December 23, 2014 - January 12, 2015
Immigration Politics will be on winter break for three weeks, but will be back with the 114th Congress in January and a brand new writer, as today marks my last day at AILA. Thanks for an amazing three years. -Anu Joshi
December 22, 2014
Today, the U.S. District court for D.C. heard oral arguments in Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's case seeking to stop implementation of deferred action as directed by the President's executive action. Melissa Crow, legal director of the American Immigration Council, attended the hearing and had this to say: "It was clear that Larry Klayman, who represents Sheriff Arpaio, was struggling to demonstrate the type of 'concrete and particularized' injury that is required to bring a challenge of this nature, or that the alleged harms would be a direct result of DACA or DAPA. While disagreeing adamantly with the government's argument that DACA and DAPA would promote public safety by enabling DHS to focus on high priority threats, he failed to provide any compelling explanation for his position. Judge Beryl Howell asked probing questions to determine whether Sheriff Arpaio had established that he had 'standing' under the law. She seemed skeptical that he had met his burden of proof."
This week we're taking a look back at the best stories of the past two years featured in Immigration Politics, here's todays:>
The President Announces Executive Action on Immigration on November 21, 2014
Well more and more details of the President's executive action on immigration have been released. Read the more than dozen new memos from DHS, USCIS and ICE on AILA's Resource Page on Administrative Reform 2014.
The President electrified a crowd in Las Vegas, Nevada today in round two of a speech explaining his decision to take executive action to a supportive crowd at Del Sol High School-the same place he made the speech two years ago outlining his principles for comprehensive immigration reform. There were a few choice quotes from the speech, but he continued to circle back to the same idea, that what this country really needed was for Congress to pass a bill. In fact, he even offered to "walk Speaker Boehner's dog or wash his car" if it meant that he would let immigration reform come up for a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives. The real emotional moment of the event might have been when DREAMer Astrid Silva introduced the President. The President mentioned her in his speech last night, specifically the courage she showed to pursue her dreams and fight for reform as an undocumented young person.
December 19, 2014
Read Buzzfeed contributor Jose M Orduna's piece on "Tasers, Drones, and Cold Chicken: Inside The Multibillion-Dollar Business Of Keeping Me Out Of America."
This week we're taking a look back at the best stories of the past two years featured in Immigration Politics, here's todays:
The Artesia Pro Bono Project Wins Their First Asylum Merits Hearing on September 4, 2014
On July 10, 2014, DHS Sec. Jeh Johnson told the Senate Appropriations committee that his message to the mothers and children who came to the southern border fleeing violence is Central America was simple: "we will send you back."
Well, in what may come as a surprise to the Secretary, most of these women and children he's referring to, who are currently detained at Artesia with no hope of bond being offered by the government, do have legitimate claims. In fact, today an AILA member participating in the Artesia AILA pro bono project won the first merits case in the Artesia detention facility. That's right, a mother and child detained at Artesia proved to an Immigration Judge that she had not only a credible fear, but a legitimate asylum case and was deserving of America's protection, not it's scorn. So, Mr. Secretary, maybe instead of a message of "we will send you back," it would be helpful to remember the words written in the Refugee Act of 1980: "The Congress declares that it is the historic policy of the United States to respond to the urgent needs of persons subject to persecution in their homelands."
December 18, 2014
Thanks to Senator Ted Cruz's grandstanding last weekend, Senate Democrats were able to get a few more Presidential nominations approved before relinquishing governing power to Republicans. One of those nominations was Sarah Saldaña to head Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, on a 55-39 vote. She will be the first Hispanic woman to lead the agency.
This week we're taking a look back at the best stories of the past two years featured in Immigration Politics, here's todays:
The President Responds to "Deporter-In-Chief" on March 6, 2014
President Obama, seemingly in direct rebuttal to Rep. Gutierrez (D-IL), Sens. Menendez (D-NJ) and Durbin (D-IL), and Janet Murguía (president of the National Council of La Raza) calling him the "deporter-in-chief" in the past week, today called himself the "champion-in-chief of comprehensive immigration reform." In a forum hosted by Telemundo, Univision and La Opinion-impreMedia he made the case that his hands were simply tied on the deportation issue: "What I've said in the past remains true: until Congress passes a new law I am constrained in what I can do."
President Obama is Called "Deported-in-Chief" on March 4, 2014 Janet Murguia, head of the National Council of La Raza, called President Obama the "deporter-in-chief" today, the first time the organization has so explicitly signaled out the President's record on enforcement. "For the president, I think his legacy is at stake here. We consider him the deportation president, or the deporter-in-chief."
December 17, 2014
This past Monday, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson headed down to officially open the new massive family detention center located in Dilley, Texas and unfortunately his message couldn't have been clearer: "It will now be more likely that you will be detained and sent back," he said. AILA President Leslie Holman reacted in a press statement today, "But what of the thousands of others that DHS Secretary Johnson proclaims he will imprison? How will justice find its way to them in a small Texas town? This is now reaching a scale that challenges the unfunded world of pro bono representation beyond what is realistic. Isn't it enough that nearly every mother and child in Artesia who has had a full hearing before an immigration judge so far has been granted asylum? Doesn't that tell the Administration that these most vulnerable of human beings deserve protection rather than warehousing as prisoners? This is unjust and a repudiation of our nation's values and historic commitment to justice for all." (AILA Doc. No. 14121745.)
Yesterday, a federal judge in Pennsylvania decided to opine on the President's executive action. While issuing an opinion in a case that wasn't actually about the President's action, but instead was a case against an immigrant who had been deported and re-entered, Judge Arthur Schwab wrote that "the president's policy goes 'beyond prosecutorial discretion' in that it provides a relatively rigid framework for considering applications for deferred action, thus obviating any meaningful case-by-case determination as prosecutorial discretion requires, and provides substantive rights to applicable individuals. As a consequence, Schwab concluded, the action exceeds the scope of executive authority."
This week we're taking a look back at the best stories of the past two years featured in Immigration Politics, here's todays:
One Year Anniversary of DACA Implementation on August 15, 2013
Today marked the one year anniversary of the implementation of the Deferred Action Against Childhood Arrivals program. The Immigration Policy Center presents preliminary findings on the impact that DACA has had on some of the young people who have received it. "We find that the DACA recipients we surveyed experienced a pronounced increase in economic opportunities, such as getting a new job, opening their first bank account, and obtaining their first credit card."
Secretary Napolitano who implemented the program commented in a blog post on the Department of Homeland Security website: "Our nation's immigration laws must be enforced in a strong and sensible manner but they are not designed to be blindly enforced without consideration given to the individual circumstances of each case. Prosecutorial discretion, which is used in so many other areas, is especially justified in DACA cases. And, by removing the threat of deportation for people brought to the country as children, we have been able to continue to focus our enforcement efforts on serious criminals, public safety threats, and those who pose a danger to national security."
Think Progress profiled seven DACA recipients and the impact the program has had on their life in the last year.
December 16, 2014
The ACLU announced today a nation-wide class-action lawsuit challenging the Administration's decision to lock up mothers and children in family detention in order to deter others from coming, an "aggressive deterrence strategy." Judy Rabinovitz, deputy director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, comments, "Locking up families and depriving them of their liberty in order to scare others from seeking refuge in the U.S. is inhumane and illegal. The government should not be using these mothers and their children as pawns. They have already been through devastating experiences, and imprisoning them for weeks or months while they await their asylum hearings is unnecessary and traumatizing."
Well, it's official-former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is "actively explor[ing] the possibility of running for President of the United States. He announced his intentions in a post on his Facebook page.
Senate Bill Passes with 14 Republican Votes on June 27, 2013
Today, in a historic vote, the Senate, while presided over by Vice President (and Senate President) Joe Biden, successfully passed (on a 68-32 vote) S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. (AILA Doc. No. 13062754.) Newly installed AILA President Doug Stump hailed the vote, "Despite our continued concerns regarding the recent changes in the bill that will militarize the border and bring real harm to border communities, AILA is pleased that the Senate continues to move forward toward real immigration reform that will on balance benefit far more families and businesses than it will hurt." (AILA Doc. No. 13062753.)
December 15, 2014
Over the weekend the Senate passed the House approved ‘cromnibus,’ and send the bill to the President’s desk. The bill will fund the majority of the government for the rest of the fiscal year, with the Department of Homeland Security being singled out to only be funded through February 27, 2015. During the Senate’s debate on the bill, there was one moment of intrigue when Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), no stranger to controversy in budget negotiations, forced the Senate to vote on a Constitutional point of order to defund the President’s executive action on immigration. Sen. Cruz was ultimately unsuccessful in his bid, with only 21 Republicans (and no Democrats) voting yes on his point of order, but by doing so he paved the way for current Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to keep the Senate in session and force votes on 24 of the President’s nominations, including his nomination for ICE director, Dallas-based U.S. Attorney Sarah Saldaña.
All this week, Immigration Politics will be looking back at our last two years and highlighting some of the best moments.
First up, January 28, 2013:
The bi-partisan powerful "Gang of Eight" Senators today released their "Bipartisan Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform" outlining a set of principles to guide the overhaul of the country's immigration system. Democratic Senators Schumer (D-NY), Durbin (D-IL), Menendez(D-NJ), Bennet (D-CO) and Republican Senators Graham (R-SC), Rubio (R-FL), Flake (R-AZ) and McCain (R-AZ) have all committed to the plan and a roadmap to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country, but only when strict border enforcement measures have been met.
Followed by a Senate bill on April 17, 2013:
WE HAVE A SENATE BILL. Late Tuesday/early Wednesday the Senate Gang of Eight introduced the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.” (AILA Doc. No. 13041760.) Senator Schumer (D-NY) took to the floor of the Senate to officially introduce the bill and thank his colleagues and the staff that helped negotiate and draft the legislation. (AILA Doc. No. 13041765.) AILA commended the Senate "Gang of Eight" for the Bipartisan Immigration Bill in a press statement. (AILA Doc. No. 13041761.)
December 12, 2014
For the last two years Immigration Politics has been bringing readers the what's what and the who's who of immigration happenings in Washington, D.C. and around the country. Next week, as this Congress winds down and the 114th Congress gets ready to be sworn in in January, we'll be bringing you the greatest Immigration Politics hits from the last two years-everything that could have been in the 113th Congress. We'll then go a short hiatus over the winter holidays and will return in mid-January.
DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson is heading to Dilley, TX on Monday to tour the new family detention camp set to open there in the next few weeks. Just in case anyone has forgotten, AILA, along with many other organizations, sent a letter to the President reminding him of all of the many reasons family detention goes against this country's values and morals. (AILA Doc. No. 14102843.)
Some have been talking about the potential implications of the President's actions on federal entitlement programs, such as social security, welfare (TANF), healthcare, and other tax credits (EITC and CTC). The truth is most people who sign up for DACA or DAPA will not receive many of these benefits, but there are some they could eventually qualify for. The National Immigration Law Center provides a good breakdown of what that looks like.
December 11, 2014
Well, they did, but just barely. Late this evening the House of Representation passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill to try to keep the government open for the rest of the fiscal year-well everyone except the Department of Homeland Security, which will only have guaranteed funding until February 27, 2015. The bill squeaked by with 219 yes votes, when 57 Democrats crossed the aisle to vote with 162 Republicans to help pass the measure, even though Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) had come out strongly against the bill for two provisions related to Wall Street and campaign finance. Now, the bill will head to the Senate where it has the support of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Appropriations Committee chair Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). The President has made very clear that he will sign this bill if it reaches his desk, with White House staffers spending much of the day yesterday rounding up Democratic votes in the House.
On Tuesday, President Obama sat down with Fusion news anchor Jorge Ramos, and at times the interview got downright uncomfortable. Ramos pushed back hard against the President on his deportation record, even while praising him for his executive action. Ramos: "As you're saying, you always had the legal authority to stop deportations. Then why did you deport 2 million people? For six years you did it. You destroyed many families. They called you the 'deporter-in-chief.'" Obama responded, "You called me deporter-in-chief, I did not."
December 10, 2014
Some might have seen that an intense debate is happening at the Washington Post over the size and scope of the President's executive action as compared to actions taken on immigration by past President (namely President George H.W. Bush in the 1990s). Well, Lawrence Downes of the NY Times Editorial Board wants to set something straight, sure the action by the President might be helping an unprecedented amount of people, but the thing to remember is that "the current problem is unprecedented. There are 11 million people living here outside the law. Congress should give them a chance to get right with the law. Congress refuses. So Mr. Obama acts to help about 36 percent of them avoid deportation, if they qualify."
The chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, Jason Furman, expressed strong views about "The Truth About immigration and the Economy" in an editorial for CNN. He states: "Immigration reform may be a complicated issue politically, but in economic terms, the case is clear -- it is one of the biggest levers the United States has to encourage economic growth and to raise wages."
On Monday, USCIS Director Leon Rodriguez attended a summit hosted by Cities United for Immigration Action, a coalition formed by mayors "to support and help implement President Obama's executive action on immigration." He blogs about his experience at the summit on The Beacon, the Official Blog of USCIS (who would have thought this would ever be a link).
December 9, 2014
In the latest edition of the House of Representatives not being able to get their act together, the House was unable to get the “cromnibus” (combination of: continuing resolution (CR) and omnibus) out of the House in time to give the Senate a chance to vote on it before the funding for the government runs out on Thursday, the 11th. So, instead the House will pass a short-term bill (think two to three days) to give both Chambers a chance to vote on the large spending bill.
AILA Texas chapter member Paul Parsons writes a beautiful piece for the AILA Leadership Blog on “the happiest days in [his] life as an immigration lawyer.” Yesterday, Mr. Parsons was able to help free a mother and her 10 month old toddler from the Karnes Detention Center after two months after a San Antonio immigration judge granted a $1500 bond (the lowest amount the Judge has been granting). Although this mother and child are bonding out of detention, he urges readers to remember the hundreds of families who remain detained.
In not great news of the day, the Judge assigned to hear the case filed by 17 states to stop the President’s actions on immigration hasn’t been so favorable towards the Administration’s use of discretion in the past. The Washington Post notes: “‘DHS has simply chosen not to enforce the United States’ border security laws,’ the judge wrote. He said the government’s failures to enforce immigration laws were ‘both dangerous and unconscionable,’ although he separately noted, ‘This court takes no position on the topic of immigration reform, nor should one read this opinion as a commentary on that issue.’”
Today, the President traveled to Nashville, TN to talk immigration in a small community organization setting—and he took questions from the audience. Watch him talk about letters he’s gotten from Republicans praising him on his action on immigration.
December 8, 2014
Today, the Department of Justice released new guidance for federal law enforcement agencies regarding the use of racial profiling. Unfortunately, the guidance, which has been in the works for over five years, offers a broad exemption to the use of racial profiling at the border. A footnote in the memo states: the new rules would not apply to “to interdiction activities in the vicinity of the border, or to protective, inspection, or screening activities.” This will apply to Customs and border Protection, the CIA and Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) agents. According to Yahoo News, Attorney General Eric Holder expressed disappointment with the exemptions for DHS.
December 5, 2014
A new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute's Religion & Politics Tracking Survey showed "50 percent of Americans thought Obama should have used his executive action for immigration changes, while 45 percent did not. But seven-in-ten Americans back his plan to allow parents who are not legally in the United States and have U.S. citizen or legal resident children three years of protection from deportation, provided they pass a background check and have lived in the U.S. for at least five years."
The ACLU has released a new report, "American Exile: Rapid Deportations That Bypass the Courtroom," chronicling some of the cases of the more than 70 percent of deported immigrants who are removed without ever seeing an immigration judge.
The Wall Street Journal sat down with incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and asked him if the next Senate could pass immigration reform in the new year. He suggests that it would be possible, but only in a piece-meal fashion. He said that he would start with border security to reassure the American people, and then H-1B expansion, H-2A provisions for agricultural workers, and some of the other things Senators can agree on.
December 4, 2014
In the worst news of the day, and also most pointless action of the day, House Republicans voted today on a bill authored by Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) that would have prevented the President from implementing his executive action on immigration. (Just a reminder: in order for a bill to become a law it must be signed by the President-probably not looking good on that front here.) The bill largely fell along partisan lines, but seven Republicans voted no, and three Democrats voted yes. The common wisdom is that this vote will allow Speaker Boehner (R-OH) to ensure he has the votes he needs to pass the budget next week to keep the government funding though the fiscal year.
In better news, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams joined Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon to "Slow-Jam the News" on immigration. Worth a watch.
December 3, 2014
Well, in the worst news of the day, 17 states have filed a joint lawsuit in federal court to try to block the President's executive action on immigration. The suit was filed by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and included: Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Mr. Abott explained his reasoning in a statement: "The President is abdicating his responsibility to faithfully enforce laws that were duly enacted by Congress and attempting to rewrite immigration laws, which he has no authority to do - something the President himself has previously admitted. President Obama's actions violate the Take Care Clause of the U.S. Constitution and the Administrative Procedure Act, which were intended to protect against this sort of executive disregard of the separation of powers."
Lynn, Massachusetts is an old industrial city where more than 30 percent of residents are foreign born. Colombian researcher and photographer Patino Contreras created an incredible interactive website providing snapshots into some of the immigrant residents of this small town.
In the same storytelling vein, Think Progress sits down with two teenage brothers in California, who, this summer, made the dangerous journey north from Guatemala to flee gang violence. The boys' mother was deported and is now barred from returing to the United States for many years. "She is currently staying in Tijuana, where she meets with her sons at Friendship Park every weekend." The boys' legal status is still in legal limbo, but they are making the transition to no longer living in constant fear.
The New York Times chronicles the "Genial Force Behind [the] Bitter Opposition to Immigration Overhaul," Roy H. Beck, the president of NumbersUSA. "Mr. Beck, a former environmental journalist who once worked at The Grand Rapids Press and The Cincinnati Enquirer, said he did not feel the rage toward immigrants that he is able to marshal in others. He said that he voted for Mr. Obama in 2008, and he is consistently described by his critics as genial and nonconfrontational. But he says that the rise in immigration levels is destroying the United States-both the environment and employment opportunities for the working class-and is angry at what he considers complicity by the government on the immigrants' behalf."
December 2, 2014
Today, two House committees made their feelings well known on the President's Executive Action on immigration. In two hearings in the House Homeland Security and Judiciary committees, titled respectively, "President Obama's Executive Overreach on Immigration" and ""The Impact of Presidential Amnesty on Border Security," House Republicans argued that the President had violated the Constitution by taking this action. Read AILA's statements for the "Homeland Security and "Judiciary hearing and catch up with tweets from "Advocacy Director Greg Chen. (AILA Doc. Nos. 14120101 and 14120100.)
Congress is coming up on an urgent, self-imposed, deadline next week-on December 12 funding for the government runs out, and unless Congress acts the country is heading towards a shutdown. But, leaders on both sides of the aisle have made public statements on their desires to avoid a shutdown at all costs. Today, details emerged on how that might happen. Politico reports that "House Republican leaders are pitching a plan that would fund nearly all government agencies through next September except the Department of Homeland Security. DHS - which oversees nearly all immigration operations - would only be funded until March. That vote is likely to come next week, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told lawmakers in a closed-door meeting Tuesday morning."
December 1, 2014
Last week, the Congressional Research Service published a report that, in fact, Congress does have the authority to block funding for USCIS even though it is an entirely fee-funded agency. The report was commissioned by Republican Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions and is not a public document. However, Huffington Post published a segment of the report that states: "Importantly, amounts received as fees by federal agencies must still be appropriated by Congress to that agency in order to be available for obligation or expenditure by the agency…the funds available to the agency through fee collections would be subject to the same potential restrictions imposed by Congress on the use of its appropriations as any other type of appropriated funds."
Latino Decisions released a new poll showing that Latino voters overwhelmingly support the President's executive action. 89 percent of all Latino voters support the President, but even more impressively, 76 percent or Republican Latino voters supported the President's action.
November 26, 2014
The American Immigration Council has released the "Guide to the Immigration Accountability Executive Action." The 23 page document walks through each of the points of the President's action and explains them in more detail. Additionally, AILA has released a free, public podcast featuring AILA President Leslie Holman among others that delves into more details of the announcement.
November 25, 2014
Over the weekend DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson went on PBS NewsHour and made the case for the President's executive action on immigration. Much of the implementation will fall to him and his Department, and he traveled to South Texas immediately following the President's speech to make the case on border patrol. "It's important, in our view, that while we exercise prosecutorial discretion, and we have to make the hard choices for the benefit of public safety, border security, a lot of that should include sending the message that our border is not open to future illegal migration. And so - and we came out with that policy with the support of the enforcement community in DHS to send the message that we are going to prioritize going forward those who would come here illegally."
136 law professors have come out in support of the President's authority to grant "certain noncitizens in the United States "deferred action" status as a temporary reprieve from deportation." This follows an editorial from Stephen Legomsky, a law professor at Washington University and former chief counsel of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services from 2011-13, that argues the President's authority to act is "clear."
The Center for American Progress releases a report on how executive action will benefit economies for 26 states in the union. For example, in "California 1,214,000 undocumented immigrants are eligible for deferred action under the president's November 20th executive actions on immigration. If these immigrants are able to receive a temporary work permit, it would lead to a $904 million increase in tax revenues over five years."
In non-executive action news, TracImmigration just released a new report that less than a third of unaccompanied children had an attorney at their hearing in fiscal year 2014. Disturbingly, they've also found that the presence of an attorney "was the single most important factor influencing the case's outcome." In the latest figures, almost 75 percent of children with attorneys were allowed to stay in the country, while only 15 percent of those who were not represented were allowed to stay.
November 24, 2014
AILA has two great new resources to help readers make sense of the executive action announced last week. AILA's Take on President Obama's Immigration Executive Action provides a brief summary and some analysis of the different policies. (AILA Doc. No. 14112448.)
AILA's summary of the President's Immigration Accountability Executive Actions provides a rundown of the dozen plus memoranda put out since last Thursday. (AILA Doc. No. 14112446.)
It was just nine months ago, on March 14, 2014, that the President announced that he was ordering his newly installed Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson to do a review of the country’s enforcement policies in order to make them more humane and fair. The President, the Secretary and the country have come a long way since then. Politico delves into the politics and players behind the President’s decision to go bold last week on executive action. The story chronicles how closely held the process really was, with Secretary Johnson writing the majority of the memos himself: “Disciplined and direct, Johnson approached his work for the White House like an attorney going to the mat for his clients. Unlike some political figures, he wasn’t interested in buffing up his own image. As an early supporter of Obama’s 2008 campaign, Johnson had credibility in the president’s insular world. No matter what, he wasn’t going to leak details of the president’s plan.”
