CMS Migration Update is a weekly digest of news and other information related to national and international migration.  It is designed to educate faith leaders regarding vulnerable immigrant populations, developments in the immigration field, pastoral resources and the religious touchstones of diverse faith traditions on migrants and newcomers. It should not be relied upon to provide advice or counsel in immigration cases. The publication is provided by the Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS), an educational institute/think-tank devoted to the study of international migration, to the promotion of understanding between immigrants and receiving communities, and to public policies that safeguard the dignity and rights of migrants, refugees and newcomers. CMS is a member of the Scalabrini International Migration Network, an international network of shelters, welcoming centers, and other ministries for migrants.
Thomas J. Shea
Rachel Reyes
Director of Communications
February 14, 2017

Court Refuses to Reinstate Travel Ban, Dealing Trump Another Legal Loss

The New York Times (February 9, 2017)
On February 9th, a three-judge panel of the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit unanimously rejected the Trump Administration's request to lift a temporary restraining order (TRO) halting implementation of President Trump's executive order, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” As a result, the TRO issued by US Federal District Court Judge James L. Robart blocks implementation of the following provisions: a 120 day halt of the US refugee resettlement program; an indefinite prohibition of resettling and admitting Syrian refugees; a preference for resettling religious minorities; a case by case evaluation of refugee admission during the 120 day pause on resettlement; and a 90 day prohibition on entry, travel, and visas for individuals from seven predominantly-Muslim countries: Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The judges, suggesting that the ban did not advance national security, said that the Administration had failed to show evidence that nationals of the seven targeted countries engaged in terrorist acts in the United States. In addition, the judges took issue with the Trump Administration's claim that the president's national security assessment included in the executive order cannot be reviewed by courts "even if those actions potentially contravene constitutional rights and protections." The judges stated, "It is beyond question...that the federal judiciary retains authority to adjudicate constitutional challenges to executive action." While the TRO is in effect, people banned from admission into the United States under Trump’s executive order are again permitted entry into the country.
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To read the panel's decision, visit

US Bishops' Chair on Migration Responds to Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Decision

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (February 10, 2017)
Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, Texas and Chair of the US Conference of Catholic Bishop’s (USCCB’s) Committee on Migration issued a response to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to uphold the TRO, saying, "We welcome the decision of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. We respect the rule of law and the American judicial process. We remain steadfast in our commitment to resettling refugees and all those fleeing persecution. At this time, we remain particularly dedicated to ensuring that affected refugee and immigrant families are not separated and that they continue to be welcomed to our country. We will continue to welcome the newcomer as it is a vital part of our Catholic faith and an enduring element of our American values and tradition."
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Catholic Leaders Praise Court Blocking Trump’s Refugee Order

Crux (February 10, 2017)
Additional Catholic leaders have come out in support of the Ninth Circuit’s decision to uphold the TRO. Matt Wilch, refugee policy adviser for USCCB’s Migration and Refugee (USCCB/MRS) services, and Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, both expressed relief as the ruling allows them to continue welcoming and serving refugees. Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) was also encouraged by the TRP but cautioned, “This is one positive step in what is going to be a long haul in multiple courts.” Kevin Appleby, CMS’ senior policy director, also warned that the decision was based on a procedural matter and didn’t offer a ruling on the constitutionality of Trump’s order.
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Trump Won't Immediately Appeal Travel Ban Halt to Supreme Court

CNN (February 10, 2017)
President Donald Trump will reportedly not immediately appeal the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ refusal to lift the TRO. Instead, the Trump Administration may be considering tweaking the existing order or issuing a new, more narrowly tailored executive order. In addition, the Trump Administration appears to be considering a variety of options for how to proceed next in court. It may ask the full 25-member Ninth Circuit to re-hear the case, or dismiss its appeal of the TRO altogether and continue litigating the merits of the case before the US Federal District Court which issued the TRO.
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Federal Agents Conduct Immigration Enforcement Raids in at Least Six States

The Washington Post (February 11, 2017)
Over the past week, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers arrested hundreds of immigrants in raids (“targeted law enforcement actions”) at homes and businesses in New York, California, Illinois, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. The raids mark the first major push to enforce President Trump's January 25th executive order to arrest and deport criminals living in the United States. US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spokeswoman, Gillian Christensen, said that the majority of foreign nationals arrested were serious criminals, "including some who were convicted of murder and domestic violence" and who were threats to public safety and the integrity of the immigration system. DHS confirmed, however, that immigration agents had also detained noncriminal immigrants found to be “lacking documentation.” These individuals could also potentially be deported.
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GOP Shifting on Immigration

