being sent to another location and were demanding to be released. 30 detainees under the jurisdiction of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) were transferred out of the facility, and the Ice population in the facility is now down to 76 men.  The 39 detainees were believed to be on a hunger strike before the transfer, and that among their concerns were their video tablets being taken away – preventing them from communicating with attorneys and families about their potential move. Essex county correctional center announced in April it would end its 13-year relationship detaining immigrants with Ice, and would instead house an average of 300 prisoners from another shuttering facility in Union county. 

Tuesday, June 29, 2021 – The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the government can indefinitely detain certain immigrants who say they will face persecution or torture if they are deported to their native countries. The decision came on a 6-3 vote, with the court’s six conservatives in the majority and the three liberals in dissent. In the immigration case, the court was considering the rights of a relatively small subset of immigrants: those who were deported once before but reentered the United States illegally because they say they faced threats at home. At issue was a complex federal law that authorizes the government to detain immigrants and which section of it applies to these types of cases. One piece of the law says, “the alien may receive a bond hearing before an immigration judge” and thus the chance to be free while proceedings continue, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote for the majority. In the other, the immigrant is considered “removed,” and indefinite detention is warranted. Alito and his fellow conservative justices said it was the second that applied, and the detainees do not get a bond hearing. The court’s three liberals objected. The case involved people who an immigration officer found had credible fears of danger or persecution in their home countries. For instance, Rodriguez Zometa said he was threatened with death by the 18th Street Gang when he was removed to his home country of El Salvador. The question of whether the government could hold the immigrants without a hearing before an immigration judge had divided courts around the country. The case was argued before President Biden took office, and lawyers for the Trump administration told the court immigrants were not entitled to a hearing. Supreme Court rules some immigrants facing deportation can be held without bail

Tuesday, June 29, 2021 – U.S. officials will close four emergency facilities set up to house record numbers of migrant children crossing the Mexican border alone but cautioned Tuesday that minors were still arriving. The Department of Health and Human Services will shut two facilities in Texas and two at convention centers in California by early August, Aurora Miranda-Maese, juvenile coordinator for the agency’s office of refugee resettlement, said during a court hearing about custody conditions for migrant children. Four of the large-scale shelters will remain open, including one that has faced criticism from immigrant advocates at Fort Bliss Army Base in El Paso, Texas, she said. Others are in Albion, Michigan; Pecos, Texas; and Pomona, California, she said. U.S. officials have reported a recent drop in the number of children held in emergency facilities, including a more than 40% decline at Fort Bliss since mid-June. Miranda-Maese said more children are being released to relatives in the U.S. or being sent to state-licensed shelters, which have a higher standard of care. The emergency sites were set up by the Biden administration this spring to handle a rise in the number of children arriving on the southern border alone, many fleeing violence in Central America and seeking to reunite with relatives in the United States. 

Tuesday, June 29, 2021 — The U.S. Justice Department has dropped its opposition to reviving a union for immigration judges that had been stripped of authority during the final months of the Trump administration. With a backlog that exceeds 1.3 million cases, immigration courts will take center stage in any meaningful effort to revamp a nearly dysfunctional system. It is under growing strain as large numbers of families and children have appeared on the border this year to seek asylum, claims that often take years to resolve. In November, the Federal Labor Relations Authority ruled that the nearly 500 immigration judges in the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review were management officials and therefore ineligible for collective bargaining rights. The Justice Department, under pressure from labor groups and Democrats in Congress, told the labor relations board in a brief filing Friday that it no longer opposed efforts by the National Association of Immigration Judges to regain its authority. The judges’ union said in a statement Tuesday that it was optimistic the move would lead to restoration of collecting bargaining rights and reverse what it said was an attempt by the Trump administration to silence judges. The union had faced an attempt to be decertified once before and prevailed before the labor relations board in 2000. The Trump administration imposed measures on the courts that it said were aimed at increasing efficiency without sacrificing rights to a fair hearing but often alienated the judges’ union, which became an outspoken critic. Judges were required to complete 700 cases a year for satisfactory job performance ratings and prohibited from indefinitely suspending cases before them. Judges are employees of the Justice Department and answer to the attorney general, who sets policies and criteria on how judges should rule on cases. The union has advocated for independent courts, a position that the Biden administration has not embraced. 

Tuesday, June 29, 2021 – A wealthy Republican donor says he is funding up to 50 South Dakota National Guard troops whom Gov. Kristi Noem is sending to the U.S.-Mexico border. “I’m trying to help out the governor and help America,” said Willis Johnson, the billionaire founder and chairman of a global company called Copart Inc., which auctions used wholesale and wrecked cars. 

Wednesday, June 30, 2021 – Only a fraction of the tens of thousands of new applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program were approved in the first quarter of 2021, in adversity to the hopes of advocates who had hoped to see the program bolstered under a Democratic president. According to data released by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 763 new applications for the DACA program, which allows undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to live and work legally, were approved from January through March of this year. Nearly 50,000 applications were received, however, creating a total backlog of more than 55,000 applications. 

Wednesday, June 30, 2021 – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration Wednesday, seeking to block the transfer of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees at a New Jersey jail. The ACLU is seeking to prevent detainees from being transferred to remote locations across the country away from their families and attorneys as New Jersey appears set to pass a bill prohibiting local and state correctional facilities from housing federal immigration detainees. 

Wednesday, June 30, 2021 Parents of 368 migrant children separated at the border under Trump have still not been found, as attorneys are still trying to reach the parents of 368 migrant children who had been separated at the US-Mexico border under the Trump administration, down from 391 last month, according to a federal court filing Wednesday. The filing from the Justice Department and the American Civil Liberties Union is part of an ongoing effort to identify and reunite families three years after the “zero tolerance” policy was created. Since May, the parents of 23 of those children whose whereabouts were previously unknown have been found, according to Wednesday’s filing. Under then-President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, border officials separated at least 2,800 children from their parents, according to government data. Officials later found that more than 1,000 children had been separated from their families before Trump’s policy went into effect in 2018. The latest court filing is specific to those families separated under the Trump administration. 

Wednesday, June 30, 2021, Former President Trump Wednesday returned to the southern border and his favorite campaign issue to warn against the flood of illegal immigration that he blamed on the policies of his past and perhaps future political rival, President Biden. “All Biden had to do is go to the beach,” Trump told conservative supporters at a small rally south of McAllen, against the backdrop of his hulking but unfinished wall. “If he would have just done nothing, we would have now the strongest border we’ve ever had. It was even getting better and better and better because it was all kicking in.”Later, Trump declared that liberals “are destroying our country. Biden is destroying our country.” Trump was joined at the border by a band of House conservative allies and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), who has vowed to finish constructing Trump’s wall using a mix of private donations and state funds backfilled by unused federal COVID-19 relief dollars.

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