Tag Archives: migration

Biden Signs Executive Orders to Streamline Legal Immigration System, Reunite Separated Families, Address Root Causes of Migration

Families Belong Together Immigration Protest, NYC, June 30, 2018. In his first days in office, President Biden has signed executive orders to reunite families separated by Trump, protect DACA, end the Muslim Travel Ban, halt Trump’s border wall construction send legislation to Congress to create a pathway to citizenship for the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants, and address the root causes that drive people to leave their home countries © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

On January 20, the Biden Harris Administration took the first steps in a broad, whole of government effort to finally reform our immigration system, including sending to Congress legislation that creates a pathway to citizenship for the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants living in and contributing to our country. On February 2, the Administration is announcing a series of additional actions it is taking to rebuild and strengthen our immigration system.

These actions build on executive actions the President took his first day in office, including steps to preserve and fortify protections for Dreamers, end the Muslim and Africa ban, halt border wall construction and protect Liberian nationals living and working in our country. On day 1, the President also sent the United States Citizenship Act to Congress, which seeks to modernize our immigration system and smartly manage our borders, while addressing the root causes of migration.

President Biden’s strategy is centered on the basic premise that our country is saferstronger, and more prosperous with a fair, safe and orderly immigration system that welcomes immigrants, keeps families together, and allows people—both newly arrived immigrants and people who have lived here for generations—to more fully contribute to our country. President Biden knows that new Americans fuel our economy, as innovators and job creators, working in every American industry, and contributing to our arts, culture, and government.

In signing the executive orders, President Biden said:

“Today, I’m going to sign a few executive orders to strengthen our immigration system, building on the executive actions I took on day one to protect DREAMers, and the Muslim ban, and to better manage of our borders.  And that’s what these three different executive orders are about. 
 
“And I want to make it clear — there’s a lot of talk, with good reason, about the number of executive orders that I have signed — I’m not making new law; I’m eliminating bad policy.  What I’m doing is taking on the issues that — 99 percent of them — that the President — the last President of the United States issued executive orders I felt were very counterproductive to our security, counterproductive to who we are as a country, particularly in the area of immigration.
 
“This is about how America is safer, stronger, more prosperous when we have a fair, orderly, and humane, and legal immigration system. 
 
“And with the first action today, we’re going to work to undo the moral and national shame of the previous administration that literally, not figuratively, ripped children from the arms of their families — their mothers and fathers at the border — and with no plan, none whatsoever, to reunify the children who are still in custody and their parents.”

As he signed the first order, the reestablishment of an Interagency Task Force on the Reunification of Families, he said, “this removes the stain on our reputation for what these separations caused.”  The second order, “Creating a Comprehensive Regional Framework to Address the Causes of Migration, [and] to Manage Migration Throughout the North and Central America, and to Provide [a] Safe and Orderly Processing Of Asylum Seekers at the United States Border,” he said, “addresses the root causes of a migration to our southern border.” 

The third action, Restoring [the] Faith in Our Legal Immigration System and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans,”orders a full review of the previous administration’s harmful and counterproductive immigration policies, basically across the board,” he said.

“As my grandfather would say: By the grace of God and the goodwill of neighbors, we’ll reunite these children and reestablish our reputation as being a haven for people in need.” 

Today’s executive actions will:

Create a Task Force to Reunify Families. President Biden believes that families belong together. He has made clear that reversing the Trump Administration’s immigration policies that separated thousands of families at the border is a top priority. A key part of this effort is the creation of a task force to reunite families that remain separated. This task force will work across the U.S. government, with key stakeholders and representatives of impacted families, and with partners across the hemisphere to find parents and children separated by the Trump Administration. The task force will make recommendations to the President and federal agencies regarding steps that they can take to reunify families. Further, the task force will report regularly to the President and recommend steps to prevent such tragedies from occurring again. This Order also revokes the Trump Administration’s Executive Order that sought to justify separating children from their parents.

Develop a Strategy to Address Irregular Migration Across the Southern Border and Create a Humane Asylum System. The Trump Administration’s policies at the border have caused chaos, cruelty and confusion. Those policies have undermined the safety of our communities, penalized asylum seekers fleeing violence, and destabilized security across the Western hemisphere. Today, the Biden Harris Administration will begin to roll back the most damaging policies adopted by the prior administration, while taking effective action to manage migration across the region.

