Maine’s BIPOC Leaders Call to Lead to Reduce Racial Disparities of COVID-19 in Maine

Data shows that Maine has the distressing distinction of leading the nation with the worst racial disparities regarding COVID-19’s impact.   The percentage of Black, Indigenous and other People of Color (BIPOC) who have tested positive for COVID-19 is twenty times higher than for whites, and exceeds their percentage of Maine’s population by as much as 27% in cases where race is known.

On June 24, 2020, leaders from Maine’s African American, Tribal, Latinx and African immigrant communities held a video press conference calling on Governor Mills to meet with them, and presented a list of asks to help address the disparities in public health, economic impacts, and the overarching systemic racism, that COVID-19 has exposed.

MeBIC supports these communities’ asks to be included as leadership voices in the planning and service delivery for how to better ensure that racial, ethnic, and immigrant minorities don’t contract COVID-19; that they get better contact tracing attention and healthcare than at present, and that funding is added to help tackle these challenges and to hire people from the affected groups to work with their communities.   MeBIC also supports their ask that  racism be declared a public health emergency.   Finally, MeBIC believes it’s critical that their request that a task force be established to bring representatives of communities most affected by systemic racism to Augusta to lead the planning and efforts to dismantle the long established systems that have perpetuated inequities in every facet of society, culminating in the jobs, pre-existing health conditions, living conditions, and economic disadvantages that have contributed to COVID-19’s disparate impact on BIPOC communities.



Comments Needed to Oppose Rule Eviscerating Asylum in the U.S.

Comments are needed by midnight on July 15, 2020 to oppose proposed regulations that would all but gut long-standing U.S. asylum law.

Maine has more than 6000 asylum seekers who are our neighbors, friends, college students, coworkers, caregivers, essential workers, and who pay taxes and contribute to keeping our population, our communities, and our workforce vibrant.   Virtually all of these individuals would likely lose their cases and have to leave the U.S., even if the facts of their cases merit asylum under current law, if these proposed rule changes were to take effect.

In the Refugee Act of 1980, Congress enshrined the right of those fleeing past or feared future persecution to apply for protection in the U.S. regardless of how they enter the country.  This legislation also brought U.S. law in line with the nation’s obligations under international law.

The administration has made no secret of its disdain for the country’s asylum laws, eroding their protections through various measures taken on the southern border to dissuade people fleeing persecution from seeking safety in the U.S., and to lead to more asylum denials for those who persist in exercising their legal right to apply.  These measures include, among others, increased use of detention, separating asylum seeking parents from their children, forcing asylum seekers to wait for their hearings in dangerous conditions in Mexico, and since March 2020, using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to do away with any semblance of due process and simply forcing asylum seekers back into Mexico with no possibility of claiming asylum at all.

Now, the administration proposes to rewrite the asylum regulations comprehensively to essentially eradicate asylum in the U.S.   The proposed regulation, discussed in more detail here, would cause virtually all asylum seekers, both the hundreds of thousands already here whose cases have been pending for years, and those applying in the future, to be denied asylum.  The administration’s attempt to overhaul the asylum laws by regulation is a bald end-run around Congress, which, under the Constitution, is the only body authorized to rewrite U.S. asylum law.

These regulations should be vigorously opposed. Public comments are being accepted through July 15, 2020.    You can submit your comment opposing the rule and asking that it be withdrawn in its entirety through this comment portal.

