This week, we read about the Democrats’ new plan for immigration reform, the need for representation for unaccompanied children in immigration court, and the controversial Title 42 policy.

Democrats Aim to Keep Immigration Options Open in Latest Move 

House Democrats are trying to advance a proposal that would give immigrants a pathway to citizenship. The proposal has already been rejected twice. It’s unclear whether it will be successful this time. 

The proposal is called the ‘immigration registry update.

Over the years, Democrats and Republicans have disagreed on how to approach immigration reform. This has complicated the decision to give undocumented people a pathway to citizenship. 

Previous proposals were rejected by the Senate parliamentarian. This was because they were deemed too policy-oriented and did not qualify for budget reconciliation. This will be the Democrats’ third attempt to pass this legislation. They plan on presenting it to the parliamentarian in the next week or so.  

The newest proposal includes humanitarian parole status, work authorization, and deportation protections for certain undocumented immigrants. 

The Democrats plan to keep options open on immigration while the parliamentarian decides.   

 

Why are children representing themselves in immigration court? 

Sarah Burr, a retired immigration judge reflects on the reality that many young children are required to appear alone in immigration court. 

People in immigration proceedings can be represented by a lawyer. Yet, if they cannot afford a lawyer, there is no law that requires them to have representation. The same is true for children who may have crossed the border unaccompanied.  

“How does a child, already intimidated and confused by the courtroom setting, understand the nature of the court proceedings and the charges against them? How can a child understand the complexities of immigration law, their burden of proof, and possible defenses against deportation? The short answer is they cannot,” says Burr.

Burr speaks about her experience as an immigration judge. She notes that while judges ‘do their best to humanize’ the children, they do not know them, nor are they advocates. There is no plan for giving children counsel, even as more unaccompanied children cross the border.  

Burr argues that we must provide children with counsel. The Biden administration has created the Counsel for Children Initiative. Burr argues that we must continue to build on it until every unaccompanied child receives representation in court.   

Burr explains that non-profit organizations have stepped up to help represent unaccompanied children. But, she argues, we must not rely on this as a solution for the problem.  

“The stakes for all these children, for the credibility of our legal system and for our country, are too great to ignore,” says Burr.

Title 42 explained: The obscure public health policy at the center of a U.S. border fight 

The controversial immigration policy Title 42 has been a contentious source of debate in the immigration world.  

 The U.S. government has expelled over 1 million migrants at the border without giving them the opportunity to request asylum under Title 42. The government has justified the policy citing threats of COVID-19.   

 The policy has also resulted in an increase in border crossings. This is partially because the fast expulsion rates are making it easier for people to attempt to cross the border again.  

Title 42 originally started in 1944 as a public health and welfare statute. The policy gives the CDC the power to determine whether a disease in a foreign country poses a threat of spreading in the U.S. If the CDC finds a serious threat, it can temporarily block immigrants from entering the U.S.  

The Trump administration enacted the policy in March of 2020 due to COVID-19. The administration’s interpretation of the policy allowed border control to immediately remove migrants entering the country. Since then, the policy has been under the guise of an interest in ‘public health.’ 

The Trump administration’s version of the policy denied protections for migrants to seek asylum. It also denied their right to escape from returning to vulnerable countries where they’re receiving harm. Before the policy was enacted, migrants would be able to wait in the country before their court proceedings. Now, migrants are being swiftly turned back upon entry.  

Many advocacy groups, such as the ACLU have spoken out against the policy. Thousands of unaccompanied children have been expelled under Title 42.  When President Biden was inaugurated, he allowed the policy to continue to help limit the spread of COVID.  

Experts have said that Title 42 is one of the most controversial immigration policies ever. Public health experts have also reported that unvaccinated people are more of a threat to public health than immigrants entering the country. Despite this, the administration continues to argue that Title 42 protects migrants and local communities in the U.S.  

For now, the policy is still in place. Although, non-profit groups are continuing to challenge the rule. 

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