Migration News: May 17, 2021
California Sen. Alex Padilla On Essential Worker Immigration Bill
Michel Martin, NPR
More than 100 days into Joe Biden's presidency, immigration remains a pressing issue for his administration and for the country as the number of migrants apprehended at the southern border exceeded 170,000 in April for the second consecutive month. Biden has promised a number of changes to the nation's immigration system, and key to that effort is California Senator Alex Padilla. He made history this week as the first Latino to chair the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship and Border Safety. His first hearing, which took place on Wednesday, focused on the role that approximately 5 million essential immigrant workers have played during the pandemic and discussed legislation that would offer them a path to citizenship. The bill, known as the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act, was introduced by Senator Padilla in February.
Biden admin reroutes billions in emergency stockpile, Covid funds to border crunch
Adam Cancryn, Politico
The Department of Health and Human Services has diverted more than $2 billion meant for other health initiatives toward covering the cost of caring for unaccompanied immigrant children, as the Biden administration grapples with a record influx of migrants on the southern border. The redirected funds include $850 million that Congress originally allocated to rebuild the nation’s Strategic National Stockpile, the emergency medical reserve strained by the Covid-19 response. Another $850 million is being taken from a pot intended to help expand coronavirus testing, according to three people with knowledge of the matter. The reshuffling, which HHS detailed to congressional appropriators in notices over the last two months, illustrates the extraordinary financial toll that sheltering more than 20,000 unaccompanied children has taken on the department so far this year, as it scrambled to open emergency housing and add staff and services across the country.
Dallas and San Antonio sites used to house migrant children set to close within weeks
Priscilla Alvarez, CNN
Two large sites in Texas used to shelter unaccompanied migrant children amid the influx in arrivals earlier this year will close by early June, the Department of Health and Human Services Department confirmed, marking among the first closures as the number of kids in border facilities drops. In March, the Biden administration took the unprecedented step of opening up emergency intake sites at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas and the Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio to accommodate thousands of children who arrived at the US-Mexico border alone. The sites were intended to be temporary and a result, some leases are set to expire. The lease for the San Antonio site expires May 30 and the lease for the Dallas site expires June 2. HHS said it doesn't anticipate extending either leases and is working to unify minors with their sponsors, such as family or guardians, in the US.
Newsom proposes healthcare for seniors without legal immigration status, but Democrats want more
Melody Gutierrez, The Los Angeles Times
California would allow seniors living in the country illegally to apply for the state’s healthcare program for low-income residents under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s revised budget proposal unveiled Friday. The $859-million expansion of Medi-Cal eligibility to cover adults 60 or older regardless of immigration status comes as the state’s coffers have been stuffed with a massive influx of income tax revenue. But with the governor pegging the surplus at more than $75 billion, Democratic lawmakers who have long pushed for expanding Medi-Cal eligibility to all immigrants without legal status — which is estimated to cost $2 billion — say they will push for more during upcoming budget negotiations.
Google defends work visas for 90,000 immigrants, majority of whom are women, in court filing
Catherine Thorbecke, ABC News
Google has taken a public stand in support of immigration rights via a court filing Friday that seeks to protect the ability to work in the U.S. for some 90,000 immigrants, the vast majority of whom are women. Google led a coalition of tech companies in filing an amicus brief (or so-called "friend of the court" document) that supports work authorization for the partners of high-skilled workers who enter the U.S. on H-1B visas. The filing relates to a years-long legal attempt to end the H-4 EAD program, which provides work authorization for spouses of those on the H-1B visa, which is commonly used in the tech industry. "In other words, it seeks to end the ability of highly-skilled immigrants’ partners from working in the United States," Catherine Lacavera, Google's vice president of legal, wrote in a blogpost Friday. She added that the H-4 EAD program provides work authorization to more than 90,000 people, more than 90% of whom are women.
What Joe Biden can learn from Canada’s private refugee sponsorship program
Shauna Labman and Geoffrey Cameron, The Conversation CA
Among U.S. President Joe Biden’s early executive orders has been a promise to expand the country’s refugee resettlement program. But it will take significant work to reverse the decline of the American program under Donald Trump over the previous four years, when Canada surpassed the United States as the leading nation of resettlement. In 2020, fewer than 12,000 refugees were resettled in the United States, down from almost 85,000 in 2016. While the U.S. is looking to reclaim global leadership from Canada on resettlement, there is growing interest in adapting one prominent and long-standing feature of the Canadian model of resettlement: private refugee sponsorship. Earlier this year, more than 50 organizations called upon the Biden administration to include colleges and university sponsorship programs “as part of any private sponsorship initiative established by the administration.”
New Mexico ACLU sues over treatment of immigrant detainees
The Associated Press/KOB 4
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico and the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center on Friday sued a private prison company over the treatment of nine immigrant detainees at the Torrance County Detention Center. The lawsuit centers on the use of pepper spray by guards last year as the immigrants protested poor living conditions and what they said were inadequate COVID-19 precautions. They also complained that status updates on their immigration cases were being withheld. The lawsuit alleges that the detention center operator, CoreCivic, violated the immigrants’ rights to be free from excessive or arbitrary force.
Refugees arriving in US unlikely to exceed cap set by Trump
Julie Watson and Mathew Lee, AP News
President Joe Biden, under political pressure, agreed to admit four times as many refugees this budget year as his predecessor did, but resettlement agencies concede the number actually allowed into the U.S. will be closer to the record-low cap of 15,000 set by former President Donald Trump. Refugee advocates say they are grateful for the increase because it’s symbolically important to show the world the United States is back as a humanitarian leader at a time when the number of refugees worldwide is the highest since World War II. But they’re frustrated, too, because more refugees could have been admitted if Biden hadn’t dragged his feet.
Faith Organizations Hand Out Checks To Help Migrant Families During Pandemic
Marlee Ginter, CBS Sacramento
Migrant families lined up outside the Zion Lutheran Church in Stockton on Sunday. Every one of them has struggled during the pandemic. It’s a community hit hard by COVID and many have lost their jobs. They listened to prayers and words of encouragement, and one of the biggest blessings of all came in a $500 check to help them pay for food and rent...One by one, names were called out. Reverend Nelson Gonzalez with Evangelical Lutheran Church in America out of Stockton handed out checks to 36 migrant families.
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The Washington Post
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