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MIGRANT CENTER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS



Providing Free and Low-Cost Legal Services to
Detained Asylum Seekers in Texas
 
Learn About Our Work

NOVEMBER

NEWSLETTER
 
In This Issue:

OUR UPDATES

Advocating for Access to Counsel at Pearsall

October 9 – The Migrant Center, along with St. Mary’s University, the University of Texas, American Gateways, and RAICES submitted a stakeholder’s letter to Field Office Director Correa to set up a meeting to resolve access to counsel issues presented by COVID-19, specifically the inability to have private phone calls and lack of access to video conferencing, at the South Texas Detention Complex. As of the end of the month ICE has not responded.

Immigration Judge Reverses Negative USCIS Asylum Results for Ghanaian Father

An Immigration Judge determined that David should have the right to an asylum hearing after listening to him explain his case. USCIS had previously decided that he did not have a significant possibility of proving his case in court and then, after getting these negative results, David reached out to the Migrant Center for help in preparing for the judicial review of these results. We reviewed the interview paperwork and spoke to David for about three hours on how to present his story to the Immigration Judge in a way the judge could understand. We conducted a practice court session with him and explained how U.S. procedures and laws work so he would understand the judicial process. The day before his hearing a community member hired a lawyer for him so we worked with this lawyer for close to an hour explaining all the legal ins-and-outs of his case as she hadn’t met with him yet (we were also able to quickly forward her all his paperwork which she would not have been able to get otherwise). After the hearing she wrote: 
 
“I wanted to share the good news that the client has the CFI determination reversed!! The judge did not grant my motion to continue, so we proceeded with the hearing. He did really good!! I feel the preparation you did with him really helped him.”
 
David was able to stop his deportation with the help of our donors, whose contributions allowed us to jump in and provide support to him and later to his attorney. Because the Immigration Judge reversed the USCIS decision, he was able to apply for his release from detention and is now living with his wife and new-born son. Read 
David’s story about the hardships he and his pregnant wife went through due to ICE forcibly separating them, including how he struggled during his interview because he didn’t know where she was. See below for a photo of the family as they are reunited at the airport.
 

Taking a Stand for Access to a Fair Asylum Process

October 23 – The Migrant Center submitted a public comment in opposition to the Department of Justice’s September 23 Proposed Rule that takes away judicial flexibility and makes it incredibly difficult to file an asylum application, especially for low-income asylum seekers and those in detention. Based on our on-the-ground legal work with over 700 detained asylum seekers going through the immigration court system, we explained to the Administration why requiring asylum applications to be submitted within 15 days of the first hearing, requiring exceptional circumstances to continue a case past 180 days, allowing judges to submit evidence without giving the parties a meaningful opportunity to review and challenge the evidence, and eliminating the requirement that if the court takes longer than 30 days to review an asylum application it must register it as complete so that the work permit process can begin, all undermine due process. We sent out two e-mails to our 1,200-person listserv and posted on Facebook to encourage people to submit public comments. Over 1,000 public comments were submitted, including from AILA.

Your Opinion Matters: Launch of Community Engagement Survey

The Migrant Center's Community Engagement Program seeks to increase awareness of important immigration issues, helping you develop an in-depth understanding of the immigrant experience, especially that of the detained asylum seekers we serve. The program also aims to inform you about our work and encourage you to join us in our mission of ensuring due process for all people going through our immigration court system, thereby upholding our country's constitutional principles of justice and equality.
 

We invite you to tell us how we can best serve you in this work.

Your invaluable insight will help us ensure that we are providing you with the most relevant news, events, analysis, and opportunities for action. We anticipate that this survey will take between 5-7 minutes to complete. Thank you for sharing your feedback!
 

COMPLETE THE SURVEY 

Join Rotary's Virtual Bike Ride and Raise Money for the Migrant Center

Mission Rotary is supporting the Migrant Center by raising money to underwrite a Spring Internship scholarship through which we will provide mentorship to a college student looking to learn advocacy skills in the immigration field. Please share the job posting with your networks.

Sign up and ride virtually anytime through December 5th, then upload your results to Active.com. You will be mailed an event T-shirt for your participation.