Here are some talking points you could add to your comment:

    • The proposed rule unfairly moves the goalposts for gaining asylum for those who already are in the middle of the process.  The rule states that currently there are over 866,000 pending asylum claims.   The proposed changes, if finalized, would apply to them and would turn what might have been winnable claims into cases that will be denied.
    • The proposed rule makes whole categories of people ineligible for asylum, violating U.S. and international law that their individual facts be fairly considered.   The rule would make those who feared forced recruitment by, or retaliation for failure to aid gangs, guerillas or terrorist groups categorically ineligible for asylum.  Likewise, a person whose claim is based on gender, such as a woman whose government turns a blind eye to domestic violence, or those fearing harm due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, would be categorically ineligible.   Asylum seekers must have the right to have their individual cases fully and fairly considered.  Creating whole categories of asylum seekers whose cases should not be granted deprives individual asylum seekers of a meaningful chance to have their cases heard fairly, and may result in them being returned to harm and even death in violation of U.S. asylum statutes and international law.
    • The proposed rule creates unprecedented barriers to gaining asylum, even for those who credibly make the case that they have been persecuted in the past or have a well-founded fear of future persecution.  The proposed rule says that except in the most exceptional of circumstances, immigration asylum officers and immigration judges should deny asylum to anyone who transited through more than one country on the way to the U.S. (even if only to change planes), or who spent more than two weeks in a third country, among other new categorical reasons to deny asylum.  The proposed rule also says that having entered or tried to enter the U.S. without a visa – such as the vast majority of asylum seekers coming to the U.S. via the southern border, or having used a fraudulent document to escape one’s country and enter the U.S., unless arriving in the U.S. on a direct flight, should lead to a discretionary denial of asylum, even if the asylum seeker’s claim is believed and considered by the adjudicator to be a strong one.   These provisions contradict U.S. and international law allowing people to seek protection from persecution regardless of how they enter the country.   The proposed rule also turns the term “discretion” on its head, by directing adjudicators’ decisions, rather than allowing them to weigh all the facts on a case-by-case basis.
    • The proposed rule allows immigration judges to deny asylum seekers’ cases without a hearing .   Immigration court data shows that nearly  65% of individuals do not have a lawyer when they initially file their cases in the court.  Asylum is an extremely complicated area of the law, and a person without a lawyer is unlikely to know all the information that should be included in her/his application without a lawyer’s help.   Data shows individuals with lawyers in fact are far more likely to win their cases than people without a lawyer.    Giving judges the ability to deny an asylum application without providing an unrepresented asylum seeker a chance to more fully explain in a hearing what may not have been adequately described in the application deprives the asylum seeker  of due process, and may result in sending the asylum seeker back to harm or even death.
    • The proposed rule makes  numerous changes that are inconsistent with the U.S. asylum statutes and international law, and with due process and fairness.    Among others, the rule would raise the burden of proof on asylum seekers in “expedited removal” proceedings who are typically unrepresented by lawyers, putting them at risk of being returned to harm or death without a fair chance to request protection.  It would change the definitions of  what is persecution and torture.  It would deny asylum seekers who apply after being in the U.S. for more than one year, despite Congress allowing such applications in some cases.  It would put many asylum seekers in “asylum only” proceedings, denying them the possibility of applying for other forms of immigration relief for which they are or may with time become eligible.   And it would increase the chances of having an asylum application filed by an unrepresented asylum seeker deemed “frivolous,” with the consequence of  being unable to ever get approved for legal status under any other part of the U.S. immigration laws, simply because the person doesn’t fully know the legal standards for asylum.

The proposed rule should be withdrawn in its entirety.

The comment portal to submit a comment opposing this proposed rule before midnight on July 15th is here.    Please contact MeBIC if you’d like assistance to submit your comment. 

NOTE:    The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 25, 2020 that arriving immigrants who seek asylum in “expedited removal” proceedings – including virtually all asylum seekers arriving without visas via the southern border  – cannot get judicial review of a negative “credible fear” decision preventing them from applying for asylum.    The proposed rule discussed above would make it much harder than under present law to pass a “credible fear” review, and this Supreme Court ruling denying judicial review makes it even more critical to oppose the proposed rule’s reductions in due process.

New Rules Will Delay and Prohibit Asylum Seekers from Joining the Workforce

The administration has finalized two new regulations to dramatically diminish asylum seekers’ ability to work during the years it takes for their cases to run through a backlogged immigration system.

