A big week of US immigration news impacts Salvadorans

The past week was filled with a ton of news related to US immigration policy, potentially affecting tens of thousands of Salvadorans and their families.

The week began with a decision of the US Supreme Court concerning injunctions which had blocked implementation of president Trump's Executive Order imposing the so-called "Muslim Ban 2.0."   The Court allowed injunctions to stay in place barring enforcement of the order for persons entering the  US who had a "bona fide family relationship" to someone legally in the US, but the executive order now goes into effect for other persons.   For persons in Central America, the primary impact will be the continuation of the Central American Minors Program for the moment, because this program only benefits children who had parents already living in the US, and thus meet the bona fide relationship test.   The Supreme Court will review the executive order on the merits in the fall.

There was other news of a new ICE immigration enforcement strategy  targeting the undocumented sponsors of unaccompanied minors in immigration proceedings in the US.     Unaccompanied minor children are not allowed to be detained under US law and are normally placed with a parent or relative in the US, including parents or relatives who may be undocumented so long as the sponsoring relative can pass a background check with the Office of Refugee Resettlement.   ICE is now reportedly targeting undocumented sponsors for deportation.   ICE claims they are after persons who pay human traffickers to smuggle children, but, in fact, what they are doing is breaking up families who have already suffered significant trauma.  Some described this as using immigrant children as "bait" to deport their parents. There are approximately 29,000 juveniles from El Salvador who have pending deportation cases in immigration court according to the TRAC database.

Elsewhere, a federal judge issued a lengthy decision finding the federal government in breach of an earlier settlement agreement concerning the conditions under which the government would detain children accompanied by a mother or other parent.   The court found there was evidence of numerous instances of failure to provide appropriate food, water and other safe and sanitary conditions in border patrol holding facilities and found the government was not working hard enough to get children out of the three family detention centers it operates in Texas and Pennsylvania.    The court wants a monitor appointed to oversee compliance.    According to US Border Patrol stats, from October 1, 2016 to the present there have been more than 21,000 Salvadoran family members (an adult travelling with children) detained at the US Southwest border and 8000 unaccompanied children.      

Attorney generals in multiple Republican states announced that they plan to sue if the Trump administration does not rescind the DACA program.  In addition, the US Supreme Court asked the federal government to express its opinion on the constitutionality of DACA in a case arising in Arizona.   DACA is the program which provides work permits and protection from deportation for young people (the "Dreamers") who arrived as young children and pursued their education for years without running afoul of the law.    DACA currently prevents the deportation of approximately 47,000 young Salvadorans.

The US House of Representatives passed "Kate's Law" -- a bill which would increase the penalties for immigrants who have been deported once and then are apprehended a subsequent time in the US.   In addition, the House passed the "No Sanctuary for Criminals Act"  which seeks to have state and local governments assist federal immigration authorities and to remove federal funding from those who don't.    Some 263,000 Salvadorans live in Los Angeles, just one of many so-called sanctuary jurisdictions in the US.

Meanwhile there was a report this week that a Salvadoran immigrant had received a $190,000 settlement with the City of San Francisco after he was turned into federal immigration authorities by San Francisco police in violation of the City's sanctuary ordinance.