Monday Morning Immigration Newsletter
Biden Recognizes Immigration Judges Union, MPP 2.0 is Up and Running, Senate Confirms CBP Director Chris Magnus, What I'm Reading, and More
Top of the Monday to you, friends! I hope you were able to enjoy the weekend and return to the week refreshed.
Welcome! A note about this newsletter: Even though I have been in the immigration field now for about a decade, I have to be honest with you: I always found keeping up with immigration news to be an enormous challenge. So many changes, so fast! To address this, I set a goal for myself in 2019 to do a better job of tracking the immigration news. I finally got a handle on things and it really paid off. In November, however, I decided it was time to give back to the community by trying to make immigration more accessible for more people from someone who works within the world of immigration research, policy, and data. This newsletter is the result of that vision. I hope you like it.
Okay, enough of all that. Let’s get into it.
Monday Morning Immigration Newsletter
Biden Administration Recognizes Immigration Judges Union Again 🏛
Week 1 of MPP 2.0: News Round-Up 👎
Senate Confirms Chris Magnus to Lead CBP ✅
Biden May Be Ignoring Concerns About Migrant Rights Raised by His Own Administration 🚨
What I’m Reading: Race After Technology by Ruha Benjamin 📚
TRAC releases data on immigration judges 📊
1 → Biden Administration Recognizes Immigration Judges Union Again 🏛
The National Association of Immigration Judges (NAIJ) is officially recognized as a union once again after the Trump administration fought successfully to have the union decertified by the Federal Labor Relations Authority in 2020. (Click here for the official decision.) In an absurd and frankly outrageous move, the Biden administration had initially fought to uphold the Trump administration’s decision and refused to negotiate with the NAIJ. But this week the administration changed course and recognized the union on Tuesday. The Guardian story about the NAIJ’s re-recognition is available here. Here’s the NAIJ’s post on Twitter.
Thanks for reading, friends! You don’t have to subscribe, but if you do subscribe, it lets me know that you find this work valuable. Happy holidays! 🎄🕎
2 → Week 1 of MPP 2.0: News Round-Up 👎
Last Friday, the United States returned 20 migrants (bringing the total to 28) to Mexico through the Migrant Protection Protocols that Biden has revived due to a court order, said Camilo Montoya-Galvez. Camilo, whose reporting on MPP has always been excellent (follow on Twitter here), got his number from a UN official directly. Camilo’s reporting is important because official numbers on MPP 2.0 appear to be as difficult to come by as it was during MPP 1.0. Throughout the first half of 2021, I was receiving information on the number of people allowed to enter the US by text message from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), but that text thread does not appear to have been updated with MPP numbers. Until TRAC updates its MPP data for December, which won’t happen until mid-January, it’s not clear from where and how often the public will receive official estimates on the number of people enrolled in MPP.
Strange as it sounds, MPP may actually be interpreted by some migrants as an improvement on the situation at the border. As immigration reporter Lauren Villagran observes, because the Biden administration left Title 42 in place (which turns back everyone at the border anyway), some migrants are seeing MPP as an opportunity to actually be able to apply for asylum as they have intended to do in the first place. I raised this question to immigrant rights groups over the past few weeks, but people I have talked to have been very reluctant to acknowledge this out of a well-founded refusal to lend any measure of credibility to MPP. See Lauren’s article in the El Paso Times here.
If you want your MPP news in podcast form, the Washington Post’s Post Reports and WNYC’s The Takeaway both ran episodes last week on MPP. The in-text links will take you to the respective websites, and the Spotify shows are embedded below.
3 → Senate Confirms Chris Magnus to Lead CBP ✅
The Senate confirmed Chris Magnus last Tuesday to lead Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the agency within the Department of Homeland Security responsible for border enforcement. Before being confirmed to this position, Magnus was the chief of police in Tuscon, Arizona. Magnus is pro-border enforcement (obviously; it’s a prerequisite for the job) and supports the Title 42 border policy. This didn’t keep former acting ICE director Tom Homan from weighing in to say that Magnus’ appointment represents “the final nail in the coffin for immigration enforcement.”
