U.S. midterm elections were this Tuesday, Nov. 8. In a landmark effort to empower voters, two Michigan cities offered Arabic-language election ballots for the first time. This week, we’ll look at the impact election winners and voting access efforts may have on immigrants at a local, state, or federal level.
In other immigration news this week, USCIS made changes to the declaration of financial support form and to the lockbox addresses for SIJS applications.
Two Michigan Cities Began Offering Arabic-Language Ballots in 2022
Michigan is known for its large Arabic-speaking population. Voters have always been able to take translators with them to the polls, but two Michigan cities went a step further and provided Arabic-language ballots starting in August of this year.
Hamtramck and Dearborn, Michigan, have large enough Arab and Muslim populations that they’ve elected Arabic-speaking mayors and city council members in the past. This election cycle, the state allowed these individuals to vote in Arabic for the very first time. This comes as a welcome change, as Arabic is the native language for many Hamtramck and Dearborn residents.
Many U.S. cities provide native-language ballots to their diverse populations. But Arabic-speaking populations have long gone without this accommodation due in large part to the U.S. Census classifying Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) people as Caucasian, which groups them with primarily English-speaking white voters. The Voting Rights Act provides accommodation for people who speak languages other than English, but only for people who aren’t classified as white. This poorly targeted grouping has historically created challenges in obtaining services for Arabic speakers.
Arabic speakers in Hamtramck and Dearborn will be able to continue to vote in their native language thanks to their cities’ initiatives to ensure language access. These initiatives could serve as models for other cities with populations whose language needs the U.S. Census Bureau misclassifies.
Highlights From the 2022 Midterm Elections
Midterm elections took place this Tuesday, Nov. 8. Many winners at the local, state, and federal levels have been outspoken in their views of immigration. Here are some highlights from winners who’ve previously had a strong say in immigration topics:
- Florida Governor Ron DeSantis won his reelection campaign. Gov. DeSantis caused national uproar after flying migrants to Martha’s Vineyard. Other Florida winners include Rep. Marco Rubio and Attorney General Ashley Moody, both Republicans.
- Texas Governor Greg Abbott was also reelected. Gov. Abbott is known for his harsh stance against immigration. Earlier this year he announced that the Texas National Guard and Department of Public Safety would be allowed to arrest immigrants who may have entered the U.S. unlawfully and take them to the Texas-Mexico border.
- Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer was reelected. Gov. Whitmer has publicly shown support for immigrants and refugees on numerous occasions. She once used her executive power to block the sale of a prison to prevent it from being turned into a privately run immigration detention facility.
- In New York State elections, Governor Kathy Hochul, Senator Chuck Schumer, and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez all won their races. Each has supported or enacted policies to help immigrants and refugees in the past. Gov. Hochul found funding to assist immigrants bused into the city from Texas. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez once called for abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Sen. Schumer has sponsored, researched, or attempted to pass immigration reform consistently since he was first elected in 1999.
- 54% of Massachusetts voters supported a ballot initiative to allow undocumented immigrants to continue getting driver’s licenses.
The states of Mississippi, Kentucky, and Louisiana have odd-year elections and voters will be expected to show up to the polls on Nov. 7, 2023. Mississippi was home to the largest workplace ICE raid in history in 2019. Kentucky is home to Berea College, a tuition-free university that accepts undocumented/DACA recipient students. Louisiana operates large immigration detention facilities.
USCIS Updates Declaration of Financial Support Form
USCIS announced changes to Form I-134 and released a new edition on Oct. 18, 2022. Formerly called Affidavit of Support, the form will now be known as Declaration of Financial Support. The 10/18/22 version will be the only one accepted starting Jan. 2, 2023. Applicants can continue to use the previous version, dated 4/25/2022, until then.
Form I-134 is used to verify that U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents (LPR) who sponsor visa applicants can support them financially while they’re in the U.S. on a visa. This is how USICS ensures visa holders and immigrant beneficiaries don’t become a “public charge” or need to apply for government benefits.
USCIS Changes Lockboxes for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status Applicants
Applicants using the USCIS Form I-360 will now send their paperwork to lockboxes based on where they live. Previously, applicants who used Form I-360 were required to send their immigration paperwork to the Chicago lockbox only.
Form I-360 is used for the following types of immigration status petitions:
- Widows and widowers of U.S. citizens
- Spouses, children, and parents of an abusive U.S. citizen
- People born to US citizen fathers between 1950 and 1982 in the following countries: Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Korea, and Thailand
- Special immigrants, including special immigrant juveniles, Afghan nationals who helped U.S. troops, religious ministers who will work for U.S. religious nonprofits, and members of the U.S. armed forces. This is a versatile status and includes additional qualifying categories.
If you’re filing an application that requires Form I-360, make sure to look up the applicable lockbox mailing address in the USCIS Where to File section. The USCIS Lockbox Filing Locations Chart for Certain Family-Based Forms also lists addresses for these lockboxes.
U.S. Department of Education Termination of Federal Recognition for ACICS May Affect Students Studying on Visas
On Nov. 1, 2022, USCIS announced that the end of federal recognition for ACICS-accredited colleges and universities may affect certain current and prospective students who wish to study in the U.S. on visas. USCIS explained that students in 24-month STEM OPT extension programs (F-1 visas), H-1B visas, Form I-140 applicants, and English Language Study may lose immigration benefits that can affect whether or not they can stay in the U.S. This announcement applies to students who received degrees from ACICS institutions as of Aug. 19, 2022.
USCIS has made the following suggestions for affected students:
- Look out for guidance from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), which will mail letters to students currently attending schools affected by this change in accreditation.
- ACICS-accredited schools won’t extend program extensions. Students can only finish their session if ACICS schools withdraw their certification voluntarily or furnish proof of accreditation from a federally recognized organization.
- Students who have applied for a change in status so they can finish their current program need to pay attention to any requests for evidence (RFEs) from USCIS.
In August of 2022, the U.S. Department of Education announced that they would no longer recognize accreditations granted by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS).
Colleges and universities that receive their accreditation from ACICS will have to fulfill additional requirements so they can continue to operate normally.
Loss of accreditation also means that degrees earned from ACICS-accredited schools are no longer valid and won’t qualify as valid U.S.-based degrees for visa requirements as of Aug. 19, 2022. Degrees received before Aug. 19, 2022, will still be considered U.S.-based degrees for visa purposes and may still be used as credentials for visa extensions that require degrees.
This Week in Pop Culture
- Rolling Stone’s profile on Selena Gomez explained the importance of the entertainer’s heritage and recalls the time Gomez revealed her grandmother’s harrowing journey to the United States.
- Based on Amy Tan’s book on the Chinese and Chinese-American experience, The Joy Luck Club will get a sequel. The sequel boasts celebrated Chinese and Chinese-American actors Rosalind Chao and Ming-Na Wen (Mulan, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.).
- Financial planner Silvia Tergas says life insurance policies can help Hispanic families build wealth.
- On Oct. 13, 2022, the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) challenged a Florida-based credit union that denied services to a DACA recipient. Remember: many DACA recipients and other undocumented immigrants have successfully opened bank and credit card accounts and received loans. Here’s a recently updated list of banks and credit unions willing to help.