More than 100 US companies, including a handful of tech heavyweights, are urging a federal court to reject the Trump administration’s “public charge” rule, which would reportedly make it easier for the government to reject green card and visa applications for low-income immigrants that it determines could be a burden on taxpayers.
In an amicus brief filed Thursday with the the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, the group says the public charge rule creates “unnecessary obstacles” for immigrants looking to come or stay in the US. They argue the regulation will “will slow economic growth, prevent businesses from expanding, and break faith with core American values.”
The brief was led by Boundless, a startup that helps customers navigate the US immigration system, and signed byMicrosoft, Twitter, Reddit, LinkedIn and others.
“President Trump has delivered on his promise to the American people to enforce long-standing immigration law by defining the public charge inadmissibility ground that has been on the books for years,” said Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, in the release. “Throughout our history, self-sufficiency has been a core tenet of the American dream. Self-reliance, industriousness, and perseverance laid the foundation of our nation and have defined generations of hardworking immigrants seeking opportunity in the United States ever since. Through the enforcement of the public charge inadmissibility law, we will promote these long-standing ideals and immigrant success.”
The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment.
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Texas border sees tense confrontations for immigrants
Originally published Jan. 17, 8:28 a.m. PT. Update, 1:28 p.m.: Adds response from USCIS.
In 2001, when I was the new Washington correspondent for The Arizona Republic, I attended the annual awards dinner of the National Immigration Forum. The forum is a left-right coalition that lobbies for unauthorized immigrants and expansive immigration policies. Its board has included officials of the National Council of La Raza, the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, as well as the United States Chamber of Commerce, the National Restaurant Association and the American Nursery and Landscape Association.
After dinner, the group’s executive director, Frank Sharry, made a pitch to business allies who wanted Congress to allow them unfettered access to foreign workers. “You guys in business get all the workers you want, whenever you want them,” he proposed. “No bureaucracy.”
“Sold!” yelled John Gay, a lobbyist for the American Hotel and Lodging Association. Mr. Sharry quickly added that the deal must include advocacy for “three little, tiny pieces of paper: a green card, a union card and a voter registration card” for unauthorized immigrants.
For me, a reporter who had long covered immigration in the Southwest and Mexico, the exchange was a revelation about the politics of immigration in Washington. Business lobbyists like Mr. Gay — conservatives who seek loose labor markets so employers can keep wages down — align themselves with liberal activists like Frank Sharry to pursue policies that serve their groups.
Who, I wondered, was lobbying for the American workers competing with the new arrivals? The answer, I learned, was no one. As the former labor secretary Robert Reich once put it, “There’s no National Association of Working Poor.”
This mismatch of political influence, combined with the social and fiscal consequences of a wave of low-skilled immigrants, led me to believe that immigration should be restricted so that its power to invigorate our country is not eclipsed by its potential to harm workers. I think immigration, like capitalism itself, should be regulated in the national interest, not shaped to serve the free-market libertarianism of the right or the post-national humanitarianism of the left.
That’s why I call myself a liberal restrictionist.I have long considered myself a moderate liberal, in part because Democrats have always been the allies of working people. For many decades, liberals were outspoken in their alarm about illegal immigration.
In 1970, Senator Walter Mondale warned that “we have a massive poverty population coming into the country” from Mexico. In 1983 a New York Times editorial argued that while the country needed immigrants, “what it does not need is such an uncontrollable flood of illegal migrants that it tries public patience.” In 1994, Barbara Jordan, the civil rights icon chosen by President Bill Clinton to direct the Federal Commission on Immigration Reform, told Congress, “As a nation of immigrants committed to the rule of law, this country must set limits on who can enter.” In 2003, Hillary Clinton declared that she was “adamantly against illegal immigration.”
But by the time Mrs. Clinton was running for president in 2016, she was courting the Latino vote, pledging not to deport unauthorized immigrants who did not have criminal records.
Now many liberal Democrats, including those who call for the abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, seek to erase the distinction between legal and illegal immigration. Under the banner of inclusiveness, equality, human rights, racial reconciliation and reparations for American interventions in the third world, those liberals demand sanctuary for those who make it past the Border Patrol or overstay a visa. Few speak openly of open borders, but that is essentially what they are calling for.
Over the years, righteous outrage against restrictionists has been fueled by some truly odious people. Lance Morrow of Time magazine described the problem in 1980: “Ku Klux Klansmen have paraded around Florida lately, dispensing their old nativist bile and giving a bad name to an argument (‘America for Americans,’ the picket signs say) that has more thoughtful and respectable proponents.”
