A group of five transgender women from Staten Island have filed a lawsuit against U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services alleging they have had to wait almost three years for an asylum interview.
All five women fled Mexico, where they said they were targeted for sexual abuse and physical assault because they were transgender. They “live in constant fear of being sent back to Mexico, where they may be killed or attacked due to the prevalence of persecution of transgender people,” the lawsuit says. Each of the women filed an asylum application, which the government claims should be completed within 180 days of filing. On average the women, say they have been waiting two and half years to receive an interview notice.
To address the growing asylum backlog, USCIS in January 2018 changed how it would prioritize new applications and people who have had interviews scheduled already. The agency said the backlog has grown 1750 percent in the past five years. However, lawyers argue the new prioritization does nothing to address the backlog and leaves applicants with older cases in limbo. Staten Island Advance
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NYC Raises Public Benefits Awareness
City commissioners are aiming to inform immigrants they can continue to apply for benefits without fear of retribution. Federal courts in New York, California and Washington issued temporary injunctions against the Trump administration’s public charge law, which expanded rules making it harder for immigrants who claim benefits to receive a green card. According to Human Resources Administration between January 2017 and January 2019, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program enrollment in households headed by non-citizens dropped over 15%, or nearly 78,000 individuals. The rule was set to go into effect Oct. 15. King County Politics
Immigrant Remembered After Streak of Homeless Killings
Neighbors and friends gathered Friday to remember Chuen Kwok, an 83-year-old immigrant from Hong Kong who’d become homeless during the past few years. Kwok was killed the week along with three other homeless people on the Chinatown streets. One woman who called herself Auntie Yu had known Kwok for 35 years and said he spent the past few years in and out of homelessness, but added that everyone in the neighborhood would check on him. Choi Lin, another Chinatown resident, remembered seeing Kwok just a few weeks before he died and asked him if he needed money. He said he had enough, and said he was going to move soon.
Identical Twins Have Different Immigration Stories
Two identical twins crossed the southern border of the U.S. and faced two very different outcomes. Nostier Leiva Sabillon and his father were released in Texas after crossing the border and claiming asylum. His brother Anthony Leiva Sabillon and their mother were sent back to Mexico to await their hearings under the Trump administration’s Remain in Mexico policy. So far, 54,000 asylum seekers have been sent back to Mexico to await their immigration court hearings under the Trump administration’s new policy. The case of the twin brothers demonstrates how much of a lottery seeking asylum at the U.S.–Mexico border has become. The Los Angeles Times
Undocumented Man Arrested After Hard Rock Collapse
Delmer Joel Ramirez Palma, a native of Honduras, was detained by immigration officers after he spoke out about being injured during the collapse of the unfinished Hard Rock Hotel in New Orleans. He had spoken about the incident on television and joined a suit against the developers. He was arrested by CBP agents two days after the collapse, which killed three people. CBP said they were summoned by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents to arrest Ramirez after he was caught fishing without a license and, when pressed, he could not show a U.S. id. Nola.com
Mexican Migration Rises Again
An increase in the number of Mexican families and asylum seekers coming to the U.S. has raised fears among Department of Homeland Security officials of a new border crisis. Mexico surpassed Guatemala and Honduras in August to once again become the single largest nationality of people apprehended while crossing the border. Mexicans are also seeking asylum as they cross the border, claiming they are escaping corruption or drug violence. Mexicans are not subject to many of the Trump administration’s rules preventing Central Americans from seeking asylum, which has seems to have spurred migration. The Washington Post
Oregon Judges Seek Ban on Courthouse Arrests
A panel of judges in Oregon has asked the state supreme court’s chief justice to prevent courthouse arrests by ICE without a judicial warrant. The judges argued immigrants are afraid to appear in court due to the practice. In one incident, ICE agents allegedly pepper-sprayed the family of a person who was targeted for arrest. ICE has targeted courthouses to arrest immigrants across the country, arguing is safer to do so there. But lawyers argue that the arrests disrupt the courts. Courts in Massachusetts, New Jersey and New Mexico have issued rules to prevent them, as has New York’s Office of Court Administration. KATU2
Asylum Seekers Can’t Find Attorneys in Hawaii
A shortage of pro-bono attorneys in Hawaii is making life difficult for 150 Central American asylum seekers who were sent there after crossing the border. They have hearings in Honolulu’s immigration court, but the area lacks lawyers to represent them. A law clinic at the University of Hawaii Law School has picked up a dozen cases and they are trying to train more attorneys on immigration law to help. The island is no stranger to Central American migrants, many of whom work in agriculture to farm macadamia nuts and Kona coffee, says Professor John Egan of the University of Hawaii Law School. Hawaii Public Radio
Washington — Asylum Ban Partially Begins, Immigration Meets Impeachment, McAleenan’s Non-Replacement
The Trump administration’s asylum ban has partially been implemented after the Supreme Court allowed it to go into effect while lawsuits proceed. The ban prohibits anyone from seeking asylum if they did not apply and get denied in any country they passed through on their way to the U.S. This would prevent almost all Central American asylum seekers from being granted asylum in the U.S.
An ICE spokesperson said they have yet to deport anyone in relation to the policy, which would affect anyone who came after July 16. Still, lawyers describe a limbo where immigrants are languishing in detention as they have been ordered deported under the new policy and have no rights to stay, but have not been sent home. Former officials say ICE agents are confused over whether to deport immigrants to their home country or the country they passed through. NBC News
Immigration surfaced in the impeachment inquiry after career diplomat George Kent told congressional investigators President Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani had tried to secure a visa for former Ukrainian prosecutor-general Viktor Shokin, who former Vice President Joe Biden had pushed to have removed. Kent said Giuliani asked the State Department and the White House in January for Shokin’s visa. CNN
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the Trump administration’s appeal of a lower court ruling in favor of a man who was set to be deported quickly. He was subject to expedited removal after failing a credible fear interview, but his lawyers argue the expedited removal process is rife with problems. Associated Press
Transportation Security Administrator David Pekoske has ruled himself out of the top job at DHS vacated by Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan. He has been acting as deputy secretary, but reportedly said he wishes to return to TSA. Acting USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli and CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan, two immigration hardliners, are in contention for the job. The Hill
Flights for refugees who have been approved to resettle in the U.S. have been canceled until Oct. 28. The cancellation is an extension on a moratorium on flights and will affect hundreds of refugees. The White House reduced the refugee cap to 18,000 for fiscal year 2020, though Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) reportedly asked the State Department to add refugees who had already been approved to the 18,000. CNN