What immigrant entrepreneurs can do without a startup visa

A reminder of the resourcefulness of immigrants (but really, just simpler to immigrate to Canada):

When Nitin Pachisia wanted to start a company, he found himself in a bind. He was gainfully employed by a startup that had sponsored his H-1B visa, a temporary visa awarded to highly skilled foreign workers. But he was itching to build something of his own. “Obviously a lot of attorneys said you can’t and shouldn’t leave your job because your [own] company can’t hire you,” he said.

While working through his options, Pachisia says he inadvertently became a bona-fide expert on the immigration system. “The bigger personal discovery was that I ended up spending a lot of time learning immigration law myself, which is among the worst uses of an entrepreneur’s time. I could be spending that time building my business.”

If he lived in Canada, Pachisia would have had the option of applying for a startup visa, which allows foreign entrepreneurs to immigrate to the country if they have the backing of a designated organization. The tech industry has long lobbied for a startup visa in the U.S., and before President Obama left office, his administration introduced a rule that offered similar benefits (which also didn’t require approval by Congress).

The International Entrepreneur Rule was intended to give entrepreneurs the ability to build their companies in the U.S. for 30 months, assuming they had enough interest from investors. The rule was supposed to go into effect in July 2017 but has instead been in limbo for more than two years, kneecapped by President Trump and his administration. (Trump has also cracked down on work authorization for H-4 spouses.)

“A ton of work went into [the International Entrepreneur Rule], and it’s very straightforward,” says Todd Schulte, the president of immigrant advocacy group FWD.us, which helped conceive of the Rule alongside entrepreneurs, investors, academics, and government figures. “The economy would be growing faster. We would be creating more companies, creating more jobs, and pushing up wages faster if the Trump administration turned around tomorrow and said ‘Actually, we are now in support of this program.’” Schulte also points out that this isn’t a partisan issue. “There are tons of people on both sides of the aisle who support a startup visa and want to make it easier for entrepreneurs to come here,” he says.

The Department of Homeland Security had originally projected that almost 3,000 people a year would qualify to come to the U.S. under the International Entrepreneur Rule. But as of last year—after the Trump administration delayed implementing the rule with the eventual goal of rescinding it—there were reportedly no more than 10 entrepreneurs who had applied.

“I know people who just couldn’t figure out how to stay in the U.S., and they had to leave,” says Schulte. If President Trump is no longer in the White House come 2021, the rule might be revived—but Schulte believes that for some entrepreneurs, it could be too late. “They may have had a great idea that was ready to go in 2015, or 2016, or 2017,” he says. “And by 2020 and 2021, maybe it’s just not right.”

Without a functional startup visa, many foreign-born entrepreneurs feel like they have little recourse. Take Mike Galarza, founder and CEO of fintech startup Entryless. Galarza was working at a tech company that sponsored his work visa. But when Galarza started a company, he couldn’t automatically transfer his sponsorship. Instead, he had to build his business after hours, until he was eligible to apply for a green card. There should have been an easier way to get a new visa, Galarza says, especially as an immigrant who was already screened for a work visa. “People that come through work visas to big companies see a lot of problems and are very creative people,” he says. “There’s a natural selection when you’re coming from outside and are motivated to leave your friends and family.”

Fiona Lee, the founder of Pod Foods, a food tech startup, says she was lucky because her cofounder was a U.S. citizen. While Lee was back in Singapore figuring out her visa situation, her cofounder was able to incorporate their company. “I honestly think I couldn’t have done what I’m doing today without her,” Lee says. “The initial paperwork of setting up anything involved a Social Security number and credit score. Even when I was away, she was able to handle all of that.”

Even securing a work visa through her company—the H-1B1, an offshoot of the H-1B allocated to workers from Singapore—was easier, Lee says, because she had far less competition than someone in the regular pool of H-1B applicants. (This variant of the H-1B visa is the result of a free-trade agreement with Singapore signed into law in 2003.) “The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services did the routine scrutiny, but it was different than for someone from India or China,” she says.

Several founders Lee knows had wanted to come to the U.S. but opted to take their talents elsewhere in the face of an exacting immigration system. “On a global level, America has always been at the forefront of innovation and talent,” she says. “But because of the restrictions, we’re starting to see a lot of talent from other parts of the world go to other countries, whether it’s China or Israel, or [countries in] Europe.”

The workaround for a number of immigrant entrepreneurs has been an extraordinary ability visa like the O-1, which is defined as “for the individual who possesses extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics.” The visa wasn’t designed for entrepreneurs, but Pachisia says the pool of recipients has shifted over the years. “Historically, the O-1 was used a lot by entertainers, athletes, models, and artists,” he says. “It’s now increasingly being used by scientists and developers.”

The dearth of a pathway for immigrant entrepreneurs is exactly what Pachisia wanted to solve by creating Unshackled Ventures, an early-stage firm that invests in immigrant-led startups like Pod Foods. “We’re essentially the privatized version of a startup visa,” says Pachisia’s cofounder, Manan Mehta.

With its investment, Unshackled Ventures helps startups land a visa and build their businesses. “Sixty percent of our commitments were made before the company was even incorporated, largely because these are founders who are working other daytime jobs who are on visas. They can’t leave their jobs until they have sponsorship.” The firm has now helped founders apply for 11 different types of visas, including the O-1, and does not charge founders for legal fees.

When Unshackled makes an investment in a founder, they’re relieved of the burden of splitting their time between their own business and, say, a full-time job that has secured their work visa. “That’s the promise here,” Mehta says. “We’re a research and development lab, so we can deploy our investment capital by hiring the founders and allowing them to dedicate every waking hour [to their business] . . . we can meet all the legal requirements while also keeping that innovation in the country.”

Since the fund started in March 2015, Unshackled has made 38 investments, with more than 100 immigration filings for 39 portfolio companies and upwards of $8 million invested in its founders. (Unshackled’s first fund was $4.5 million; earlier this year, the firm secured a second fund worth $20 million.)

Half the battle, Pachisia says, is empowering entrepreneurs with the right information. Unshackled wants to help immigrant entrepreneurs make the system work for them, and the firm works individually with each entrepreneur to come up with an approach that makes sense for them. “The goal is to let the entrepreneurs do what they want to do without being limited by time or limited by what they think is not permitted,” Pachisia says. “So we’ve taken all that myth around immigration and made it very crystal clear.”

As someone eligible for the H-4 visa, he benefited from being able to stay in the U.S. without a work visa of his own—but he argues that some lawyers make blanket statements about immigration that might mislead aspiring entrepreneurs. “There’s a lot of misinformation,” he says. “Even lawyers make broad statements like, ‘You’re on an H-1B and can’t start a company,’ which, as I’ve found out, is wrong.” There are, of course, criteria specific to the H-1B, as there are with any visa—that you can’t be your own employer and have to work within the same speciality, for example—but those restrictions need not disqualify you from being a founder.

