In line with other xenophobic actions too numerous to keep tabs on,President Trump issued a Presidential Memorandum dated July 21, 2020 entitled “Memorandum on Excluding Illegal Aliens From the Apportionment Base Following the 2020 Census.” From the title itself, it is readily obvious that the Trump administration does not intend to count undocumented or unauthorized immigrations in the 2020 census, which it pejoratively refers to as illegal aliens. Who is legal or illegal defies an easy definition. US immigration law is so paradoxical that even if one has been ordered removed, this individual may still be authorized to remain in the US and obtain work authorization.
Not only is this executive order unlawful and completely unconstitutional, but it boggles the mind regarding how the administration will ever be able to determine who is authorized or not in the US in order to be counted in the 2020 census.
It is vitally important to count population numbers to divide up seats in Congress among the states. Excluding undocumented immigrants will result in less seats in Congress for Democratic states. If unauthorized immigrants are left out of the apportionment count, according to the Pew Research Center, California, Florida and Texas are each likely to end up with one less House seat, while Alabama, Minnesota and Ohio are each likely to hold onto a seat they would have otherwise lost after the 2020 Census. Since the first Census of the United States in 1790, counts that include both citizens and noncitizens have been used to apportion seats in the House of Representatives, with states gaining or losing based on population change over the previous decade.
Lawsuits have been filed – here, here and here, justifiably challenging the exclusion of unauthorized immigrants from the census counts on constitutional and other grounds. The Presidential Memorandum follows the Supreme Court’s decision in New York v. Department of Commerce , 588 U.S. ___ (2019) that held that the Trump’s administration’s prior reasoning to include the citizenship question in the Census was “contrived” and thus arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act (see Can the Arbitrary and Capricious Standard under the Administrative Procedure Act Save DACA). Hopefully, the courts will also smack down this Presidential Memorandum for its blatant disregard of the Constitution’s mandate under the Fourteenth Amendment to count all residents in a state.
Section 2 of the Presidential Memorandum excludes “aliens who are not in a lawful immigration status under the Immigration and Nationality Act.” But this too is broad and vague. One who is in the US in temporary B-2 visitor status for three months is in a lawful immigration status. On the other hand, a person who has resided in the US for a decade and whose status expired a long time ago could be authorized to remain in the US upon filing an I-485 application to adjust status to permanent residence by virtue of a recent marriage to a US citizen. The Presidential Memorandum provides the following false rationale for excluding undocumented immigrants:
Excluding these illegal aliens from the apportionment base is more consonant with the principles of representative democracy underpinning our system of Government. Affording congressional representation, and therefore formal political influence, to States on account of the presence within their borders of aliens who have not followed the steps to secure a lawful immigration status under our laws undermines those principles. Many of these aliens entered the country illegally in the first place. Increasing congressional representation based on the presence of aliens who are not in a lawful immigration status would also create perverse incentives encouraging violations of Federal law. States adopting policies that encourage illegal aliens to enter this country and that hobble Federal efforts to enforce the immigration laws passed by the Congress should not be rewarded with greater representation in the House of Representatives. Current estimates suggest that one State is home to more than 2.2 million illegal aliens, constituting more than 6 percent of the State’s entire population. Including these illegal aliens in the population of the State for the purpose of apportionment could result in the allocation of two or three more congressional seats than would otherwise be allocated.
However, the rationale still does not explain whether one who entered without inspection, but is now authorized to remain in the US through the filing of an I-360 petition under the Violence against Women Act and a concurrent I-485 application will be included or not in the census. It does not appear that whoever drafted this document really had any idea about how “legal” or “illegal” is considered under the INA.
“Lawful immigration status” is specifically defined in the implementing regulations at 8 CFR 245.1(d)(1) rather than in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) itself, for purposes of determining who is eligible to adjust status under INA 245(c)(2). It provides for the following categories of persons who are in “lawful immigration status”:
(i) In lawful permanent resident status;
(ii) An alien admitted to the United States in nonimmigrant status as defined in section 101(a)(15) of the Act, whose initial period of admission has not expired or whose nonimmigrant status has been extended in accordance with part 214 of this chapter;
(iii) In refugee status under section 207 of the Act, such status not having been revoked;
(iv) In asylee status under section 208 of the Act, such status not having been revoked;
(v) In parole status which has not expired, been revoked or terminated; or
(vi) Eligible for the benefits of Public Law 101-238 (the Immigration Nursing Relief Act of 1989) and files an application for adjustment of status on or before October 17, 1991.
It is unlikely, however, that this is what the drafters of the Presidential Memorandum within the Trump administration had in mind in deciding who is in lawful status and who isn’t. As already explained, there is a large universe of persons who are authorized to remain in the United States but who do not fall into any of the above categories pursuant to 8 CFR 245.1(d)(1). Perhaps, one is giving the Trump administration too much credit about thinking through this definition and the drafters just assumed, albeit erroneously, that there are discrete classes of those in lawful status and those who are not. Immigration law is far more nuanced. One may not have been granted asylum, and thus qualify as an asylee under 8 CFR 245.1(d)(1)(iii), but an applicant for asylum is nevertheless authorized to remain in the US and can also obtain employment authorization after 365 days of filing the application. Similarly, one who files an I-485 application to adjust status is authorized to remain in the US even if the underlying nonimmigrant status has expired.
