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Worksite Immigration Raids Terrorize Workers and Communities Now, and Their Devastating Consequences Are Long-Term (The Torch)

Worksite Immigration Raids Terrorize Workers and Communities Now, and Their Devastating Consequences Are Long-Term

THE TORCH: CONTENTSBy Holly Straut-Eppsteiner
APRIL 11, 2019

Early in the Trump administration, U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials promised to increase worksite enforcement actions that specifically target immigrant workers. Subsequently, raids conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE’s) Homeland Security Investigations have terrorized workers and communities across the country.

Since the raid on a meat processing facility in Bean Station, Tenn., resulted in the arrest of nearly 100 workers one year ago, a succession of raids has each been dubbed the “largest in a decade.” Last June, there were 146 arrests at Fresh Mark, a meat processing facility in Salem, Ohio. In August, 160 workers were arrested at Load Trail Trailer in Sumner, Tex. Most recently — last week — a raid on CVE Technology Group in Allen, Tex., resulted in the arrests of 284 workers.

Regardless of whether nearly 300 people are arrested, as happened last week in Allen, or 30 people, as during a February raid in Sanford, N.C., these raids are devastating for individuals, families, and communities. The people represented by these numbers are members of local communities: they are workers, parents, friends, and neighbors. While ICE typically claims that these “administrative arrests” are a secondary consequence of its investigations of employers’ criminal activity, it’s actually workers who end up suffering the most because of these investigations.

Workers who have lived through one of these raids describe how a normal workday suddenly transforms into multiple scenes of chaos infused with fear. In Tennessee, the National Immigration Law Center and co-counsel filed a lawsuit on behalf of workers whose constitutional rights were violated during last year’s highly militarized raid. One plaintiff, Martha Pulido, described the terror she experienced: “I showed up to work that morning just like I had every day for more than a year, ready to do my job and provide for my family. Instead, I had a gun pointed in my face and saw my coworkers get punched in the face and shoved to the ground by federal agents.”

In Texas last week, workers described “working like a normal day” before hearing “screaming” and their colleagues crying as workers reacted fearfully to ICE agents’ sudden appearance in their workplace, and as the agents made them separate into color-coded subgroups.

Amid the uncertainty workers and their families face, there is continuity in the sequence and pattern of consequences that flow from raids, large and small. Relatives and friends waiting outside workplaces to learn the fate of their loved ones, as some are taken away on buses to detention facilities. Working families hit with financial strain as they struggle to deal with lost income and the costs of posting bond. Children missing school in the days after raids and, in the longer term, both parents and children suffering the effects of toxic stress, trauma, and associated poor health outcomes. Ripple effects of fear and isolation among immigrant communities. Schools, religious and other community groups, and advocacy organizations rallying to support those impacted in the days and months after raids.

Raids conducted in the first decade of the 2000s, under the George W. Bush administration, are instructive for our longer-term expectations of such impacts. In 2008, a raid on a meat processing facility in Postville, Iowa, resulted in the arrest of 389 workers — nearly 20 percent of the town’s residents. Research shows that Iowa infants born to Latina mothers had significantly higher risk of low birthweight after Postville. Postville, the town, experienced long-term economic distress. Research from other raids during this period documents academic, social, and psychological harms to impacted children, as well as downward economic mobility and higher levels of food and housing insecurity for workers and families.

Whether or not the next worksite raid breaks recent records for the number of workers arrested, we can be sure that not only the workers themselves, but also the broader communities where the raids are staged, will suffer devastating consequences for years to come.

Holly Straut-Eppsteiner is NILC’s Mellon/ACLS Public Fellow and research program manager.


Congress Adds its Voice to the Fight Against the Muslim Ban (The Torch)

Congress Adds Its Voice to the Fight Against the Muslim Ban

THE TORCH: CONTENTSBy Subha Varadarajan
APRIL 10, 2019

More than two years have passed since the Trump administration implemented the first version of its Muslim ban, and communities continue to suffer its consequences. The version of the ban currently in effect prevents nationals of five Muslim-majority countries — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen — from entering the United States. It separates families, deprives people of life-saving health care, and blocks their access to education and professional opportunities.

The original Muslim ban was the first of many horrific discriminatory policies that have come out of the Trump administration. Since the day Trump issued the first executive order establishing the ban, January 27, 2017, his administration has adopted and implemented many more xenophobic policies, including two additional iterations of the Muslim ban. Each subsequent iteration has had the same discriminatory intention of banning Muslims from entering the U.S., and each version was immediately challenged in the courts. Unfortunately, on June 26, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court turned a blind eye to the injustices inherent in the ban, and it allowed the ban’s third iteration to go into full effect.