Pachisia himself was eventually able to secure an O-1 visa. The extraordinary ability visas are unlike other visas, he says, in that they’re subjective. The criteria for how the visa is awarded isn’t clear, so the key is to craft the right narrative. “My O-1 story is around financial innovation,” he says, “and figuring out innovative ways of structuring finance for startups.” He pointed to his early work finagling creative deals at Deloitte, when he first came to the U.S. on an H-1B, as well as his approach at Unshackled. “We’re applying an innovative way of financing companies, which also encloses immigration,” he says. “That was the story I could tell.”

But while the O-1 is a viable option for many immigrant entrepreneurs, Schulte adds that it’s not necessarily a long-term solution or replacement for a government-sponsored startup visa. Your immigration journey might start with the F-1 visa, when you come to the U.S. for school. From there, you may try to get an H-1B visa; if that doesn’t work, you’re still eligible for a year of temporary employment through your student visa. Eventually, you could apply for an O-1, and if that doesn’t work, try to naturalize when you’re eligible. “High-skilled immigration is kind of like a bridge,” Schulte says. “If you think of it as a bridge—if you take out parts of the bridge, or make it much more narrow, it puts extra strain on everything else.”

Still, Mehta believes Unshackled can grow to effectively take the place of a startup visa sanctioned by the government, or at least significantly mitigate the lack thereof. “I think we can scale this,” he says. “We’ve always done it with every consideration for the law in mind. What we’re showing is the private sector can innovate in any environment.”

Of course, it’s no small feat to get the O-1. Last year, just over 30,000 visas were granted in the O class (which includes the O-2 and O-3 visas extended to immediate family members). Since 2014, the number of O-1 visas issued has increased by nearly 8,000. “It is a high bar, but so is the bar for raising money in Silicon Valley,” Pachisia argues. “If an entrepreneur is able to secure cofounders and hire great talent—which means you’ve been able to sell your vision and raised money—chances are you are an exceptional individual.”

In other words, applying for an O-1 is a test of the very skill an entrepreneur most needs to hone: how to successfully pitch their vision to investors and consumers alike. Since the criteria is inherently subjective, the way you might meet it differs from person to person. Pachisia knows someone who became one of the most popular bloggers in the early days of blogging and got an O-1 visa because of it. “What you’re really striving to do is show that you have a certain capability, which is unusual,” he says. “You did or can do something that most others cannot.

Source: What immigrant entrepreneurs can do without a startup visa

Canada Wins Big From ‘America First’ Trade And Immigration Policies

His arguments on trade, given how China has retaliated against some of our agricultural exports but definitely on immigration, where there have been a series of reports of Canada becoming more attractive to those working in tech:

The theory behind the Trump administration’s “America First” trade and immigration restrictions is that they are good for America. However, after more than two and a half years it’s become clear the country such policies are helping is Canada, not the United States.

The Trump tariffs on China have turned into a boon for Canadian farmers. China stopped buying agricultural products from U.S. farmers to retaliate for the Trump administration imposing tariffs on imports from China. According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report, “Canada’s share of total Chinese imports of wheat has rocketed above 60% in (Marketing Year) 2018/19, up from 32% in 2017/18, as U.S. wheat exports to China have plunged.”

“Losing the world’s most populous country as an export market has been a major blow to the [U.S.] agriculture industry,” reports the New York Times. “Total American agricultural exports to China were $24 billion in 2014 and fell to $9.1 billion last year, according to the American Farm Bureau.” U.S. exports of soybeans to China declined nearly 60% between 2018 and 2019, reports the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A new study from the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) found the damage to exporters goes well beyond agriculture. “Retaliatory tariffs from foreign countries have significantly reduced U.S. exports,” according to economists David G. Tuerck, a professor of economics at Suffolk University and president of the Beacon Hill Institute, and William Burke, director of research at the Beacon Hill Institute, the authors of the NFAP report. “We estimate U.S. exports covered by retaliatory tariffs fell by $17 billion in 2018, and halfway through 2019, the loss to U.S. exports totaled $13.97 billion, for a combined total of $31 billion in lost exports.” And, they concluded, “The loss in U.S. exports will rise.”

U.S. exports of goods to China have declined 19% during the first 6 months of 2019 compared to the same period in 2018, according to an analysis of U.S. trade data. Therefore, it is not surprising that companies in other countries, such as Canada, are benefiting as U.S. companies lose opportunities to sell their goods.

Although the Trump administration recently delayed implementing some tariffs and China responded by canceling tariff increases it planned on U.S. pork and soybeans, former Chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce James Zimmerman in China told the Washington Post it was “not an incredibly significant” gesture. In response to a Donald Trump tweetabout China starting to buy “our agricultural products” again, Bloomberg’s Shawn Donnan noted, “Worth remembering: China bought a lot of agricultural products before this all started.”

The Trump tariffs have also harmed American consumers and inflicted high economic costs on the U.S. economy. “On an annual basis, when adding the tariffs in effect and the tariffs set to go into effect by the end of 2019, the tariffs . . . will cost the average household $2,031 per year, and will be recurring so long as the tariffs stay in effect,” write Tuerck and Burke, both research fellows at the National Foundation for American Policy.

Restrictive immigration policies, like protectionist trade policies, are also benefiting other nations, while harming the competitiveness of U.S. companies. By making it more difficult for international students to stay or work in America, the Trump administration has contributed to new international student enrollment at U.S. universities falling over 6% in the 2017/2018 academic year.

At the same time U.S. enrollment has declined, Canadian universities have attracted international students at record levels. The number of international students in Canada increased 20% in 2017 and 16% in 2018. Australia has also benefited from U.S. immigration restrictions, with Australian schools admitting many more international students, particularly from China. Australian exports to China are also up significantly, according to the Wall Street Journal.

H-1B petitions are typically the only practical way for an international student to work long-term in the United States, and denial rates on H-1Bs have increased to historic levels, according to National Foundation for American Policy research. Moreover, the Trump administration placed on its regulatory agenda a measure that would restrict or eliminate the ability of international students to work (on Optional Practical Training) following graduation, along with other policies that would make foreign students likely to think twice about choosing America as the place to launch their career.

In contrast, immigration policies in Canada have been aimed at attracting international students and retaining them after graduation. “International students who graduate from (at least) 2-year programs at Canadian colleges and universities, in any field, are eligible for 3-year open work permits,” Toronto-based immigration attorney Peter Rekai told me in an interview. “The knowledge that there is a clear ‘studies to work to permanent residence’ path has significantly increased the number of international students coming to Canada, with many choosing Canada over attending U.S. schools for this reason.”

The phrase “America First” carries negative historical connotations, most notably its association with policies of isolationism, laced with anti-Semitism, aimed at preventing the United States from fighting Nazi Germany’s attempt to conquer Europe. It also turns out, based on the results to date, America First trade and immigration policies are most likely to benefit countries other than the United States.

Source: Canada Wins Big From ‘America First’ Trade And Immigration Policies

Can the Right Escape Racism? White identity politics has been partially suppressed before. Here’s how it could happen again.

