We continue to monitor developments on immigration policy,
especially at the federal level, in keeping with our adoption in 2018 of broad immigration principles. Today, we present updates on a
number of related fronts.
First, earlier this month, the Department of Homeland
Security proposed new regulations that would increase a
broad array of fees associated with immigration applications.
fees would actually see a decrease, the
citizenship application fee would rise from $640 to $1,170, for
example, and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, applications
would go from $495 to $765.
Such changes would be counter to our immigration principles; in the report accompanying them, we wrote:
For people seeking an immigration remedy, the individual liberty interest at stake is “grave,” and so the accompanying protections—constitutional as well as statutory—must be potent. Immigrants face barriers to access to the administrative immigration system established by Congress … when applicants for immigration benefits are charged prohibitively high fees. These barriers call into question whether the constitutional rights of Due Process and Equal Protection applicable to all persons, regardless of immigration status, are more illusion than reality.
But they also run afoul of a position we took
in 2008, when we endorsed an ABA resolution declaring (in part), “Fee
levels for immigration and naturalization benefits [should not be] so
burdensome as to deter eligible applicants from applying for such
The timetable for implementation of this
proposed rule has it going into effect, on an emergency basis, on December 2.
Public charge rule on hold
The BBA has been closely following the developments of the
public charge rule since December 2018, when then-President Jon Albano submitted
in opposition to the policy and urged
others to join. Most recently, we published an Issue
Spot blog post citing a new Migration Policy Institute study that detailed
exactly how the proposed policy would affect legal immigrants in the U.S.
The most recent update to this policy is that federal judges
in three states – New York, California, and Washington – have issued temporary
injunctions to prevent the rule from taking effect on October 15, as was
planned. The rule is being challenged in several federal courts and more than a
dozen state attorneys general, arguing that it discriminates against low-income
immigrants and immigrants of color. One of the major concerns is the impact of
the policy on public health, encouraging immigrants to withdraw from public
healthcare programs and imposing a huge cost on local and state governments.
The public charge rule goes against our Immigration
Principles, which state that: “Every person should have the full and
meaningful ability to exercise their rights and to access justice through the
legal system regardless of immigration or citizenship status, level of income,
or economic circumstance”. The rule not only discriminates against low-income
immigrants but also deters all immigrants from accessing public services and fully
exercising their rights and freedoms.
DACA Arguments at Supreme Court
This week, the Supreme Court heard arguments on what may be
one of the most important cases of the year: the decision whether to uphold the
Trump administration’s dissolution of DACA.
Enacted in 2012 by the Obama administration, the DACA
program was designed to protect undocumented individuals who were brought to
U.S. as children. It allows them to work, pursue an education, and be protected
from deportation. In September
2017, President Trump declared that the DACA program was “illegal” and
“unconstitutional” and initiated the process of dissolving it. Three federal
appeals courts ruled that when an administration revokes a policy on which so
many people have relied, the administration must provide a fully supported
rationale that outlines why, which it did not do in 2017. The Trump
administration appealed to the Supreme Court, and that argument took place on
The Supreme Court’s conservative majority signaled that it
may back the Trump administration and allow it to shut down the program,
affecting 700,000 young people currently protected by DACA.
We hosted a program
on this issue in 2017 and are continuing to keep a close eye on it as new
Mexico’s Humanitarian Crisis
On Friday, November 8th, the Boston Bar Association hosted
Eunice Rendón to give an update on the impact that the “Remain in
Mexico” policy has had on refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants in
Mexico. Eunice Rendón is the Executive Director of Agenda Migrante and a
researcher at the National System of Researchers of CONACYT (Mexico’s National
Council of Science and Technology).
Ms. Rendón began her talk by providing an overview of the
“Remain in Mexico” Policy. The policy is an agreement between the
Mexican government and the U.S. government that asylum seekers going through
immigration proceedings must remain in Mexico during the process. Ms. Rendón
noted that the six Mexican cities where the migrants must remain are the most
dangerous cities in the country, with some of the highest rates of
homicide. She stated that it is estimated that there are 50,000 migrants
in Mexico, but their whereabouts are unknown by the Mexican government. Ms.
Rendón also noted that the Mexican government is feeling the strain of
deportees, which has increased to 200,000 a year under the Trump
The migrants in Mexico are being held in two types of
shelters: shelters run by non-profit organizations and official Mexican
government shelters. Ms. Rendón believes that both shelters lack the capacity
to support the influx of migrants, which has risen from 7,000 a year to 60,000
a year over the past four years. She also noted there is tension between the
federal government and local governments on the contribution levels to the
shelters. The poor conditions in the shelters have allowed criminal
organizations to exploit migrants, by forcibly recruiting them into their
organizations, leaving young children especially vulnerable. Importantly, most migrants are not well informed
on the dangers of attempting to cross the U.S. border or the challenges
associated with seeking asylum in the U.S. The Mexican government has attempted
to deter migrants by posting the National Guard at the southern border, but,
according to Ms. Rendón, they are not well-trained in immigration enforcement
proceedings and are not doing an adequate job.
Ms. Rendón concluded her talk by stating that Mexico has
undergone a transition from being only a point of transit in the migratory
process to becoming a reception country. The people of Mexico have become
fearful of migrants due to the reverberation of xenophobic language coming from
the Trump administration. Migrants are now settling into Mexican communities as
they await asylum claims in the U.S. In dealing with the changing face of
migration, Mexico does not have the resources to respond.
This event was co-sponsored by the Immigration Law Section Steering Committee and the Boston Bar Foundation’s Policy Research and Innovation Fund.
Government Relations Director
Boston Bar Association
Government Relations and Executive Assistant
Boston Bar Association