The Hill (February 12, 2017)
Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Purdue (R-GA) sponsored a bill in the Senate to cut the number of foreign nationals who can receive lawful permanent residence (green cards) each year over the next decade from 1.05 million to 539,000. The bill, known as the Raise Act, would also prioritize skilled workers and the spouses and minor children of US citizens and green card holders over the admission of foreign nationals with extended family ties to the United States. Senators Cotton and Purdue claim the bill will "rebalance" the US immigration system to historical averages and "increase wages by tightening the labor market." According to the article, the bill is a sign that the GOP is becoming increasingly more willing to show support for restrictive immigration policies.
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Indian Nun Sees Cry for Life in the Eyes of Children Used as Slaves

Asia News (February 8, 2017)
Sister Gracy Rodrigues is an Indian nun with the Congregation of the Daughters of Charity (the Canossians) and a member of the Asian Movement of Women Religious Against Human Trafficking (AMRAT), a network of 52 religious congregations fighting slavery. On the occasion of the liturgical memorial of Saint Josephine Bakhita and the third international day of prayer and reflection against human trafficking, instituted by Pope Francis in 2015, Sr. Rodrigues shares her experience in rescuing victims of human trafficking and trafficking's particular impact on children. She writes that her first rescue operation left her with “a mark in my heart which will always move me towards justice and love for the less fortunate, the forgotten, the lost, the least and the unknown.” She adds, “As a consecrated person, God gives us a special gift of discernment. Discernment that leads us in making a choice, a choice that will make a difference into the lives of the poor, the destitute, the marginalized, the rejected, the victims of injustice and crime. It is rightly said ‘prophets tend to be on the side of the poor and the powerless.’” In conclusion, Sr. Rodrigues prays for an end to trafficking and slavery and asks God to “send the exploiters away empty-handed to be converted from this wickedness, and help us all claim the freedom that is your gift to your children.”
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Canadian Border Communities Struggle with Surge in Asylum Seekers in Past Year

The Toronto Star (February 7, 2017)
Canadian immigration officials are reportedly seeing a surge of asylum seekers crossing the border from the United States into Canada in an effort to get around a law banning bilateral asylum. The Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) between the United States and Canada prohibits, with limited exceptions, asylum seekers from applying for asylum in both countries. Instead, people fleeing persecution must apply for asylum in the first country in which they arrive. By crossing the border undetected and presenting an asylum application in the interior of Canada, asylum seekers who have already applied in the United States can get around the STCA. In light of President Trump’s ban on refugee admissions, advocates are calling for suspension of the STCA to create a safe passage to Canada for asylum seekers. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have intercepted 1,280 migrants from the United States in the past year, which is three times the number of migrants (424) caught the previous year.
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Flash Report of OHCHR mission to Bangladesh: Interviews with Rohingyas fleeing from Myanmar since 9 October 2016

United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (February 3, 2017)
Since October 9, 2016, a remote enclave of the northern Rakhine State in Myanmar, close to the Bangladeshi border, has been under siege by government security forces allegedly sent to hunt for armed Rohingya assailants who had killed nine police officers. Several reports confirmed that horrific acts of violence have been committed against the Rohingya (a Muslim minority group) living in the region by the Myanmar army. The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) estimates that, as a result of the violence, 66,000 Rohingya have fled and crossed the border into Bangladesh. Between January 12 and 21, 2017, a four-member team from OHCHR interviewed more than 220 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to obtain testimony about events and incidents taking place in Myanmar. Interviewees reported being beaten, shot, stabbed, raped, or having suffered another form of sexual violence, and having family members taken away by security forces and disappeared or killed. Interviewees also reported having their property looted, burned, or destroyed. In this report, OHCHR detailed their findings and concluded that refugees witnessed extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and ethnic and religious discrimination and persecution. OHCHR also found that the attacks and "calculated policy of terror" against the Rohingya created "a coercive environment amounting to forced displacement." The report also suggests that the widespread and systematic attacks against the Rohingya may amount to ethnic cleansing.
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Myopic in Malta: Europe’s Short-sighted Migration Policy with Libya

