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Boundless Immigration News Weekly Recap Archive: August 19, 2022

A weekly roundup of need-to-know immigration stories

Aug 19, 2022

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Biden Administration Finally Ends Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” Policy

After a series of legal battles, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced last week that it had ended the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” border policy, which required all asylum-seekers (even non-Mexicans) to stay in Mexico while awaiting their U.S. immigration court hearings. Despite suspending the policy on his first day in office in January 2021, President Biden has faced countless roadblocks to fulfill a campaign promise and have the controversial policy officially rescinded.

Shortly after “Remain in Mexico” was suspended, the state governments of Texas and Missouri sued to keep the policy in place. In August 2021, a Trump-appointed federal judge in Texas ordered that the policy remain active, ruling that the U.S. government was required to return asylum-seekers to Mexico, even if those in question were not Mexican citizens. The Biden administration then turned to the U.S. Supreme Court to request that the decision to retain the policy be overturned.

“Remain in Mexico” has faced harsh criticism since the former Trump administration introduced it as a border enforcement tactic in January 2019. Nearly 70,000 migrants have been affected by the policy, many of which were exposed to inhumane conditions and violence at the U.S.-Mexico border. In their official statement, DHS said the program would be disbanded in a “quick, orderly manner,” and that moving forward, asylum-seekers will not be returned to Mexico after appearing in the U.S. for their court hearings.

New H-2A Visa Rule Will Make It Even Harder for Farmers to Hire Workers

A new rule by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) threatens to increase already record-high food prices by making it harder for farmers to hire immigrant workers and fill the massive worker shortage facing the industry.

According to a recent report from Texas A&M University, increasing the number of immigrant farm workers can reduce food prices and raise wages. Despite this, DOL has proposed a rule that would make hiring even harder for U.S. farmers by adding additional paperwork and steps that could add nearly seven months to the H-2A application process. The H-2A program already requires farmers go through 70 steps and follow more than 200 rules, at a cost to the average farmer of more than $10,000 per single agricultural worker.

The agricultural workforce has been shrinking for years as many Americans have left rural communities or agricultural work altogether. From 2002 to 2014, the total number of full-time farm workers hired by farms declined by nearly 22 percent. As labor shortages increased, farmers became increasingly reliant on immigrant workers, including those hired through the H-2A visa program as temporary guest workers. However, the pandemic decimated immigration into the U.S., exacerbating already high labor shortages.

By the end of 2021, there were about 2 million fewer working-age immigrants living in the United States than there would have been if pandemic immigration restrictions had not been put in place. And as we noted in last week’s letter, there are approximately 10.7 million open jobs in the U.S., with an unemployment number of only 5.7 million — a shortfall of nearly 2 jobs for every American worker.

Arizona Tries to “Finish” Border Wall on Federal Land

In the escalating tensions between some Republican-led states and the federal government over immigration issues, this week Arizona Governor Doug Ducey began using shipping containers to close gaps in the border wall started by former President Donald Trump.

Arizona began stacking the 60-foot long shipping containers on land it does not own or have legal rights to, technically trespassing on federal property. Annie Foster, Governor Ducey’s top lawyer, said, “We’ll figure out the consequences as we move forward.”

Additionally, the shipping container wall is not being built along the U.S.-Mexico border, which is actually the Colorado River itself. Thus, the “border” wall is actually being built several hundred feet inside the United States. This means that by the time any migrants reach the wall, they are well inside the country.

Once someone enters U.S. territory, the U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) is required by U.S. law to allow the individual to make their claim for asylum. This is why some recent reporting has shown USBP letting in migrants lined up at the gate in the wall: people who present themselves to a U.S. immigration official at the border must be given an opportunity to make their asylum claim, by law. USBP is simply following the law.

This highlights what critics of the border wall have noted for years, which is that walls simply do not stop people from turning themselves in to immigration agents.

Civil Rights Groups Request Probe in ICE Sting Operation

More than 40 organizations requested an investigation into a fake university created by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in 2015. The sting operation, which included the creation of The University of Farmington in Michigan, reportedly aimed at exposing student visa fraud, allegedly led to the illegal detainment of more than 600 students, and brought in more than $6 million in tuition payments from the victims.

In 2019, the scheme was made public, and shortly after, attorneys for the students claim “ICE began terminating students’ immigration status, claiming that any student who enrolled in the University had knowingly participated in visa fraud.”

The victims of the operation counter that there was no way for them to tell that it was a fake university or a real one, as it had an address, professional website, took tuition payments, and reportedly went so far as to mail the students I-20 Certificates of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status. The complaint also says the Farmington Scheme also marketed itself as a university authorized by the Student Exchange Visitor program.

“Regardless of presidential administrations, the exploitation and criminalization of immigrants continues. ICE set up this fake university to bait and trap immigrant students under the Obama Administration. They were exposed under the Trump Administration and should finally be held accountable now by the Biden Administration,” said Lakshmi Sridaran, executive director of SAALT in a statement.

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