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Administration Sets New Barriers for Refugees

Federal policies upend U.S. role as haven for refugees

In 2019, the Trump administration enacted policies drastically limiting the number of people who could take refuge in the United States. The administration also took aim at people already in the country, deporting many and removing protections for others. And it added provisions designed to deter some of the most vulnerable, like victims of crime, people who need housing and food, and people who need urgent medical care, from seeking help for fear of deportation or of disqualifying themselves from citizenship or permanent resident status.

Trump administration dramatically reduces cap on refugees, takes aim at those already in U.S.

For decades, the United States has been a haven for those fleeing violence in other countries, leading the world in refugee resettlement.Jens Manuel Krogstad and Jynnah Radford, “Key Facts About Refugees to the U.S.,” Pew Research Center, October 7, 2019, https://perma.cc/EK4C-G7RB.But President Donald Trump confirmed in November that the number of refugees who will be allowed to settle in the United States in fiscal year 2020 would be slashed again, sparking outrage among immigration advocates who say the nation is slamming the door on those fleeing violence and persecution.Presidential Memorandum for the Secretary of State re: Presidential Determination on Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2020, 84 Fed. Reg. 65903, https://perma.cc/2L2Z-CHU9; and Michael D. Shear and Zolan Kanno-Youngs, “Trump Slashes Refugee Cap to 18,000, Curtailing U.S. Role as Haven,” New York Times, September 26, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/26/us/politics/trump-refugees.html.%5B/footnote%5DThe administration has capped the number of refugees at 18,000—a dramatic decrease from the 110,000 maximum President Barack Obama had set during his final year in office and a 40 percent reduction from Trump’s cap of 30,000 for FY 2019.For 2018 figures, see U.S. Department of State (DOS), “Remarks of Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo to the Media,” transcript (Washington, DC: DOS, September 1, 2018), https://perma.cc/CNB9-U29P. For historical data, see Migration Policy Institute, “U.S. Annual Refugee Resettlement Ceilings and Number of Refugees Admitted, 1980–present,” (database) accessed January 18, 2020,https://www.migrationpolicy.org/programs/data-hub/charts/us-annual-refugee-resettlement-ceilings-and-number-refugees-admitted-united.The 18,000 cap is the lowest since Congress created the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program in 1980.Migration Policy Institute, “U.S. Annual Refugee Resettlement Ceilings,”; and Ted Hesson, “Trump Ending U.S. Role as Worldwide Leader on Refugees,” POLITICO, October 11, 2019, https://perma.cc/EF7S-UCX6.

All of the Democratic senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee condemned the move in a joint letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan, warning that it could signal the effective end of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.Letter from Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Democrats of the Senate Judiciary Committee to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan, November 26, 2019, https://perma.cc/9WMH-SS7Q; and U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, “Harris and Leahy Lead Judiciary Democrats Urging Briefing Following President Trump’s Alarming FY2020 Refugee Presidential Determination,” press release (Washington, DC: Office of U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, November 6, 2019), https://perma.cc/YC2X-4T4V.

The cap for new refugees is likely even lower than it appears, because the 18,000 number includes as many as 5,500 refugees who were determined to be eligible for admission to the United States in 2019 but were not admitted because the cap for the year had already been met.Chantal da Silva, “Donald Trump’s 2020 Refugee Admissions Cap Is ‘Even Lower Than It Appears,’ Senators Warn. Here’s Why,” Newsweek, November 7, 2019, https://perma.cc/99X6-78MQ.Moreover, most of the 2020 slots have already been reserved for specific groups, including 4,000 refugee slots for Iraqis who worked with the U.S. military.Shear and Kanno-Youngs, “Trump Slashes Refugee Cap,” 2019. In 2019, just 153 of the approximately 110,000 Iraqis waiting to be approved as refugees based on their wartime assistance were resettled in the United States. Lara Jakes, “Under Trump, Iraqis Who Helped U.S. in War Are Stalled in Refugee System,” New York Times, November 2, 2019 (updated November 4, 2019), https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/02/world/middleeast/trump-refugees-iraq.html.