Suggested ride distances include:

9-Miles to battle COVID-19
30-Miles to make a difference for those who need your help
60-Miles to reach a new fitness goal
100-Miles to ride out the frustration of staying at home
200-Miles to prove you're tougher than the virus

 
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Every dollar you donate goes towards supporting the human rights of detained migrants. We couldn't do this important work without you. Thank you for your support.
          Family reunited with the Migrant Center's help.
 

IMMIGRANT VOICE

ICE Hasn't Been Able to Deport Me to Cuba for Nine Months But Refuses to Grant Me Freedom

- By Yainel

The important thing about what is happening is that I have been 9 months here in detention without a response in my case. I came fleeing from my country. I come to this country, first I entered in December 2019 by the Piedras Negras port of entry and I was put in MPP. The U.S. immigration authorities sent me to Mexico to wait for court there. I didn't know they were going to make me wait in Mexico when I came to ask for asylum.

Continue reading Yainel's story.


In Context: ICE claims that it can deport people rapidly -- read DHS's proposed rule largely eliminating work permits, read our analysis, and submit a public comment before 11:59 EST December 21 -- but the immigrants the Migrant Center works with know better. ICE has been detaining hundreds of Cubans across the country at huge taxpayer expense for extended periods of time even though Cuba is not accepting deportees back and the risk of contracting COVID-19 in detention remains high. The Migrant Center is aware of 13 Cubans in this situation at the South Texas Detention Complex. The number of Cubans arriving at the southern border tripled from 7,079 in FY 2018 to 21,499 in FY 2019. Meanwhile, the backlog of Cubans in immigration courts has soared 347%.
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POLICY ANALYSIS

MATTER OF NEGUSIE: Attorney General Eliminates Duress and Coercion Exception to Persecutor Bar

On November 5, Attorney General Barr decided in Matter of Negusie, 28 I&N Dec. 120 (A.G. 2020), that asylum seekers who acted involuntarily under coercion or duress in the persecution of others cannot be granted asylum or withholding of removal under either the Immigration and Nationality Act or the United Nations Convention against Torture. The Attorney General also placed the burden on asylum seekers to prove that this, or any other asylum bar, does not apply to them.

Our Policy Analysis podcast looks at both of these rulings, with an eye towards helping immigration practitioners and the general public understand the new state of asylum law and how it will likely affect people in practice.

 
Listen to immigration attorney Sara Ramey explain the Attorney General's decision in Matter of Negusie and its impact on asylum seekers and other immigrants.
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IMPORTANT NEWS

Judge Rules Case on Government Targeting Activists May Proceed

October 1 – Judge Jorgenson ruled against the government's motion to dismiss all charges in Adlerstein v. CBP finding that if the facts alleged are true, the government likely violated the First and Fourth Amendment rights of activists, lawyers, and journalists; that a CBP and FBI list surveying these groups may be illegal; and that accompanying an asylum seeker to a Port of Entry does not constitute probable cause of illegal smuggling to justify an immediate arrest.Read more here. The Immigrant Voices website shows 1,010 incidents of the Federal government retaliating against immigrant rights activists and human rights defenders nationwide, arresting, harassing, surveilling, and deporting activists and organizers in the past four years. See their interactive map,ways to support, and social media toolkit. See also this legal resource for criminal and immigration attorneys representing immigrants engaged in acts of protest.
 
In September, the parties in Askins & Ramirez v. Department of Homeland Security et al. reached a final settlement agreement which prevents the defendant agencies from impeding or interfering with the public’s First Amendment rights to take and retain photographs, videos, and other recordings of publicly visible law enforcement activity at or near ports of entry in the United States.

Court Issues Injunction on Suspension of Work Visas

October 1 – The court issued a preliminary injunction preventing the government from implementing Section 2 of the June 22 Presidential Proclamation 10052, Suspension of Entry of Immigrants and Nonimmigrants Who Present a Risk to the United States Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Outbreak, which suspends entire visa categories for four sets of nonimmigrant work visas for a period lasting until December 13, 2020, and with discretion to be continued “as necessary.” This injunction only applies to named plaintiffs. The case is National Association of Manufacturers et al., v. DHS, et al.

