Thanksgiving is the immigrant holiday because it is a day to remember and celebrate new arrivals in a new land, and friendship between immigrants and indigenous people. It is also the anti-immigrant holiday, since things did not end too well for the indigenous people in the original T-Day story.

These days, though, we need to take out good news where we can get it, and so in that spirit, I want to focus on the positives of Thanksgiving. In particular, I'd like to discuss some reasons for asylum seekers to be thankful. And yes, there are a few.

Let's start with the big, obvious positives--when the Trump Administration left office, a number of truly horrible and bigoted policies went with it: The Muslim travel ban, the refugee travel ban, limits on asylum for victims of domestic violence and gang violence, stricter rules regarding family-based asylum, child separation, more difficult rules regard employment authorization, extreme vetting, a narrowed definition of "torture," severe limits on prosecutorial discretion, the "no blank space" policy for I-589 forms, decertification of the Immigration Judges union, the end of the BIA Pro Bono Project, reduced transparency of immigration agencies, increased use of private prisons, and much, much more. President Trump's anti-immigrant and anti-asylum seeker policies did not all go away at once, but they have largely given way to a more humane (if not particularly well thought out) approach to immigration.

Since the Biden Administration came into office, we've seen a number of positive changes for asylum seekers. One recent change is the expanded validity period for Employment Authorization Documents (EADs). EADs were originally valid for one year, that was extended to two years, and now, EADs issued after October 1, 2023 will be valid for five years. This is an important improvement, since renewing an EAD can be expensive and stressful, and gaps in employment eligibility can cause asylum seekers to lose their jobs and their driver's licenses. On the other hand, the fact that we need a five-year EAD is indicative of the interminable delays in the asylum system. But since this is a Thanksgiving post and I want to keep it positive, I'll say no more about that.

This next "positive" is a bit of a mystery. Rumor has it that USCIS is issuing Advance Parole (AP) documents valid for five years. AP is permission to re-enter the United States if you leave, as long your case is pending with USCIS. You travel using your passport (which can potentially have negative implications for an asylum case) and you return by presenting the AP document at the port of entry. Up until recently, when an asylum applicant applied for AP, USCIS would issue a document valid for a (seemingly) random period of time. If you were lucky, you received one year. But I have seen cases where the applicant literally received AP for one day! Now, though, a Google search of "USCIS Advance Parole five years" reveals numerous sources reporting that USCIS is issuing AP for five years. I have not seen any announcement from USCIS itself, but if this is now standard practice, it is very good news. Given the long waits for asylum cases, the ability to travel and visit relatives or just take a vacation will allow asylum applicants to live a much more normal life. There are still difficulties obtaining AP for asylum applicants, since you have to show a "humanitarian need" for the travel, but since we're staying positive, I will shut my trap.

Our next positive development is USCIS's decision to re-use biometrics for most applicants. So instead of wasting time with multiple appointments for fingerprints and photos, most asylum applicants only need to go once. While this may not be an earth-shattering development, it is good news and saves time and inconvenience.

Another development, which began before the Biden Administration, but which now seems to have kicked into higher gear is online filing for USCIS forms and for Immigration Court cases. There is a lot I could say against the USCIS online system, but since we're being grateful, I will simply say that when it works, the online system saves a lot of time and stress, since you can submit and receive forms and documents online. Electronic filing in Immigration Court is an all-around improvement. It saves time and money, and gives lawyers easy access to all the evidence and other documents in the record. In fact, it would be nice if USCIS took a look at the court system to learn how online filing should be done (oops, sorry, trying to stay positive).

One final positive development for this Thanksgiving is the influx of new judges in Immigration Court. In the past, most Immigration Judges were hired from within the government. The new judges have a more diverse background, including many with experience representing non-citizens in Immigration Court. These judges will bring a different perspective to court, which will likely improve the system as a whole. If I wasn't being positive today, I would mention that the rapid roll out of so many new judges was a chaotic mess that damaged due process of law. But I am being positive, so please ignore that last sentence.

As you can see, there is much to celebrate in immigration world. So stay positive my friends. And have a happy Thanksgiving.

Originally posted on the Asylumist: