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PODCAST: Are PA Dems Facing a ‘Thunder Road’ Election Cycle?

GOP candidates look “Born to Run” as the midterm approaches, and DVJ News Editor Linda Stein talks to Christopher Borick, professor of political science and director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion (MCIPO), whether Democrats still have “Glory Days” ahead in November, or if they’re “Goin’ Down.”

(Borick also teaches a class at Muhlenberg called “Springsteen’s America,” which DVJournal thinks is a “Brilliant Disguise” for an academic who lives “On the Streets of Philadelphia.”)

They also discuss which Springsteen song is the greatest of all time which, says host Michael Graham, is obvious.

Mark Krikorian has nothing to say about Springsteen but, as the head of the Center for Immigration Studies, a great deal about the chaos at the U.S./Mexico border and how it might impact the Fetterman v Oz U.S. Senate battle.


MIXON: New Biden Policy a Step Backward for Asylum Seekers

I don’t have time to write this. Immigration lawyers like me around the country don’t have time. For those of us representing immigrant families who have arrived in the US in the last eight to 10 years seeking asylum from violence and persecution, those families still fighting their cases in immigration court. What we have is an obligation to keep families here at all costs and prevent deportation.

On April 3, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published guidance to the attorneys representing DHS. The guidance instructs DHS attorneys to use prosecutorial discretion to dismiss thousands of cases, mostly asylum cases, in immigration court, prioritizing for dismissal immigrants who crossed the border before November 1, 2020, and who are not a threat to national security or public safety.

The Biden Administration wants to decrease the “backlog” of cases to make room in the system for people who may enter in the next few months. American Immigration Lawyers Association recently estimated that there are about 700,000 low or nonpriority cases in the current immigration court “backlog.”

Sounds good on the face of it, but the devil is in the details. Here’s the problem – the Biden administration has decided that it is better to dismiss or terminate the low priority cases and leave immigrants in the US WITHOUT work permits or Social Security numbers. In other words, they will stay here but become part of the underground economy.

People who have had work permits for 6-8 years while they wait for a decision in their asylum or other immigration court case will lose work permits. When an immigrant loses their work permit, they also lose access to a driver’s license, their ability to pay taxes, register their children for college and complete the FAFSA for student loan eligibility. They will be vulnerable to unscrupulous employers, consumer fraud and criminals who see them as defenseless without “papers.”

What makes this decision to take away work permits more unconscionable is that there is a ready-made solution that worked just fine during the Obama Administration. It is called Administrative Closure.

An immigrant whose case is administratively closed continues to have their case in the immigration court, but with no future hearing date. The case is removed from the court’s active workload. The TRAC research center of Syracuse University calculated 69,355 immigration court cases closed using Administrative Closure as a form of prosecutorial discretion between 2012 and 2017. To no one’s surprise, the program ended with the Trump Administration.

In December 2021, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas stated that he did not favor Administrative Closure. He wanted cases dismissed outright so that they would be permanently off the court’s docket. Mayorkas has no authority over the immigration courts; they are part of the Department of Justice. DHS does have to maintain and store the files for Administratively Closed cases, but it is hard to imagine this creates any significant hardship.

So, when DHS’s Principal Legal Advisor (OPLA) Chief Kerry Doyle published guidance strongly favoring dismissal instead of Administrative Closure, she is following her boss’s lead. In an engagement webinar with immigration attorneys on April 5, 2022, she commented that the problem of work permits is “not in our lane.”

Apparently, the top priority for President Biden’s DHS team is to close cases at all costs. The Biden administration seems more concerned about counting beans, decreasing the official “backlog” of 700,000 cases, than the real cost in human terms.

It would have been so easy for the Biden administration to explain to press outlets and the public that administratively closed cases do not count as part of the immigration court “backlog” since they are not active cases.

It would have been so easy to avoid telling immigrants they must hide in the shadows again and can’t renew a work permit or social security number.

Now, the Biden administration wants me to be a part of their “solution.” They want me to encourage my clients not to object when the government asks to dismiss the case [DHS retains the right to dismiss cases even against the request of the immigrant and it may come to that].

Now, I must explain the pros and cons of dismissal to my clients, or at least try to explain. Dismissal will save them from the immediate threat of deportation, but it does not grant them any status. They will lose their work permits and go into the shadows with the other approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US. It will be hard for them to see this as anything other than a significant step backwards.

Welcome to America.

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SHARRY: We Know Where Republicans Stand on Immigration. What Do Democrats Stand For?

The current immigration debate is more than a short-term skirmish over the future of Title 42 and how both parties position themselves tactically ahead of the midterms. It’s a battle over what kind of nation we want to be. It’s a battle over whether Democrats will fearfully and timidly aid and abet Republican extremism. It’s a battle over the future of the Democratic coalition and whether some Democrats are going to panic and end up helping Republicans slam the door on refugees and immigrants.

We know where Republicans stand on immigrants and refugees. They are waging a relentless scorched-earth war against immigrants and refugees. They want to block legislation that would put undocumented immigrants on a path to citizenship, keep out refugees, and slash levels and categories for the admission of legal immigrants. They have lurched to the far right on immigration because most have decided that feeding base GOP voters a steady diet of fear and hatred will help them spur turnout and regain power.

They are normalizing the dehumanization of immigrants and refugees by calling an uptick of those seeking refugee protection at our southern border – including Ukrainians, Cubans, Venezuelans and Nicaraguans – an “invasion.” Some even traffic in the trope that Democrats want to “replace” white Americans with immigrants and refugees of color. This is the kind of rhetoric that led to deadly violence in El Paso, Pittsburgh, and Charlottesville. It’s part of a cramped and weak worldview encouraged by the likes of Donald Trump, Stephen Miller, and Tucker Carlson who aim to turn America into a white ethnostate where the multiracial majority is dominated by a rightwing minority.

Democrats have a choice. They can stand for an America that recognizes immigrants and refugees as foundational to the American experiment, defends a welcoming tradition that is critical to the American future, and works to build an immigration system that integrates order and justice. Or they can cede the debate to Republicans, enable a radicalizing party to build walls, slam doors and incite violence, and let the vacuum they create be filled by those intent on advancing their countermajoritarian project.

Yes, there are challenging policy and political issues before us. Managing our southern border and responding to increases in border arrivals has been a challenge for every administration since 1980 – from Ronald Reagan to George Herbert Walker Bush to Bill Clinton to George W. Bush to Barack Obama to Donald Trump to Joe Biden. But a confident, strong and capable America is competent enough to manage and mitigate upticks in forced migration from within our hemisphere. With Democrats in control of both houses of Congress and the White House, we should be competent enough to fashion an immigration and refugee system that gives Ukrainians fleeing Putin’s terror an alternative to flying to Mexico and trying their luck with U.S. border guards. And a confident, strong and capable Democratic Party should be competent enough to defend proposals to enact a workable and balanced immigration system, values that define our diverse nation, and a multiracial democracy that is both under construction and under attack.

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