Ninth Circuit Reiterates the Children Cannot be Detained in Hotels

October 4 – The Ninth Circuit denied the government’s request for a stay of the district court's order that requires the U.S. to stop using hotels in most situations to detain unaccompanied children. Since March, CBP has placed at least 577 unaccompanied children in hotel rooms before deporting them without a chance to request asylum or other immigration protections under Operation Capio, which uses Title 42’s public health provisions to rationalize deporting people whether they have COVID-19 or not. There are thousands of empty beds in ORR shelters., where legal services are offered under the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement DOJ argued that the Flores agreement doesn’t apply to children detained in hotels and said that the government's policy of expelling unaccompanied children was part of a “comprehensive, systematic approach” to fight COVID: “The idea is turn away as quickly as possible, at the border, potential vectors of infection.” Some children have been detained for weeks in both hotels and CBP facilities. The court concluded that the government was unlikely to succeed on the merits and that it had not established that it would be irreparably harmed if it were obliged to comply with the district court’s orders while the appeal is pending.

DOJ Settles Discrimination Claims Against Sports Manufacturing Company

October 5 – DOJ reached a settlement agreement with WinCraft, Inc., a Minnesota-based sports manufacturing company, resolving claims that it violated the INA by requiring legal permanent residents to provide specific work authorization documents without any legal justification because of their immigration status.

CBP Raids Humanitarian Aid Station

October 5 – After sunset CBP entered with an armored tank, ATVs, a helicopter, and many marked and unmarked vehicles No More Deaths’ humanitarian aid station, Byrd Camp, with a federal warrant. Agents, armed with assault rifles, chased and terrorized those who were receiving care, all while the helicopter hovered low above them kicking up dust and debris, making it nearly impossible to see. CBP arrested 12 people who were receiving medical care, food, water, and shelter from the 100+ degree heat. CBP smashed windows, broke doors, and destroyed essential camp infrastructure as well as supplies. Volunteers were held for 3 hours.Since a previous raid on July 31st, Border Patrol has refused on multiple occasions to meet with volunteers to discuss previous shared agreements that upheld the right to provide humanitarian aid. Since 2004, Byrd Camp has offered food, water, medical care, and respite in the Sonoran Desert under Red Cross humanitarian aid protocols.
 
The La Palma ICE Detention Center in Eloy, Arizonahas the highest number of COVID cases of all the detention centers nationwide. ICE reported more than 230 active COVID-19 cases in at the La Palma Correctional Center, and a total of 356 cases in the facility since the start of the pandemic. In addition, at La Palma, almost half of the staff have tested positive and a guard died of COVID-19.Migrants detained at La Palma have said they were fed rotten food and denied COVID-19 protection.

Supreme Court Reverses Second Circuit in Case of Immigrant Activist

October 5 – The Supreme Court vacated the Second Circuit’s decision that ICE’s arrest of Ravi Ragbir, an immigrant advocate who runs the New Sanctuary Coalition, was retaliatory for exercising his freedom of speech.

USCIS States that TPS is Not an Admission

October 6 – USCIS updated its Policy Manual to say that a grant of TPS is not an admission for INA 245(a) adjustment of status (green card) purposes.  This is in line with rulings from the Third and Eleventh Circuit Courts of Appeal but contrary to rulings from the Sixth and Ninth Circuits, where TPS holders will still be able to adjust status.The changes also incorporate Matter of Z-R-Z-C-which held that generally TPS beneficiaries who travel outside the United States with authorization pursuant to INA 244(f)(3) and return to the United States resume the same immigration status they had when they departed, and therefore are not considered inspected and admitted / paroled for purposes of INA 245(a). Comments are due November 6, 2020.

Fraihat Court Rules on Motion to Enforce

October 7 – The court responded to plaintiff’s motion to enforce by stating that ICE must respond to release requests for COVID-19 medically vulnerable within one week and also must report results to Fraihat Class Counsel in their biweekly productions (which will be under protective order). The judge also addressed conditions for those who remain detained. Pleasee refer to the Fraihat v ICE Community Resources for a template for custody redetermination requests, pro seresources for individuals and sponsors, and relevant quotes from the order that may be helpful in litigation. Those who seek relief based on this order are asked to fill out this form to help monitor ICE’s (non)compliance.