In case anyone cares, this is how Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach described the President’s plans on immigration: “Imperial, executive amnesty. The sacrificial shredding of our Constitution.” Now he’s planning on filing a lawsuit, perhaps joined by the state of Texas and a number of disgruntled ICE officers, to try to stop the President’s executive action. But first, according to the Washington Post, “he will have to prove the plaintiffs have standing to sue by showing they have suffered credible, personal injury because of Obama’s executive action.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been a fairly active advocate for immigration reform over the last two years; however, they were seemingly not impressed with the President’s decision to use his executive authority last week. Chamber President Tom Donohue stated, “Meaningful and lasting immigration reform can only be achieved through the enactment of bipartisan legislation…Executive actions cannot adequately fix our broken immigration system, and they raise important legal and constitutional questions.”
November 21, 2014
Well more and more details of the President’s executive action on immigration have been released. Read the more than dozen new memos from DHS, USCIS and ICE on AILA’s Resource Page on Administrative Reform 2014.
The President electrified a crowd in Las Vegas, Nevada today in round two of a speech explaining his decision to take executive action to a supportive crowd at Del Sol High School—the same place he made the speech two years ago outlining his principles for comprehensive immigration reform. There were a few choice quotes from the speech, but he continued to circle back to the same idea, that what this country really needed was for Congress to pass a bill. In fact, he even offered to “walk Speaker Boehner’s dog or wash his car” if it meant that he would let immigration reform come up for a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives. The real emotional moment of the event might have been when DREAMer Astrid Silva introduced the President. The President mentioned her in his speech last night, specifically the courage she showed to pursue her dreams and fight for reform as an undocumented young person.
House Republican leadership has planned their first hearing in the wake of the President’s announcement. The Homeland Security Committee, chaired by Michael McCaul (R-TX), will hold the hearing, with the no-way inflammatory title “Open Borders: The Impact of Presidential Amnesty on Border Security,” next Wednesday and have invited DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson to testify.
November 20, 2014
So, everyone is waiting anxiously for the President's big speech tonight at 8:00pm ET (which the major networks will not be covering), but throughout the day today a few tidbits about what the President might actually announce have snuck out. (AILA Doc. No. 14112059.) The big one: parents of U.S. citizen and lawful permanent resident children will now qualify for affirmative relief, via deferred action. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that as many as 5.2 million people may qualify under these programs. Additionally, DACA eligibility will be expanded by eliminating the age limit for potential applicants. Early reports seem to indicate that border security will play a large role in whatever plan the President announces as well (for a reminder on how much this country has spent on building up border security in the last 13 years read AILA's Border Benchmarks Report). The White House has released a fact sheet, talking points, and a pocket guide on the executive action announcement coming tonight. (AILA Doc. Nos. 14112057, 14112056 and 14112058.)
Visit AILA Resources on Administrative Reform 2014 for all the information as it's released, and follow AILA Advocacy Director Greg Chen on Twitter for live updates over the next two days.
How will Republicans act after the President actually makes his announcement tonight? The reality is that no one seems to know, not even Congressional Republican leadership. Presumably without a shred of irony, incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) promised that Congress would act in the wake of the President's action: "If President Obama acts in defiance of the people and imposes his will on the country, Congress will act. We're considering a variety of options. But make no mistake. Make no mistake. When the newly elected representatives of the people take their seats, they will act." One can only imagine he's not talking about passing real immigration reform, but the country can hope.
FiveThirtyEight outlines the number of all executive actions Presidents have ever taken, and, spoiler alert, President Obama is nowhere near the top of the list.
November 19, 2014
Well, today the President announced that tomorrow night, at 8:00pm ET, he would be announcing his plans for executive action on immigration (follow AILA Advocacy Director Greg Chen on Twitter for live updates from the announcement). And then on Friday he’ll head to Las Vegas, Nevada, where he laid out his principles for Congressional reform two years ago at Del Sol High School, to discuss why he is using his executive authority now, and why Republicans in Congress must act to pass a long-term solution to immigration reform. Stay tuned for updates, AILA resources, press releases and other information on the AILA Administration Reform 2014 page.
Speaking of that announcement the NY Times reports that the “Deportation Reprieve May Not Include Parents of Young Immigrants.” Allegedly, “some [White House] officials have argued it would be more difficult both legally and politically to make the case for including parents of immigrants in the existing program for young people who came when they were children.” They also offer a handy infographic on exactly how many people might be helped by any affirmative relief program the President announces.
Not one to be outdone, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), took the opportunity to point out the “22 times President Obama said he couldn’t ignore or create his own immigration law.” Not all Republicans are as adamant that an executive action on immigration reform will really poison the possibility for Congressional reform. Original Senate Gang of Eight Member, Jeff Flake (R-AZ), still believes that legislation is possible: "I hope we respond with legislation. I hope we pass legislation.”
In direct contradiction to Speaker Boehner’s claim that the President doesn’t have the authority to act, and in a shout out to our friends at the American Immigration Council, Senator Barbar Boxer (D-CA) used a large chart to demonstrate all the executive actions taken on immigration since 1956. Read more about them in the American Immigration Council’s issue brief.The Washington Times ran an interesting section in today’s paper devoted to “conservative and economic solutions to act now” on immigration featuring commentary from Ben Carson, Sen. Rand Paul, Paul Ryan, Jeb Bush, Gov. Susana Martinez, Grover Norquist, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, John Engler, Thomas J. Donahue, Jay Timmons and Alex Nowrasteh.
November 18, 2014
Well the temporary, remote family detention center in Artesia, New Mexico, really is a temporary facility apparently. Acting ICE Director Winkowski announced today that the Artesia facility will be closing, and that the new permanent family detention center in Dilley, Texas would pick up the slack. Winkowski made clear the administration was not backing down from their intention to detain small children, “We must be prepared for traditional, seasonal increases in illegal migration. The Dilley facility will provide invaluable surge capacity should apprehensions of adults with children once again surge this spring.” (AILA Doc. No. 14111849.)
AILA was not encouraged by the closing of one family detention center, simply to open another, larger, permanent facility. AILA Executive Director Crystal Williams commented, “The Administration is playing more games with the lives of women and children fleeing violence. This time it's a shell game moving people from one jail to another without regard for their well-being or human rights. There is no indication that the Administration is slowing down the massive escalation of family detention. Far from it, since ICE is opening a massive permanent facility in Dilley, Texas, run by a private prison company, that will have a capacity of 2,400 beds, becoming the largest immigration detention facility of any kind nationwide.” (AILA Doc. No. 14111800.)
Current, but not for long, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said today that he spoke to the President yesterday and told him he "should move as fast as he can" on immigration action. He also indicated that he would not rush the Senate to vote on confirming U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch as the next Attorney General of the United States. Some Senate Republicans are already indicating that her nomination may fall victim to misplaced anger at the President’s for his upcoming executive action on immigration.
Meanwhile, the Immigration Policy Center reminds us that if—or when—President Obama takes executive action on immigration, he won’t be the first U.S. president to do so. “Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush protected 40 percent of undocumented immigration from deportation through executive action.”
The Center for American Progress has a new report examining how this country’s emphasis on immigration enforcement over the last decade plus has put a huge burden on the country’s court system. “Since the U.S. Department of Homeland Security began operations in 2003, the combined budget for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, and Customs and Border Protection, or CBP—the primary agencies charged with enforcing immigration laws—has soared, doubling from more than $9 billion in 2003 to more than $18 billion in 2014. In contrast, overall funding for the Executive Office of Immigration Review, or EOIR—the immigration court system—is stuck in the millions, rising from only $188 million in 2003 to $312 million today.”
November 17, 2014
Today, six Senate Democrats sent a letter to President Obama supporting his decision to use his well-established executive authority to fix the country's broken immigration system. (AILA Doc. No. 14111744.) They state: "Immigrant communities have waited too long for House Republicans to catch up with the American public's support for comprehensive immigration reform. We strongly support your plan to improve as much of the immigration system as you can within your legal authority, and will stand behind you to support changes to keep families together while continuing to enforce our immigration laws in a way that protects our national security and public safety."
In more potential administrative action news, Democratic Representative Xavier Becerra (CA) had some strong words for those who oppose the President taking action when appearing on CNN's State of the Union, "If it were your child, and you were about to be separated from your child, simply because Congress is dysfunctional and doesn't get its job done, then you would say, 'My God, this is crazy, a citizen child being separated [from their family].'" Rep. Becerra sparred off with former Bush Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on the issue.
The National Journal comments on the rare occasion for a sitting, termed-out President to influence the next Presidential election that is more than 23 months away, but with an action on immigration President Obama might do just that. They argue that if the President does not "achieve a small recovery, even a well-known and relatively popular politician like Hillary Clinton will struggle to convince voters they shouldn't back the other party's choice for the White House." But "even if Republicans avoid the harsh rhetoric that has marked the previous responses to immigration policy-something Republican strategists acknowledge is no guarantee-their explanation that their objections are based on overuse of executive power might not resonate with the Hispanic community."
November 14, 2014
President Obama, speaking from Burma this morning, addressed the criticisms coming from Congressional Republicans around the coming Presidential action on immigration. "So [Congressional Republicans] have the ability to fix the system. What they don't have the ability to do is to expect me to stand by with a broken system in perpetuity. And I would advise that if, in fact, they want to take a different approach, rather than devote a lot of time trying to constrain my lawful actions as the Chief Executive of the U.S. government in charge of our enforcing our immigration laws, that they spend some time passing a bill and engaging with all the stakeholders, the immigrant rights groups, the law enforcement groups, the evangelicals, the business community, all of whom have said this is something that needs to be done, is way overdue. And we've been talking about it for 10 years now, and it's been consistently stalled."
Meanwhile The Atlantic hypothesizes about what Republicans might do in reaction to a President announcement. "If Obama acts this month, the biggest question will be whether the GOP tries to insert language into a must-pass federal spending bill to overturn the policy, thereby risking a government shutdown that party leaders have promised to avoid. The incoming Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, signaled he would not pursue that option. 'We will not be shutting the government down or threatening to default on the national debt.'"
Today, Rep. Luis Gutierrez appeared on Jose Diaz-Balart's show on MSNBC and made a bold claim if the President doesn't act on immigration soon or to the Representative's liking. "If the president doesn't go big, if the president doesn't go wide, if he isn't generous, certainly there are many throughout the country who say there should be a challenge for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party if it, once again, turns its back on our immigrant community. And if that were to happen, I'll give you a call, Jose. Because it will be something that we will be required to do."
November 13, 2014
Fox News announced breaking news today that "President Obama is planning to unveil a 10-part plan for overhauling U.S. immigration policy via executive action -- including suspending deportations for millions -- as early as next Friday, a source close to the White House told Fox News." No official word from the White House on the legitimacy of the reporting, but Fox News reports that the plan will "span everything from boosting border security to improving pay for immigration officers," and, of course, granting deferred action to a large group of people (potentially up to 4.5 million people).
117 House Democrats sent a letter to President Obama today asking him to take "bold and meaningful executive action" on immigration. (AILA Doc. No. 14111761.)
Yet another reason to expand transparency and accountability of Border Patrol officers, today a number of advocacy organizations-including AILA-filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties raising "concerns regarding the failure by CBP to properly screen individuals who flee to the United States." The complaint provides detailed accounts of asylum seekers who were improperly screened or whose expressions of fear were ignored by CBP officers at the border.
November 12, 2014
According to a new study, ICE detainers are on a (rapid) decline. TRAC reports that "in the eighteen month period from the end of FY 2012 through March 2014, there has been a 39 percent decrease in the number of ICE detainers sent to local, state and federal law enforcement officials." Although the reasons for the drop are unclear, they hypothesize that it may be the result of more localities pushing back on the constitutionality of the detainers, therefore leading ICE to issue fewer detainers they felt "would not be honored."
November 10, 2014
President Obama went on Face the Nation yesterday and admitted that he's "deporting people that shouldn't be deported. We're not deporting folks that are dangerous and need to be deported." He went on to comment, I've got legal authority to make improvements on the system. I prefer and still prefer to see it done through Congress, but every day that I wait we're misallocating resources."
Over the weekend, conservative Senators Ted Cruz (TX) and Mike Lee (UT) issued a statement on the confirmation on Loretta Lynch for Attorney General, asking that she clarify her stance on the use of executive action and asking that her confirmation be delayed until the new Congress is seated: "President Obama's Attorney General nominee deserves fair and full consideration of the United States Senate, which is precisely why she should not be confirmed in the lame duck session of Congress by senators who just lost their seats and are no longer accountable to the voters. The Attorney General is the President's chief law enforcement officer. As such, the nominee must demonstrate full and complete commitment to the law. Loretta Lynch deserves the opportunity to demonstrate those qualities, beginning with a statement whether or not she believes the President's executive amnesty plans are constitutional and legal."
Republican Senator Ron Johnson (WI) will be the new chair of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee when the Senate switches to Republican control come January. He told the Associated Press that he has already began working on a border security bill that he will hope to push through the Senate next year. He told AP that "his legislation would include a guest worker program to reduce incentives for illegal immigration. It would build on work already done by Congress, including a House bill aimed at ensuring that 90 percent of would-be border crossers are stopped."
November 7, 2014
Today, President Obama and Republican Congressional leadership met at the White House to discuss a range of issues, including immigration. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) warned the President that taking action would poison the well on any potential action by Congress in the new session, but was unable to lay out any specifics of a Republican plan to tackle the country's flawed immigration system. Joining the Speaker in applying pressure on the President was Senator Cornyn (R-TX), a longtime opponent of immigration reform. He remarked that he was "sorry to say it seemed to fall on deaf ears."
November 6, 2014
Today the AILA Artesia Pro Bono Project just won their ninth asylum case! Read AILA Advocacy Director Greg Chen's tweets from the hearing and learn more about this case and the eight before it in AILA's case examples two-pager. (AILA Doc. No. 14102446.)
Senator John McCain (R-AZ) was a member of the "Gang of Eight" that drafted the Senate immigration reform bill and stewarded it through the process to eventually gain 68 votes, including the votes of 14 Republicans. He then urged his House colleagues to take up the bill, or pass their own versions of immigration reform, but, sadly, to no avail. Now, he's making a new plea, this time to the President of the United States: "I literally am pleading with the president of the United States not to act. Give it a chance. We've got a new Congress. We've got a new mandate. Let's let the House of Representatives decide if they want to move forward on immigration reform or not." Meanwhile, yesterday, six Republicans, including Jeff Sessions (AL) and Ted Cruz (TX), sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) expressing "alarm" with the President's decision to take executive action on immigration.
November 4, 2014
Today is Election Day! Republicans need to flip six senate seats (and retain the ones they currently have) to gain the majority in the Senate and control both houses of Congress. The statisticians at FiveThirtyEight are giving Republicans a 75 percent chance at accomplishing that goal. Some of the key races to watch include: North Carolina, Louisiana, Alaska, Arkansas, Kansas and Colorado.
Now that it’s Election Day, Congressman Luis Gutierrez is wasting no time to reminding the President of his promise to take executive action after the mid-term elections. The Hill reports that Gutiérrez “will host a press conference Wednesday in Chicago to push the president to take quick executive action to rein in deportations.”
Alejandro Mayorkas might be the Administration’s top pick to replace outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder to lead the Department of Justice. Rumors circling in D.C. and a letter sent by the National Fraternal Order of Police seem to indicate that Mayorkas is leading a short list of potential candidates.
AILA members, and AILA Artesia Pro Bono Project volunteers, Stephen Manning and Dree Collopy have an editorial in today’s Guardian asking “Why is Obama still locking up so many innocent women and kids on US soil?” They explain: “When the refugee detention centre in Artesia opened, the word had already come down from on high: ‘We will send you back.’ Sure enough, the government has done its level best to march these women and children through a traumatic asylum process – one in which legally established protections for refugees are being ignored or abused wholesale – to get them on their way to an airplane that sends them back to the lands they fled.”
November 3, 2014
Over the weekend, former Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney went on Fox News Sunday and expressed his confidence that a Republican controlled House and Senate could get immigration reform done. “But you're going to see a provision first of all to secure the border, second of all, to deal with those who have come here illegally and, third, to make sure our immigration policies are open and transparent to many people who do want to come here illegally. That's going to happen. You're going to be a bill actually reached the desk of the president, if we finally have someone besides Harry Reid sitting in the Senate.”
October 31, 2014
The Wall Street Journal has talked to someone in the administration who is “familiar with the administration’s thinking” on how the executive action this Winter will be structured. Allegedly, “the White House is considering two central requirements in deciding which of the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants would gain protections through an expected executive action: a minimum length of time in the U.S., and a person’s family ties to others in the country.”
Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) a staunch opponent of the Senate comprehensive immigration bill, S. 744, came out in support of a “pathway to citizenship for kids” at a debate last Tuesday night. “For children who came with their parents into the country and did not comply with our immigration laws, they are guilty of nothing other than coming with their family. We ought to provide them with an opportunity not only to go to school, but eventually serve in the military or complete a college education and earn American citizenship.”
In weird news for the day, Reuters reports that a U.S. federal judge ordered notorious Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio to participate in the same racial profiling training that his officers were forced to undergo because of recent comments made by the Sheriff.
October 30, 2014
In an op-ed in Univison, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Representatives Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) lay out the precedent for the President to act on immigration this Fall. “In addition to taking steps to make our immigration enforcement efforts more humane, there are dozens of reforms that the President can adopt. Two that could have the greatest impact involve the expanded use of his deferred action and “parole” authorities. Presidents have broad authority to defer removal when it is in the national interest, and past presidents have regularly used this authority. In the years immediately following the enactment of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush took bold action to protect the spouses and children of people who received status under that law.”
Politico Magazine has an in-depth examination of “The Green Monster,” more commonly referred to as Border Patrol. The article examines how the dramatic surge in hiring over the last thirteen years has led many officials formerly affiliated with the department to question the integrity and quality of the force. “But the Border Patrol has also become one of the nation’s deadliest law enforcement agencies over that same period, involved in more fatal shootings—at least 46—since 2004 than perhaps any other such agency…An internal report last year that the agency tried to keep secret accused its agents of shooting their weapons not out of fear for their lives but instead out of “frustration.”
Today, three Republican members of the Senate “Gang of Eight” sent a letter to President Obama asking him to not take executive action on immigration. Senators McCain (AZ), Graham (SC) and Rubio (FL) state: “Mr. President, we urge you to work with Congress to secure our borders and address the serious issues facing America’s immigration system. Unilateral action by the executive branch on this issue would be detrimental to finding and enacting much-needed long-term policy and legislative solutions to our broken immigration system.”
In what might be the most racist ad of the election cycle, attacks a state representative in Kentucky for supporting modified drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants. Think Progress highlighted the ad as suggesting “that granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants could lead to terrorist attacks like the ones carried out on 9/11 at the World Trade Center.”
October 29, 2014
Today, the AILA Artesia Pro Bono Project represented a mother and her two children at their asylum merits hearing, the eighth for the Project. This follows seven earlier merits cases, all meritorious—read about those seven cases and check out AILA Advocacy Director Greg Chen’s Twitter for updates from today’s hearing. (AILA Doc. No. 14102446)
The Washington Post runs a scathing editorial today accusing Republicans of conjuring up a “wide open border” to “frighten voters to the GOP.” The paper’s main complaint, using the silk screen of border security as an excuse to not do anything on immigration reform. “Desperate to conjure up arguments against immigration reform, much of the GOP has long been blind to the buildup and militarization along the border — even though it has been achieved by bipartisan authorizations of cash by Congress. After all, the standard rationale for opposing legal status for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants is to insist that the Southwest border first be ‘secured.’”
Buzzfeed reported yesterday that the “Justice Department and Homeland Security officials are sending to the White House their final recommendations on what immigration executive actions should look like” in the next two weeks. What those recommendations entail is still entirely unclear. Some might remember that it was way back in March that the President asked DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson to do a 90 day review of deportation policies in the department—the results of that review still remain a mystery.
October 28, 2014
32 House Democrats sent a letter to President Obama today expressing their “serious reservations regarding the detention of mothers and children as a policy matter,” and also their “immediate concerns pertain to the manner in which families are presently being detained and plans to significantly expand family detention in the months ahead.” (AILA Doc. No. 14102843.) The letter was spearheaded by California Representative Zoe Lofgren, the ranking member of the House Immigration Subcommittee.
Alex Nowrasteh, the immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute, has an editorial in yesterday’s TownHall.com on the decision by this President to drastically increase the detention of families. He remarks that critics of the President, who accuse him of ignoring immigration enforcement laws are really missing the point. The real law the President is ignoring is the one of due process. “Ironically, these critics ignore one of the most egregious offenses to the rule of law on this issue: the systematic denial of due process in immigrant detention centers across the country.”
Read a profile of Javier Flores in Saturday’s Washington Post, an undocumented immigrant with a wife and four U.S. citizen children who was deported to Mexico twenty three days ago. Mr. Flores had a good job in a window factory in Ohio, managing 30 people and paying $850 in taxes each month, but when he was pulled over while driving and detained by immigration officials all of that ended. Now he spends his time picking lines with his father and thinking about when he’ll be able to see his family again.
October 27, 2014
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is the House Majority Leader and the number two Republican in the House and he has some bold ideas about what Republicans will need to do over the next two years if they want a chance to win back the Presidency-his main suggestion: "govern." He's hoping that his Republican colleagues in the Senate (assuming they gain control of the Chamber) will embark on a joint legislative agenda to demonstrate that they are capable of getting things done. However, he is not too sure that immigration will be on that list, Politico reports, "McCarthy left open the possibility of passing an overhaul of immigration laws but said if Obama "tried to do it by executive order, that's the worst way," and it would "stop everything."
October 24, 2014
Today, the AILA Artesia Pro Bono Project won their seventh (out of seven) asylum cases for families detained in the family detention center in Artesia, New Mexico. This follows on two other victories this week for families detained. Read about the families that have fought, and won, their asylum cases. (AILA Doc. No. 14102446.)