Since the Supreme Court’s decision, the Trump administration has continued its attack on immigrant communities — abuses like detaining family members separately from each other, attempting to change the rules about who is considered a “public charge” for immigration purposes, and issuing yet another ban, this one targeting Central American asylum-seekers attempting to enter the U.S. at the border with Mexico. Notwithstanding all the other horrific policies that have been introduced and implemented under President Trump, the Muslim ban continues to be one of the administration’s worst signature policies.

Although a number of important bills have been introduced in Congress to defund the ban’s implementation or require more oversight, none of them have language that would prevent a future ban. Today for the first time, a set of bills was introduced whose aim is to repeal all iterations of the Muslim ban and prevent any future president from enacting a new, similar ban.

Today, Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) and Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) introduced the National Origin-Based Antidiscrimination for Nonimmigrants (No Ban) Act in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. Due to the hard work of many coalition partners, this bill includes the pieces essential not only to repeal the Muslim ban but also to create barriers against issuing any new ban. The No Ban Act would amend sections of the Immigration Nationality Act (INA) that Trump used as legal authority to create all his various bans. In addition, this legislation is a perfect complement to other legislative efforts, such as HR.810 and S.246, that would prevent American taxpayer dollars from being used to implement the Muslim ban.

Outlined below are the specific reasons why the No Ban Act is a meaningful bill that members of Congress need to get behind:

Repeals all iterations of the Muslim and other bans

This bill would repeal all three iterations of Trump’s Muslim ban, his refugee/extreme-vetting-of-refugees ban, and his asylum ban. The inclusion of each type of ban is vital, since they are all based on the same discriminatory intent.

  • The refugee ban is just another iteration of the Muslim ban. It specifically targets the parts of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program that have accounted for 80 percent of all Muslim refugees resettled in the U.S. in the past two years.
  • The asylum ban was issued based on the same INA authority as the Muslim ban, but targeting asylum-seekers at the southern U.S. border.

Expands the INA’s nondiscrimination provision

This bill would broaden the INA’s nondiscrimination provision by adding religion to the list of protected classes. This addition would also apply to all visa applicants, immigrant and nonimmigrant. The primary motivation for Trump’s ban is religious animus, and this revision seeks to prevent a policy based on similar animus from being implemented in the future.

Limits authority to suspend or restrict the entry of a class of non–U.S. citizens

Most importantly, this bill would amend INA section 212(f), the section that Trump claimed as legal authority to create the Muslim and asylum bans, to require that additional criteria be met before the entry of a person or class of people may be banned. This amendment would limit the ability for a future president to create any type of ban, including but not limited to bans of Muslims, refugees, or asylum-seekers.

Requires more reporting on the implementation of administration policies

This bill would require retroactive reporting on the implementation of each of the Muslim bans. It would also trigger periodic reporting on any future use of INA section 212(f), thus providing Congress with more information to use in conducting its oversight duties.

WE URGE YOU TO REACH OUT to your congressional representative and senators to encourage them to cosponsor the No Ban Act. Two ways to do this are by signing the #RepealTheBan petition and calling your members of Congress. It is imperative that we stand united against white nationalism and #RepealTheBan once and for all.

Subha Varadarajan is NILC’s Muslim and refugee ban legal and outreach fellow.


Dream and Promise Act: An Important Step Forward for Our Communities (The Torch)

An Important Step Forward for Our Communities

MARCH 14, 2019

Earlier this week, a bill — the Dream and Promise Act of 2019 — was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that would provide long-overdue, permanent relief to people who have become even more vulnerable since President Trump and his administration stripped them of protections from deportation.

By providing permanent protections and a pathway to U.S. citizenship for Dreamers and people with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or temporary protected status (TPS) or deferred enforced departure (DED), this bill combines prior efforts to protect these populations. It recognizes that, in many ways, the people who comprise these communities are similarly impacted and, in some cases, are even part of the same households. It also importantly combines efforts to advocate alongside all these communities and build stronger alliances. While the Trump administration seeks to dismantle our immigration system with death by a thousand cuts to our communities, it’s important that we fight back, together.

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) joined forces with Reps. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) and Yvette Clarke (D-NY), who’d previously championed their own bills to protect people with TPS and DED, to introduce a strong bill that would provide the long-overdue protections these communities have needed, but that now are more urgently needed than ever. We know Trump is intent on stripping our communities of protections so that they are left vulnerable to detention and deportation — and that is exactly why the Dream and Promise Act is timely.

While there are aspects of the bill we are committed to making stronger, we believe the introduction of this bill is a major step forward in securing protections we need, and we hope you will join us in urging your members of Congress to support this bill. Here’s why:

The Dream and Promise Act provides a clear, attainable pathway to U.S. citizenship. For Dreamers, people with DACA, TPS, or DED, and others eligible for such statuses who may not have applied, the United States is their home — and, in many cases, has been for decades. We are integral members of our communities and have a future here. By providing permanent protections and a pathway to citizenship for these communities, this legislation recognizes that we are Americans in all but “paper” and deserve to live our lives with security and stability in the place we call home.

