A federal court settlement announced on Friday would allow almost 2,700 children living in Central America to safely reunite with their parents, who are living in the United States under protected status.
The settlement between the families and the Trump administration affects children who had been conditionally approved by the government to join their parents before the White House canceled the Central American Minors program in August 2017.
The program began under the Obama administration in 2014. It allowed the children of parents who are lawfully in the United States to apply for permanent residency as refugees. Many of those parents hold temporary protected status, which allows migrants from countries that have experienced natural disasters, longstanding unrest or conflict to remain in the United States.
Without the program, children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras would have had to travel through dangerous conditions to reach the United States border and apply for refugee status.
“When you’re a refugee, you typically have to come to the U.S. border to request protection via our asylum system,” said Justin Cox, a lawyer with the International Refugee Assistance Project, which helped represent the families. The Central American Minors program was designed as a workaround to reunite children with their parents, by allowing the kids to apply from their home countries.
Four families whose children had applied to the program and been conditionally approved filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration after it was canceled. They were joined by CASA, a Maryland-based immigration advocacy group.
The nearly 2,700 children covered by the settlement had been conditionally approved to join at least one of their parents in the United States, according to Mr. Cox.
Many were waiting for a medical check, a final step in the process, he said, when the Trump administration quietly stopped all processing shortly after coming into office. Seven months later, in August 2017, the White House officially announced the end of the program.
In December 2018, a judge for the United States District Court in San Francisco ruled that the government’s revocation of the conditional approvals for the child applicants was against the law. Last month, the same judge ordered the government to resume processing the children.
The government will now reverify the children’s eligibility and start medical checks. “It could take months,” Mr. Cox said, “but the expectation is that most, if not all, the kids should be able to come.”
In fact, the settlement with the government stipulates that most of the children are expected to be approved and allowed to travel to the United States.
Many parents whose children are covered by the settlement have had temporary protected status for several years, during which they have not seen their children.
Linda Evarts, who is also a lawyer with the International Refugee Assistance Project, said, “We are so pleased that after many years apart, our clients will finally have the opportunity to reunite with each other in safety.”
(Reporting by The New York Times)
Asylum Seekers Who Show Credible Fear Not Eligible For Bond
PHOENIX (AP) — Detained asylum seekers who have shown they have a credible fear of returning to their country will no longer be able to ask a judge to grant them bond.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr decided Tuesday that asylum seekers who clear a “credible fear” interview and are facing removal don’t have the right to be released on bond by an immigration court judge while their cases are pending. The attorney general has the authority to overturn prior rulings made by immigration courts, which fall under the Justice Department.
It’s Barr’s first immigration-related decision since taking office. The American Civil Liberties Union said late Tuesday that the plan was unconstitutional and that it planned on suing.
Typically, an asylum seeker who crosses between ports of entry would have the right to ask a judge to grant them bond for release. Under the new ruling, they will have to wait in detention until their case is adjudicated.
“There will be many, many people who are not gonna even have the opportunity to apply for release now,” said Gregory Chen, director of government relations for the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Chen said that about 90 percent of asylum seekers pass their credible fear interview, the first step in seeking asylum.
The decision doesn’t affect asylum-seeking families because they generally can’t be held for longer than 20 days. It also doesn’t apply to unaccompanied minors.
Barr’s ruling takes effect in 90 days and comes amid a frustrating time for the administration as the number of border crossers has skyrocketed. Most of them are families from Central America who are fleeing violence and poverty. Many seek asylum.
There were a total of 161,000 asylum applications filed in the last fiscal year and 46,000 in the first quarter of 2019, according to the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which oversees immigration courts.
Sarah Pierce, policy analyst for the Migration Policy Institute, said the number of decisions by immigration judges that the administration of President Donald Trump has referred to itself for review is unprecedented. The administration — under both Barr and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions — has reviewed a total of 10 immigration rulings. That’s compared to four under all of President Barack Obama’s tenure and nine during George W. Bush’s.
“This has been a really unprecedented use of power to influence the immigration system,” Pierce said.
US State Department Announces Cuts To Aid To Three Central American Countries
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration says it is cutting direct U.S. aid to three Central American countries.