On June 26, 2020, the administration released  a final rule requiring asylum seekers to wait a full year, rather than the current 150 days, after filing their asylum applications before they can apply for a work permit.   In addition, asylum seekers who cross or try to cross the border without authorization after the new rule’s effective date of August 25, 2020, will be completely ineligible to ever get a work permit  (with extremely limited exceptions), despite the fact that receiving a decision from the immigration courts can routinely take years.  (Cases in the Immigration Court of Boston, which processes Maine’s asylum applicants’ claims, currently average more than three years (1118 days) to be decided.)

And on June 22, 2020, the administration released a final rule dissolving a regulation in place since 1995 that requires  U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to process asylum seekers’ first work permit applications within 30 days of receipt.   This rule change means that those asylum seekers who, come August, must wait a full year after filing for asylum before they can request their initial work permits, will then have to wait months more to actually receive them.  This change will will apply to applications for work authorization filed on or after August 21, 2020.

Asylum seekers are not eligible for any basic federal safety net benefits such as food assistance (SNAP).  These changes appear aimed at effectively eliminating the legal right to seek asylum in the U.S., by forcing asylum seekers to abandon their claims for asylum simply because it will be too hard for them to survive without the ability to work legally to support themselves.

That motive is consistent with the recent proposed rule that would make virtually all asylum seekers categorically ineligible for asylum in the U.S., despite the persecution they fear or have experienced prior to arriving here, and with the administration’s actions at the southern border raising legal and physical barriers to those arriving to seek safety in the U.S.

The administration acknowledges that the rule change will  cost asylum seekers billions of dollars annually in lost earnings, as well as costing the federal government hundreds of millions in lost payroll tax revenues, and causing incalculable costs in lost productivity and profits to the businesses unable to employ them because they can’t join the legal labor pool due to these changes.

MeBIC submitted one of several thousand comments filed to oppose these rule changes when they were proposed.   However, coming on the heels of the recent Presidential Proclamations suspending entry of new immigrants and temporary foreign workers to the U.S. on the rational of reducing competition with U.S. citizens for jobs, it is unsurprising that the administration chose to proceed with these rule changes,  despite the harm it will cause not only to individual asylum seekers and to our standing in the world as a beacon of human rights, but also to the U.S. economy.

The administration continues its end run around Congress, through rule-making, executive orders, and presidential proclamations, to reshape the U.S. immigration system to conform to its vision of halting virtually all immigration to the U.S., except by the most elite of immigrants, .



Criticism Mounts over Administration’s Curbs on Legal Immigration

The most recent Presidential Proclamation  effective June 24th through December 31st, 2020 prohibiting entry of foreign workers coming to the U.S. to work for specific employers who have petitioned for them (and who, in the case of H-2B seasonal non-agricultural workers, had to prove that there were no U.S. workers available and willing to fill the jobs) is facing strong backlash from business and G.O.P. leaders.

Here’s a sampling of reactions and analyses issued both before and after the suspension of entry of H-1B professional, specialized knowedge workers, L-1 multinational managers and transferees, H-2B seasonal workers, and J-1 exchange visitors was officially announced on June 22, 2020.

Over 300 business leaders from a variety of sectors:  “Constraints on our human capital are likely to result in unintended consequences and may cause substantial economic uncertainty if we have to recalibrate our personnel based on country of birth.”

Barrons:  Eric Schmidt:  “Shutting the door to global talent in every industry will also impede job creation by making it harder for U.S. companies of all sizes to flourish—and start-ups will be the hardest-hit.”

Bloomberg:   “(T)he U.S. president’s decision this week to freeze access to certain employment visas gives Canada an opportunity to win back some of the workers it loses to America.”

Brookings:   “(T)he restrictions targeting high-skilled immigration hurt the U.S. economy, and the crucial role immigrants play as engines of economic growth and job creation.”