More from Ross Douthat on the problem of white nationalism/supremacism in US conservatism:

Last week I wrote a column that simultaneously argued that conservatism has a problem with white-nationalist infiltration and that liberalism, influenced by the revival of racial chauvinism in the Trump era, is increasingly tempted to smear mainstream conservatives as racist.

The response was varied, but a common critique from the left was that any defense of individual conservatives from the charge of racism is basically irrelevant to the underlying structural reality that the Trump era has exposed — which is that the American right’s coalition is founded on racism, endures because of racism and has no future as a morally decent force unless it is essentially refounded, its racist roots torn out.

One of the more temperate versions of this argument was offered by New York magazine’s Eric Levitz, taking on my own essay and a column by Tim Carney of The Washington Examiner calling for conservative institutions to make themselves inhospitable to white identity politics. Such calls are well and good, wrote Levitz, but they wildly understate the challenge:

“… racism has been fundamental to American conservatism, and the G.O.P. in particular, since the mid-20th century realignment of the parties — even as its purportedly defining tenets have proven to be negotiable, from small government to antagonism toward autocrats to reduced deficit spending. None of this precludes the existence of nonracist conservatives, to be sure. It just makes them some of the least influential people in their movement, and renders their claims to broader relevance akin to shouting into a void.”

Levitz goes on to catalog various conservative policies, from border detention camps to voter-ID laws, that reflect the deeper-than-Donald-Trump influence of racism on the right. He argues that the various conservative factions have consistently made their peace with racism and racist policies since Richard Nixon, not just since 2016. And he suggests that since “the Republican Party would collapse without support from racists,” there is probably no path to a nonracist G.O.P. that doesn’t involve the total defeat and total reconstruction of the party.

Levitz is right that there is considerably more racism on the right than Republican Party elites wanted to believe pre-Trump and that the elite has conspicuously failed to confront its more overt and toxic forms — which is part of how we ended up with a birther as the president of the United States. In the longer view, he’s also right that white identity politics has been important to the conservative coalition since the 1960s, when the strategic and policy choices that the Nixon-era Republican Party made — in effect, rallying voters who opposed the Great Society’s vision of racial redress — ensured that a lot of racially conservative and racist white voters would migrate into the G.O.P.

Koch Data Mining Sent Anti-Immigrant Ads to Targeted Voters

Voter segmentation in action, combined with fear mongering and falsehoods. While this example is from the right, the general technique of segmentation is universal as we see in political positioning in Canada:

IN RECENT YEARS, Charles Koch, the billionaire industrialist megadonor to Republicans and libertarian causes, has carefully recalibrated his public image, releasing a variety of statements to assert that he supports immigration and opposes President Donald Trump’s blatant scapegoating of undocumented immigrants and foreigners.

At the same time, however, Koch’s sprawling political network’s in-house technology company has mined consumer data to motivate Republican voters with dehumanizing messages that depict immigrants as an invading army of criminals and potential terrorists.

Last year, when many GOP candidates across the country turned to vicious anti-immigrant advertisements to turn out voters in the midterm elections, some turned to i360, Koch’s state-of-the-art data analytics company. The company is one of the several appendages of the Koch political machine — one that includes a suite of voter outreach organization, lobbying, and campaign messaging tools.

Dozens of GOP candidates for state and federal office contracted with the Koch data company to identify voter segments and push out targeted ads on television and social media in 2018. And the company looks to be expanding its role in GOP campaigns going into 2020; more than a dozen federal candidates list the firm as a contractor.

The path to one Republican’s successful 2018 Senate run is detailed on i360’s website. Then-Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn aired at least four different television advertisements and a wave of social media advertisements focused on immigration, often with false or inflammatory language. She ended up beating out Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, who had been leading in the polls for months.

“A CARAVAN OF 14,000 illegal immigrants is marching on America … gang members, known criminals, people from the Middle East, possibly even terrorists,” intoned an ad for Blackburn, flashing images of Hispanic men and warning of a flood of immigrants welcomed by her Democratic opponent, Bredesen.

“Phil Bredesen gave driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. Phil Bredesen opposes the Trump immigration ban,” declared another Blackburn ad. At one point, the ad displays an image of the Middle East and Africa.

The messages about the caravan were far-fetched given the fact that there is no evidence that the migrant caravan from Honduras contained any terrorists or members from the Middle East, as fact-checkers noted during the campaign. The driver’s license claim was also misleading: Tennessee briefly offered driver’s licenses to those without a Social Security number through a 2001 law signed by former Republican Gov. Don Sundquist. The law was later amended and repealed under Bredesen’s tenure as governor.

“It was Phil Bredesen who lured illegal immigrants to Tennessee,” other Blackburn advertisements on television and social media claimed.

“The invading force approaching our southern border is seeking to enter the country is wrong,” read a grammatically challenged paid advertisement on Facebook posted by the Blackburn campaign. Another promoted post from the Blackburn campaign decried the “illegal alien mob marching on our border.”

The Blackburn campaign turned to Koch’s i360 company to develop “a series of custom predictive models” to peel Republican voters away from Bredesen.

The ads, crude as they might have appeared, were distributed using an empirical approach to motivating Republican voters. The Blackburn campaign had turned to Koch’s i360 company to develop “a series of custom predictive models” to peel Republican voters away from Bredesen, according to a testimonial for potential clients.

Blackburn, a firebrand of the religious right who positioned herself as a steadfast ally to Trump and opponent of allowingMuslim refugees into the country, was clearly aligned with Koch priorities. Blackburn also supports judicial appointments favored by the business-friendly Federalist Society, corporate tax cuts, and scaling back most forms of environmental regulations, the criteria on which the Koch network has made its political endorsements historically.

Americans for Prosperity, the primary political advocacy arm of the Koch network, founded by Charles’s brother David, who passed away in August, and financed by Charles’s close-knit group of likeminded business owners, spent $5.6 million to support Blackburn’s Senate run through its nonprofit and Super PAC arm. That much is well reported and public. But the role of i360 in guiding the campaign’s anti-immigrant messages did not become clear until after the election.

THE COMPANY SEGMENTED Republican supporters for Bredesen, a Democrat, using its vast database of voter profiles. The data suggested immigration could be used as a wedge. “From there,” the testimonial notes, “i360 further segmented the universe using the Sanctuary Cities model which identified voters likely to oppose Sanctuary City policies like allowing illegal immigrants to get drivers’ licenses — a policy Bredesen favored while Governor.”

The i360 database was integrated into the Blackburn campaign’s media strategy. The company’s television advertising service, i360 Rabbit Ears, allows campaigns to target television programs and schedules favored by various behavioral profiles. I360 sorts television programs by over 40 voter profiles, including anti-immigrant sentiment. The company refers to this voting bloc as: “Individuals who have a high likelihood of believing that undocumented immigrants should be required to leave the United States.”

Field staff used the i360 voter profiles to determine which messages to use when knocking on doors of potential voters and could show them “videos right from their iPads.”