This is the first time CBP has had a senate-confirmed leader since 2019, but don’t forget: ICE didn’t have a single senate-conformed leader during the entire Trump administration and Sheriff Ed Gonzales, Bidens pick to lead ICE, has not yet been approved by the Senate. It has been 1,787 days—nearly five years—since ICE has had a vetted leader in charge of the agency.
4 → Biden May Be Ignoring Concerns About Migrant Rights Raised by His Own Administration 🚨
According to CNN reporter Priscilla Alvarez, an internal memo raised concerns during the summer about the treatment of children in immigrant detention centers along the border.
"As child welfare professionals with combined decades of experience working with (unaccompanied children), we, the (Office of Refugee Resettlement) field staff supervisors, have become growingly alarmed at the erosion of child-welfare centered approaches within the UC program."
The full report details a long list of concerns about child welfare that have persisted through the summer and into the fall.
In related news, Hamed Aleaziz from BuzzFeed reports that the DHS civil rights division warned the administration that deporting Haitian migrants could run afoul of the United States’ civil and human rights obligations, according to an internal DHS memo, which was written in the late summer and recently obtained by BuzzFeed. From the article:
“These conditions create a risk of danger to deportees due to perceived political opinion and/or individual demographic characteristics (e.g., a high risk of refoulement),” the civil rights office communicated to ICE and CBP officials on Aug. 31, according to the internal document obtained by BuzzFeed News. The memo also pointed to a recent Department of State travel advisory listing Haiti at the highest level of danger due to the likelihood of life-threatening risks.
One question is, how much is the Biden administration paying attention to, and responding to, these early warning signals within its own agencies? Based on the reporting so far, not much.
5 →What I’m Reading: “Race After Technology” by Ruha Benjamin 📚
I just finished the book “Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code” by Ruha Benjamin. The book is part of a series of books I’ve been reading recently on the intersection of race, technology, and policing. With the growing use of alternatives to detention technology, the use of algorithms and AI to determine “risk factors” of refugees and migrants, and ICE’s controversial access to a variety of data and cloud services (I’ll talk more about all this later this week), I have felt some urgency to get my head around this growing area of literature. I highly recommend Ruha’s book. I have included an enticing paragraph from the opening chapter to give you a flavor of the book. More information is available on Ruha’s website here.
There is a slippery slope between effective marketing and efficient racism. The same sort of algorithmic filtering that ushers more ethnically tailored representations into my feed can also redirect real estate ads away from people "like me." This filtering has been used to show higher-paying job ads to men more often than to women, to charge more for standardized test prep courses to people in areas with a high density of Asian residents, and many other forms of coded inequity. In cases of the second type especially, we observe how geographic segregation animates the New Jim Code. While the gender wage gap and the "race tax" (non Whites being charged more for the same services) are nothing new, the difference is that coded inequity makes discrimination easier, faster, and even harder to challenge, because there is not just a racist boss, banker, or shopkeeper to report. Instead, the public must hold accountable the very platforms and programmers that legally and often invisibly facilitate the New Jim Code, even as we reckon with our desire for more “diversity and inclusion" online and offline.
6 → TRAC releases data on immigration judges 📊
TRAC released its annual immigration judge reports last week. The data review asylum decision issued by immigration judges in FY 2021 and identify variations across judges and courts. Although these data and reports were controversial when they were first published, they have become an important tool for understanding outcomes in highly-consequential asylum cases that Judge Dana Marks famously described as “life and death cases in a traffic court setting.”
Out of respect for the work of immigration judges and the ease with which the public can misunderstand the data, we do take precautions. For instance, we do not publish data on judges until they have decided at least 100 asylum cases and we emphasize the importance of understanding judge variation in the context of their particular docket and court. In fact, in this report, we show how individual judges’ asylum denial rates can vary significantly from one court to another. Nonetheless, the individual disposition of an immigration judge still makes a big difference in case outcomes.
TRAC’s immigration judge data is available here:
TRAC's report: “Asylum Success Varies Widely Among Immigration Judges.” Click here for TRAC’s analysis.
Individual IJ Reports. Click here to find reports on individual judges included within TRAC’s analysis.
Denial Rates. Click here for the table of denial rates of judges by each judge at each court. Note that because many judges served at more than one court over the time period for this study, some judges are listed more than once.
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