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Their legal action prevented 400,000 evictions.  Now it’s Biden’s call.

We talk often immigration as if it were a unified issue. But if the Democrats occupy the Presidency and Congress, they will find it exceptionally difficult to solve the many problems of our Byzantine system. Immigration in the United States has a separate legal system with separate courts and separate laws, where some of the fundamentals of our normal justice system – such as independent judges, the right to legal representation, and the right to a trial with jury – do simply does not exist. Immigration policy is decided by several different parts of the federal bureaucracy, including the Department of Justice, the Department of State, and the Department of Homeland Security. Immigration control involves a huge apparatus which can include officers from the Federal Border Patrol, ICE officers and local police departments, as well as quality detention centers ranging from canvas tents to refurbished prisons. . Immigration is a legal issue, a labor issue, a security issue and a foreign policy issue.

Talking about reforming this whole system with one comprehensive bill is baffling, but that is exactly what several large national immigration rights organizations have been doing for decades. This certainly seemed to be the strategy of the new administration when, hours after Biden’s inauguration as president, it released a four-page “backgrounder” detailing a bold plan for comprehensive immigration reform. . Among its dozens of provisions, the plan would allow undocumented migrants to apply for some sort of temporary legal status, make it easier for students with advanced STEM degrees to stay in the United States, protect workers who report labor violations. eviction and would protect workers who report labor violations from eviction. make many TPS holders immediately eligible for lawful permanent residence.

The fact sheet read like an immigration advocate’s wish list, but every TPS activist I spoke with in January greeted it with more skepticism than joy. No comprehensive immigration reform bill involving legalization has been passed by Congress since 1986, and the repeated failure of these bills left TPS holders vulnerable when Trump won the presidency in 2016. “TPS holders have been held hostage by the idea of ​​comprehensive immigration reform,” said Pablo Alvarado, founder of the TPS National Alliance and longtime activist for human rights. immigration. In the 1990s and 2000s, when Salvadoran SPT holders spoke about their desire for permanent residence, they knew their history as political refugees made them almost as sympathetic as undocumented minors. But Washington-based national organizations, hoping for a bill that could help all undocumented migrants, urged them not to defend themselves. “We were told you have to wait because we’re going for the whole enchilada,” Alvarado said.

Homeland Security can use TPS to grant foreign residents temporary legal status when they cannot return home safely due to armed conflict, natural disaster, or other type of humanitarian crisis. For each country, the department issues a new decision every six to 18 months on the extension of its TPS designation. If this is the case, beneficiaries like Morales can request to renew their TPS cards by paying an additional fee and performing another background check. TPS sets a specific window of eligibility: when Morales was granted status in 2001, only Salvadorans already living in the United States when several earthquakes hit El Salvador were eligible. A Salvadorian who arrived a month later could not.

Most TPS holders have lived for decades in some sort of immigration purgatory. In a 2006 article on the “liminal legality” of TPS holders, UCLA sociologist Cecilia Menjívar explains that “the process itself is fraught with anxiety – particularly around the expiration and an error on a form may result in refusal and expulsion. Most TPS holders, she said in a 2017 report, work in construction, painting, cleaning, driving, cooking and childcare. Almost 90 percent are employed and 90 percent file income tax returns each year. This is because TPS holders are what DACA beneficiaries will look like if they are held in immigration purgatory for 15 years.

When Donald Trump was elected, his administration adopted its own type of immigration reform with remarkable effectiveness. Under the leadership of its first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and senior adviser Stephen Miller, officials have changed more than 1,000 rules, interpretations and guidelines throughout the immigration system, making legal entry more difficult. immigrants and their easier removal. Democrats sometimes seem less knowledgeable about the intricate details of immigration policy. When TPS Alliance members traveled to Capitol Hill in 2017 to lobby for the American Dream and Promise Act, which would have allowed permanent residence for DACA and TPS beneficiaries, they found that most members Congress had never heard of TPS. those who knew the least about TPS weren’t Republicans, ”Alvarado noted. “It was the Democrats. The Republicans had that very clear. They wanted to end TPS with Trump. “

While some components of our immigration system, like the H-1B visas and farm worker visas, are primarily designed to help American businesses, others stem from less mercenary impulses. DACA, TPS, and political asylum all fall into this altruistic category, and all drew particular anger from Trump officials, who viewed them as forms of “amnesty” that attracted unwanted immigrants. They have deliberately tried to roll back 40 years of immigration policy. “All the policies adopted by the Trump administration,” Lucas Guttentag, a law professor at Stanford and Yale told me last year, “and its dismantling of the southern border asylum system, are in total disregard of human. suffering and the legal rights that apply. In recent months, as thousands of Central Americans have made their way to America’s southern border, hoping the Biden administration might let them in, some members of Congress have begun to suggest that any reform of the immigration must wait until the end of this migration model. But this rhetorical ultimatum evades the responsibility of Americans in this humanitarian crisis. Many of these potential immigrants are trying to escape truly deadly conditions, and they have an internationally recognized right to seek asylum and have their claims considered. In many cases, the violence they flee has its roots in more than a decade of American foreign policy.

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