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Video

Rohingya Refugees on Voting for the First Time in US Election

About 30 members of the Rohingya community gathered at Warren Park on Oct. 20, 2020 in Chicago, Ill. Half the members gathered were there to vote for the very first time after being denied the right in their native Myanmar. The others were there in support and to learn about the voting process.

Bibi Sabura moves to turn in her ballot at Warren Park on Oct. 20, 2020 in Chicago, Ill. “I am 46 years old and this is my first time voting,” says Sabura, “in my country we could never vote.” Sabura came to the United States five years ago. Photo by Michelle Kanaar

 

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Essential Worker Video

Chasing the American Dream in the Gig Economy

Each week Borderless Magazine brings you “Behind the Story,” a video podcast about the people impacted by this nation’s immigration policies.

This week reporter Diane Bou Khalil spoke to Chicago immigrant storyteller, Nestor Gomez about his new book, “Your Driver Has Arrived: Ridesharing Stories.”

Categories
Coronavirus Essential Worker

Risking COVID-19 Exposure Again Is The Only Option For These Temp Workers

July was a terrible month for Angelica’s family.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Angelica says she and her husband kept working in factories that ignored safety guidelines set by the state. WBEZ agreed not to use Angelica’s last name because she’s undocumented and fears deportation.

“No one cleaned the factory at my husband’s job. All the workers ate lunch together at the same time. There’s like 60 employees there,” she said in Spanish. “I told him we should report it but we were too afraid.”

By July, her husband became infected with the virus and she got sick soon after. She remembers that month as one of the most difficult times in her life.

“I was so afraid, desperate and sad. We were so poor we often didn’t have enough to eat,” she said. “I was so afraid to ask for help. We didn’t want our neighbors to know we were sick.”

Angelica and her husband are both undocumented and both work for staffing agencies that send them to warehouses and factories to work earning $10 an hour. No health insurance, no sick time off. She has four children. They all live in a two-bedroom apartment.

“I think my children are traumatized,” she said. “They hear us talking about money and I see it in their faces. I think they are depressed too.”

Angelica is one of the 130 temp workers surveyed in Illinois for a report released today titled “We do not have the luxury of working from home.” The report by the Chicago Workers’ Collaborative, which advocates for temps, surveyed people who work in food processing, manufacturing, warehousing and logistics. They are considered essential workers. In Illinois, the majority of these workers are Black and brown, the report said.

Half of the workers said they felt “unsafe or very unsafe” working during the pandemic. Half of the workers also reported their workplaces were unable to adhere to the 6 feet of social distance guidelines set by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Nik Theodore, professor of urban planning and policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago, has studied the temp worker industry for years. Theodore said assembly lines typically have machines that can’t be moved to accommodate for social distancing.

 

Image: Woman Staircase Silhouette in Chicago. By Sara Aho / Unsplash


This story was originally published by WBEZ and is a part of the Solving for Chicago collaborative effort by newsrooms to cover the workers deemed “essential” during COVID-19 and how the pandemic is reshaping work and employment.

It is a project of the Local Media Foundation with support from the Google News Initiative and the Solutions Journalism Network. The 19 partners span print, digital and broadcasting and include WBEZ, WTTW, the Chicago Reader, the Chicago Defender, La Raza, Shaw Media, Block Club Chicago, Borderless Magazine, the South Side Weekly, Injustice Watch, Austin Weekly News, Wednesday Journal, Forest Park Review, Riverside Brookfield Landmark, Windy City Times, the Hyde Park Herald, Inside Publications, Loop North News and Chicago Music Guide.

Our work is made possible thanks to donations from people like you. Support high-quality reporting by making a tax-deductible donation today.                                                                                                                        Donate

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Courts Español Explainer

Después de la decisión del tribunal, ¿Qué le depara al TPS?

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Este mes, el Tribunal de Apelaciones de los Estados Unidos dictaminó que la administración de Trump puede acabar con el programa migratorio de Estatus de Protección Temporal, o TPS, de cuatro países. Este programa lleva 30 años brindando estatus migratorio temporal y asistencia humanitaria a 300,000 inmigrantes de países que enfrentan emergencias como guerras civiles, huracanes o epidemias.

