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Boundless Immigration News Weekly Recap: September 23, 2022

A weekly roundup of need-to-know immigration stories

Sep 23, 2022

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Florida Governor Uses Desperate People as Props in Martha’s Vineyard Stunt

Last week Florida Governor Ron DeSantis used more than $600,000 taxpayer dollars to trick nearly 50 migrants to board chartered flights from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, a remote island in southern Massachusetts.

Since that time, reports have emerged that the state of Florida hired a woman named “Perla” to mislead the migrants by telling them that they would be dropped off at a shelter in Boston, and that there would be jobs and housing waiting for them when they arrived. The migrants were informed midair that they would actually be landing on Martha’s Vineyard, a small vacation enclave off the coast of Massachusetts, three hours by bus and ferry from Boston.

The 48 migrants flown to Florida were lawfully present in the U.S., after having been inspected and paroled into the country while they await their asylum hearings in immigration court. The majority of these 48 asylum-seekers were Venezuelans fleeing the repressive government at home and the collapse of the nation’s economy, healthcare system, and food resources.

Immigration attorneys representing the migrants pointed out that many of the migrants had been given court dates in San Antonio, Texas, some within a matter of days, yet had been flown across the country to a remote island in a cynical attempt to prevent the migrants from attending their hearings and thus being ordered removed from the U.S.

The actions taken by DeSantis have prompted at least two lawsuits, a criminal investigation, and calls from the Chair of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Homeland Security Committee for the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security to investigate.

Republicans and Democrats Differ on Top Priorities for Immigration

Republicans and Democrats differ sharply over what America’s immigration policy priorities should be, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center.

In the survey of 7,647 U.S. adults, 91% of Republicans said securing the U.S.-Mexico border should be a top priority, while fewer Democrats (59%) said the same. Republicans also placed greater importance on deportations of people illegally in the country (79%), with nearly half calling it very important. Fewer Democrats (39%) view deportations as important, with only 12% calling it very important.

The majority of Democrats (80%) say creating a legal path to citizenship should be a top priority compared to just 37% of Republicans. Americans from both parties say taking in refugees fleeing war and violence should be a priority, although more Democrats (85%) than Republicans (58%) view it as very important.

According to Pew, Americans’ views on immigration policy have remained relatively stable in recent years. A small increase of Americans say that deporting those who are in the country illegally should be an important goal (54% in 2019 compared to 57% today). A 10-point increase of Democrats say that increasing security at the U.S.-Mexico border is important (59% today vs. 49% in 2019).

Biden Administration Considers Multimillion-Dollar Payout for Families Separated at the Border

The Biden administration is considering a multimillion-dollar settlement for immigrant families that were separated at the border during Trump’s presidency. If approved, the plan could grant around $450,000 per person in compensation. The strategy aims to resolve a large number of pending lawsuits filed by the victims of President Trump’s “zero-tolerance policy.”

According to official government figures, about 3,900 children were separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border in 2018, as part of the Trump administration’s efforts to reduce border crossings. Under the zero-tolerance policy, border agents apprehended all migrants who crossed the border illegally, including asylum-seekers. Many children were forcibly separated from their parents upon crossing and placed in child welfare centers while their parents awaited deportation hearings. At the time, government officials failed to properly track the separated families being broken up, with no system to match children to their parents.

The policy faced domestic and international condemnation, and several hundred lawsuits were filed by the affected families. Many of the lawsuits allege children faced dangerous living conditions and medical neglect while in the government’s care. Heat exhaustion, malnutrition, and psychological trauma were reportedly common in the welfare centers where migrant children were held.

Family reunification has been at the forefront of Biden’s immigration policy approach since day one. Biden announced a family reunification task force during his first week in office, and the government has since reunited 52 families, with plans to reunite about 200 more.

Some immigration advocates say rectifying the damage done by Trump’s zero-tolerance policy must go beyond monetary compensation, and that affected families should also be provided a clear path to legal status. The families who have been reunited so far under the Biden administration were granted temporary humanitarian parole that allows them to remain in the U.S. for three years without fear of deportation, but does not offer a path to permanent legal status.

NVC Releases Green Card Backlog Report for September

The National Visa Center released its monthly report on the current immigrant visa backlog. Overall, the backlog fell by a little more than 4,000 cases, which represents a 1% drop.

Just over 32,000 interviews were scheduled in September, which is lower than August’s number of scheduled interviews, which clocked in at 32,888 versus September’s 32,175 interviews. Though this number is somewhat lower than August, it is still higher than the median number of interviews scheduled during the past 12 months (28,447).

The NVC reports that fewer applicants’ cases were deemed to be “documentarily complete” in September, meaning that all the required forms and documents have been submitted to and accepted by the NVC and that the case is ready for an interview to be scheduled. The number of documentarily complete cases fell from 421,668 to 416,856 this month, making September the fourth month running that the number of cases ready to be scheduled for an interview fell.

Meta and TikTok Profit from Human Smuggling Ads

Facebook Marketplace is making a profit from classified ads that promise safe passage from Mexico to the U.S. Meta does not monitor ads related to human smuggling even though many of them are scams, which take advantage of people in vulnerable situations.

According to a report published last week, human smugglers (frequently called coyotes) often advertise their “services” on Facebook Marketplace, as well as in local or regional buy-sell groups on Facebook, “where their offers to take people across the border mingle with ads for things like motorcycles and used cell phones,” giving migrants “the false impression that arranging a trip to the U.S. is as easy as ordering household products online.”

Coyotes also make frequent use of WhatsApp — which is also owned by Meta — to communicate with migrants. The report also found that coyotes openly advertise passage to the U.S., despite the platform’s content policy prohibiting posts promoting human smuggling.

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