Any attempt to define who is unauthorized in order to exclude them in something as crucially vital as the decennial census count will get it wrong. Even Chief Justice Roberts got it wrong in Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting, 563 U.S. 582 (2011), when he wrote for the majority that an individual who “had been ordered removed” would establish that individual’s lack of authorization to work. In that case, the Supreme Court upheld an Arizona state law suspending business licenses if businesses hired people without work authorization. David Isaacson in his blog, If Even the Chief Justice Can Misunderstand Immigration Law, How Can We Expect States to Enforce It Properly? Removal Orders and Work Authorization, cites many other instances when a person with a removal order is still entitled to work authorization. For example, an asylum applicant who has been ordered removed but has filed a petition for review in circuit court can nevertheless apply for work authorization and is authorized to reside in the US during the pendency of the appeal. 8 C.F.R. § 274a.12(c)(18) also contemplates the issuance of work authorization to one who has been ordered removed if the person cannot be removed or where it is impractical to remove him or her. A DACA recipient who may have been the subject of a removal order at some point is now authorized to reside in the US without fear of removal.
The sheer inability to define who is a so called “illegal alien” further opens up the Presidential Memorandum to challenge in the courts. Persons whom the government may arbitrarily decide are unauthorized may be left out of the count even if they have been in the US for years, paid taxes and been authorized to reside and work under the law. These persons have also been denied their basic humanity by not being treated as persons. This executive action will also deter noncitizens from completing the census as most – unless they are lawful permanent residents -will not know whether they are documented or not. Four decades ago, the Supreme Court reaffirmed that an undocumented individual living in the United States “is surely ‘a person’ in any ordinary sense of that term,” “[w]hatever his status under the immigration laws.” Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202, 210 (1982). It is axiomatic that undocumented individuals are human beings and President Trump cannot change this. Given the sheer impossibility of determining who is and who is not legal, President Trump must be compelled by a court to count all persons for the census regardless of their immigration status. This is also mandated by the Constitution.
Archives for August 2020
Arizona has long been a testing ground for anti-immigrant laws and talk, but the state has seen a political shift. Analysts suggests that demographic changes, including a growing number of transplants from more liberal states and Latino voters, are responsible for the shift. This is partially true, but the origins of Arizona’s evolution into a pivotal battleground state can be attributed to a longer history and a broader cast of characters.
The extremism of the state’s Republican leaders has alienated voters, and given rise to coalitions of Democrats, Independents and even Republicans, who have come together to work toward a lasting political transformation of the desert Southwest. Their efforts have come to bear. In 2011 voters recalled the architect of the nation’s toughest immigration laws, in 2016 they ousted a controversial sheriff, and in 2018, they sent a Democrat to the Senate for the first time in 30 years. Joe Biden is currently polling ahead of Donald Trump.
Arizona’s anti-immigrant surge predates Joe Arpaio, but his election as the sheriff of Maricopa County in 1993 was a galvanizing moment for the activism that is now helping turn the state. In the 1990s, Mr. Arpaio built Tent City, an outdoor Arizona jail that he once described as a “concentration camp.” Under his watch, Maricopa County entered into an agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement that allowed the local police to enforce federal immigration laws.
Immigrant rights activists led the charge against Russell Pearce, the state senator who sponsored Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070, and Jan Brewer, then governor, who signed the bill into law in 2010. Known as the “show me your papers” law, it required the police to verify the immigration status of any detained or arrested person they suspected of being in the state illegally. Its passage was a flash point in the battle over immigration, giving birth to a new generation of young immigrants that organized protests, boycotts, and mounted legal challenges.
That same year, Ms. Brewer also signed a “constitutional carry” firearm law, which grants anyone over the age of 21 the right to carry a hidden, loaded firearm without a license. The shooting of Representative Gabby Giffords just months after the law was signed politicized the issue of gun violence in the state. The debate over guns is especially important in Arizona because shootings by police officers have risen steadily, and the Phoenix Police Department has been called “the deadliest force in the country.”
Like activists elsewhere, Arizonans have protested killings by the police in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. They’ve decried the killings of Dion Johnson in Phoenix, or Carlos Ingram Lopez in Tucson. But residents of Phoenix and Tucson — the seats of Maricopa and Pima Counties, home to three-quarters of the state’s population — have long protested and organized against police violence.
The pandemic and renewed civil unrest have accelerated the sense of urgency, but Democrats have been organizing not just for the moment, but also for the future.
The turning point when Arizona could become blue has been looming over the horizon for some time. President Trump won by only 3.5 percent of the vote in 2016. The 2018 midterm Senate election — when the Democratic candidate, Kyrsten Sinema, defeated the Republican incumbent, Martha McSally — was an important moment in Arizona’s evolution. In the House, Democrats picked up four seats, and today Republicans have only a one-seat advantage.
But even if Arizona has trended toward the Democrats for a while, 2020 “is our time,” said Alex Steele, an organizer with Arizona Ready, a movement working to defeat Mr. Trump in November. Indeed, what’s remarkable is how organizations have formed over the past decade to advocate for the rights of immigrants, workers, teachers, people of color facing police violence and Native Americans.
During a virtual conference hosted by Arizona Ready, earlier this summer, the focus was on the effort to defeat Republicans at the state and national levels. The fact that Mr. Biden and the Senate candidate Mark Kelly part company with progressive organizations on important issues won’t prevent progressives from supporting them. There are just too many “overlapping crises” that will “activate people on the left,” according to Emily Kirkland, the executive director of Progress Arizona.
