Biden Ends Trump’s Ban on Green Cards, Allowing Immigrants to Work and Live in the U.S.

On February 24 President Biden reopened the country to people seeking green cards, saying that Trump’s ban on legal immigration ” . . . harms the United States . . . It also harms industries in the United States that utilize talent from around the world.”

This was a reference to Trump’s claim that the ban would protect American workers who were losing their jobs as the coronavirus shut down the economy.   But many of Trump’s critics said he was using the pandemic as an excuse to severely limit immigration.   But those who study patterns of employment in the U.S. say immigrants don’t threaten American jobs because they take jobs that Americans don’t want and in that way help to keep the economy going.

Immigrants who receive green cards become lawful permanent residents who can eventually seek citizenship in the U.S.  An analysis by the Migration Policy Institute estimated when Trump established the immigration ban that it could affect more than 660,000 people.

 

Vermont Refugees Could Benefit from Proposed Covid-19 Relief Bill

The Vermont House and Senate are preparing to pass a fast-track Covid-19 relief bill in the coming weeks that could include aid for low-income  families, grants for businesses impacted by the pandemic, and funding for affordable housing and schools to bring children back up to grade level.

Among the possible recipients are the Association of Africans Living in Vermont and the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program, with $350,000 designated for translation services related to the pandemic and to help immigrant and refugee families access workforce development projects and benefit programs.

The total cost of the bill the House Appropriations Committee is assembling is $60-$65 million.  The goal is to finalize the bill by February 26.  Rep. Mary Hooper (D-Montpelier), who chairs the Committee, said “Our construct was to do what . . . cannot wait for the normal budgeting process.  Are there people who are in trouble or needs that need to be met before the budget is going forward . . .”  The fast-track relief bill would provide funding for programs that have time-specific needs.

Senate President Pro Temore Becca Balint, D-Windham said the Senate is also considering funding for housing projects that need to be completed in the coming building season.  Balint said she’s aiming to get the relief bill to Governor Scott in two to three weeks.

In the meantime CVRAN will follow the bill closely and hope to provide advocacy for the refugees who might soon benefit from some of the projects it will fund.

 

Proposed U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 Takes Shape

The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, the Biden Administration’s broad overhaul of the U.S. immigration system, was announced on February 18 by its chief sponsors Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey; and Representative Linda T. Sanchez, Democrat of California.  They were joined by 10 other members of Congress in announcing the proposed legislation.

At its center is an eight-year path to citizenship for most of the ll million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.  After passing background checks and paying taxes, they would be allowed to live and work here for five years.  After that they could apply for a green card, giving them permanent status in the U.S. and the opportunity to earn citizenship after three more years.

The bill also includes the most far-reaching changes in immigration law in three decades.  It would end restrictions on family-based immigration, making it easier for spouses and children to join family members already in the U.S.  And it would expand worker visas to allow more foreigners to come to the United States for jobs.

Unlike other efforts to change immigration policies, the legislation does not include increased border enforcement.  Instead it would provide funding to  process migrants legally at ports of entry and invest $4 billion over four year in Central American countries with the goal of preventing people from fleeing to the U.S. because of security and economic crises.

The Biden administration also acted on Thursday to limit the number of arrests and deportations of undocumented immigrants, issuing temporary guidelines that require immigration agents to seek approval before trying to deport individuals who don’t present national security threats, have felony convictions, or have recently tried to cross the border illegally.

 

See No Stranger, a Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love by Valarie Kaur, reviewed by Rachel Walker Cogbill

The title See No Stranger aptly captures the central message of this book: when we look at another person, we should not see that person as a stranger but rather as a part of ourselves.  What better message could there be for all of us interested in welcoming refugees and asylum seekers to Central Vermont?

The author, a Californian Sikh activist, espouses revolutionary love even while she has experienced much hate and grieved with victims, documenting this with both oral history and film.  Her own family and religious group were often targeted after 9/11, yet much of the violence against Sikhs did not make the news.  Still Valarie Kaur’s experience with injustice goes beyond being a member of this one group.  She has traveled to Guantanamo; she has worked in maximum detention centers as a lawyer; she has been a part of political campaigns, community organizing, and demonstrations.  She has been a witness to both the tragedy of events and the amazing courage and resilience of victims despite their pain.  Valarie Kaur speaks with great authenticity of both the range of injustice and the simultaneous struggle for justice, compassion, and understanding.

