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Phoenix Immigration & Naturalization Law Blog

ICE sued by the ACLU for unfair detention of asylum seekers

Arizonans are likely familiar with the issues surrounding immigration. They might be interested in learning that the American Civil Liberties Union recently filed a lawsuit against the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency for allegedly detaining asylum seekers unfairly.

According to the ACLU, asylum seekers who pass the credible fear test are normally released on humanitarian parole while they wait for their hearings before immigration judges. Since the Trump administration came into power, however, the ACLU alleges that humanitarian parole has decreased from 90 percent of the asylum seekers down to zero in five offices located in El Paso, Texas; Philadelphia; Los Angeles; Newark, New Jersey; and Detroit, Michigan.

Temporary Protected Status ending for many immigrants

Some Arizona residents who came to the United States under the Temporary Protected Status program may be sent back to their home countries even if they have been living in the country for decades and have children who are citizens. The Trump administration is phasing out these programs, and now, Hondurans who are in the United States with TPS status must either return home within the next 18 months or remain in the country as an undocumented immigrant.

The purpose of the program is to grant temporary residency for people whose countries have been devastated by civil war, hurricanes or earthquakes. The devastation caused by Hurricane Mitch in 1998 lead to Hondurans being allowed to settle in the country under the program. However, since then, there have been serious issues with drug cartel and gang violence, and opponents of ending the program argue that people will be sent right back into these situations. Supporters say the country has had time to recover from the hurricane and that it has always had problems with violence and poverty.

Cultural confusion can be a detriment to immigrants

Immigrants in Arizona and other states who can't afford an attorney could be tempted to work with "notarios publico," which translates to "public notaries." These notarios tell individuals who are living in the country illegally that they can help them secure work permits and otherwise aid them with the immigration process. However, these notaries could actually put a person's ability to stay in the country in jeopardy.

One woman was taken into custody more than 20 years after a notario sent an application for permanent residency to authorities. However, she claims that she never lived at the address listed on the application, so she never received a notice to appear in court. Since the woman failed to show up for her court date, she was selected for deportation. In many cases, a notario will submit an application for asylum and a work permit using his or her own address on the application.

Caravan of 200 people getting closer to United States

Residents in border states such as Arizona may have heard about a caravan that is looking to cross Mexico with hopes of eventually reaching the United States. According to organizers, there are roughly 200 people in that caravan, and their goal is to seek asylum once they reach the United States border. A representative from Pueblo Sin Fronteras said that this was more than twice as many as was expected.

Many in the caravan are of Central American descent and are trying to escape harsh conditions in Honduras or El Salvador. One man acknowledged that his odds of actually getting asylum were relatively slim as he had no proof of the danger that he faced back home. However, he claimed that he and his family were fleeing from a gang in Honduras that had already killed one of his relatives.

Understanding immigration petitions

In Arizona, parties that have certain relationships with others who wish to immigrate to the U.S. may file petitions on their behalf. Immigration petitions are applications that the U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents or employers may file on behalf of the immigrants.

Family members of immigrants who have certain relationships may file immigration petitions on their behalf. The family members must meet certain guidelines in order to petition for their immigrant relatives. The petitions are normally treated in order of priority with U.S. citizens who petition for their spouses or minor unmarried children having top priority.

Asylum rule changes may impact Arizona residents

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is attempting to rewrite the rules regarding who gets asylum in the United States. He says that doing so could reduce the number of immigration cases. There are currently 600,000 such cases waiting to be heard, which is triple the number of cases that were pending in 2009. Many of these involve women and children who have traveled from Central America to the United States.

Sessions also claims that his efforts could reduce the amount of fraud and abuse in the system. According to the attorney general, there is no doubt that some people try to take advantage of the immigration system. However, immigrant advocates claim that changing the system could result in victims of domestic violence or others legitimately seeking asylum being denied the protection that they need.

Supreme Court rules in DACA case

Immigrants in Arizona and around the country who have sought protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program will continue to be protected for now. On Feb. 26, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by the Trump administration to a Jan. 9 injunction from a California federal district court judge that put a stop to the administration's efforts to end the DACA program. Around 700,000 people are protected by this program that provides them with work permits for two years and then requires them to reapply.

The DACA program was originally put in place by the Obama administration to help people who were illegally brought into the country as children. The Trump administration's argument was that because Obama bypassed Congress, he exceeded his constitutional powers.

Trump administration mulling welfare checks for immigrants

Immigrants in Arizona and around the country who receive SNAP benefits or other forms of financial assistance would find obtaining permanent residence more difficult under a policy being considered by President Trump. Immigration officers could check whether or not green card applicants have received or sought to receive public benefits for either themselves or their dependents under a draft policy from the Department of Homeland Security. The agency says that the rule change is needed to prevent immigrants from becoming burdens on society.

Supporters of the proposed measure say that screening immigrants based on the welfare benefits they have received encourages self-sufficiency and makes it more likely that they will go on to achieve the American dream, but critics say the draft policy could deter poor green card applicants from seeking potentially life-saving assistance. When asked about the proposal, a DHS representative said only that the Trump administration would spend taxpayer money carefully.

The rate of naturalization rises from 2005 to 2015

Arizonans may be interested to learn that most of the largest immigrant groups in the United States had increased rates of naturalization from 2005 to 2015, according to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center. The largest increase was among immigrants from Ecuador and India. The nations that either showed a decline or no change were Honduras, Cuba and China.

Several conditions must be met for a person to be eligible for citizenship. The person must be at least 18 and have been a lawful permanent resident for at least five years. For people married to a citizen, the time period for residency is three years. The person must also be in good legal standing. The process can take up to a year and be expensive for some people. Between 2005 and 2015, around 11 percent of applications for naturalization were denied.

Some being turned at at San Diego entry points

Arizona residents may be aware that individuals may try to enter the United States from Mexico seeking asylum. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, entry into the country through San Diego ports has been paused as they have reached capacity. Therefore, those who are seeking asylum may need to wait until others are processed before they can eventually gain entry there themselves.

The CBP has said that no one is being turned away from the border and that the pause only applies to those who are being processed. Turning refugees away from the border may be a violation of Article 33 of the 1951 Refugee Convention according to a law professor at Harvard. Those who have been turned away may be able to seek shelter in Mexico with the help of Grupo Beta. For some, being denied entry into the United States is just one of their problems.

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