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Immigration Blog

George W. Bush ‘disturbed’ by current US immigration debate

Former President George W Bush said he is “disturbed” by the immigration debate taking place in the United States because it “undermines the goodness of America.”

“I think it doesn’t recognize the valuable contributions that immigrants make to our society. And it obscures the fact — the rhetoric does — that the system is broken and needs to be fixed,” Bush said on Thursday.

Bush made the comment when responding to a question at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Arkansas.

He was joined by former President Bill Clinton, and the event was part of the graduation ceremony for this year’s class of Presidential Leadership Scholars.

The former Republican president’s remarks come as tensions continue to rise in the US over immigration. The government is working to reunite undocumented families who were separated at the border as a result of the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

CNN previously reported on new guidance issued Wednesday on asylum seekers at the border that could result in thousands of individuals being turned away before they can plead their cases in court.

The new guidance, given to the officers who interview asylum seekers at the US borders and evaluate refugee applications, shows that although the administration has reversed its “zero-tolerance” policy, it is continuing hardline immigration tactics.

Microsoft could move some jobs abroad because of US immigration policies, top exec says

 

Microsoft does not want to move jobs out of the United States but certain decisions out of Washington could potentially force its hands, the company’s President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith warned.

The Trump Administration’s tough stance on immigration has attracted a lot of criticism from big technology firms, which rely heavily on skilled foreign workers from around the world.

Smith previously spoke out against efforts to stop the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — an Obama-era policy that provides legal protection for young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

Microsoft has advocated the protection of DACA and more broadly supported immigration as a way to make sure U.S. companies are hiring talented people.

“We do worry about a couple of the very specific immigration questions that people appear to be debating in Washington,” Smith told CNBC’s Akiko Fujita in an interview on Wednesday.

He pointed to two particular examples. The first is another Obama-era rule that allows some spouses of people who have a non-immigrant H-1B visa to take on paid work. The Trump administration has proposed revoking that type of work authorization last year but a lack of update has left many in limbo, according to reports.

The second is a rule that allows international graduates in science, technology, engineering or mathematics from U.S. universities to continue working while they’re trying to apply for a work visa.

Already, the administration has tightened some of the requirements for that program, but Smith said further changes could affect “hundreds of employees who would lose their ability to work in the United States.” That could leave Microsoft with no choice but to help those affected employees work somewhere else, according to Smith.

 

“We don’t want to move jobs out of the United States and we hope that we don’t see decision making in Washington that would force us to do that,” he said, adding that Microsoft has been openly speaking to people in Congress, at the White House and even the Canadian government to safeguard the interest of its employees. Microsoft has a development center in Vancouver, which Smith described as a “bit of a safety valve.”

“We’re not going to cut people loose. We’re going to stand behind them,” he added. That includes representing affected employees in court or helping to retain or pay for their legal fees. “In the world of technology you better stand behind your people because your people are your most valuable asset.”

Still, the executive said that tech companies have to also understand why some people in the United States, and other countries, feel like they are being left behind. He pointed to rural towns in the U.S. where he said technology is not reaching people.

“They live in these broadband deserts,” Smith said, referring to the lack of high-speed internet connections in those places. He said that was affecting farmers, small business owners, veterans and anybody who lives there. Some of the things that technology companies can do to alleviate the situation include bringing more opportunities for people in those areas to acquire digital skills to land better jobs. Secondly, companies need to invest in efforts to bring high-speed internet to more people, he said.

“I think we have to show that on the one hand we will stand up for issues like immigration where we feel our interests are at stake,” Smith said. “But we also have to show that we get it, that we understand what these other parts of the country need and we need to take tangible steps ourselves as we’re striving to do, to meet those needs.”

Feds’ new rules could stop asylum surge

The government’s citizenship agency issued new guidelines this week that will make it much tougher for many of the Central Americans streaming into the U.S. to claim asylum.

Asylum officers at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services were instructed to make asylum-seekers prove not only that they were specifically targeted in their home countries, but that their governments either condoned the persecution or were so indifferent that they might as well have been complicit.

That undercuts the standard argument given by many of the migrants making their way north from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, who describe dangerous neighborhoods and rough home lives — but struggle to prove they were victims of government-sanctioned violence.

