The New Jersey dental clinic where Manasi Vasavada has worked for over two years closed its doors in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She has been on an unpaid leave of absence ever since. In three weeks, she’ll lose her legal right to live in the United States. She’s been here almost two years on an H1-B visa, which has a 60-day limit of living in the U.S. without paid employment. Her husband Nandan Buch is also on an H-1B visa that expires in June.
About 200,000 H-1B visa holders could lose their legal status by the end of June, according to Jeremy Neufeld, an immigration policy analyst with the Washington, D.C.-based think tank Niskanen Center. Thousands more who are not seeking to stay in the U.S. could be forced to go home. India has closed its borders indefinitely, leaving thousands of people stranded in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world.
The visa crisis is causing “a catastrophe at a human level and an economic level,” said Doug Rand, a former Obama administration official. For people like Buch and Vasavada, the employment freeze has left them in an impossible situation. They have a combined $520,000 in student loans for advanced dental degrees they completed at U.S. universities, cannot return home and soon may be in the U.S. illegally. “Everything is really confusing and dark right now,” said Vasavada. “We don’t know where we will end up.” Bloomberg
Check Out our Resource Guide for Immigrant New Yorkers
Immigrants have been excluded from many relief efforts that have begun since the COVID-19 crisis began. so states, municipalities and nonprofits have had to scramble to fund their own responses. These efforts are growing, but sometimes difficult to find. Documented has compiled all the available funds, hotlines and legal representation available to immigrant New Yorkers we could find. If your organization is not included in this list, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org Read more at Documented.
South Asian COVID-19 Cases Undercounted, Community Leaders Say
City health officials say 830 New Yorkers of Asian descent have died from coronavirus as of Tuesday, but local South Asian leaders say that’s unlikely. “There’s no way it’s as low as they say it is,” said Annetta Seecharran, executive director of Chhaya, a nonprofit representing South Asians and Indo-Caribbeans. The neighborhoods hardest hit by the coronavirus include large South Asian populations. As of Tuesday, there are 1,065 confirmed or probable COVID-19-related deaths where the person was listed as “other” or “unknown” race categories. Many are ambivalent about being classified as “Asian.” “This has been one of my biggest concerns: that the community is not being counted,” said Seecharran. “Both in terms of deaths and in terms of infection rates.” THE CITY
Trump Threatens to Withhold Federal Bailout Money Over New York’s ‘Sanctuary’ Policies
President Trump suggested Tuesday that New York and other states shouldn’t get federal bailouts unless they agree to end so-called ‘sanctuary policies.’ “If it’s COVID-related, I guess we can talk about it, but we want certain things also, including sanctuary city adjustments because we have so many people in sanctuary cities,” Trump told reporters during a White House press conference. New York Attorney General Letitia James said she’s ready to take legal action against the administration if they attempt to withhold bailouts approved by Congress. The New York Daily News
Detained Women Face Reprisal After Talking to Reporter
As COVID-19 spreads through the detention system, Immigrants have been reaching out to reporters and advocates to reveal the treatment they’re receiving in those facilities. Many are afraid of retribution for speaking out, which is exactly what happened to five women at the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia. They called one woman’s boyfriend using a video conferencing app, and he recorded them testifying about the conditions they’re facing. “ICE can’t do anything if we get sick… the hospitals are filled and there’s no place to send us,” one ICE staffer allegedly told them. The video ended up on a Spanish language news channel. The women were meanwhile put in solitary confinement, and the video app they once used stopped working, a lawyer for the women said. The Intercept
Mexico Releases Most Detained Migrants
Mexico has expelled almost every person from its government-run migrant centers over the past week with the goal of containing the spread of the coronavirus. The National Migration Institute said since March 21, Mexico has been removing migrants from its 65 facilities, which held 3,759 people last month. Mexico has returned 3,653 migrants to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador in the past few weeks. Only 106 people remain in its shelters. “Today, Mexico’s policy is to contain and deport,” Victor Clark Alfaro, a migration expert at San Diego State University, said. Reuters
Majority of Americans Support Temporary Halt of Immigration
Americans back the temporary halt to immigration ordered by the Trump administration, according to a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll. Last week, the president indicated he would halt all immigration to the U.S. and soon signed an executive order that would cease the production of green cards and stop letting people bring family members into the country. The poll found that 65 percent of Americans support a temporary halt on all immigration during the outbreak. Eighty-three percent of Republicans were in support of the ban, while 49 percent of Democrats supported it. The Washington Post
El Paso County Votes to Release Nonviolent Immigrant Detainees
The El Paso County Commissioners Court voted to release non-violent detainees from federal custody in a 4-1 vote on Monday. Commissioners said they did this so detainees can self-quarantine with a smaller group of people and avoid COVID-19 spread. It’s unclear if the Department of Homeland Security will agree to the resolution or will release the detainees. County Judge Ricardo A. Samaniego said the facility would not release anyone who might have the coronavirus. CBS 4
Judge Rejects Calls to Suspend Immigration Court Proceedings
A federal judge in Washington, D.C. rejected a request to suspend all court proceedings amid the coronavirus pandemic. U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols said steps have been taken to mitigate public health concerns about court proceedings. The judge said he was “not well positioned to second-guess those health and safety determinations.” Many court staffers and immigration attorneys across the country have tested positive for the coronavirus. The lawsuit was brought last month by three immigration advocacy groups and several detained clients. The Hill
Trump Orders Meat Processing Plants to Stay Open, Lawsuit Seeks Temporary Restraining Order Over COVID-19 Immigration Tightening, Trusted Traveler Ban Suit Can Proceed
President Trump signed an executive order Tuesday that will mandate meat processing plants remain open during the coronavirus pandemic. Plants across the country have shut down because of the threat of the virus, but Trump’s executive order said, “such closures threaten the continued functioning of the national meat and poultry supply chain, undermining critical infrastructure during the national emergency.”
The meat industry largely employs immigrants in slaughterhouses and plants, but has been home to a major outbreak of COVID-19. Smithfield Foods’ pork plant in South Dakota saw the largest cluster of infections in the country, with 650 people contracting the disease. The first person to die in that outbreak was an immigrant from El Salvador. The executive order will set the stage for a showdown between the Trump administration, plant owners, and unions and advocates seeking to protect the laborers. Bloomberg
A new lawsuit has asked a federal judge to place a temporary restraining order on the Trump administration’s presidential proclamation that would prevent Americans from sponsoring family members for immigration. The lawsuit was filed by the Justice Action Center, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and Innovation Law Lab, with pro bono counsel Sidley Austin LLP and Latino Network as the organizational plaintiff. Trump issued an executive order last week that curbs some forms of immigration to the U.S. Forbes
A class action lawsuit against the Trump White House over its ban on letting New York residents sign up for Trusted Traveler programs may proceed. All New Yorkers who planned to, had enrolled in, or were trying to extend Global Entry permissions are eligible as plaintiffs in the lawsuit brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union. The Trump administration says New York preventing federal access to DMV records, which blocks the government from screening applicants to Global Entry, SENTRI, NEXUS and FAST programs. The state argues the data the federal government is seeking is available elsewhere. The Points Guy