Borderless Magazine habló con la abogada de inmigración Nancy Vizer sobre la decisión del tribunal y lo que eso significa para los beneficiarios de TPS. Puedes ver la entrevista completa en el último episodio de la serie de videos “Behind the Story” de Borderless Magazine.

¿Qué es TPS?

El gobierno de los Estados Unidos creó TPS como parte de la Ley de Inmigración de 1990. El programa debía brindar cierta protección a inmigrantes provenientes de países enfrentando conflictos armados, desastres ambientales u otras condiciones temporales y extraordinarias que impiden a los inmigrantes regresar a sus hogares de forma segura.

La Secretaría de Seguridad Nacional designa cuáles países son elegibles para el programa TPS. Los inmigrantes de esos países elegibles que están en los Estados Unidos el mismo día que el gobierno tomó esa decisión son elegibles para solicitar TPS. Como muchos otros programas de inmigración, los solicitantes de TPS deben pasar la verificación de antecedentes y no pueden haber sido condenados por ningún delito.

¿Cuáles países son elegibles para TPS?

Actualmente, los inmigrantes provenientes de diez países son elegibles para el TPS. Desde 1990, muchos de estos países califican para conseguir TPS. Por ejemplo, Sudán fue designado en 1997 durante su guerra civil. 

El Salvador, país hogar de la mayoría de los beneficiarios de TPS, fue designado en el 2001 después de sus terremotos devastadores. 

Una docena de países han sido revocados de el programa TPS en las últimas tres décadas, incluyendo Líbano y Bosnia-Herzegovina.

*Data de el Consejo Americano de Inmigración

 ¿Qué pueden hacer los beneficiarios de TPS?

– Pueden trabajar aquí. La autorización de empleo es parte del proceso de solicitud de TPS.

– Pueden viajar. A menudo, los titulares de TPS pueden obtener un documento de viaje que les permite visitar su país de origen y regresar a los Estados Unidos de manera segura y legal.

¿Qué es lo que no pueden hacer?

– No pueden tener tarjetas de residencia o ciudadanía americana a través del programa. A pesar de estar en los Estados Unidos, en algunos casos por más de 20 años, los beneficiarios de TPS no pueden obtener una residencia permanente. Esto difiere de los programas de refugiados o asilo, los cuales también apoyan inmigrantes enfrentando crisis humanitarias.

 – No pueden mantener su estatus de TPS por tiempo indefinido. Los beneficiarios de TPS deben volver a registrarse durante los períodos designados para mantener su estatus.

¿Por qué el tribunal dictamina ahora sobre el futuro de TPS?

Con el apoyo del presidente Donald Trump, la Secretaría de Seguridad Nacional canceló las designaciones de TPS de cuatro países a finales de 2017 y principios de 2018. Esa decisión impactó alrededor de 250,000 beneficiarios de TPS provenientes de El Salvador, Haití, Nicaragua y Sudán.

Hubo múltiples demandas en respuesta a esas decisiones que el Tribunal de Apelaciones del Noveno Circuito resolvió en septiembre. En una decisión dividida, el tribunal apoyó al Departamento de Seguridad Nacional para poder quitar a esos países del programa de TPS.

“La decisión se dio debido a la presión [de la Casa Blanca no] de si esas personas podían o no regresar a salvo a sus países de origen”. Dice la abogada de inmigración Vizer. “El presidente de los Estados Unidos expresó su animosidad hacia los países con TPS”.

¿Qué les depara a los beneficiarios de TPS?

Vizer cree que los beneficiarios de TPS no verán un cambio inmediato.

“Esto va a tomar tiempo. No van a empezar a deportar inmediatamente, van a darles otro año para que pongan sus asuntos en orden”, Vizer le dijo a Borderless Magazine. “Durante ese año, continuará el litigio y veremos si hay una nueva administración. Una nueva administración podría encontrar una razón para designar estos países nuevamente”.

Vizer cree que las organizaciones sin fin de lucro que presentaron esta demanda apelarán la decisión del tribunal y puede que terminen estando en el lado contrario a la administración de Trump.

“Tengan fe que las cosas cambiarán”, aconseja a los beneficiarios de TPS.