Without a doubt, Republicans will be mobilized, too. Polls have found that Mr. Trump’s supporters in Arizona are more enthusiastic. Mr. Biden’s support among Latinos, especially Latino youth, has decreased over the past few months. The Covid-19 outbreak has led to a precipitous decline in voter registration in Arizona, and Republican leaders are fighting to make absentee voting more difficult. In a larger sense, it won’t be easy to flip a state that has been reliably conservative for so long.
If Arizona does flip, Democrats would break the hold that Republicans have had on the state since the mid-20th century. A Democratic victory in Arizona may not signal the rise of progressivism that many on the left hope for — and which these times of manifest injustice and inequality seem to demand — but wins there would signal the beginning of an end to the ugliness of the past decade and more. It would be a dramatic reversal of fortunes for a party and a president who’ve long viewed Arizona as a stronghold. In 2016, Arizona’s Republican leaders made Trump the embodiment of all they’d worked for, and it may spell their demise.
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Immigrants to the United States have become more educated since the Great Recession. Between 2007 and 2017, the share of recent working-age immigrants who have a four-year college degree rose from 32 percent to 45 percent. Although this trend is a positive development, policymakers should interpret it cautiously. “Educated” is not the same as “skilled”, and evidence is growing that a college degree is not as meaningful for immigrants as it is for the native-born.
Consider income. The figure bellow compares the average income of recently arrived, college-educated immigrants in their prime working years (ages 25 to 54) with their U.S.-born counterparts who have the same age and education. (“Recently arrived” means within the last 10 years of the survey year. In other words, data from 1980 covers immigrants who arrived between 1970 and 1980; data from 1990 covers immigrants who arrived between 1980 and 1990; and so on.) Because changes in the race and gender composition of the workforce could complicate the trend, only men are included in the analysis below, and the U.S-born comparison group is limited to non-Hispanic whites.
Among prime-age men with a four-year college degree, recent immigrants continue to earn less than U.S.-born white Americans.
Source: Decennial Census, 1980-2000; American Community Survey, 2010 and 2017.
The leftmost dark green bar indicates that among prime-age men with a college degree, recently-arrived immigrants in 1980 earned 35 percent less than U.S.-born whites. Moving from left to right, the dark green bars show that the income deficit declined to 25 percent by 2000. Unfortunately, the decline seems to have stalled, and the deficit remained substantial in 2017 at 24 percent. Since recent immigrants with a college degree suffer such a large income penalty, it is unlikely that they are as productive as their U.S.-born counterparts.
One reason for the deficit may be that immigrants struggle to find regular work that matches their education level — perhaps because they are unfamiliar with regulations, networking, and licensing requirements in their new country. Indeed, a recent study by the Center found that 20 percent of college-educated immigrants work in a low-skill occupation, compared to 7 percent of college-educated natives. The light green bars on the figure above show that after controlling for occupational status and time on the job, the income deficit shrank to 13 percent in 2017. A mismatch between education and occupation clearly causes some of the observed deficit.
Nevertheless, recently arrived immigrants with college degrees earn significantly less than college-educated natives even when they work the same hours in similar jobs. Why? One possibility is a lack of bargaining power. Some immigrants are in the country illegally, and others hold temporary visas that restrict their job options.
Another possibility is that college-educated immigrants are less skilled than their native counterparts. The Center published an important study last year showing that foreign-educated immigrants scored far lower on tests of literacy and numeracy than did U.S.-educated immigrants and natives. In that study’s dataset, over three-quarters of recent prime-age immigrants with a college degree earned it before coming to the United States, so it is no surprise that the immigrants analyzed here have lagging incomes. It would be interesting if the decline in the income deficit since 1980 is a result of more immigrants having U.S. degrees, but we lack the historical degree data needed to test that theory.
More research is needed, but the existing data clearly indicate that “educated” is not the same as “skilled”. College graduates are not interchangeable with each other, especially in an immigration context where acculturation affects labor market success. If the United States wishes to recruit skilled immigrants who will be highly productive upon arrival, the selection process needs to consider more than mere educational credentials.
This analysis uses the decennial Census (1980 through 2000) and the American Community Survey (2010 and 2017). The dark green bars represent the results of the following regression: log income = age_group + recent_immigrant + recent_immigrant * year. The regression is limited to people with bachelor’s degrees who are no longer in school. Ages are in five-year groupings.
Results shown by the light green bars are further limited to employed individuals, with added controls for weeks worked, usual hours worked per week, broad occupational groupings, and the Nakao-Treas occupational prestige score provided by IPUMS. The prestige score is not available for 2018, necessitating the use of 2017 as the most recent year. Average earnings could be skewed by top- and bottom-coded income data, but regressions using median earnings produced similar patterns of results. The analysis above focused only on college graduates; among individuals with advanced degrees, the immigrant income deficit in 2017 was 14 percent before controls and 9 percent after.
Surprisingly, excluding immigrants who are likely illegal appears to have little effect on the results. The Center’s method for identifying likely illegals in Census data may not be robust to such a specialized subset of immigrants, however, so this finding is only tentative.
Communication with the outside world is crucial for people in jail. This includes individuals facing deportation while detained in immigration detention centers, who do not have the right to court-appointed counsel.
Having the ability to make a phone call in a detention center is essential for a variety of reasons. Individuals need to secure legal representation or advice, gather evidence to support their defenses against deportation, and receive needed emotional support from family and friends.