Today, President Trump has brought such outrage into the mainstream with the repugnant charge that unauthorized immigrants “infest our country.” But Mr. Trump does not deserve all the blame for our dysfunction. The immigration debate has been warped by tribal passions on the left as well.
What the left misses is that as Mr. Trump pursues his draconian efforts to stem the tide, many Americans think he is fighting the good fight. They may be dismayed at his manic nastiness and his proclivity for crude insult. But they admire his willingness to wage what they see as a patriotic battle to defend common people.
Arthur Schlesinger Jr., the prominent liberal historian, believed that immigration restrictions were essential. He wrote in “The Disuniting of America” that while “any curtailment of immigration offends something in the American soul,” it was also true that “uncontrolled immigration is an impossibility.”
President Ronald Reagan in 1986 proclaimed that he and Congress had fulfilled that duty. He signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act, combining an amnesty with a program to stop future illegal immigration by requiring employers to verify that their new hires were legal.
The amnesty was delivered. Work-site enforcement was not. Illegal immigration exploded. From 1990 to 2007, the unauthorized population grew at an annual average of 500,000. It reached a peak of 12.2 million in 2007, before falling to its present level of about 11 million.
In 2004, as the national immigration reporter for the San Diego-based Copley newspaper chain, I returned to Arizona to report on Proposition 200, a statewide ballot initiative to deny public services to unauthorized immigrants. Public anxiety had grown in tandem with the state’s illegal immigrant population, which had jumped to 480,000 in 2005 from an estimated 88,000 in 1990.
In Phoenix I spoke with Donna Neill, a volunteer organizer in a working-class neighborhood and the driving force in the construction of a park that was used primarily by immigrant children. Nevertheless, she supported Proposition 200.
She pointed to crowded classrooms, apartments where two or three families crammed into a space meant for one and home additions in violation of housing codes that went unenforced. “We’re losing the simple things that make a society a society, but no one wants to step forward because they’re afraid of crossing some line and being called a racist,” said Ms. Neill.
Despite a publicity campaign that branded the proposition as racist, it was approved by a large margin. Exit polls showed that 47 percent of Latino voters had supported it. “People think they’re driving down wages and taking jobs,” John Garcia, a professor of political science at the University of Arizona, told me.(Such concerns would later be overshadowed by Latinos’ anger at a state law that targeted illegal immigration and by the neighborhood “sweeps” orchestrated by Sheriff Joe Arpaio.)
In 2008, I left the newspaper industry. But the immigration story still tugged at me. I was fascinated by its human, political and moral complexity. I also wanted to push back against the campaign by activist groups to label restrictionism as inherently racist. A year later, I became a researcher and writer for the Center for Immigration Studies, which seeks restrictions on immigration.
I disagree with some of the center’s hard-line positions. I favor a generous welcome for those who were brought here illegally as children and support comprehensive reform that would reprise the 1986 amnesty-plus-enforcement compromise. But restrictionists are right to insist that any new reform must guarantee work-site controls. They also make valid points in pushing for a system of legal immigration like the one developed by Canada, which favors people with education and skills.
No one understood the moral ambiguity of the immigration debate better than the historian and immigration scholar John Higham. Higham was a liberal contrarian who observed that while restrictionists “claimed to be the hard-boiled realists,” their realism “was seldom free of prejudice or hysteria.” On the other side, “anti-restrictionists tended to gloss over the dilemmas that immigration imposed.”
Higham urged adoption of the 1986 immigration legislation and was dismayed when it wasn’t enforced. In the Higham archives at Johns Hopkins University, where he taught for many years, I found a letter in which he identified himself as “a mild restrictionist.”
I like that label. It suggests the conciliatory spirit that our country so badly needs. As the political divide around immigration intensified in the years before his death in 2003, Higham worried about the prospects for such a spirit. “Are we experiencing, basically, an increasing indifference of people to one another, both within and between ethnic groups?” he wrote. “If so, immigration may prove to be just an aspect of a wider social fragmentation.”
Higham, it seems, anticipated the tempest now upon us.
Jerry Kammer, who shared a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 2006, is a senior research fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies and writing a book about the politics of immigration.
The number of immigrants to the United States from China, India and Mexico declined sharply between FY 2016 and FY 2018. If current immigration policies continue, then further reductions from these and other major immigrant-sending countries to America are likely.
Recently released data from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) show legal immigration declined by almost 87,000, by more than 7%, between FY 2016 and FY 2018. A National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) analysis found, “Excluding refugees means 122,412 fewer legal immigrants became lawful permanent residents in FY 2018 than in FY 2016, a decline of 11.5%.” Refugees apply for and become permanent residents typically a year or more after physically arriving in the United States, meaning many of the refugees counted as obtaining permanent residence in the FY 2018 statistics were approved prior to the start of the Trump administration (which has admitted a low number of refugees).
Immigrants from the largest-sending countries showed the most significant declines in immigration to the United States. The number of immigrants from Mexico fell by 7.3%, from 174,534 in FY 2016 to 161,858 in FY 2018. Immigration from China decreased from 81,772 in FY 2016 to 65,214 in FY 2018, a drop of more than 20%.
The number of immigrants from South Korea fell by 4,125, or 18.9%, between FY 2016 and FY 2018. Immigration from Vietnam went from 41,451 in FY 2016 to 33,834 in FY 2018, a drop of 18.4%. Looking at other countries: Compared to FY 2016, immigration in FY 2018 declined by 7.5% from India, by 6.1% from the Dominican Republic and by 11.3% from the Philippines. While the number of individuals counted as new permanent residents also declined from Iraq and Burma, the number of refugees approved in prior years for these countries complicates the data.
What is responsible for the United States admitting fewer immigrants from these countries in FY 2018? The data show the U.S. government permitted fewer Americans to sponsor a spouse, child or parent for immigration. Spouses, children and parents are in a category called the Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens.
“Between FY 2016 and FY 2018, the number of Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens admitted from Mexico fell by 14,002 (11.7%), the Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens from China dropped by 7,636, or 24.1%, while family members in that category declined by 17% from the Dominican Republic, 24.1% from the Philippines, 14.8% from India, and 17.3% from South Korea,” concluded the National Foundation for American Policy.
Trump administration policies contributed to the lower immigration numbers. The smaller number of spouses, children and parents of U.S. citizens may reflect processing delays and policy changes that would prevent individuals from obtaining permanent residence, noted the NFAP report. One such policy change was the March 6, 2017, presidential directive on “heightened screening and vetting,” which, in its practical effect, attorneys say directed U.S. consular officers and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) adjudicators to find a reason not to approve an immigration application.
At U.S. consulates, determinations of visa ineligibility based on 221(g) grounds increased for individuals applying for immigrant visas from 254,478 in FY 2017 to 341,128 in FY 2018, a rise of 34% or 86,650. 221(g) is a type of catch-all denial used by consular officers and defined as when an “Application does not comply with provisions of the INA [Immigration and Nationality Act] or regulations issued pursuant thereto.”
Jeffrey Gorsky, senior counsel at Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP and former Chief of the Legal Advisory Opinion section of the Visa Office in the U.S. Department of State, said in an interview that many cases designated under 221(g) are placed into “administrative processing.” He noted that could encompass many situations, including cases where a consular officer may believe more documentation is required or if security clearances are requested. As a result, many cases won’t be cleared or approved in the same fiscal year, or may never be approved.
The “travel ban,” issued in the form of a presidential proclamation, has prevented individuals from immigrating to the U.S. from five majority-Muslim nations – Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. While the proclamation allowed the possibility for issuing waivers, analysis finds immigration from the five countries decreased by 18,595, or 64.7%, between FY 2016 and FY 2018 (excluding refugees and asylees approved in earlier years).
Yemen saw the most significant drop, with the number of legal immigrants (excluding refugees and asylees) admitted from Yemen dropping from 12,906 in FY 2016 to 1,661 in FY 2018. Legal immigrants from Iran dropped from 10,187 in FY 2016 to 5,675 in FY 2018, while immigration (excluding refugees and asylees) also fell from Libya (down 16.4%), Somalia (a drop of 56.9%) and Syria (a decline of 51.2%). The White House may expand the travel ban to include more countries, according to the Associated Press.
Policies now blocked by the courts, such as the “public charge” rule and a presidential proclamation barring new immigrants from entering the U.S. without health insurance, could lead to much larger reductions in legal immigration. That means fewer immigrants from China, India, Mexico and elsewhere will be allowed to join their American citizen spouse or another close relative in the United States. In short, America will become a nation of fewer immigrants.
WASHINGTON—The Trump administration filed an emergency appeal Monday that asks the Supreme Court for permission to implement rules that would make it easier for the government to deny immigrants residency or admission to the U.S. because they use public-assistance programs or might use them in the future.
The administration last August adopted the rules, which would expand the pool of people considered likely to become a “public charge” under U.S. immigration law. The designation prevents an immigrant from obtaining a green…
BROWNSVILLE, Texas — The Trump administration recently agreed to open its “tent courts,” makeshift tribunals where immigrants made to wait in Mexico attend hearings, but lawyers and legal observers say the setup still fails to give full access to the public.
