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October 2020, Volume 26, Number 4

DHS: Border, Visas

CBP. The Customs and Border Protection agency detained 40,786 foreigners just inside the Mexico-US border in July 2020, more than double the 17,086 apprehensions in April 2020. Almost 80 percent of the July 2020 detentions were Mexicans, including some who reported paying $5,000 to $10,000 to smugglers. Financing was provided by US-based relatives.

One reason Mexicans are trying to enter the US illegally is because they are usually returned to Mexico within hours in order to prevent covid in US detention facilities. Quick returns mean that those who are apprehended can try again right away.

The recidivism rate, the share of foreigners caught by CBP agents who were apprehended before, was over 30 percent in summer 2020, up from less than 10 percent in 2019. Recidivism is expected to increase as Mexico undergoes a recession and those caught repeatedly are not prosecuted.

The US Supreme Court in July 2020 overturned lower courts and allowed DHS to use money transferred from the Pentagon to continue building a wall on the Mexico-US border. The Trump administration spent $15 billion on the wall since taking office in 2017, including $5 billion appropriated by Congress and $10 billion from the Pentagon. In fall 2020, contractors were building two miles of border wall a day in order to complete 450 miles of new and rebuilt wall by the end of 2020.

The Trump administration in spring 2020 made changes to asylum procedures that make it more difficult for foreigners to enter the US and apply for asylum. In August 2020, Trump proposed to bar the entry of US citizens and legal immigrants from Mexico if CBP officers believe they are infected with Covid; this plan was not implemented.

ICE. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency announced that it apprehended over 2,000 unauthorized foreigners inside the US in July-August 2020, including 85 percent charged with or convicted of US crimes. ICE normally detains up to 50,000 unauthorized foreigners as they contest deportation, but had only 20,000 in detention in September 2020 due to Covid dangers.

Interior apprehensions in FY20 are likely be lower than in FY19, when there were 143,000. Of foreigners charged with or convicted of US crimes, 74,000 had DUI-related and 67,000 had drug offenses. A record 409,849 foreigners were deported in FY12, and 267,258 in FY19.

ICE in October 2020 announced more raids in sanctuary cities, where local law enforcement does not cooperate with ICE by holding foreigners who have served their sentences and for whom ICE has issued requests that prisons and jails hold foreigners who have completed their sentences.

ICE in July 2020 proposed to bar foreign students from the US if they take only on-line classes. Since many colleges plan to offer only on-line classes in Fall 2020, foreign students could not stay at or enter the US to enroll in such colleges.

Colleges sued, noting that ICE did not require foreign students to leave the US in March 2020 when they switched to on-line instruction, and the ICE policy was quickly reversed. There were 1.1 million international foreign students in the US in 2018-19, including those working after graduation on student visas. A third are from China.

ICE and migrant advocates reached agreement in July 2020 on a plan for parents with children whose applications for asylum have been rejected. Parents will choose between releasing their children to relatives in the US or into long-term foster care while they remain in detention, or keeping their children with them in detention, thus waiving any rights granted to children under the 1997 Flores court settlement that requires children to be released after a maximum 20 days in detention while awaiting the outcome of asylum proceedings.

The Trump administration began to prosecute criminally all unauthorized entrants in April-May 2018, which led to the separation of parents from their children. Family separation ended in June 2018, but the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in regulations aimed at making it harder to enter the US and apply for asylum.

USCIS. The US Supreme Court in June 2020 ruled 5-4 that DHS did not provide proper justification for ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program created by President Obama in June 2012. Some 640,000 unauthorized foreigners had DACA-issued work and residence permits in summer 2020.

USCIS accepted renewal applications while the DACA case was pending. A federal judge in July 2020 ordered USCIS to accept new applications from so-called Dreamers until DACA’s fate is determined. However, the Trump administration announced in July 2020 that it would not accept new DACA applications and would reduce renewal permits to one year while deciding the fate of DACA.

USCIS raised the fee to apply for naturalization to $1,160 in July 2020 and announced that asylum applicants would have to pay a $50 application fee. USCIS says that 97 percent of its budget comes from applicant fees, and that even a $50 asylum fee would not cover the average $366 cost of adjudicating each asylum application. Australia, Fiji, and Iran also charge foreigners to apply for asylum.

A federal judge in September 2020 blocked the higher fees from going into effect because the regulations were signed by acting secretary Chad Wolf. The judge agreed with migrant advocates that the USCIS fee increases would discourage low-income applicants from applying for immigration benefits.

Migrant advocates fear that some of the most far-reaching impacts of Trump policy changes involve changes to “public charge” regulations. US immigration policy has long barred the entry of persons who could become dependent on government support. DHS and other federal agencies issued regulations that lengthen the list of federal benefits that could make foreigners ineligible for immigrant visas.

The US Supreme Court in January 2020 allowed the public charge regulations to go into effect. A New York federal judge in July 2020 blocked USCIS from enforcing the public charge rule during the Covid-19 pandemic, but the US Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in August 2020 reversed another federal judge’s nationwide injunction blocking the implementation of the public charge rule.

The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturned a 2018 federal district court and ruled 2-1 in September 2020 that DHS may end Temporary Protected Status for 400,000 foreigners from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan. TPS was granted to citizens of these countries who were in the US when natural disasters or war occurred in their countries of citizenship. Their TPS was renewed for decades.

President Trump said there was no reason to continue TPS for citizens of these countries, and the Ninth Circuit agreed. The case is likely to be appealed to the full Ninth Circuit and perhaps to the US Supreme Court, meaning that the foreigners with TPS will be able to remain legally and work in the US for up to another year. TPS was created in 1990, and citizens of 10 countries had TPS in 2020.

There are over a million cases pending in the immigration courts; some 276,500 were adjudicated in FY19, resulting in 215,400 deportation orders.

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