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Over a million immigrants in the U.S. who applied for citizenship are awaiting appointments at Application Support Centers to provide the government with biometric data such as fingerprints. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services halted in-person services between March and June last year. This led to the cancellation of thousands of biometrics appointments. While USCIS said appointments would be rescheduled once operations resumed, many applicants are still waiting for new or rescheduled appointments, delaying their immigration processes. The appointments typically take less than 20 minutes, and are required for a legal permanent resident to become a citizen. Miami Herald
In other national immigration news…
Georgia Sheriff Leaves Controversial Immigration Program
Gwinnett County, Georgia, will no longer participate in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s 287(g) program, Sheriff Keybo Taylor announced Friday. The program effectively deputizes local law enforcement to act as immigration officers, and allows them to hold arrestees for federal immigration authorities. Taylor promised during his campaign that he would pull the county out of the ICE program. He argued it makes immigrants distrustful of law enforcement and unwilling to help solve crimes for fear of being deported. Critics say the program has turned minor offenses into deportations. ICE officials claim it helps them deport immigrants who’ve committed crimes. The Associated Press
How Asylum Seekers Are Being Sent Back to Danger
Human Rights First discovered that several asylum seekers with strong cases for protection were sent back to their countries and given no chance to seek refuge in the U.S. The Trump administration enacted a rule during the pandemic allowing it to quickly expel immigrants at the southern border, including asylum seekers. Border Patrol conducted 119,500 expulsions between October and November, Customs and Border Protection data shows. Meanwhile thousands of asylum seekers have been waiting across the border for more than a year to request asylum as the pandemic has delayed their cases. San Diego Union-Tribune
Immigration Groups Continue to Fight Family Separation
Erika Pinheiro, litigation and policy director at the immigration advocacy group Al Otro Lado, is one of many attorneys closely involved in the effort to reunify families separated at the border. Even though President-elect Joe Biden plans on reversing President Trump’s immigration policies, Pineiro wants people to know that the fight for immigration rights is not over. “It’s not a given that everyone will be reunified, or families, babies are going to be let out of cages — family detention still exists,” she said. Pineiro also said it has been nearly impossible to be an attorney during the Trump administration as laws continuously changed while the government seemed uninterested in following the ones that remained. The Guardian
Somali Immigrants Close to Owning 30-Acre Farm
The New Roots Cooperative Farm, a group of Somali immigrants, have nearly enough money to buy a 30-acre farm in Lewiston, Maine. The group needs $80,000 more in order to complete their $200,000 purchase. Jabril Abdi, one of the New Roots farmers, and three other Somalia immigrants leased a 30-acre farm from the Maine Farmland Trust in 2016. They’ve since raised money to buy the farm thanks to a $50,000 grant from the Elmina B. Seawall Foundation, which is meant to combat COVID-19’s impact and systemic racism in Maine. They also received $30,000 via an anonymous donor from the Maine Community Foundation to buy the land, farming equipment and infrastructure. The Associated Press
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