Blackburn’s media consultants, through a company called Smart Media Group, not only relied on i360 data to inform its advertisement buying strategy, but its data findings were merged into Blackburn’s canvassing effort as well. Field staff used the i360 voter profiles to determine which messages to use when knocking on doors of potential voters and could “educate voters about Marsha’s positions by showing them videos right from their iPads.”

The i360 team also developed “140 unique segments,” an advertising term that refers to unique demographic profiles, “against which the campaign delivered millions of impressions across several different platforms including Google and Facebook.” The individual segments allowed the Blackburn campaign to send customized messages to each voter profile over a variety of platforms, a dynamic that allowed the campaign to “tailor their messaging to ensure they were talking about the issues that mattered to each voter.”

In the end, i360 boasts that the Blackburn campaign used its technology to shape 3 million voter contact calls, 1.5 million doors knocked, $8.4 million spent on television ads, and 314,000 campaign text messages — advocacy that led to Blackburn’s commanding victory over Bredesen, who had been favored in the polls for the months leading up to the election.

Federal Election Commission records show that Blackburn’s campaign paid $188,366 to i360 for a variety of services — a small price for the significant campaign services the company provided.

FOUNDED IN THE aftermath of the 2012 election, in which Republican candidates favored by Koch fared poorly, i360 was envisioned as a way to revolutionize right-wing pressure campaigns and election efforts by incorporating the latest in data science. The company, based in the same Arlington, Virginia, office complex that houses other Koch groups, harvests troves of data to build profiles of every voter and potential voter in the country. Over the course of four years, the Koch network poured $50 million into i360 to develop its capabilities.

Journalist Sue Halperin noted that i360 acts as somewhat of a data broker, combining“commercial sources, such as shopping habits, credit status, homeownership, and religious affiliation, with voting histories, social media content, and any connections a voter might have had with advocacy groups or other campaigns” to build its voter database.

The i360 profiles offer a dizzying array of ways to segment voter preferences. The company allows GOP campaigns to target voters based on equity held in their home, likelihood that an individual has been personally affected by the heroin crisis, views on gay marriage, interest in dogs, levels of religious devotion, and even psychological profiles that measure an individual’s ego, based on previous purchases of monogrammed clothing.

Notably, according to CNET, i360 partners with D2 Media Sales, a joint venture with DirectTV and Dish, “‘to push TV ads to specific households that meet a candidate’s criteria ‘no matter which stations or programs they’re watching.’”

And the firm appears to still be a central cog in the Koch advocacy machine. Demeter Analytics Services, the holding company that owns i360, is listed as a subsidiary of the Seminar Network Chamber of Commerce, the nonprofit that serves as the central clearing house for the Koch political spending, in its most recent tax filing.

Media attention has swirled over the role of technology firms that have harnessed sophisticated targeting methods to influence campaigns. Billionaire hedge fund investor Robert Mercer, once a participant in the Koch network, split off and formed his own array of groups, including an effort to fund Cambridge Analytica’s 2016 targeting methods. Less scrutiny has been paid to i360’s role in shaping the political climate. Both firms vacuum up incredible amounts of data to develop personalized voter outreach methods, allowing campaigns to peer deeply into the hearts of voters and trigger emotional responses — a revolution in campaign strategy that gives well-heeled donors with access to the technology a tremendous advantage.

Over the last year, Charles Koch has stated his support for lofty, high-minded goals such as ending over-incarceration, scaling back America’s military empire, defending free speech, and providing legal status for undocumented youth. These laudable positions, however, have not translated to changing the behavior of his political advocacy apparatus.

The Intercept has previously reported on Koch’s financing of tough-on-crime advocacy and support for Congress’ most militaristic, surveillance-friendly lawmakers. That the Koch political operation also deliberately fine-tunes anti-immigrant messages further undermines Koch’s purported beliefs. Neither Blackburn nor Mark Holden, the Koch Industries executive who simultaneously helps manage the company’s political and philanthropic investments, responded to a request for comment.

Source: Koch Data Mining Sent Anti-Immigrant Ads to Targeted Voters

There’s a good reason the immigration debate in Canada is calmer than in the U.S.

Pretty weak argument on its own. I think the large number of irregular or illegal immigrants in the USA, given its southern border, is a much larger factor in popular discourse, along with our selection system which priories more highly skilled immigrants:

In recent years the world has been rocked by the movement of tens of millions of people fleeing war, disaster and other forms of conflict. Canada has helped relieve some of the pressures that come from such large movements of people by accepting refugees, asylum-seekers and also ordinary immigrants. Far from conflict zones, surrounded by oceans, and sharing its only border with a country that is not usually a significant source of refugees, Canada has been able to be very deliberate in its calculation of how many people it chooses to admit as citizens. In general, the choices made have served the Canadian economy well by reversing what would otherwise have been a steady decline in our population and our prospects for economic growth.

So far at least, and unlike the U.S. experience, Canadian immigration policy has not become very political. One reason the two countries’ politics on this issue have differed may be their differing national fertility rates. The figure shows the fertility rate in Canada and the United States for each year from 1920 to 2018. The fertility rate measures the average number of children that would be born to each woman over her child-bearing years given prevailing age-specific fertility rates. Also shown, as the horizontal dashed line, is the population replacement rate — the fertility rate required for the population to replace itself. The replacement rate varies over time and by country due to changes and differences in mortality rates. It probably has fallen in both countries since 1920 but it is currently judged to be roughly 2.1 children per woman.

The large swings in fertility rates between 1920 and 1960 strongly suggest economic conditions affect the decision to have children. The onset of the Great Depression in 1930 coincided with a significant drop in the fertility rate in Canada, a drop that started much earlier in the U.S. The post-war baby boom saw fertility rates in both countries increase by nearly 1.5 children. Peaking in 1960, the fertility rate plummeted across North America for the next 15 years before levelling off — by the mid-1970s in the U.S. and the mid-1980s in Canada. U.S. fertility rates have since risen and now hover near the replacement rate. In this country, however, they remain well below the replacement rate.

That U.S. fertility rates are higher than ours may surprise many Canadians. Families here have greater access to supports and benefits in the form of parental leave provisions, extended employment insurance benefits, and full health-care coverage. Continuing low fertility rates in Canada suggest other influences must also be important.

But whatever the reason for it, our low fertility rate highlights the need for high levels of immigration to maintain and grow the population. After the dramatic fall in fertility rates in the 1960s, the federal government introduced a number of reforms to immigration policy, beginning in the mid to late 1970s. Since the early 1990s, Canada has settled between 200,000 and 300,000 immigrants each year. The government recently announced annual targets over the next three years that average 340,000 new immigrants per year. This level of immigration will enable Canada’s population to grow despite our low fertility rate.

The data presented in the figure may help explain why in recent years the debate over immigration hasn’t been as sharp or divisive here as in the United States. For Canada, maintaining a significant level of immigration and also a high level of trust in the process by which we invite foreigners to apply for citizenship is crucial for maintaining our economic growth.

Source: There’s a good reason the immigration debate in Canada is calmer than in the U.S.