Traducido por Claudia Hernández

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Categories
Courts Explainer

After Court Ruling, What’s Next for TPS?

Leer en espanol

U.S. Court of Appeals ruled this month that the Trump administration can end the Temporary Protected Status immigration program, or TPS, for four countries. The 30-year-old TPS program provides temporary immigration status and humanitarian assistance to 300,000 immigrants from countries dealing with emergencies such as civil wars, hurricanes, or epidemics. 

Borderless Magazine spoke to immigration attorney Nancy Vizer about the court ruling and what it means for TPS holders. You can watch the full interview in the latest episode of Borderless Magazine’s “Behind the Story” video series.

What is TPS? 

The United States government created TPS as part of the Immigration Act of 1990. The program was intended to give certain protections to immigrants from countries undergoing armed conflict, environmental disasters or other extraordinary and temporary conditions that prevent immigrants from returning home safely. 

The Secretary of Homeland Security designates which countries are eligible for the TPS program. Immigrants from those eligible countries who are in the United States on the day that the government makes its designation are eligible to apply for TPS. Like in many other immigration programs, TPS applicants must pass background checks and cannot have been convicted of a felony.

Which countries are eligible for TPS? 

Immigrants from ten countries are currently eligible for TPS. Many of these countries have been TPS eligible since the late 1990s. For example, Sudan was designated in 1997 during its civil war. 

El Salvador, which is the home for by far the most number of TPS holders, was designated in 2001 after devastating earthquakes. 

A dozen countries have had their TPS designations terminated over the last three decades, including Lebanon and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

*Data from the American Immigration Council

What can TPS holders do?

– They can work here. Employment authorization is a part of the application process for TPS. 

– They can travel. Often TPS holders can get a travel document that allows them to visit their home country and return to the United States safely and legally. 

What can they not do?

– They cannot get green cards or U.S. citizenship through the program. Despite being in the United States in some cases for over 20 years, TPS holders cannot get permanent residency. This differs from refugee or asylum programs, which also supports immigrants facing humanitarian crises.

– They cannot keep their TPS status indefinitely. TPS holders must re-register during designated periods in order to keep their status.

Why is the court ruling now on the future of TPS? 

With President Donald Trump’s encouragement, the Secretary of Homeland Security terminated TPS designations for four countries in late 2017 and early 2018. That decision impacted nearly 250,000 TPS holders from countries including El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan. 

There were multiple lawsuits in response to those decisions, which the Ninth Circuit Court ruled on in September. In a split decision, that court upheld the Department of Homeland Security’s ability to remove those countries from the TPS program.

“The decision came from pressure [from the White House not] whether or not those people can go back safely to their countries,” says immigration attorney Vizer. “The president of the United States expressed animosity toward TPS countries.”

What’s next for TPS holders?

Vizer believes that TPS holders won’t see an immediate difference.

“This will take some time. They don’t immediately start deporting, they will give them another year to get their affairs in order,” Vizer told Borderless Magazine. “During that year the litigation will continue and we will see if there is a new administration. A new administration might find a reason to redesignate these countries.”

Vizer believes that the nonprofit organizations that brought this lawsuit will appeal the court’s decision and may end up siding against the Trump administration.

“Have faith that things will turn around,” she advises TPS holders.

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Courts Investigation

ICE Deported a Woman Who Accused Guards of Sexual Assault While the Feds Were Still Investigating the Incident

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.

The U.S. government late Monday deported a crucial witness in an ongoing investigation into allegations of sexual assault and harassment at an El Paso, Texas, immigrant detention center, the witness’s lawyers said.

The 35-year-old woman has been held in the facility, which is overseen by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, for about a year and told lawyers about a “pattern and practice” of abuse there, including that guards systematically assaulted her and other detainees in areas that were not visible to security cameras.

Several guards “forcibly” kissed her, and at least one touched her intimate parts, often as she was walking back from the medical unit to her barrack, according to her complaint filed with law enforcement agencies.

“If she behaved,” she said one guard told her, “he would help her be released.”

The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General launched an investigation into the accusations after ProPublica and The Texas Tribune first reported them last month. At least two more women have since come forward with similar allegations of assault.