Business Insider:  “According to Harvard Business Review, immigrants in the US tend to contribute about twice as much to entrepreneurship as native-born citizens do and also tend to create more successful businesses. A study from Harvard Business School found that immigrant-founded businesses performed better in terms of employment growth over three and six years than businesses founded by native citizens.”

Cato Institute:  “A sharp recovery requires that employers be able to follow through on their hires and get back to normal as soon as possible. By targeting their foreign employees, Trump is undermining, not aiding, the recovery. ”

Forbes“It seems dubious to observers for the administration to cite the overall national unemployment rate to justify blocking the entry of an executive of a multinational corporation or another employee who already works for the company on an L visa, or to prevent the entry of individuals on H-1B visas in occupations with low unemployment rates. Jon Baselice of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said preventing businesses from transferring executives and workers into the country will discourage them from investing in the United States, which will harm job creation. ”

Foreign Policy:   Edward Alden:  Trump’s Anti-Immigration Crusade Is About to Strike at the Heart of the U.S. Economy.  Foreign talent has been the secret sauce of America’s innovation economy. The door is about to shut.

Senator Lindsey Graham:   “(T)hose who believe legal immigration, particularly work visas, are harmful to the American worker do not understand the American economy.”

U.S. Chamber of Commerce:  “Today’s proclamation is a severe and sweeping attempt to restrict legal immigration. Putting up a ‘not welcome’ sign for engineers, executives, IT experts, doctors, nurses and other workers won’t help our country, it will hold us back. Restrictive changes to our nation’s immigration system will push investment and economic activity abroad, slow growth, and reduce job creation.”

Wall Street Journal “Trump’s Immigration Gift to China” (paywall)

Yahoo Finance:    Business leaders from tech companies including Apple, Google, Microsoft, Tesla, Twitter and more speak out against the Presidential Proclamation.  “All industries benefit from a visa system that allows U.S. companies to attract the best and brightest no matter where they’re from.”




USCIS Wants a $1.2 Billion Bailout

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is threatening to furlough  over 13,000 employees – 75% of its workforce – in August 2020, if it doesn’t receive an infusion of $1.2 billion from Congress to make up for a budget shortfall. Unlike most federal agencies funded by Congressional appropriations, USCIS is funded primarily by ever increasing filing fees paid by those seeking residency, citizenship, work permits, nonimmigrant visas and many other applications.

USCIS blames the budget shortfall on a decline in applications filed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  But the shortfall was first identified in 2019, months before the coronavirus was known to be in the U.S.

And since 2017, changes in administration policies have led both to fewer applications being filed, and to more time being spent, often unnecessarily, on each application.   For example, in 2017 USCIS  did an about-face and reversed a decades old policy that waived in-person residency interviews in straightforward employment-based residency applications.   USCIS also began requesting extensive evidence that they already had on file when employers applied to extend their professional level employees’ visas, even when the extension was for the exact same worker filling the exact same position that had been approved without issue previously.   And the administration terminated Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for about 300,000 individuals who normally file (and pay for) applications to renew their status and work permits every 18 months, but now have their status automatically extended under federal court orders while litigation challenging the TPS terminations is ongoing.

The Migration Policy Institute has taken a closer look in this analysis of how USCIS is functioning, and at the causes of the funding shortfall.  This Washington Post op-ed takes a critical look at some of the agency’s actions that have led it to this point.

Congress should demand answers regarding USCIS’s increasing inefficiencies and growing backlogs  before it writes the agency a check for $1.2 billion.


New Presidential Proclamation Continues Assault on Legal Immigration

On June 22, 2020, President Trump issued a Presidential Proclamation extending his previous suspension on entry of immigrants announced in April, and expanding the entry ban to include hundreds of thousands of temporary foreign workers to the U.S.  The expanded entry ban takes effect at 12:01 a.m. on June 24, 2020, and will last through December 31, 2020.

This ban will affect businesses in Maine that employ foreign seasonal and professional level workers who haven’t yet received their visas to enter the U.S.