Surge in Gulf applicants for US scheme offering citizenship amid price increase

Still remarkable cheap sale of citizenship, even with the increase. Absolute numbers are small:

There has been a huge surge in Gulf residents applying to take part in an American scheme offering the chance to earn citizenship, ahead of new reforms due to come into effect on November 21, which will increase the cost of applying by 80 percent, according to industry experts in Dubai.

The EB-5 visa for Immigrant Investors was created by the US Immigration Act of 1990 as a way of encouraging foreign investment in projects across the United States.

At present, for a minimum investment of $500,000, investors can apply to be part of the scheme, which can lead to a green card and the chance of full American citizenship after five years.

Last month, the EB-5 Modernisation regulations were introduced, meaning that, from November 21, the minimum investment amount for projects classed as targeted employment areas will increase from $500,000 to $900,000. At the same time, the minimum investment for non-targeted employment area projects will increase from $1 million to $1.8 million.

This has led to a surge in applications as potential investors look to get their paperwork filed before the November 21 deadline.

“I have seen almost more than 100 percent surge in applications as it has been out there now for nearly a month,” Preeya Malik, managing director of Step America, a Dubai-based firm which offers the EB-5 visa scheme, told Arabian Business in an interview on Wednesday.

“People are getting to know about it and it is the first time since 2015 they have written a price increase into legislation. If we were getting five applications every week, now we are getting five people almost every other day. People who have been sitting on the fence, this has been the deciding factor to move forward,” she added.

Higher cost bracket

The majority of applicants coming from the GCC are in the higher cost bracket, which are projects in metropolitan districts – or those classed a ‘non-targeted employment areas’ – which are keen to use the scheme to encourage overseas investments.

Targeted employment areas are classed as areas in the US which are economically challenged and have an unemployment rate more than 150 percent of the federal average.

There has been talk over the last few years of an increase in the cost of participation in the EB-5 scheme, which led to a dramatic increase in the number of approvals from the GCC, which collectively rose 564 percent to 93 approvals – a majority of them expats – in 2018.

A total of 54 UAE residents were approved for the programme in 2018, a 350 percent jump from the year before. Neighbouring Saudi Arabia, which saw just a single approval in 2017, recorded 15, a 1,400 percent increase.

Malik said the nationalities looking to take part varied a lot, but the motivation was usually the same, to support their families and children and help them to obtain a green card or passport in the US.

“We have a lot of Arab clients, Pakistani, Indian, but definitely the same in that they are wanting to do it for their children, that is the same no matter the nationality,” she said.

Source: Surge in Gulf applicants for US scheme offering citizenship amid price increase

Immigration lawyers report Canadian Muslims being denied entry to U.S.

Of note:

A number of Canadian Muslims have been turned away at the Canada-U.S. border in recent weeks, immigration lawyers say.

Those denied entry include a prominent Guyana-born Toronto imam who serves as a chaplain with the Peel Regional Police and an Iraqi Turkmen community leader who has family members fighting ISIS in the Middle East.

The two men — who were denied entry at different border crossings and were not travelling together — are among at least six Canadian Muslim men who have been denied entry at the U.S. border over the last two weeks.

The men and their families, all of whom are Canadian citizens, were given little in the way of explanation by border officials for the decision to deem them inadmissible.

Neither Guyana nor Iraq are among the seven Muslim-majority countries subject to U.S. President Donald Trump’s “Muslim ban” executive order, which essentially blocks refugees and visitors from those countries from entering the U.S.

Both men were told to apply for visas at the U.S. consulate in Toronto before returning to the border to seek entry — an unusual process for people who hold Canadian passports.

The six men are represented by the Toronto-area immigration firm CILF — Caruso Guberman Appleby. Lawyers there say that if they’re seeing this level of activity at their law firm, there may be many other Canadian nationals facing similar problems at the border.

“We’ve seen a lot more in the last few weeks and we don’t know what to attribute it to. We know the climate there in the U.S. has changed, it’s a bit different, but at the same time there are processes and procedures and people should be afforded opportunities to challenge a case,” Daud Ali, a lawyer at CILF, told CBC News.

“But it’s hard to know what you’re going up against when you’re not told why you’re denied entry. The fact that they’re all Muslims, that raises some concerns about whether these people are being targeted or if this is a new form of some sort of ban …”

“Having worked as an immigration lawyer for over 40 years nothing surprises me anymore but, in all my years, I have never seen such a Kafkaesque scenario,” said Joel Guberman, a partner at the firm.

When asked if there has been a new directive in recent weeks with respect to Muslim travellers from Canada, a spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said the agency “has not had any new policy changes.”

While unable to speak to specific cases because of privacy laws, the CBP spokesperson said “applicants for admission bear the burden of proof to establish that they are clearly eligible to enter the United States. In order to demonstrate that they are admissible, the applicant must overcome all grounds of inadmissibility.”

No Canadian citizen has a “right” to enter the U.S.; entry happens at the sole discretion of the U.S. customs officers on duty — and they have a lot of latitude to ask questions to determine the admissibility of a foreign national.

CBP lists more than 60 grounds for inadmissibility divided into several major categories, including health-related reasons, criminality, security reasons, illegal entry and immigration violations, and documentation requirements.

Two of the six men denied entry have agreed to share their stories with CBC News to warn other Muslim Canadians about the complications that may arise when travelling to the U.S.

Imran Ally, a resident imam at the Toronto and Regional Islamic Congregation (TARIC) mosque for the last 20 years and a chaplain with Peel Regional Police, was travelling with his wife and three children to attend his best friend’s daughter’s wedding in the New York City borough of Queens. He was set to officiate.

Ally and his wheelchair-bound, special-needs son were held at the Peace Bridge crossing near Fort Erie, Ont., for more than five hours. They faced three separate rounds of questioning by plainclothes and uniformed officers. Some of the questions centred on his charitable endeavours related to resettling Syrian refugees.

Ally, a native of the South American nation of Guyana, was questioned about his work as a religious leader, photographed and fingerprinted and ultimately denied entry because he was told his name “matches that of a bad guy.”

He was driven back to the Canadian border by a police cruiser, cancelling his long-planned wedding role.

“I knew going to the U.S. for the first time wouldn’t be a red carpet welcome, I (knew) that I’d probably have to answer questions, I might even have to spend a long time. We were prepared for all of this, but never in my wildest dreams did I think they’d say I’m inadmissible because of my name,” Ally said.

“The way it was done — they really at the end made me feel like I’m a criminal.”

Nejmettin Vali, the vice-president of the Iraqi Turkmen community group in Toronto, was also denied entry at the Windsor-Detroit crossing in early August when he and his family were on vacation celebrating Eid al-Adha, one of the holiest of Islamic holidays.

Vali was travelling to Detroit for some cross-border shopping with his wife and children when he was pulled aside by American officials for a secondary inspection that went on for more than four hours.

Vali said he felt violated by the officers, who seized not only his cellphone but those of his wife and Canadian-born children. While being questioned, Vali said the officers refused to let him fetch food and medicine for his autistic daughter.