Almost from the moment he introduced Senate bill 744 last year, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has been doing everything can to distance himself from it. Some might remember that in the run up to the bill's introduction, Sen. Rubio was a grand champion for the bill-appearing on many conservative radio and television show to stump for it, and seemingly winning over at least some of those hearts and minds. But that was a different time, and a different Republican Party. Many predict that Sen. Rubio is seriously considering a run for President in 2016, and, unfortunately, it seems that the Republican Primary voters still aren't too keen on a candidate who supports legalization for any undocumented population. At a campaign stop in New Hampshire today he had this to say about further efforts to pass a bill: "I don't think Washington, now or in the foreseeable future, is conducive to doing a massive piece of legislation on any topic."
October 23, 2014
The Center for American Progress has pulled together the "Facts on Immigration Today," to help keep the public up to date on why immigration (and immigrants) is so vital to the country's interests.
October 22, 2014
Today, in trying to read the tea leaves news, many were guessing that DHS's procurement of supplies to make millions more work permits and green cards, was a sign of what the President is planning on doing after Election Day on administration action. Not so fast, according to White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest: "I think those who are trying to read into those specific orders about what the president may decide are a little too cleverly trying to divine what the president's ultimate conclusion might be.What I would caution you against is making assumptions about what will be in those announcements based on the procurement practices of the Department of Homeland Security."
Yesterday, incumbent candidate Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Republican candidate Scott Brown sparred off in their one and only debate in their race to represent New Hampshire in the U.S. Senate. Immigration was a major point of disagreement in the debate, and anyone who has seen Mr. Brown's recent fear inducing border ad, can understand that the two candidates have very different viewpoints on the issue. Responding to a question on what the metric is for a secure border, Mr. Brown responded, "You know when it's secure when people don't come across it." Sen. Shaheen responded that "What Scott Brown has done is to grandstand on this issue."
October 21, 2014
Today, the American Immigration Council, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild and co-counsel, the National Immigration Law Center and Jenner & Block, LLP., filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act to compel the release of government documents regarding the expedited removal process against families with children, including those detained by DHS in Artesia, New Mexico. The release of these policies and procedures is particularly urgent given that the government has opened another family detention center in Karnes, Texas and has announced plans to open a massive 2,400-bed family detention facility in Dilley, Texas.
October 20, 2014
After the 2012 election, pundits and party leaders seemed to agree that in order for a candidate to win a national election, she would have to appeal to Latino voters-mainly by demonstrating a willingness to work on immigration reform with a road to legalization and citizenship. However, no one mentioned anything about state races, and now Republican Senate and House candidates across the country are attacking their opponents for being for "amnesty" and soft on "illegal immigration." The real question is, will running away from reform (and towards harsh enforcement and increased border) mean that Republicans will lose any chance they have at the White House in 2016?
October 17, 2014
Today, USCIS announced the Haitian Family Reunification Parole program which will offer certain eligible Haitian beneficiaries of already approved family-based immigrant visa petitions, who are currently in Haiti, an opportunity to come to the United States up to approximately two years before their immigrant visa priority dates become current. AILA President Leslie Holman commented on the announcement, "While I was delighted to hear this news and commend USCIS for taking this compassionate action, this is not a panacea for the still broken immigration system that our nation is forced to deal with every day. This is a small step forward, and while it will mean so much to the families affected, there are many more changes the President has the authority to make - changes that could help our businesses and economy, while bringing our families and communities together." (AILA Doc. No. 14102340.)
Minnesota AILA member Kim Hunter recently spent time volunteering with the AILA Artesia Pro Bono Project at the family detention center in Artesia, New Mexico. (AILA Doc. No. 14090249) This past Tuesday, she successfully helped a mother and her two young children who have been detained in Artesia for three months receive a grant of asylum from an immigration judge. Watch her explain what it meant to have ICE keep this family in detention even after they were granted asylum. (AILA Doc. No. 14101753.)
October 16, 2014
Today, ten Democratic Senators, Leahy (VT), Reid (NV), Durbin (IL), Schumer (NY), Murray (WA), Blumenthal (CT), Menendez (NJ), Bennet (CO), Hirono (HI), and Udall (CO), sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson expressing their opposition to the expansion of family detention by the Obama administration. (AILA Doc. No. 14101608.) They remark, "The decision to construct this new 2,400 bed facility - what will be the largest immigration detention facility in the country - stands in contrast to the principles this administration embraced just five years ago when it stopped detaining families at the Hutto facility in Texas and set aside plans for three new family detention facilities."
Human Rights Watch released a new report today based on a number on interviews with Hondurans who have been deported after only a cursory screening by a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer along the southern border. "'You Don't Have Rights Here:' U.S. Border Screening and Returns of Central Americans to Risk of Serious Harm" chronicles that "CBP's methods for interviewing migrants in expedited removal procedures are seriously flawed."
Some House Republicans, notably two who were members of the now defunct House Gang of Eight, told Buzzfeed that they believe immigration reform has a better chance of passing if Republicans win the Senate. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL): "I don't want to mislead; it's a difficult lift as we all know. But we would have a better shot at getting it done if Republicans take control of the Senate for the simple reason that it could be initiated in the House with close coordination with the Senate." Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador (R) thinks it will force Congress to do piecemeal: "I actually think it's more likely, if we take the Senate, that we will have immigration reform. We will be able to do it on a step-by-step approach like most Republicans have been asking to do and I think the American people want." But not everyone believes the hype. Longtime immigration reform advocate Frank Sherry, "The party is so fundamentally bigoted and anti-immigrant they cannot overcome the majority so that the few reformers can make it right."
October 15, 2014
The President called out Republicans last week for their short-sightedness of opposing immigration reform and again promising to use "all of the executive authority that he legally has to make fixes in some of the system…But whatever I do through the executive branch will not be as effective as we could do through legislation. And it's anybody's guess how Republicans are thinking about this. If they were thinking long term politically, it is suicide for them not to do this. Because the demographics of the country are such where you are going to lose an entire generation of immigrants who are looking around and saying, you know what, that party does not seem to care much about me and my life. And I think the smarter Republicans understand this. Short term, though, they've got a problem, and the Tea Party and others who oftentimes express virulently anti-immigrant sentiment."
The New York Times chronicles a New York City paramedic who later today will take the oath and become a U.S. citizen. But his path was not easy. A Pakistani who first came to the United States as a young boy to see his dying mother and then overstayed his tourist visa, he was tagged for deportation after complying with special registration program post 9/11. Although he was initially offered prosecutorial discretion, that reprieve only lasted a few years before he was brought back to court in 2006. Working with his lawyer, he applied for political asylum. "After an emotional three-hour hearing that included expert testimony about routine killings by extremists in Pakistan, an immigration judge granted his plea, over the objections of lawyers at the Department of Homeland Security." His lawyer, Ms. OuYang, "the daughter of a doctor who was among the first Chinese immigrants allowed into the United States after the repeal of the now-infamous Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, sees Mr. Hussain's case as part of a much longer history."
When the Administration announced the expansion of family detention beyond Artesia, first to the facility in Karnes, Texas and then the creation of a brand new, 2,400 bed facility in Dilley, Texas, they also announced that both of these detention centers would be run by for-profit corporations. In fact, the center being built in Dilley, Texas, will be run by the same corporation, Corrections Corporation of America, that ran the now shut down Hutto facility and was plagued with accusations of abuse and neglect. For those who want to learn more about the influence of a private lobby on America's detention system, the non-profit Grassroots Leadership just issued a report inviting you to "meet the companies set to make millions on the return of family detention."
October 14, 2014
Turns out that the unaccompanied children released to sponsors in the interior actually are showing up for their court dates, despite what others might want the public to believe (looking at you, Arizona Senators). The Executive Office of Immigration Review released new data that shows that 85 percent of the 10,041 minors showed up at their first court hearings.
FiveThirtyEight examines how "The Unaccompanied Minor Crisis Has Moved from the Border to the Courts." Even as the numbers of children coming to the southern border has dropped since the peak during this past summer and the media seems to have moved on from this issue (except for the vague references to these people bringing in Ebola or ISIS), apparently "the crisis is still causing havoc. The backlog of cases in immigration courts is the biggest it has been in 20 years and has been growing steadily since 2000 (including an uptick after the increased allocation of resources for border protection)."
October 10, 2014
Republican Senators Grassley (IA), Hatch (UT) and Corburn (OK), sent a letter to the lGovernment Accountability Office asking them "to review policies of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the agency charged with caring for unaccompanied minors crossing the southern U.S. border." In the letter they allege that, "It's unclear if a strategy has been formulated to deal with the impending surge in the next fiscal year, which the administration suggests could include up to 145,000 more unaccompanied alien minors."
October 9, 2014
In the grossest political ad of the day, candidate for Texas Lieutenant Governor attacks his opponent over her opposition to deploying the National Guard to the southern border. He conflates terrorist attacks, the Central American humanitarian crisis and border security, all in one ad, an impressive feat. He ends the commercial with, “National security begins with border security — and that begins with the Texas Rangers and National Guard.”
One good news from today, maybe, is that the White House press secretary does not foresee Congressional Republicans threatening to shut down the government based on (or in anticipation of) executive action by the President on immigration. The Hill reports, “The White House would be ‘surprised’ if congressional Republicans link efforts to block any forthcoming executive actions on immigration to future budget or debt ceiling measures, press secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday. ‘I don't think that there are many analysts that believe that the political standing of the Republican Party was enhanced by shutting down the government,’ Earnest said. ‘So I would be surprised if Republican leaders chose to pursue that path again.’”
October 8, 2014
Two weeks ago, the Associate Press reported on a leak from a confidential ICE meeting that "an official with [ICE] revealed that about 70 percent of immigrant families the Obama administration had released into the U.S. never showed up weeks later for follow up appointments." Although the report provided no proof, break down or explanation of the statistic or any other data point, many were alarmed by the high number of no shows. Well, a new story from The Wall Street Journal today directly contradicts the claim allegedly made by an unnamed ICE official. "Between July 18 and Sept. 30, about 85% of unaccompanied minors showed up for a scheduled first hearing, and about two-thirds of adults with children appeared, according to data obtained from the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the agency that oversees the nation's immigration courts." Additionally, the data from EOIR confirms what has been a proven fact in immigration courts, that "those who have legal representation also are more likely to appear and win their case."
October 7, 2014
In yesterday's Colorado Senate debate, Republican candidate Cory Gardner came out strongly in support of immigration reform, "I believe some form of work status is going to be the ultimate solution that we come to. I believe earned status is going to be eligible to be part of the solution."
October 6, 2014
AILA responded to the two recent announcements from the Obama administration on immigration, the first regarding eligible immigrants with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) applying for the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) program and a second plan to allow young children from Central American countries to apply for refugee status from outside the U.S. AILA President Leslie Holman: "These two actions are policies that sound good at first, but in operation only pretend to be changes. What we really need is the President to take big, bold action that will help our military, our economy, our communities, our businesses, and our families. These pretenses of policy change aren't helping. Last week he promised real action on immigration. We need better proof than this." (AILA Doc. No. 14100640.)
The anti-immigration reform group FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform) released their new voting reports (House and Senate) on the 113th Congress. Let's just say the drafters of the Senate's comprehensive immigration bill did not fare well and neither did those who voted in favor of Alejandro Mayorkas for DHS Deputy Director or against the defunding of DACA.
October 3, 2014
Yesterday, the President addressed the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, and unsurprisingly most of his remarks focused on his plan to take executive action on immigration. Although the President has faced strong resistance from many in the Latino community (and AILA) for his decision to delay the announcement until after the election (but before the end of the year-or so he promises), he was still greeted with cheers and introduced by an enthusiastic Senator Menendez (D-NJ). (AILA Doc. No. 14090640.) The President acknowledged the anger in his speech, "Now, I know there's deep frustration in many communities around the country right now. And I understand that frustration because I share it. I know the pain of families torn apart because we live with a system that's broken. But if anybody wants to know where my heart is or whether I want to have this fight, let me put those questions to rest right now. I am not going to give up this fight until it gets done."
The National Day Labor Organizing Network, NDLON, has released a new report chronicling the destructive effect of the President's enforcement regime on American families. "Destructive Delay: A Qualitative Report on the State of Interior Immigration Enforcement and the Human Cost of Postponing Reforms," includes almost three dozen interviews with front-line organizers, legal experts, and people in deportation proceedings.
October 2, 2014
The White House today announced that they would be providing $9 million in funding for legal services to some of the unaccompanied immigrant children who have crossed the border recently. "The federal government will give more than $4.2 million over the next year to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in D.C. and the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants in Arlington, both of which will provide legal services to undocumented children in nine cities: Arlington, Va., Baltimore, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Memphis, Miami, New Orleans, Phoenix." This follows the actions of the state of California, who announced they would be providing $3 million in funding for these children, and New York City who announced that all unaccompanied children would be provided counsel.
The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants has launched a great new website detailing the experiences of refugees living in America. The site includes videos, stories and facts about refugees living in this country.
October 1, 2014
The Department of Homeland Security has released their immigration enforcement action report for fiscal year 2013 (October 1, 2012 through September 30, 2013). (AILA Doc. No 14100146.) The highlights included that DHS removed approximately 438,000 aliens from the United States with expedited removal orders accounted for 44 percent of all removals. Immigration Impact notes, "The Obama administration set another record for deportations…up nearly 5 percent from the 418,397 removals in 2012…The latest information shows that DHS is removing more people, more quickly, with more serious consequences, but the statistics also show those people are increasingly less dangerous. These latest numbers beg the question of what purpose the record deportations are serving. As MPI's Marc Rosenblum told the New York Times, "You can't look at this report and conclude that this administration has not been serious about immigration enforcement."
Melinda Henneberger of The Washington Post, recently visited the family detention center in Artesia, New Mexico and was taken aback by what she found. She comments, "But the emergency circumstances under which this chaotic, makeshift operation was set up make that harder. Trying to send immigrants back as soon as possible without violating their right to due process in applying for asylum is trickier still. And even the best intentions do not always translate into reality."
Yesterday, MALDEF, the immigration clinic at the University of Texas School of Law, Human Rights first and the law offices of Javier Maldonado filed a complaint alleging that sexual abuse has been ongoing at the for-profit family detention center located in Karnes City, Texas. This complaint follows a complaint made last week alleging several severe conditions problems at the facility, related to medical access and treatment of children, among others. The Obama Administration's decision to double down on family detention has severe consequences on the health and well-being of these vulnerable mothers and children, many of whom are fleeing violence and abuse in their home country. (AILA Doc. No. 14092255.)
September 30, 2014
Today, the President announced some of the details of a plan referenced earlier in the summer to allow some young children from Central American countries to apply in-country for refugee status. However, White House officials acknowledged that the program would not increase the number of refugee visas actually available, only allow for in-country processing for some. AILA's Advocacy Director Greg Chen was not impressed, commenting on his Twitter: "In-country refugee processing is like the Captain of the Titanic saying, 'We have some life rafts on board-this solves the problem, right?'"
AILA's 35 domestic chapters have all signed an open letter to the President calling on the Obama Administration "to immediately review its current detention and removal policies towards children and families with children, which have been widely denounced as both inhumane and unconstitutional, and in violation of our country's legal and moral obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention." (AILA Doc. No. 14092900.)
The Washington Post editorial board expressed cautious optimism that the new reforms championed by Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske could make a real impact on the legitimacy of the agency. But they caution that "the question now is whether an organization that badly needs change, and the National Border Patrol Council, the union that represents some 17,000 agents in the field, will be receptive to reform."
Kansas businessman Greg Orman is running for the U.S. Senate seat in Kansas and giving incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts (R) a run for his money in most recent polls-interestingly enough Orman is running as an independent and has resisted any attempts to pin him down on what party he intends to caucus with if he wins. Although he's indicated that he'll caucus with whichever party wins the majority, there's a very real chance that the Senate could be divided evenly-50 Republicans and 49 Democrats with Vice President Biden-come January and Orman's choice will decide whether Sen. Reid (D-NV) keeps his position as Majority Leader. When posed with this question, interestingly enough, he used immigration as one litmus test: "He would ask both parties to commit to issues like immigration and tax reform, and join the one that agreed. 'We're going to work with the party that's willing to solve our country's problems,' Orman said in an interview."
September 26, 2014
Yesterday, the Department of Defense announced that the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MANVI) program will be open to qualified DACA recipients. "Those targeted by recruiters under the MAVNI program likely will be immigrants with language skills critical to national security, such as Arabic, Chinese, Pashto or Persian." However, the number of people who will actually qualify for the program will most likely be incredibly small. AILA member Margaret Stock commented to USA Today that the "heightened security screenings for participants, which include immigration checks of all their immediate relatives, could also limit the pool even further." Needless to say immigration advocacy groups were not impressed. Cristina Jimenez, the managing director of United We Dream, stated, "Dreamers will not be fooled by the Administration's latest effort to placate our community by opening enlistment into the military to a small pool of Dreamers. The MAVNI pilot program has requirements that the vast majority of Dreamers wouldn't qualify under, and would leave out thousands of Dreamers who are capable to serve their country now if given the opportunity."
With most of the contested Senate races this year in states where Latinos make up a tiny percentage of the voting electorate (Latinos make up 5% or less of eligible voters in eight of nine keenly watched Senate races: Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan and North Carolina), Republican campaigns across the board are trying to tie their Democratic opponents to "amnesty" to win points with voters. But, as both parties now, those considerations will most likely be very different come the Presidential election in 2016. The co-founders of Latino Decisions have penned a book to explain how Latino voters could impact American politics: "Latino America: How America's Most Dynamic Population is Poised to Transform the Politics of the Nation."
September 25, 2014
Today, the AILA Artesia Pro Bono Project won the third (of three) merits asylum case for a mother and her two children detained in Artesia, New Mexcio. Read AILA Advocacy Director Greg Chen's live updates from the hearing to find out more. Also today, AILA joined over 160 other NGOs to condemn the use of family detention by the Administration, and the plans to open the Dilley family detention facility. (AILA Doc. No. 14092640.)
A couple of Republicans who have been vocal in their support for the comprehensive immigration reform (even signing onto H.R. 15) seem to believe that it might be easier to get it done with a Republican controlled Senate. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) told The Hill: "With the caveat that it's a very difficult issue, I think the likelihood is better if Republicans take the Senate." And Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) said: "I think there would certainly be greater trust between the House and Senate in agreeing on something. This is an American issue. So, I expect this party to come together on it. And I'm going to continue driving it."
DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson wrote a letter to the editor of The Washington Post today expressing his disappointment in the paper's characterization of the upper echelons of his agency. He argues that "Over nine months, this department has quickly transformed into one with steady and able leadership. The Post almost completely overlooked these remarkable, unprecedented changes."
Immigration Impacts reports on the new measures Customs and Border Protection are instituting to increase transparency and accountability: "In response to the growing evidence and widespread criticism of CBP's lack of accountability, the agency's leadership made public new measures designed to increase the agency's openness and transparency. Last week, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced that CBP will now have criminal authority to investigate complaints within the organization. According to CBP Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske, the CBP Office of Internal Affairs (OIA), which is formally in charge of reviewing complaints of personnel misconduct, had until now insufficient authority to investigate or act upon claims of abuse within the organization. Under the new paradigm, qualified OIA employees will serve as criminal rather than general investigators.
In addition, CBP is adopting a unified, formal review process for use of force incidents, which will allow the agency to "effectively respond to, investigate, coordinate, report, review and resolve use of force incidents in a timely manner." In response to a recommendation issued by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, CBP is also adopting a new Integrity and Personnel Accountability Strategy for all employees to foster a culture of integrity and eradicate corruption within the agency. The agency is also creating an interagency board to review use of force incidents and assess compliance with policy.
September 24, 2014In the most depressing news of the day, volunteer attorneys from the AILA Artesia Pro Bono project report that the administration in appealing bond decision for some mothers and children released from the detention facility. AILA president Leslie Holman reacts, “After pro bono attorneys fought for weeks and months to finally get mothers and children allowed the chance to be released on bond, after relatives scrimped and scrounged to be able to cover the outrageously high bond requirements, now the Administration is trying to drag those mothers and children back to detention by appealing the bond decisions. We've only been able to get a handful of reasonable bond decisions from judges. Instead of modifying its approach, DHS has upped the ante. Its counsel is appealing bonds granted weeks ago, saying that their own immigration judges failed to correctly apply case law and that the cases need to be reviewed by a three-judge panel.” (AILA Doc. No. 14092351.)
In the second most depressing news of the day, a new Politico poll shows that “34 percent of voters in the most competitive House and Senate races say they trust the Republican Party more on immigration than Democrats, who had the backing of 31 percent of those surveyed.” Although President Obama has been dismaying immigration advocates left and right, including AILA, with his decision to delay executive action and put families in detention, it was actually Republican leadership in the House of Representatives that effectively killed any chance of a permanent, legislative solution to this country’s immigration woes. (AILA Doc. No. 14090640.) Much of the public shift actually has to do with the President’s perceived handling of the Central American humanitarian crisis’ effect on the southern border. But, there is still hope, the poll found “robust support for comprehensive immigration reform. Two-thirds of those surveyed said they support an immigration overhaul, while 33 percent said they were opposed.”
In the third most depressing news of the day, in a new campaign ad U.S. Senate candidate Scott Brown attempts to tie incumbent senator Jeanne Shaheen’s (D-NH) yes vote on S.744 (immigration reform) to the burgeoning threat from “radical Islamic terrorists,” by failing to adequately “secure the border.”
For a bit of fun, some House Republicans, including Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) sent a letter to the President asking for a preview of the recommendations made by DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and others on what executive action he should take. Although they argue that “it is never acceptable for the Executive Branch to ignore the Constitution and unilaterally give amnesty to unlawful immigrants,” they still believe that the “least the Administration can do is give Americans the opportunity to see the recommendations that you [the President] are considering before you [the President] take any actions.” Here’s hoping the President responds.
United We Dream is hosting a “National Week of Action to Protect Families” this week. Find out where events are happening near you to get involved. But not everyone is happy that some immigration advocates have begun targeting Democrats for the lack of action on immigration, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi expressed her frustration at the tactic to The Huffington Post: “"I think that the anger is not placed in the right direction, and Republicans get off the hook. They did nothing and people are picketing the president. I mean, [Republicans] don't pay a price for that?”
September 23, 2014
AILA President Leslie Holman responds to ICE’s announcement of a massive family detention facility in Dilley, Texas: “You can call it a 'Family Residential Center' but it is a prison. Dilley will be the largest immigration detention facility nationwide—all for the purpose of jailing families. That's not what these women and children deserve. These families deserve to be released to relatives here in the U.S., to be offered a chance to post bond, and to be allowed the time required to make their asylum claims.” (AILA Doc. No. 14092345.)
