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New Limits for Immigration Judges to Dismiss Cases

Attorney General (AG) Jeff Sessions has used his power as head of the Department of Justice (DOJ) in unprecedented ways this year. In a departure from the traditional laissez faire, small central government tenets of his Republican party, Sessions has been incredibly hands-on in his role as overseer of one of the DOJ's groups, the immigration courts. Specifically, Sessions has taken under review numerous cases from the Board of Immigration Appeals.

It remains to be seen what precedent Sessions plans to make with these cases. But one thing became clear this week: immigration judges will now be much more restricted in their ability to dismiss deportation cases.

Toddlers and Young Immigrant Children Still Alienated From Their "Ineligible" Parents

In the all-too-familiar saga of immigrant children separated from their parents, a few toddlers are still getting left behind. Though President Trump did sign a bill authorizing the reunification of "tender age" children with their families months ago, there are a few that continue to be separated from their parents, over six months and counting. These parents have been deemed "ineligible" for reunification, based on past crimes. Though this makes sense for some crimes, such as child or sexual abuse, one three-year-old girl in particular is being separated from her father for misdemeanor crimes he committed over twelve years ago.

A recent Pro Publica report on immigrant children separated from their parents and detained in shelters details the suicidal thoughts of a 16-year-old, a 17-year-old on a hunger strike, and a 10-month-old boy who needed to be hospitalized after suffering injuries during his 5-month detention.

And those were just in shelters in the Chicago, Illinois area.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order in June to keep families together during immigration detention and reunite separated families. So where do those efforts stand three months later?

Generally, applying for an American passport is pretty straightforward. You just need proof of U.S. citizenship, which, if you were born in the country, could be demonstrated with a valid birth certificate. But the State Department this week acknowledged it was denying passports to hundreds and possibly thousands of Hispanics with U.S. birth certificates, and demanding additional documentation to prove they were actually born in the country.


Do You Get Citizenship If You Join the Army?

The quick answer is you can, but it's now quicker to use the standard naturalization route.

After September 11, 2001, President Bush signed the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program into order. This is a program that helps recruit security-cleared foreign born individuals into the U.S. Military who have foreign language skills and medical expertise by promising them expedited naturalization. MAVNI was enacted after it was discovered that there weren't enough native-born citizens who possessed these skills. Had there been, the military may have been able to prevent the 9/11 terror attacks, since intercepts had been received but couldn't be interpreted.

Seeking asylum in the United States is no easy process for adults, let alone for children. 10-year-old Bianka entered the country by herself in 2016, fleeing violence in Honduras and, after being reunited with her mother Gladys, sought a court order giving her mother sole custody. The only problem, according to a family and appeals court? The request didn't name her father.

Despite Bianka's contentions that her father had effectively abandoned her in Honduras, the courts said they could not issue any custody ruling without joining the father in the litigation. But the California Supreme Court overturned those decisions, removing an important hurdle for children seeking asylum in the U.S.

Last Friday was the latest court-ordered deadline for the Trump administration to reunite immigrant parents and children who had been separated for detention. And while the Department of Homeland Security claims that over half of the separated children have been reunited with their parents, hundreds remain in government custody, many with no plan for reunification.

So, what's next for these families?

When the Trump administration announced its 'zero tolerance' policy on illegal border crossings, it explicitly acknowledged it may separate immigrant children from their parents. And when those separations started, the outrage and lawsuits soon followed. Since then, immigration officials have begun the process of re-uniting families in response to several court orders requiring reunification and the release of children from detention within 20 days.

It may be hard to keep up with all the latest legal developments and policy reversals, so here are three recent updates on reunification efforts for immigrant families.

What's Happening to Pregnant Women in ICE Detention?

ICE detention centers have come under fire recently for their treatment of families, most notably for separating young children from their parents. But in a little publicized situation, families-to-be are suffering an equally devastating situation. Pregnant women are miscarrying in these detention centers, and are not getting adequate prenatal care before, during, or after these miscarriages.

For children who have been abandoned, abused, or neglected by one or both of their parents, United States Citizenship and Immigrations Services offered a special process to obtain a green card and seek lawful permanent residence in the U.S. Called a Special Immigrant Juvenile classification, it applied to undocumented and unmarried children under 21 years old who had been separated from or hurt by their parents.

But recent policy changes have many at-risk immigrant youth wondering about their status. Here's what you need to know.