Specifically, the Biden Harris Administration will begin implementing a comprehensive three-part plan for safe, lawful, and orderly migration in the region. First, the Administration will address the underlying causes of migration through a strategy to confront the instability, violence, and economic insecurity that currently drives migrants from their homes. Second, the Administration will collaborate with regional partners, including foreign governments, international organizations, and nonprofits to shore up other countries’ capacity to provide protection and opportunities to asylum seekers and migrants closer to home. Finally, the Administration will ensure that Central American refugees and asylum seekers have access to legal avenues to the United States. The Secretary of Homeland Security is also directed to review the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program. The situation at the border will not transform overnight, due in large part to the damage done over the last four years. But the President is committed to an approach that keeps our country safe, strong, and prosperous and that also aligns with our values. This Executive Order also directs a series of actions to restore the U.S. asylum system, including by rescinding and directing agency review of a host of Trump Administration proclamations, rules, and guidance documents that have effectively closed the U.S. border to asylum seekers.

Restore Faith in Our Legal Immigration System and Promote Integration of New Americans. President Biden believes that immigrants are essential to who we are as a nation and critical to our aspirations for the future. The prior administration enacted hundreds of policies that run counter to our history and undermine America’s character as a land of opportunity that is open and welcoming to all who come here seeking protection and opportunity. This Executive Order elevates the role of the White House in coordinating the federal government’s strategy to promote immigrant integration and inclusion, including re-establishing a Task Force on New Americans, and ensuring that our legal immigration system operates fairly and efficiently. The order requires agencies to conduct a top-to-bottom review of recent regulations, policies, and guidance that have set up barriers to our legal immigration system. It also rescinds President Trump’s memorandum requiring family sponsors to repay the government if relatives receive public benefits, instructs the agencies to review the public charge rule and related policies, and streamline the naturalization process.

On January 20, soon after sitting in the Oval Office for the first time after his inauguration, President Biden stated he was sending to Congress a bill to “restore humanity and American values to our immigration system.”

The bill provides hardworking people who enrich our communities every day and who have lived here for years, in some cases for decades, an opportunity to earn citizenship. The legislation modernizes our immigration system, and prioritizes keeping families together, growing our economy, responsibly managing the border with smart investments, addressing the root causes of migration from Central America, and ensuring that the United States remains a refuge for those fleeing persecution. The bill will stimulate our economy while ensuring that every worker is protected. The bill creates an earned path to citizenship for our immigrant neighbors, colleagues, parishioners, community leaders, friends, and loved ones—including Dreamers and the essential workers who have risked their lives to serve and protect American communities. 

The U.S. Citizenship Act will: 