IRIN (February 7, 2017) (Commentary)
In this op-ed, Melissa Phillips, a researcher and honorary fellow at the University of Melbourne and New York University Center for International Cooperation, discusses the "Malta Declaration" entered into by members of the European Council on February 3, 2017 to stem "irregular" (unauthorized) migration through the Central Mediterranean route from Libya. Phillips writes that the Malta Declaration fails to address the root causes (local conditions, economics, etc.) that drive African migration northwards. Rather, the agreement’s reliance on intercepting boats on the Mediterranean Sea and detaining the occupants appears to serve the European Union’s interest in preventing migrants from entering member states’ territories. Phillips adds that the Malta Declaration does not provide a viable, long-term alternative to the lucrative business of smuggling or create sound migration policy. 
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To read the Malta Declaration, visit


On February 8, 2017, Jeff Sessions, former senator from Alabama, was confirmed as Attorney General by the US Senate by a vote of 52-47. Senator Sessions’ confirmation was strongly opposed by civil rights, immigrant rights, and women’s groups because of his record on issues impacting minorities. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WVA) was the only Democratic senator to vote for Mr. Sessions’ confirmation.
On February 9, 2017, Former Representative Tom Price (R-GA), another somewhat controversial Trump Administration nominee, was confirmed as Secretary of Health and Human Services by a vote of 52-47. He will oversee the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which helps refugees integrate into US society.
On February 7, 2017, Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) introduced HR 920 which would annul President Trump’s executive order, “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements.” It also would prohibit the use of federal funds to implement the executive order.
On February 9, 2017, Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) introduced S. 349 (“Access to Counsel Act”) which would guarantee counsel to persons who are held or detained while apprehended attempting to enter the United States.
Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) have introduced legislation entitled, “Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act,” which would reduce legal immigration by eliminating family-based categories, including adult brothers and sisters, parents, and adult married children of legal permanent residents. The bill would also cut the number of legal visas by 50 percent within 10 years.
DHS Secretary John Kelly testified before the House Homeland Security Committee on February 7, 2017. He urged Congress to address the situation of persons who qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, as he would have to enforce the law and deport them if President Trump rescinds the DACA program. He also stated that he was charged with building the border wall but that it would be built where it is needed and not along every mile of the 2,000-mile border.
Workplace and home “enforcement actions” were launched around the country during the week of February 6th. As many as 680 persons were arrested during the actions. DHS denied that the actions were “raids,” as many advocates characterized them, and said they were targeted toward the removal of “criminal aliens,” despite reports that persons without criminal records were caught up in the sweeps.



Critical Perspectives on Clandestine Migration Facilitation: An Overview of Migrant Smuggling Research

This paper, authored by Gabriella Sanchez of the University of Texas at El Paso, provides an overview of contemporary, empirical scholarship on clandestine migration facilitation. It argues clandestine migration is not merely the domain of criminal groups. Rather, it also involves protection mechanisms crafted within migrant and refugee communities. Yet amid concerns over national and border security, and the reemergence of nationalism, said strategies have become increasingly stigmatized and perceived as an inherently criminal activity.
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Trump’s Executive Orders on Migration and Security: Policy Incompetence, Political Theater or Ideological Pivot?

This essay, authored by Fiona Adamson of the SOAS University of London, examines the possible motives behind Trump’s executive orders related to immigrants and refugees. Adamson considers whether the orders were issued to address policy gaps, whether they are merely political theater to appease Trump’s voter base, and/or whether they serve a broader anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim ethno nationalist agenda.
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The DACA Era and the Continuous Legalization Work of the US Immigrant-Serving Community

CMS initiated a study on the multi-faceted work of non-governmental and community-based organizations (NGOs and CBOs) and their public and private partners to implement the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and (more broadly) to build capacity to serve immigrants. With support from the Open Society Foundation’s Emma Lazarus Fund II (OSF / ELF II), the CMS team interviewed more than 40 agencies and 66 individuals, and intensively analyzed the efforts of five communities to implement the DACA program. CMS found that immigrant service capacity has grown steadily over the last quarter century and advanced dramatically during the first four years of the DACA program. Among other top-line findings and recommendations, the report concluded that increased support to NGOS and CBOs to screen the undocumented would put large numbers of undocumented immigrants on a path to legal status, even without a change in the law.
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If you are a migrant or pastoral worker and wish to submit an article or reflection to the CMS Migration Update, please email Tom Shea at

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