The State of Immigration: August 2017

August updates on DACA, new anti-immigrant legislation, and more

This summer has been very busy in D.C. Before Congress went on recess, immigration was the focus of a lot of their activities. The president endorsed ending the family immigration system with the RAISE Act and the Attorney General of Texas has promised to sue the Federal Government unless it ends the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. In the fall, Congress will decide whether to fund a wall between Mexico and the U.S. and continue the detention and deportation efforts by the Department of Homeland Security Throughout the fall and winter Congress will also be make decisions as to whether to continue or end Temporary Protected Status programs for people from 10 designated countries. More information will follow on this topic soon.

On a brighter note, congratulations to Asian Americans Advancing Justice — Chicago for its successful advocacy in getting the Illinois Trust Act passed by the state legislature and signed by Republican Governor, Bruce Rauner!

The Anti-Immigrant RAISE Act: Proposed legislation would separate families and harm our economy

On August 2, 2017, President Trump formally endorsed the RAISE Act, which was reintroduced by Senator Tom Cotton (R-AK) and Senator David Perdue (R-GA). The RAISE Act would decimate the family-based immigration system and reduce the number of green cards available in any given year by 60–70 percent. The new version of the bill replaces the current employment-based system with a points-based system. The RAISE Act would dismantle the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 that created the existing family-based immigration system and finally allowed immigrants from non-European countries to come to the U.S. in larger numbers, creating the diversity we see in America today. This restrictionist legislation would keep families apart and roll back the transformative progress our country has made over the past half century. It would disproportionately affect Asian Americans and other communities of color. Read our analysis for more information.

You can also take action: Sign Asian Americans Advancing Justice’s petition against the RAISE Act and share with others! We plan to deliver these petitions along with partner organizations such as UnidosUS (formerly NCLR); Hispanic Federation, the Black Alliance for Justice Immigration (BAJI) and others. Make your voice be heard.

Defending DACA

In late June, Texas’ Attorney General, along with Attorney Generals from eight other states (AL, AR, KS, LA, NE, SC, TN, WV) and the Governor of Idaho, sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatening to amend their complaint in a previous lawsuit (Texas v. U.S.) and request that the DACA program be declared illegal unless the government phases out the program by September 5th. While we do not believe that the program is illegal, we expect that the judge in Texas v. U.S. would block the program while it moves up the courts. We also expect that the Federal government may not defend the lawsuit in which case Texas and the other states could win by default and DACA would end.

Additionally, Trump is under immense pressure from anti-immigrant groups such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and the Center for Immigration Studies to revoke the program. President Trump has been at times very outspoken about getting rid of DACA. We need to counter that pressure and express support for DACA. We saw over 60 organizations and nearly 40 Members of Congress express support for the program and for immigrant youth during a #defendDACA Twitterstorm. We must continue that pressure.

DACA Day of Action: August 15 marks five years since the start of the DACA program, which has allowed 800,000 immigrant youth to get legal protection, go to college, and support their families. On this day, United We Dream is coordinating a Day of Action to defend DACA, which includes a march in D.C. and other local actions.

Introducing the DREAM Act

On July 20th, Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced the 2017 DREAM Act. On July 26th, Representatives Lucille Royball-Allard (D-CA) and Illeana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) filed a similar DREAM Act in the House of Representatives. On July 28th, Rep. Carlos Gutierrez (D-IL) and 116 other cosponsors filed the American Hope Act, which would also protect DACA-eligible immigrants and others from deportation and offer them a path to citizenship. Click for more background on DACA and the DREAM Act and how to take action.

The Immigration Budget

Within one week of being sworn-in, President Trump issued several executive orders that changed our immigration system. In addition to the Muslim and refugee ban, the administration has essentially eliminated all priorities and discretion from immigration enforcement. These policies, along with the hateful anti-immigrant rhetoric coming out of the administration, are creating a climate of fear and rising racism and xenophobia.

The administration does not distinguish those people who pose a danger from those with deep ties to this country. Arrests of immigrants with no criminal record have more than doubled this year. Southeast Asian refugees with very old convictions, who came to the U.S. at a very young age and are now long-time permanent residents, are being rounded up, detained, and deported to countries they have no connections to. By going after all undocumented immigrants and deportable lawful permanent residents, this administration is creating great fear within immigrant communities. This is not making our country more safe.

But the administration cannot fully realize its agenda without funding from Congress. Congress will decide whether to fund this anti-immigrant and inhumane agenda in September. Asian Americans Advancing Justice is part of the Defund Hate Campaign. Download our backgrounder on the budget for more information. There will also be a digital day of action on September 9th. If you don’t already, we encourage you to follow us on twitter @AAAJ_AAJC.

The Latest on the Muslim Ban

On June 26th, the Supreme Court issued a short decision announcing that it would hear oral arguments in the case during the October term. In the decision, the Court also narrowed the order blocking the ban and allowed parts of it to go into effect. The Court stated that any refugee or national from the six countries impacted by the ban who lacks a credible “bona fide relationship to a person or entity” would be banned from the United States. The government chose to interpret what constitutes a “bona fide relationship” very narrowly and excluded grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law and any other “extended” family members from its definition. The Government also said that refugee resettlement organizations do not qualify as bona fide relationships. After some back and forth in the courts, the Supreme Court clarified its decision and stated that grandparents are considered bona fide relationships but that refugee resettlement agencies still do not count.

Today, people from the banned countries who have jobs or job offers, are enrolled in school, or have close family relationships in the U.S. are not banned from receiving visas. Similarly, refugees who have close family relationships in the U.S. may be settled here. Those who are left out include refugees without those ties, tourists without those ties, and people who have won the diversity lottery from the six countries but have no close family ties.

Even a full victory at the Supreme Court would only partially block the administration’s attacks on Muslims and people from predominantly Muslim countries. The extreme vetting of people applying for visas from predominantly Muslim countries has already begun. Another challenge for refugee resettlement is that the President may set the levels for the number of refugees allowed in and Congress authorizes funding for the resettlement programs.

Advancing Justice | AAJC will continue to defend the rights of immigrants and push for just, humane and inclusive immigration policies.

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