Friday, August 19, 2022

Migrants Left Stranded After Policy Change in Immigration Procedures

Last year, overwhelmed immigration officials released thousands of migrants into the U.S. and provided them with a new document called Notice to Report (N.T.R). This document allows those detained at the border to be released pending their immigration court proceedings, but it doesn’t provide them a court date or an identification number – making it harder for asylum-seekers to continue their application process and for the government to track them.

Over 2 million migrants have crossed the border since December 2020. Of those, over 94,000 were released into the U.S. through the N.T.R. Due to the large number of cases, the Immigration Court System is facing its greatest backlog in history, with an average wait of five years for the initial court appearance.

The migrants were expected to check in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) within 60 days to continue their immigration proceedings. However, in many cases, local ICE offices were busy and unable to provide them with an appointment.  As of January 2022, many migrants had missed the deadline to start their immigration proceedings and get a court date.

The backlog of cases means that new migrants are also facing delays to apply for a work permit or to eventually get a social security number – making them unable to provide for their families, open a bank account or even enroll their children in school.

Human rights advocates argued that the new policy prevents asylum seekers from being recognized in the immigration system. Even months later, the government still hasn’t been able to complete the processing of these applications started at the border.

In the past, the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy had migrants stranded in Mexico for months before they could even apply for asylum. However, the Biden Administration has allowed migrants to enter the country for reasons such as lack of detention space, and for humanitarian reasons, especially in the case of women and children.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has started to mail instructions to those who were processed at the border on how to get a faster hearing with an immigration court, but it hasn’t reached out to all of them.

“You’re more under the radar and you’re more in the shadows,” Ruby Powers, an immigration lawyer stated to describe the challenges faced by migrants who have been issued the Notice to Report document.

The New York Times