Despite the importance of phone access for detained immigrants, U.S.Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has routinely failed to ensure reliable and accessible phone calls in its facilities for decades.
Hurdles to phone access for detained immigrants, which mirror those for incarcerated individuals in every U.S. jail system, include:
- Exorbitant rates to place phone calls.
- Heavy surveillance of phone calls, including those with legal counsel on the line.
- Lack of privacy during calls.
- Dropped calls and unclear or inconsistent guidance on the availability of free phone calls to authorized legal service providers.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person visits have been largely discontinued at immigration detention facilities. Phone access is more important now than ever before.
Advocates have long challenged poor phone access at ICE facilities. A California lawsuit resulted in a 2016 settlement agreement that made improvements at designated facilities in Northern California.
The fight for phone access continues. A recent challenge in Southern California resulted in a court-issued order that required ICE to provide free, unmonitored, unrecorded legal calls to detained individuals—reflecting the importance of phone access during the pandemic. And advocates filed a preliminary injunction to secure adequate phone access at a New Mexico jail on August 26.
Unfortunately, there is another complicating factor to securing proper phone access in detention centers. ICE frequently contracts with a private, prison telecommunications firm that manages and monitors its phone lines.
This set-up—highly lucrative for companies and fraught with troubling concerns about incentivizing further detention and data harvesting—means that ICE routinely evades accountability for an acceptable phone system in its jails. Local counties also profit from this arrangement.
ICE would do well to follow the recent example in San Francisco, which joined New York in making all phone calls from jails free, in addition to ending nearly all commissions based on phone charges. These challenges will likely and justifiably continue until ICE provides universally free, confidential, and unmonitored phone access to individuals in its custody.
WASHINGTON —President Trump moved within weeks of taking office to prohibit immigrants from Sudan from entering the United States, citing terrorism threats and including it in his travel ban on some predominantly Muslim countries — restrictions that remain partly in place today. But on Tuesday, when Mr. Trump wanted to portray himself as pro-immigrant, he invited Neimat Abdelazim Awadelseid, a Sudanese woman who had just qualified to become a U.S. citizen, and four others to a White House naturalization ceremony that his re-election campaign featured prominently during the Republican National Convention.
The president’s willingness to use the trappings of presidential power during a campaign convention was a striking departure from previous presidents who avoided so blatantly blurring the lines between official actions and political activity. And Mr. Trump’s declaration that “we welcome five absolutely incredible new members into our great American family” stands in stark contrast to his anti-immigrant policies, often fueled by xenophobic language.
His decision to preside over the naturalization ceremony appeared aimed at suburbanites, people of color and women put off by his usually strident talk.
Ms. Awadelseid, 66, a substitute teacher who works with Sudanese children in her suburban Virginia community, said in an interview that “it is hard for my country” to be subject to travel restrictions but that it was an honor to visit the White House.
“It is a special moment, to get it from a president of the United States, to give me the citizenship,” she said. Ms. Awadelseid, who received a master’s degree and a doctorate from the University of Wyoming, has lived full time in the United States since 2000. She said she did not like to talk about politics and did not say whether she was surprised that her ceremony was broadcast during the convention.
But others, including Sudha Sundari Narayanan, 35, who was also among the five people sworn in at the White House, said they had not been told.
“I was surprised and shocked and excited,” said Ms. Narayanan, who immigrated to the United States in 2007 from India.
Ms. Narayanan, who said she did not have an opinion about Mr. Trump’s immigration policies, said she found out that the ceremony aired during the convention only when an excited friend called her later that night telling her she was on television.
“I never dreamed that something like this would happen,” Ms. Narayanan said. “I’m just a very simple girl trying to get my family running.”
Salih Abdul Samad, a Ghanaian chef, also did not know that the event would be broadcast during the convention. By Wednesday morning, he had received messages from friends around the world about his new fame.
“When you call me, you have to go through security background checks because I’m a star,” Mr. Abdul Samad, 44, joked. He added that he was thankful for the United States, particularly the Affordable Care Act, which he said saved his life when his kidneys failed six years ago.
“I’m so ever grateful to this country for what they’ve given me,” Mr. Abdul Samad said.
The decision by Mr. Trump’s campaign to feature the naturalization ceremony angered some senior officials with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which oversees the naturalization process. Several expressed frustration with what they described as a politicized event.
Some asylum officers confronted senior agency officials during a virtual town hall on Wednesday about whether Chad F. Wolf, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, had violated rules prohibiting political activity by presiding over the ceremony.
“It’s one of the things that shouldn’t be politicized, and you can hardly get more political than your partisan political convention,” said Barbara Strack, a former chief of the refugee affairs division at Citizenship and Immigration Services during the Bush and Obama administrations.
White House officials said Wednesday that the ceremony, which featured Mr. Trump arriving to “Hail to the Chief,” was an official government event because it was taped Tuesday afternoon and publicly made available on the White House website. A White House spokeswoman said the president’s re-election campaign had simply decided to use it once it was on the website.
Planning for the event began early last week when White House officials reached out to the Washington office of the citizenship and immigration agency with a request to organize a naturalization ceremony at the White House, according to a senior administration official. Naturalization ceremonies have been held at the White House under previous presidents and Mr. Trump himself, but this appears to be the first time one has been broadcast during a political convention.