The inspector general requested that ICE not deport the woman and the FBI interviewed the woman extensively, according to her lawyers. Her attorneys also sent a complaint to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas and the El Paso County District Attorney’s Office, warning of a potential criminal investigation.

Those government agencies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Jeanette Harper, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s El Paso office, said the agency’s policy prevents it from commenting on an ongoing investigation. She said the lead agency into the woman’s allegations is now the Justice Department’s Inspector General, which oversees accusations of civil rights abuses. That office did not immediately return a call seeking comment.


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Last Friday, lawyers filed a habeas petition in federal court asking that the woman be freed on supervised release and held in an immigrant shelter in El Paso.

They said in an interview that guards and inmates had been making intimidating comments to her following her accusations and that she felt unsafe.

She gave investigators a tour of the facility, showing where the assaults occurred in security camera blind spots, her lawyers said. Shortly after she quoted one guard telling her: “You need to watch out for yourself.”

“Everybody knows, and it just made things very difficult for her,” said her lawyer, Linda Corchado.

Three days after her habeas was filed, DHS’ inspector general reversed its earlier position and told ICE that the agency could deport the woman and investigators would further interview her by telephone from Mexico if necessary, her lawyers said.

Within hours, she had been sent back even though she says she fears persecution from drug cartels there. A high-ranking cartel member sexually assaulted her and threatened her after she reported the attack to police, according to statements she gave the U.S. government.

The government “allowed their most powerful witness to be deported,” Corchado said. “How can we possibly take this investigation seriously now or ever pretend that it ever was from the outset?”

Ranjana Natarajan, who directs the Civil Rights Clinic at the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Law and who filed the woman’s habeas petition, wrote in an email that the government’s decision was “extremely disappointing.”

The woman had waived her right to appeal her deportation in July, long before the allegations became public. She told ProPublica in a telephone interview last month that she worried about being targeted in the detention center for speaking up about the abuse.

In August, her lawyers filed an application with ICE requesting the agency not remove her and that it release her until the investigation is complete. She could also qualify for a legal status known as a U visa, which is intended for immigrant victims of crime.

Instead, the government deported her.

“We hope that the government does not abandon its investigation of disturbing and egregious allegations of sexual misconduct at the El Paso detention center,” Natarajan said.

ProPublica and the Tribune are not identifying the deported woman because she said she is a victim of sexual assault. She repeatedly told reporters, lawyers and investigators the same account, identifying the officers who abused her and other detainees.

When she complained to a captain, she said he dismissed her. One officer who had assaulted her briefly disappeared from her area of the detention center only to later return, becoming “increasingly aggressive and intimidating.” She told lawyers that the same officer was still working in her area of the facility last week.

“She has lived in constant panic that he may do something against her again,” according to her complaint.

The allegations detailed by her and two other detainees in that filing also involved a lieutenant who detainees said was promoted even after women complained. At least one other woman was deported after a guard assaulted her, detainees told lawyers.

A spokesperson for ICE has said that those allegations would be investigated, including by its Office of Professional Responsibility. The agency has “zero tolerance” for abuse, she wrote in an email last month. “When substantiated, appropriate action is taken.”

A spokesperson for Global Precision Systems, a subsidiary of Bering Straits Native Corporation, which contracts with ICE to run the El Paso facility, has said that she could not comment on pending legal matters.

The El Paso allegations are the latest instance of sexual abuse complaints related to detention centers run by ICE, which imprisoned an average of 50,000 immigrants daily across the country in 2019. Most are operated by contractors at taxpayer expense.

Another woman also said she was repeatedly harassed while in the El Paso detention center and that guards continued to reach out to her even after she was released.

She told ProPublica and the Tribune in a telephone interview that officers encouraged detainees to sign up for anti-anxiety pills because they oversee the dispensing of medication at night and have access to an enclosed off-camera area.

“Most women who are still there are scared of saying anything,” she said. “You don’t know what they can do.”

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Categories
Video

Know Your Rights as a Migrant Farmworker

Each week Borderless Magazine brings you “Behind the Story,” a video podcast about the people impacted by this nation’s immigration policies.

