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The Chipping Away of U.S. Legal Immigration: April Edition

This article is part of our ongoing series tracking the many changes in immigration legislation.  You can access the full series here.

April 1 - Georgia Immigration Detention Employee tests positive for coronavirus, forces detainees into quarantine 

After a Georgia Immigration Detention employee tested positive for coronavirus, 33 detainees that the employee may have had direct contact with have been quarantined in a separate housing unit. 

April 1 - Guatemala confirms receiving 2nd U.S. deportee with coronavirus

An ICE official said that the man had no symptoms when he boarded the flight to Guatemala, but advocates argue that it’s likely he contracted the virus in the U.S. and possibly spread the virus to others in-flight. 

April 1 - Immigration Detention Centers Remain Crowded, Despite Calls for More Protections

Detention centers around the country are crowded, and detainees lack proper protections against the coronavirus pandemic. 

April 2 - Temporary license given to doctors from foreign countries

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signs an executive order giving temporary license to doctors from foreign countries who are in “good standing” to come to New Jersey to assist with the coronavirus outbreak. 

April 2 - USCIS announces that in-person services will remain suspended until May 3

US Citizenship and Immigration Services, which acts as the core agency to process all legal immigration cases, will keep their field offices, asylum offices, and application support centers closed to in-person services until May 3; exceptions will be made for emergencies.

April 2 - Border Agents told to send migrants back immediately

In a leaked memo, Border Agents are told to send people seeking asylum away immediately, thus giving migrants no chance to make their asylum case. 

April 2 - President Trump solicits migrant labor for medical and farm work

In an effort to prop up industries that are struggling during the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump is encouraging workers from specific fields to come for temporary work. This includes medical professionals and seasonal farm workers. 

April 3 - 10,000+ doctors cannot assist in highly affected areas

Due to visa restrictions, 10,000+ doctors who were trained in the U.S. cannot work for any hospitals besides their current employer. This prevents thousands of doctors from being able to help in areas more highly affected by the coronavirus pandemic. 

April 7 - Detainees

There are currently over 35,000 detainees in ICE custody, and although some are being released, immigrant rights advocates and health advocates are calling for more detainees to be released for the sake of public health. This is especially concerning as more and more ICE employees and CBP employees are testing positive for the coronavirus and exposing detainees who are living in enclosed spaces with insufficient protections

April 7 - Cancelled Citizenship Ceremonies

Due to cancelled citizenship ceremonies and in-person interviews, many immigrants may not be able to become naturalized citizens in time for the November elections. Remote alternatives have not been provided yet, but if allowed would provide a solution. 

April 7 - Hundreds of migrant children deported under new coronavirus rules

As part of a new rule implemented on March 21, 377 migrant children intercepted at the U.S. Mexico border have been deported. The new rules allow U.S. officials to “quickly remove people without standard immigration proceedings.”

April 12 - Millions of tax paying immigrants will not receive assistance from the coronavirus relief package

This group includes immigrants who are undocumented, but who pay taxes, and disregards whether or not these immigrants have children who are U.S. citizens. 

There are currently 3,100 unaccompanied minors in custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Court hearings (including deportation hearings) for those detained are moving forward at the same pace as usual. 

April 14 - Detained immigrants ask for masks, use t-shirts as face coverings

After a woman in their unit tested positive for coronavirus, detainees in a Houston immigration detention center started asking for masks, and resorted to using t-shirts to protect themselves against the coronavirus. Detainees will not receive masks until they sign a form releasing the detention center from responsibility if they contract the virus.

April 14 - Evangelical leaders call for alternative accommodations to protect detainees from coronavirus

Evangelical leaders who are part of the Evangelical Immigration Table wrote a letter to DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf calling for alternative housing arrangements to protect non-violent detainees from exposure to the coronavirus. 

April 14 - ICE detention centers in NY area release hundreds of detainees due to coronavirus concerns

April 15 - Immigrants fear seeking treatment/testing for coronavirus

Due to the recent “Public Charge” rules that went into effect this February, many immigrants are hesitant to seek treatment for coronavirus symptoms or pursue testing for coronavirus, worrying that they will be deported. 

April 15 - A change in leadership at DHHS leads to stricter immigration enforcement

This new stance implemented by new leadership would result in children being detained by Border Patrol for much longer periods of time. 

April 16 - Border wall construction continues despite coronavirus pandemic 

April 20 - Immigration advocates push for protection for TPS recipients

Advocates are pushing for protection for the more than 300,000 Temporary Protected Status recipients. 11,000 recipients of TPS work in health care. Protections requested include automatically extended work authorization, as well as a pathway to citizenship by passing the American Dream and Promise Act. 

April 20 - Supreme Court allows DACA advocates to cite recipients’ essential work  

Soon the Supreme Court will decide whether the Trump administration can lawfully terminate the DACA program. The Supreme Court “agreed Monday to consider a new filing... that argues the Trump administration's decision to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Admissions (DACA) program should be blocked in light of the pandemic.”

April 21 -President Trump tweets his intention to temporarily suspend immigration 

Citing concerns about the spread of coronavirus, the president tweeted his intent to suspend immigration to the US, despite the fact that the State Department had already suspended nearly all immigration to the country as of the previous month. 

April 21 - DACA Students will not receive emergency aid 

The Education Department’s $6 billion in emergency aid to colleges will not be permitted to go do undocumented students, including about 100,000 DACA recipients. 

April 21 - ICE can access DACA recipients’ personal data after all

The White House promised the information from DACA applications would not be available to ICE. In reality, “immigration enforcement agencies already had access to databases containing detailed information, such as home addresses, about DACA recipients and millions of other immigrants.” 

April 22 - White House Issues Proclamation Suspending Immigration

The proclamation suspends immigrants from other countries for 60 days, but includes exemptions. Legal permanent residents will be unable to bring their spouses and children into the country during the suspension. Check out the summary article above for more details.

April 23 -Supreme Court upholds decision to allow “federal authorities to deport certain immigrants who have committed crimes”.

This ruling could affect thousands of immigrants who are here legally but who have criminal records, including minor offenses.

April 24 -  Federal judge rules that migrant children must be released from detention

In accordance with the Flores Settlement Agreement, the issued order requires ORR and ICE to release children from custody without unnecessary delay, and requires ICE facilities to improve health and sanitary conditions in accordance with CDC Covid-19 standards.

April 25 - Immigration law groups file a temporary restraining order seeking to block a portion of the President’s proclamation. 

The filing asks the court to restrain the proclamation from restricting consulates abroad from processing urgent and emergency interviews, such as those for children that would age out of visa eligibility during the suspension.

April 28 - President suggests that federal bailout for states could depend on sanctuary city policies

The White House suggested that state and local bailout money from the federal government for Covid-19 impacts on the economy could hinge on whether the immigration policies of the individual governments seeking relief align with the administration’s priorities.


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