“I looked like a terrorist or something,” Vali said. “I have no criminal record, no jail, nothing. I’ve been a Canadian for twenty years and no problem, so I want to figure out what’s going on. I want to fight it — I feel like I have a bad name now because they didn’t let me inside.

“It’s sad. Everybody was just happy to go to the U.S. for, like, two hours for the shopping. That didn’t happen.”

Vali said the border guards didn’t tell him why he was denied entry but he said the officers were concerned about his semi-regular trips to Iraq, the country where he was born.

Vali said he travels to his native land often because he’s been supporting his three grandchildren there since his son — a former Iraqi police offer — was killed by ISIS forces.

Source: Immigration lawyers report Canadian Muslims being denied entry to U.S.

When an Influx of French-Canadian Immigrants Struck Fear Into Americans

From a time when Canada had large scale emigration and a reminder of francophone fears of assimilation, as was the case with most who emigrated to the USA.

And a certain irony: Quebec’s fear of the “other,” as seen in its endless debates over identity, immigrants and integration, are the same issues that played out with respect to the large numbers of Quebec immigrants in the late 19th century.

In 1893, Clare de Graffenried, special agent of the United States Department of Labor, published an article in The Forum describing an invasion of America’s northeastern border. For 30 years, Graffenreid observed, hundreds of thousands of French Canadians had been pouring into states like Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, finding work in the region’s burgeoning industries. “Manufacturing New England, Puritan and homogeneous no longer, speaks a French patois,” she wrote.

Furthermore, Graffenreid continued, French Canadian workers huddled in “Little Canadas” of “hastily-constructed tenements,” in houses holding from three to 50 families, subsisting in conditions that were “a reproach to civilization,” while “inspiring fear and aversion in neighbors.”

Within the two years after Graffenried’s piece appeared, both of my grandfathers were born in Maine’s Little Canadas. A century later, when I began researching these roots, I uncovered a lost chapter in U.S. immigration history that has startling relevance today—a story of immigrants crossing a land border into the U.S. and the fears they aroused.

Inheriting an ideology of cultural survival from Québec, the French Canadians in the U.S. resisted assimilation. This led a segment of the American elite to regard these culturally isolated French speakers as a potential threat to the territorial integrity of the United States—pawns, conspiracy theorists said, in a Catholic plot to subvert the U.S. Northeast.

While French-speaking people had lived in North America since the 1600s, the French Canadians Graffenried discussed crossed the U.S. border during the late 19th century, mainly to earn a living in New England’s cotton mills. Cotton textile manufacturing began in earnest in the region during the War of 1812, and by mid-century, it was the U.S.’s largest industry in terms of employment, capital investment, and the value of its products. When the United States blockaded Confederate ports during the Civil War and prices for raw cotton soared, New England’s mills shut down or slashed hours. Textile workers turned toward other industries, joined the army, or headed west.

After the war, with cotton shipping again, the mills reopened, but the skilled textile workforce had scattered. The corporations launched a campaign to recruit workers, and Canada’s French-speaking province of Québec answered the call. Before the Civil War there had been a trickle of migration from Québec to the Northern states, but when hostilities ended, trainload upon trainload of French Canadians began to settle in neighboring New England. By 1930, nearly a million had crossed the border in search of work.

They arrived in extended family groups, establishing French-speaking enclaves throughout New England in small industrial cities like Lowell, Massachusetts; Manchester, New Hampshire; Woonsocket, Rhode Island; Lewiston, Maine; and elsewhere.

These Little Canadas, often wedged between a mill and a Catholic church, formed a cultural archipelago, outposts of Québec scattered throughout the Northeast in densely populated pockets. By 1900, one-tenth of New Englanders spoke French. And in the region’s many cotton mills, French Canadians made up 44 percent of the workforce—24 percent nationally—at a time when cotton remained a dominant industry.

French-Canadian workers often lived in overcrowded, company-owned tenements, while children as young as eight years old worked full shifts in the mills. Contemporary observers denounced the mill town squalor. When 44 French Canadian children died in Brunswick, Maine, during a six-month period in 1886, most from typhoid fever and diphtheria, local newspaper editor Albert G. Tenney investigated. He found tenements housing 500 people per acre, with outhouses that overflowed into the wells and basements. Tenney excoriated the mill owners, the prominent Cabot family of Boston. Conditions in the tenements, wrote Tenney, “show a degree of brutality almost inconceivable in a civilized community. … A sight even to make a Christian swear.”

Brunswick was not the only mill town with poor living conditions. Journalist William Bayard Hale visited Little Canada in Fall River, Massachusetts, in 1894. “It would be an abuse to house a dog in such a place,” Hale wrote. Some Fall River tenements, continued Hale, “do not compare favorably with old-time slave-quarters,” a not-so-distant memory in the 1890s.

Other immigrants also faced pitiable conditions, but the French Canadians were unique because they thought of themselves as Americans before they came to the U.S. “The French Canadian is as American as someone born in Boston,” said Civil War hero Edmond Mallet, “it is all the nationalities that emigrated here that truly constitutes the American people.” Mallet was part of the small, educated French Canadian elite in the U.S., which included priests, journalists, professionals, and business owners. In their view, “American” was not a nationality, but a collection of “all the nationalities” living under the Stars and Stripes. In keeping with this understanding, they coined a new term for their people living in the U.S.: Franco-Americans.

Franco-American journalist Ferdinand Gagnon argued in an 1881 hearing at the Massachusetts State House that French Canadians were among the original constituent elements of the American Republic. He cited “Langlade, the father of Wisconsin; Juneau, the founder of Milwaukee; Vital Guerin, the founder of St. Paul, Minn.; Menard, first lieutenant governor of Illinois,” among his compatriots who had founded “nearly all the large cities of the Western States.”

While Gagnon encouraged French Canadians to pursue U.S. citizenship, for him naturalization implied a narrow contract. If naturalized citizens obeyed the laws, defended the flag, and worked for the general prosperity, he felt their duties were discharged—language, religion, and customs could remain in the private sphere. Gagnon’s concept of citizenship was based on Québec’s history, where French Canadians had maintained a distinct cultural identity despite British rule since 1763. The Franco-American elite expected their people to maintain their identity in the U.S. just as they had done in Canada.

But U.S. opinion demanded of the naturalized citizen something more than a merely formal participation in civic life, and Franco-American efforts to preserve their culture soon aroused suspicion and enmity. By the 1880s, elite American newspapers, including The New York Times, saw a sinister plot afoot. The Catholic Church, they said, had dispatched French Canadian workers southward in a bid to seize control of New England. Eventually, the theory went, Québec would sever its British ties and annex New England to a new nation-state called New France. Alarmists presented as evidence for the demographic threat the seemingly endless influx of immigrants across the northeastern border, coupled with the large family size of the Franco-Americans, where 10 or 12 children was common, and many more not unknown.