The bill does not trade granting protections to some communities for funding harm to others. This is a critical point. This bill does not trade protections for immigrant youth and people with TPS or DED for further militarization of our border communities or expanded immigration policing of our communities or detention of immigrants — a tradeoff that would only inflict more pain on our communities and result in more deportations. It also does not make any changes to existing channels of immigration in exchange for protections.

The Dream and Promise Act shows that our communities will fight together, not against each other. By providing protections for immigrant youth and people with TPS or DED, we are making it clear that our communities cannot be pitted against each other in Trump’s policy games. We are not pawns in some game. And together, we will raise our voices and win the protections we deserve.

We hope you will join us in this fight for permanent protections for our communities. We can’t do this without you, and we hope we can count on you to celebrate and keep up the fight until all our communities get the protections they deserve.

Diana Pliego is a NILC policy associate and a DACA recipient.

A section-by-section summary of the bill is available at

A short summary of the bill is available at


House “Medicare for All” Bill Tears Down Walls (The Torch)

House “Medicare for All” Bill Tears Down Walls

THE TORCH: CONTENTSBy Sonya Schwartz, NILC Senior Policy Attorney
FEBRUARY 27, 2019

As the Medicare for All proposal is introduced and begins its passage through the U.S. House of Representatives, people outraged by the Trump administration’s obsession with building a wall should pay close attention. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and more than 100 cosponsors want to do more than stop a border wall; they want to build an America where everyone can thrive. Their legislation envisions a country where all would have access to health care — and that includes U.S. citizens and noncitizen immigrants, both documented and undocumented.


The introduction of the House Medicare for All bill is a moment in our country’s history worth celebrating for several reasons:

It’s the most inclusive federal health care expansion proposal on the table. The bill is inclusive of all immigrants, documented and undocumented, along with citizens, and unequivocally states that the secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) shall “ensure that every person in the United States has access to health care.” Other “health care for all” proposals would limit coverage to certain documented immigrants or delegate the decision about who would be included to the secretary of HHS.

It’s the best way to reject President Trump’s equation of worth with wealth and whiteness. Just as important, the approach taken by Rep. Jayapal is the best way to reject Trump’s equation of worth with wealth and whiteness. She and her colleagues would use the law to ensure that Trump, or some future Trump, will never again abuse the power of the presidency to build a bureaucratic wall — based on immigration status, national origin, language, race, or faith — between a person and the health care they need. “All” would mean all.

Ensuring access to health care for all benefits everyone. Car accidents don’t happen only to U.S. citizens. And childhood asthma doesn’t affect only kids with green cards. We all face these and other health challenges, and improving health outcomes for the nation as a whole depends on ensuring that we all can get the care we need.

There are dramatic health consequences to being uninsured, and access to health care coverage improves health and saves lives. Communities with high rates of uninsurance face health system impacts, residents are more likely to have unmet health care needs, vital services are less likely to be available, and more hospitals are likely to close.

Access to health care coverage also has positive economic benefits, reducing both health and non–health-related debt, enabling people to spend more in local economies, and increasing workplace productivity and economic output.

State efforts to provide health care to everyone regardless of immigration status only go so far. California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Washington, and the District of Columbia use their own state funds to provide health care coverage to children regardless of immigration status. California and New York have active efforts to cover all adults regardless of immigration status as well. However, at the end of the day, state efforts to fill gaps left by federal policies will go only so far.

This is a vital, basic issue involving all of us that’s crying out for a federal solution.


Don’t Be Fooled: Funding for ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Is Funding for Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Agenda (The Torch)

Don’t Be Fooled: Funding for ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Is Funding for Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Agenda

THE TORCH: CONTENTSBy Jessie Hahn, NILC Labor & Employment Policy Attorney
FEBRUARY 8, 2019

While the public may think that Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) focuses primarily on national security and transnational crime, HSI is also responsible for certain immigration enforcement functions inside the U.S. (known as “interior enforcement”), including enforcement of immigration laws as they apply to worksites (“worksite enforcement“). In October 2017, the former acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Thomas Homan, vowed to increase worksite enforcement activities “4 to 5 times,” and in January 2018, U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen doubled down by promising to ramp up worksite raids.

As a result, HSI has resumed engaging in highly militarized and coercive large-scale worksite immigration raids. In fact, over the spring and summer of 2018, it conducted several high-profile operations in Florida, Tennessee, Iowa, two locations in Ohio, Nebraska, Minnesota, Texas, and Arkansas.

