July 2020, Volume 26, Number 3
CBP. The Customs and Border Protection agency apprehended fewer than 34,000 foreigners in March 2020, including three-fourths who were solo Mexicans. Most of the others were Central Americans. In April 2020, apprehensions fell to 15,862, but in June 2020, there were 30,300, including 27,000 who were not allowed to apply for asylum.
CBP in June 2020 announced that it had completed 220 miles of new border barriers, and was on track to complete 450 miles by the end of 2020. About 40 miles of border barriers are being constructed each month. CBP has spent $15 billion on border barriers since January 2017, two-thirds diverted from the Defense Department.
Beginning March 21, 2020, Border Patrol agents barred foreigners seeking to enter the US from Mexico without authorization on public health grounds, blocking the entry of 20,000 people in eight weeks. The number of foreigners trying to enter the US illegally fell after Mexicans and Central Americans who were apprehended realized that they would be interviewed, fingerprinted, and returned to Mexico within 1.5 hours. Non-Mexicans and Central Americans are handled differently.
The normal four-step process at the border is to apprehend, detain, prosecute, and deport migrants; those who are returned within 90 minutes are not considered deported. Critics decried the Trump administration?s policy of barring the entry of asylum seekers, especially the policy of returning children. Critics of returning children who illegally cross the US border say that the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 gives them the right to apply for asylum.
Over 120 countries barred the entry of foreigners in March-April 2020, and three-fourths banned the entry of asylum seekers. In June 2020, the ACLU sued on behalf of a 16-year old Honduran who was turned back at the border and not allowed to apply for asylum in the US.
The US Supreme Court in June 2020 ruled that CBP could remove asylum seekers who enter the US illegally without a full court hearing and appeal. A Sri Lankan Tamil who entered the US illegally and was removed in an expedited process sued. The US Supreme Court upheld the three-stage process of a USCIS asylum officer, a USCIS supervisor, and an immigration judge agreeing that the Sri Lankan was not targeted because he was Tamil.
The US Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which found that the expedited removal process included in 1996 immigration reforms was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court noted that 100,000 foreigners applied for asylum in 2018, and that 15 percent were recognized as refugees. The pandemic-justified border closure was renewed month-by-month, with the Trump administration promising to keep borders closed until Covid-19 is no longer a threat.
Some 65,000 foreigners, two-thirds Hondurans and Guatemalans, entered the US in 2019, applied for asylum, and were returned to Mexico until they could appear before an immigration judge. Judges denied asylum to half of the applicants, and 20,000 cases were pending in May 2020.
Under regulations announced in June 2020, new asylum applicants will be barred from receiving work permits for 365 days, up from the current 180 days. Asylum applicants who work illegally and do not report their income to the IRS face denial of their application for refugee status.
ICE. Deportations or removals continued under the pandemic, returning Guatemalans and others to their countries of citizenship. The Guatemalan government protested that the US was spreading coronavirus via deportation, leading to a temporary suspension of removals.
USCIS. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services agency is largely self-funded, charging applicants for immigrant and nonimmigrant visas to fund its $4.8 billion budget for 19,000 staff and contractors. Covid-19 reduced applications for immigration benefits, prompting USCIS in May 2020 to request a $1.2 billion supplement from Congress to continue its operations. USCIS has also proposed increasing the fees charged to applicants for immigration benefits.
The EB-5 program allows up to 10,000 foreigners a year who invest at least $500,000 and create or preserve at least 10 US jobs or to obtain immigrant visas; the minimum investment was raised to $900,000 in November 2019. In FY15 and FY16, there were over 14,000 I-426 applications a year for EB-5 visas, but the number fell to 4,000 in FY19. There is a backlog of 70,000 foreigners who have invested in the US and are waiting for immigrant visas to become available, which may explain the declining number of new applications.
The US is one of 100 countries that have citizenship and residence by investment or CRBI programs. Most countries offer permanent residence or immigrant status for the investment, as with the US EB-5 program; becoming a naturalized citizen takes additional steps. However, some countries offer citizenship for the investment, including many Caribbean island nations.
St Kitts and Nevis, a Caribbean island nation with 35,000 residents, first began to offer citizenship in 1984 for a ?substantial? investment, followed by Canada in 1986 and the US in 1990. Canada and the US are prize destinations, but Canada suspended its federal investor program in 2014 and the US EB-5 program has been under attack for the past two decades.
Due to Covid-19, St Kitts and Nevis reduced the price of passports for a family of four from $195,000 to $150,000 for the rest of 2020; applicants make a contribution to the country?s Sustainable Growth Fund. St. Lucia requires a five-year no-interest investment in Covid-19 relief bonds of $300,000 to obtain passports for a family of four, while Antigua and Barbuda offers citizenship for a $100,000 donation to its development fund.
Henley & Partners dominates CRBI discussions. London-based Henley created many of the CRBI programs of small island nations that now generate 10 percent or more of government revenue by selling residence and citizenship. Henley says that it helps governments to carefully screen applicants, but the OECD fears that many of those seeking another residence or passport are trying to hide grey money and evade taxes.