December 18, 2023

Top 10 Immigration Stories of 2023

[Cross-post from ImmigrationProf Blog]

By Kevin R. Johnson

2023 has been an exciting year in U.S. immigration law and enforcement.  Here is my ImmigrationProf Top 10 Immigration Stories of 2023.  By way of comparison, here are the Top 10 Immigration News Stories of 2022.

The stories are ranked in order of significance, newsworthiness, and general interest.  Because there were in my estimation no major Supreme Court decisions this Term, the Court placed in the middle of the pack.

1.  End of Title 42

When I began work on this list, I had forgotten that, last May, the Biden administration lifted the Title 42 order that, since 202, closed the southern border to asylum seekers and migrants.  The lifting of the order was a long time coming and big news indeed. 

In the name of protecting public health, President Trump in 2020 invoked a public health law, known as Title 42, to expel migrants seeking to enter the country at the U.S./Mexico border.  Many Democrats in Congress criticized the order as effectively dismantling the U.S. asylum system.

The Biden administration promised to lift the Title 42 order.  However, some courts and political leaders -- including some Democrats -- resisted those efforts.   

After much discussion and litigation, the Biden administration finally lifted the Title 42 order in May 2023. 

A feared mass migration, which immigration hardliners had claimed would follow the order's lifting, did not come to pass.   The border saw a return to a more normal border enforcement regime, with migration ebbs and flows. 

With the end of Title 42 and repeated claims of record numbers of migrants coming to the U.S./Mexico border, many proposals for a variety of border enforcement initiatives were floated.  See The End of Title 42 and Increased Militarization of the Border.

Even though the order has been lifted for now, Trump's Title 42 order will likely have a lasting legacy as the nation considers tightening the borders.  In fact, as the year closes, there have been immigration enforcement proposals that critics call "Title 42 on steroids."

2.  Election 2024

As anyone who watches the news cannot miss, 2024 is a presidential election year.  Immigration has been an issue in the early sparring among Republican candidates.  Reflecting the long shadow of the former President on U.S. politics, the candidates often appear to try to be tougher than Donald Trump on immigration. For example, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy celebrated his immigrant family while pushing tough immigration enforcement policies.   Florida Governor Ron DeSantis invoked his tough on immigration record as indicative of the immigration enforcement emphasis that he would pursue as President.   You no doubt get the idea.

There has been much speculation -- dread in some quarters -- about the immigration policies of a second Donald Trump term.  At a minimum, the expectation is that a second Trump administration would greatly increase immigration enforcement.  See here; here; here; here; here; here.  He has contributed to the speculation with calls for a new Muslim ban and claims that immigrants are "poisoning the blood" of the nation.

3.   Middle East:  Terrorism, War, and Politics

The tragedy in the Middle East continues.  Immigration enforcement has become intertwined in the debate over U.S. aid to Israel (and here, here and here) as well as Ukraine.  The dispute in Congress over immigration enforcement has become central to Republican support for an aid package.  The Associated Press has reported that "Congress is scrambling . . . for a deal that would greatly restrict the asylum and humanitarian parole process used by thousands to temporarily stay in the U.S. while their claims are being processed in the backlogged system. . . . [T]he Biden administration is considering [an immigration compromise] as the price to be paid for the president’s $106 billion year-end request for Ukraine, Israel and national security needs."

After the events of fall 2022, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia have risen dramatically around the world.  College campuses in the United States have been at the center of political activity and hate.  See also here.  Hate crimes, including a tragic hate killing of a Palestinian-American child in Illinois, have risen in number.

As time goes by, the Middle East conflict will no doubt have immigration reverberations.  Florida Governor Ron DeSantis already has declared that the United States should not accept refugees from Gaza.  Stay tuned as this story develops.

4.  New York City Joins Texas and Florida on Immigration?

State and local resistance to immigration in recent years generally has come from Red States.  See stories 5 and 6.  2023 saw a change in that dynamic. 

Often thought of as a bastion of liberalism, New York City became the epicenter of concerns with migrants and demands for federal action.  New York City Mayor Eric Adams repeatedly said that the Big Apple could not handle the many new migrants and demanded that the federal government address the issue.  Day after day, we saw news stories about Mayor Adams' statements about the migrant "crisis" in the Big Apple.  Here are a few of the stories:

5.  Texas Contiinues Its Trump-Like Approach to Immigration Enforcement

Throughout 2023, Texas continued to pursue aggressive immigration enforcement measures.  Among other things, Texas Governor Greg Abbott fenced off the border with New Mexico -- part of the United States -- because of  "immigration" concerns and sent many busloads of migrants to Los Angeles.  See also here and here.  