PROVIDE PATHWAYS TO CITIZENSHIP & STRENGTHEN LABOR PROTECTIONS

  • Create an earned roadmap to citizenship for undocumented individuals. The bill allows undocumented individuals to apply for temporary legal status, with the ability to apply for green cards after five years if they pass criminal and national security background checks and pay their taxes. Dreamers, TPS holders, and immigrant farmworkers who meet specific requirements are eligible for green cards immediately under the legislation. After three years, all green card holders who pass additional background checks and demonstrate knowledge of English and U.S. civics can apply to become citizens. Applicants must be physically present in the United States on or before January 1, 2021. The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may waive the presence requirement for those deported on or after January 20, 2017 who were physically present for at least three years prior to removal for family unity and other humanitarian purposes. Lastly, the bill further recognizes America as a nation of immigrants by changing the word “alien” to “noncitizen” in our immigration laws.
  • Keep families together. The bill reforms the family-based immigration system by clearing backlogs, recapturing unused visas, eliminating lengthy wait times, and increasing per-country visa caps.  It also eliminates the so-called “3 and 10-year bars,” and other provisions that keep families apart. The bill further supports familes by more explicitly including permanent partnerships and eliminating discrimination facing LGBTQ+ families. It also provides protections for orphans, widows, children, and Filipino veterans who fought alongside the United States in World War II. Lastly, the bill allows immigrants with approved family-sponsorship petitions to join family in the United States on a temporary basis while they wait for green cards to become available. 
  • Embrace diversity.  The bill includes the NO BAN Act that prohibits discrimination based on religion and limits presidential authority to issue future bans. The bill also increases Diversity Visas to 80,000 from 55,000.
  • Promote immigrant and refugee integration and citizenship. The bill provides new funding to state and local governments, private organizations, educational institutions, community-based organizations, and not-for-profit organizations to expand programs to promote integration and inclusion, increase English-language instruction, and provide assistance to individuals seeking to become citizens. 
  • Grow our economy. This bill clears employment-based visa backlogs, recaptures unused visas, reduces lengthy wait times, and eliminates per-country visa caps. The bill makes it easier for graduates of U.S. universities with advanced STEM degrees to stay in the United States; improves access to green cards for workers in lower-wage sectors; and eliminates other unnecessary hurdles for employment-based green cards. The bill provides dependents of H-1B visa holders work authorization, and children are prevented from “aging out” of the system. The bill also creates a pilot program to stimulate regional economic development, gives DHS the authority to adjust green cards based on macroeconomic conditions, and incentivizes higher wages for non-immigrant, high-skilled visas to prevent unfair competition with American workers.
  • Protect workers from exploitation and improve the employment verification process. The bill requires that DHS and the Department of Labor establish a commission involving labor, employer, and civil rights organizations to make recommendations for improving the employment verification process. Workers who suffer serious labor violations and cooperate with worker protection agencies will be granted greater access to U visa relief. The bill protects workers who are victims of workplace retaliation from deportation in order to allow labor agencies to interview these workers. It also protects migrant and seasonal workers, and increases penalties for employers who violate labor laws. 

PRIORITIZE SMART BORDER CONTROLS

  • Supplement existing border resources with technology and infrastructure. The legislation builds on record budget allocations for immigration enforcement by authorizing additional funding for the Secretary of DHS to develop and implement a plan to deploy technology to expedite screening and enhance the ability to identify narcotics and other contraband at every land, air, and sea port of entry.  This includes high-throughput scanning technologies to ensure that all commercial and passenger vehicles and freight rail traffic entering the United States at land ports of entry and rail-border crossings along the border undergo pre-primary scanning. It also authorizes and provides funding for plans to improve infrastructure at ports of entry to enhance the ability to process asylum seekers and detect, interdict, disrupt and prevent narcotics from entering the United States. It authorizes the DHS Secretary to develop and implement a strategy to manage and secure the southern border between ports of entry that focuses on flexible solutions and technologies that expand the ability to detect illicit activity, evaluate the effectiveness of border security operations, and be easily relocated and broken out by Border Patrol Sector. To protect privacy, the DHS Inspector General is authorized to conduct oversight to ensure that employed technology effectively serves legitimate agency purposes.
  • Manage the border and protect border communities.  The bill provides funding for training and continuing education to promote agent and officer safety and professionalism. It also creates a Border Community Stakeholder Advisory Committee, provides more special agents at the DHS Office of Professional Responsibility to investigate criminal and administrative misconduct, and requires the issuance of department-wide policies governing the use of force. The bill directs the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study the impact of DHS’s authority to waive environmental and state and federal laws to expedite the construction of barriers and roads near U.S. borders and provides for additional rescue beacons to prevent needless deaths along the border. The bill authorizes and provides funding for DHS, in coordination with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and nongovernmental experts, to develop guidelines and protocols for standards of care for individuals, families, and children in CBP custody.
  • Crack down on criminal organizations. The bill enhances the ability to prosecute individuals involved in smuggling and trafficking networks who are responsible for the exploitation of migrants. It also expands investigations, intelligence collection and analysis pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act to increase sanctions against foreign narcotics traffickers, their organizations and networks. The bill also requires the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and DHS, in coordination with the Secretary of State, to improve and expand transnational anti-gang task forces in Central America.

