December 2023 Immigration Update

Want to keep up with immigration news in the U.S.? Every month, Global Cleveland publishes our immigration update so that you can stay informed about the latest immigration news.

This month’s Immigration Update at a glance:

Texas allows law enforcement to arrest those who cross the border outside of official ports of entry and begins sending asylum seekers to Chicago via airplane.

The immigration court backlog has reached three million cases, having increased by one million cases in 2023.

A pilot program to allow for H1-B visa renewals to be processed in the U.S. will begin at the end of January 2024.

Texas Border Bill Becomes Law

  • Texas’ Governor, Greg Abbott, signed a series of bills that would toughen the states laws on border enforcement
  • The first bill would make unauthorized crossings of the US-Mexico border into Texas a violation of state law, allowing for state law enforcement to arrest those who cross outside of official ports of entry.
  • Abbott said the Federal government has in his view failed to act on border security, making it necessary for the state to take action. The bills critics have called it unconstitutional, saying that immigration enforcement is a federal rather than state legal matter.
  • Abbott also signed a bill funding money for border barriers.
  • Texas has long been at the center of migration, with the city of Eagle Pass being a particularly common place for migrants from Central and South America (and beyond) to cross the border into the US

Source: Texas Tribune

Immigration Issue Could Impact Congressional Compromise

  • With Congress at a budgetary impasse, there has been discussion of a deal in which aid for Ukraine, Taiwan, and Israel will be passed in exchange for border restrictions and a curbing of the President’s parole powers.
  • A negotiating group formed in the senate, including Senators James Lankford (Republican of Oklahoma), Krysten Sinema (Democrat Caucusing Independent of Arizona), and Chris Murphy (Democrat of Connecticut).
  • Congress broke before Christmas without a deal, but Lankford said that they would work on the bill in January.

Source: AP News 

Chicago City Council Announces Measures For Migrant Busses

  • Chicago’s Board of Alderman – the equivalent of city council – passed legislation allowing local law enforcement and other authorities to impound buses that drop of migrants outside of designated zones and at improper times.
  • Officials in the Illinois city say the changes are necessary as bus operators are frequently violating city policy. “If folks are going to so flagrantly disregard the law, we are going to need this stronger enforcement,” said Alderman Daniel La Spata, who supported the legislation
  • Reports have emerged of buses instead dropping off asylum seekers in inner-ring suburbs to avoid the new measures
  • Chicago’s city law department says buses have violated rules “at least 77 times”

Source: Axios Chicago

Texas Sends Migrants to Chicago on Plane After Chicago Passes Action On Buses

  • After Chicago’s City Council passed legislation to impose penalties on bus operations who drop off asylum seekers at unapproved locations or without filling out paperwork, Texas’ state government has begun sending migrants to the city on airplanes.
  • 120 asylum seekers were transported on a plane from El Paso, Texas, to Chicago, Illinois earlier this month.
  • Both the White House and Chicago’s city government criticized the move.

Passport Processing Times Back to Pre-2020 Waiting Periods

  • Passport processing times in the US have reached pre-pandemic levels for the first time since COVID-19 pandemic began globally in March of 2020.
  • Boundless Immigration found that in December of this year, routine serbice was down to 6-8 weeks, instead of 7-10.
  • They also found that expedited service, which costs more, was now done in 2-3 weeks, rather than 3-5.
  • There was increased demand for passport applications from late 2022 until the fall of this year, possibly because of pent-up demand to travel from the COVID-19 pandemic, when international borders were largely closed to non-essential travel.

Source: Boundless

H1-B Pilot Program Scheduled to Begin in 2024

  • The US State Department will start a pilot program allowing for H1-B visas renewals to be processed in the United States.
  • An estimated 20,000 participants will be eligible for the renewal program starting January 29, 2024.
  • H1-Bs haven’t been able to be renewed in the US domestically since 2004.
  • The government hopes that the program will boos t the economy by creating a more simple and efficient process for H1-B visa holders to renew their visas.