As the weekend approached, the White House officials requested information about the potential candidates for the ceremony and suggested the agency find immigrants from Mexico — something of a turnaround from Mr. Trump’s usual messaging on Mexico. When he announced his candidacy in 2015, he warned of Mexican “rapists” coming to the United States, and he has spent nearly four years trying to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. As it happened, no one from Mexico was at the ceremony.
Ms. Narayanan, from India, had traveled to the United States with her husband, who came on a student visa. Ms. Narayanan accompanied him on an F2 visa that allows spouses and dependents of foreign students at American schools to temporarily stay in the United States. Last July, the Trump administration proposed stripping international students of their visas if they exclusively took online courses during the coronavirus pandemic, but after an outcry from colleges and universities, the rule was rescinded.Aug. 26, 2020, 7:40 p.m. ETAug. 26, 2020, 7:09 p.m. ETAug. 26, 2020, 5:14 p.m. ET
Ms. Narayanan, who has two children born in the United States, obtained lawful permanent residency in 2013. She said she took her citizenship test and had her required interview just a week before she received a call about the ceremony at the White House.
“It was very warm and welcoming,” Ms. Narayanan said of the event with the president. “I told him it was such an honor to meet him.”
Ms. Awadelseid, from Sudan, studied at the University of Wyoming twice, first to get her master’s in the early 1980s and then her doctorate in 1994. She said both degrees were in animal nutrition. She arrived in the United States permanently in 2000, and eventually got a green card through sponsorship by her brother, who had already become a citizen.
“The situation in Sudan was really not good politically and economically and everything,” she said. “When we found the chance to be a permanent resident here in the U.S.A., we stayed.”
She said she planned to quickly register to vote in the 2020 election.
“I’m excited about that,” she said.
The other attendees included Rima Gedeon, 46, from Lebanon, who works at a preschool in Virginia, and Robert Alcocer, 32, from Bolivia, who works at a construction company.
While the administration highlighted the ceremony at the White House, employees with the citizenship and immigration agency say future naturalizations are likely to face delays. On the same day as the ceremony, the administration canceled furloughs for more than 13,400 agency employees by cutting costs that would slow down future naturalizations.
The Trump administration also moved late last month to raise the cost of naturalization applications by more than 80 percent and to substantially tighten eligibility requirements for a subsidized application.
Of all the contradictions about a White House naturalization ceremony during the Republican National Convention, the starkest of all may be that Mr. Trump himself started an initiative seeking to potentially strip the citizenship status of thousands of people — a departure from the past several decades of practice and Supreme Court precedent.
Mr. Trump’s Justice Department announced in 2018 a goal of filing 1,600 denaturalization cases, a major acceleration of the previous use of denaturalization. Fewer than 150 people had been denaturalized in American courts in the previous 50 years, almost all of them Nazis, war criminals or people who were convicted of federal crimes tied to large-scale immigration fraud.
The president has largely blocked asylum seekers and refugees fleeing persecution, war and violence. He has built nearly 300 miles of border wall (though without persuading Mexico to pay for it, as he once insisted). He has made it harder for poor people to immigrate to the United States, imposed travel bans on predominantly Muslim countries and separated migrant children from their parents at the border.
Mr. Abdul Samad said Wednesday that he found the president’s comments about African nations as “very painful,” but he was “very very honored and grateful” to Mr. Trump for inviting him to the White House.
“That doesn’t mean that I can’t criticize him or I won’t criticize him when he does something bad or something I feel is not good,” Mr. Abdul Samad said.
At the ceremony, Mr. Trump listened to the five immigrants take the oath of citizenship, then approached the lectern to briefly share each of their stories.
“Congratulations,” he said. “That’s fantastic. That’s really great.”
Last week, during a briefing from border officials in Yuma, Ariz., the president had similar praise for a very different achievement.
“That’s fantastic. That’s fantastic,” he told border officials about the completion of nearly 300 miles of the border wall. “So, it’s a great — it’s a great feeling to have closed up the border.”
Caitlin Dickerson contributed reporting from New York.
WASHINGTON — Fifteen days before the 2018 midterm elections, as President Trump sought to motivate Republicans with dark warnings about caravans heading to the U.S. border, he gathered his Homeland Security secretary and White House staff to deliver a message: “extreme action” was needed to stop the migrants.
That afternoon, at a meeting with top leaders of the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection officials suggested deploying a microwave weapon — a “heat-ray” designed by the military to make people’s skin feel like it is burning when they get within range of its invisible beams.
Developed by the military as a crowd dispersal tool two decades ago, the Active Denial System had been largely abandoned amid doubts over its effectiveness and morality. Two former officials who attended the afternoon meeting at the Homeland Security Department on Oct. 22, 2018, said the suggestion that the device be installed at the border shocked attendees, even if it would have satisfied the president. Kirstjen Nielsen, then the secretary of Homeland Security told an aide after the meeting that she would not authorize the use of such a device, and it should never be brought up again in her presence, the officials said.
Alexei Woltornist, a spokesman for the Homeland Security Department, said Wednesday that “it was never considered.”
But the discussion in the fall of 2018 underscored how Mr. Trump’s obsession with shutting down immigration has driven policy considerations, including his suggestions of installing flesh-piercing spikes on the border wall, building a moat filled with snakes and alligators and shooting migrants in the legs.
The dark warnings of a looming invasion had little impact in 2018, when a Democratic wave swept Republicans from control of the House. The Republican convention on Tuesday night featured a small citizenship naturalization ceremony at the White House clearly designed to try to soften the president’s image as a heartless foe of immigrants.
