Much happened in immigration law during 2018. It has become a very hot topic in a world struggling with globalization.
The most egregious behavior by the current administration was their willingness to separate children from their parents at our southern border. This, thankfully, resulted in an outcry across the political spectrum and a lawsuit that resulted in a court order to reunify parents and children. There has been progress on this front however poor record keeping and general passive aggressiveness has stymied the process. I think history will remember this as a very dark time in our nation’s history.
The Dreamers, undocumented folks who came to the United States with their parents as children, are still struggling with the current administration. Despite early support from our current president he terminated DACA by executive order. As a result a number of lawsuits arose that are still pending. The primary actions are in New York, California and Texas. They all enjoined the government from terminating DACA and renewals are still permitted. The government’s effort to leapfrog over the court hierarchy and appeal directly to the United States Supreme Court seems to have been thwarted for the moment as the court has refused to put the matter on their calendar for their upcoming term.
The current administration continues to demonize migrants at our southern border with evil mischaracterizations. They have also attempted to prohibit asylum applications for individuals who cross the border between checkpoints. The courts have blocked his rightly as a violation of the spirit and letter of asylum law. The former Attorney General also has attempted to re-write asylum law prohibiting asylum for victims of Domestic Violence and gang violence. Again this will be addressed by appellate courts in due time. The former AG has also surgically taken apart the workings of immigration court taking away Immigration Judges administrative powers and creating a quota system in an effort to ram cases through an overburdened system. He is threatening the livelihood of judges who do not bend to his will. This is a result of the lack of independence of the immigration court system which is part of the Department of Justice, the same branch of government that is prosecuting cases the judges preside over – a blatant conflict of interest – especially in an anti-immigrant administration.
In another passive aggressive move the administration has tasked immigration officers with more work – interviews for employment based green cards and a deeper dive into applicants’ immigration history – without hiring more employees. This has resulted in the doubling of processing times for an already overburdened process.
The administration also cancelled Temporary Protected Status for many folks from various countries. Although this status is temporary, it has been in place for many, many years and there are equities that arise and issued or fairness for folks that have been here legally for decades.
On a positive note, anecdotally, the asylum office in Los Angeles is still applying the law as written and with compassion. Last year we say a grant of asylum for a gay young man from Guatemala, a Huiger woman from China and a Sri Lankan journalist.
The fight for fairness and compassion continues as immigration remains the flash point issue of our time.