Also, read AILA Vice President Annaluisa Padilla’s opinion piece in Fox News Latino on the other family detention center in Texas, located in Karnes City: “Opinion: Karnes Detention Center for immigrants – A Hollywood façade of due process.”
Vice President Joe Biden, speaking at the Hispanic Heritage month reception had some interesting words for Republicans on immigration: “I’m not offering any false hope about what they’ll do between now and the election, but … I can tell you, when this election [is] over in the lame-duck session, they may see the Lord. It is possible. But if they don’t, they will see some lightning.”
September 22, 2014
The Washington Post chronicles the President’s “complicated immigration record” in the last decade or so he’s been in public office. “Obama’s record on immigration, however, is one of caution and deliberation punctuated by moments of determination amid some broken promises. With the president delaying executive action until after the November congressional elections, some Democrats worry that expectations have been raised beyond what he can deliver.”
AP is reporting that “the U.S. Border Patrol purchased body cameras and will begin testing them this year at its training academy, two people briefed on the move said Wednesday, as new leadership moves to blunt criticism about agents' use of force.”
The Obama administration might be trying to see the public on the idea that increased family detention and “surge” dockets” are the reason that the number of children and families coming to the Southern border is decreasing, but many other factors are at play. The NY Times expands on Mexico’s role in making it harder to migrants to make it North. “But the increasing difficulty of the trek — combined with high temperatures, the brisk pace of the deportation of Central Americans and a public-relations campaign that warns people that no visas await them in the United States — is among the factors that may explain why fewer migrants are now crossing into the southwestern United States, with a particular decrease in the number of children traveling alone or with a relative.”
September 19, 2014
Yesterday, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus approved a resolution condemning the President’s decision to delay his announcement of executive action, and urging him to act “boldly and use all legal means available to provide immediate and temporary relief from deportation to qualified immigrant workers and immigrant families.”
September 18, 2014
Even though Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has refused to use his power to bring immigration reform up for a vote on the floor of the House, but in a speech on the economy he can’t deny that reforming the country’s immigration laws “would help” the economy. However, he continued, “But you've got to secure the borders first. We've got a mess, and I think everybody knows we've got a mess. Our legal system is broken, our borders aren't secure and then we've got the problem of those that are here without documents. It needs to be fixed. We are a nation of immigrants. The sooner we do it, the better the country would be."
September 17, 2014
The Opportunity Agenda has updated their messaging guidelines on how to talk about the Central American humanitarian crisis based on recent research. In other helpful news, Maryland has launched a great new portal to help connect unaccompanied children with resources in-state, and to provide an opportunity for individuals who wish to volunteer or donate to do so.
September 16, 2014
Today, AILA National and team leaders from the AILA Artesia pro bono project sent a letter to both Congress and the White House articulating the urgent need to shut down the Artesia family detention center immediately. (AILA Doc. No. 14091649, 14091648.) “Based on hundreds of interviews with these detained families that our expert lawyers have conducted, AILA has concluded that Artesia is a due process failure and a humanitarian disaster that cannot be fixed and must be closed immediately. Attorneys with long histories of representing clients at remote detention facilities have described Artesia as not just the worst situation they have ever encountered, but something far worse than anything they could have imagined.”
Current Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is in a tough race in his reelection bid in the state of Kentucky. Going up against Democrat Allison Grimes, the race is a rare opportunity this cycle for Democrats to pick up a Republican seat (rather than the other way around). Well immigration has now officially become a part of the campaign. An outside group is reported to have spent a “just under $1 million over the next week, starting Tuesday, on a commercial that links Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes with President Barack Obama over their shared support for ‘a pathway to citizenship’ for undocumented immigrants.”
Last Friday, Attorney General Eric Holder told the National Hispanic Bar Association that he believes that every unaccompanied child deserves an attorney. He stated: “Though these children may not have a constitutional right to a lawyer, we have policy reasons and a moral obligation to insure the presence of counsel.”
September 15, 2014
A new study on the effects of deportations on the crime rate in the United States found that “Secure Communities led to no meaningful reductions in the FBI index crime rate. Nor has it reduced rates of violent crime—homicide, rape, robbery, or aggravated assault. This evidence shows that the program has not served its central objective of making communities safer.”
September 12, 2014
The editorial board of USA Today, in a piece in yesterday’s paper, announced their opposition to the President taking executive action on immigration, either now, or after the elections. Their reasoning: “An executive order addressing only legalization of undocumented workers would be a vastly inferior product. It would leave important work undone. And it could undermine the very fragile support for a comprehensive plan.”
Molly Ball at The Atlantic tells the story of exactly why immigration reform advocates felt so betrayed by the President’s decision to not follow through on the promise made in June to act before the end of the summer. “For immigration reformers, this latest moving of the goalposts is more that just another in a series of predictable letdowns. It feels like a moment of truth—the moment they realized they were mistaken to put their trust in Obama and his party.”
September 11, 2014
In a continued effort from the White House to convince the American public that he really will take executive action on immigration reform, his chief of staff met with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus today and to assuage their concerns. Denis McDonough told reporters after the meeting: “It was good to catch up with the caucus and underscore to them our continuing commitment to resolve the challenges with our broken immigration system and underscore to them that the president will act on this before the end of the year."
The AP is reporting that the United States is on pace to deport the fewest number of people this year since 2007. “The federal agency responsible for deportations sent home 258,608 immigrants between the start of the budget year last October and July 28 this summer. During the same period a year earlier, it removed 320,167 people — meaning a decrease this year of nearly 20 percent.” One potential reason for the decrease is the marked increase in migrants from Central American, rather than Mexico, which results in longer processing times. Although, removals for 2014 might be down, President Obama still has deported more people than any other president in history.
Many are wondering if the President’s decision to delay on executive action will deter Latinos from showing up at the polls this November. The Nation speculates that while it may not make an impact on the 2014 midterms, where the battleground races are in states with fewer Latino voters, the real question will be what happens in 2016. “But the Hispanic vote will be critical for Democrats in 2016. There’s little chance the delay will drive that block into the arms of the GOP, since Republicans have backed themselves into a hardline corner on immigration. But what happens if, after years of broken promises and record numbers of deportations, Latinos just stop voting?”
September 10, 2014
The NY Times expressed their disappointment that the President postponed his executive action in an editorial: “As for the immigrants and their families and advocates who have been battling for reform and have been disappointed for years, they were once again seen as safely expendable. A political emergency collided with a human one, and the humans lost.”
September 9, 2014
Last night, Stephen Colbert eviscerated the President on his decision to delay taking action on immigration reform. Earlier in the day, the President’s Press Secretary, Josh Earnest, went to great lengths during his briefing to ensure the press corps that this really was just a delay, and the President was still committed to taking administrative action: “The President has decided that he will take executive action within the confines of the law to fix those aspects of the broken immigration system that he’s able to fix before the end of the year. And that is a decision that he has made, and that is something that will occur…The President has not in any way altered his commitment or interest in taking executive action -- again, within the confines of the law -- to solve to act where Congress hasn’t, and more specifically, to act where congressional Republicans have blocked congressional action. And the President’s commitment to acting on this before the end of the year has not changed.”
Vox spends some time calculating the human toll of the President’s decision on the “millions of immigrants [who] will face at least 60 more days under the threat of deportation.” If the Department of Homeland Security removes immigrants at the same rate they did last year over the next two months, about 60,000 people stand to get deported—although it’s obviously very difficult to determine how many of those would potentially qualify for whatever affirmative relief the President eventually announces.
September 8, 2014
Well, many members of the advocacy community had been anticipating it for weeks, but over the weekend the bad news finally came-President Obama announced that he would not take executive action on immigration until after the November midterm elections. It was only about two months ago that the President stood in the White House rose garden and imposed an "end of summer" deadline on himself to do what the House of Representatives failed to do, act. However, it seems that the President eventually succumbed to pressure from vulnerable Senate Democrats who are facing tough elections this November to postpone the announcement. (Even though the President denied this charge, instead stating that he wanted to take the extra time to make sure "the public understands what the facts are on immigration.")
Not all Democrats were happy with the decision, however. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, appearing on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, made his feelings about the delay very clear: "Playing it safe means walking away from our values and our principles…President Barack Obama in the last five years has deported more people than any other president in the history of the United States. While we wait until November, because that's the president's decision, there's going to be another 60,000 people deported. So there is pain and suffering in the community and there's a lot of anguish and anger."
AILA President Leslie Holman didn't pull her punches either when describing her disappointment in this decision: "Through this decision to delay, President Obama has broken yet another promise to immigrants, their families, U.S. businesses, and a community largely responsible for his even having a second term. This President, who has deported more people in 5 years than any other, who has doubled down on the jailing of women and children, who has tried to gut the protections we have for trafficked children, who has failed to curb the unjustified denial of legitimate business applications or provide promised incentives to encourage entrepreneurship, has now joined the House of Representatives in profound failure regarding our immigration system." (AILA Doc. No. 14090640.)
Last week, the AILA Artesia Pro Bono Project had its first two asylum merits victories-laying waste to the government's claim that the women and children detained at Artesia (and now Karnes) do not have viable immigration claims and should be deported as fast as possible to send a message to others who might make the journey north. The NY Times chronicles the difference that AILA attorneys have made: "The transformation is partly due to a corps of volunteer lawyers who have come to argue the immigrants' cases. Alarmed at the rush to deport the families, the lawyers, who call themselves a fire brigade, travel here from cities as far away as Denver, Portland and San Diego. At first, they were barely allowed to work inside the center, so they filed a federal lawsuit. Now lawyers and the government are battling over the migrants' deportations. Until recently, asylum officers here had found that less than 40 percent of the women had credible fears of persecution if forced to return home. But the lawyers, who have now counseled nearly 300 women, contend that as many at 80 percent could win asylum claims."
New reports from Customs and Border Protection show that they apprehended fewer unaccompanied children and families in August than in any month since February of 2013. DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson took this as an opportunity to declare that "the worst is over for now," although he clarified that "there are still bills to be paid and our border security efforts must be sustained to prevent another spike like we saw this year."
This as the Texas Observer reports that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement is planning on opening a massive new for-profit family detention center. "The 2,400-bed 'South Texas Family Detention Center'-as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is referring to it-is slated for a 50-acre site just outside the town of Dilley, 70 miles southwest of San Antonio."
September 5, 2014
In Artesia today, the AILA Artesia Pro Bono Project took on their second asylum merits hearing—read live coverage of the hearing from Laura Lichter, who is sitting in the hearing room in Artesia, New Mexico. At issue is a mother and her child who fled severe domestic violence in her home country of El Salvador. This follows on the heels of the successful first merits hearing yesterday. Watch AILA member Christine Brown talk about the case and the release of the mother and her child after the hearing in this Snapshot from Artesia. (AILA Doc. No. 14090551.)
More Senate Democrats are walking back their support for the President to take action on immigration using his executive authority. According to Politico: “Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) wants Obama to wait until after November. Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) said he has ‘concerns about executive action.’ Sen. Angus King (I-ME), who caucuses with Democrats, said it would be a ‘mistake’ for the president to do anything significant.
For his part, while speaking at a press conference after the NATO summit, the President made the bold and decisive statement that action on immigration would be coming “soon.”
On last night’s episode of The Daily Show, correspondent Michael Che sat down with the founder of the Minutemen to talk about the “invasion” of unaccompanied children to the United States. He doesn’t seem entirely convinced that we need to be saved from these children who just want to color.
September 4, 2014
On July 10, 2014, DHS Sec. Jeh Johnson told the Senate Appropriations committee that his message to the mothers and children who came to the southern border fleeing violence is Central America was simple: "we will send you back." He went on to elaborate on DHS's plan to make it clear to these mothers and children that they are not welcome here: "We are building additional space to detain these groups and hold them until their expedited removal orders are effectuated. Last week we opened a detention facility in Artesia, New Mexico for this purpose, and we are building more detention space quickly. Adults who brought their children here expecting to make it to the nearest bus station in the U.S. were surprised that they were detained at Artesia. They will be sent back quickly, with the sad recognition that the large sum of money they paid a criminal smuggling organization to get them to the U.S will go to waste."
Well, in what may come as a surprise to the Secretary, most of these women and children he's referring to, who are currently detained at Artesia with no hope of bond being offered by the government, do have legitimate claims. In fact, today an AILA member participating in the Artesia AILA pro bono project won the first merits case in the Artesia detention facility. That's right, a mother and child detained at Artesia proved to an Immigration Judge that she had not only a credible fear, but a legitimate asylum case and was deserving of America's protection, not it's scorn. So, Mr. Secretary, maybe instead of a message of "we will send you back," it would be helpful to remember the words written in the Refugee Act of 1980: "The Congress declares that it is the historic policy of the United States to respond to the urgent needs of persons subject to persecution in their homelands."
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) didn't hold his punches today when calling out his fellow Democrats on their reluctance to have President Obama to announce his administrative actions on immigration before the November elections. Speaking on a press call organized by America's Voice he stated, "We should not put partisan politics and political … considerations ahead of fairness, ahead of justice, and ahead of good public policy…Democrats have to come to understand that you can't pick and choose when [immigrants] are good for you."
The American Immigration Council also posted last week an article in defense of the President's authority to take such executive action. They argue that "the U.S. immigration system is one of selective admissions, selective enforcement, and broad executive branch discretion. As this system's chief prosecutor, the President must establish enforcement priorities, and then make sure that discretionary decisions to apply those priorities are uniform, predictable, and nondiscriminatory. As long as the President acts within this role, exercising his prosecutorial discretion to administer enforcement consistent with rule of law principles, he remains well within his legal authority."
The Center for American Progress released a new study today chronicling the "Fiscal Benefits of Temporary Work Permits" to the American economy. They find that "a deferred action program that allows undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States for at least five years to apply for a temporary work permit would increase payroll tax revenues by $6.02 billion in the first year alone and increase revenues by $44.56 billion over five years."
The Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project released a new report today that the "marked slowdown in new arrivals [of undocumented immigrants] means that those who remain are more likely to be long-term residents, and to live with their U.S.-born children."
September 3, 2014
Today, over 40 faith leaders sent a letter to President Obama http://judiciary.house.gov/_cache/files/ee0c9df6-ebee-4dce-96cf-028c8f4ddd65/092214-letter-to-president-obama-on-immigrationr-recommendations-1-.pdf with a simple message: “While we celebrate the potential of executive action to alleviate the suffering caused by our nation’s broken immigration system – particularly in light of political inaction in Congress – it must not come at the cost of due process and access to humanitarian protection for children and families fleeing violence in Central America.”
In another letter to the President, a number of law teachers and scholars helpfully outline the “scope of executive branch legal authority to issue an immigration directive to protect individuals or groups from deportation.”
While the country waits for the President to act on administrative reforms, AILA has released the recommendations sent to the White House on options the President could consider the help keep families together and businesses running. (AILA Doc. No. 14090349.)
Want to know what the AILA volunteer attorneys on the ground in Artesia are facing inside the hastily built family detention center. Watch this “Snapshot from Artesia” to find out first-hand. (AILA Doc. No. 14082900.) In an AILA Leadership Blog, AILA member and Artesia volunteer Stephen Manning recounts the denial of justice to a mothers and child detained at Artesia: “M-C- like many before her, came to the United States because we have laws that protect persons fleeing persecution. The Refugee Act of 1980 protects those who have been persecuted in the past or have a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, nationality, political opinion, religion or membership in a particular social group. This law is rooted in moral codes and customs as old as the Bible…But because M-C- is held at Artesia, this decision may not protect her. In Artesia, the rule of law has been suspended…The Artesian reality is that for every woman and child screened in our program who was eligible for release, ICE denied release as a blanket policy—without conducting any individualized determination. The ICE policy is based on a political message sent through women like M-C-. In Secretary Jeh Johnson’s words, ‘We will send you back.’”
September 2, 2014
Immigration Politics is back, and so will Congress (but not until next week), and things are looking pretty grim here in Washington, D.C. Some might remember that right before Members of Congress packed up and left town for the August recess there was an effort to pass a supplemental funding bill to help the federal government agencies addressing the surge in unaccompanied children and families at the southern border; some might also remember that the House passed two terrible pieces of legislation and the Senate failed to even advance to a debate on their supplemental bill. Well, even though Congress failed to accomplish anything on that front, when Congress comes back next Monday they will have a new funding crisis waiting for them-funding the government when fiscal year 2014 ends on September 30.
Congress will most likely turn to a Continuing Resolution (CR) to get past the September 30 deadline, most likely extending current funding levels until the end of the year, when they'll be forced to have this fight all over again (albeit after the November mid-term elections). What does funding the government have to do with immigration? Two things: 1. Congress may decide to increase funding for certain agencies (like ICE or Health and Human Services) in order to address to humanitarian crisis in Central America, and 2. it may cause the President to delay any action on administrative action on immigration until after a budget is passed, or even after the elections.
The battle for due process and fair hearings continues at the two newly opened family detention facilities in Artesia, New Mexico and Karnes, Texas. The NY Times ran a scathing editorial on Artesia: "Deported from the Middle of Nowhere, At an Immigrant Detention Center, Due Process Denied." In the editorial they reference the amazing work of AILA volunteer attorneys who are providing pro bono services to the mothers and children detained: "Written and video reports by lawyers who have visited the center are grim. The solutions are obvious: Mr. Obama needs to suspend all deportations until he can create a system that meets the basic standard of giving a fair hearing to every detainee who expresses a fear of persecution. He should allow the nearly 300 women and children who have already been deported to return and have their cases re-examined."
This followed the filing of a lawsuit by American Immigration Council, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, and the National Immigration Law Center, in collaboration with Van Der Hout, Brigagliano & Nightingale and Jenner & Block to stop deportations from Artesa, the "deportation mill."
August 11, 2014
Immigration Politics took a recess from August 11 through August 29, 2014, but will return September 2, 2014.
August 8, 2014
AILA members from around the country have mobilized to answer the call for pro bono attorneys to help the mothers and children detained in Artesia, New Mexico. Democracy Now just released a video providing a background of the facility and featuring the AILA members volunteering their time at the facility.
Yesterday, Republican Senator Lamar Alexander from Tennessee won his Republican primary race. Why is this important? Because Sen. Alexander was one of the 14 Republicans who voted yes on S.744 back in June of 2013. The Washington Post notes that immigration votes didn't seem to impact Republicans in the way that Speaker Boehner (R-oh) seemed to fear they would, "Alexander is one of three Republican senators who voted for this session's sweeping reform bill, which included a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, then faced re-election this year. The other two -- Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Susan Collins (Maine) -- also skated to primary wins and avoided extended bouts over their votes. Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.), another reform advocate, also won."
August 7, 2014
The American Immigration Council recently analyzed government data published by Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) which indicates that "not only do a majority of children attend their immigration proceedings, according to TRAC, but 90 percent or more attend when represented by lawyers."
August 6, 2014
John Sandwig, former acting general counsel at the Department of Homeland Security from 2012-2013, sat down with the Washington Post's Greg Sargent to answer some questions about the President's legal authority to offer administrative relief to a broad class of people (as many people believe/hope he is prepared to do later this summer). He offers: "It's the role of the leadership [President Obama] to provide guidance to the field about how best to enforce the law…DACA is a law enforcement tool that is the logical next step from the Morton Memo. DACA provides additional clarity and guidance to the field. But it doesn't guarantee a class of individuals anything. It does not provide or confer any rights upon individuals. What it does is provide guidance that officers and agents are to consider when determining how to exercise discretion."
Meanwhile The Hill reports that the President is about to get guidance on his legal powers to expand DACA from Attorney General Eric Holder and DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson.
August 5, 2014
The Artesia family detention center is rife with due process problems, lawyer access issues and concerns about conditions, but perhaps the most concerning aspect of the facility the administration's attempt to use these families as an example; the NY Times reports, "After declaring the surge of Central American migrants crossing the border a humanitarian crisis, the Obama administration has shifted sharply to a strategy of deterrence, moving families to isolated facilities and placing them on a fast track for deportation to send a blunt message back home that those caught entering illegally will not be permitted to stay."
August 4, 2014
The three emergency Health and Human Services shelters opened to house unaccompanied children as they looked for custodians to take them in will be closing. "Administration officials have said in the last two weeks that the flow of migrant children across the southern border has begun to slow, though they have cautioned that they do not know if the pace might increase again in the coming months."
August 1, 2014
Today, in a show of defiance against an American public that is clamoring for Congress to act to improve the country's immigration system, the House of Representatives, under Speaker Boehner's (R-OH) leadership, passed H.R. 5272. The bill, introduced by Rep. Blackburn (R-TN), aims to prevent the President from expanding any deferred action program and prevents current DACA recipients from renewing their deferred action after the initial two year grant. The bill was deemed a necessary component in order to gain enough Republican votes to pass the $659 border security spending bill, which includes provisions to send the National Guard to the southern border, overturn the protections in the 2008 TVPRA to make it easier to deport Central American children and less than $200 million for Health and Human Services. The deal seemed to have worked though-both bills passed. 11 Republicans did join the all but four Democrats (Reps. Barrow (GA), McIntyre (NC), Peterson (MN), and Rahall (WV)) in voting no on the bill.
Interestingly enough, it seems the writers of the bill, purportedly anti-immigrant hardliners Reps. Steven King (R-IA) and Michelle Bachman (R-MN), may have drafted a bill that has implications far beyond simply preventing the Administration from granting work permits to individuals currently without legal status in the United States. A simple reading of the short bill may cause one to ponder if the authors were attempting to curb work permits for all future immigrants.
July 31, 2014
House Republican leadership is facing an insurrection within their own party. Speaker Boehner (R-OH) and newly installed Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) were embarrassed today when they realized that the package of bills that included $659 million for emergency border spending and a bill to prevent the President from expanding DACA did not have enough Republican votes to pass. The border security spending bill falls far short of the President's initial request and allocates a much high percentage of the money to border security, rather than aid to Health and Human Services to care for the children. The worst part of the spending bill is that it include policy provisions to roll back protections included in the 2008 TVPRA. According to Speaker Boehner "the bill would make all unaccompanied minors (UACs) eligible for voluntary return immediately, speeding the return of many unaccompanied minors to their home countries. Current law only allows UACs from contiguous countries to be eligible for voluntary return."
In another show of dysfunction, the upper chamber, the U.S. Senate, failed to move forward on debate on an emergency funding bill to address the humanitarian crisis affecting the southern border.