But for his core supporters, Mr. Trump’s immigration agenda is again at the heart of his campaign, and the unrest roiling cities from Portland, Ore., to Kenosha, Wis., could give it more punch. The pitch: He has delivered on perhaps the central promise of his 2016 run, to effectively cut off America from foreigners who he said pose security and economic threats. Through hundreds of regulations, policy directives and structural changes, the president has profoundly reshaped the government’s vast immigration bureaucracy.
His campaign will also concentrate on searing, and often false, attacks against former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., telling voters that the president’s rival wants to fling open the nation’s borders to criminals and disease-carrying immigrants who will take jobs from hard-working Americans.
“The public health necessity and the economic necessity of controlling immigration has placed the view of the Democrat left even more radically outside the pale of mainstream American thought,” Stephen Miller, the architect of the president’s immigration policies said in an interview this week.
The president tweeted last month, “the Radical Left Democrats want Open Borders for anyone, including many criminals, to come in!”
Mr. Biden’s campaign said such false attacks will be as politically ineffective as they were in 2018, long before the coronavirus and economic recession.
“Doubling down on divisive poison says one thing to voters: that even after all his devastating failed leadership has cost us — and even though Joe Biden has been showing him the way for months — Donald Trump still has no strategy for overcoming the pandemic, the overwhelming priority for the American people,” said Andrew Bates, a spokesman for Mr. Biden’s presidential campaign.
Mr. Biden has not called for “open borders” or embraced getting rid of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as some on the Democratic left flank have pushed. He has said he would roll back Mr. Trump’s immigration policies, promising to restore asylum rules, end separation of migrant families at the border, reverse limits on legal immigration and impose a 100-day moratorium on deportations.
But Mr. Biden and Democratic congressional candidates are bracing for what they expect will be a concerted focus on one of the most polarizing issues in American politics — made even more divisive by Mr. Trump’s embrace of ugly, xenophobic language about foreigners.
Some of Mr. Trump’s biggest immigration promises from 2016 have fallen short. No “big, beautiful wall” stretches the length of the southern border, paid for by Mexico. Instead, the president spent billions of dollars of taxpayer money to replace about 300 miles of existing barriers with a hulking wall built of steel slats.
Many of the president’s ideas — including the moat and the “heat ray” — were thwarted by his own officials. Other policy proposals have been blocked by federal judges who have ruled that they violated existing laws, administrative rules or the Constitution.
But even the president’s most fierce critics concede that on immigration, the president can rightly claim that he did much of what he said he would do.
“The Trump administration, unilaterally, without passing laws in Congress, has radically reshaped immigration in the United States,” said Omar Jadwat, the director of the Immigrants’ Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union. “They have effectively shut down the asylum system at the border. They’ve reintroduced religious, racial and national origin discrimination into our immigration system. These are real, radical shifts.”
Because of president’s policies, Central American migrants fleeing persecution and violence in their home countries now must wait, often for months, in squalid camps on the Mexico side of the border while the United States considers their requests for asylum. For decades, asylum seekers were allowed to remain in the United States while their cases were decided.
Mr. Trump derides that as “catch and release,” which he says allowed hundreds of thousands of migrants to fraudulently claim persecution as a means of entering the United States and then disappearing into the country illegally. He repeatedly said it was his top priority to end the practice.
Advocates say he has largely succeeded, aided in part by the coronavirus pandemic. The president has used emergency powers designed for public health crises to turn away all asylum seekers, effectively ending the role of the United States as a place of refuge for those fleeing their homes.
Those deeply-rooted changes are a “bell can never be unrung,” one senior aide said.
Even before the pandemic, he had lowered the annual cap for refugees to a trickle, shutting the United States off from war-torn countries like Syria or Somalia.
“Refugees have been left separated from their families or in the United States they’ve been left without access to critical medical care, or have been left in places where their lives are in danger,” said Eleanor Acer, the senior director for refugee protection at Human Rights First. “And for refugees seeking asylum, the asylum system has been totally decimated. Refugees seeking asylum have been turned back to some of the most dangerous places in the world.”
And from the earliest days of his presidency, Mr. Trump has used national security concerns to justify a crackdown on immigration from around the globe, imposing a travel ban on several mostly-Muslim countries just days after taking office in January of 2017. A version of that travel ban remains in place, and served as the template for other travel bans put in place during the pandemic.
Processing of visa applications from many countries around the world had already slowed to a crawl before the health crisis as the administration aggressively implemented what the president called “extreme vetting” of people from countries deemed to harbor terrorists.
The administration has also moved aggressively to reduce the flow of legal immigrants who have for decades sought to live and work in the United States.
They have drafted new regulations aimed at making it harder for poor immigrants to qualify for entry into the United States, arguing that they would be a financial burden on the country. And they have aggressively sought to eliminate programs that allowed American companies to lure foreign workers to the United States for jobs.
Mr. Miller, in particular has argued that such programs put working class Americans at a competitive disadvantage — a potent campaign theme — though experts say that, overall, immigrants do not drive down wages or take jobs from American citizens.
Some conservatives say Mr. Trump has not gone far enough to stop immigrants from working in America.
“There are areas where this administration isn’t as hawkish as they should be,” said Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which pushes for immigration restrictions. He said Mr. Trump has failed to push for a program that would let employers quickly determine if a worker is in the country illegally.