Worksite raids are a violent and widely condemned enforcement tactic that tear parents away from unsuspecting children, cause profound psychological harm, destabilize local communities, and generally undermine all workers’ job-related rights. While HSI has attempted to legitimize its use of worksite raids by claiming they are criminal investigations, the vast majority of the workers detained are administratively arrested on civil immigration violations, and in most cases the employers are not criminally charged. By using worksite raids to target large numbers of workers for arrest and deportation while failing to prosecute the employers who hired them and profited from their labor, HSI’s new worksite enforcement practices mirror the larger strategy of the Trump administration — abusing executive powers to demonize and scapegoat immigrants while quietly pursuing policies that line the pockets of business interests.


During the spring and summer of 2018, disturbing patterns emerged in HSI’s conduct of its worksite raids. Multiple news reports described that while helicopters circled overhead and local law enforcement blocked nearby roads, HSI agents stormed worksites as heavily armed guards secured all exits. In the utter chaos that ensued, unsuspecting workers were subjected to excessive force, intimidated by police dogs, thrown to the ground, assaulted, had guns pointed at their heads, and were subjected to racist and degrading comments from HSI agents. In Ohio, plainclothes HSI agents initially lured a group of workers into a breakroom using boxes of donuts before surrounding them and arresting them. In multiple raids, HSI agents racially profiled workers, separating workers by skin tone and rounding up brown-skinned workers without asking for identification or immigration status information — which resulted in false arrests of U.S. citizens who were then held unlawfully, in some cases for hours.

Predictably, such enforcement brings deep trauma to those directly impacted by it and also terrifies the larger immigrant community. After a devastating raid in Tennessee, the ripple effects spread across the region, with neighbors scrambling to care for children who had been left stranded without parents for hours and families sleeping in churches for days out of fear of ICE coming to their homes. The day after the raid, 550 children failed to show up to local schools. This kind of immigration enforcement has a profoundly destabilizing effect on the well-being of the children whose parents are unexpectedly torn from them, causing severe anxiety and depression, poor sleeping and eating habits, inability to focus in school, and constant fear of separation from other family members.

While HSI has engaged in criminal investigations of employers since its formation, the use of large-scale worksite raids to target workers for arrest and deportation was discontinued after 2008 due to the widely documented harms and the havoc these operations cause. In public statements, HSI has attempted to justify its latest ramping up of worksite enforcement as necessary to “build another layer of border security” and “reduce the continuum of crime that illegal labor facilitates.” In reality, HSI is making the decision to engage in the most aggressive, violent form of enforcement it can take at worksites because the real purpose of the raids is to target workers for deportation while creating a media spectacle designed to intimidate immigrant communities into “self-deporting.”


If HSI were serious about curbing unlawful hiring and employment, it would meaningfully hold employers accountable instead of focusing its enforcement firepower on workers. Yet in the majority of recent raids, employers have not been charged criminally — in fact, 2018 saw the lowest number of federal indictments and convictions of managers for unlawful hiring offenses in the last ten years. In addition, of the 779 criminal worksite arrests that HSI did make in 2018, 85 percent were workers and 15 percent were employers. As the graph above shows, while there has been an increase in the number of employers charged criminally in the worksite enforcement context, far greater resources have been expended in criminally charging workers — and most of those charges were detected after taking the workers into custody and fingerprinting them (see examples from the raids in TennesseeSandusky, Ohio; and Canton, Ohio).

HSI also alleges that its investigations help combat the exploitation of workers, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. HSI’s worksite enforcement activities force immigrant workers into the margins and damage communities, making workers more fearful of deportation and more vulnerable to gross exploitation by employers. When HSI’s own investigation of the Tennessee employer turned up wage and hour and safety violations on the job, it did not refer those violations to the proper authorities (who opened investigations only after the employees filed complaints).

ICE has been sued repeatedly for constitutional violations committed during home raids and by this point should be well aware of the constitutional rights and protections that everyone in the U.S. has. There is no legitimate reason for Congress to increase funding for HSI’s abusive worksite raids. Currently, HSI has approximately 6,000 enforcement officers and 6,000 special agents. But it wants to add an additional 10,000 officers and agents, which would significantly increase its capacity to harm families and communities across the country.

Rather than increasing HSI’s funding, Congress should cut it and also prohibit HSI from arresting workers while conducting worksite enforcement.


Redacted National Vetting Center Implementation Plan Raises More Concerns Than It Answers (The Torch)

Redacted National Vetting Center Implementation Plan Raises More Concerns Than It Answers

JANUARY 31, 2019

The Trump administration recently released a redacted version of its implementation plan (dated August 2018 but not released until December 2018) for a newly created National Vetting Center (NVC). The NVC project was first announced by presidential proclamation (NSPM-9) in February 2018. While it raised immediate concerns, the implementation plan and a December 11, 2018, privacy impact assessment (PIA) only confirm why this should worry immigrants and citizens.