In addition to the cap, Trump signed an executive order saying that refugees can only settle in cities and states where the local government has affirmatively provided written consent to the federal government saying they are willing to accept them.Executive Order 13888: Enhancing State and Local Involvement in Refugee Resettlement, 84 Fed. Reg. 52355, https://perma.cc/D8SS-YKWH.In November, three organizations involved in refugee resettlement sued the Trump administration over the order.HIAS v. Trump, No. 8:19-cv-3346 (D. Md. November 21, 2019), https://perma.cc/5GF7-TEBE; and Julie Watson, “Refugee Resettlement Agencies Sue to Block Trump Order,” Associated Press, November 21, 2019, https://perma.cc/UAB4-G64F.In December, 13 state attorneys general joined an amicus brief in support of the resettlement organizations.HIAS. v. Trump, No. 8:19-cv-3346 (Brief of the States of California, Illinois, Maryland, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington as Amici Curiaein Support of Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction, filed December 13, 2019), https://perma.cc/H9WV-W6LQ. Then, in mid-January 2020, Texas became the first state to affirmatively reject the resettlement of refugees.Vanessa Romo, “Gov. Greg Abbott Says New Refugees Won't Be Allowed to Settle in Texas,” National Public Radio (NPR), January 10, 2020, https://perma.cc/TE4X-LS63. Historically, Texas has been second only to California in the number of refugees resettled.Krogstad and Radford, “Key Facts About Refugees to the U.S.,” 2019. But just days later, a federal judge granted the injunction that the resettlement organizations were seeking and blocked the implementation of the executive order.HIAS v. Trump, No. PJM 19-3346 (D. Md. January 15, 2020) (Memorandum Opinion), https://perma.cc/D8VS-3JPP.

At the same time the administration is limiting new refugees, it is also working to deport those who sought shelter in the United States decades ago. The Trump administration has been ramping up its efforts to deport refugees with criminal records, often decades old, some of whom have been in the United States since they were infants. In July alone, 37 Cambodians were deported; 32 of them had fled during the Khmer Rouge’s 1975­­­­–1979 reign of terror.Prak Chan Thul, “U.S. Deports 37 Cambodian Refugees After Criminal Convictions,” Reuters, July 4, 2019, https://perma.cc/WDF2-9YGZ.The move was met with nationwide protests.Agnes Constante, “Hundreds Nationwide Demonstrate Against ICE Deportations of Cambodian Americans,” NBC News, October 4, 2019, https://perma.cc/MW7C-7AUT.

Administration places unprecedented restrictions on asylum-seekers

The administration continued to steadily chisel away at opportunities to seek asylum in 2019, proposing or enacting a number of controversial policies to restrict the number of immigrants who can apply for asylum or even be admitted to the United States while their cases are pending.

Requiring asylum-seekers to “Remain in Mexico”
The most significant change for people attempting to come to the United States in 2019 was the end of policies allowing those who are seeking asylum to be released from—or avoid—detention and remain in the country with a notice to appear in court.Nick Miroff, “Nearly 1 Million Migrants Arrested Along Mexico Border in Fiscal 2019, Most Since 2007,” Washington Post, October 8, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/immigration/nearly-1-million-migrants-arrested-along-mexico-border-in-fiscal-2019-most-since-2007/2019/10/08/749413e4-e9d4-11e9-9306-47cb0324fd44_story.html.Instead, the administration introduced “Migrant Protection Protocols,” where asylum-seekers are forced to wait in Mexico for their cases to be heard.U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), “Migrant Protection Protocols,” press release (Washington, DC: DHS, January 24, 2019), https://perma.cc/V5UJ-BVLP.Advocates including the American Civil Liberties Union and Southern Poverty Law Center condemned the policy, informally called “Remain in Mexico,” and sued the administration, asserting that for many asylum-seekers being forced to remain in border camps and already crowded cities is nearly as dangerous as staying in Central America.Innovation Law Lab v. Nielsen, No. 3:19-cv-00807 (N.D. Cal., February 14, 2019), https://perma.cc/BC7D-377M; and Alan Gomez, “Lawsuit Challenges Trump Plan Keeping Asylum-Seekers in Mexico Until Case Decided,” USA Today, February 14, 2019, https://perma.cc/FPP5-V7UA.Asylum-seekers in these areas are uniquely vulnerable and “face a heightened risk of kidnapping, disappearance, trafficking, sexual assault, and murder, among other harms,” the lawsuit reads. “Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons, as well as people of indigenous heritage, are particularly at risk.”Innovation Law Lab v. Nielsen, No. 3:19-cv-00807, 2019.