At the same time this book is a memoir of Valarie Kaur’s own personal life and struggles.  She speaks with an intimacy that draws one into her own life, in some ways so similar and in some ways so different from one’s own.  The reader begins to trust her as a wise and intimate friend and can hear truths not easily heard from others.  After savoring her book over months with a book group, I wrote a poem about one chapter excerpted below.  I cannot more highly recommend taking your own journey with this book, which will surely touch you in ways you have not been touched before. Valarie Kaur begins with loving others, then loving our opponents, and finally loving ourselves as we learn to breathe and push for transition into a better world. What could be more impactful in our badly divided world today?

   Touched by See No Stranger
by Rachel Walker Cogbill

Yesterday a friend said to me
“As a mother I am only as happy as the least happy of my children.”
I think of children everywhere, and grown children
And their mothers, maybe fathers.
I know my worry for the pains of my children,
Relatively small that those pains may be.
I know just enough to imagine:

The immense grief, the anguish
Of Ros, the mother visiting the son in the Supermax Prison,
Who says he is okay, by phone on visiting day,
But she watches his eyes change.

I think of the mothers
Of the young soldier / guard at Guantanamo being corrupted by his job;
Or of Omar, his prisoner,
A youth imprisoned in Guantanamo at 16,
Just for throwing a grenade,
Shaped for one third of his life
By the inhumanity of a prison
Beyond human rights.

Of a prisoner finally released
From the solitary confinement
Of endless days, weeks, and years
In the SuperMax Prison,
Who said,
They made me an animal; I need to learn to be human again:
To talk, to walk, but never to choose being in a crowd again.”

I feel grief.
I feel the stories as if they were my own.
What is the magic of this author
Who tells stories so well,
That I trust enough to walk in her shoes –
And thereby all the shoes of those whose stories she tells,
And even in the shoes
Of those of us gathered together
To share the book,
As we reach more quickly
That deep heart-space together?

What is happening to my heart, and my being,
As I, too, am heard into new being
To be able to look through that glass a little less darkly
With you,
My friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Biden Starts Working to Reshape Trump’s Immigration Policy

On February 2 President Biden signed three new executive orders, starting to move toward reuniting migrant children with their parents, rebuilding a working asylum system, and restoring opportunities for foreign workers and students to come to the U.S.  But there is much to do to rebuild an asylum and refugee system the can process large numbers of people .  Resolving the situation of migrants living in squalor on the Mexican side of the border and locating separated parents and children could take months or even years.

Mr. Biden said the orders would begin to address “the root causes” of migration toward the southern border and begin a review of the Trump administration’s destructive immigration policies.  “I’m not making new law.  I’m eliminating bad policy,” he said.  The orders work through task force investigation and evaluation, which will be done under the leadership of Alejandro N. Mayorkas, Biden’s pick  for the secretary of homeland security, the first Latino and the first immigrant to hold that job.  But one order did direct Mayorkas to immediately stop two Trump programs that put migrants on a fast track to deportation.

Still  the Migrant Protection Protocols that forced migrants to wait in Mexico until their cases are processed in court have not been officially ended, though Biden has suspended new entries to the program and is planning to work with organizations in Mexico to identify the most vulnerable asylum seekers who would be processed first.

The administration’s decision to move cautiously reflects the difficulty of unwinding Trump’s immigration rules, many hidden in “regulatory dark matter” as well as Mr. Biden’s concerns about the spread of coronavirus and a rush of migration at the southern border.

But Mr. Biden must balance this measured approach with immigration advocates’ urging to move to quickly open the U.S. to immigrants after four years of Trump restrictions.  Pablo Alvarado, who directs a day laborers organizing network and helped campaign with Biden in battleground states is already worried.  “Why is it when it comes down to immigrants, not the issue but the people, they are not willing to fight as they fight for other things?” he said.