The expanded proclamation applies to a broad range of worker categories,  from seasonal nonagricultural H-2B visas (whose employers already had to prove there were no U.S. workers available and willing for the jobs), to H-1B specialized knowledge professional employees who work overwhelmingly in STEM occupations, L-1 multinational company employees, and J-1 exchange visitors who often work in seasonal positions such as camp counselors and in the hospitality sector.   The entry ban also includes the spouses and children of these workers.

In Maine, this means that forestry, landscaping and construction H-2B workers, among others, who were unable to get their visas because of COVID-19 government restrictions, will not get to Maine this year. 

The nonimmigrant ban applies to those arriving from outside the U.S. who haven’t yet been issued their visas by June 23rd, such as those whose jobs won’t start until after the the new fiscal  year begins on October 1, 2020.    It would appear to also apply to those who changed from one visa to another in the U.S. but who leave the U.S. temporarily after June 23rd and would need to apply for a visa to be able to return, such as a foreign student who changed to H-1B status in the U.S. who would need to get an H-1B visa to return.  A person in this situation shouldn’t leave the U.S. while the entry ban is in effect.

The ban exempts those coming to work in the U.S. in jobs:

    •  essential to the food supply chain;
    •  involved with the provision of medical care to individuals who have contracted COVID-19 and are currently hospitalized;
    • involved with the provision of medical research at United States facilities to help the United States combat COVID-19;
    • necessary to facilitate the immediate and continued economic recovery of the United States;
    • critical to the defense, law enforcement, diplomacy, or national security of the U.S.

The administration estimates that  525,000 nonimmigrant workers will be kept out of the U.S. during the remainder of 2020 as a result of the entry ban.  It has been opposed by a wide range of businesses, as well as by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce  which stated that

Restrictive changes to our nation’s immigration system will push investment and economic activity abroad, slow growth, and reduce job creation.

The proclamation also extends through December 31, 2020 the prior April 22nd proclamation suspending entry of most immigrants to the U.S, but adds an additional exemption to that ban, to protect immigrant children who would “age-out” of their ability to immigrate if they were not allowed to enter before their 21st birthdays.

In addition, the new proclamation sends worrisome signals that the administration is considering putting restrictions on H-1B nonimmigrant visa professionals who are already in the U.S., and attacking the status of immigrants who have gotten permanent residency through their professional employment, as well as investigating employers who have petitioned for H-1B workers.

Overall, the proclamation makes clear that the administration is seizing the  economic damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic to enact sweeping immigration restrictions it has long wanted that members of Congress believe would harm the U.S. economy and have refused to advance.

This end-run around Congress harms both the affected individuals and their families, as well as their employers and the U.S. economy as a whole.   Despite the pandemic, the U.S.  and Maine still need immigrants.   The administration’s anti-immigrant animus is bad for the country.

Supreme Court Strikes Down DACA Rescission; Now Congress Must Act


In a June 19, 2020  U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) statement in response to the Supreme Court’s DACA decision described below, USCIS astoundingly said that the  Court’s “opinion has no basis in law.”  It’s unsurprising that the agency disagrees with the decision, but for an executive branch agency to say that a Supreme Court ruling has no basis in law shows a worrisome disregard for a co-equal branch of government, and also for the Supreme Court’s clear role as the supreme interpreter of what is law in this nation.

In a further response, on June 21, 2020, acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf indicated that the administration intends to rescind DACA again.

On June 18, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the administration’s rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.  The court found that the rescission violated the Administrative Procedures Act and was “arbitrary and capricious.”

The decision provides a temporary reprieve to about 700,000 individuals who currently have DACA status, all of whom arrived in the U.S. when they were children, and who, by now, have lived in the U.S. for at least 13 years, with many having lived here for more than three decades.  About 200 DACA holders live and work here in Maine.

