Immigration stories to watch in the new year

The pace of change in immigration policy over the last three years can feel staggering, even for those of us tasked with reporting and understanding those changes. So, we’ve compiled a short list of some of the most pressing topics we’ll be watching in 2020, both nationally and in Massachusetts.

Safe Communities Act & driver’s licenses – The legislation would limit interaction between local police and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Among other things, it ends what are known as 287g partnerships in the state, which deputize local law enforcement agents to perform some duties of a federal immigration official. It would also prohibit law enforcement and court personnel from asking people about their immigration status.

The bill is sure to be hotly contested among state representatives and senators. Even if the Safe Communities Act were to reach Governor Charlie Baker’s desk, he’s said he’d likely veto the measure. Baker has repeatedly said he believes state officials need to collaborate with ICE in cases of violent criminals. Because of that, he does not support a so-called sanctuary state policy. Instead, he believes communities should decide their own policies at the local level.

Status for Haiti, Honduras and El Salvador – There are an estimated 12,000 Temporary Protected Status holders living and working in Massachusetts. Citizens of El Salvador and Haiti make up two of the largest communities of TPS recipients in the state, followed by nearly 1,000 protected Hondurans.

Earlier this year, a federal judge in California temporarily blocked the Trump administration from ending TPS until he rules on the merits of a case. After appealing that decision, the US Department of Homeland Security automatically extended protections for TPS holders from El Salvador, Haiti, and Honduras through Jan. 4, 2021. A decision out of California is expected in the coming year.

DACA at the US Supreme Court – In September 2017, the Trump administration announced the end of the Obama-era program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Under DACA, eligible young people whose parents brought them to the US without authorization are afforded temporary and limited protections from deportation. Since the program was started, 800,000 recipients nationwide have been able to study and work in the US under this temporary status  — including about 8,000 in Massachusetts and close to 15,000 throughout New England.

The battle over DACA’s future made it all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States in November. We should see a decision from the court sometime in the spring.

This article was first published by WBUR 90.9FM on Dec. 28. The Reporter and WBUR share content through a media partnership.