As we’ve reported previously, the administration has been determined to implement a “continuous vetting strategy, framework and process” as a way to screen non–U.S. citizens at all stages of the immigration process, including after they become U.S. citizens. This extreme vetting strategy is part of a larger Trump agenda to criminalize, surveil, and police immigrants and communities of color. The NVC represents one element of that strategy.


The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) describes the NVC as “designed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of U.S. Government vetting programs in order to better identify individuals who may pose a threat to national security, border security, homeland security, or public safety, consistent with law and policy.” The PIA calls the NVC a “process and technology” and describes its primary purpose as “[c]reating, maintaining, and facilitating” the vetting process. NVC’s first phase of operations will focus on vetting of individuals applying to U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) in order to travel to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

According to the implementation plan and the PIA, the NVC won’t store or retain information or make decisions on whether to grant or deny an immigration application, but instead will simply make recommendations to government agencies that make the ultimate decision on whether to grant or deny an immigration benefit or target a person for immigration enforcement. But that description misstates the NVC’s impact, since the recommendation may be relied upon heavily by the agencies.

Here are some reasons we should be concerned about the NVC:

• No transparency about NVC’s plans for the future. DHS is secretive about where this program is going. While the NVC may focus for the moment on ESTA screening, its Phase Two plans are substantially redacted in the implementation plan. And even that redacted plan was released months after it was written. That makes us concerned that Phase Two — whatever it might be — will be revealed only after it is well under way, just as Phase One was. This is yet another glaring example of how DHS lacks transparency about these new programs, as shown by its under-the-radar creation of an enormous database called Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology (HART).

• No redress within the NVC. According to the PIA, the NVC will not have a redress system and doesn’t feel it owes one to the public, even though the information it collects and shares will be relied on by final decisionmakers. That means that affected individuals are left only with whatever redress procedures exist within DHS or other agencies but will not know the source of information relied upon by the NVC in making a recommendation. And since only citizens and lawful permanent residents are, in accordance with Trump administration policy, covered by Privacy Act protections, they will have no way to request that bad information be corrected.

• No standards or limits. According to the PIA, the NVC “will not use commercial sources or publicly available data as part of the vetting process” and will not “conduct electronic searches, queries, or analyses to discover or locate a predictive pattern or an anomaly.” But these self-imposed limits could easily evaporate in the future. The U.S. State Department has made collection and evaluation of information available on social media a critical part of deciding whether or not to issue visas, and DHS has made clear its intent to monitor and use individuals’ social media and Internet activity for enforcement. DHS would like to use algorithms and computational methods in analyzing and using the vast quantities of information it is able to gather, backing off of that only because of limits in software technology.

• No independent monitoring or audits. All monitoring and auditing of the NVC’s activities are internal. As a result, no independent body is authorized to examine how the NVC is really operating.

• No limits on information-sharing. The implementation plan and the PIA are either silent or at best vague about how information will be shared outside of DHS, leaving individuals subject to the wide-open information-sharing processes of the different adjudicating agencies.

Advocates should continue to monitor the NVC and its operations closely. But that will be challenging, given the program’s secrecy and reliance on internal monitoring processes. Without aggressive oversight by Congress and demands for transparency, the NVC risks becoming yet another way for DHS to keep the American public in the dark.

Joan Friedland is a NILC consultant and the primary author of our report “Untangling the Immigration Enforcement Web: Basic Information for Advocates about Databases and Information-Sharing Among Federal, State, and Local Agencies.” She formerly was a managing attorney at NILC.


More Spending on Border Will Secure Only More Suffering (The Torch)

More Spending on Border Will Secure Only More Suffering

THE TORCH: CONTENTSBy Holly Straut-Eppsteiner
JANUARY 30, 2019

After a catastrophic and unprecedented government shutdown, lawmakers are convening this week to negotiate a border security plan amid persistent threats from the president that he might shut the government down again three weeks from now. The hysteria surrounding President Trump’s demands for a wall and increased funding for border security gives the illusion that the U.S.-Mexico border remains a lawless expanse that migrants are free to cross. In fact, since the 1990s, the U.S.-Mexico border has become increasingly fortified with both physical and political infrastructure that has made migration more difficult and dangerous. Border militarization has come at a significant cost for both U.S. taxpayers and border-crossers seeking safety and opportunity in the United States.

Annual appropriations for interior and border enforcement have increased tremendously in recent years, and federal spending on enforcement has totaled $263 billion since 1986. With it, the government has built nearly 700 hundred miles of physical barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border and hired tens of thousands of interior and border enforcement agents. Between fiscal years 2003 and 2016, the number of Border Patrol agents doubled and the number of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents working in ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations tripled. Since the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was established in 2003, the budget for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has grown from $5.9 billion to more than $14 billion in 2018. Appropriations for CBP for 2018 included $1.57 billion for “physical barriers and associated technology along the Southwest border.”