Anti-Catholicism had deep roots in the Northeast. The region’s Revolution-era patriots had numbered the Quebec Act of 1774 among the British Parliament’s “Intolerable Acts,” not least because it upheld the Catholic Church’s privileges in Canada, establishing “popery” in North America. In the mid-19th century, supporters of the Know Nothing movement led attacks on Catholic neighborhoods from New York City to Philadelphia. In New England, among other incidents, a Know Nothing-inspired mob burned a church where Irish and French Canadian Catholics met at Bath, Maine, in July 1854. In October of that year, Catholic priest John Bapst was assaulted, robbed, tarred and feathered, and driven out of Ellsworth, Maine. While the Know Nothings faded away, in the late 19th century the nativists regrouped as the American Protective Association, a nationwide anti-Catholic movement.

In this climate, the supposed French Canadian Catholic subversion of New England became national news. Between about 1880 and 1900, as immigration peaked, it attracted coverage in daily newspapers; think pieces in outlets such as Harper’s, The Nation, and The Forum; articles in academic journals; and books in English and in French. The New York Times reported in 1881 that French-Canadian immigrants were “ignorant and unenterprising, subservient to the most bigoted class of Catholic priests in the world. … They care nothing for our free institutions, have no desire for civil or religious liberty or the benefits of education.”

In 1885, the paper reported that there were French Canadian plans “to form a new France occupying the whole northeast corner of the continent”; four years later, it outlined the purported borders of New France: “Quebec, Ontario, as far west as Hamilton, such portions of the maritime provinces as may be deemed worth taking, the New-England States, and a slice of New-York.”

And in 1892, the New York Times suggested that emigration from Québec was “part of a priestly scheme now fervently fostered in Canada for the purpose of bringing New-England under the control of the Roman Catholic faith. … This is the avowed purpose of the secret society to which every adult French Canadian belongs.”

Protestant clergy responded by leading well-funded initiatives to convert the Franco-American Catholics. The Congregationalists’ Calvin E. Amaron founded the French Protestant College in Massachusetts in 1885, offering a training course for evangelizing the French Canadians of New England and Québec. Baptist missionaries fielded the “Gospel Wagon”—a hefty, horse-drawn vehicle with organ and pulpit, lit by lanterns at night, preaching Protestantism in French to the Little Canadas of Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

New England had become “a magnet attracting the world to itself. … [Québec is] repellant and shunned by the world’s best blood,” thundered the Baptists’ Henry Lyman Morehouse in an 1893 pamphlet. “The one a mighty current. … that has been as the water of life to the civilized world—the other, a sluggish, slimy stream, that has fructified nothing and given to mankind nothing noteworthy … a civilization where mediaeval Romanism is rampant. … Against the abhorrent forces of this Romish civilization we are contending, especially in New England.”

Amaron and Morehouse identified Protestantism with Americanism. For them, it was unthinkable that the U.S. could accommodate a variety of religious traditions and yet retain its political culture.

In retrospect, the fevered discourse about New England’s class of destitute factory workers reveals how little chattering classes in the U.S. knew their neighbors—a people whose presence in North America preceded Plymouth Rock. The “invasion” rhetoric did not discourage Franco-American sentiments in favor of maintaining their identity but intensified them. The Little Canadas continued in vigor for at least another half-century, and slowly dispersed, not due to nativist provocations, but for economic reasons—the decline of New England’s manufacturing base.

Talk of a French Canadian threat waned in the first years of the 20th century, as migration across the northeastern border slowed temporarily. This Victorian episode faded from memory only when U.S. fears were transferred to new subjects: the even more foreign-seeming Jewish and non-Protestant immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe, who, in the early 20th century, began to arrive in growing numbers on U.S. shores.

Source: When an Influx of French-Canadian Immigrants Struck Fear Into Americans

Barr Packs Board of Immigration Appeals with Judges Who Denied Asylum Claims at ‘High Rates’

The power of appointments (in Canada, Sean Rehaag has done comparable analysis of IRB board members Refugee approval rates reflect subjectivity of decision-makers, prof says – Montreal – CBC News):

The Trump Administration is making significant moves in an apparent effort to reduce the number of successful migrant applications for asylum at the border. Rather than a ban, which the Trump Administration has explored, U.S. Attorney General William Barr has promoted six immigrations judges to the Department of Justice’s Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) — all of whom have “high rates” of denying asylum claims, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on Friday.

According to the report, the six appointees who were sworn in on Friday will comprise more than 25-percent of the 21-member BIA. In case you are unfamiliar with what this board is for and how powerful it is, don’t worry, the Department of Justice has got you covered [all emphases ours]: 

“The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) is the highest administrative body for interpreting and applying immigration laws. It is authorized up to 21 Board Members, including the Chairman and Vice Chairman who share responsibility for BIA management. The BIA is located at EOIR headquarters in Falls Church, Virginia. Generally, the BIA does not conduct courtroom proceedings – it decides appeals by conducting a “paper review” of cases. On rare occasions, however, the BIA hears oral arguments of appealed cases, predominately at headquarters.

The BIA has been given nationwide jurisdiction to hear appeals from certain decisions rendered by immigration judges and by district directors of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in a wide variety of proceedings in which the Government of the United States is one party and the other party is an alien, a citizen, or a business firm.

BIA decisions are binding on all DHS officers and immigration judges unless modified or overruled by the Attorney General or a federal court. Most BIA decisions are subject to judicial review in the federal courts. The majority of appeals reaching the BIA involve orders of removal and applications for relief from removal. Other cases before the BIA include the exclusion of aliens applying for admission to the United States, petitions to classify the status of alien relatives for the issuance of preference immigrant visas, fines imposed upon carriers for the violation of immigration laws, and motions for reopening and reconsideration of decisions previously rendered.”

“Prior to the new rule, the Attorney General’s own decisions were binding on all of DHS, but the BIA’s decisions weren’t binding on the entire system unless a majority of Board members voted to publish them. Currently, this happens about 30 times a year. By giving the Attorney General unilateral power to designate BIA decisions as precedent with the stroke of a pen, the regulation destabilizes the fair checks and balances in the court process.”

The names of the promoted judges: William Cassidy, Earle Wilson, Keith Hunsucker, Deborah Goodwin, Stephanie Gorman, Stuart Couch.

Cassidy and Wilson respectively rejected 95.8-percent and and 98.1-percent of asylum claims between 2013 and 2018; the national denial average was 57.6 percent, the Chronicle reported. (Both of them have inspired complaints of unfairness.) With the national average in mind, consider the other rejection rates added to the board: Hunsucker, 81.6-percent; Goodwin, 89.4-percent; Gorman, 86.9-percent; Couch, 92.1%. These percentages came from data tracked by Syracuse University — data the DOJ claimed it doesn’t track and can’t verify when responding to the Chronicle story.

“DOJ doesn’t track asylum approval and denial rates for individual immigration judges, and (Syracuse) uses its own methodologies in interpreting the data it receives, resulting in conclusions that we cannot verify,” a DOJ spokesperson said. “Collectively these judges … have nearly 120 years of immigration law (experience) through multiple administrations. Advocates that attack their integrity and professionalism only undermine the entire system.”

