Customs & Immigration

A handful of migrant families that were separated at the border by the Trump administration will be allowed to reunify in the United States this week, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced Monday.

The four families will be the first to be reunified through a task force that was created by President Biden shortly after taking office in January.

The decision to allow migrant parents into the U.S. to reunify with their children here marks a sharp break with the Trump administration, which resisted allowing parents who were previously deported to return.

A man stands in a grassy field with hills and blue sky behind him.
Peter Hirschfeld / VPR

Federal officials won’t say yet whether they’ll give Vermonters more time to weigh in on a controversial plan to install surveillance towers on the Vermont-Canada border.

A record number of migrant children and teenagers are being held in warehouse-like detention facilities run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection near the southern border, and new documents obtained by NPR show that the number of children arriving without their parents is growing exponentially faster than the Biden administration is able to transfer the children to family members and vetted sponsors.

The USCRI Vermont office
Patti Daniels / VPR File

Since the start of the Trump administration, the number of refugees welcomed into the United States has dropped dramatically. But President-elect Joe Biden has promised to reverse that, raising the annual cap on refugees resettling in the U.S. to 125,000 – almost 10 times the current cap of 15,000 under Trump.

Despite a federal judge's order that the government reunite families who had been separated at the U.S.-Mexico border under the Trump administration's "no tolerance" migration policy, the parents of 545 children still can't be found, according to a court document filed Tuesday by the U.S. Justice Department and the American Civil Liberties Union.

H2A visa recipients line up for coronavirus testing at orchard
Julia Doucet / The Open Door Clinic

An orchard in Addison County remains closed to the public, after 27 farmworkers tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week. All are workers at Champlain Orchards who traveled to Vermont from Jamaica to work on the farm under the H-2A visa program.

Updated at 10:40 a.m. ET

Top congressional Democrats are calling for a federal investigation after a nurse who worked at an immigration detention center in Georgia filed a whistleblower complaint alleging a lack of medical care and unsafe work practices that facilitated the spread of COVID-19.

She also says that immigrant women received questionable hysterectomies, an allegation that lawmakers seized on in statements issued Tuesday.

Newly enrolled international students whose colleges and universities are operating entirely online this fall won't be allowed to enter the U.S. after all.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed on Friday that its guidance granting visa flexibility to nonimmigrant students only applies to those who were actively enrolled at American schools on March 9.

Middlebury College Professor Jonathan Isham
Middlebury College, Courtesy

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced Monday that international students pursuing degrees in the U.S. will have to leave the country or risk deportation if their universities or colleges switch to online-only courses this fall. A number of higher education facilities, including Harvard and MIT, are doing just that as a way to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Meanwhile at Middlebury College, some professors are promising to help students stay.

Just two days after federal officials barred international students from attending U.S. colleges that go online-only this fall, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have made their objections clear. They sued the U.S. government in federal court Wednesday, seeking to have the U.S. Immigration Customs And Enforcement policy reversed and declared unlawful.

Sen. Patrick Leahy at a podium with other lawmakers
Jose Luis Magana / Associated Press File

Earlier this week, Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy confirmed that more than 1,000 employees who work for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in St. Albans and Essex would be furloughed in August.

The St. Albans Messenger executive editor Michelle Monroe spoke with VPR about her reporting on issue.