ADDRESS ROOT CAUSES OF MIGRATION

  • Start from the source. The bill codifies and funds the President’s $4 billion four-year inter-agency plan to address the underlying causes of migration in the region, including by increasing assistance to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, conditioned on their ability to reduce the endemic corruption, violence, and poverty that causes people to flee their home countries. It also creates safe and legal channels for people to seek protection, including by establishing Designated Processing Centers throughout Central America to register and process displaced persons for refugee resettlement and other lawful migration avenues—either to the United States or other partner countries. The bill also re-institutes the Central American Minors program to reunite children with U.S. relatives and creates a Central American Family Reunification Parole Program to more quickly unite families with approved family sponsorship petitions. 
  • Improve the immigration courts and protect vulnerable individuals. The bill expands family case management programs, reduces immigration court backlogs, expands training for immigration judges, and improves technology for immigration courts. The bill also restores fairness and balance to our immigration system by providing judges and adjudicators with discretion to review cases and grant relief to deserving individuals. Funding is authorized for legal orientation programs and counsel for children, vulnerable individuals, and others when necessary to ensure the fair and efficient resolution of their claims. The bill also provides funding for school districts educating unaccompanied children, while clarifying sponsor responsibilities for such children. 
  • Support asylum seekers and other vulnerable populations. The bill eliminates the one-year deadline for filing asylum claims and provides funding to reduce asylum application backlogs. It also increases protections for U visa, T visa, and VAWA applicants, including by raising the cap on U visas from 10,000 to 30,000. The bill also expands protections for foreign nationals assisting U.S. troops. 

What I Learned From Traveling Around the World in 23 Days

Inle Lake, Myanmar. A trip around the world affords an opportunity to meet people on their own turf. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features

Bill Chalmers, the “ringmaster” and Chief Experience Officer of the Global Scavenger Hunt, launches us on this around-the-world-in-23-days mystery tour with what he calls a “chimpanzee test” – a test where a chimpanzee is likely to get more answers right than a human being who has news and information available to them. The test basically demonstrates that unlike the gloom-and-doom of headlines, the trendlines are positive and these are actually the best of times for human society.

Throughout this Global Scavenger Hunt, “A Blind Date With the World” – where we don’t know where we are going next until we are told when to go to the airport or get ourselves there, and along the way, complete scavenges and challenges –  we are encouraged, even forced, to “trust in the kindness of strangers.” To interact with local people even when we can’t understand each other’s language. To learn and understand for ourselves.

For me, it is an incomparable opportunity to see in close proximity and context what is happening in countries literally around the globe – to examine this notion of American Exceptionalism, America First; to see the scope of such hot-button issues as trade, technology, migration and how they have played out over the longer course of human civilization. (I have a theory that 98% of Trump’s so-called hard-core base have never traveled beyond their own provincial border.)

As Chalmers notes, it is conceit to think we can parachute into places and understand the nuances of complex issues, but still, travel is about seeing for yourself, but also gaining an understanding of one another, disabusing stereotypes or caricatures, and most significantly, not seeing others as “other”, which works both ways. In very real ways (and especially now), travelers are ambassadors, no less than diplomats. Isolating people is not how change happens – that only hardens points of view, and makes people susceptible to fear-mongering and all the bad things that have happened throughout human history as a result. “See for yourself,” Chalmers tells us.

This is particularly poignant when we arrive in Myanmar:  One of the first things I see upon arriving in Yangon, Myanmar (formerly known as Rangoon in its colonial days) is the National Human Rights Commission which at this juncture, strikes as ironic. But despite the awful headlines, we all find the people of Myanmar to be kind, gentle, considerate. And a complete lack of politics or angst.

And just after returning home, the two prizewinning Reuters journalists imprisoned for their reporting of the deadly crackdown on the Rohingya, were released.

War Remnants Museum, Ho C hi Minh City, Vietnam. Press photos from international journalists from the time of the Vietnam War document the atrocities committed and go unpunished © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Vietnam is a testament to the resiliency of human society to rebound after wars and other crises (as we see everywhere, in fact – in Spain, in Portugal, in Greece, places that suffered during World War II, and you reflect on the success of the alliances that set the stage for 70 years of progress, now being weakened). In Vietnam, visiting the Chu Chi Tunnels and the War Remnants Museum, you cannot help but feel ashamed at the war crimes that remain unpunished because of the wealth and power of the United States.

In Gibraltar, still a colony of Great Britain, I come upon a May Day labor rally that could have been New York City: Privatization. Nonconsultation and lack of transparency. Unfair distribution. Wage increases that don’t keep up with the cost of living.

May Day Rally in Gibraltar © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Abu Dhabi is like a fantasy of a society built on oil wealth, conspicuous ostentation, a gallery of skyscrapers that defy physics; Amman, Jordan, on the other hand, is the real world. But my side trip to Petra – a fantastic city carved out of the rock faces, showed how greatness is made possible by innovations in engineering a water supply. Petra was able to dominate (and protect) the caravan routes, and the result was fabulous art and culture.