This week Borderless Magazine’s reporter Diane Bou Khalil talked to Miguel Sarmiento about migrant workers and their rights. Sarmiento is the director of migrant education services at the Illinois Migrant Council and was featured in our recent story, “How to Pick a Peach During COVID.” 

Key Takeaways 

Migrant workers have the right to:

– A fair salary

– Employee benefits

– Work in a safe environment 

– The supplies they need to do their job safely

– Access information about their rights

– The same education for their children as other students in U.S. schools

Need help? The Illinois Migrant Council offers services for migrant farmworkers, their employers and families. Contact them at (312) 663-1522.

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Feature Visas

绿卡中签者集体起诉特朗普

上图:8月25日,塔尔·德罗在以色列阿塔伊姆市。德罗是一名同性恋,他说:“在美国,我不必不断隐藏自己的身份、文化根源、国籍和宗教信仰。”图片来自塔尔·德罗

Read in English.

当塔尔·德罗(Tal Dror)抽中了2020年美国移民签时,他觉得自己是世界上最幸运的人。

德罗说:“在美国,我不必不断隐藏自己的身份、文化根源、国籍和宗教信仰。” 

德罗在以色列的一个小镇金纳多(Ginaton)长大,现在在阿塔伊姆市(Givatayim)做一名兽医。

德罗是一名同性恋,然而同性恋婚姻在以色列是非法的,对LGBTQ人民的歧视也很普遍。对于31岁的德罗来说,他鲜少公开表达自己的性倾向,也很难遇到公开出柜的同志。而美国移民签意味着一条开往新生活的通道,他可以在美国自由表达自己的性别认同。

然而特朗普发布的一系列移民禁令让今年的中签者无法移民美国。德罗的美国梦破碎了。他甚至已经认真规划好在美国的生活:办什么银行卡,买什么车,租什么样的房子。德罗想要定居德克萨斯州府奥斯丁,找一片农场,养上一群动物。 

8月23日,塔尔·德罗在以色列阿塔伊姆市一家诊所担任兽医助理。德罗抽中了2020年美国绿卡。他需要在9月30日前移民到美国,然而特朗普的移民禁令碎了他的梦。图片来自塔尔·德罗

“我甚至没有备选方案,” 德罗说。 “我曾经那么确定我能移民成功。” 

今天,由德罗和其他绿卡中签者提起的诉讼将在哥伦比亚特区联邦法院开庭审理。法官将听取原告提出的临时禁令的诉求,也许中签者们能够由此顺利获得签证。

***

多元化移民签证计划是美国前总统老布什(George HW Bush)在1990年颁布的《移民法》的一部分,旨在提高美国移民人口的多样性,吸引更多历史上移民率较低的国家的公民移民美国。也就是说,这个项目并不包含像中国印度这些在美国移民比例较高的国家。在2020年,中签人数最多的国家是埃及(5,568)、俄罗斯(5,118)、刚果民主共和国(4,743)和伊朗(4,101)。

今年的绿卡移民项目在超过1400万份的申请中随机抽取了83,900名中奖者。但中奖并不意味着拿到绿卡。中奖者需要及时提交绿卡申请,才能获得绿卡,在美国合法永久居留。每年最多有50,000名获奖者能够最终获得绿卡。

特朗普一直对绿卡抽签项目很不友好,声称该计划允许“一些非常糟糕的人抢走了美国公民的工作。”实际上,许多中奖者都受过高等教育,只是在自己的国家缺少发展机会。要获得绿卡抽签资格,申请人必须具备高中文凭,证明自己能够养活自己,没有犯罪记录并且身体健康。

今年4月,特朗普发布公告宣布暂停几乎所有移民计划,包括多元化移民签证,以期在新冠病毒疫情期间保护美国工人的利益。 

特朗普在4月时表示:“用从国外来的新移民代替在疫情期间被解雇的美国人是错误且不公正的,我们必须首先照顾美国工人。”

特朗普在6月时进一步将这一禁令延长至2020年底。这是绿卡抽签项目在其三十年的历史中第一次被中断

特朗普在宣言中援引了疫情期间的失业率,并声称: 一旦永久居民被许可进入美国,就会立刻在各个领域与美国人竞争工作。”

