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Weekly Immigration News Roundup: November 18, 2022 (Archive)

Jonathan Petts
November 18, 2022

Key Takeaways

The CATO institute reports that the U.S. is unable to process visas in 67 countries, the Biden administration extends TPS protections for 337,000 immigrants from El Salvador, Nepal, and Honduras, U.S. officials announce that ICE will soon begin deporting undocumented Cuban immigrants by plane. In other great news, Massachusetts voted to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses and Arizona voters approved a proposition that allows undocumented students to pay in-state tuition and have access to state-based financial aid. Let’s dive in!

Table of Contents

Cato Institute Explains: The U.S. Is Unable To Process Visas in 67 Countries

The journey of traveling, moving to, or studying in the United States begins with a visit to a U.S. consulate. However, the demand for U.S. visas is high, which can make it hard to get an appointment quickly. This can make the visa application process daunting for people who need to escape persecution, reunite with family members, or have other extenuating circumstances. 

According to a recent study by the Cato Institute, the United States currently doesn’t have the ability to process visas in 67 countries. The list of countries includes places as diverse as North Korea, Iran, Norway, Afghanistan, Portugal, and Denmark, to name a few. There are different reasons for the lack of visa-processing consulates in these areas including severed ties with certain governments, conflict, and consulate closures. 

People who live in areas without a consulate need to travel to apply for a visa, often to a far-off city or a different country. Not only does this create a significant burden for people who need a visa, but it can also overwhelm areas that do have U.S. consulates as they are forced to handle the overflow from places that do not. This overload further contributes to backlogs, which makes the access problem even worse. In all cases, the harder it is to access visas, the greater the likelihood that immigrants seeking to relocate will come to the U.S. without legal status.

The Biden Administration Extends TPS Protections for 337,000 Immigrants

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) allows people from select countries to live in the U.S. legally for a set amount of time. TPS beneficiaries can obtain an employment authorization document (EAD), may be granted travel authorization, and are protected from deportation. 

The TPS program aims to help people from parts of the world that are unsafe to return to temporarily. This includes parts of the world undergoing armed conflict, environmental disasters, and other extraordinary events that could endanger people from these areas. The Biden administration recently extended TPS benefits for citizens of El Salvador, Nepal, and Honduras whose TPS status remains in limbo due to legal challenges amid ongoing political unrest in their home countries. Hatian and Sudanese TPS beneficiaries will also be able to maintain their status as a part of this decision.

This TPS extension is in effect until at least June 2024, and it comes as a relief to TPS-holders who were contesting President Trump’s decision to suddenly end the program in 2020 for people from El Salvador, Haiti, Sudan, and Honduras. 

The expiration or discontinuation of TPS protections would upend the lives of people who depend on the program to stay safe in the U.S. Immigration options can vary, and some TPS recipients may not have any other options to keep them in the U.S. and safe from the dangers in their home countries. This week’s extensions mean that TPS holders will have more time to safely work and live in the U.S. while they await more permanent solutions.

ICE Will Soon Deport Some Cubans by Plane

Since 1966, Cubans who arrived in the U.S. without a visa were allowed to remain and apply for residency under the “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy. The policy protected Cubans from deportation if they arrived to the United States and were able to make it to land. Additionally, Cubans were able to get a faster pathway to legal permanent residency thanks to “wet-foot, dry foot.” This changed in 2017 when the Trump administration made Cubans without legal immigration status eligible for deportation just like people from other countries who were in the U.S. without legal status. 

Since then, the U.S. has attempted to deport many of these formerly protected immigrants by plane. Due to COVID-19 precautions and strained relationships between the two countries, the Cuban government rejected the majority of these deportation flights from the U.S. over the past few years, leaving deported Cubans in legal limbo. 

This is about the change, as Cuba has agreed to start accepting these deportation flights again according to U.S. officials. This policy change comes as the number of Cubans entering the U.S. via the Southern border reached historic highs and as the U.S. government announced that it expects to start granting regular visas to Cuban nationals at the U.S. Embassy in Havana in early 2023.

Immigrants in Massachusetts and Arizona See Big Elections Gains

Election officials are still calculating election results in many parts of the country, but immigrants in Massachusetts and Arizona have reason to celebrate.

  • Massachusetts voted against the repeal of a law that granted driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants in the state. This means undocumented immigrants will be able to continue to get licenses.
  • Arizona voters approved Proposition 308. This proposition allows undocumented high school graduates in Arizona to pay in-state tuition rates in public schools as opposed to the out-of-state rates they were previously required to pay. As part of the proposal, undocumented students will also gain access to state-funded financial aid.  

It’s notable that Massachusetts and Arizona were able to create positive change through ballot proposals that left decisions up to their state’s voters. Their passing suggests that other states can use referendums and proposals to create better conditions for undocumented immigrants who live there while advocates and immigrants wait for the federal government to act on immigration reform.

This Week in Pop Culture

  • Black Panther: Wakanda Forever had a stellar opening weekend. Its cast boasts several immigrant and first-generation immigrant members. Danai Gurira is of Zimbabwean-American descent. Lupita Nyong’o is Kenyan-Mexican and moved to the United States to attend university and pursue acting. Laetitia Wright is of Guyanese descent and grew up in the United Kingdom. 
  • Hulu renewed the Latinx comedy This Fool, a show starring Chris Estrada and Frankie Quiñones, for a second season. The show deals with the struggles of working-class Mexican and Latinx immigrants and has been celebrated for its portrayal of these communities in South Central Los Angeles. 
  • The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History held a special Veteran’s Day Naturalization ceremony along with USCIS and Veterans Affairs on November 10, 2022. 
  • Twitter employees who are in the U.S. on H-1B visas report concerns over the potential for deportation should they lose their jobs. H-1B visa holders only have 60 days to find a new job should they get fired or laid off. Laid-off Twitter H-1B holders are not the only ones at risk — the tech industry has undergone massive layoffs lately due to a lower demand for online services, fears of a recession, and rising interest rates. Amazon, Meta, Lyft, Robinhood, Coinbase, and Stripe are some of the other companies that have cut employees from their workforce.
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