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

Overwhelmed by all the headlines detailing drastic changes to immigration policy? Here’s a list of the alarming policy changes that have happened during the month of November alone.

11/1: Zero Refugees 

It’s announced that last month, for the first time since records began, the number of refugees actually resettled in the U.S. hit zero. 

11/2: Lowest Cap Ever

President Trump lowers the number of refugees that the U.S. will accept in fiscal year 2020 to just 18,000 — the lowest in thirty years. The administration has also capped the number of Iraqi refugees who helped U.S. troops during the Iraq War: Only 4,000 can be resettled this year, while 110,000 are waiting to be approved.  

11/3: Judge Blocks Health Insurance Requirement

A federal judge temporarily blocked a Trump administration order that would have required prospective immigrants to prove they had health insurance within 30 days of arriving or enough money to pay for “reasonably foreseeable medical costs.” (Recent immigrants without insurance accounted for less than one-tenth of 1% of U.S. medical expenditures in 2017.)

11/4: Asylum Seekers Can’t Work

The Trump administration begins drafting new restrictions to prevent asylum seekers from applying for work permits until they have been in the country for at least a year. Asylum-seekers have normally been able to apply for work permits 150 days after filing asylum applications, allowing them to seek employment while they await a decision on their case by an immigration judge. Due to a backlog in immigration courts, asylum cases currently take approximately two years to be adjudicated, forcing immigrants to work in a shadow economy if the new restrictions take effect.

11/5: Stephen Miller’s Pick is Chosen to Lead DHS

The President chooses Chad Wolf to head the Department of Homeland Security, and faces a complicated confirmation process. Wolf, who is the favorite of White House immigration hardliner Stephen Miller, would be the fifth person to lead the department under Trump.  

11/6: Government Must Provide Mental Healthcare for Traumatized Immigrants

A federal judge rules that the government must provide mental health services to thousands of migrant parents and children who experienced psychological harm as a result of the Trump administration’s practice of separating families. The decision is a rare instance of the administration being held legally accountable for its policies. 

11/9: New Fees for Safety

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced it will impose significant new fees on immigrants seeking to stay and work in the United States — including asylum seekers. The proposal would impose a $50 application fee for affirmative asylum applications and a $490 work permit fee for all asylum seekers. Fees for citizenship petitions would also increase from $750 to $1,170, and the amount could be higher for some immigrants. It amounts to a 61% hike in costs, “Had the application fee risen with the pace of inflation, it would be $85 today.” 

11/12: A White Supremacist in the White House

The Southern Poverty Law Center released a report that found senior White House advisor Stephen Miller repeatedly sent emails to a Breitbart editor recommending white nationalist websites and literature as rationale for his hardline immigration policies. The emails, which were sent throughout 2015 and 2016, cited “source material” that included white nationalist websites.

11/14: Pressure to Deny Asylum

A Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report found that border officials have tried to prevent migrants from making protection claims at the border with asylum officers — and pressured the officers to deny migrants entry into the U.S. altogether.

11/19: Sending Asylum Seekers Away

The Trump administration publishes a new rule permitting asylum seekers to be sent to other countries that have negotiated agreements with the U.S. to accept them -- Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras included, which all rank among the top ten countries with the highest homicide rates in the world. This new regulation “states that asylum seekers may be sent to any other countries with which the United States has asylum agreements that permit such an action - even if they did not first transit through those nations.”

11/21: Guatemala Program Begins

The Trump administration begins an effort to send some asylum seekers at the border to Guatemala. The pilot aims to process 10 to 15 migrants per day and will first target adults from Honduras and El Salvador. “Asylum officers were instructed not to ask migrants whether they have a fear of being sent to Guatemala. Instead, the migrants must affirmatively state a fear of being sent to that country.” 

11/21: New Rules to Restrict Immigration 

The Trump administration proposes ambitious and far-reaching new immigration regulations that would impact employers, international students, H-1B visa holders, family members seeking reunification, asylum seekers and others. “It’s an attempt to lock into place changes to immigration policy that cannot be easily undone, regardless of the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.”

(Many thanks to the National Immigration Forum team, whose leader Ali Noorani publishes the fantastic run-down of immigration news during weekdays, Noorani’s Notes. We recommend you subscribe!)

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