但是美国移民委员会American Immigration Council)的政策总监乔治·豪尔赫(Jorge Loweree)认为特朗普的禁令缺乏“任何经济依据。” 

许多经济学家认为移民并不会夺取美国人的就业机会,也不会降低美国人的工资。相反,移民的涌入有助于增加美国整体的就业机会。

一些人认为绿卡抽签移民起到了“拉动效应”,鼓励更多的高素质人才移民美国,尤其是来自于少有移民的国家。研究还发现,移民多样性的提高,实际提升了美国人的工资。 

今年绿卡中签的人必须在9月30日之前获得签证才能移民到美国。但是由于特朗普禁令和疫情原因,美国国务院暂不处理任何签证。 

根据我们对每月移民签证签发统计数据的分析调查,在今年原定要发出的50,000份绿卡中,大约有37,000人在特朗普禁令下无法获得绿卡。 尽管他们仍可以再次申请抽签,但未必能被抽中。德罗今年再次提交了申请,却没有入选2021年名单。 

***

今天即将开庭审理的诉讼声称,特朗普的移民禁令“任意且反复无常”。

“针对多元化移民签证已成为特朗普政策中,白人至上主义议程的一部分,正义行动中心(Justice Action Center)的合作律师拉博尼·霍克(Laboni Hoq)说。

霍克将在今天被审理的多明哥·戈麦斯(Domingo Arreguin Gomez)诉讼案中代表绿卡中签者。霍克认为,尽管移民法赋予了总统一定的限制移民的权力,但特朗普颁发移民禁令的行为远远超出了该权力范畴。

“国会才有权制定移民法,”霍克说。“国会在过去的几十年中创造了一整套法律系统,而总统如此越权是前所未有的。我们相信特朗普声明中的每个部分都经不起推敲。”

法官阿米特·梅塔(Amit P. Mehta)将在今日审理霍克代理的诉讼,以及另一场更大的官司穆罕默德博士诉特朗普这两场诉讼均在今天美中时间中午12点开庭,观众可以在法院官网在线旁听。 

本月初, 伊利诺伊州检察长夸梅·拉乌尔(Kwame Raoul)与其它22个州的检察长一起提交了“庭之友”意见,公开支持戈麦斯诉讼案的原告。 

“移民不仅在疫情期间,在任何时候都是支持各州经济发展不可或缺的力量,拉乌尔在声明中说。“我将继续反对联邦政府反移民政策,阻止政府伤害家庭、社区和各州经济。”

霍克希望法院今天至少会下令要求政府处理积压的签证。这些签证的有效期为六个月。 

霍克说:“这不是最理想的结果,但如果禁令不能立刻解除,推动签证办理至少可以让原告推迟到明年入境美国。”  

***

海蒂·梅尔曼德14岁的侄子本雅明在伊朗德黑兰。本雅明患有克罗恩氏病。图片来自海蒂·梅尔曼德

对于海蒂·梅尔曼德(Heidi Mehrmand)来说,推迟入境总比没有入境好。居住在加利福尼亚州的梅尔曼德今年45岁,是一名美国公民和呼吸治疗师。她本希望今年能够与妹妹莫日根(Mozhgan)一家人在美国团聚。 

莫日根一家人住在伊朗德黑兰。她14岁的儿子本雅明患有克罗恩氏病,如果治疗不当,可能会导致严重的并发症,甚至有生命危险。梅尔曼德相信本雅明在美国会有更好的生活,至少在美国,治疗克罗恩氏病的药物更容易获得。

在梅尔曼德的帮助下,莫日根申请并抽中了绿卡移民。然而原计划于4月1日在美国驻阿布扎比大使馆进行的面签却从未进行。由于疫情原因,使馆被关闭。 

当梅尔曼德得知特朗普的移民禁令时,她哭了好几天。

住在加利福尼亚州尔湾市的家中,梅尔曼德无法停止担心妹妹一家人。在他们团聚之前,她将无法安睡。 

“我完全不能工作,” 梅尔曼德含泪说道。“我的心都碎了。”

 

线上旁听今日庭审,美中时间中午12点,拨打877-848-7030, 访问密码3218747。详情请登录法院官网

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Categories
Feature Visas

Green Card Lottery Winners Challenge Trump’s Immigration Ban

Above: Tal Dror in Givatayim, Israel on Aug. 25, 2020. “The U.S. is one of the only places on earth where I don’t have to constantly hide my identity, my roots, my nationality and religion,” said Dror, who identifies as gay. Photo courtesy of Tal Dror

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UPDATE 9/4/20: A D.C. federal judge on Friday partially blocked the Trump administration from barring foreign citizens who won green cards in the Diversity Visa lottery.

