Immigration News Updates: Resistance in the Face of Continued Assault on Immigrant, Refugee Rights

As Congress heads towards its annual August recess, immigration issues continue to make headlines, including as election debate topics. Many recent developments have focused on the Administration’s general mission of “zero tolerance” and the undermining of migrants’ human rights: the deportation of as many people as possible; the prevention of migrants and asylum seekers from gaining a “legal foothold” in the country; and, in general, making life as miserable as possible for them and for those already living in the U.S.

Here’s a round-up of issues, along with two alerts for upcoming actions and activities: ‘Deportation Round-up’ Threat Remains in PlaceDonald Trump’s plans to round-up and deport some 2,000 “targets” resulted in the arrests of 35 people in the first week of actions. Of the 35, more than half were “collateral” arrests — people who happened to be identified during the course of the actions. While this number of arrests was well below the projection touted by Trump, Ken Cuccinelli, Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), has said that ICE will continue to pursue deportation targets on a “daily basis”, while “not a mass national effort” and will be “business as usual”. Implementation of the arrest practices may be uneven around the country, and the threat itself continues to raise serious anxieties within immigrant communities. Widespread education, organizing and resistance efforts, also continue throughout the country. (See NNIRR’s resource links, below)


This Saturday, and with continuing activities over the weeks, many communities are rallying to “Rise for Refuge”, to call attention to and protest the attacks on asylum seekers and refugees. In addition to the constant attempts to block, undermine, and criminalize asylum seekers, the Trump Administration has drastically slashed refugee admissions and is reportedly considering “zero” refugee resettlement admissions in 2020.

Click here for more information about events in your area — and look for a forthcoming call for a “tweet storm” to coincide with events this weekend. 

Expanded ‘Expedited Removal’ Will Increase Deportations

The Administration is now expanding “expedited removal”, which could increase the number of deportations and grossly undermine any access to due process for undocumented immigrants. As of July 23, any undocumented person found within the U.S. and who cannot prove having been here for two years, could be processed for immediate removal. Prior to July 23, expedited removal applied to undocumented persons found within 100 miles of the border and who could not show having been in the country for more than 2 weeks. A person processed under expedited removal rarely has an immigration court hearing — and often does not have the time to get legal assistance or advice. Read this backgrounder on expedited removal from the American Immigration Council. The ACLU and other legal groups plan to file suit against this policy. 

3rd Country Asylum Ban Halted 

A proposed “3rd country asylum ban” was halted — at least temporarily — by a federal judge in California last week. U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar issued a preliminary injunction against the asylum ban, which would have banned asylum seekers who had passed through another country en route to the U.S.-Mexico border. Tigar raised concerns that asylum seekers could face grave dangers in Mexico or other countries before applying for asylum in the U.S. Tigar’s ruling, which applies nationally, conflicted with a Washington, DC, judge who ruled in favor of the ban in a similar legal challenge. There will likely be appeals in both cases that will lead to a higher court ruling — so this issue is not over. 

New Restrictions on Asylum Claims Based on Family Relations: In another development, Attorney General William Barr has ruled that being part of a nuclear family targeted for persecution does not qualify as a “particular social group” eligible for asylum. This affects numerous asylum seekers whose families have been targets of violence and threats, for example, by drug cartels. While the number of asylum seekers who could be affected by this restriction is uncertain, legal advocates have vowed to challenge the ruling.

U.S. – Guatemala 3rd Country Agreement

In the meantime, on July 27, Guatemala signed a “3rd country agreement” with the U.S., despite three injunctions by Guatemala’s Constitutional Court mandating that no such agreement could be made without congressional approval. Details of the agreement have not been made public although a leaked document raised many concerns. Guatemala’s human rights prosecutor has requested the court to overturn the agreement, saying it was made under the threat of tariffs and other consequences by the U.S. Under the agreement, asylum seekers who passed through Guatemala to seek asylum in the U.S. would be returned to Guatemala — a country from which over 30,000 people have already fled to seek asylum, is economically unstable, and has weak institutional capacities. Some 60% of Guatemalans live in poverty.

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Trump’s $2.5B for Border Wall

The Supreme Court voted 5-4 to lift — for now — a lower court’s blocking of Trump’s plan to use $2.5 billion in Pentagon Dept. money for his wall building. Earlier this year, after Congress allocated about $1.4 billion for the border, Trump declared his “border emergency” and used this pretext to take money from other parts of the national budget to build his wall. There is another $4.2 billion being sought from military construction funds and the Treasury Department, but the case before the Supreme Court only addressed the request to transfer the Pentagon resources. A coalition of 20 states still has a pending lawsuit that also challenges the wall building. This is yet another instance in which legal action persists to block or mitigate more damage by the Administration, and which also raises concerns about the Administration’s “go around” to build the wall when Congress had denied it.

Census 2020 and the Citizenship QuestionWhile the Trump Administration has given up on including a “citizenship” question in the 2020 Census, Trump is directing federal agencies to report to the Commerce Department (which oversees the Census) to turn over data on citizenship/non-citizenship. Numerous media reports uncovered background issues on the politics behind the citizenship question, including concerns that the addition of the citizenship query was to create a case to limit the basis for congressional reapportionment — to exclude non-citizens — and to redraw congressional districts in a way that non-citizen numbers would not be considered.(In photo above, NNIRR summer interns Uma Demetria Fry, Jissel Becerra Reyes and Gabriela Rezetko join Alameda County press conference on the citizenship question.)

Visit NNIRR’s website for informational and resource pages about the 2020 Census, including info on the undercount of immigrant populations, the citizenship issue, and tools and links for education and outreach. Census 2020 launches in April, but awareness-raising activities are taking place all around the country, and especially in immigrant and other hard-to-count communities.

Stop ICE Detention Contracts with Hotels

Stay tuned for more information on joining the campaign to stop ICE contracts with hotels for detention purposes! If you want to sign now, please go to


Visit the links below for know-your-rights information in various languages; hotline numbers; and community and legal resources. The threat of deportation remains constant for many immigrants, who are taking steps like preparing their emergency files, including provisions for the care of children if parents are arrested and deported. NNIRR has put together resource links and downloads drawn from many excellent sources in the immigrant rights community — and thanks to many who are sending updated information and contacts. Visit them here:

Stay up-to-date on daily and breaking news and developments by visiting our website news feed and following NNIRR on Facebook and Twitter!