The State Department says in a statement that it will suspend 2017 and 2018 payments to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
The Trump administration gave no immediate explanation for the move. Trump has made slowing immigration from those countries through Mexico a bedrock issue of his presidency.
The announcement comes as Trump threatens to shut down the U.S. border with Mexico overall over immigration.
Congressional Democrats say President Donald Trump’s move to cut aid to three Central American countries will only increase the flow of immigrants to the United States.
The State Department’s announcement that it would be cutting aid to Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala at Trump’s order came as leading House Democrats were on a congressional visit Saturday to El Salvador.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel and other lawmakers say in a statement that U.S. aid is helping those countries deal with the root causes of migration by families and children.
The Democrats call Trump’s move “entirely counterproductive.”
Supreme Court Hands Trump Administration Victory On Immigrant Detainment
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Supreme Court on Tuesday endorsed the U.S. government’s authority to detain immigrants awaiting deportation anytime – potentially even years – after they have completed prison terms for criminal convictions, handing President Donald Trump a victory as he pursues hardline immigration policies.
The court ruled 5-4 along ideological lines, with its conservative justices in the majority and its liberal justices dissenting, that federal authorities could pick up such immigrants and place them into indefinite detention anytime, not just immediately after they finish their prison sentences.
The ruling, authored by conservative Justice Samuel Alito, left open the possibility that some individual immigrants could challenge their detention. These immigrants potentially could argue that the use of the 1996 federal law involved in the case, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, against them long after finishing their sentences would violate their due process rights under the U.S. Constitution.
The law states the government can detain convicted immigrants “when the alien is released” from criminal detention. Civil rights lawyers argued that the language of the law shows that it applies only immediately after immigrants are released. The Trump administration said the government should have the power to detain such immigrants anytime.
It is not the court’s job, Alito wrote, to impose a time limit for when immigrants can be detained after serving a prison sentence. Alito noted that the court has said in the past that “an official’s crucial duties are better carried out late than never.”
Alito said the challengers’ assertion that immigrants had to be detained within 24 hours of ending a prison sentence is “especially hard to swallow.”
In dissent, liberal Justice Stephen Breyer questioned whether the U.S. Congress when it wrote the law “meant to allow the government to apprehend persons years after their release from prison and hold them indefinitely without a bail hearing.”
Tuesday’s decision follows a February 2018 ruling in a similar case in which the conservative majority, over liberal dissent, curbed the ability of immigrants held in long-term detention during deportation proceedings to argue for release.
‘MOST EXTREME INTERPRETATION’
Cecilia Wang, the American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who argued the newly decided case for the challengers, said that in both rulings “the Supreme Court has endorsed the most extreme interpretation of immigration detention statutes, allowing mass incarceration of people without any hearing, simply because they are defending themselves against a deportation charge.”
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Trump has backed limits on legal and illegal immigrants since taking office in January 2017.
Kerri Kupec, a U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman, said administration officials were pleased with the ruling.
In both of the detention cases, the Supreme Court reversed the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a liberal leaning court that Trump has frequently criticized. In each case, litigation against the federal government started before Trump took office.
In the latest case, the administration had appealed a 2016 9th Circuit ruling that favored immigrants, a decision it said would undermine the government’s ability to deport immigrants who have committed crimes.
The appeals court had said that convicted immigrants who are not immediately detained by immigration authorities after finishing their sentences but then later picked by immigration authorities could seek bond hearings to argue for their release.
The plaintiffs included two legal U.S. residents involved in separate lawsuits filed in 2013, a Cambodian immigrant named Mony Preap convicted of marijuana possession and a Palestinian immigrant named Bassam Yusuf Khoury convicted of attempting to manufacture a controlled substance.
Under federal immigration law, immigrants convicted of certain offenses are subject to mandatory detention during their deportation process. They can be held indefinitely without a bond hearing after completing their sentences.
In the most significant immigration-related case recently before the court, the conservative justices were also in the majority in June 2018 when they upheld on a 5-4 vote Trump’s travel ban on targeting people from several Muslim-majority countries.
But in April 2018, conservative Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch joined with the court’s four liberal justices in a 5-4 ruling that could hinder the administration’s ability to step up the removal of immigrants with criminal records, invalidating a provision in another law, the Immigration and Nationality Act.
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