This Week In Immigration – Week of May 10, 2021

This Week In Immigration

5-14-21 After a Long Beach educational organization sued the Biden administration last month, several dozen immigrants have received travel permits to study abroad.  The approvals came just in time for the students’ trip to Mexico, which is part of a Cal State Long Beach program and is scheduled to begin Saturday. All the applicants have been spared from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which temporarily shields so-called Dreamers who came to the United States as children and have lived here without legal immigration status. A provision under DACA allows for legal travel for work, school, or humanitarian reasons. The complaint filed against the Biden administration in April had sought a response from immigration authorities to the applications that 84 Dreamers submitted nine months ago. They’d had to push their trip back by five months because of the delayed reply. Attorney Jorge Gonzalez said some of the applicants had received notices saying their paperwork would not be expedited. After the lawsuit was filed, he noticed a change — applicants started receiving notification that their travel documents were being generated. Last week, 22 members of Congress signed a letter written by Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) urging immigration officials to speed up processing times. 

5-14-21 President Biden on Friday revoked a 2019 proclamation signed by then-President Trump that prevented immigrants from obtaining visas unless they proved they could obtain health insurance or pay for health care. Biden said in his own proclamation signed Friday afternoon that the October 2019 order “does not advance the interests of the United States.” “My Administration is committed to expanding access to quality, affordable healthcare,” Biden’s proclamation states. “We can achieve that objective, however, without barring the entry of noncitizens who seek to immigrate lawfully to this country but who lack significant financial means or have not purchased health insurance coverage from a restrictive list of qualifying plans.” Biden ordered leaders at the departments of State, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security to “review any regulations, orders, guidance documents, policies, and any other similar agency actions developed pursuant to” the 2019 proclamation and issue “revised guidance” as appropriate that reflects his own policy. The action represented Biden’s latest effort to roll back a policy of the previous administration. It came minutes after the White House made public an executive order revoking the “National Garden of American Heroes” that Trump ordered built last year. Biden has been under pressure to undo Trump’s restrictive immigration policies in particular. Upon taking office, Biden signed executive orders upholding the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and repealing Trump’s travel ban targeting Muslim-majority nations. Biden has proposed immigration reform legislation but has remained focused on his infrastructure and families plans, which he unveiled earlier this year. Lawmakers have introduced similar immigration proposals in Congress but there has not been significant movement on any legislation to date and Democrats and Republicans remain far apart on how to address the issue.

5-14-21 President Biden on Friday met with six recipients of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program as he renewed a push for action immigration reform. The White House said that the participants, whose names were not released, work in the fields of health care, education and agriculture and that the meeting focused on their experiences working on the front lines during the pandemic. “President Biden reiterated his support for Dreamers, TPS holders, farmworkers, and other essential immigrant workers,” the White House said in a readout. “The President and the Dreamers also discussed the continued need for immigration reform and the White House’s strong support for the Dream and Promise Act and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, two bills that have already passed the House with bipartisan support and are awaiting action in the Senate.” Biden tweeted Friday evening that it is “long past time Congress pass the U.S. Citizenship Act,” the name for his immigration proposal. The meeting, which was not open to the press, represents an effort by Biden to demonstrate that immigration reform is a priority, even as he is primarily focused on negotiating with lawmakers on his $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan. Biden held two meetings with lawmakers this week, both of which included Republicans, in pursuit of a potential bipartisan agreement on infrastructure. Biden has signed a raft of executive actions aimed at rolling back the immigration policies of his predecessor, former President Trump, including a proclamation issued Friday that reversed a 2019 rule preventing immigrants who do not have health coverage or cannot afford it from obtaining visas.

5-14-21 President Joe Biden on Friday shot down a Trump proclamation that blocked potential immigrants deemed to be a “financial burden” on the nation’s health care system from coming to the United States, saying it didn’t align with U.S. interests.The 2019 proclamation had required immigrants to prove they would get qualifying health insurance within 30 days of coming to America or have the resources to cover medical costs. Biden has sought to reverse much of former Trump’s immigration policy, calling for a “fair and humane” system. The proclamation Biden revoked Friday wasn’t the only Trump-era rule based on immigrants’ financial means. The administration’s “public charge” rule allowed the government to hold back green cards from legal immigrants who received public benefits like Medicaid or food stamps or who were deemed likely to do so.

5-15-21 The Department of Health and Human Services has diverted more than $2 billion meant for other health initiatives toward covering the cost of caring for unaccompanied immigrant children, as the Biden administration grapples with a record influx of migrants on the southern border. The redirected funds include $850 million that Congress originally allocated to rebuild the nation’s Strategic National Stockpile, the emergency medical reserve strained by the Covid-19 response. Another $850 million is being taken from a pot intended to help expand coronavirus testing, according to three people with knowledge of the matter. The reshuffling, which HHS detailed to congressional appropriators in notices over the last two months, illustrates the extraordinary financial toll that sheltering more than 20,000 unaccompanied children has taken on the department so far this year, as it scrambled to open emergency housing and add staff and services across the country. It also could open the administration up to further scrutiny over a border strategy that has dogged President Joe Biden for months, as administration officials struggle to stem the flow of tens of thousands of unaccompanied children into the U.S. On its own, the $2.13 billion in diverted money exceeds the government’s annual budget for the unaccompanied children program in each of the last two fiscal years. It is also far above the roughly half-billion dollars that the Trump administration shifted in 2018 toward sheltering a migrant child population that had swelled as a result of its strict immigration policies, including separating children from adults at the border. In addition to transferring money from the Strategic National Stockpile and Covid-19 testing, HHS also has pulled roughly $436 million from a range of existing health initiatives across the department.

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