When we set aside hyperbole and examine the data, it becomes clear how unnecessary even more border spending really is. As shown in the graph below, Border Patrol staffing (the blue line indicated by numbers on the left axis) skyrocketed as apprehensions (orange line, numbers on the right axis) tumbled since the mid-2000s. In fact, contrary to the misinformation frequently put out by the Trump administration, the undocumented population has decreased in recent years. Net migration from Mexico, the largest source of migrants to the U.S., has decreased since 2010. Undocumented migration from Mexico is now near zero. Net Mexican migration is, in fact, negative, meaning more people are returning to Mexico than entering the U.S.


Migration scholars have found that as the border has become more militarized, making travel back and forth more dangerous and difficult, migrants have increasingly opted to settle permanently in the U.S. Rather than maintaining families in their countries of origin and supporting them through U.S.-based jobs, migrants have developed strong social ties in their U.S. communities and are raising U.S. citizen children.

When these settled migrants are deported, their ties to the U.S. are so strong that deterrence policies at the border — even detention — are ineffective: People with homes and families in the U.S. are significantly likely to plan to cross again despite interactions with border enforcement.

The costs of border militarization, however wasteful, are more than financial. There are also human costs. Migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border do so at great risk, facing hazards, including drowning, dehydration, hypothermia, exposure, and assault. “Deterrence” programs such as DHS’s “lateral repatriation” ATEP, which deports migrants to places far from where they were initially detained, are largely ineffective even as they make crossing more dangerous.

The Trump administration has sought to ramp up spending on border “security” in response to refugees from violence and persecution in Central America applying for asylum at the border. Seeking asylum is a legal right. Moreover, supporting people’s right to seek refuge is part of the fabric of U.S. immigration policy.

Yet the Trump administration has designed policies intended to deter people from seeking asylum at the southern border, policies that include separating families, limiting the number of asylum claims processed per day and, most recently, requiring asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico. As a result, people are trying to cross in more remote desert areas, like rural southern New Mexico. The risks of such crossings have been made all too clear by the recent tragic deaths of two migrant children.

The International Organization for Migration’s Missing Migrants Project tracks deaths along global migratory routes. Since 2014, it has recorded 1,468 deaths along the U.S.-Mexico border. Only one month into 2019, 12 deaths have already been recorded there. Surely there are better ways to spend $5 billion than to continue building border security infrastructure that is not only wasteful but that inevitably will lead to greater human suffering.

Holly Straut-Eppsteiner is NILC’s Mellon/ACLS Public Fellow and research program manager.


Trump-McConnell Bill Is an Anti-Immigrant Wish List (The Torch)

Trump-McConnell Bill Is an Anti-Immigrant Wish List

It would gut asylum laws and make it harder for people with DACA and TPS to keep protections

THE TORCH: CONTENTSBy Avideh Moussavian, Patrick O’Shea, and Holly Straut-Eppsteiner
JANUARY 23, 2019

For over a month, President Trump and Senate Majority Leader McConnell have remained at the helm of what is by far the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. Both Trump and McConnell are responsible for holding the paychecks of approximately 800,000 workers hostage to Trump’s demands to build a racist wall, hurting the livelihoods of federal workers and cutting off critical services for families and poorer communities across the country.

Tomorrow, the Senate is set to vote on the “compromise” White House-McConnell bill that is nothing more than a ransom note to American taxpayers and Democrats in Congress. As federal employees face missing their second paycheck, the White House and McConnell have shown once again their callous disregard for American workers and their ruthless desire to radically reshape our immigration system by gutting protections for asylum-seekers, vulnerable immigrant youth, and people with DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) or TPS (temporary protected status).

Some of the many disturbing poison pills in the bill are that it:

  • Adds $5.7 billion for a border wall and a slush fund
  • Adds 750 Border Patrol and 2,000 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agents to police and jail immigrants
  • Bans asylum for Central American minors who are seeking safety in the U.S., by preventing them from applying for asylum at the border and forcing them to wait for a process that will take nearly a year to get underway and will be restricted so that only 15,000 children per year can be granted asylum — and without the chance to see an immigration judge or have their case reviewed
  • Guts trafficking protections for unaccompanied children
  • Offers no permanent solution for people with DACA or TPS
  • Makes it harder for people with DACA or TPS to maintain protection from deportation
  • Explicitly excludes African, Muslim, and South Asian populations with protections under TPS and DED (deferred enforced departure). The bill extends only a one-time, 3-year protection to TPS-holders from Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Haiti — leaving out DED-holders from Liberia and TPS-holders from Guinea, Nepal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen.
  • Imposes harsh penalties on people with DACA by forcing them to pay back tax credits they were permitted by law to receive and excludes DACA recipients who are not wealthy

