THE ATLANTIC: Priscilla Alvarez Analyzes The Trump/GOP Push For “Merit-Based” Immigration!

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/03/trump-cotton-perdue-merit-based-immigration-system/518985/

Alvarez writes:

“President Trump’s proposal to shift towards a “merit-based” immigration system would upend an approach that has existed for half a century.

Since the 1960s, the United States’ immigration system has largely based entry on family ties, giving preference to those with relatives who are citizens. But in his first address to a joint session of Congress in February, Donald Trump proposed moving away from that policy, focusing instead on an immigration system that would prioritize high-skilled immigrants.

Trump and his advisors have argued that the current levels of immigration harm American workers by lowering wages and preventing assimilation. A merit-based system, restrictionist advocates believe, would help lower immigration rates and ensure that the immigrants who do come are high-skilled workers who never need public assistance. “The current, outdated system depresses wages for our poorest workers, and puts great pressure on taxpayers,” Trump said in his speech to Congress.

While the president has yet to offer details, a merit-based system would pose its own challenges to economic prosperity. Critics believe that  a merit-based system that prioritizes high-skilled workers could hurt the economy by harming industries that rely on low-skill immigrant labor, and that fears that immigrants are not assimilating or are overly reliant on the social safety net are overblown.

The first example of the U.S. establishing qualifications for new immigrants was in 1917, when the government imposed a literacy test on those seeking to enter the country. In the 1960s, Congress lifted restrictions that heavily curtailed immigration from non-European nations, and reshaped the immigration system toward prioritizing admission of close relatives of immigrants already living in the United States. The overwhelming majority of immigrants are now admitted through that family-preference system, which significantly changed the ethnic composition of U.S. immigrant population by admitting more Latin American and Asian immigrants.

In 2015, for example, of the more than one million legal permanent residents admitted, “44 percent were immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, [and] 20 percent entered through a family-sponsored preference,” according to the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank. Only 14 percent of those admitted came through a job-based preference. The “merit-based” immigration system, in theory, would increase the latter figure, as it would prioritize those who are highly educated and therefore considered more employable.

Such a policy would likely limit the supply of low-skilled workers, and might allow the administration to filter which immigrants it chooses to admit. And a merit-based immigration system could also help realize a longtime conservative policy goal—a reduction in the number of immigrants admitted overall.

Some Republican lawmakers have already pushed for legislation that would limit legal immigration. Last month, Republican Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue introduced legislation that would cut the number of immigrants legally admitted to the United States in half. It would do so in part by limiting the number of family members immigrants can sponsor for citizenship, a policy long sought by immigration restrictionist groups.

Dan Stein, the president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which supports curtailing immigration, said a merit-based approach could reduce the flow of immigrants coming into the United States. “The merit-system is also a surrogate for moving away from a system that the country doesn’t really get to control and regulate how many come in every year and who they are because of chain migration, the family-preference system,” Stein said, adding that a points system would be one part of the whole.

Nevertheless, assessing “merit” is difficult. A system that deliberately excluded low-skilled workers might raise labor costs in industries that rely on those workers, increasing prices for consumers but boosting wages for workers.”

***********************************************

Read the full article at the link.

Third-year law student Saurabh Gupta introduced this article as part of our class discussion of “Family-Based Immigration” during my Immigration Law and Policy class at Georgetown Law last week. Needless to say, it provoked a lively and informative discussion, with students exploring the arguments on both sides as well of the practicalities of running such a system on a larger scale.

PWS

06-10-17

THE ATLANTIC: Priscilla Alvarez Gives The Real Scoop On Trump’s Failed Border Wall & Other Plans For Border Enforcement!

https://apple.news/ANv1VbtW7RSeRiPNUodE0rA

 

“Mick Mulvaney, the president’s budget director, said on Tuesday that the administration will replace segments of chain-link fencing with a 20-foot-tall steel fence along the southern border, despite Congress refusal to fund the president’s border wall in its spending bill.
Trump, for his part, has claimed that the administration is “beginning to build the wall,” which was a central plank of his presidential campaign, saying that “we’re putting up a lot of new wall in certain areas.” Mulvaney elaborated Tuesday that there is funding to “replace cyclone fencing with 20-foot high steel wall.” He declined repeated questions from White House reporters about where along the border the fencing would go, or how many miles it would cover.
He was apparently referring to a provision in the spending bill unveiled by Congress earlier this week, which falls well short of the president’s repeated pledges. The bill allocates a little more than $341 million “to replace approximately 40 miles of existing primary pedestrian and vehicle border fencing along the southwest border using previously deployed and operationally effective designs, such as currently deployed steel bollard designs, that prioritize agent safety; and to add gates to existing barriers.” According to a 2009 report by the Government Accountability Office, existing vehicle and pedestrian fencing along the border averaged somewhere between $1 and $3.9 million to erect. The budget allocation implies that replacing that fencing with a steel-bollard design would cost $8.5 million per mile.
In 2006, President George W. Bush authorized the construction of a 700-mile wall of double layer fencing under the Secure Fence Act. Still, to seal off the border entirely, the wall would have to extend roughly 2,000 miles. And that’s a costly endeavor. According to estimates by the Department of Homeland Security, the wall’s price tag could be as much as $21.6 billion.

So far, the administration has only secured funds to improve existing fencing. When pressed on whether that was the most effective way to spend funds, Mulvaney said, “There are certain places where technology will also help.” He also noted that constructing a wall along the entire southern border “is a several year process.”
Building a wall along the southern border is a difficult task, and that may be especially true for the administration as it tries to close off the border in new areas. Mulvaney suggested that the administration will also prepare  for land acquisition. During the Bush years, the administration focused on areas where most of the land belonged to the federal government, but along the Texas-Mexico border, much of  the land is private property, raising the issue of eminent domain. Republicans have expressed concerns over the use of eminent domain, which some argue is an example of big government overreach, setting up a whole separate challenge for the White House.”