Source: U.S. Department of State

Study Finds that Majority of Employment-Based Green Cards Went to Workers' Families

  • A study by the Cato Institute thinktank found that 55% of employment based green cards went to family members of workers.
  • 2022 was no outlier, Cato also found the numbers were similar in 2020 and in 2021
  • The EB-4 was almost exclusively family members, the other types of EB green cards were generally close to evenly split.
  • Over 80% of green cards were adjustments of status, rather than new arrivals.

Source: CATO Institute

Administration Imposes Visa Bans On Certain Israeli Settlers

  • After meeting with Israeli leaders, Secretary of State Antony Blinken informed his counterparts that the US intends to impose bans on entering the United States on Israeli settlers in the West Bank who have committed acts of violence against Palestinian civilians.
  • This follows a threat to take action, including by issuing visa bans, by President Joe Biden in an October editorial in the Washington Post.
  • Attacks against Palestinian civilians by Israeli settlers have become more common in the West Bank since the October 7th attack on Israel by Hamas.

Source: The Guardian

Remote Port of Entry Closes Due to Influx

  • The Lukeville crossing on the US Mexico border closed temporarily after a shift in immigration routes changed the situation at the crossing.
  • Lukeville is in a remote location in Pima County, Arizona, and was ill prepared for a large influx, which Customs and Border Protection reported was the fault of smugglers taking advantage of vulnerable migrants.
  • Arizona’s two Senators – Mark Kelly and Krysten Sinema, and its Governor Katie Hobbs, criticized the closure in a joint statement.
  • As of now, the border crossing has not resumed normal operations.

Source: The Guardian

Passing of Five-Year-Old in Illinois Asylum Seeker Shelter Leads to Criticism

  • A five year old boy, housed temporarily at an Illinois shelter, passed away in December following a medical emergency.
  • The boy was taken to a hospital but doctors there were unable to save his life.
  • Advocates have criticized conditions in the shelters, which “locked down to outside access.”
  • Chicago Police have opened an investigation.

Source: AP News

Settlement with Separated Families Approved by Federal Judge

  • Judge Dana M. Sabraw approved a settlement that promises that the US will not separate families of migrants for the next eight years just for crossing the border.
  • Biden administration officials have said they have no plans to resume family separations, but ex-President, and current candidate Donald Trump has promised to revive the separations if he returns to the White House.
  • Those affected by the family separation policy are able for aid, including mental health resources, work permits, humanitarian protection, and housing assistance.

Source: NPR

Immigration Court Backlog Tops 3 Million Cases

  • Syracuse University reports that there are now 3 million immigration cases pending.
  • The court system has been tested by an increase of asylum claims in the US.
  • Those with cases pending now comprise a population comparable to that of Chicago, Illinois, America’s third largest city.
  • The backlog increased by 1 million in 2023.
  • One contributing factor has been the rule changes that have come from attorney generals, as Loretta Lynch, Jeff Sessions, William Barr, and Merrick Garland – attorney generals of the US since 2016, have issued rule changes that have led to cases being reheard (this is from the Charlotte article, but it fits more in this, and both articles refer to the same study).

Source: USA Today

Increase in Immigrants Going to Court Without Lawyers: New York Report

  • Around half of people going through immigration court in New York lack at attorney, according to a Syracuse University report.
  • New York state immigration cases have increased every year since 2012.
  • The proportion of cases where the people involved had attorneys have declined since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic; before 2019 about 4/5ths of immigration cases in New York had legal representation.
  • New York has long led in providing legal representation to immigrants, but is now behind Virginia and California.

Source: Gothamist

Carolinas’ Immigration Backlog Among Nations’ Worst

  • The immigration case backlog in Charlotte is particularly severe according to a Syracuse University study.
  • Charlotte’s courts serve the entire states of North Carolina, but has only five judges to handle cases, and of these only three hold court in person.
  • North Carolina Professor Rick Su told the Charlotte Observer that either hiring more immigration judges or tightening asylum laws could help alleviate the situation.

Source: Aol