According to documents obtained at the remote family immigration detention facility in Artesia, New Mexico, the U.S. government is refusing to allow release on bond of Central American mothers and children who have fled the uncontrollable violence in their home countries, or is setting bonds so prohibitively high as to be meaningless. The new "bond" rule will be imposed even upon those individuals who have demonstrated a strong initial claim for protection and who have the right to a full hearing before an immigration judge. AILA President Leslie Holman reacts, "This bond rule approach is built around the excessively punitive policy imposed briefly in 2003 by immigration hardliners John Ashcroft and Kris Kobach. That approach has since been widely discredited, and largely discarded by this Administration. How is it, then, that bona fide refugees who need our assistance, are the ones for whom the Administration is dusting off this shameful policy?" (AILA Doc. No. 14073142.)
July 30, 2014
New Pew research analysis on the unaccompanied children fleeing Central America "shows that girls, particularly from Honduras, are increasingly taking the dangerous journey from Central America to the U.S. without a parent or guardian." Pew found that "the number of unaccompanied girls younger than 18 caught at the U.S.-Mexico border has jumped 77% so far this fiscal year (through May 31) to 13,008, compared with just 7,339 during all of the last fiscal year ending Sept. 30. Although there are far more boys than girls apprehended at the border, the number of boys has grown more slowly, by just 8% during the same period, to 33,924 compared with 31,420 last year. Among those 12 and younger, the number of girls apprehended has grown even faster, increasing 140% over the last fiscal year, compared with a 100% increase among boys."
Last week, the LA Times reported that "roughly 5 million of the estimated 11 million people who entered the country without legal authorization or overstayed their visas could be protected under a leading option the White House is considering, according to officials who discussed the proposals on condition of anonymity."
July 29, 2014
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) called Speaker Boehner (R-OH) on the Speaker's decision to pass a terrible emergency supplemental bill that includes dramatic changes to the TVPRA and mostly funding for increased enforcement. (AILA Doc. No. 14072947.) Sen. Reid offered that if the House chooses to pass this bill there might be a way for immigration reform to get done: "If they pass that, maybe it's an opening for us to have a conference on our comprehensive immigration reform. If they're finally sending us something on immigration, maybe we can do that."
Speaker Boehner wasn't quite convinced, issuing a press release calling out Sen. Reid: "Senator Reid, embarrassed that he cannot strong-arm the Senate into passing the blank check President Obama demanded, is making a deceitful and cynical attempt to derail the House's common-sense solution. He was joined by the four Republican Senators from the Gang of Eight: "none of us would support including that bill in legislation needed this year to address the current humanitarian crisis on our southern border."
To that end, AILA joined 190 other organizations in a sign-on letter calling on the House and Senate to pass a clean supplemental funding bill that doesn't change the TVPRA to water down protections for children. (AILA Doc. No. 14072961.)
Last night, Pulitzer prize winning author Sonia Nazario went on The Daily Show and made an impassioned plea for the United States to do the right thing and protect these children fleeing violence in Central America. This follows a NY Times editorial from a few weeks ago detailing her experiences interviewing children in Honduras earlier this year: "Asking for help from the police or the government is not an option in what some consider a failed state. The drugs that pass through Honduras each year are worth more than the country's entire gross domestic product. Narcos have bought off police officers, politicians and judges. In recent years, four out of five homicides were never investigated. No one is immune to the carnage. Several Honduran mayors have been killed. The sons of both the former head of the police department and the head of the national university were murdered, the latter, an investigation showed, by the police."
According to a new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute, seven out of ten Americans believe that "the United States should offer the unaccompanied children arriving from Central America shelter and support while beginning a process to determine whether they should be deported or allowed to stay."
The American Immigration Council released a new report today that demonstrates that for completed case almost 61 percent of juveniles appeared in immigration court, a number that increases to 92.5 percent when the juvenile has an attorney. "This data suggests children's supposed failures to appear in court are red herring arguments-designed to place blame for the system's deficits on children themselves, rather than on courts' lack of resources to ensure a timely and fair process. Moreover, given TRAC's data showing the relationship between representation and attendance, the appointment of counsel to children may help ensure attendance at proceedings in a more cost-effective, humane, and fair manner."
July 28, 2014
The White house officially endorsed the Senate Democrats emergency spending plan to address the Central American humanitarian crisis affecting the southern border. "'Unlike the House Republican approach, this bill responsibly addresses the humanitarian situation without injecting partisan provisions that are unworkable and would increase costs without solving the problem,' the Obama administration said in a statement Monday of the Senate legislation."
In the making things less worse news of the day, potential Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton offered some alternatives to the idea that the United States should amend the TVPRA to make it easier to deport Central American children. Speaking with Jorge Ramos she offered that she thought allowing children to be screened for refugee status in their home countries was the right move, but that "Whoever was in the category of where they don't have legitimate claim for asylum, where they don't have some kind of family connection, those children should be returned to their families and the families should be told that they should not be sending these young children on their own to face the dangers that exist on that travel."
July 25, 2014
As noted many times before the detention of immigrant families is a terrible thing, especially when due process us being compromised, and justice is being compromised for expediency. NBC News provides an excellent overview of why the United States made the decision to generally stop detaining families after the disastrous Hutto detention center experiment, and why the recent decision to return to detaining families is not the right one.
The NY Times reported yesterday that the administration is "considering whether to allow hundreds of minors and young adults from Honduras into the United States without making the dangerous trek through Mexico, according to a draft of the proposal." The proposal may help to stem the tide of children fleeing from Honduras, but is likely to be attacked from all sides.
On Wednesday, Sen. Mikulski (D-MD), chair of the Senate Appropriations committee, released her proposal to provide emergency supplemental funds to the administration to manage the increase in the number of Central American unaccompanied children and families crossing the southern border. The proposal was a full one billion dollars less than the President's request. The good: increases funding for direct legal representation services for children to $50 million (three times the President's request), doubles LOP funding (to $5 million) for legal orientation programs, and provides $61.2 million for new immigration judge teams ($22.5 million more than the president's request). The bad: $586 million for family detention, prosecution and removals.
In today's worst news of the day, House Republicans (joined by 25 Democrats) passed a plan to deny the Child Tax Credit (CTC) to over 5.5 million children. The plan would require that the tax filer provide a social security number (rather than an ITIN) to be eligible for the credit. The CTC has been a highly effective tool in fighting poverty. In 2012, the program helped more than three million American taxpaying families climb out of poverty.
July 24, 2014
This week, representatives from a number of non-profit advocacy groups were able to tour the newly constructed family detention center in Artesia, New Mexico. Groups were non impressed. AILA issued a press release following the tour: "Artesia Detention Center a Due Process Failure." (AILA Doc. No. 14072449.) Karen Lucas, AILA staff member who participated in the tour, comments, "The lives of children and families are at risk. I was shocked to hear of immigrant families -- including mothers with young children, some still nursing, being sent right back into the danger from which they fled with no meaningful chance to contact a lawyer," said Karen Lucas, AILA Legislative Associate, who was on the site visit. "A woman who speaks no English and has no knowledge of the American legal system can't possibly make a successful asylum claim with no lawyer and no time even to get her bearings. This is truly heartbreaking and a travesty of justice that families are in effect being denied access to asylum and other protection."
A confidential report from UNHCR, the UN High Office on Refugees, was released today that is includes damning information about the current process used to screen Mexican unaccompanied children for a protection need. "The information gathered in all four sectors led UNHCR to conclude that, while the law is clear regarding DHS's burden to establish that each Mexican UAC does not have an international protection need, CBP's operational practices, including new efforts to implement the TVPRA mandate to DHS, continue to reinforce the presumption of an absence of protection needs for Mexican UAC rather than a ruling out of any needs as required under TVPRA 08."
The Center for American Progress has decided to release their own path forward on "child refugees." Their proposal, written by three of their foremost immigration policy experts, includes a number of significant changes to current policy including, maintain children in ORR custody while awaiting their hearing (if less than 90 days), that all children should be appointed counsel, and that the administration should develop in-country processing programs.
Today, the president of the three countries in the Northern Triangle in Central America (Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador) were in Washington, D.C. participating in meetings with the White House and leaders in Congress. Speaker Boehner's read-out of his meeting was particularly bland: "I impressed upon them how important it is we all work together to end this crisis and reunite these children with their families in their home countries." The White House readout of the President and Vice President's meeting with the world leaders was not much more exciting: "The leaders discussed how we can work together with other members of the international community to accelerate development, economic growth, and security improvements in the region and address the systemic factors that are causing Central American citizens to undertake the dangerous journey to the United States."
Sen. Menendez (D-NJ) has proved to be a champion of the 2008 laws that put in place certain protections for children from countries other than Mexico or Canada, even as the Democratic administration calls for changes to the law to make it easier to deport the unaccompanied children coming across the southern border. In an editorial in today's USA Today, Sen. Menendez makes the case that the President already has the authority he needs to address the humanitarian crisis-without a change in the law: "The administration has the authority to deal with this crisis in a safe and humane manner. It has the power to surge judicial resources at the border and shelter children while their cases are heard without turning our back on the rule of law that we take pride in as a nation. In fact, it is the rupture of the rule of law in Central American nations that has caused this crisis in the first place."
In today's worst news of the day Hillary Clinton announced that she would back changing the TVPRA to make it easier for Central American children to be deported. "The laws, our laws right now are not particularly well suited for making the kind of determinations that are required, and that we should, as Americans, want to see happen."
July 23, 2014
Today, House Republicans made two moves responding to the humanitarian crisis affecting the southern border-one is a letter from Speaker Boehner (R-OH) to President Obama arguing that it will be difficult to make "progress on [the humanitarian crisis] issue without strong, public support from the White House for much-needed reforms, including changes to the 2008 [TVPRA] law." (AILA Doc. No. 14072352.) The second was the release of the House Republican working group recommendations on responding to the influx of unaccompanied children. (AILA Doc. No. 14072348.) The group, led by Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), recommendations strongly mirrored many of the worst points included in the Republican bills put forward on the issue. (AILA Doc. No. 14072152.) Particularly egregious points included: mandating the detention of all family units apprehended at the border and amending the TVPRA to eliminate the protections for Central American children and requiring them to be held in custody while awaiting an expedited immigration court hearing.
AILA President Leslie Holman was not impressed by the recommendations of the working group, "This plan will harm vulnerable child victims of violence. This is exactly the wrong way to address this humanitarian situation that affects not just America but the Americas. It will result in children who are eligible for, and desperately need protection in the United States being sent back to the violence they escaped." (AILA Doc. No. 14072460.)
AILA Executive Director Crystal Williams responded to these calls to change the TVPRA in an editorial for The Hill: " Our laws - including a 2008 bipartisan anti-trafficking law - require us to treat these children carefully. Instead of letting a Border Patrol agent determine whether a child could be eligible for asylum or other status, we have a process that strives to keep them in safe custody, then screens them for eligibility for legal protections, and finally brings them before an immigration judge for a reasoned and balanced decision. I find it incomprehensible and morally indefensible that the administration has signaled to Congress to change that law. True they have not specified exactly how they want to do it. But its signal sends the dangerous message that it wants to weaken protections for these children at their time of greatest need.
The Aurora Sentinel ran a heartbreaking story today of a Honduran family that was deported from the Artesia family detention center last-and the bleak circumstances that awaited them in their home country. "When Elsa Ramirez arrived in Tocoa, she collapsed into the arms of her tearful mother in relief and frustration. Neither woman knew what the future would bring. Ramirez could hide out in her mother's home for a time, she said, perhaps work as a cook or shop clerk."
AILA Colorado member Shelley Wittevrongel has been on the ground at the Artesia family detention center for the past few days, she spoke with the Texas Observer about the difficulty of representing clients in a facility that maintains an attitude of 'hurry up and deport.' She recounts a conversation with an ICE officer, "The officer in charge told me, 'I want you to know that all of these people are going to be deported,' he said, 'Our job is to get them deported and there's maybe one in 1,000 entitled to stay in the United States, and the rest are going to go.'"
July 22, 2014
A few weeks ago DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson told the Senate Appropriations committee that DHS agencies were going to run out of money by the Fall if Congress didn't pass the President's supplemental funding request. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell chimed in that her agency would run out of money mid-August if something wasn't done. Today, Politico reports that Senate Democrats are planning on trying to pass a modified version of the President's supplemental that reduces the request by a billion dollars. Thankfully it doesn't seem that Senate Democrats will attempt to make any changes to the TVPRA in this funding package: "Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) told reporters that the emergency funding bill being prepared by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) will be in the "range" of $2.5 billion to $2.7 billion…Two Democratic aides confirmed the package wouldn't include policy changes that would affect the 2008 law."
Today, the president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, Dana Leigh Marks, sent identical letters to President Obama and leaders of Congress expressing the association's support for the TVPRA. (AILA Doc. No. 14072544.) "All these factors lead inexorably to the conclusion that removal proceedings regarding juveniles should not be subject to strict time constraints regarding scheduling or decision-making."
PBS NewsHour provides a good overview of how with the August "[r]ecess looming, lawmakers appear stuck on Obama's immigration funding request."
July 21, 2014
Jonathan Ryan is executive director of the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) is the legal service provider that is serving the children currently being housed at the HHS facility at Lackland Air Force Base. He's also the person who sent President Obama, Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader Pelosi (D-CA), and Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) a letter pleading for them to resist changing the TVPRA and making the case that 63 percent of the children they're encountering may qualify for relief.
Over the weekend Julia Preston made a strong case in the NY Times that "Rush[ing] to Deport Young Migrants Could Trample Asylum Claims." She explains that "minors questioned shortly after being caught in locations, like Border Patrol stations, where they may feel unsafe often do not disclose dangers at home or abuses suffered during their journey, lawyers who are counseling them say. They are disoriented, wary of strangers and sometimes traumatized, and they have little understanding of the legal process."
July 18, 2014
In the past few days a number of terrible pieces of legislation have been introduced as purported "fixes" to the influx of children and families along the southern border. (AILA Doc. No. 14072152.) AILA President Leslie Homan comments on these bills, ""What will we show the world if one of these or other similar bills is enacted? Hostility to children, closed minds, heartlessness, lack of compassion? We know of countless Americans who are trying their best to help these children. Congress should take a lesson from them." (AILA Doc. No. 14071843.)
The Texas Star-Telegram tries to make the case that the "Cornyn-Cuellar bill is worth considering," but their reasoning falls flat. (AILA Doc. No. 14071654.) Although they argue that "while the legislation would speed up the hearing process, it does not appear to limit existing rights, including the right to counsel," many, including AILA, would beg to disagree. (AILA Doc. No. 14071145.) Children cannot be expected to present a claim in mere days, even more so without guarantees of counsel, counseling, and adequate time to recover. Also the stakes are higher as the children have no opportunity to appeal and there remains a lack of appropriate repatriation programs to ensure children's safe return.
July 17, 2014
In today's worst news of the day, Representatives Goodlatte (R-VA) and Chaffetz (R-UT) introduced H.R. 5137, the "Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act." (AILA Doc. No. 14071749.) They claim the bill "ends many of the Obama Administration's policies that encourage Central Americans to come to the United States, such as weak standards for asylum claims that enable the Administration's rubberstamping of fraudulent applications and policies that prevent Border Patrol agents from accessing federal lands along the border. Additionally, the bill makes targeted changes to current law [the TVRPA], which has worsened the crisis at the border." AILA strongly opposes any effort to weaken the protection in the TVPRA, and instead calls on Congress to strength the protections for Mexican unaccompanied children. (AILA Doc. No. 14071145.)
In better news, new data shows that 60 to 70 percent of Central American children are showing up to immigration court (according to data from TRAC). "Previous data had shown that about 20 to 30 percent of children didn't show up for their court hearings. The TRAC data shows that that's still holding true. Of all the kids with cases filed over the last decade whose cases have been closed, 31 percent were 'in absentia.' That percentage is a little higher for cases filed over the last few years, possibly because there are more cases that are still pending from that time."
Appleseed released a new report today on "Core Principle: Children Refugees in the United States" to "add to the discussion by pulling back the lens and examining the fundamental status of children in the United States, as a matter of law and morality."
July 16, 2014
Today, Senator Cornyn (R-TX) and Rep. Cuellar (D-TX) introduced the HUMANE Act, a bill that is anything but humane. (AILA Doc. No. 14071654.) According to the two sponsors the bill seeks to: "Require immigration judges to make a determination as to whether an unaccompanied migrant child is eligible to remain in the United States within 72 hours of making their claim. Children who succeed in their claim will be allowed to remain in the United States in the custody of a sponsor while they pursue their legal remedies. Children who do not successfully make such a claim will be reunited with family in their home country.
Politico reports that Speaker Boehner (R-OH) is working with others in his party to move his own version of the Sen. Cornyn/Rep. Cuellar bill to roll back protections for Central American children. "'We want to swiftly and humanely return [the children] to their home[s],' House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas), a member of a House GOP group working on the issue, said Tuesday. "Only until we do that will we stop the flow. We need a message of deterrence.'"
Take action: Call your Senators and urge them to oppose any provisions to roll back protections for Central American children. (AILA Doc. No. 13070945.) Subjecting Central American children to the failed Mexican screening process would be a retreat from America's commitment as a humanitarian leader and undermine our American values of putting children first and protecting them from harm. Use the Congressional switchboard number (202.224.3121), and here is a sample script: Hi, my name is _________ from [City, State]. I am calling to urge Senator ________ to strongly oppose any rollbacks to protections for Central American unaccompanied children as Congress considers the President's supplemental funding request.
AILA provides a round-up of the most important background reports and resources on why children are fleeing the Northern Triangle of Central America (Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador). (AILA Doc. No. 14071546.) AILA also has talking points on the different proposals to roll back the important protections included in the TVPRA. (AILA Doc. No. 14071541.)
In weird news of the day, the anti-immigrant group FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform) has posted a very helpful map pinpointing all of the government facilities across the country that are housing unaccompanied children and families that have crossed the southern border.
If you're having trouble keeping up with what exactly' s happening on the southern border with unaccompanied children, Buzzfeed has pulled together a good post that covers the basic.
July 15, 2014
The must-read article for today comes from Vox: "The process Congress wants to use for child migrants is a disaster." As more proposals are coming out (Sen. Cornyn/Rep. Cuellar and Rep. Salmon to name a couple) aiming to strip protections for Central American unaccompanied children included in the TVPRA, this article explains why it would be a disaster. "And now Congress wants to use the process that's already failing to identify which Mexican children are being victimized, and expand it to Central American children fleeing the most dangerous places on earth."
It's looking less and less likely that Senate Democrats and House Republicans will be able to reach a deal on providing the government with more money to address the influx of children coming across the southern border. While the White House has stated that they want to weaken protections for Central American children in the TVPRA, an idea that many (if not most) in the House majority agree with, some Senate Democrats are unwilling to compromise on due process protections for these children.
Today, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus met with President Obama on the humanitarian crisis affecting the southern border. Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-CA) wrote a moving opinion editorial for The Hill: "Our politics may be broken, but our policies don't have to be. The world expects much from the United States. We welcome those expectations, and we must not run in fear of this responsibility. Many have fled to our shores, escaping violence and oppression. Now, it is these refugee children who need us. It is time to remind them of the leaders we are."
July 14, 2014
Today, over 100 law professors sent a letter to President Obama urging him to maintain the obligations to treat children differently under immigration laws and uphold the TVPRA. (AILA Doc. No. 14071541.) "While we recognize the challenges are complex, we focus our comments on two administration responses that raise great concern: first, unspecified calls by the administration for changes to the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 ("TVPRA"); and second, procedural and operational responses intended to speed up the removal process that weaken legal protections for unaccompanied children and families with children."
In the worst news of the day, Senator Mike Johanns, Republican of Nebraska, announced that he was introducing a bill "requiring the federal government to notify state officials if unaccompanied alien children are placed in their states." This came after the Governor of his state, Dave Heinman, expressed "outrage" that he didn't know about 200 unaccompanied children who had been placed in Nebraska.
FiveThirtyEight analyzes how "Immigration Is Changing Much More Than the Immigration Debate." "But while the rhetoric has stayed largely the same, immigration hasn't. The immigration debate, now as then, focuses primarily on illegal immigration from Latin America. Yet most new immigrants aren't Latinos. Most Latinos aren't immigrants. And, based on the best available evidence, there are fewer undocumented immigrants in the U.S. today than there were in 2007. Even the latest immigration crisis…represents a break from past patterns: The children are from Central America, not Mexico, and are primarily escaping violence in their home countries, rather than seeking jobs in the U.S."
July 11, 2014
In today's installment of the most depressing news item of the day: Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) took it to a whole new level by introducing H.R. 5053, which he lovingly (one can only assume) refers to as the "Expedited Family Reunification Act," but which might be more appropriately called the Deport Children Back to Danger Act. His website claims, "The Expedited Family Reunification Act would amend existing statute to harmonize the way unaccompanied children are processed and allow immigration officials to coordinate with Central American governments to ensure the safe return of UACs to their families in their home countries." He made the case for the "humanitarian" aspects of his bill on Fox and Friends this morning.
Vox does a good job of explaining what a roll back in protections like this would mean functionally for children from Central America as they come north fleeing violence and persecution. Primarily, it would mean that "children will have a single interview, with a Border Patrol agent, to prove they're afraid of persecution…If they don't pass that interview, they'll be immediately sent back."
It's not all depressing news though, yesterday, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) made an impassioned plea for the children coming across the southern border fleeing violence in Central America. Senator Harkin, hailing from the same great state as Rep. Steve King (Iowa), forcefully pushed back against DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson's request to roll back protections guaranteed for these children under the TPVRA 2008. Please send a big thank you to Senator Harkin for fighting for these children fleeing violence.
In weird news of the day, Senator Kirk (R-Illinois) sent a letter to the three ambassadors of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador "asking whether or not their Embassies have performed criminal background checks on the unaccompanied alien children (UAC) who have entered the United States." Sen. Kirk has "learned that 429 unaccompanied minors from the Mexican border crisis are now in Chicago," but apparently is concerned because they haven't had background checks. Seems he's missing the point of this humanitarian crisis.
Contrary to what some might like the public to believe, no the children are fleeing violence in Central America are not bring diseases with them. According to UNICEF: "93 percent of kids in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are vaccinated against measles. That's better than American kids (92 percent)."
