Reason Roundup

How the Government Is Using Nonsense Rules to Keep Out Immigrants

Plus: South Park, Fortnite currency, D.C. food trucks, and more...


Failing to provide a family member's middle name—or leaving any space blank—on an immigration form is now sufficient grounds for government officials to reject it. Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell tells the story of a woman harmed by this new policy:

After Yolanda was raped, she ran.

She ran from the basement where her attacker had trapped her for three hours. She ran until she found her way to a police station, a place that people such as Yolanda usually avoid at all costs.

Yolanda, a Guatemalan in her 40s, is undocumented. She's been living in the shadows for more than a decade. But Congress created a program intended to encourage immigrants like her to come forward about heinous crimes like this one: the U-visa, for crime victims who assist law enforcement.

Even so, for several months after her assault, she still agonized about whether to apply, which would requiring turning over information not just to local police but to the Trump administration. But lawyers said she had a slam-dunk case.

Then, unexpectedly, the feds rejected her application. Why? Because…her youngest son doesn't have a middle name.

Yolanda's story is getting a lot of attention right now, and people are rightfully upset about her situation. But hers is only one of many applicants rejected for failure to follow the nonsensical new rules, which require Visa applicants in certain categories to fill in every blank, even if the prompt—middle name, apartment number, etc.—doesn't apply to them.

"Years back I had to get a visa to go to Russia to give a talk, and it got rejected twice over silly shit (one time because I had a comma where they didn't want one)," tweeted Techdirt's Mike Masnick. "I laughed it off as Russian bureaucratic nonsense. Now we do it too."

The change was quietly announced on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website in the fall. According to the Post,

The American Immigration Lawyers Association has collected 140 other examples of allegedly "incomplete" forms: an 8-year-old child who listed "none" for employment history but left the dates of employment field blank. An applicant who entered names of three siblings, but the form has spaces for four.

The Guardian reported in December that "over a half-dozen immigration attorneys" had told the paper about USCIS returning "applications unprocessed over the equivalent of failing to dot an I or cross a T—a shift with potentially life-altering consequences for their vulnerable clients. The rejection of an application by USCIS does not necessarily mean the client won't get a chance to fix the application and send it back again. But it does force asylum seekers to begin their claim afresh, at best delaying a person's ability to work and, at worst, jeopardizing their ability to remain in the country at all."

Police also undermine the U-Visa program, according to a December 2019 report from the Center for Investigative Reporting. Its

analysis of policies from more than 100 agencies serving large immigrant communities found that nearly 1 of every 4 create barriers never envisioned under the U visa program. A review based on hundreds of police records and nearly 60 interviews found that victims are at the mercy of whatever internal rules police choose.


South Park battles moral panics, writes Eric Boehm, as we face another round of painfully silly criticism of the show:


D.C. moves to legalize food trucks and bottled-water peddlers near the mall. "When you talk to the food truck vendors and talk to the community members, people want to make money" Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Director Ernest Chrappah told local news station ABC7. "The city is providing a pathway for them. But at the end of the day it's about the humanity, the opportunity for people to make some money."

Chrappah's department is proposing that the city expand its current lottery system for weekday food trucks, hold an auction for weekend spots, and issue permits for selling drinks from small coolers.



  • The IRS has "removed language identifying Roblox and V-bucks—Fortnite's in-game currency—as examples of convertible virtual currency," reports Bloomberg Tax, which had asked the agency "if gamers who purchased or earned in-game currencies would have to disclose that on their 2019 tax returns."
  • Can the criminal justice system even be fixed?
  • "A newly popular argument is that 'late capitalism' has made it too hard to balance life and work, which is causing women to have fewer kids," writes Ron Bailey. But "so far, no developed country has succeeded in using pronatalist policies to sustain fertility above the 'replacement rate' of 2.1 children per woman."
  • A federal judge won't grant an injunction against California's awful new employment regulation, A.B. 5.
  • Happy Valentine's Day from Remy and Reason TV