New Policy Changes Add Misery to the Plight of Immigrants

Victoria Hernández, community coordinator with SEPA Mujer on Long Island, urges political pressure on Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. (Photo via Noticia Long Island)

Noticia Long Island has two different stories on the effects of recent immigration policy changes in Washington that are sending shockwaves among local immigrant communities. The first one is about a new USCIS policy of issuing a Notice to Appear (NTA) starting deportation proceedings immediately after an individual is denied an immigration benefit. The new guidance bypasses the previous policy of first consulting ICE before issuing a NTA, and is already discouraging immigrants from applying for any benefit. Below are some excerpts:

The news came as a complete shock to Salvadoran immigrant Luis R., who chose to withhold his last name to protect his case. The undocumented immigrant arrived in the U.S. more than a decade ago and is married to a U.S. citizen who wants to petition for his permanent residency.

“We have been a couple for a long time but only got married a year ago, in case anything happened. We don’t have children and she is older than me, and the immigration officer may not like that,” explained Luis.

His fear is not unfounded. If the USCIS official deems the couple’s proofs of marriage insufficient, their petition may be denied and Luis R. may be deported.

“I am thinking twice about it. I may decide not to risk it and pass on filing the application,” he said.

(…)

Undocumented people are not the only ones in the crosshairs of the USCIS authorities, as permanent residents whose petitions for U.S. citizenship are denied due to reasons of “moral character” or for having committed a crime would also be exposed to the deportation process.

Immigrants who lose their temporary protected status (TPS) or their Deferred Action (DACA) status will also be vulnerable to receiving a deportation order.

In another story, by Sandra Torres, a Long Island pro-immigrant organization worries about the dire consequences for the community if Congress doesn’t reauthorize in October the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA), which permits victims of domestic violence to petition for green cards. Below are some excerpts:

Rosa Salgado is a Guatemalan immigrant who lives on Long Island. Two years ago, she received permanent resident status thanks to the Violence Against Women Act after enduring mistreatment by her partner for 10 years. In her view, it is crucial for VAWA to continue to exist.

“In my case, it has helped a lot. Not only was I able to become a resident but it also provided me with psychological assistance and therapy. Now, I am a mother of two who is able to work without any problems, an opportunity other abused immigrant women deserve as well,” she said.

(…)

“Attorney General Jeff Sessions has signaled that he wants to eliminate this law protecting immigrants from violence, and what we want people to do is pressure their political leaders to prevent that [from happening],” said Victoria Hernández, community coordinator with SEPA Mujer on Long Island.

VAWA began to be modified on June 11, when U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that victims of domestic or gang violence would no longer be granted political asylum under the Trump administration.

“There are women who come to this country fleeing domestic violence, and youths and children who are also escaping gang violence, and that is why we are focusing on asking folks to sign the VAWA petition so these people can continue to be considered for asylum,” said Hernández.

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