“Remain in Mexico” began at California’s San Ysidro port of entry in January 2019 but expanded to other ports in May after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the program could continue while the lawsuit proceeds.Innovation Law Lab v. Nielsen, No. 3:19-cv-00807 (Opinion re: Emergency Stay Motion, May 7, 2019), https://perma.cc/JQ4H-JK2X; Tanvi Misra, “‘Remain in Mexico’ Policy Faces Internal Critiques at House Hearing,” Roll Call, November 19, 2019, https://perma.cc/M7B2-XBAN; and Kate Smith, “Trump Administration's Controversial ‘Remain In Mexico’ Policy Will Be Allowed to Continue for Now,” CBS News, May 8, 2019, https://perma.cc/TVU8-DTDF. The policy change has already impacted tens of thousands of immigrants seeking protection in the United States. More than 57,000 immigrants seeking asylum have been rerouted to Mexico as they wait for their cases to be heard—despite multiple reports and testimony describing the extreme dangers many face in the open-air temporary encampments that have sprung up especially in the border cities of Juarez, Nuevo Laredo, and Tijuana.Misra, “‘Remain in Mexico’ Policy Faces Internal Critiques,” 2019; and Andrea Pitzer, “Trump’s ‘Migrant Protection Protocols’ Hurt the People They’re Supposed to Help,” Washington Post, July 18, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2019/07/18/trumps-migrant-protection-protocols-hurt-people-theyre-supposed-help/. In November, the president of the union that represents U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services employees—a longtime asylum officer—told a U.S. House of Representatives panel that he was concerned about human rights abuses taking place because of the policy, which he called “illegal [and] immoral.”Misra, “‘Remain in Mexico’ Policy Faces Internal Critiques,” 2019.In December, Human Rights First found that there have been 636 reported violent attacks on U.S. asylum-seekers who were returned to Mexico under Trump’s policy, including kidnappings, rapes, torture, and assaults.Human Rights First, Human Rights Fiasco: The Trump Administration’s Dangerous Asylum Returns Continue (Washington, DC: Human Rights First, 2019), https://perma.cc/EDV2-KPMS.And in the fall, a man who had warned immigration officers that his family did not feel safe in Tijuana, Mexico, while they waited for their asylum cases to be processed was stabbed to death two months later.Chantal da Silva, “Father Killed in Mexico While Waiting for Asylum Under Trump Policy Had Warned DHS His Family Did Not Feel Safe: Lawyer,” Newsweek, December 12, 2019, https://perma.cc/DM5G-M7N8.

Forcing asylum-seekers to find refuge elsewhere first
In another effort to reduce the number of people seeking refuge in the United States, the Trump administration enacted a policy in July that requires asylum-seekers to first seek protection from other nations while they are en route to the U.S. border.DHS, Asylum Eligibility and Procedural Modifications, 84 Fed. Reg. 33829 (interim final rule effective July 16, 2019) (to be codified at 8 CFR 208, 8 CFR 1003, and 8 CFR 1208), https://perma.cc/P2HW-TZNR; and Miroff, “Nearly 1 Million Migrants Arrested,” 2019.Only if they are refused asylum in two other countries will they be allowed to apply for asylum when they reach the United States.DHS, Asylum Eligibility, 2019.

The new policy set in motion yet another lawsuit. Human rights advocates say it makes no sense to make those fleeing violence seek protection in countries that are among the most dangerous in the world—but the U.S. Supreme Court in September allowed the administration to implement the policy while it is being challenged.Barr v. East Bay Sanctuary, 588 U.S. ___ (2019), https://perma.cc/2ZJW-92SH; and Richard Gonzales, “Supreme Court Allows Government to Curtail Asylum Requests During Legal Fight,” NPR, September 11, 2019, https://perma.cc/TEU5-888K.