July 10, 2014
Today, the Senate Appropriations Committee hearing featured the Secretaries of the Department of Homeland Security, Health and Human Services and representatives from the Departments of Justice and State. Read AILA Advocacy Director Greg Chen's Twitter feed for some live updates from the hearing-including great quotes from Senators Durbin (D-IL), Leahy (D-VT) and Harkin (D-IA) and some terrible quotes from Senators Graham (R-SC), Shelby (R-AL), Alexander (R-TN), and DHS Secretary Johnson.
AILA submitted a statement for the hearing urging AILA strongly recommended that "the supplemental request not be used to authorize new authority to erode legal protections for children. (AILA Doc. No. 14070946.) That could result in the immediate and tragic reality of children being thrown back into dangerous conditions where the potential for violence and abuse is high. AILA specifically opposes the curtailment of existing statutory protections for unaccompanied children, particularly provisions set forth in the bi-partisan Trafficking Victims Protection and Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA), which was unanimously approved in the Senate."
In case anyone didn't already believe that the final nail had been put in the coffin on Congressional immigration reform, today, in an interview with the Washington Post's Greg Sargent, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) stated that the house Republican leadership would not take up immigration this year: "I'm seriously disappointed. We have a historic opportunity to fix a system everyone knows is broken. We're squandering that opportunity. The bottom line is, we have a bill that is ready to go. We had bipartisan support. And yet I've been told we're not going to move forward this year."
ABC is reporting the Sen. Cornyn (R-TX) and Rep. Cuellar (R-TX) are planning on introducing a bill to reverse the protections guaranteed to unaccompanied children from non-contiguous countries. AP reports that both Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) are open to the possibility of changes to the protections afforded to these Central American children in exchange for passage of the President's supplemental funding request: "It's not a deal-breaker. Let them have their face-saver. But let us have the resources to do what we have to do," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Senator Reid said: "I'm not going to block anything. Let's see what comes to the floor."
In an instance of not everyone being terrible, Senator Menendez (D-NJ) took to the floor of the Senate yesterday to make his own case for caring for these children. "Let's be clear, it's being caused in large measure by thousands in Central America who believe it is better to run for their lives and risk dying, than stay and die for sure. It is nearly two thousand miles from these countries to the U.S. border. These families are not undertaking this journey lightly."
Both the American Immigration Council and the Center for American Progress (CAP) released new reports that unequivocally show that violence, and not the DACA program or TVPRA, are the main drivers of unaccompanied children fleeing the three Central American countries. CAP's report, "Statistical Analysis Shows that Violence, Not Deferred Action, Is Behind the Surge of Unaccompanied Children Crossing the Border," finds that "violence is among of the main drivers causing the increase. Whereas Central American countries that are experiencing high levels of violence have seen thousands of children flee, others with lower levels of violence are not facing the same outflow. By contrast, the evidence does not support the argument that DACA or lax border enforcement has caused the increase in children fleeing to the United States."
The Council's report, "Children in Danger: A Guide to the Humanitarian Challenge at the Border," cites "a report by the Assessment Capacities Project (ACAPS), citing 2012 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) data, highlighted that Honduras had a homicide rate of 90.4 per 100,000 people. El Salvador and Guatemala had homicide rates of 41.2 and 39.9, respectively. In comparison, the war-torn country of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, from which nearly half a million refugees have fled, has a homicide rate of 28.3 per 100,000 people.
Much has been made of President Obama's decision not to visit the border during his trip to the Lone Star State this week. Texas' Governor, Rick Perry, has been vocal with his criticism (and weird conspiracy theories) of the President's policies that he believes have led to the increase in unaccompanied children crossing the southern border-he event stated that he would not meet President Obama on the tarmac when he landed in Texas. Well, in what might be a show of bi-partisanship, the President and Governor sat down for a round table meeting to discuss the issue and President Obama seemed to think they could reach middle ground: "The problem here is not major disagreement around the actions that could be helpful. The challenge is, is Congress prepared to act to put the resources in place to get this done? Another way of putting it - and I said this directly to the governor - is, are folks more interested in politics, or are they more interested in solving the problem?"
July 9, 2014
Today, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held a hearing on the humanitarian crisis at the southern border featuring representatives from Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Justice, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Department of Health and Human Services. (AILA Doc. No. 14070940.) The hearing did little to bolster confidence that the Senate would be on the front lines of protecting the unaccompanied children's due process rights-although there was a fun interaction that involved Senator McCain (R-AZ) scolding Customs and Border Patrol Commission Kurlikowskie for not allowing him to bring his cell phone into the family detention facility.
Later the two Republican Senators from Texas, Cornyn and Cruz, and the two Republican Senators from Arizona, McCain and Flake, took to the floor of the Senate to engage in a colloquy on the humanitarian crisis affecting their states. They made the case that the trip from Central American to the southern border is worse that the in-country conditions the children are facing if they stay behind. They called on Congress to change the legislation that provides strong due process protections to unaccompanied children from non-contiguous countries (TVPRA 2008). Sen. Flake made that same case on PBS NewsHour as well.
In anticipation of today's hearing the Department of Justice announced that "EOIR will now prioritize the adjudication of cases involving unaccompanied children, adults with children in detention, adults with children released through 'alternatives to detention,' and other individuals in detention. To realign our resources with these priorities, EOIR will reassign immigration judges in immigration courts around the country from their regular dockets to hear the cases of individuals falling in these four groups. Lower priority cases will be rescheduled to accommodate higher priority cases." (AILA Doc. No. 14070941.)
Today, the American Civil Liberties Union, American Immigration Council, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Public Counsel, and K&L Gates LLP today filed a nationwide class-action lawsuit on behalf of thousands of children who are challenging the federal government's failure to provide them with legal representation as it carries out deportation hearings against them. Beth Werlin, deputy legal director for the American Immigration Council, commented, "Deportation carries serious consequences for children, whether it is return to a country they fled because of violence and persecution or being separated from their homes and families. Yet children are forced into immigration court without representation - a basic protection most would assume is required whenever someone's liberty is at stake. Requiring children to fight against deportation without a lawyer is incompatible with American values of due process and justice for all."
In depressing news of the day, Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) (and former AILA member) went on Meet the Press last Sunday and advocated for a deport them all policy in regards to the unaccompanied children crossing the southern border. "The thing this administration needs to do is immediately deport these families, these children. I know it sounds harsh. I know it sounds difficult. But they're creating a crisis at this time that is actually going to harm these children." Well, at least he admitted that it "sounded" harsh.
July 8, 2014
Today, the President requested $3.7 billion in emergency supplemental funding to "Address the Increase in Child and Adult Migration from Central America in the Rio Grande Valley Areas of the Southwest Border." (AILA Doc. No. 14070846.) The request includes $1.1 billion for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, $433 million for Customs and Border Protection, $64 million for the Department of Justice, $300 million for the Department of State, and $1.8 billion for Health and Human Services. AILA President Leslie Holman commented, "We expected more from the Administration. Some of the request is absolutely essential, but much portends steps in the wrong direction. In all of this discussion we need to remember that those at the center of this crisis are children, deserving of and entitled to protection under our laws." (AILA Doc. No. 14070850.)
The funding request will have to be debated, amended and passed by both the House of Representatives and Senate before the money can be authorized. On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing on the President's request featuring Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell and the Counselor of the State Department Thomas A. Shannon, Jr. (AILA Doc. No. 14070741.) Follow AILA Advocacy Director Greg Chen on Twitter (@GregChenAILA) for live updates from the hearing.
House appropriations committee chair Hal Rogers (R-KY) issued a fairly benign statement on the request, "It is clear that additional funding will be needed to ensure the proper care of these unaccompanied children, to enforce the law, and to further secure our border so that these problems can be mitigated in the short term. Our Committee will focus on providing what is necessary to meet these ongoing needs."
AILA offers a number of recommendations on what legal standards and protections for children should be maintained, as well as background information on the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA) and the differing protections for children from contiguous countries versus non-contiguous countries. (AILA Doc. No. 14070847.) For more information on the Central American humanitarian crisis visit AILA's Resources page: www.aila.org/humanitariancrisis.
The AP reports the United Nations has officially called on the United States to treat the high number of children from Central American crossing the southern border as refugees fleeing persecution and violence. "While such a resolution would lack any legal weight in the United States, the agency said it believes 'the U.S. and Mexico should recognize that this is a refugee situation, which implies that they shouldn't be automatically sent to their home countries but rather receive international protection.'"
The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants released an infographic today outlining the "situation, stories and solutions to the Central American children crossing borders."
July 7, 2014
During a press briefing today, the White House Press Secretary indicated that although the President would be submitting a clean funding request to Congress, that they were still planning on asking Congress to ease the protections offering to unaccompanied children from non-contiguous countries. "What we are seeking is for that process to be made more efficient. And there are a variety of ways in which that process can be made more efficient -- some of it by exercising authority that the administration already has, and some of it by exercising authority that the Secretary of Homeland Security seeks but doesn't yet have." AILA Advocacy Director commented in the LA Times on the proposed changes, "Any movement away from having a judge review those cases is giving them no justice at all."
This followed Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson's appearance on Meet the Press with David Gregory on Sunday where he hedged on the question of what would happen to these children.
The NY Times did not hold their punches in an editorial published last week urging the president to "Go Big on Immigration." "Mr. Obama should do his utmost, within the law, to limit the damage done by an obsolete, unjust system that is deporting the wrong people, stifling businesses, damaging families and hurting the economy."
Although much remains up in the air as to how the government will handle the immigration cases of the unaccompanied children from Central America crossing the southern border, Fusion provides much needed insight into the particular cases of three of these children.
The Washington Post profiles Nora Sandigo, a woman in Florida who acts as something of a guardian (angel) to over 800 children whose parents are undocumented.
July 3, 2014
Christine Wicker writes eloquently for the Dallas Morning News about her understanding of how people can justify not helping these children fleeing violence and persecution from Central America: “Our hearts are not touched by these children. We want the law enforced. This is our country. Ours. And we don’t have to share it. Not now. Not 75 years ago. We haven’t changed at all. Why? It’s simple, really. A matter of us and them. Yes, these are children whom we’ll send back to be raped, maimed and killed. But they aren’t our children. Our children are precious. These children. They simply aren’t. Not to us.”
In a continuation of yesterday’s most depressing news of the day, further coverage of the protests again mothers and children being taken to a Border Patrol processing facility in Murrieta, CA forcing the busses to turn around and go somewhere else. Fox News and Friends titled their segment, “Defending the Homeland” and featured an interview with the Mayor of Murrieta professing that he was “proud” that his residents had exercised their Constitutional rights. Over on All In with Chris Hayes on MSNBC, he profiles how the coverage of this story could hurt potential Republican presidential candidates in 2016 and their relationship with Latino voters.
AILA joined over 190 other organizations in a sign-on letter to President Obama urging him to reconsider the plan to expedite the deportation of Central American children to the dangers they escaped in their home countries. (AILA Doc. No. 14070346.) The letter expressed concern that “the administration’s recent statements have placed far greater emphasis on deterrence of migration than on the importance of protection of children seeking safety. At a time when the region is confronted with a major humanitarian crisis, our nation cannot compromise on fundamental principles of compassion, fairness, and due process, nor on our international refugee protection obligations.”
A new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report indicates that violence and poverty are driving factors pushing children to flee from three Central American countries: Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. “For example, many Guatemalan children come from rural areas, indicating they are probably seeking economic opportunities in the U.S. Salvadoran and Honduran children, on the other hand, come from extremely violent regions where they probably perceive the risk of traveling alone to the U.S. preferable to remaining at home.”
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced a new “Dangers Awareness Campaign,” a Spanish language outreach effort in the United States and Central America to prevent children from making the journey. CBP Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske commented, “Families need to understand that the journey north has become much more treacherous and there are no ‘permisos’ for those crossing the border illegally. Children, especially, are easy prey for coyotes and transnational criminal organizations and they can be subjected to robbery, violence, sexual assault, sex trafficking or forced labor.”
As we celebrate America’s Independence Day tomorrow, it’s a time to reflect on what makes this country great. Buzzfeed pulled together 22 photos of immigrants becoming American citizens in advance of the 4th.
July 2, 2014
USA Today ran a story yesterday, "Obama seeks change to law that protects immigrant kids," that should frighten immigration reform advocates. According to the article a "White House official confirmed on Wednesday that the administration is looking to change the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, known as the TVPRA, to fast-track deportation decisions" of the unaccompanied minors from Central American countries.
Staying on the issue of children crossing the border, Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), the chair of the House "working group" on the humanitarian crisis recently visited the Texas border and emphasized that "throughout [her] visit one message was clear - please don't call this an immigration reform issue, this is a humanitarian crisis and we need help now."
Over the weekend the NY Times editorial board had some harsh words for House Republicans who have spent the past year blocking immigration reform from moving forward: "It says a lot about the state of immigration politics that Republicans instantly rejected Mr. Obama's demand for reform but that many may be only too happy to help him deport more children."
While the Wall Street Journal also ran an editorial on the failure of immigration to move this year-they were happy to place the blame on all parties. However, they note that none of the finger pointing "absolves the House GOP from failing to even hold a reform vote this year. Immigration and trade are the two pro-growth issues on which a bipartisan compromise should be possible, and the Senate proved it by passing its bill last year."
Buzzfeed got their hands on a copy of a Congressional Hispanic Caucus memo outlining "five suggestions for administrative actions the president can take along with six suggestions for "humane" enforcement reforms the DHS can make." The memo, sent to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, included an expansion of DACA and parole in place.
In what's unfortunately becoming a daily routine, here's the depressing news item of the day: "A wall of angry protesters blocked three buses of undocumented immigrants in Southern California, forcing them to turn around -- but with no clear final destination." The 140 families on board had travelled from Texas to go to the Murrieta, CA Border Patrol station for processing, but instead were taken to a border station in San Ysidro, CA. Protesters were heard chanting: "USA!," "Impeach Obama!," and "Deport! Deport!".
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) has sent his sign-on letter calling on President Obama to "end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program" (and other helpful advice to the administration). (AILA Doc. No. 14070252.) The letter was signed by 32 of his Republican colleagues in the House, but notably Reps. Steve King (IA), Louie Gohmert (TX), and Bob Goodlatte (VA) were absent.
During his visit to Texas this week, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson announced "the immediate deployment of approximately 150 U.S. Border Patrol agents to the Rio Grande Valley Sector to augment illegal entry detection efforts while enhancing processing and detention capabilities. This deployment enhances efforts to execute joint, targeted enforcement operations in order to disrupt and degrade criminal organizations that are responsible for smuggling illegal immigrants and drugs throughout the South Texas Corridor."
July 1, 2014
For more information about the humanitarian crisis in Central America, and its impact on the southern border, visit AILA's new resource page: www.aila.org/humanitariancrisis.
Yesterday, President Obama announced that his administration would be using his executive authority to help keep families together because the House leadership refuses to act on immigration reform. The Center for American Progress released a report today profiling the affirmative relief policies that are available to the administration: deferred action, parole in place, and deferred enforced departure.
Elizabeth Kennedy, in a new report for the American Immigration Council, "No Childhood Here," shares the results of her research after living in El Salvador for the last nine months. She strives to explain the causes of child migration and the effects of child deportation and finds that violence, extreme poverty, and family reunification play important roles in pushing kids to leave their country of origin.
June 30, 2014
This past Saturday, the Washington Post reported that the Obama administration "will seek more than $2 billion in emergency funds to help stem an influx of Central American women and children entering the country illegally, as well as new measures to more quickly deport those already here." Sure enough, come this morning the White House released a letter they sent to Congressional leaders of both parties in the House and Senate requesting the additional funding and asking for increased discretion to remove immigrants detained at the border more quickly and seemingly without due process. (AILA Doc. No. 14063043.)
AILA President Leslie Holman pushed back strongly against the reported announcement, "If the media reports are true, President Obama is asking Congress to change the law to enable the government to inflict expedited removal on unaccompanied children. That is simply unconscionable. No matter what you call it, rapid deportations without any meaningful hearing for children who are rightly afraid of the violence and turmoil from which they fled is wrong, and contradicts the fundamental values of this nation." (AILA Doc. No. 14063060.) Senator Menendez (D-NJ) issued a release also pushing back against the expedited removal of children, "Furthermore, we must ensure that children are not detained nor subjected to expedited procedures that do not guarantee their basic human rights."
In a related, but separate event, President Obama took to the Rose Garden today to officially declare that the legislative solution for immigration was dead in 2014-and that he would act using his executive power before the end of summer. "But last week, [Speaker Boehner] informed me that Republicans will continue to block a vote on immigration reform at least for the remainder of this year. Some in the House Republican Caucus are using the situation with unaccompanied children as their newest excuse to do nothing. Now, I want everybody to think about that. Their argument seems to be that because the system is broken, we shouldn't make an effort to fix it. It makes no sense. It's not on the level. It's just politics, plain and simple." Although he didn't give any specific indication of what administrative fixes may be coming, he did signal that he is committed to making sure "families would get to stay together."
Speaker Boehner released his own statement responding to the President, and to no one's surprise stuck strictly to the Party line (he even asked people to share an image on Twitter, "Share if you don't trust the President to enforce our law"). "In our conversation last week, I told the president what I have been telling him for months: the American people and their elected officials don't trust him to enforce the law as written. Until that changes, it is going to be difficult to make progress on this issue."
Another Republican in the House, and Chair of the Judiciary Committee, Bob Goodlatte (VA) shared his own advice on how the President could handle the humanitarian regional crisis at the border: "President Obama could quell the border crisis by halting his abuses of prosecutorial discretion, actually enforcing our immigration laws within the interior of the United States, and starting to crack down on fraudulent asylum claims - all of which he has the authority to do now."
In more depressing news from the weekend, the Associated Press reported on Friday that "a senior U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement official said the goal is to process the immigrants [detained at the family facility] and have them deported within 10 to 15 days to send a message back to their home countries that there are consequences for illegal immigration."
Over the weekend, Republican Representative Jeff Denham made a last ditch effort to appeal to his House colleagues to act on immigration reform, especially in light of the humanitarian crisis at the southern border: "It absolutely is a reason that we need tougher border security but the policies that go along with that. I think it's a key reason why immigration reform is not dead this year … we've got a crisis today that we've got to solve."
June 27, 2014
Let's choose today to reminisce about the past. One year ago, AILA members and staff were gathered together at the AILA Annual Conference in San Francisco watching the United States Senate pass a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform bill. Here's the Immigration Politics entry from that day in history:
"Today, in a historic vote, the Senate, while presided over by Vice President (and Senate President) Joe Biden, successfully passed (on a 68-32 vote) S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. (AILA Doc. No. 13062754.) Newly installed AILA President Doug Stump hailed the vote, "Despite our continued concerns regarding the recent changes in the bill that will militarize the border and bring real harm to border communities, AILA is pleased that the Senate continues to move forward toward real immigration reform that will on balance benefit far more families and businesses than it will hurt." (AILA Doc. No. 13062753.)"
Here are some highlights from the last speeches before the vote:
Sen. Graham (R-SC): "To the American people, the best days lie ahead. This is a day that I've been hoping and waiting for."
Sen. Schumer (D-NY): "The support that is generated by this Senate will be impossible to ignore. Pass this bill and let's keep the American covenant alive. Pass this bill and let the torch of Lady Liberty continue to shine brightly."
Whether you believe it's dead or not, Politico provides an autopsy of how it actually happened in a story today: "How immigration reform died." Walking through the inner workings of the House Republican leadership, and what steps, and missteps, advocates and reform proponents took in their bid to get the House to act.
Rep. Goodlatte (R-VA), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, has upped his anti-immigration reform game this week. First, with a hearing on the humanitarian regional crisis at the southern border and now, with comments disavowing his support for the alleged DREAM act lite proposal being worked on by former Majority Leader Eric Cantor, commonly known as the KIDS Act. At a breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor he said: "When that regime [a new enforcement system that could take 'years'] is up and operating effectively, we do need to address the legal reforms that are necessary and what happens with people who are not lawfully present, including children who were brought here illegally by their parents."
The Guardian questions the appropriateness of referring to children currently under the control of the Department of Homeland Security as "detainees" by the Associated Press.
June 26, 2014
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), joined by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other democratic leadership in both Chambers, commemorated the one-year anniversary of the passage of S.744. (The bill actually passed on June 27, 2013, but the Leap Day means 365 days have passed since the bill was successfully voted out of the Senate on a 68 to 32 vote.) Sen. Reid kicked off his remarks with a quote from comedian Leslie Nielsen: "'Doing nothing is very hard to do…you never know when you're finished.' Perhaps that is the case with the Republican-controlled House of Representatives - they just don't know when to finish doing nothing on immigration reform."
Today, the Senate Appropriations committee, chaired by Senator Mikulski (D) of Maryland, joined the House in passing a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appropriations bill unanimously out of the committee. Although the bill has not been scheduled for a vote on the floor of the Senate, this was a significant step forward in the budgeting process. The appropriations bill that passed, unfortunately, included a detention bed quota-and worse, it included funding for 500 detention beds above and beyond the request submitted by DHS (to 31,039 beds in total, still lower than the current bed quota number of 34,000 beds).
The LA Times is reporting that President Obama is considering delaying any announcement on the changes to the administration enforcement policies due to the humanitarian crisis at the southern border. The paper also reports that "Obama's advisors are also reconsidering whether to move ahead with a separate, still-tentative plan before the November midterm election that could allow the parents of young people who were brought into the country illegally to stay and work, said the official, who declined to be named in order to discuss internal deliberations."
Apparently the three hearings (plus the newly assembled working group) the House of Representatives have held on the humanitarian crisis of the surge in unaccompanied children along the southern border aren't enough. Rep. McCaul (R-TX), a member of said working group, just announced that the House Homeland Security committee-which he chairs-will host a Texas field hearing featuring Texas Governor (and former Republican presidential primary candidate) Rick Perry. The hearing will take place July 3 at Noon CT.
June 25, 2014
Today, two more hearings took place in the House of Representatives on the increasing number of children and families coming across the Southern border. Although the hearings featured similar types of questions from law makers, the titles alone provided two very different approaches to the issue. In the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), the hearing was titled, "An administration made disaster: the South Texas border surge of unaccompanied alien minors." (AILA Doc. No. 14062542.) In the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere the hearing was titled, "Children Migrating from Central America: Solving a Humanitarian Crisis." (AILA Doc. No. 14062543.) AILA submitted a statement for both hearings urging the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that vulnerable populations are not exploited or abused in custody, that children have adequate access to counsel, and that increased efforts must be made to strengthen our humanitarian protections. (AILA Doc. No. 14062446.)