“Where the hell is E-verify?” he asked. He said the president has done to little to end the H2B visa program that allows companies to hire temporary workers from abroad for seasonal jobs. “The H2B program shouldn’t exist. It is harmful, period.”
Still, David Lapan, who served briefly as the top spokesman at the Department of Homeland Security in 2017, said that the president’s success in pushing through his immigration agenda will make it difficult for Mr. Biden, should he win in November.
“If the president is not re-elected, and Joe Biden becomes the president, he and his administration are going to have their hands full on a number of fronts, Covid, chief among them,” Mr. Lapan said. “Trying to undo the damage that has been done to the immigration system is going to be a further challenge. And how much is the next administration able to focus on that, given the panoply of challenges that they’re going to face?”
WASHINGTON — President Trump sought Tuesday to wrap himself in pro-immigrant sentiment — even though his administration has waged a yearslong assault on the nation’s immigration system — by presiding over a naturalization ceremony at the White House during the second night of the Republican National Convention.
Using the majesty of the White House for blatantly political purposes, Mr. Trump appeared during the convention’s second hour as “Hail to the Chief” played and strode to a lectern where five immigrants were waiting to take the oath to become citizens.
“Today, America rejoices as we welcome five absolutely incredible new members into our great American family,” he told them in a 10-minute ceremony that had been taped in the afternoon.
It was not the first time Mr. Trump has presided over such a ceremony. But the willingness to use the trappings of presidential power during a campaign convention was a stunning departure from the past, in which prior presidents have avoided seeming to blur the lines between official actions and political activity.
And Mr. Trump’s explicit claim that he loves and appreciates immigrants stands in stark contrast to his record over the past four years, during which he has repeatedly pursued anti-immigrant policies, often fueled by xenophobic language.
The president has largely blocked asylum seekers and refugees fleeing persecution, war and violence. He has built nearly 300 miles of border wall (though without persuading Mexico to pay for it, as he once insisted). He has made it harder for poor people to immigrate to the United States, imposed travel bans on predominantly Muslim countries, and separated migrant children from their parents at the border.
That messaging was at the heart of Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign, when he complained that Mexico was sending “rapists” and criminals to the United States. At the time, he vowed to build a border wall and used grim and threatening language about immigrants to instill fear in his supporters.
As president, he made good on many of those promises, and again used a fear of immigrants to energize his core supporters during the 2018 midterm elections. He warned, falsely, that migrant caravans from Central America were filled with murderers and criminals when in fact most were families with women and children fleeing persecution, war, famine and violence.
The 2018 effort largely failed as Democrats retook control of the House. But Mr. Trump and his political advisers have signaled that they still intend to use immigration as a central issue in his re-election campaign.
On Tuesday night, the decision to preside over the naturalization ceremony appeared to be intended to soften his attacks on immigration for particular groups of voters: suburbanites, people of color and women who might be put off by his usually strident talk.
After listening to the five immigrants take the oath required to become citizens, Mr. Trump approached the lectern to briefly share each of their stories.
“Congratulations,” he said. “That’s fantastic. That’s really great.”
But the strongly anti-immigrant message that he has long delivered to his most fervent supporters is not likely to change anytime soon.
Even though he praised the new citizens, Mr. Trump has long sought to reduce legal immigration into the United States and has recently moved to shrink or eliminate visa programs that allow companies to hire foreigners to work in the United States. Aides to the president brag about the reductions in overall immigration, saying the efforts are helping protect Americans from having to compete with immigrants for jobs.
Just last week, during a briefing from border officials in Yuma, Ariz., the president had similar praise for a very different achievement.
“That’s fantastic. That’s fantastic,” he told border officials about the completion of nearly 300 miles of the border wall. “So, it’s a great — it’s a great feeling to have closed up the border.”
Drastic cuts will impact agency operations for foreseeable future
WASHINGTON—U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services today announced that the agency will avert an administrative furlough of more than 13,000 employees, scheduled to begin Aug. 30 as a result of unprecedented spending cuts and a steady increase in daily incoming revenue and receipts.
USCIS expects to be able to maintain operations through the end of fiscal year 2020. Aggressive spending reduction measures will impact all agency operations, including naturalizations, and will drastically impact agency contracts.
“Our workforce is the backbone of every USCIS accomplishment. Their resilience and strength of character always serves the nation well, but in this year of uncertainty, they remain steadfast in their mission administering our nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity and protecting the American people, even as a furlough loomed before them,” said USCIS Deputy Director for Policy Joseph Edlow. “However, averting this furlough comes at a severe operational cost that will increase backlogs and wait times across the board, with no guarantee we can avoid future furloughs. A return to normal operating procedures requires congressional intervention to sustain the agency through fiscal year 2021.”
The additional cost savings come through the descoping of federal contracts that assist USCIS adjudicators in processing and preparing case files as well as a myriad of other support activities. Anticipated operational impacts include increased wait times for pending case inquiries with the USCIS Contact Center, longer case processing times, and increased adjudication time for aliens adjusting status or naturalizing. Naturalization ceremonies will continue. Previously, members of Congress requested that agency leadership avoid operational cuts of this magnitude. However, Congress must still act on a long-term solution that will provide USCIS with the necessary financial assistance to sustain the agency throughout FY 2021 and beyond.