When Tal Dror won the 2020 lottery for a U.S. green card, he felt like the luckiest person in the world.

“The U.S. is one of the only places on earth where I don’t have to constantly hide my identity, my roots, my nationality and religion,” said Dror, who identifies as gay. 

Dror grew up in Ginaton, a small town in Israel, and works as a veterinarian in Givatayim, close to Tel Aviv. Gay marriage is illegal in Israel and discrimination against LGBTQ people is common. For the 31-year-old Dror, winning a spot in the United States’ Diversity Immigrant Visa program meant that he could make a new home in a country where he could freely express his sexual identity.

But Dror’s American dreams were crushed this year when President Donald Trump issued a series of immigration bans effectively keeping green card lottery winners from immigrating to the United States. 

Tal Dror pictured Aug. 23, 2020 at the clinic where he works as an associate veterinarian in Givatayim, Israel. Dror won the 2020 Diversity Immigrant Visa lottery for a U.S. green card. He must get a visa by September 30 to immigrate to the United States, but Trump’s executive orders have kept him from doing so. Photo courtesy of Tal Dror

“I didn’t even have a Plan B,” Tal said. “I was so sure it’s going to work out.” 

Today, lawsuits filed by Dror and other U.S. permanent resident card lottery winners will go before a judge in the District Court for the District of Columbia. The judge will hear the plaintiff’s motions for a preliminary injunction and a temporary restraining order, which could allow Dror and others to receive their visas despite the ban.

***

The Diversity Immigration Visa program was established as part of The Immigration Act of 1990 under President George H. W. Bush with the goal of diversifying the immigrant population in the United States. The program’s lottery received applications from more than 14 million applicants in 2020 and chose almost 83,900 winners from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States. Winners can apply for green cards, which provide permanent residency in the U.S and a pathway to citizenship. Ultimately, up to 50,000 of those winners will receive green cards in a given year.

In 2020, the largest number of visa winners came from Egypt (5,568), Russia (5,118), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (4,743), and Iran (4,101). 

President Trump has long criticized the visa program claiming that it let in some very bad people who take the jobs of US citizens. To qualify for a green card visa, applicants must have received at least a high school degree and prove they can support themselves, have no criminal background and are in good health. Many of the winners are highly educated but lack opportunities in their home countries.

In April, Trump issued a proclamation to temporarily pause almost all immigration, including the Diversity Immigrant Visa program, in a bid to protect American workers during the coronavirus pandemic. 

“It would be wrong and unjust for Americans laid off by the virus to be replaced with new immigrant labor flown in from abroad,” Trump said in April. “We must first take care of the American worker.”

In June, Trump extended the April order through the end of 2020. The bans mark the first time the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program has been interrupted in its three-decade history.

The proclamation cites record unemployment level statistics and states that, “Lawful permanent residents, once admitted, are granted “open-market” employment authorization documents, allowing them immediate eligibility to compete for almost any job, in any sector of the economy.”

But Jorge Loweree, policy director at the American Immigration Council, says the ban lacks “any meaningful economic analysis to substantiate its claims.” 

Many economists suggest that immigrants do not take jobs from Americans, nor do they lower their wages. Rather, the influx of immigrants helps increase overall hiring for the U.S. economy.

Some argue that immigrants arriving through the green card lottery program act as a “pull factor,” encouraging more high-skilled immigrants especially from those underrepresented communities. Research also found that greater diversity among immigrants raises the wages of people who were born in the United States. 

Those who won the Diversity Immigrant Visa lottery in 2020 need to be granted visas by September 30 in order to immigrate to the United States. However, the State Department isn’t processing any visas, both due to the ban and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

About 37,000 out of the 50,000 lottery winners may not be able to finish the process before this year’s deadline of September 30, according to our analysis of the monthly immigrant visa issuance statistics. While this year’s winners could apply again, there is no guarantee that they would be selected in future years. Dror, who had reapplied for this year, didn’t make the 2021 list. 

