This week, we read about an influx of Venezuelan migrants, an increasing backlog of DACA applications, and a Supreme Court ruling against immigrants facing persecution.
Venezuelans are coming to the U.S. in record numbers. The migrants include bankers, engineers, and doctors. They are fleeing food shortages, medicine shortages, and mass power outages in Venezuela.
In 2013, President Nicolás Maduro came into power. Over 5 million Venezuelans left Venezuela. Many lived in other South American countries for years. Political unrest and economic downturn are forcing many Venezuelans to move to the U.S.
In May, U.S. Border Patrol encountered 7,484 Venezuelans at the U.S.-Mexico border. This is more than all 14 years that CBP has records for. Many are applying for asylum and seeking relief in the U.S.
“The truth is, it’s better to wash toilets here than being an engineer over there,” says 27-year-old Lis Briceno from Venezuela.
DACA, the Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals program, reopened in December 2020. DACA is not an immigration status. It is a temporary protection from deportation and work authorization.
Over 50,000 dreamers applied for DACA in three months. Only about 1.5% of the applicants have been approved. At the end of March 2021, USCIS had a backlog of over 55,000 first-time DACA applications. The Biden administration has committed to upholding DACA. The backlog and an upcoming court case in Texas have advocates worried.
USCIS says that the processing delay is due in part to the pandemic. USCIS requires first-time applicants to attend an in-person interview. This is also contributing to the delay.
“We have to remember that these aren’t numbers. These are people who have waited for over three years to apply and are fearful everyday that there could be a court ruling closing down the program.”
– Karen Tumlin, Immigration Attorney who represents DACA recipients in federal litigation
The Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruled on a complicated question last week. It impacts migrants who were deported from the U.S. in the past and came back due to threats in their home countries.
When an immigrant is in this situation, they might qualify for “withholding of removal.” Withholding of removal is a limited form of relief from deportation. To get it, they need to prove that there is at least a 51% chance they will face persecution in their home country. This is a much higher burden of proof than asylum (10% chance). In the past, they could qualify for a hearing before an immigration judge. They might also be able to leave detention on bond while the court reviewed their case.
In a 6-3 decision, SCOTUS held that a more restrictive interpretation of the law applies. They held that the immigrant’s first order of removal is still final even when they return to the U.S.