DOJ Cancels Diversity Training

October 8 – The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it will cancel all diversity and inclusion trainings for its staff of over 115,000 people; cancel diversity-related events, programs and activities; and eliminate voluntary diversity employee groups. Immigration judges and the Board of Immigration Appeals are tasked with hearing incredibly sensitive cases from persecuted minorities, women, LGBTQ individuals, and others from countries around the world. Diversity trainings help ensure adjudication of cases without bias and cultural competency. There are concerns that the  DOJ will not be able to deliver justice when it fails to educate itself on these important issues. The DOJ memo follows President Trump’s recent executive order, which seeks to eliminate all trainings that suggest racial and gender bias exists in the workplace. The executive order calls such training “offensive and anti-American” and “race and sex stereotyping and scapegoating.” The National Association of Immigration Judges – the union that represents immigration judges – denounced the decision. 

Court Upholds California’s Ban on Private Prisons

October 8 – District Judge Sammartino largely upheld California’s Assembly Bill 32 banning private prisons, acknowledging that the state has the authority to ensure the health and welfare of federal detainees within its borders. Under the ruling, at least four immigration detention centers with the capacity to house about 5,000 people would be phased out over the coming years. Judge Sammartino also issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the state from enforcing the ban on privately operated facilities that house pretrial inmates charged with federal crimes who are in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service, such as those accused of illegal entry and reentry.

DOJ Proposes Changes to Process for Becoming an Accredited Representative

October 20 - The Department of Justice has published revisions to Recognition and Accreditation Forms EOIR-31 and EOIR-31A Read this comment for why the proposed revisions are problematic. Public comments must be submitted on or before November 19 through the Office of Management and Budget online portalby clicking the link that says “Currently Under Review – Open for Public Comments” and browse for the forms you wish to comment on.

DOJ and DHS Publish Final Rule Increasing Bars to Asylum

October 21 – The Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security published a Final Rule amending their respective regulations to prevent certain people from obtaining protection in the United States in the form of asylum. In addition to statutory bars, Congress delegated to the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security the authority to establish by regulation additional bars on asylum eligibility to the extent they are consistent with the asylum statute, as well as to establish “any other conditions or limitations on the consideration of an application for asylum” that are consistent with the Immigration and Nationality Act. The new bars apply to people who are convicted of, without consideration of individual circumstances:
 
(1) A felony under federal or state law;
(2) An offense under 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(A) or § 1324(a)(1)(2) (Alien Smuggling or Harboring);
(3) An offense under 8 U.S.C. § 1326 / INA § 246(Illegal Reentry);
(4) A federal, state, tribal, or local crime where the adjudicator “knows or has reason to believe” was committed to further “criminal street gang” activity;
(5) Certain federal, state, tribal, or local offenses concerning the operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicantinvolving serious bodily injury or death, or multiple DUI convictions;
(6) A federal, state, tribal, or local domestic violence offense or stalking; child abuse, neglect or abandonment; and
(7) Certain misdemeanors under federal or state law for offenses related to false identification; the unlawful receipt of public benefits from a federal, state, tribal, or local entity; or the possession or trafficking of a controlled substance or controlled-substance paraphernalia.
 
People who have committed certain domestic violence offenses, even if not convicted, will also be barred from asylum. The rule also allows adjudicators to ignore state court orders vacating a conviction or modifying a sentence if the order does not meet certain requirements, and it eliminates automatic reconsideration of discretionary denials. The rule takes effect November 20 and covers convictions and conduct that occurred on or after Nov. 20, 2020.  A lawsuit was filed challenging the rule arguing that the unprecedented expansion of these categorical bars rely on racially biased policing practices and prosecutions, are vague and sweeping, and contradict the INA’s plain language and the United States’ international commitments. More information can be found on the case page.

Washington Uses Federal Funds to Pay Immigrant Workers Affected by COVID-19

October 21 – Washington’s $40 million COVID-19 Immigrant Relief Fund opened for applications. The relief fund will provide federal funds to assist workers who miss work due to COVID-19, but are unable to access federal stimulus programs and other social supports due to their immigration status. Recipients will receive $1,000, with a limit of $3,000 per household. Applications can be submitted at immigrantreliefwa.org through December 6. Benefits will be disbursed by December 28.
 
Separately, the Washington Food Production Paid Leave Program will continue to run through November 18, providing leave to workers in the food-sector industry who work for employers exempt from the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

ICE Expands Expedited Removal

October 21 – In response to a September 30 D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals order lifting a September 27, 2019 preliminary injunction halting the expansion of expedited removal, ICE announced that it will begin implementation of the July 22, 2019 Designation of Aliens for Expedited Removal that sought to implement Trump’s January 25, 2017 executive order. This means that ICE will deport directly, by passing the courts, anyone who cannot prove that they have been in the U.S. for at least two years (previously it was 14 days) and from anywhere in the U.S. (previously it was within 100 miles of the border). ICE officers have attended trainings to allow them to implement the expedited removal expansion starting in mid-October. Created in 1996, expedited removal gives immigration officers virtually unchecked authority to deport people, serving as both prosecutor and judge. Due to the speed of the process, there is rarely an opportunity to collect evidence or consult with an attorney, family member, or friend before the deportation is carried out. This means there is a greater chance that persons are being erroneously deported from the United States. Moreover, individuals who otherwise might qualify for deportation relief such as cancellation of removal if they could defend themselves in immigration court are deprived of the opportunity to do so. Expedited removal should not be applied to lawful permanent residents (LPRs, or “green card” holders) those who claim fear persecution in their home countries, or unaccompanied minors. Putting more people into expedited removal who will claim protection will increase the number of Asylum Office interviews, contributing to the backlog of affirmative asylum cases. In FY 2013 approximately 193,000 persons (43% of 438,000 removals) were deported from the United States through expedited removal; in FY 2017 expedited removal accounted for 35% percent of all deportations. See a year chart. Read the complaint. The cases is Make the Road NY v. Wolf. If you learn of individuals subject to expanded expedited removal, please contact the litigation team at ERintake@aclu.org.

Eighth Circuit Recognizes Pathway to Permanent Residency for TPS Holders

October 27 – The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a TPS recipient is deemed “inspected and admitted” for purposes of INA section 245(a) adjustment of status to Legal Permanent Resident. The Eighth Circuit joined the Sixth and Ninth Circuits. USCIS’ guidance states that it will not consider green card applications for those outside these jurisdictions. The Eighth Circuit covers Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. View legal options for adjustment of status in this Practice Advisory and information and resources for TPS beneficiaries at this website. Attorneys can join the TPSExperts listserv by emailing advocacy@cliniclegal.org. The case is Velasquez, et al. v. Barr, et al.

Court Vacates USCIS Lesson Plan for Unreasonably Increasing Requirements to Pass a Credible Fear Interview

October 31 – A U.S. district court judge in D.C. concluded that parts of USCIS’s “Lesson Plan on Credible Fear of Persecution and Torture Determinations” were “unreasonable interpretations” with the INA and related regulations and that the unlawful parts were not severable from the remainder of the document, thus requiring the Lesson Plan be vacated in its entirety. The court ordered the defendants to void the credible fear determinations that were previously made and to provide each plaintiff with a new credible fear screening. Among the problems with the Lesson Plan is that it requires the applicant to present proof (where the regulations only require this if the proof is available); demands a level of detail above that expected by Congress’ “low-threshold screening”, improperly conflating the interview with what’s required at the second step of the process, ie with the judge in court, such showing current country conditions are the same (this is also a misstatement of the law) and that internal relocation is not reasonable, while also shifting the burden of proof for these two factors from DHS to the respondent; and changing the standard from the government being “unable or unwilling” to protect to “abdicated its responsibility to control persecution”. The case is Kiakombua, et al. v. Wolf, et al.
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We work to ensure that all immigrants facing removal from the U.S. understand their rights under the law, have access to counsel, and are treated fairly and humanely.

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