Julián Castro, the only Latino to run for president in 2020 and who delivered a keynote speech at the 2012 convention, wasn’t given any speaking time. And don’t tell me that giving Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a rising superstar and arguably the most effective political communicator, just over 60 seconds of airtime was enough. She had less time to speak than a former Republican governor. The two other Latino politicians who had major speaking slots — Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada — were moderates with lower profiles.
Rather than growing the electorate, which is how Democrats will win in November and beyond, it seems as though they are reaching out to Republican voters. This sends a terrible message to the Latino voters they need to win in November.
There are a record-breaking 23 million naturalized citizens eligible to vote this November, 34 percent of whom are Latino. I became a citizen last year, and I will be voting for the first time in a presidential election this November after many years of being undocumented. Yet, Joe Biden continues to have an enthusiasm problem with Latinos. A PBS NewsHour-NPR-Marist poll showed Mr. Biden underperforming: Only 59 percent of Latinos said they’d vote for him over Donald Trump, compared with the 66 percent who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
According to EquisLabs, a group that studies the Latino electorate, for Mr. Biden to beat Donald Trump, he needs sky high turnout for Latinx voters. The group predicts that 57 percent of Latino eligible voters in battleground states could sit out of the 2020 elections.
The Biden campaign has tried to close its Latino enthusiasm gap by releasing a policy plan to address economic inequality and empower Latinos. The plan includes a commitment to ensuring that immigrants have access to free Covid-19 testing, treatment and an eventual vaccine. It also includes a reinstatement of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and limiting the use of programs that force local law enforcement to take on the role of immigration enforcement.
But, there’s much that is lacking. One glaring omission is Medicare for All. The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the fact that millions of immigrants live without health insurance and have suffered disproportionately in recent months. Access to affordable health care was a top issue for Latinx voters who sided with Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries. Mr. Biden has refused to endorse Medicare for All — a popular solution to our nation’s health care catastrophe that would serve all people, including undocumented immigrants.
Mr. Biden isn’t doing enough to move the people he needs to persuade to vote for him. Just a few weeks ago, 90 field organizers for the Florida Democratic Party signed an internal letter saying the Biden campaign has no “fully actionable field plan,” and is “suppressing the Hispanic vote” in Central Florida. These are significant missteps that the Biden campaign should fix quickly.
Mr. Biden should be giving frequent speeches, releasing weekly ads on TV and radio and sharing regular social media content aimed at immigrants and Latinx communities. He must address our pain and suffering. We’ve had to endure Donald Trump throwing children in cages, trying to dismantle DACA, separating our families, terrorizing our communities with immigration enforcement agents and treating immigrant workers as disposable during the pandemic.
But we don’t want watered down deportation policies. We want him to stop deportations in his first 100 days and eliminate for-profit detention facilities. We want the Biden administration to push Congress to defund ICE and C.B.P. We want him to reunite families that have been separated by wrongful deportations and asylum denials. Protecting DACA is the floor, not the ceiling.
After all, the immigrant justice movement has turned public opinion against Donald Trump’s deportation force. More Americans today than ever before dislike ICE. A 2019 Pew Research Center survey found ICE was the only agency asked about in the survey viewed more negatively (54 percent) than positively (42 percent). Only 19 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaners view the agency favorably.
Electoral coalitions are about addition, not subtraction. The math is straightforward. Mr. Biden can persuade a larger number of voters by making it clear that, if elected, immigrants will have reason to be optimistic about the future, despite the horrors of the present.
This pro-immigrant version of Mr. Biden has yet to emerge. The best time for that version to arrive is right now. It would make Mr. Biden a much more compelling presidential candidate, one who could drive an enormous number of voters to the polls and defeat Donald Trump in a landslide — and enable us to rebuild the country from the ground up.
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A large-scale, at least five-years-long, H-1B fraud conspiracy in Northern Virginia has been broken up by federal officials who revealed last week that a six-count indictment has been handed down against Ashish Sawhney, a green-card holding Indian national.
He and his four companies are said to have grossed $21 million in illicit profits. He is said to have “submitted or caused to be submitted H-1B visa application materials stating that the foreign workers named … would fulfill a specific job where, in fact, no such job existed at the time of the filing.” He is also being charged with naturalization fraud.
The White Pages show that a 48-year-old with that name lives in Sterling, Va., which is also the headquarters of some of his companies. He and his wife live in a handsome, 2006-built house on a corner lot with five and a half bathrooms and a cathedral/foyer valued at just under $1 million by Zillow.
Key questions are how did Sawhney manage to make $21 million out of his operation, and why did the feds take so long to notice? The release said that the schemes ran from 2011 to 2016.
One can assume that this case, like so many others masterminded by people with South Asian names and preying on their former countrymen, is similar to several we have reported on in the past (see here and here). Both of those cases also were in the Eastern District of Virginia.
In these situations, the middleman gets income from two different sources: There is often an up-front fee charged to the would-be H-1B and then, later, when that person (usually a male from the southern part of the country) arrives, he is rented out to a real employer at a pay rate that is much higher than what the worker receives. That worker, of course, is in a bind — if he blows a whistle, he exposes himself as an illegal alien.
One of Sawhney’s companies, Value Consulting, shows up in the myvisajobs.com listings as securing permission from the U.S. Department of Labor to hire 74 H-1B workers in 2015, and 44 more the next year. These permissions, given the lottery system, mean that the company probably got only one third as many as sought. But with four companies, over a period of five years, there probably were many other phony H-1B jobs secured.
The Washington Post has not, at least not yet, reported on the case.