*************************************

Read Priscilla’s complete article at the link!  Trump just can’t admit that his really bad idea is — a really bad idea! And it’s not just Dems and advocates who think so!!

PWS

05-02-17

THE ATLANTIC: Priscilla Alvarez Exposes Nation’s Largest Failing Court System: U.S. Immigration Court — Quoting Me: “A fully trained judge, which new judges won’t be, can do about 750 cases a year. So 125 new judges could do fewer than 100,000 cases a year once they’re up and trained, . . . .” — No Amount Of Resources Can Overcome Screwed Up Priorities, Political Meddling, & Management Problems Inherent In The Current “Designed To Fail” System — Due Processes Takes A Back Seat!

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/04/trump-immigration-court-ice/523557/

Priscilla writes in an article that also contains quotes from highly respected DC area immigration practitioner Dree Collopy (emphasis added in below excerpt):

“Responding to the 2014 migrant wave, the Obama administration temporarily redirected immigration judges to the southern border to preside over removal proceedings and bond hearings, and review whether any individuals’ claims of fear of persecution were credible. Immigration cases being heard in other parts of the United States had to be put on hold, said Jeremy McKinney, an attorney and board member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “The surge was the first time we saw a deployment of immigration judges to the border, resulting in non-detained dockets in the United States getting much worse,” McKinney said, referring to cases that do not require detention. “That situation already put a strain on the interior immigration courts.”

The Justice Department, which hires judges for immigration courts, was also tied up by the budget sequester from 2011 to 2014, so there weren’t enough judges to try cases, he added. Over time, the backlog grew from around 327,000 cases at the end of the 2012 fiscal year to half a million in 2016.

Judge Paul Schmidt, who was appointed in 2003 by Attorney General John Ashcroft, had around 10,000 immigration cases pending when he left his job last year. “When I retired, I was sending cases to 2022,” he told me. Schmidt, who primarily served in the Arlington Immigration Court in northern Virginia, was assigned to those not considered a priority—say, people who had traffic violations. The current national backlog, Schmidt said, largely consists of cases like the ones he handled.

The Trump administration has taken steps that could quicken the courts’ work. For one, ICE officers can now deport someone immediately, without a hearing, if they fit certain criteria and have lived in the United States for up to two years. Under the last administration, that timeline was up to two weeks, and the individual needed to be within 100 miles of the border.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions also announced, in a speech on the Arizona-Mexico border, that the Department of Justice will add 125 immigration judges to the bench over the next two years: 50 this year and 75 in 2018. He urged federal prosecutors to prioritize the enforcement of immigration laws. “This is a new era. This is the Trump era,” Sessions said. “The lawlessness, the abdication of the duty to enforce our immigration laws, and the catch-and-release practices of old are over.”

“You have to give Sessions credit for this,” Schmidt said. “He took note of the 18-to-24-month cycle for filling judges and said he was going to streamline that.” The math still doesn’t exactly work out, however. “A fully trained judge, which new judges won’t be, can do about 750 cases a year. So 125 new judges could do fewer than 100,000 cases a year once they’re up and trained,” he said. Factor in the fact that it takes up to two years to become “fully productive,” he said, and altogether, it could take five to six years for the 125 new judges to cut down the backlog.

All the while, new cases will continue to come in as the administration enforces its new, broader policies on deportation. Newly detained individuals will be prioritized over other cases, which will be pushed further down the road. “I think it has a particular impact on asylum-seekers, because the sense of being in limbo really seems to prolong their trauma and their sense of statelessness that they have,” said Dree Collopy, an immigration lawyer in Washington, D.C. And hearing delays can affect asylum-seekers’ credibility, as well as evidence to support their cases: “Over time, especially when trauma is involved, memories begin to fade.” If a person can’t testify until years after entering the United States, “that can obviously cause problems.”

When Collopy first started practicing immigration law in 2007, cases generally would take about a year or two to complete. That’s no longer the case: “Now, it’s taking four or five years on average,” she told me. With the Trump administration rounding up undocumented immigrants quicker than courts can process cases, that delay isn’t likely to shorten.”

*****************************************

Read Priscilla’s full article at the above link.

A “smart” strategy would address the 542,000 pending cases before piling on new priorities. Under a more rational policy, those in the current backlog with equities in the U.S., “clean records,” or only minor criminal histories, could be offered “prosecutorial discretion” (“PD”) and taken off the Immigration Court’s docket to make room for higher priority cases.

However, instead of encouraging more use of PD, which was starting to make some difference by the end of the Obama Administration, the Trump Administration has basically made “everything” a potential “priority.” Moreover, as a “double whammy” the Administration has basically “disempowered” those at DHS who know the Immigration Court system the best, the local ICE Assistant Chief Counsel, from freely exercising PD to take non-criminal cases off the docket.

Ironically, at the same time, DHS appears to be giving line enforcement agents the “green light” to arrest just about anyone who might be removable for any reason. However, the line agents unlikely to understand the limitations of the current Immigration Court system and what is already “on the docket.”

The Immigration Court system is basically the opposite of most other law enforcement systems where prosecutors, rather than policemen or agents, determine what cases will be brought before the court. And, in most functioning court systems, the individual sitting judges control their own dockets, rather than having priorities set by politically-driven non-judicial bureaucrats in other places. It certainly appears to be a prescription for disaster. Stay tuned!

PWS

04-21-17

NOTE: In an earlier version of this article I “blew” Priscilla’s name by calling her “Patricia.” My apologies. I’ve now corrected it.