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Can a bi-partisan immigration bill finally become a reality? News of this dominated the immigration headlines across the U.S. this past week. Here’s where things stand so far:
1: Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema is leaving the Democratic Party and registering as a political independent after being the Democrats’ worst nightmare in the past two years. Obviously Sinema wants to continue to play power broker, but the move is unlikely to change the power balance in the Senate, as it comes days after Sen. Raphael Warnock won the Georgia runoff.
However, Sinema’s party change is not the Christmas miracle some are touting and praying for. The real miracle is her working on potential last-minute immigration reform measure in the lame duck session that would give 2 million undocumented youth, known as Dreamers, a path to citizenship while extending the controversial Title 42 border restriction for another year.
Sinema, along with Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., detailed the draft framework last week, hoping to forge bipartisan legislation before a new Congress, with Republicans taking hold of the House in January. The Senate and House will have to act now.
The draft comes less than three weeks before the slated end (Dec. 21) of Title 42, the Trump-era health policy that allows border officials to rapidly expel migrants. Alongside extending Title 42, the framework would protect undocumented youth who came to the U.S. as children and now face an uncertain future.
The bill also includes border security funding of at least $25 billion and upwards of $40 billion.
“We urge negotiators to reach a deal which protects people who have been living here nearly all their lives, while also respecting the fundamental right to protection which is enshrined in our laws and history,” said Executive Director of The American Immigration Council Jeremy Robbins.
2: Countdown to end of Title 42
The countdown to the end of Title 42 is on. The pandemic expulsion authority is scheduled to terminate in less than two weeks, in accordance with a November court ruling. A Biden administration appeal will not change that date, but a challenge from Republican state governments might. The Senate bill being pushed by Sinema and Tillis also may prolong Title 42 for a year in exchange for giving legal status to “Dreamers.”
3: TPS for Haitians
The U.S. government last week broadened a program that allows certain Haitian immigrants to live and work in the country without fear of deportation.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it would allow tens of thousands of additional Haitians to apply for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) by moving up the program’s cut-off date. Previously, only Haitians who had arrived in the U.S. before July 29, 2021, were eligible for TPS. The new designation will allow those living in the country as of Nov. 6 of this year to apply for the program.
DHS also announced that the U.S. would push back the expiration date for the Haiti TPS program from Feb. 4, 2023, to Aug. 3, 2024. Officials stressed that Haitians thinking of coming to the U.S. illegally should not do so, as they would not qualify for the program and could face deportation.
4: Advocates file lawsuit demanding ICE makes immigration bond procedures publicly available on website
The American Immigration Council, Immigrant Legal Defense, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and the National Bail Fund Network with its local bond fund members NorCal Resist, Prairielands Freedom Fund, and the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, have filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act to compel U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to publish on its website guidelines and procedures explaining how the agency processes bonds for the release of individuals in detention.
The new lawsuit challenges ICE’s failure to provide the public with information about different aspects of the bond payment process, which leads to obstacles and delays for advocates, families and friends attempting to pay bonds to free their loved ones. People who try to pay bonds often lack information about ICE offices’ hours of operation and forms of accepted payments, have encountered inconsistent payment rejections, and even have been racially profiled for additional questioning. Family members, advocates and impacted individuals should have access to agency manuals and instructions relating to the posting, revocation, cancellation and refunding of immigration bonds, the lawsuit says. (The Amsterdam)