Additionally, DHS Secretary Johnson visited the southwest border, specifically the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Nogales Placement Center, with Governor Jan Brewer and Nogales Mayor Arturo Garino. The three met with CBP Joint Field Command Commander Jeffrey Self, CBP Acting Chief Patrol Agent Jose Cruz and other CBP leadership to "review and discuss site operations in support of the recent influx of unaccompanied children. During the visit, Secretary Johnson reiterated that the Nogales Placement Center is a short term facility, and long term solutions are needed to address the urgent humanitarian situation."
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) took to the House floor once again to speak about immigration reform, but this time he seemed to have officially given up hope that "the better angels in the Republican Party would be able to tap down the irrational and angry angels blocking reform that the American people want and deserve." At the end of his remarks he gave the Republican Party a "red card" announcing that they had too many "flagrant offenses" and "unfair attacks." He ended by imploring the President to act: "Having been given ample time and space to craft legislation, you failed. The President now has no other choice but to act within existing law to ensure that our deportation policies are humane, that due-process rights are protected, that detention conditions are as they should be, and most importantly -- that the people we are deporting are detriments to our communities, not assets to our families, economy, and society."
June 24, 2014
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson testified before the House Homeland Security today on the issue of the increasing number of children and families crossing the southern border. (AILA Doc. No. 14062444.) The Secretary also released an "open letter" to parents of children crossing the southwest border warning them that traveling to the United States is dangerous, that DACA relief is not available to these children, and that if caught these children will be removed. (AILA Doc. No. 14062445.) Speaker Boehner also announced the creation of a "working group" to address the "national security and humanitarian crisis at the southern border." Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX) will lead the effort and will be joined by Reps. Carter (R-TX), Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Goodlatte (R-VA), McCaul (R-TX), Pearce (R-NM) and Salmon (R-AZ).
In other distasteful news on this issue, House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) sent the President an open letter letting him know that he would be "delighted to work with [him] on legislative reform efforts if [he] feels them necessary to successfully obtain removal orders against or otherwise remove the unaccompanied alien minors and family units overwhelming out southern border." (Just a quick reminder that the House Judiciary committee has not taken any meaningful action to help pass immigration reform for over a year.) The Safe Passage Project, an initiative to provide pro bono legal services to unaccompanied minor children that the Chairman cites in his letter as evidence that these children are not being removed, sent a rebuttal to the Chairman defending their work: "Children feeling violence from Central America, or anywhere else in the world, have legal rights and claims to protection under U.S. humanitarian laws. These laws represent the best of American ideals of compassion, justice and human rights in humanitarian crises like these."
Elise Foley at The Huffington Post reports that Rep. Darrel Issa (R-CA) has sent his Republican colleagues a sign-on letter to President Obama asking him to discontinue the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program because of the surge of unaccompanied children at the southern border. He wrote, "the very existence of the program contradicts present law and violates the Constitutional principle of a separation of powers which grants primary law making authority to the Congress."
United We Dream pushed back against Rep. Issa's attempts to politicize the humanitarian regional crisis leading to the surge of children and families at the southern border in a press release: "The unaccompanied children fleeing violence and arriving at the U.S. border are not eligible for the DACA program. However, we must ensure that these children's well-being remains the driving force behind our policy response to this crisis - we need to be sure that due process is followed and that those eligible for refugee protections and related status are afforded that right. We also cannot allow politicians to exploit this crisis as an excuse to continue inhumane and out of control deportation policies that separate over 1,000 families a day and contribute to the mistreatment of unaccompanied children seeking safety in the U.S."
June 23, 2014
Last week the Department of Homeland Security announced that they would begin detaining families at a new facility along the southern border. In this AILA Quicktake AILA's Second Vice President Annaluisa Padilla sits down to discuss the Obama administration's announcement to open additional detention facilities to address the humanitarian crisis at the border. (AILA Doc. No. 14062240.)
Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) recorded this video thanking AILA for its work to help pass S.744 in the Senate and continuing the push for immigration reform. She also shares her personal immigration story and asks AILA members to speak out in support of the unaccompanied children crossing the southern border. (AILA Doc. No. 14062120.)
June 20, 1014
In a fact sheet released today by the Office of the Vice President, the administration announced that it would be "surging government enforcement resources to increase our capacity to detain individuals and adults who bring their children with them and to handle immigration court hearings - in cases where hearings are necessary - as quickly and efficiently as possible while also while also protecting those who are seeking asylum." (AILA Doc. No. 14062047.) Effectively, DHS will soon begin detaining families along the southern border. The fact sheet also announced a number of measures that the administration would be taking to partner with "Central American counterparts in three key areas: combating gang violence and strengthening citizen security, spurring economic development, and improving capacity to receive and reintegrate returned families and children."
Newly installed AILA President Leslie Holman commented on the disturbing announcement, "This humanitarian crisis is not going to be solved by increasing the detention of families. Frankly, I'm surprised at this because I believe that our country's values center on protecting families, and these particular families are so very vulnerable. They deserve careful treatment because of their vulnerabilities and our nation's strong humanitarian and asylum principles. Putting families in detention is something that has been tried and just doesn't work. A few years ago, Immigration and Customs Enforcement shut down the T. Don Hutto family detention facility in Texas due to the harshness of conditions and abuses. These are families that include the young children we're talking about, who have come seeking safety. Putting them in a position that could lead to abuse is abhorrent to me." (AILA Doc. No. 14062049.)
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) released their own statement calling on all the countries of the Americas "to uphold their shared responsibility to protect displaced children, families or adults who are in need. This is critical over both the short and long term, as governments implement solutions to address forced displacement and its root causes." With an opposing viewpoint, Speaker Boehner (R-OH) sent a letter to President Obama today requesting that he "immediately deploy the National Guard to our southern border." He continues, "It is time that we confront the crisis along the border head-on through immediate and aggressive action."
PBS NewsHour provides a good overview on why these children are making the perilous journey north, and how they are being treated once they arrive.
June 19, 2014
Today, House Republicans elected two new men to their leadership team to replace outgoing Majority Leader Eric Cantor (VA). The new Majority Leader will be Rep. Kevin McCarthy, a fourth-term Republican from Bakersfield, California, who was previously serving as the Majority Whip. Rep. Steve Scalise, who currently leads the Republican Study Committee, will replace Rep. McCarthy as the Majority Whip. Although, many fear that the window for legislative action has closed, Rep. McCarthy has expressed his support for the legalization of the undocumented and for the one-page Republican Standards for Reform released in January. Additionally, McCarthy has a large Latino constituency in his district (almost 35 percent).
Las Vegas businessman, billionaire and frequent Republican financial contributor Sheldon Adelson has added his voice to the chorus of Republican voices clamoring for immigration reform. In an opinion piece in Politico Magazine Adelson rejects the idea that Majority Leader Eric Cantor's primary loss is "the final nail in the coffin for passing immigration reform in this session of Congress. He argues, "As a Republican, it's my view that efforts to complete immigration reform should be led by our party. Some on the outer fringes of the GOP may disagree, but the truth is we are humans first and partisans second. Frankly, the Democrats don't have a monopoly on having hearts.
NBC News released the results of a new poll focusing on the fissure within the Republican Party between those who identify as "Tea Party" Republicans and everyone else in the Party. They showcase the different views on a number of issues within the Party, including (and especially) immigration. "On immigration, the poll shows that 68% of Tea Party Republicans believe immigration hurts the United States, versus just 47% of non-Tea Party Republicans and 42% of all Americans who say that."
June 18, 2014
In a town hall with CNN yesterday potential Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton offered some thoughts on her views on the deportation machine and the humanitarian crisis involving unaccompanied children at the southern border. She defended the President's record when asked about the label given to him as 'deporter-in-chief': "We have to understand the difficulty that President Obama finds himself in because there are laws that impose certain obligations on him." She proved to be even clearer on the question of the unaccompanied children: "They should be sent back as soon as it can be determined who responsible adults in their families are, because there are concerns whether all of them should be sent back. But I think all of them who can be should be reunited with their families…We have so to send a clear message, just because your child gets across the border, that doesn't mean the child gets to stay. So, we don't want to send a message that is contrary to our laws or will encourage more children to make that dangerous journey."
Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry announced today that he was directing the Texas Department of Public Safety to "to plan and execute a surge operation of increased law enforcement in Texas border counties." He also authorized the department to "utilize all existing appropriated funds toward this operation."
June 17, 2014
Today, the White House honored ten DACA recipientswho are making change in their communities as part of their "Champions of Change" series.
Appleseed and Akin Gump released a new report on the lessons from DACA for advocates and policymakers, "A DREAM Deferred: From DACA to Citizenship."
Buzzfeed tells the story of two African asylum seekers who made the trek across Latin American to reach the United States and are now being held in detention in El Paso, TX. What the two asylum seekers didn't realize is that where they chose to cross the Southern border could have implications on how likely they were to prevail in court: "Data collected by the University of Syracuse shows that El Paso immigration judges are significantly less inclined to grant asylum petitions than the national average…That's significantly higher than the national 50.6% denial rate during that same time, and far higher than other areas along the border, most notably the San Diego sector where judges denied asylum in just 38.1% of cases."
June 16, 2014
Republican Senator, and Gang of Eight member, Lindsey Graham (SC) isn't buying the hype that immigration is what beat Eric Cantor in his Republican Primary two weeks ago. On Face the Nation he made an impassioned plea to his fellow Republicans to act on the issue: "If we keep playing this game, that self-deportation is the only answer for the Republican Party, we will have destroyed our chances in 2016 and dealt a death blow to our party, because by 2015 majority of this country is going to be African-American, Hispanic, and Asian. It will break my heart for my party to go down a road that we did not go. Embrace rational, comprehensive immigration reform that prevents a third wave of illegal immigration and we're back in the ballgame. If we don't adjust on this issue, our chances for survival as a party are very bleak and the country needs a vibrant Republican Party and our Democratic friends have put us back in the game. Let's take advantage of it."
Four Kansas City counties will join the growing list of localities that will no longer honor ICE detainers based on constitutional concerns. "Within the month, Johnson, Shawnee, Sedgwick and Finney counties have announced they will stop honoring the detainer requests of ICE that come without probable cause or a warrant. That means the people in question will not be held beyond the release dates for the violation that brought them to law enforcement in the first place."
June 13, 2014
Today is Friday the 13th (and a full moon), but the unexpected, crazy event happened this week already, Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his Republican primary by a little over 7,000 votes. Currently, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)-current majority Whip-is the leading candidate to replace Cantor as Texas Republican Pete Sessions (no friend of immigration reform) formally dropped out of the race last night. Not to be discounted, immigration lawyer (and former AILA member), Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) is also considering throwing his hat in the ring, to represent the conservative wing of the Party. The election will be held June 19, 2014.
The large number of Latinos in McCarthy's districts (over 35 percent) might seem like good news for immigration reform advocates, but they're not holding their breath. Although he has expressed support for legalization and the Republican principles of immigration reform earlier this year (remember those?), he has not committed to taking any action on the issue, and has definitely not been a champion on the issue. (AILA Doc. No. 14013053.)
Lawrence Downes, of the New York Times editorial board, doesn't believe immigration reform is completely dead though: "Let's split the difference and say that immigration reform is undead. It moves and stirs and kills some pols but not others, and it does not look healthy. You can attack it but never quite be sure that it won't start moving again."
To his credit Speaker Boehner refused to veer away from his well tread talking point on why he hasn't moved immigration reform in the House in a press conference today: "The president continues to ignore laws that he signed into law, violating his oath of office, he did it again with the release of these Taliban five. Every time he does this, it makes it harder to gain the trust of our members to do the big things that need to be done around here." The President had his own comments about the viability om immigration reform in the wake of Tuesday's election: "It is interesting to listen to the pundits and the analysts and some of the conventional wisdom talks about how the politics of immigration reform seem impossible now. I fundamentally reject that. I will tell the Speaker of the House that he needs to reject that."
In weirdly related Cantor surprise election news, apparently Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS), who is facing a tough primary challenger of his own in a run-off, had no idea that the Majority Leader had lost.
Manuel Rodriguez, the chief of Police for the National City Police Department, in National City, California, wrote a strongly worded editorial for The Hill today about the need for more accountability and transparency within Customs and Border Protection. He urges the agency to act: "Washington needs to provide the training and equipment for CBP officers to be able to do their job safely while ensuring the safety of the community. An improved and more transparent CBP is better for the agency as a whole, and better for the safety and wellbeing of my community; working together we can keep our nation safe."
In honor of Father's Day this Sunday, Church World Service has compiled a database, #DontDeportMyDad, of stories of American families separated by deportation.
59 members of the House of Representative sent a letter to President Obama yesterday urging him to provide relief from deportation and increase the use of alternatives to detention. (AILA Doc. No. 14061251.)
June 12, 2014
A number of Republicans are coming out today to reiterate that Majority Leader Cantor's (R-VA) stunning defeat on Tuesday does not mean that the hope for immigration reform is dead. Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) told the Reno Gazette-Journal: "I don't believe the majority leader lost his race because he supported a bill to help immigrants who came here as children." Republican Jeff Denham, who won his own primary last week (despite his strong support for H.R. 15), stated: "Lindsey Graham won. Jeff Denham won soundly. There are a number of members that are really fighting on immigration reform that are doing very well in their elections. But again, we've got to pick up the bills and have a full debate."
These two might be right, a new poll conducted yesterday, the day after the election, by Americans for a Conservative Direction, show that the voters of the Virginia 7th don't actually feel that different about immigration than the rest of the country-they want Congress to act. Even the Republican primary voters who voted for Brat, didn't do so because of Cantor's (tepid) support of reform: "Immigration was not a major factor in Rep. Cantor's defeat. Among those who voted for David Brat, 22% cite immigration as the main reason for their vote, while 77% cite other factors."
New York Republican Pete King is more of the camp that Cantor's loss shouldn't (but most likely does) mean the end of immigration reform, because it will mean the end of the Republican national party, as he tells Greg Sargent of The Washington Post: "'There is an opportunity right now-we have Democrats who are willing to agree to strict border controls. We could get meaningful reform which could satisfy most Democrats and Republicans.' But sticking with a "hard-line position," King adds, "could make it easier in primaries, but nationwide that doesn't sell."
And some are wondering how the race to replace Cantor as the Majority Leader will affect the House's ability to tackle immigration reform this year. Well, Rep. Steve King doesn't seem to be confused about what he's looking for in a Leader, at least not according to a tweet he posted today: "Wanted: Applicants for Majority Leader in US House who have a record opposing amnesty. Come see me."
June 11, 2014
The fallout from yesterday election in the Virginia 7th continues today-with seemingly everyone making bold predictions or assessments of what Majority Leader Eric Cantor's defeat to Tea Party candidate Dave Brat really means. The biggest news today though, was the Leader's announcement that he would be stepping down as Majority Leader effective July 31st. Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Bakersfield, CA) is currently third in line, with Reps. Lanford (OK), and McMorris-Rodgers (WA) rounding out Republican House leadership.
The Washington Post introduced its readers to "Meet Jack Trammel, the Democrat who will face David Brat, the man who beat Eric Cantor."
Self-proclaimed Libertarian Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) doesn't believe that the hopes for immigration reform are dead, despite what the pundits are saying. In a call with conservative tax advocate Grover Norquist Paul announced that he was "still for it [immigration reform]."
In a case of impeccable timing, the pro-reform group started by Mark Zuckerburg, FWD.us announced the results of a collaborative effort among ten prominent Republican polling firms (including one used by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) focusing on immigration. The two national polls focused on Hispanic and Republican registered voters and was conducted at the end of May. The Republican poll shows that a majority of Americans want Congress to fix the immigration system: "Most Americans don't believe "deportation" is a viable policy with respect to undocumented immigrants. In fact, there is an overwhelming consensus in support of some kind of legalization for undocumented immigrants (either "legal status" or "citizenship").There is broad support for the immigration reform and border security proposal that was put forward. Republicans showed significantly higher support for the proposal than either Democrats or Independents, with more than 75 percent of Tea Party Republicans, conservative Republicans and white evangelical Republicans all supporting it."
June 10, 2014
Well, the biggest story of the 2014 mid-term elections might have just happened in Virginia's 7th district Republican primary, and it involves less than 70,000 voters. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, in a stunning upset, lost his Republican primary election to Tea Party candidate and economics professor Dave Brat. Some are trying to blame Cantor's support for citizenship for some undocumented youth and support of the Republican principles on immigration, but that doesn't come close to telling the whole story as both the liberal National Journal and the editor of RedState argue. In fact, Senator Lindsey Graham, who was also facing his own tough Republican primary in South Carolina, fended of six Tea Party challengers to secure over 50 percent of the vote and avoid a runoff. Sen. Graham did not run away from his leadership role in getting the Senate to pass the comprehensive immigration reform bill last June-he took credit for it, and defended his position.
As much as some immigration reform opponents are trying to spin this as the "death of reform" efforts, everyone from the have their doubts that this election really had anything to do with immigration reform. And immediately after the results were announced the White House went on the offensive: "Cantor's problem wasn't his position on immigration reform, it was his lack of a position. Graham wrote and passed a bill and is winning big," senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer tweeted. David Simas, Obama's political director, went even further by blaming Rep. Cantor's lack of leadership on the issue as the reason for his loss: "Two GOP candidates on immigration. @GrahamBlog clear and principled pro-reform position -> wins. @EricCantor takes both sides -> loses."
The Migration Policy Institute's Kathleen Newland released a number of recommendations to address the influx of unaccompanied children coming across the Southern border. Some of those include "child-friendly screening to establish which children need protection or have another valid claim to remain in the United States," "a crackdown on smugglers and others who abuse children while misleading and exploiting their families," and "training for members of the Border Patrol, FEMA, and other authorities who come into contact with child migrants on the laws that apply particularly to children, and on appropriate ways of treating kids at apprehension, in detention, in court, and on release to an adult family member or guardian."
June 9, 2014
Detention Watch Network kicked off their 34 days of action to eliminate the detention bed quota, check out some of the great resources they have on the bed quota, and why it's bad policy for America.
June 6, 2014
A year ago today, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) allowed a floor vote on Rep. Steve King's (R-IA) amendment to defund the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) program. Since then, the Speaker has allowed at least three more votes on anti-immigrant issues on the floor of the House, but none on anything even remotely resembling a real solution to the immigration crisis (see: denial of vote on ENLIST Act). In honor of today's notorious anniversary of that vote to defund DACA, America's Voice has pulled together Rep. King's greatest (or worst) hits on immigration.
The Justice Department and Corporation for National and Community Services announced today a new pilot program to provide legal representation to some children in immigration proceedings. "The partnership, known as "justice AmeriCorps," is a grant program that will enroll approximately 100 lawyers and paralegals as AmeriCorps members to provide legal services to the most vulnerable of these children."
As part of Wednesday's #OccupyCIR day of action, a number of immigration reform activists marched to the offices of Nevada Republican Congressman Mark Amodei. Unlike the reception activists received at the office of another Nevada Congressman, Rep. Amodei invited the activists inside his office and promised them he would "talk to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) Monday about the need to take a vote on immigration reform."
A new report gives one more reason why the United States should embrace immigrants, and reform-increasing the numbers of Nobel Prize winners from the United States. Stuart Anderson, in a report for the National Foundation for American Policy, writes that "Immigrants have played an increasingly important role in contributing to science and engineering advancements in America, as demonstrated by their awards, research, entrepreneurship and education," including the Nobel Prize.
June 5, 2014
Yesterday, immigration reform activists took their messages of frustration with the House's inaction on immigration reform to Republican Representatives' district offices. At least one did not seem amused. Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV) sought to link the people sitting-in at his office demanding immigration reform to "Erin Bilbray [his Democratic opponent in November] and her liberal activist friends" in a Tweet that linked to a fundraising page for his November campaign. The tweet read: "Joe Heck will not be bullied into amnesty by @erinbilbray & #OccupyCIR #NV03 #CIR #TimeIsNow."
Yesterday, Latino Decisions released a new poll that indicates that, surprise, surprise, "GOP actions on immigration reform [are] key to their future." The poll asked Latino voters several question regarding their views of the Republican Party, specifically tied to their willingness to move immigration reform. According to the poll, "if Speaker Boehner allowed an immigration reform bill to move forward for a vote this year, 53 percent of Latino voters say they would feel more favorable toward Republicans in Congress."
June 4, 2014
Today, immigration reform activists around the country began a two-day sit-in at congressional offices across the country to demand that Republicans in Congress demand a vote on immigration reform before the August recess.
As the struggle with how to appropriately care for the surge of unaccompanied alien children continues-and real immigration reform stories are few and far between--other practices concerning migrant families apprehended along the border are permeating the news media. One involves the recent practice by the Department of Homeland Security of transporting these families from Texas to other states, including Arizona, with orders to report to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement office at a specified time. USA Today reports that this practice is drawing criticism from both advocates who have humanitarian concerns about the well-being of these families, and members of Congress who are concerned about the perceived lax enforcement practice.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) might be the last Republican who believes that immigration reform has a chance to pass the House of Representatives. He told Roll Call yesterday, "Every day I'm getting more and more Republicans - conservatives - who are frankly approaching me saying, 'How do we move forward?' I feel very, very confident that a majority - a strong majority - of Republicans want to finally tackle this system that everyone understands is broken - with some caveats."
Last week The Seattle Times ran the story of Jaime Rubio-Sulficio's battle to stay in the United States with his U.S. citizen wife and son. Yesterday, Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat shared the good news that Rubio-Sulficio had been given a one-year stay, but commented that this feel good story tells another story about the country's immigration system: "But it's yet another sign of how broken the immigration system really is if cases are being decided by who gets in the newspaper." Lori Walls, Rubio-Sulficio's immigration attorney, agrees, "I guess they [Immigrations and Customs Enforcement] don't like bad press…The system should be that if you have a good case, as this was, then you win on the facts. It does all feel a little arbitrary."
The Partnership for a New American Economy released a new report that "shows how existing H-1B visa lottery caps disproportionately hurt American-born tech workers by slowing job and wage growth in more than 200 metropolitan areas across the United States."
June 3, 2014
A national coalition of over 20 Catholic leaders continued the pressure on leader John Boehner (R-OH), the fifth ever Catholic Speaker of the House, to act on immigration reform in a public letter. They ask the Speaker, who received an honorary degree from Catholic University of America three years ago, how he can fail to act: "Legislative obstruction in the face of preventable suffering and death is not only a failure of leadership. It is immoral and shameful. The eyes of our God - who hungers for justice and commands us to welcome the stranger and bind the wounds of those left by the side of the road - are on us."