The sobering reality is that this decision does not take away all the uncertainty that DACA holders have about their futures in the U.S.    The Court’s decision leaves the administration free to try to rescind DACA again.

But polling shows a bipartisan majority of the U.S. public (85% in this CBS News poll, and 74% in this  Pew Research poll, both from June 2020)  believe that immigrants who arrived here as children, including DACA holders, should be able to stay permanently in the U.S.

However, only Congress can get this done.   The House of Representatives passed H.R. 6, The Dream and Promise Act in 2019, to create a path to residency for DACA holders and for those who have had Temporary Protected Status for years, even decades.   The Senate has yet to act.

Approximately 29,000 DACA holders work in the healthcare sector and are on the frontlines of caring for those hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Others work in other essential sectors such as the food supply chain  and education.    They are young and still in the early years of their working trajectories, as our nation continues to age and retire, and birthrates fallOur communities, and our economy, need them.

Congress must act, and can do so by inserting the Dream and Promise Act right into the next COVID-19 relief bill that the nation desperately needs.

Senators Collins and King took the lead to find a solution for DACA holders after the administration announced the program’s rescission in 2017.  We look to them to do so again, so that Maine and the U.S. do not lose these immigrants who are woven into the very fabric of our communities and our economy.   It’s time to finally end these young adults’ fear that they could be forced to leave the only country that has been their true home.




ICYMI- Video Highlights H-2A Workers Keeping the U.S. Fed, Even in a Pandemic

As we’ve noted previously, our nation’s food supply chain depends on immigrant workers.

Temporary agricultural workers on H-2A visas are a critical part of the equation.  In Maine, some large farms, such as broccoli producers in Aroostook County, rely on as many as 250 H-2A workers to grow and harvest their products each year.

This video report in the Washington Post provides a window into the H-2A program, including its connection to all the food that eventually lands on our tables, its importance to  the workers themselves,  and the flaws in the program that can lead to workers being victimized.

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019, which the House of Representatives passed in December 2019 , would strengthen protections for H-2A workers and offer a path to eventual permanent residency for those who have worked in U.S. agriculture year after year.  It is time for the Senate to take up this bill and pass it, even as part of a COVID-19 relief bill, in recognition of the importance of these essential workers to the nation, as the current pandemic has made clear.

Proposed Regulation Aims to Gut Asylum Protections in U.S.

6/25/2020 UPDATE:    The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that arriving immigrants who seek asylum in “expedited removal” proceedings – including virtually all asylum seekers arriving without visas via the southern border  – cannot get judicial review of a negative “credible fear” decision preventing them from applying for asylum.    The proposed rule discussed below would make it much harder than under present law to pass a “credible fear” review, and this Supreme Court ruling denying judicial review makes it even more critical to oppose the proposed rule’s reductions in due process.

The administration is proposing a dramatic rewrite of the nation’s asylum rules.  The proposed regulations were published on June 15, 2020, with the deadline for public comment on July 15, 2020.

The proposed rule not only codifies many of the actions already taken at the southern border through executive action, but also makes additional changes that drastically constrict both eligibility for asylum and the application process.

Taken together, these changes all but  obliterate the U.S. commitment, since acceding to the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees in 1970, and the enactment of the Refugee Act of 1980, allowing those fleeing past or feared future persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group to have a meaningful opportunity, regardless of how they arrive in the U.S., to seek protection.

Most parts of the proposed rule would apply to asylum cases already pending before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or in the immigration court system.  This means that the new rule would apply to the more than 6000 asylum seekers in Maine with pending applications who are full members of our communities and workforce.

The proposed rule speaks often about “efficiency,” with rarely a nod to fairness or due process.  In the interest of “efficiency,” among other changes, it proposes to make anyone who entered the U.S. without permission (such as most who entered via the southern border) ineligible for asylum.  Also ineligible would be those who failed to apply for asylum in any country they transited through (even changing flights) on their way to the U.S.

Just those two changes alone would result in denials of the asylum applications of virtually all of Maine’s asylum seekers with pending cases, unless they can meet a high burden to show that they should be treated as an exception.

Many of Maine’s asylum seekers have had asylum applications pending in backlogs for five, six, seven years and even longer.  During that time they have put down roots, had U.S. citizen children, and have become our neighbors, friends, volunteers, employees, coworkers, and in some cases, our employers.

The proposed rule would stack the deck and make it virtually impossible for those who indeed fled their countries and sought asylum to protect their lives to win their cases and remain in the U.S.   Losing over 6000 people from Maine’s communities and workforce would have a devastating impact not only on their safety, but on Maine. 

This piece in The Hill  explains more about the proposed asylum regulation and how it is just a further step in the administration’s many assaults on U.S. asylum laws.   This regulation must be vigorously opposed, and surely will be challenged in court should it be finalized.

MeBIC will submit a public comment opposing the regulation.  If your business would like help to submit a comment in opposition, please contact us, or find talking points that you can use in your comment here.




Report Predicts Steep Birthrate Decline Due to Economic Downturn

A June 15, 2020 report from the Brookings Institute predicts 300,000 to 500,000 fewer births in the U.S. over the next year due to the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report’s predictions are based on an analysis of past trends in prior economic downturns, and the role that “economic conditions  play in fertility decisions.”

An analysis of the Great Recession leads us to predict that women will have many fewer babies in the short term, and for some of them, a lower total number of children over their lifetimes.

The report finds that states that were the hardest hit by that recession reflected the steepest declines in birthrates, and for every one percent increase in unemployment, there was a corresponding 1.4% drop in birth rates.

If history indeed turns out to accurately predict a decline in birthrates as a result of the current pandemic, a nation that has seen a sharp increase in unemployment will still need continued immigration to have access to the workforce it will need for a strong economic recovery.

The administration’s efforts to put the brakes on immigration to prevent competition will harm, rather than help the economy and should be reversed.

You can find the Brookings report here.


ICYMI: The Racial Roots of the U.S.’s Current Immigration Framework

In 1965, Lyndon Johnson signed into law a new immigration framework that eliminated prior racist “national origin” quotas that had been in place since 1924.   The new law emphasized immigration by immediate family members of U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

This New York Times article highlights how the 1965 law, while dismantling a racist system, only achieved passage with the support of immigrant restrictionists who wanted to keep the U.S. white. They believed that the focus on family would increase immigration from western Europe and boost the nation’s racial (white) homogeneity, even as the racist national origin quotas in the immigration laws were dismantled in the civil rights era.

The information in this article is not new, but for those who haven’t done a deep dive into the history of U.S. immigration laws and their effects, it is a succinct introduction to a law that in fact led to a more diverse United States.

The current administration is now making every effort to dismantle the 1965  immigration framework unilaterally without Congressional action.   For examples, read about the recent Presidential Proclamation banning immigrants that disproportionately impacts immediate family and diversity lottery immigrants, or the recent public charge rule’s impact on immediate family immigration, or the steep reduction in refugee admissions, or about proposed regulations that would virtually eliminate the U.S. asylum system.  Immigrants from Latin America, Africa,  and Asia dominate these four immigration avenues, according to government data, and the racial impact of the administration’s moves is clear.

Stronger Protections for Immigrants in U.S. Benefit U.S. Natives

An article in a recent edition of the UCLA Journal of International Law and Foreign Affairs finds that providing more rights to immigrants, including increased access to permanent legal status for immigrants who are undocumented or who have temporary working status, whether at the highly skilled  or the manual labor ends of the workforce, benefits native born U.S. workers.

You can find the article here.

DV-2021 Visa Lottery Entrants Can Verify Whether Selected as of June 6, 2020

UPDATE:  Under the Presidential Proclamation issued originally on April 22, 2020 and extended on June 24, 2020, entry to the U.S. of anyone selected in the DV-2021 lottery likely won’t be possible before January 1, 2021.  Nonetheless, in the event that the entry ban is rescinded or isn’t extended beyond December 31, 2021, DV-2021 lottery winners  abroad should proceed as normal with the paperwork process to get a consular interview regardless of the entry ban.

DV-2021 visa lottery entrants can check the State Department’s website to see if they were selected in the lottery beginning on June 6, 2020.  The link to do so is here.

If selected, the individual (and her/his spouse and unmarried children under age 21) would be able as of October 1, 2020 to file the forms necessary to apply for an immigrant visa abroad, or if in the U.S. already and eligible to do so, to apply to adjust status to permanent residency without leaving the U.S.  The DV visa must be issued, or the adjustment to permanent resident application must be approved, by September 30, 2021, or the ability to immigrate evaporates.

Many of Maine’s immigrants, including those seeking asylum or holding other temporary statuses, register for the annual lottery in hopes of gaining permanent residency.  Even if selected in the lottery and already in the U.S., they may be ineligible to apply to adjust their status in the U.S., and would instead have to request an immigrant visa at a U.S. consulate abroad.    This can be extremely complicated, and in many cases, will make it impossible to gain residency through the lottery despite being selected.

Should the April 22, 2020 Presidential Proclamation suspending visa issuance and entry of immigrants to the U.S. be extended into FY 2021, DV lottery winners who must apply for their immigrant visas at U.S. consulates abroad will face additional complications.

Anyone in the U.S. who is selected in the DV-2021 visa lottery should get legal advice from an experienced immigration lawyer as soon as possible, well in advance of the start of FY 2021 on October 1, 2020, to determine whether s/he will actually be able to gain residency through the lottery, and which process to follow if so.


Refugee Admissions at Historic Low

At the outset of the current fiscal year, the administration announced that it would cut refugee admissions to no more than 18,000, the lowest cap since passage of the Refugee Act of 1980.

However, it’s likely that far fewer than that number of refugees will have been resettled in the U.S.  when the fiscal year ends on September 30, 2020.

From October 1, 2019 through May 30, 2020, only 7,544 refugees had been resettled in the U.S. – with only four months remaining in the fiscal year.  In contrast, the U.S. resettled nearly 85,000 refugees in FY 2016.

In Maine, only 26 refugees have arrived for resettlement so far in FY 2020, and with COVID-19 restrictions, that number is unlikely to go up significantly by the fiscal year’s end.   In FY 2016, over 600 refugees were resettled in Maine.

UNHCR reports that 134 countries that host refugees waiting for resettlement have been hit by the pandemic, and refugees are at high risk due to their limited access to health care, clean water, and sanitation systems.    Unfortunately, refugees will not be able to count on the U.S. for safe haven.


MeBIC Statement against Racism and Injustice

MeBIC stands with those expressing their anger and pain at the inequities built into our society through institutionalized and systemic racism and discrimination.  Racial justice and immigrant justice in the U.S. are inextricably intertwined.  MeBIC strives for fair and just laws and policies affecting the immigrants who are integral members of Maine’s communities and economy.  That work includes, and must include, striving for fairness and justice for all.

There can be no turning away from the disparate economic and health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on people of color and immigrants, including in Maine, nor from the recent videos calling upon all of us to witness only a few in the long line of aggressions and brazen murders of African Americans.  These facts have laid unmistakably bare what people of color in the U.S., including immigrants, have long experienced – that power, due process, economic justice, health, and regard for life itself are not shared equitably in this nation, and have never been.

The future health of our democracy and of our national moral and economic core demands that those in or with power, whether due to their white race or their socio-economic clout, actively work to see the inequities and eliminate them.

Maine’s business community and economic leaders have power.  MeBIC welcomes the opportunity to work with its business and economic partners to deploy that power to take on the somber and urgent challenge to speak out and act to dismantle racism, xenophobia, and bigotry, to build a society which values and benefits all.