This theme picked up again in Athens, visiting the National Archaeological Museum, where I am struck by the artistry from 2500 years ago (themes and imagery that I will see again repeated throughout history on our final stop in New York City, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art) and realize that the human species is not smarter or better than thousands of years ago, we just have better tools and technology.

But this panel about 6th Century Greece stood out that notes the nexus between trade, migration, innovation, democracy and culture and rise of empire:

“The nature of the economy underwent a radical change as a result of the growth of trade. A new class of citizens emerged who were conscious of liberty and its potential and now demanded the right to play an active role in the running of public affairs….The liberty that was characteristic of the Greek way of life and which governed their thinking finds eloquent expression in their artistic creations. …Works of art and artists moved freely along the trade routes. The wealth and power of the city-states were expressed in the erection of monumental, lavishly adorned temples and impressive public welfare works.

“Greeks turned their attention to the natural world and to phenomena that gave rise to philosophical speculation, formulative ideas such as those of matter, the atom, force, space and time, and laying the foundations of science…”

But then came the rise of the Persian Empire and the Persian Wars.

Banquet Relief of Malku with Two Attendants, ca early 3rd C, artifact from Palmyra. The ancient site has been destroyed by ISIS and the artifacts looted © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

These themes are repeated in New York City  where our “Global Scavenger Hunt” ends. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art where the challenge I take is to find objects from five of the countries we visited, and this leads me to a fascinating exhibit, “The World Between Empires: Art and Identity in the Ancient Middle East.” The museum rarely (if ever) becomes political, but in this exhibit, archaeologists comment on the destruction of Palmyra and other ancient sites by ISIS.

“It may seem frivolous to focus on monuments, museums when people are enslaved and killed. But to wipe out, destroy culture is a way of destroying people. We must protect heritage as well.”

Palmyra only exists now “on paper” and in photos after the destruction by ISIS © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is a humbling experience, to be sure, to go to the origins of the great civilizations, fast forward to today. How did they become great? How did they fall? Greatness is not inevitable or forever.  Empires rise and fall. Rulers use religion, art and monuments to establish their credibility and credentials to rule; successors blot out the culture and re-write history. Traveling around the world, you appreciate just what a small world it is, how interdependent we are, how vulnerable our societies are, and that individuals do have impact. Also, that people everywhere are more similar than different.

I come back to a monstrously disturbing New York Times headline: “Humans Are Speeding Extinction and Altering the Natural World at an ‘Unprecedented’ Pace:”

“Humans are transforming Earth’s natural landscapes so dramatically that as many as one million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction, posing a dire threat to ecosystems that people all over the world depend on for their survival, a sweeping new United Nations assessment has concluded.”

The Barbary Macaques delight visitors to Gibraltar but the loss of 1 million species due to human activity and development is more threatening to society and civilization than the impact on tourism revenue © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In this case, headlines are trendlines. And it isn’t just about aesthetics or seeing animals like the Barbary Macaques that delight tourists in Gibraltar, but whole economies and sustenance. It is a matter of national security, peace and progress. It is about food and water supply, disease, habitable spaces. Sea level rise alone is expected to trigger 300 million climate refugees, competing for dwindling resources. There have been periods of mass extinction in the past – in fact, homo sapiens (us) were touch and go there for awhile.

Chalmers started off our “Blind Date With the World” with the Nicholas Kristof model, that these are actually the best of times for human society despite the gloom and doom headlines. But I disagree: the trendlines are not that hopeful. We may well be living in a golden age of human capacity, but we must recognize that we now have the power of the Gods to shape, to destroy or to create. And we seem too short-sighted to see that.

“Governments must start putting people and the planet ahead of corporate interests and greed and act with the urgency this report illustrates,” writes Annie Leonard, Executive Director, Greenpeace USA. “Leaders must adopt strong targets and implementation plans to protect biodiversity with the active participation and Free, Prior, and Informed Consent of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. Instead of plundering the forests and seas for short-term profit we need to shift our system into one that respects planetary boundaries.”

The Greek Gods may well have the last laugh at the extraordinary ability humans have to destroy themselves.

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© 2019 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin