This Week In Immigration – Week of May 17, 2021

This Week In Immigration

5-18-21 A coalition of trade groups and nonprofits have filed a challenge to a Trump-era U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services rule that would replace the decades-old random lottery for awarding H-1B work visas with a system favoring higher-paid workers. The groups, including the Humane Society of New York and Dentists for America, said in a complaint filed in Washington D.C. federal court on Monday that the January rule arbitrarily favors workers in more expensive urban areas and makes it difficult for nonprofits to compete with private companies for high-skilled foreign labor. The plaintiffs also said the rule was invalid because it was issued by former acting homeland security director Chad Wolf, who was not properly appointed to the role. Federal judges in several cases challenging other Trump-era rules have agreed that Wolf was not appointed according to the proper order of succession.

5-18-21 The State Department on Tuesday made it easier for American citizens who used reproductive technology, including many in same-sex marriages, to confer U.S. citizenship on children they had while abroad, scrapping a previous genetic requirement imposed under prior administrations. Under the department’s new interpretation, children born abroad to married parents may be entitled to birthright citizenship as long as one parent is a U.S. citizen and the child is related either genetically, or gestationally, to one parent. Critically, the department will no longer require the child to be biologically related to the American parent in order for that child to be recognized as a U.S. citizen at birth, an issue that had a disproportionate impact on gay couples. This means children born abroad via surrogacy or through other forms of reproductive technology, using the sperm or egg of their non-American parent, for example, would still be entitled to birthright citizenship as long as their parents are married. The State Department said in a statement the updated interpretation “takes into account the realities of modern families and advances in [assisted reproductive technology].”

5-19-21  The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is easing some restrictions on who can apply for asylum in the U.S. and has reportedly begun allowing thousands of Central American migrants to enter the U.S. under the new policy in recent days.The Associated Press reported that the Biden administration has begun admitting migrants who wish to pursue asylum claims under a program aimed at helping the most vulnerable and at-risk people be admitted at the U.S.-Mexico border. Roughly 2,000 have already entered the U.S. under this new effort, an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) official told the AP. A DHS official told the AP that the agency was “working to streamline a system for identifying and lawfully processing particularly vulnerable individuals who warrant exceptions for humanitarian reasons under the Title 42 order.” The ACLU responded, warning that the program was not an adequate response to the changes put in place by the Trump administration, which utilized a provision of immigration law known as Title 42 to expel migrants from countries where a dangerous communicable disease is present; amid the COVID-19 pandemic, this allowed the U.S. to essentially block most asylum claims over the course of 2020.

5-19 -21 Attorneys are still trying to reach the parents of 391 migrant children who had been separated at the border under the Trump administration, down from 445 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 so-called “zero tolerance” policy was created. Since April, the parents of 54 of those children whose whereabouts had been previously unknown have been found, according to Wednesday’s filing.

5-21-21 The Department of Homeland Security is moving to halt detention of immigrants in two county jails under federal investigation, according to three sources familiar with the matter. The decision involves jails in Massachusetts and Georgia and is part of a broader reevaluation by the Biden administration of the federal government’s approach to these facilities.  Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas ordered Immigration and Customs Enforcement to end its contracts with the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office, located south of Boston, and Georgia’s Irwin County Detention Center. The pair are part of a broader constellation of more than 200 such facilities across the country used to detain immigrants facing deportation proceedings. Both facilities are under federal investigation for alleged mistreatment of immigrants in their custody.  

5-20-21 The top United Nations official for refugees on Thursday called on the U.S. government to rescind restrictions on asylum put in place during the pandemic. UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi in a statement said the United States should do away with Title 42, an interpretation of immigration law and a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guideline that allows border officials to quickly expel migrants crossing the border, including asylum-seekers.  The Title 42 order has resulted in the expulsions of hundreds of thousands of people to Mexico or their countries of origin, denying their access to asylum procedures,” wrote Grandi, in a rare rebuke of U.S. domestic policy. “Guaranteed access to safe territory and the prohibition of pushbacks of asylum-seekers are core precepts of the 1951 Refugee Convention and refugee law, which governments are required to uphold to protect the rights and lives of refugees. The expulsions have also had serious humanitarian consequences in northern Mexico,” added Grandi.Title 42 has been a main source of activist criticism against the Biden administration, as Title 42 was implemented by the Trump administration at the beginning of the pandemic, in a move that many saw as motivated by an animus to reduce immigration, rather than sanitary precautions. Still, the Biden administration has refused to fully do away with Title 42, only easing its application against unaccompanied minors. Department of Homeland Security officials have said maintaining Title 42 is necessary to avoid putting federal officers at risk of coronavirus contagion. But border officials regularly engage with certain migrants while implementing Title 42, sometimes for weeks at a time. 

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