***

The lawsuits going before the District Court today claim that Trump’s immigrant ban is “arbitrary and capricious.”

“Targeting the diversity visa has been a part of Trump’s larger white supremacist agenda in his policies,” said Laboni Hoq, cooperating attorney with Justice Action Center.

Hoq is representing green card lottery winners in Domingo Arreguin Gomez v. Donald J. Trump, one of the two lawsuits being heard today. She argues that Trump acted outside his authority as president in banning immigration to this extent. While the Immigration and Nationality Act gives some power to the president to limit immigration, Hoq says that the ban goes far beyond that power.

“Congress is the one to have the authority to create immigration laws,” Hoq said. “They created a complex system of laws over the course of decades, and the scale to which the president is trying to bypass them is unprecedented. We believe each piece of this proclamation is successfully challengeable.”

Judge Amit P. Mehta will hear plaintiffs’ motions for a preliminary injunction and a temporary restraining order for both Hoq’s lawsuit and a second, larger lawsuit, Dr. Mohammed v. Trump, today at noon CST. Viewers can access the court proceeding virtually on the D.C District Court website.

Earlier this month, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, along with the attorneys generals from 22 states, filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the plaintiffs in Gomez. 

“Immigrants work in roles that are essential to supporting states’ economies during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond,” Raoul said in a statement. “I will continue to oppose the federal government’s anti-immigrant policies that hurt families, our communities and states’ economies.”

Hoq hopes the court today will at least require the government to process the visas that are in limbo. Once issued, these visas are valid for six months. 

“It wouldn’t be ideal, but if the ban is not enjoined immediately, the alternative relief we are seeking to force visa processing could allow plaintiffs to wait until next year and come to the U.S. in a delayed fashion,” said Hoq. 

***

Heidi Mehrmand’s 14-year-old nephew, Benyamin, in Tehran, Iran. Benyamin has Crohn’s disease. Photo courtesy of Heidi Mehrmand

For Heidi Mehrmand, a delayed entry is better than no entry at all. The 45-year-old U.S. citizen and respiratory therapist lives in California and was hoping to be reunited with her sister, Mozhgan, and her brother-in-law and 14-year-old nephew in the United States this year. 

Her sister’s family live in Tehran, Iran and her nephew, Benyamin, has Crohn’s disease, which can have severe or fatal complications if not treated properly. Mehrmand believed he would have a better life in the United States where medications to treat Crohn’s disease are much easier to get than where he lives.

Mehrmand helped Mozhgan apply for the Diversity Immigrant Visa program and she won the green card lottery. She had an interview scheduled at the U.S. embassy in Abu Dhabi on April 1, but the government postponed the interview indefinitely. 

When Mehrmand learned of Trump’s immigration ban, she cried for days.

Mehrmand continues to worry about her sister’s family from her home in Irvine, California. Until she is reunited with them, she cannot sleep easy. 

“I can’t work,” Mehrmand said, through tears. “My heart is broken.”

To listen to the court hearing live today at noon CST, call 877-848-7030, access code: 3218747. Find more information here.

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Categories
Courts Video

Immigration Judges Sue Over Censorship

Above: Judge Samuel Cole of Chicago’s Immigration Court and director of communications of the National Association of Immigration Judges, pictured on April 10, 2020 outside his home in suburban Chicago. Photo by Michelle Kanaar.

The union representing immigration judges sued the Department of Justice this month over a policy that limits their ability to speak publicly about their work.

“Part of the job of an immigration judge is to educate the public about the immigration courts and the role they play in society,” said Judge A. Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, in a statement. “This policy prevents us from doing this critical work, undermining public understanding of and trust in the immigration courts in the process.”

Judge Samuel Cole is a judge at the Chicago Immigration Court and serves as the director of communications at NAIJ.

Borderless Magazine reporter Diane Bou Khalil spoke to Judge Samuel Cole about the lawsuit and what it means to be an immigration judge at this moment.

 

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