The DACA provisions in Trump’s proposal reflect his administration’s hostility to the program, which he chose to kill in September 2017. The Trump-McConnell bill’s offer for a one-time, three-year extension of temporary protection from deportation and work authorization is limited only to current DACA-holders — leaving out those who are otherwise eligible or could become eligible. This extension is meaningless: people with DACA are already able to renew their DACA under a nationwide injunction blocking Trump’s attempt to end the program. And, since the Supreme Court has decided not to take up any of the current DACA court cases during this term, people who currently have DACA will continue to be able to renew their two-year protections from deportation at least through the end of this year.

However, the Trump-McConnell bill would more than double the DACA renewal fee, from $500 to $1,000, which would almost certainly reduce renewal retention for a program that an overwhelming majority of Americans support. DACA recipients need permanent solutions to their perpetual state of limbo — but this bill provides none.

Because of Trump administration policies, people with TPS are also in a state of limbo, because the administration has attempted to phase out TPS protections by allowing them to expire. Legal challenges have left the future of TPS up to the courts. Again, here the Trump-McConnell bill makes a weak offer to provide a one-time, three-year renewal only for TPS-holders from four countries (Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Haiti). It completely fails to assist TPS-holders from Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nepal, Sudan, South Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, and Syria. The bill also heads off future opportunities for individuals to receive relief through TPS by requiring that applicants already have legal status in the United States to qualify for protections.

Another insidious aspect of the Trump-McConnell bill’s provisions is that it aims to ensure that the U.S. opens its doors only to the wealthy. The bill would require that individuals with DACA and TPS maintain an income at 125 percent of the federal poverty level or be enrolled in school. For a family of four, that is an income threshold of $32,188. Even with two full-time workers in a household, families earning low wages (the federal minimum wage remains at $7.25) would not qualify. Such requirements reflect the administration’s continued efforts to disenfranchise low-income families.

The Trump-McConnell bill provides no solutions for immigrants and asylum-seekers and, in fact, creates greater risks for these communities. It also fails to provide relief for the suffering of federal workers and families across the country who rely on federal programs. Rental assistance from the Department of Housing and Urban Development has been frozen and low-income renters and seniors across the country may soon face eviction. States will begin exhausting their TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) funding by the beginning of February. People who rely on SNAP (food stamps) to feed their families could have to wait 45 or 50 days to receive benefits. The shutdown has stretched on so long that even federal courts may start sending home staff as early as January 25 as their funding begins to be affected.

Americans have made it clear that they do not want to build a border wall and do not feel that it should be a priority for Congress. So why are Trump and McConnell intentionally depriving people of their livelihoods and their government? If this bill is any indication, the blatantly disingenuous DACA- and TPS-related overtures (and other similar provisions included to entice Democrats) are simply a Trojan horse meant to give cover to their uncompromising anti-immigrant agenda.

If the president and Senate majority leader were serious about ending this shutdown, they would give up these unreasonable and politicking demands for a cynical and dangerous boondoggle and reopen our government. Full stop.

Avideh Moussavian is NILC’s legislative director for advocacy; Patrick O’Shea is NILC’s research and narrative strategist; and Holly Straut-Eppsteiner is NILC’s Mellon/ACLS Public Fellow and research program manager.

6:33 PM Pacific time: This article was updated in the following way: The bulleted item that begins “Imposes harsh penalties on people with DACA” was added.


Trump’s Wall Demands Hurt People Already Hurting the Most (The Torch)

Trump’s Wall Demands Hurt People Already Hurting the Most

THE TORCH: CONTENTSBy Holly Straut-Eppsteiner
JANUARY 14, 2019

The Trump shutdown has left more than 800,000 federal workers across the country facing the post-holiday season with no paycheck and a great deal of uncertainty. Members of the federal workforce suddenly find themselves unable to pay for groceries, rent, utilities, and loan payments.

Photo credit: AFGE,

Essential workers, like Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents, are calling in sick because they can’t afford to pay for transportation or childcare to get to a job that provides no paycheck. Federal workers are selling their belongings on Craigslist, launching GoFundMe campaigns, or taking on odd jobs to pay their bills. Lost wages create burdens for nonprofit agencies like food pantries, which are stepping in to meet workers’ needs with limited resources.

While federal workers may eventually receive back pay, contracted workers — including low-wage workers who clean federal buildings, provide security, and work in food service — will not. Many of these workers and their families live paycheck to paycheck. In short, Trump’s impetuous demand for a border wall has become an assault on the dignity of working Americans.