The Trump administration had also enacted the policy without consulting affected countries but—after threatening to withhold aid—it obtained agreements from the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to make immigrants traveling through those countries seek asylum there instead.Kirk Semple, “The U.S. and Guatemala Reached an Asylum Deal: Here’s What It Means,” New York Times, July 28, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/28/world/americas/guatemala-safe-third-asylum.html; Nicole Narea, “The Trump Administration Just Inked Another Deal Making It Harder to Claim Asylum in the US,” Vox, September 25, 2019, https://perma.cc/LMZ9-789U; Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Elisabeth Malkin, “U.S. Agreement With El Salvador Seeks to Divert Asylum Seekers,” New York Times, September 20, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/20/us/politics/us-asylum-el-salvador.html; and Miriam Jordan and Kirk Semple, “U.S. Extends Temporary Work Permits for El Salvador Immigrants,” New York Times, October 28, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/28/us/el-salvador-temporary-protected-status-tps.html.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service also promulgated a new rule in November that would allow people seeking asylum in the United States to be sent back to a country with which the United States has an asylum cooperative agreement, and particularly El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras, if they had failed to claim asylum there already.DHS, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), Implementing Bilateral and Multilateral Asylum Cooperative Agreements Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, 84 Fed. Reg. 63994 (interim final rule effective November 19, 2019) (to be codified at 8 CFR 208, 8 CFR 1003, 8 CFR 1208, and 8 CFR 1240), https://perma.cc/MG2T-3P6U.The vast majority of asylum-seekers arriving in the United States in FY 2018 (the most recent year for which data was available) were fleeing these countries.Nadwa Mossad, Refugees and Asylees: 2018 (Washington, DC: DHS, 2019), 6-8, https://perma.cc/T3YL-22AL.In November, a man from Honduras became the first U.S. asylum-seeker to be rerouted to Guatemala to have his case heard there.Nick Miroff, “Trump Administration to Begin Sending Asylum Seekers to Guatemala as Soon as This Week,” Washington Post, October 28, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/immigration/trump-administration-to-begin-sending-asylum-seekers-to-guatemala-as-soon-as-this-week/2019/10/28/998868c4-f99e-11e9-8190-6be4deb56e01_story.html; and Geneva Sands, Priscilla Alvarez, and Michelle Mendoza, “Trump Administration Begins Deporting Asylum Seekers to Guatemala,” CNN, November 21, 2019, https://perma.cc/8BPR-6645. An immigration official who spoke with media on condition of anonymity described the consequences of such a rule: “People will die.”Julia Ainsley, “Trump Admin Readies Rule to Send Asylum-Seekers Back to Dangerous Countries They Passed Through,” NBC, November 18, 2019, https://perma.cc/7LUV-EAJH.

Allowing immigrants to be indefinitely detained
Immigrants in asylum proceedings have historically had the option to seek release on bond in a hearing that determines whether they are a flight risk—and most have remained free.Ted Hesson, “Justice Dept. Denies Bond for Tens of Thousands of Asylum Seekers,” POLITICO, April 16, 2019, https://perma.cc/HM3Z-MBJH.In April, however, U.S. Attorney General William Barr, in the case of Matter of M-S-, reversed a 2005 immigration court ruling that guaranteed bond hearings for some immigrants who passed a credible fear interview.U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General, Matter of M-S-, 27 I&N Dec. 509 (A.G. 2019), https://perma.cc/LF9G-83RP.The move would have denied bond for tens of thousands of asylum-seekers already in U.S. detention, subjecting them to indefinite detention while their cases wind their way through immigration courts, where the current processing time averages more than 700 days.Nick Valencia, Priscilla Alvarez, Geneva Sands, and Catherine E. Shoichet, “Barr Makes Major Reversal in Ruling Some Asylum Seekers Could Be Held Indefinitely,” CNN, April 17, 2019, https://perma.cc/3MCL-X4E8; and Transactional Records Action Clearinghouse (TRAC) Immigration, “Immigration Court Backlog Tool,” database (Syracuse, NY: TRAC), https://trac.syr.edu/phptools/immigration/court_backlog/. Immigration advocates challenged the decision in court.Padilla v. ICE, No. C18-928 MJP (W.D. Wash., filed 2019); and Valencia, Alvarez, Sands, and Shoichet, “Barr Makes Major Reversal in Ruling,” 2019.In July, a federal judge blocked the policy change.Padilla v. ICE, No. C18-928 MJP (Order on Motions re: Preliminary Injunction, July 2, 2019), https://perma.cc/845D-GMG8; and Tom Hals, “Explainer: Judge Blocks Trump Policy on Indefinite Detention of Some Asylum Seekers,” Reuters, July 3, 2019, https://perma.cc/YCQ8-TLBB.

