August 31, 2022 – By Ariel Miller

Republican Senators Lindsey Graham, Roy Blunt, and Lisa Murkowski have co-sponsored the Afghan Adjustment Act. Photos by Gage Skidmore and AFGE.

8: Number of congressional Republicans who have co-sponsored the Afghan Adjustment Act, which would expedite a pathway to permanent status for Afghan evacuees. 

On August 9th, the Afghan Adjustment Act was introduced concurrently in both chambers of Congress. Five Republican representatives have co-sponsored the bill in the House, while in the Senate the bill is backed by Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski, Roy Blunt, and Lindsey Graham. The bill would create a pathway to citizenship for Afghans with temporary status in the U.S., bypassing the backlogged asylum and Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) programs. It would also expand eligibility for the SIV program, opening enrollment to some groups of Afghans who aided U.S. troops but did not meet the initial criteria for the visa.

<1%: Share of asylum seekers enrolled in the “Remain in Mexico” program who were granted asylum. 

On August 8th, the DHS announced it would finally begin phasing out the Migrant Protection Protocols, colloquially known as the “Remain in Mexico” program, which requires asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their asylum cases are adjudicated. The Biden administration was blocked in its early attempts to end the program by a Texas federal judge until the United States Supreme Court ruled in late June that the administration could roll back the program. 

About 71,000 migrants were enrolled in the program during its one-year lifespan under the Trump administration, of which only 641 people — or 0.9 percent — were granted asylum or another form of protection from deportation. After December 2021, when the Biden administration was forced to reboot the program, about 5,800 migrants were enrolled. Of those, only 31 additional people were granted relief. The vast majority of MPP asylum seekers were ruled “deported in absentia” due to failure to appear in court — a problem greatly exacerbated by the fact that information about court date appearances was only communicated by official mail, even though enrolled migrants were often living in encampments or moving between shelters in Mexico. 

80 percent: Share of students in electrical engineering and computer science programs at U.S. graduate schools who are international students. Failure to retain these individuals once they graduate and their student visas expire is leaving thousands of jobs in the semiconductor industry unfilled. 

This month saw the passage and signing into law of the CHIPS and Science Act, which will invest $52.7 billion into the production of semiconductors in the U.S — the need for which was highlighted during a drastic pandemic-related shortage that ratcheted up prices on cars and other electronics. However, after opposition in committee by Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the bill passed without any of its original provisions on immigration, which were aimed at opening more employment-based visas to immigrants with doctoral-level STEM degrees and at creating a form of legal status for immigrant entrepreneurs. 

In comments submitted to the National Institute of Standards and Technology in 2018, the Semiconductor Industry Association argued that lack of incentives for international students in STEM programs to stay in the U.S. upon graduation was creating a dearth of qualified job candidates, writing, “There are currently several thousand open technical positions in the U.S. semiconductor industry. Many of these positions have been open for months or longer.” 

2 million: Arrests projected on the southwest border by the end of the fiscal year. 

Southwest border arrests are likely to hit 2 million by the end of the fiscal year, according to federal data released on August 15. The stat points to a level of unrest and migration across Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean not seen since the late 1990s

However, the data comes with several caveats. For one thing, that 2 million figure documents arrests, not individuals. With the majority of migrants on the southwest border still being rapidly deported under Title 42 (the policy originally meant to slow the spread of COVID-19), the number of repeat border-crossers is currently high at roughly 27 percent. Secondly, since border security and surveillance has ramped up so much in the last decade, record-setting arrests don’t necessarily mean record-setting crossings. As the American Immigration Council’s Aaron Reichlin-Melnick pointed out in a recent Washington Post article, estimates suggest that undetected border crossings were much higher up until the mid-aughts. 

In any event, border issues remain a vulnerability for the Biden administration. In a NPR/Ipsos poll released this month, 53 percent of respondents agreed that there was an “invasion” on the southwest border, a stat bolstered by messaging from GOP hopefuls like Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake.

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