The immigration movement has spent much of this month caught in a holding pattern. Build Back Better — and the potential immigration provisions within it — is still stalled in the Senate. Meanwhile, global attention has turned to the crisis in Ukraine, which could displace up to 5 million refugees, and we join the calls to grant Temporary Protected Status for Ukrainians in the United States.
Against that ominous backdrop, there were a few notable immigration announcements this month: the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case on the ability of the administration to end the ‘Remain in Mexico’ program; the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report that includes significant acknowledgement of and data on climate-driven migration; and a coalition of immigrants’ rights’ groups — led by our colleagues at the Immigration Hub — released a set of priority recommendations on administrative reforms this year. Read more about these developments in this month’s update.
SCOTUS agrees to hear a case on terminating the Remain in Mexico program
The Supreme Court agreed to hear the Biden v. Texas case, which will determine whether the Biden administration can exercise its executive authority to end the ‘Remain in Mexico’ program, a Trump-era policy that requires asylum seekers who travel to the United States through Mexico to wait in Mexico while their cases are adjudicated. The administration moved to end the policy in early 2021 but Texas and Missouri challenged that decision in federal court. A federal district court in Texas shockingly agreed with the states and ordered the program to be reinstated. The administration sought expedited review before the Supreme Court, which will consider the case, but refused to block the reinstatement order while the litigation continues.
The lower court’s ruling — and the high court’s decision to allow the ruling to remain in effect — represent a stunning disregard for the power of the executive branch to dictate diplomatic policy with obvious foreign policy sensitivities. The Remain in Mexico program requires the agreement and collaboration of the Mexican government. A federal court intervening and mandating that the executive branch implement a policy limits executive power to dictate international diplomacy; it is a breathtaking breach of the separation of powers.
Equally reckless and consequential is the Texas court’s brazen rewriting of the plain language of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The lower court ruling would effectively require all non-citizens, including those seeking asylum, to be either returned to Mexico or held in indefinite detention, likely for years.
Oral arguments are scheduled for April and a decision is expected early this summer; we shall soon see if a long-settled understanding of the balance of powers is about to change.
The IPCC report assesses climate-driven migration
On February 28, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Working Group II report on Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. That report marks the most substantial acknowledgement of climate-driven migration (as the central human adaptation to climate change) the international body has made thus far.
The climate-driven migration projections cited in the report included a World Bank report that layers econometric data and emissions projections to forecast migration patterns. A ProPublica article by Emerson New America Fellow Abrahm Lustgarten builds on that research and breaks down what those projections mean for the Americas more specifically. That article warns that “in the most extreme climate scenarios, more than 30 million migrants [from Mexico and Central America] would head toward the US border over the course of the next 30 years.”
The inclusion of this study in the IPCC report is a critical step toward bringing international attention to the growing overlap between climate and migration; this report can — and must — serve as a catalyst for meaningful action on migration management. We know that regardless of climate, a full redesign of our migration policies is long overdue. Climate change serves as an acute and urgent accelerant to that reality; it demands the sustained focus and collaboration of regional leaders. We are actively expanding our work in the field and are calling for political action.
Immigrants’ rights groups release immigration priorities for 2022
Our colleagues at the Immigration Hub released a report in conjunction with 26 immigrant rights’ organizations that details progress the administration has made so far on his immigration campaign promises and prioritizes actions the president should take this year to continue fulfilling those commitments.
The Biden administration revoked or eliminated 235 of the 1,000+ damaging immigration policies put in place by the Trump administration. That is monumental progress and reflects an administration-wide commitment to building a better system, but there is much more to be done. The report is organized around six core immigration policy areas that need administrative attention this year:
- protections to keep families together,
- dismantling anti-Blackness in the immigration system,
- supporting immigrant essential workers,
- limiting interior enforcement and improving due process in deportation proceedings,
- restoring the asylum system, and
- addressing the root causes of migration.
The administration has the power to make meaningful progress in all these arenas without relying on our hopelessly gridlocked Congress; this report offers a clear roadmap for taking advantage of those opportunities.
Before signing off, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the tragic passing of a close Emerson friend, a giant in public health, and a true American hero: Dr. Paul Farmer. We hold his legacy close in every issue area across the collective. His generosity of spirit, tenacity of conviction, and systems-level thinking in service of a world where everyone is treated with dignity and respect serves as a model for all of us.
In this chilling moment in history, I am incredibly grateful to be a member of our larger Emerson community.
Managing Director of Immigration