Just proving that their governments were having trouble policing the problem is not enough, the guidance says.

The guidance also reminds asylum officers that someone who sneaks into the U.S., rather than asking for asylum through more traditional channels, is a major negative factor that can help doom asylum applications.

The guidance could head many would-be illegal immigrants off at the pass, denying them even a chance to remain on U.S. soil through bogus or ill-founded asylum claims.

“Our laws do not offer protection against instances of violence based on personal, private conflict that is not on account of a protected ground,” said Michael Bars, a spokesman for USCIS.

The guidance, dated June 11, carries out a decision handed down by Attorney General Jeff Sessions last month in which he said American asylum laws, while generous, cannot make the country an outlet for everyone facing difficulties across the globe.

Mr. Sessions said he was moving asylum back to its traditional understanding as an escape valve for people who faced persecution because of their religion, ethnicity or political beliefs.

Administration critics say the government will be cutting of a vital lifeline to tens of thousands of illegal immigrants fleeing rough conditions back home. They point to cases of people who say family members have been killed or children forced to join gangs, or husbands who made wives fear for their lives.

Yet security analysts said that over the last decade, asylum had become too nebulous, with people winning claims based on spousal abuse or gang-infested neighborhoods.

As the standards relaxed, the number of people making claims surged. Just 1 percent arriving migrants claimed asylum at the beginning of this decade, but that rate is now 10 percent.

Statistics show only about 3 percent of those will actually win their claims.

Yet just clearing the initial hurdle — claiming “credible fear” of being sent back home — is often enough to earn migrants a foothold in the U.S., getting them released into communities, where they can quickly qualify for work permits and some taxpayer benefits.

Even after they lose their cases, few are actually deported.

Smugglers, aware of the asylum “loophole,” began coaching their migrant clients on the “magic words” to use to clear the credible fear threshold and gain quick entry to the U.S.

Under the new guidance, though, officers were told to reject even pre-asylum “credible fear” claims that don’t meet the higher standards. That paves the way for the government to quickly deport them.

“Few gang-based or domestic-violence claims involving particular social groups defined by the members’ vulnerability to harm may merit a grant of asylum or refugee status,” the guidance says.

Juveniles who fled to U.S. on their own are filling up Immigration Court system

Immigration Courts across the U.S. are seeing increasing numbers of juveniles now facing deportation.

Pre-teens and teens from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico, many who came to the U.S. on their own, to escape violence and to seek a better life, are now being summoned to Immigration Court.

“These court proceedings will determine whether they’re allowed to stay in the U.S. with some sort of legal status, or whether they’re sent back home to the country they came from,” said Ashley Harrington, the managing attorney at Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network – Children’s Program, a nonprofit dedicated to helping ensure justice for immigrant children who have suffered from abuse, neglect or violence.

Among the cases heard in Judge Alison Kane’s courtroom Wednesday was one involving a 15 year old boy and his 17 year old sister.

The siblings apparently came to the U.S. with family members, who later kicked them out of the house.

Their mom took them back to Mexico and they later came back to the U.S. on their own.

The Office of Refugee Settlement released the siblings to a family friend who is trying to help shepherd them through the immigration court system.

“On their Notice to Appear,” said Judge Kane, “which is exhibit one, the Department (of Homeland Security) doesn’t  believe they are citizens of the U.S., but are of Mexico.”

She noted that the teenagers came to the U.S. on November 9, 2017 and asked for permission to stay, but did not have Visas or border crossing cards.

“These stories are incredibly common right now,” Harrington said. “What you saw was a glimpse of one day, in one courtroom, in one city.”

She said most of the kids are fighting deportation on their own, because it’s a “civil” matter, not criminal.

Immigration judges don’t have the authority to appoint legal counsel for those without.

“The same thing is happening almost every day,” she said, “where kids, who have fled horrific violence and really terrible conditions in their home country, have come here to ask for help and are forced to defend themselves from getting deported back to the home countries that they fled by themselves.

Harrington said those who secure representation are the “lucky ones,” who have a far better chance of being allowed to remain.

“Those without,” she said, “will most likely be deported back.”

She said many could face violence, or even death.

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