But proponents of indefinite detention had already been handed a win by the Supreme Court in March, when it ruled that noncitizens are not entitled to a bond hearing if they had ever been sentenced to incarceration for any crime, even if they served their time and rejoined the community years before.Nielsen v. Preap, 586 U.S. __ (2019), https://perma.cc/3GTS-E538; and Mark Joseph Stern, “Supreme Court Disregards Due Process, Allows ICE to Detain Certain Immigrants Indefinitely,” Slate, March 19, 2019, https://perma.cc/24HA-FT95.

Piling on administrative fees
The administration also proposed a slew of burdensome fees that would make being granted refuge a nearly unaffordable transaction. In April, a presidential memorandum called for the authorities to set fees for asylum claim filings and work permit applications for asylum-seekers while their claims are pending.The White House, “Presidential Memorandum on Additional Measures to Enhance Border Security and Restore Integrity to Our Immigration System” (Washington, DC: The White House, April 29, 2019), https://perma.cc/R5G9-DVST. Opponents argued that the order made little sense, as people without employment would be unable to support themselves while they waited for the adjudication of their cases.Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Caitlin Dickerson, “Asylum Seekers Face New Restraints Under Latest Trump Orders,” New York Times, April 29, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/29/us/politics/trump-asylum.html.

The proposal, which is still under review, would make the United States one of only four nations—including Australia, Fiji, and Iran—that require asylum-seekers to pay a fee for the government to process their applications.Camilo Montoya-Galvez, “U.S. Seeks to Hike Fees for Immigration Applications and Impose First-Ever Asylum Charge,” CBS News, November 9, 2019, https://perma.cc/PC4Y-BWTY.

Trump seeks to set income requirements for immigrants

The Trump administration also issued regulations in 2019 that targeted people with low incomes who are seeking green cards. In August, the White House released a policy reviving an old principle known as the “public charge” rule in order to impose an aggressive wealth test on those seeking to become permanent legal residents.DHS, Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds, 84 FR 41292 (effective October 15, 2019) (to be codified at 8 CFR 103, 8 CFR 212, 8 CFR 213, 8 CFR 214, 8 CFR 245, and 8 CFR 248), https://perma.cc/XDL4-5V6N; and Michael D. Shear and Eileen Sullivan, “Trump Policy Favors Wealthier Immigrants for Green Cards,” New York Times, August 12, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/12/us/politics/trump-immigration-policy.html.The stated purpose of the test was to ensure the person wouldn’t be a burden on taxpayers—now or in the future—by requiring them to prove that they are not “likely at any time” to need public assistance with health care, food, or housing.DHS, Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds, 84 FR 41292, 2019.

It has been the policy for decades for immigration officials to consider the resources of immigrants, including their potential to support themselves, but Trump’s policy took it much further, basing the evaluation on 20 factors including the use of food stamps, Section 8 housing, and Medicaid—as well as a person’s English language proficiency, education, and credit score.Ibid.; and Nicole Narea, “Courts Blocked Trump’s Rule to Keep Out Low-Income Immigrants,” Vox, October 11, 2019,https://perma.cc/TXZ3-67F5; and Miriam Jordan, “Judges Strike Several Blows to Trump Immigration Policies,” New York Times, October 11, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/11/us/immigration-public-charge-injunction.html.Researchers estimated that it would prevent more than 382,000 people from applying to enter the United States, extend their visas, or apply for permanent resident or citizenship status.Narea, “Courts Blocked Trump’s Rule,” 2019.

States immediately sued to block the new policy, arguing that it discriminates against people with low incomes and could jeopardize the health and welfare of children, because their families might avoid seeking services. Five federal judges in four circuits issued injunctions preventing the government from enforcing the rule.Stuart Anderson, “All the President’s Immigration Lawsuits,” Forbes, November 5, 2019, https://perma.cc/9AZW-LSAD.In December, a federal appeals court lifted two of those injunctions, and in January 2020 the Supreme Court removed the remaining obstacles to enforcement while the lawsuits proceed.Josh Gerstein, “Appeals Court Lifts Some Rulings Blocking Trump ‘Public Charge’ Rule for Immigrants,” POLITICO, December 5, 2019, https://perma.cc/Y89D-B7SK; and Pete Williams, "In 5-4 Ruling, Supreme Court Allows Trump Plan to Deny Green Cards to Those Who May Need Gov't Aid," NBC, January 27, 2020, https://perma.cc/TW2U-GECY.