Source: Barr Packs Board of Immigration Appeals with Judges Who Denied Asylum Claims at ‘High Rates’

The Trump Administration’s Sustained Attack on the Rights of Immigrant Children

Good critique:

In 1985, two Salvadoran children, ages twelve and fifteen, were held in a squalid, overcrowded room in a rundown motel in Pasadena, California. For weeks, the government denied them food and kept them from seeing doctors or family members. The circumstances, one of the girls later told the Times, were “too painful to remember, to discuss.” A team of lawyers who went on to represent them and two other girls sued the government, in a case that dragged on for more than a decade, well after the initial plaintiffs were released. By 1997, two Presidential Administrations later, the government decided to settle. Doris Meissner, who was then the head of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, said, “If there are real issues surrounding the detention of minors, and the government is being held responsible for poor conditions, why are we litigating in favor of what we are doing wrong?”

For the past twenty-two years, the terms of this legal settlement, known as the Flores Agreement, have been a central tenet of U.S. immigration policy. When dealing with children, the most vulnerable immigrants to enter federal custody, the government must provide certain, baseline protections, including access to food and medical care; it must also promise to detain them for the shortest possible amount of time, in the “least restrictive” settings.

On Wednesday, the Trump Administration announced a sweeping new set of regulations to gut the Flores Agreement. “It is a wholesale attack on kids in custody,” Jennifer Podkul, the policy director of Kids in Need of Defense (kind), told me. The Administration’s immediate target is an outgrowth of the agreement, shored up by a judge a few years ago, which prevents children from being held in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security for more than twenty days. The agreement applies not just to children who came to the U.S. alone but also to those who crossed the border with their parents. This has meant, in effect, that thousands of asylum-seeking families have been released from detention while their cases have moved through the immigration courts. Now, according to Kevin McAleenan, the acting Secretary of Homeland Security, the government will detain families together for as long as it takes to resolve their immigration claims. For tens of thousands of families, that could easily amount to months in custody—an especially alarming prospect considering that another critical component of Flores, a requirement that the government keep children in licensed facilities overseen by independent monitors, would also fall away under the Administration’s plan.

In his announcement on Wednesday, McAleenan claimed that “all children in U.S. government custody” would be “treated with dignity, respect, and special concern for their particular vulnerability.” But his reassurances sound especially hollow at the present moment. In the past year and a half, seven children have died in immigration custody, and there have been widespread complaints about the conditions in which children are being held. Earlier this summer, at a Border Patrol facility in Clint, Texas, two hundred and fifty infants, children, and teen-agers spent weeks without adequate food and water, and were denied soap and toothbrushes; despite lice and flu outbreaks, authorities skimped on providing medical care. “The Flores monitors are the reason we knew about what was happening at Clint,” Podkul said.

On Monday, a lawyer known as a “special master,” who was appointed last year to investigate potential violations of Flores in facilities run by D.H.S. and the Department of Health and Human Services, filed a report with further details. In Customs and Border Protection facilities, in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, “allegations of severe overcrowding and excessive length of custody, lack of appropriate food for minors, inability of detainees to sleep, ambient temperatures outside a reasonably comfortable range, and lack of access to medical treatment remain unresolved,” the special master wrote. At H.H.S. shelters across the country, the average time that children spent in government custody, between January of 2018 and May of 2019, was sixty-seven days. Nearly three thousand children who turned eighteen while in detention were transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement because they “aged out” and were no longer treated as minors.

The Trump Administration has, from the start, attacked Flores as a “loophole” that immigrant families have continually sought to exploit; closing it was part of a broader mission to deter other families from coming to the U.S. to seek asylum in the first place. In August, 2017, a group of Administration officials met at D.H.S. headquarters, in Washington, to devise a series of policies to restrict the number of asylum seekers entering the country. Among the proposals was separating families at the border and a move to end the Flores agreement. Attendees were also tasked with writing ten separate memos with blueprints for how the Administration could implement each policy goal. “I recall being stumped about what we could do by decree or executive action to get around Flores,” one former official, who was present at the meeting, told me. “It was one of the memos that floundered,” the former official added, because of its “questionable legality.”

The White House decided to work around Flores instead. When the Trump Administration began separating families at the border, in the summer of 2017, part of its rationalization was that, by criminally charging parents for entering the country illegally, the government could detain the adults, and their children would be treated as unaccompanied minors and transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services. The government could thus hold the parents indefinitely and penalize the entire family, as the children were kept in conditions that were notionally consistent with the terms of Flores. By late June, 2018, amid a national outcry, Trump promised to stop separating families at the border. But, in the same breath, he announced that the Administration would hold families together instead. Almost immediately, a federal judge in California named Dolly Gee, who is in charge of supervising the government’s compliance with Flores, blocked the Administration. There was a clear precedent for her decision, which the Trump Administration willfully ignored: in 2015, when President Obama responded to a sudden spike in Central American families seeking asylum by trying to detain families in ice facilities, Gee blocked him, too.

In September, 2018, the Trump Administration released a two-hundred-page document outlining proposed regulations that would end Flores altogether. Immigration advocates immediately appealed to Gee, in California, who took the challenge under advisement but withheld final judgment until after the Administration’s regulations were entered in the federal register, which is slated for Friday. “The President is telling [D.H.S.] they must terminate the settlement,” Peter Schey, one of the lead attorneys in the initial Flores class-action suit, told the Washington Post at the time. “They tried it in court, and now they’re trying it through regulations. But they’re in a bind, because the only way the regulations will be valid is if they’re consistent with the settlement, and if they’re consistent with the settlement then they won’t achieve the changes the President has demanded.” Now the Flores plaintiffs will have a week to amend their suit. Jennifer Nagda, an attorney at the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, told me, “We’ll have to do a line-by-line comparison between the new regulations and the proposed version from last September to decide how to direct our energy in the next seven days.”

The broader consequences of the Administration’s rollback could extend well beyond detention conditions. When minors travel to the U.S. alone, for instance, they’re categorized as unaccompanied, a designation that affords them additional rights such as the ability to apply for asylum through an asylum officer, as opposed to a judge in the more adversarial setting of an immigration court. “This isn’t just about being detained,” Podkul said. “It’s about the next two to three years an immigrant child spends going through the judicial system.” Earlier this summer, an official at H.H.S.—who at the time suspected that the President’s senior adviser, Stephen Miller, was behind an unprecedented push to reclassify unaccompanied children—told me, “The expectation is that the Administration will change the policy regarding the definition of an unaccompanied child. . . . A child arriving at the border alone will not be declared unaccompanied if they have a parent ‘available’ in the U.S. to care for them. That means the child will be subject to expedited removal.” The idea, the official added, was to skirt Congress by instituting the change in the form of a regulation, while creating yet another pretext for assailing lawmakers for their failure to take some radical action of their own. And that is exactly what has happened: the regulations announced this week will further whittle away the legal rights of immigrant children. “The change will end up in court immediately,” the official had told me. But the Administration wanted to send a message anyway.

Source: The Trump Administration’s Sustained Attack on the Rights of Immigrant Children