Workers of color are especially impacted by the shutdown. Black Americans, for example, are disproportionately highly concentrated in the federal workforce. Historically, public sector employment has helped African Americans avoid discrimination in the private sector. The legacy of generations of systemic racism also means that Black families have less wealth than white families and they are less likely to have a financial safety-net to weather this crisis. Well over a third of Executive Branch employees (36.7%) are people of color.

Workers of color are highly concentrated in some of the agencies deemed essential during the shutdown — in other words, they are among those required to continue working but without pay. About half of Border Patrol workers, for example, are Latinx. The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents U.S. Customs and Border Protection employees, filed suit against the Trump administration because its members are being forced to work without pay.

The shutdown not only impacts federal workers and contractors but promises devastating consequences for the millions of Americans who rely on federal programs to meet their basic needs. With a lapse in federal funding, states have had to pick up the cost of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to ensure low-income families receive cash benefits. Housing assistance is of particular concern. By February, rural Americans will lose U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) rent assistance and by March, millions of individuals could lose access to Section 8 and Housing Choice Vouchers. Residents of 1,000 low-income apartment homes are at risk because their U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) contracts have expired and cannot be renewed during the shutdown. Health and safety inspections and homeless services are also a casualty of the furloughed HUD workforce.

The federal government has responded to pressure to fund nutrition programs such as SNAP (“food stamps”), WIC (the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children), and school meals through February. However, if the shutdown continues beyond that point — and Trump has threatened that it could last “months or even years” — millions of low-income families are likely to face benefit cuts. In the meantime, thousands of retailers are unable to accept SNAP benefits because their licenses cannot be renewed during the shutdown.

These federal programs provide critical assistance for millions of Americans, including low-income immigrants who are U.S. citizens. Immigrants have high rates of labor force participation, but they are frequently concentrated in low-wage jobs that can make it difficult to make ends meet. Immigrant households are already less likely than U.S.-born citizens to use federal benefit programs. Recently, immigrant households’ participation in programs such as SNAP have been declining, likely because of Trump’s anti-immigrant positions and policies that have created an environment of fear.

The shutdown is also crippling U.S. immigration courts, holding hundreds of thousands of immigrants’ futures in limbo. Currently, 400 immigration judges, with a backlog of 800,000 cases, are furloughed. Immigrants who must already wait an average of two and as many as four years for their cases to be heard must now wait even longer for a court date.

As the shutdown persists with no end in sight, low-income Americans continue to suffer and will face increasingly dire consequences. Trump’s racist and xenophobic demand for a border wall is not only immoral and wasteful, he is holding hostage Black, brown, immigrant, poor, and working-class Americans who cannot afford to miss the paychecks and benefits on which their families depend for survival.

Holly Straut-Eppsteiner is NILC’s Mellon/ACLS Public Fellow and research program manager.


NILC Statement Ahead of Confirmation Vote to U.S. Supreme Court of Judge Brett Kavanaugh

October 5, 2018

Hayley Burgess, [email protected], 202-805-0375

NILC Issues Statement Ahead of Confirmation Vote to U.S. Supreme Court of Judge Brett Kavanaugh

WASHINGTON — The United States Senate today voted to advance the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States. The vote comes after a limited FBI investigation this week into allegations by multiple women who spoke out about Kavanaugh’s past actions. The Senate’s action sets up a final confirmation vote expected to take place Saturday, October 6.

Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement:

“Kavanaugh’s record shows a dangerous disregard for the rights of women, workers, and immigrants, a disregard that was revealed when he denied the constitutional right of a 17-year-old rape survivor in immigration detention to obtain a safe abortion last year. And, at his hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, Judge Kavanaugh allowed the nation to see his true character, making it clear once again that he is unfit for a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court.

“In weighing whether to support Kavanaugh’s nomination, senators must not only take the allegations against him seriously, they must also recognize that in his hearing to address them, he repeatedly lied under oath, spouted conspiracy theories, and lashed out angrily at Democratic senators. This behavior is unacceptable for any position where the core responsibility is to ethically and impartially interpret our nation’s laws.

“Americans of all backgrounds believe Dr. Ford and the other women who have come forward, and we have been galvanized by their incredible strength and courage. If our country’s leaders disregard them, we all will remember and make our concerns heard with our votes.

“For women, survivors of sexual violence, and marginalized communities in particular, the courts have been a bulwark of protection and a core defender of constitutional rights. Maintaining the dignity of the Supreme Court is essential to the strength and integrity of our democracy. Its role in upholding the rights and values that we, as a nation, cherish most cannot be overstated.

“This has been a flawed process from the very beginning, and Judge Kavanaugh has failed to demonstrate — both through his judicial record and through his conduct before the Senate Judiciary Committee — that he has what it takes to be a fair arbiter on the Supreme Court. If the senate votes to confirm him, it will cause immeasurable damage that will impact the lives of everyone in this country for years to come.”

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