This week, we read about a new policy that restores the path to asylum for survivors of violence. We also learned about the Senate Democrats’ plan for immigration reform, and a new House bill that would allow special visas for Afghans who worked for the U.S. government.
This Wednesday, The Department of Justice (DOJ) overturned policies from the Trump administration that impacted asylum seekers. Attorney General Merrick Garland vacated (or set aside) two Trump-era rulings to help restore asylum for survivors of domestic violence and gang violence.
“It will save lives. It will ensure that women who are seeking asylum from domestic violence and other forms of gender-based persecution will be able to have their claims fairly considered” – Blaine Bookey, Legal Director at the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies at the University of California, Hastings College of Law
President Biden recently signed an order, directing the DOJ and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to clarify who exactly qualifies for asylum. This may take several months, so immigration advocates are asking Attorney General Garland to take action to protect asylum seekers in the meantime.
Senate Democrats are strategizing to pass immigration reform. They might use something called “budget reconciliation.”
To pass a bill through the Senate, it needs 60 votes. Right now, that means 50 Democrats and 10 Republicans. Budget reconciliation helps Congress change laws to support budget goals. This way, they only need 51 votes, or 50 plus the Vice President.
In the early 2000s, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) studied the financial impact of immigration. They found that a path to status would increase government revenue.
Senator Kaine cited this study to the press. Kaine explained that a path to status can help pay for other Biden policies. Biden wants to expand childcare and eldercare and tackle climate change. If undocumented immigrants have status, they can fill worker shortages and support economic recovery without fear of deportation.
On Thursday, the House of Representatives introduced a new bill with bipartisan support. This bill would help Afghans who worked for the U.S. government during the 2001 U.S. war in Afghanistan.
There is a special immigrant visa (SIV) for Afghans who worked for the U.S. government. The Biden administration is under pressure to speed up SIV processing times. They are pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, and many are afraid that the Taliban could return to power. Meanwhile, Taliban insurgents have killed hundreds of interpreters and their families. Many died waiting for SIVs.
The Biden administration says it is adding staff to process SIVs faster. There are over 18,000 backlogged applications to get through. Some members of Congress say that is not good enough. This bill would remove certain requirements that slow down the process. It would also increase the number of SIVs available every year from 11,000 to 19,000.
“Now is the time for the U.S. to honor our promises and protect our Afghan partners.” – Rep. Jason Crow (D), Army veteran who served in Afghanistan
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