Attorneys and advocates said the government is keeping the public out of what some consider to be the most important part of immigration court proceedings by using judges located inside a private Fort Worth, Texas, facility. The hearings are where immigrants get the opportunity to present arguments and evidence as to why they should be allowed to stay in the United States.
Judges at the Fort Worth Immigration Adjudication Center, which the public has no access to, are overseeing the individual merits hearings via video that’s beamed into tent courts in Brownsville, Texas. At the same time, no one is allowed to attend the hearings in person, effectively closing off public access.
“It’s highly problematic,” said Laura Lynch, senior policy counsel at the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “Using these adjudication centers and judges is clearly intentional. The agency is trying to operate these cases in secret.”
The facilities in Fort Worth and Falls Church, Virginia, were created by the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), which oversees the nation’s immigration courts, as a way to reduce its growing case backlog.
Denying public access is especially concerning because most immigrants in the “Remain in Mexico” program, formally known as the Migrant Protection Protocols, are not represented by an attorney, Lynch said. An analysis of 56,004 MPP hearings found that only 4% of immigrants are represented by a lawyer; the rest have to make their case on their own.
“Many immigrants are walking into these tent courts unrepresented,” Lynch said. “And there’s no way to observe them.”
EOIR refused to confirm whether judges at the adjudication center were listening to merits hearings in Brownsville. But attorneys with clients at the Brownsville tent court confirmed to BuzzFeed News that they’ve had future cases rescheduled to judges at the Fort Worth adjudication center.
“All immigration judges hear all case types. Due to pending litigation, we have no further comment,” said Kathryn Mattingly, a spokesperson for EOIR.
The Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In September, DHS opened two temporary court facilities along the Texas border, one in Brownsville and another in Laredo for immigrants in the “Remain in Mexico” program. Judges in brick-and-mortar courts throughout the US, officials said, would hear their cases and make rulings via video.
When the tent courts started their first hearings, they were immediately criticized for their lack of transparency because reporters, legal observers, and the public couldn’t attend hearings from inside.
Instead, DHS and EOIR said the public could attend the hearings by going to the courtroom where the immigration judges, who would be present via video conference, were physically at. But that’s not possible when immigration judges hold merits hearings from adjudication centers closed to the public.
In general, immigration courts are open to the public — although, according to the Justice Department, plaintiffs can request that merits hearings be closed.
At the Brownsville tent courts, however, merits hearings are closed automatically by design, said Andrew Udelsman, a fellow in the Texas Civil Rights Project’s racial and economic justice program.
“The case right now appears to be a blanket rule that the public has no access to MPP merits proceedings, and that is illegal,” Udelsman told BuzzFeed News. “There is a First Amendment right of public access to court proceedings. That right is being violated by this blanket denial of access to merit proceedings.”
Last week, Reynaldo Leaños Jr., a reporter with Texas Public Radio, tried to attend a merits hearing at the Brownsville tent court after a Cuban asylum-seeker invited him to attend — but private security contracted by the government told Leaños no one was allowed in.
Asked by BuzzFeed News why that was the case, an Ahtna security guard at the facility, who declined to give his name, said it was because the shipping containers in which the merits hearings are held were too small to accommodate additional members of the public.
Norma Sepulveda, an immigration attorney who had a hearing last week in Brownsville with a judge located in Fort Worth, said it was “ridiculous” that the merits hearings were being held inside small shipping containers that only fit seven people.
“I don’t know why they put us in these tiny rooms to hold the hearings other than to say there’s no space for anyone else to be present,” she told BuzzFeed News. “These hearings are being scheduled with these judges intentionally to be able to conduct them without any oversight.”
Sepulveda said her client’s son, a US resident, was initially listed as a witness in the case and was allowed into the room. However, when Sepulveda said she was no longer going to call him to testify, he was removed from the room by private security.
“It’s clear to me that the policy is ‘no spectators,’ if you will, and ‘no family support for individual hearings,'” Sepulveda said.
Private security at the tent courts in Brownsville are also enforcing different rules from one day to the next, which legal observers and attorneys said does not make sense.
On the first day the public was allowed into the Brownsville facilities, private security agents said reporters weren’t allowed to attend hearings with a pen and notepad. Yet, on the second day, they did allow journalists to take notes, but not observers like Udelsman of the Texas Civil Rights Project.
Private security officials are also only allowing the public to view master calendar hearings, the first time people see a judge, which tend to be short preliminary hearings. Requests to attend different master calendar hearings, other than those held in the one room made available, were denied.
“They’re preventing anybody from being able to explain in the most accurate manner possible what’s happening,” Udelsman said. “You’re prohibiting the public from knowing what’s happening in the courtroom and making life as difficult as possible for the few people who are able to report on what’s happening.”