The U.S. government sued Governor Abbott for another novel immigration enforcement measure -- placing floating -- and deadly -- border barriers with razor wire in the Rio Grande to deter migrants from crossing.   Is the mining of the Rio Grande next?

6.  Florida Continues Its Trump-Like Approach to Immigration Enforcement

Continuing his dedication to immigration enforcement, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis adopted a tough on immigration approach in his run for the President.  Following that lead, the Florida legislature in 2023 passed a controversial immigration law, which some feared might cause a Latina/o exodus from the state.  Life is grand unless you are an immigrant in the Sunshine State.

7.  Supreme Court and Immigration

The Supreme Court often has a thing or two to say about immigration.  I summarized the Supreme Court's immigration decisions in The Supreme Court and Immigration in the 2022 Term and Immigration in the Supreme Court, 2022 Term.   

In the 2022 Term, the Court issued four immigration decisions.  None were immigration law blockbusters.  However, the Court's disposal of the challenges of states to the Biden immigration enforcement priorities case (United States v. Texas) and Title 42 border closure case (Arizona v. Mayorkas) allowed the Biden administration to proceed with its immigration initiatives.  The four merits decisions dealt with bread-and-butter matters -- executive power over immigration enforcement priorities, exhaustion of remedies, criminal removals, and an oddball First Amendment decision involving an immigration attorney.  The U.S. government won three cases and noncitizens two.  States lost in one case.

At this time, the Court only has a couple of immigration cases on the docket for the 2023 Term, Supreme Court Agrees to Review Immigration Cases in 2023 Term, including a cancellation of removal case.  Expect the Court to take one or two more immigration cases this Term.

There has been considerable immigration litigation in the lower courts.  In a much-watched case, a federal judge in Texas declaried President Biden's DACA rule unlawful.  Just days ago, a federal court approved the settlement in a case challenging President Trump's family separation policy; the settlement puts an end to family separations, at least for now.

8.  Death on the Border Continues

This really isn't news but migrants continue to die as they seek to enter the developed world.  Death of migrants is a daily feature of life along the U.S./Mexico border and has been for decades.  Some of the stories include:

As former President Barack Obama observed, the general public pays relatively little attention to the mass deaths of migrants compared to, for example, that paid to the implosion of a submersible on a Titanic sight-seeing trip.  Specifically, President Obama contrasted the public attention paid to five deaths in the Titan implosion with mass deaths of African migrants at sea that occurred at around the same time.

Besides death, higher border walls have led to increased migrant injuries.  The Higher the Border Wall, the Higher the Migrant Falls . . . and InjuriesFortification of the wall along the U.S./Mexico border unquestionably has led to increased injuries.  Since the heightening of border barriers in 2019, El Paso hospitals have seen an increase in migrant patients with leg fractures, spine injuries and other traumas caused by falls or jumps from the fence.

9.  Monterey Park Shooting

On January 21, 2023 during the Lunar New Year, a mass shooting occurred in Monterey Park, California, United States.  Ordinarily a peaceful town, Monterey Park has been called the "first suburban Chinatown" and has a large Chinese immigrant population.  In the words of the Associated Press, "[f]or decades, Monterey Park has been a haven for Asian immigrants seeking to maintain a strong cultural identity — and a culinary heaven worth visiting for anybody near Los Angeles craving authentic Asian cuisine."   The gunman killed eleven people and injured nine others.  See Michael Luo: The Spectre of Anti-Asian Violence in the Monterey Park Shooting

10.  Immigrant (Criminal) Celebrity News

The pandemic made streaming the rage.  One Netflix series focused on a famous immigrant criminal.

The ImmigrationProf Blog reported on the immigration case of Anna Sorokin, whose complex fraud captured the world's imagination.  Her story was told in the flashy Netflix series "Inventing Anna." 

Born in Germany, Sorokin served almost four years in prison after found guilty of a variety of criminal charges.  She had claimed to be a German heiress who had a multi-million inheritance and was raising funds to launch a Manhattan social club.  Sorokin was found guilty of a variety of fraud, larceny, and theft crimes and sentenced to 4 to 12 years in prison.  She was released early in February 2021. 

Sorokin then was taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  In ICE detention until October 2022, she has been under house arrest since then in New York. Sorokin still faces possible removal to Germany.   

People magazine has the latest, with pictures, of Sorokin.  She "was spotted as she headed to an immigration appointment in New York City dressed head-to-toe in black."