And the public charge rule wasn’t the only action the Trump administration took to prevent low-income immigrants from becoming temporary or permanent residents of the United States. In October, the White House issued a proclamation ordering that visas would be denied to those who did not have the means to pay for medical care.The White House, Presidential Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry of Immigrants Who Will Financially Burden the United States Healthcare System (Washington, DC: The White House, October 4, 2019), https://perma.cc/9J9B-65KH.Trump said immigrants would be barred from living in the United States unless they could prove they will be covered by health insurance or have the financial means to pay for unforeseeable medical costs.Ibid. In November, a federal district court judge in Oregon issued first a temporary restraining order and then a nationwide injunction preventing the policy from going into effect, which was affirmed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in December.Doe v. Trump, No. 3:19-cv-01743-SB (D. Ore., November 2, 2019) (Temporary Restraining Order) https://perma.cc/N2WV-J27N; Doe v. Trump, No. 3:19-cv-01743-SB (D. Ore., November 26, 2019) (Opinion and Order), https://perma.cc/49SJ-KN8D; and Yasmeen Abutaleb, Jeff Stein, and Kayla Epstein, “Judge Temporarily Blocks Trump Order Requiring Would-Be Immigrants to Prove They Have Health Insurance,” Washington Post, November 3, 2019,https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2019/11/03/judge-temporarily-blocks-trump-order-requiring-would-be-immigrants-prove-they-have-health-insurance/. For the appeal, see Doe v. Trump, No. 19-36020 (9thCir., December 20, 2019), https://perma.cc/2B7U-DZJH.

Housing assistance for families sharing their homes with immigrants also faces an uncertain future. In May, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) published a proposed rule that would require everyone living in a home where someone receives housing assistance to verify their immigration status.Housing and Community Development Act of 1980: Verification of Eligible Status, 84 Fed. Reg. 20589 (proposed May 10, 2019), https://perma.cc/WWH4-5Y54.If implemented, the rule would threaten an estimated 25,000 families—including 55,000 children who are citizens or green card holders—with losing their homes if they did not force out any family member whose immigration status could not be verified.Mollie Cueva-Dabkoski and Linda Morris, “The Trump Administration’s Proposed ‘Mixed Status’ Housing Rule Is Another Form of Family Separation,” ACLU, July 10, 2019, https://perma.cc/MP3L-GQNN.Commentary closed on the rule in July, but HUD is required to respond to all 30,000 submitted comments as part of the process of drafting the final rule.KeepFamiliesTogether, “HUD'S Proposed Mixed-Status Families Rule,” https://perma.cc/X9MM-LXFL.

Administration continues its assault on the Temporary Protected Status program

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is an immigration program that allows foreign nationals to remain in the United States if, while they are in the country, something catastrophic—such as a war, famine, natural disaster, or epidemic—happens in their country of origin that would prevent their safe return.USCIS, “Temporary Protected Status," https://perma.cc/V2ZU-CKC9.In 2017 and 2018, the Trump administration attempted to end TPS status for immigrants from six countries (El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Sudan).For the termination of protections for El Salvador, see Termination of the Designation of El Salvador for Temporary Protected Status, 83 Fed. Reg. 2654 (January 18, 2018), https://perma.cc/A6E5-CZ29; and for the current status of TPS protections for El Salvador, see USCIS, “Temporary Protected Status Designated Country: El Salvador,” https://perma.cc/X5CW-LRDP. For the termination of protections for Honduras, see Termination of the Designation of Honduras for Temporary Protected Status, 83 Fed. Reg. 26074 (June 5, 2018), https://perma.cc/9U9E-J9V6; and for the current status of TPS protections for Honduras, see USCIS, “Temporary Protected Status Designated Country: Honduras,” https://perma.cc/Y4HT-5E3Y. For the termination of protections for Nepal, see Termination of the Designation of Nepal for Temporary Protected Status, 83 Fed. Reg. 23705 (May 22, 2018), https://perma.cc/PFC3-MC9W; and for the current status of TPS protections for Nepal, see USCIS, “Temporary Protected Status Designated Country: Nepal,” https://perma.cc/EPF3-HFCX. For the termination of protections for Haiti, see Termination of the Designation of Haiti for Temporary Protected Status, 83 Fed. Reg. 2648 (January 18, 2018), https://perma.cc/3YYW-4689; and for the current status of TPS protections for Haiti, see USCIS, “Temporary Protected Status Designated Country: Haiti,” https://perma.cc/ALG5-RHHP. For the termination of protections for Nicaragua, see Termination of the Designation of Nicaragua for Temporary Protected Status, 82 Fed. Reg. 59636 (December 15, 2017), https://perma.cc/V4WQ-9E5K; and for the current status of TPS protections for Nicaragua, see USCIS, “Temporary Protected Status Designated Country: Nicaragua,” https://perma.cc/D8KG-YH99. For the termination of protections for Sudan, see Termination of the Designation of Sudan for Temporary Protected Status, 82 Fed. Reg. 47228 (October 11, 2017), https://perma.cc/TC7W-3J7C. For the extension of TPS status for these countries, see “Continuation of Documentation for Beneficiaries of Temporary Protected Status Designations for El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Sudan,” 84 Fed. Reg. 59403 (November 4, 2019), https://perma.cc/FT4E-FA8X.In 2019, the administration continued its attempts to halt the TPS program for nearly all immigrants who have been allowed to stay in the United States for years because their home countries have been ravaged by natural disaster or war.D’Vera Cohn, Jeffrey S. Passel, and Kristen Bialik, “Many Immigrants with Temporary Protected Status Face Uncertain Future in U.S.,” Pew Research Center, November 27, 2019, https://perma.cc/TN4B-W557.Various injunctions have stymied those plans, and the TPS designations for El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Sudan were recently extended to January 2021.“Continuation of Documentation for Beneficiaries of Temporary Protected Status Designations for El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Sudan.” For the status of the lawsuit affecting TPS status for these nations, see Ramos v. Nielsen, No. 18-cv-01554 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 3, 2018); and USCIS, “Update on Ramos v. Nielsen,” https://perma.cc/WGW4-N9RW. See also Miriam Jordan, “Trump Administration Ends Protected Status for Thousands of Hondurans,” New York Times, May 4, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/04/us/honduras-temporary-protected-status.html; and Nicole Narea, “Exclusive: State Department Officials Warned Trump Not to Revoke Protections for Immigrants,” Vox, November 7, 2019, https://perma.cc/887T-7AZJ.Around 400,000 people—many of whom have U.S.-born children—will be impacted if TPS status for these countries of origin ends.Narea, “Exclusive: State Department Officials Warned Trump,” 2019.

There has been much controversy over Trump’s motivations for ending the TPS program. According to documents released in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee report in November, U.S. Department of State officials warned the Trump administration that taking away legal protections for immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, and Honduras would destabilize those countries and put national security and foreign relations at risk unless implemented slowly, but the White House proceeded with plans to terminate the programs in less than half the recommended time.Ibid.

Moreover, while the TPS program is intended to help those whose countries are hit by natural disasters, Trump in September declined to grant protected status to Bahamians affected by Hurricane Dorian, a storm that devastated the islands and left at least 50 people dead and 2,500 missing.Priscilla Alvarez, “Trump Administration Won't Grant Temporary Protected Status to Bahamians,” CNN, September 10, 2019, https://perma.cc/FJ7W-BQQX; and “Tentative List of the Missing in Bahamas Has 2,500 Names,” Associated Press, September 11, 2019, https://perma.cc/BP3Z-L7JH.Though the acting Customs and Border Protection commissioner said it would be “appropriate” to grant the status to Bahamians, Trump cited the possibility of “very bad people” from the country being allowed in the United States as one reason to deny the protection.Alvarez, “Trump Administration Won't Grant Temporary Protected Status,” 2019. Advocates and politicians denounced the decision, with U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) calling it “morally bankrupt and a black mark on America.”Jake Johnson, “‘Morally Bankrupt and a Black Mark on America’: Trump Condemned for Refusing to Grant Protected Status to Bahamian Hurricane Victims,” Common Dreams, September 12, 2019, https://perma.cc/MPP2-M2HN.