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January 6, 2020
History lessons on immigrant incarceration
Professor César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández has an interesting op-ed in the Los Angeles Times today concerning historic lessons about the politics of immigrant incarceration. Specifically, he discusses the Eisenhower administration’s decision to end immigrant incarceration in 1952, shuttering Ellis Island and 5 other detention sites. The United States was hardly a bastien of racial tolerance in 1952. Indeed, a massive round up of people from Mexico a couple of years later would end in the deportation of close to a million people - many of whom were U.S. citizens. But cold war political calculation and budgetary concerns made closure the right move. Wanting to distinguish the US as a "beacon of freedom" in contrast to the Soviet Union "it was more valuable to let migrants live freely in the United States than it was to keep them behind barbed wire." The article is also a good reminder that the United States did not detain immigrants, except in very rare circumstances, between 1952 and 1982.
Though professor García Hernández does not focus on the current political moment in this article, there are clear connections to be made. The Trump administration has been continually over budget for detention, and has moved money around to cover shortfalls - without Congressional authorization and thus possibly in violation of the law. As federal criminal incarceration overall is falling it makes sense that those who profit from incarceration would seek to raise the unjustified and unnecessary expenditures for incarcerating immigrants. While there is a clear humanitarian crisis here, sadly that will not move many members of Congress- we shouldn’t hesitate to raise these other issues as well.
Professor César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández is the author of Migrating to Prison: America’s Obsession With Locking Up Immigrants, released last year. I am currently reading this, and it is an excellent overview of immigrant imprisonment. He is doing speaking events around the country in support of the book. You can see a list of upcoming events here.
What does 2020 look like?
Stuart Anderson, writing in Forbes, has a highly detailed overview of immigration issues coming up this year. Forbes has done a surprisingly good job of covering immigration- especially, as one might suspect, changes in policies covering authorized immigration. This is largely thanks to Anderson’s regular reporting.
In the review, Anderson covers issues related to H1B and L1 visas, H-4 employment authorization documents, state of play on the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act (a Silicon Valley friendly effort to scrap country caps for visas), DACA, new restrictions being put forth for international students, lingering issues on the public charge rule change, temporary protected status, workplace enforcement, and USCIS fee increases. All worth a look. On Refugees and Asylum seekers, he writes:
Refugee and Asylum Policies: In September 2019, the Trump administration announced a historically low annual refugee admission ceiling of 18,000 for FY 2020, a reduction of 84% from the 110,000-limit set during the last year of the Obama administration. “The administration betrays our national commitment to offering refuge and religious freedom to persecuted Christians and other religious minorities,” said World Relief in a statement. There is no reason to anticipate the administration will raise the refugee ceiling for FY 2021.
In response to an executive order mandating consent from state and local authorities to resettle refugees, more than 30 governors have written letters to the State Department pledging their states will continue to resettle refugees. Three organizations have filed a lawsuit over the executive order.
Numerous lawsuits have challenged the administration’s asylum policies toward Central Americans. In one respect, the administration has already “won” on asylum, since the policies to block most asylum seekers and send them to Mexico and other countries have been allowed to remain in place while litigation has continued. Any court decision that compels the administration to stop its current policies would be the most significant events on asylum in 2020. (See #23f9bd107d8e">here for an analysis of asylum-related lawsuits.) In 2020, the administration will need to deal with an increase in Mexican asylum seekers fleeing violence in Mexico.
As Anderson also notes, the biggest immigration policy event of the upcoming year is the presidential election in November….
Courthouse Vigil in Greenbelt, MD
For those in the Washington DC area, there will be a vigil at the federal courthouse in Greenbelt, MD as the court hears arguments on challenges to the Trump administration’s executive order allowing states and localities to opt out of accepting refugees. Get there early to get inside, or join people in vigil outside. Details:
"Pack the courtroom - show support for refugee resettlement" as the Federal Court in Greenbelt hears arguments against a Trump administration Executive Order that allows states and localities to block refugee resettlement in their jurisdictions.
Wednesday, January 8, 2020
Federal Courthouse, 6500 Cherrywood Ln, Greenbelt, Maryland 20770
8:30 AM - Vigil outside the courthouse
9 AM - Begin lining up to enter the courtroom
10 AM - Oral arguments begin
After oral arguments - Press conference by the organizations that are bringing the lawsuit
Interfaith Immigration Coalition
Leadership Conference of Women Religious
Franciscan Action Network
the Jewish Council for Public Affairs
T'RUAH.(a Jewish human-rights organization)
The lawsuit against the executive order was filed by:
HIAS (a 130-yr-old international refugee support group with HQ in Silver Spring)
CWS (Church World Service, a 70-yr-old interfaith group to act on the biblical works of mercy)
LIRS (Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, an 80-yr-old group with HQ in Baltimore)