The latest issue of AILA's Voice is out and has a compelling story on how racial prejudice has influenced U.S. immigration reform. "Of Race and Politics: A History of U.S. Immigration" looks at the history of the immigration system and the importance of the meaning of whiteness.
June 2, 2014
In response to the recent surge of unaccompanied alien children (UAC), the President announced in a memo released today that he was directing DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson to establish an interagency Unified Coordination Group to be led by Craig Fugate, the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). A Women's Refugee Commission report from 2012, documenting the increase in unaccompanied minors over the last several years, explains the humanitarian policies in place for UACs: "With the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (HSA), Congress transferred the custodial authority of UACs to the federal agency with child welfare expertise, the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement."
Rep. Goodlatte (R-VA), Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, released a statement today placing blame squarely on the shoulders of the Obama administration for the increase in unaccompanied children and promising to hold a hearing on the issue soon: "The recent surge of children and teenagers from Central America showing up at our Southern border is an Administration-made disaster and now President Obama is calling in FEMA to mitigate the damage. Word has gotten out around the world about President Obama's lax immigration enforcement policies and it has encouraged more individuals to come to the United States illegally, many of whom are children from Central America."
Politico reports that the White House has asked the Pentagon to hold off on implementing a new policy to allow DACA beneficiaries to enlist in the military. "'The president is convinced there is a legislative opportunity, and that gives us the best opportunity to fix what's broken in our immigration system,' White House spokesman Bobby Whithorne said Monday. 'He wants to leave no stone unturned to make sure the House takes that opportunity, follows the Senate's lead and takes action.'"
In an AILA Leadership Blog, AILA Second Vice President Bill Stock commends his hometown Philadelphia mayor for signing an "executive order last month preventing law enforcement officials from keeping people in jail on the basis of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer request, unless it's accompanied by a judicial warrant and the person has been convicted of a violent felony."
May 30, 2014
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) finally released the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) report and an updated Use of Force Policy, Guidelines, and Procedures Handbook today. The Handbook include guidelines on the use of lethal and less-lethal force, requiring additional training in the use of safe tactics, and instituting the requirement for CBP officers to carry less-lethal devices. The release of the PERF report follows months of advocacy by border and national immigration advocacy groups.
AILA President Doug Stump reacts to the announcement, "This announcement is a step in the right direction but we need to see whether Homeland Security Secretary Johnson and CBP Commissioner Kerlikowske are able to make good on their stated commitment to real reform in an agency that has operated with impunity in the border region for years." (AILA Doc. No. 14053050.)
The Huffington Post is reporting that the Obama administration is planning to allow DACA beneficiaries to enlist in the military, potentially allowing them to apply for citizenship in the future. "The new change, under a Pentagon recruitment plan called Military Accessions Vital to National Interest, would allow some undocumented immigrants with critical language or medical skills to enlist in the armed forces."
Yesterday, Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) successfully added $1 million to the Executive Office for Immigration Review House appropriations budget for fiscal year 2015.
May 29, 2014
Today. Department of Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson appeared at an oversight hearing before the House Judiciary Committee. The hearing covered a range of issues, including a number of key AILA priorities, including the detention bed quota, detention standards, the decision by the administration to delay the implementation of executive action on immigration until the end of the summer, and the deferred action for childhood arrivals program. Rep. Johnson (D-GA) and Rep. Deutch (D-FL) specifically focused on the need to be judicious with the use of immigrant detention, the cost-savings of alternatives to detention, and the absurdity of a mandated bed quota for a law enforcement agency. Rep. Labrador (R-ID) affirmed his agreement with the Secretary's view that current law only requires beds be maintained and does not require immigrants to be detained simply to fill those beds. Sec. Johnson also stated his support for the Secure Communities program, while admitting that it needs a "fresh start."
The American Immigration Council released a new background report on "Removal Without Recourse: The Growth of Summary Deportation from the United States." The report focuses on the increased use of summary removal procedures-"today, two-thirds of individuals deported…are deprived of both the right to appear before a judge and the right to apply for status in the United States."
Rep. Gutierrez took to the House floor this week to express his disappointment in the President's decision to delay immigration enforcement reforms until the end of the summer, but also to point out that the "President is making a grand gesture by going against his base to give Republicans the space to take action on immigration reform."
However, Breitbart news reports that House Judiciary Chairman Goodlatte (R-VA) isn't optimistic that House Republicans will act on immigration reform, despite the President's delay of executive action. Goodlatte stated: "So that should not pressure the House of Representatives, we should not do this unless there is a clear, strong majority of the majority that's ready to move forward on a plan that's enforcement first and that is certainly my message to every member of the House Republican Conference from the leadership on through."
May 28, 2014
Several news outlets are reporting that President Obama has asked Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to wait until the "end of summer" to complete his review of deportation policies, or more accurately to hold off announcing any changes to the policies until the House has exhausted their time to act. On March 13 the President formally asked the Secretary to begin the review process and gave him a 90 day timetable, which would formally end the review process mid-June. According to a senior White House official, "Obama informed Johnson of his decision to delay the review during a White House meeting last week in which Johnson updated the president on the review's progress…Homeland Security will continue working on the review but won't release the results until the window for congressional action has closed."
Jorge Ramos, the Fusion news anchor and second most popular Hispanic in the United States according to Pew, made waves last week when he challenged Speaker Boehner (R-OH) on his refusal to move on immigration reform: "Mr. Speaker, we came here to ask you why are you blocking immigration reform?" Politico sat down with Ramos to discuss his advocacy, his journalism, and the importance that Hispanic media (and he) will play in the 2016 presidential elections. In a blog post on Fusion yesterday Ramos further ruminates on what the House's failure to tackle this issue will mean for the future: "Three things have become clear to me: First, if immigration reform does not pass this summer, Boehner and the Republicans will be to blame. Second, Latinos won't forget this failure. And third, Boehner will never grant me an interview. But I know where to find him."
May 27, 2014
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) cannot seem to make up his mind on where he stands on immigration reform. Last week, Cantor simultaneously voiced his support for and then blocked a vote on legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain citizenship through service in the military. Now, as Rep. Cantor is facing off against Tea Party activist David Brat in his upcoming June 10 Republican primary, he has decided to shore up his conservative base by attacking "amnesty" for "illegal aliens" in his latest campaign ad: "Barack Obama and Harry Reid: Pushing amnesty to give illegal aliens a free ride. Conservative Republican Eric Cantor is stopping this liberal plan." Although Brat has been gaining steam over the last few months as he gained support from national big-name conservatives and, importantly, attacked Cantor for supporting "amnesty," most predict that he still has no chance of winning the primary election.
AILA recently filed two amicus briefs requesting that Attorney General Eric Holder make long-overdue changes to our nation's immigration detention policy. To learn more, read AILA member Stephen Manning's AILA Leadership Blog post or watch his AILA Quicktake video. For even more details, check out the animated video Stephen developed on the issue. (AILA Doc. No. 14052108.) In more detention news, the NY Times reports on how the federal government is "Using Jailed Migrants as a Pool of Cheap Labor."
The Washington Post chronicles the difficult last days for a husband and wife before he is deported to Bangladesh, and she, a United States citizen, is left alone in Kansas.
May 23, 2014
Yesterday, Democratic Senate Leaders Harry Reid (NV) and Chuck Schumer (NY) made it clear that if the House doesn't act, they fully expect the President to take action to stop the separation of families by a broken immigration system. "They have about a six-week window, from June 10 after the last Republican primary until the August recess. If they don't pass immigration reform them, the president will have no choice but to act on his own," said Sen. Schumer. Sen. Reid continued, "Delaying implementation of immigration reform is not my preference but I feel so strongly this bill needs to get done, I'm willing to show flexibility. I'm willing to do whatever I can to help pass this important bill. It's my hope Republicans will consider this offer."
Bibles, Badges and Business is targeting an interesting, and unusual crowd today and through the weekend-Indy 500 goers. The coalition will run a 20 second ad featuring Lake County, Ill., Sheriff Mark Curran: "We need to solve this challenge now. No more excuses. No more waiting. It's time for effective, commonsense and accountable solutions that respect and enhance the rule of law." The ad will run 4 times an hour, 12 hours a day for the 3 day event, for a total of 144 broadcasts.
Last week, the NY Times began a new series chronicling life along the I-35 corridor, stretching from Laredo, TX to Duluth, MN. The project, "The Way North" examines how "immigrants and established residents in a variety of places are getting along (or not); how they are intertwining or distancing themselves from one another in schools and churches, at restaurants and police stations; how they are experiencing the milestones of life - births, baptisms, birthdays, graduations, marriages and funerals."
May 22, 2014
Today, Speaker Boehner (R-OH) was asked a tough question, albeit a seemingly obvious one, by Fusion anchor Jorge Ramos during his weekly press conference: "Mr. Speaker, we came here to ask you, why are you blocking immigration reform?" Although the Speaker attempted to shift the blame to President Obama and Obamacare in his repsonse, Mr. Ramos would not be deterred: "What does Obamacare have to do with immigration reform? The Senate passed it almost a year ago and you haven't moved on that. Many people are questioning your leadership and your vision on this."
In more news from the Republican Speaker, he followed through on (and defended) his promise to block Rep. Denham's (R-CA) ENLIST Act from getting a vote on the floor of the House as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). (AILA Doc. No. 14052001.) Although the move came as a surprise to no one-what was surprising was Democratic Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee Carl Levin's (MI) announcement that he would not be including the bill language in the Senate's version of NDAA either: "I'm not planning on [including] it. I'm all for the bill, but I've been told it's not a propitious time to try to move it. Tactically, it's not good time move it."
May 21, 2014
Speaker Boehner (R-OH) seems to be doing everything he can to shift the attention from his failure to schedule immigration reform votes on the floor of the House to the alleged lack of trust in President Obama to enforce the law. The latest effort is drawing attention to the President's decision to designate the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region in New Mexico a national monument. Speaker Boehner reacted: "The president's announcement today intensifies those concerns [enforcing the law], demonstrating a level of audacity that is remarkable even for this administration. Once again, the president has chosen to bypass the legislative branch -- and, in this case, do so in a manner that adds yet another challenge in our ongoing efforts to secure our Southern border. At a time of continued cartel violence in Mexico, we should not be putting any additional restraints on efforts to protect our borders.
A new report commissioned by the United We Dream Network and Unbound Philanthropy, "In Their Own Works: A Nationwide Survey of Undocumented Millennials," finds that although DREAMers tend to be actively engaged in the immigrant rights movement, that does not necessarily translate into alignment with one political party or the other--about half of respondents (50%) identified as Democrat, 45% identified as Independent or "Other." Additionally, the survey found that deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) is "an integration success story," with 64 percent of respondents feeling a greater sense of belonging in the United States after becoming "DACAmented."
In a new report, the Immigration Policy Center claims that despite some Representative's attempts to vilify the asylum and credible fear process, "The reality is that the entire credible fear and asylum process, from refugee attempts to enter and apply for asylum through subsequent interviews and hearings, is replete with hurdles. In the words of Paul Rexton Kan, Associate Professor of National Security Studies at the U.S. Army War College, 'enduring the asylum process is not easy.' The obstacles to asylum stem from the government's failure to follow laws, rules, and policies, as well as inadequate funding for the administrative bodies and courts that hear asylum claims." (AILA Doc. No. 14021041.)
May 20, 2014
Yesterday, Republican Representative Jeff Denham (CA) followed through on his promise to offer the ENLIST Act (H.R. 2377) as an amendment to the must pass National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that is heading to the House floor this week. (AILA Doc. No. 14052001.) He was joined on the amendment by Democratic Representative Tammy Duckworth (a veteran herself). Rep. Denham explains his reasoning: "The ENLIST Act would allow otherwise qualified undocumented immigrants brought here by their parents through no fault of their own to earn legal status through military service. "
Today, Rep. Denham took his position one step further by signaling that he would want the administration to act if Congress fails to do so: "I think the D.o.D. has the ability to do this today. And if the military takes the position that they want the best and brightest, and these men and women meet that criteria, then I think it's something the Department of Defense is willing and able to do." And in the other surprising news of the day, House Speaker John Boehner indicated that "there have been discussions" about allowing a standalone vote on the Enlist Act (as opposed to as an amendment on NDAA).
This comes in direct opposition to a statement made by a spokesperson for Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-VA) last week that ENLIST would not be considered as a part of NDAA: "No proposed ENLIST amendments to NDAA will be made in order." Today, the House Rules committee will meet to consider amendments to NDAA and decide if they are in order or not and thus whether they will get a vote on the floor of the House. Rep. Coffman's (R-CO) bill, H.R. 435, the Military Enlistment Opportunity Act, which allows DACA recipients to enlist, has also been submitted as an amendment to NDAA. (AILA Doc. No. 13030449.)
Meanwhile, yesterday, Senator Dick Durbin hosted a field hearing in Chicago on immigrant enlistment in the military that featured testimony from Rep. Gutierrez (D-IL), AILA Advocacy Director Greg Chen, members of the military, and two undocumented cadets from the Phoenix Military Academy. (AILA Doc. No. 14051941.) Senator Durbin urged the Department of Defense to take action to allow DREAMers to enlist. "If the House Republicans refuse to move immigration reform, the Defense Department should use its authority under current law to authorize the enlistment of Dreamers. Enlisting Dreamers is 'vital to the national interest' because it would make the Armed Forces more diverse and inclusive, and it would allow the Armed Forces to access a well-qualified, educated, homegrown talent pool."
Patty Kupfer at America's Voice sees this as one more way that the House Republican leadership refuses to walk the walk when it comes to moving reform: "To the immigrant community, Eric Cantor's message is crystal clear: 'even if you are willing to put your life on the line for the country you love, we don't want you here.' With the legislative window quickly closing and House Republicans' incapable of passing even the smallest of immigration measures, it's clear that Steve King-who got a vote in the House to deport DREAMers last year-is dominating the House agenda and that Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Eric Cantor are content to let him. So much for 'leadership.'"
Politico reports on the sudden upswing in states and localities are taking immigration reform into their own hands however they can. "Liberal cities and counties are rebelling against federal orders that call on them to detain immigrants for deportations. Swing-state lawmakers are approving in-state tuition for young undocumented immigrants. Democratic governors and mayors are brainstorming ways to allow immigrants - those here legally and those who are not - to work." Karen Lucas, AILA Legislative Associate comments, "Leaders in Congress are representatives of their states and their districts. They are bringing to the reform debate what they are hearing from their constituents. And, more and more, what they are hearing … is that we're ready."
May 19, 2014
Over the last few months subtle controversy has been brewing amongst both sides of the immigration reform debate on how "real" the President's removal numbers were-was he the President on track to remove more immigrants than any other President in history, or was he a President who was willfully ignoring the law and turning a blind eye to immigrants in the country without legal papers. AILA provides context for that debate and why the numbers are more complicated that bumper sticker can explain, but now the media is faced with a different controversy over ICE numbers: criminal aliens being released. (AILA Doc. No. 14042147.)
Last week, the anti-immigration group, the Center for Immigration Studies, released a document claiming that "in 2013, ICE freed 36,007 convicted criminal aliens from detention who were awaiting the outcome of deportation proceedings." Moreover, these 36,007 had nearly 88,000 convictions among them. However, as the American Immigration Council explains in an Immigration Impact blog, these numbers don't tell the whole story: "32,863 convictions for traffic offenses (including DUIs) are lumped in with more serious offenses. The list of convictions for these "criminal aliens" ranges from tax fraud and disturbing the peace to aggravated assault and kidnapping…More importantly, all of these individuals paid their fine or served their time in the criminal justice system…However, even in the immigration system, which affords few due-process rights to the foreign-born, there exist fundamental legal protections…The bottom line is that the U.S. Constitution does not permit the creation of an immigration gulag in which being born in another country can earn you a life sentence."
Opponents of immigration reform quickly used the data to accuse the President of not enforcing the law-House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) quickly commented, "The truth is that most could be detained by immigration enforcement authorities if the Administration had the will to do so," and announced they would host a hearing with DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson on the subject.
A new study from Latino Decisions finds that "when young Latino citizens become aware of the Obama administration's deportation policies, they view the Democratic Party as significantly less welcoming." The study drew on U.S. born Latinos who are the children of immigrants, and could have important implications for the Democratic Party for years to come.
Hugo Carrasco tells his story of living in fear of deportation as an undocumented worker in Sheriff Joe Arpaio's backyard for Salon.
May 16, 2014
Next week the House of Representatives will take up the National Defense Reauthorization Act, typically seen as a "must pass" bill. Last month, Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) caused quite a stir (mostly on the right) when he announced that he would be offering his ENLIST Act as an amendment to the act. The ENLIST Act, according to Denham's website, would "allow qualified undocumented immigrants who were brought into the United States on or before December 31, 2011 at or under the age of 15 to become Legal Permanent Residents (LPR) to the U.S. through their honorable service and sacrifice by serving in the U.S. military."
Now that the vote is coming near, conservative political advocacy groups Heritage Action and the Madison Project, have both signaled that they will recommend (and subsequently judge) lawmakers on both their votes on the amendment, and if the amendment is successfully included, the underlying bill.
Early this week Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) voiced what many Republicans might be thinking about immigration reform right now-why pass it now when Republicans are poised to pick up a number of seats in the Senate, and possibly gain the majority and control of both Houses. However, not everyone believes that's a possibility. The Hill reports that Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer "said in a subsequent interview that the reform effort would be dead because the conservative political dynamics of the 2016 presidential primary would pull the GOP too far to the right to pass legislation in 2015 or 2016."
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson appeared on PBS NewsHour yesterday and managed to not reveal anything new about the administration's plan of administrative actions on immigration. When asked about a potential expansion of DACA to parents he sidestepped the question and simply replied that he was still conducting his review. However, when asked earlier this week about potential reform DHS might make and the impactions on Congressional action he was more bold: "I can't be allowed to be put in a strait jacket to do what I think is right simply because somebody says if you do even a little thing it's going to affect the balance on the Hill. If I think that there is a good idea to improve the system, to improve how we enforce and administer our immigration laws within the confines of the law, then I think I should ... do that."
All of this as President Obama told law enforcement officials there's a three month window for Congressional action: "The closer we get to the midterm elections, the harder it is to get things done around here. We've got maybe a window of two, three months to get the ball rolling in the House of Representatives."
Earlier this month Republican Congressman Ed Royce (CA) introduced H.R. 4586, the Fraudulent Overseas Recruitment and Trafficking Elimination Act of 2014 (FORTE). (AILA Doc. No. 14051447). However, Alex Nowratesh of the CATO Institute has serious reservations about the bill which he shares in a recent column in The Hill. "FORTE's title makes it sound like an anti-human trafficking bill, but it's deceptive. Almost the entire text of FORTE piles fees and regulations on labor recruiters and employers of current guest worker visas. The proposed regulations are so burdensome and expensive and the criminal penalties so great for paper work errors (yes, you read that right) that it would make guest worker visas prohibitively expensive."
Former Secretary of State under President George W. Bush Condaleeza Rice appeared on Ozy and had this to say about the Republican short list for 2016: "One of the things that I will be looking for is somebody who understands the importance of immigration to this country and the importance of immigration reform…I like Marco Rubio's stance on immigration, and I will talk to Ted Cruz about immigration because I admire him."
May 15, 2014
Over the last three months civil immigration detainers have become a topic of hot debate, both in the courts and in the media-and states and localities are acting to protect immigrants and U.S. citizens alike from overzealous, and seemingly unconstitutional, enforcement practices. (AILA Doc. No. 14051443.) In April, a federal judge in Oregon held Clackamas County liable for violating the Fourth Amendment by keeping an individual in jail solely on the basis of an immigration detainer. (AILA Doc. No. 14042148.) More than thirty Oregon counties responded by refusing to continue jailing people on these detainer requests. Similar actions by sheriffs in Washington and Colorado also followed.
Sheriff Joe Pelle of Boulder County, Colorado called the judge's decision in this case a "game changer." And the president of the Oregon State Sheriffs' Association, Gary Bettencourt agreed with him, "We will no longer violate anybody's constitutional rights, I can guarantee that."
All of this comes on the heels of other significant 2014 decision on detainers. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held that detainers are voluntary, not mandatory; a federal court in Rhode Island held that the state's department of corrections could be sued for holding a U.S. citizen on a detainer; and restrictive detainer policies were implemented by Miami and Philadelphia. (AILA Doc. No. 14030447.) The Atlantic examines "How Local Governments Are Hacking Immigration Reform," by refusing to honor ICE detainers.
May 14, 2014
Today, Sal Russo, co-founder of the Tea Party Express, penned an editorial for Roll Call calling on Congress to pass immigration reform. Titled "Conservative Need to Fix the Broken U.S. Immigration System," the opinion piece makes the case that American needs an modern immigration system to stay relevant in this global economy: "It is time to make the changes that our citizens and our economy demand. Our current policies date back to the 1960s, when TVs were black and white and computers were bigger than cars. Our nation competes in a global economy, and our immigration policies should reflect our needs for the 21st century. Conservative-led immigration reform is an important step to a brighter American future."
On the same day, the Partnership for a New American Economy, Americans for Tax Reform, and the Tea Party Express released a poll of Republican Primary voters who identify strongly or somewhat with the Tea Party movement. Of the 400 voters surveyed 71 percent want "Congress to act on immigration reform this year," and 70 percent support legalization for undocumented immigrants.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) took to the floor today to speak in favor of immigration reform and to commemorate the 321 days that the House Republicans have blocked reform.
May 13, 2014
Law enforcement officials from around the country met today with President Obama, Secretary Johnson and others administration officials. In his prepared remarks the President addressed how reform would impact local law enforcement: "But what this [S.744] reform package would also do is create a firm but fair pathway to earned citizenship for those who live in the shadows -- and as a consequence, would give law enforcement a better idea of who's in the country. It would also help build trust between local communities and law enforcement and immigrant communities. It would undermine criminal enterprises that prey on undocumented immigrants. And it would allow law enforcement to focus on its primary mission, which is keeping our communities safe."
On a call after the event, organized by the National Immigration Forum's Bibles, Badges and Business project, the law enforcement officials involved said "they are anticipating a 'reboot' of a controversial immigration enforcement program that has faced a growing revolt in recent months."
The LA Times editorial board offered a sharp rebuke to the detention bed quota that currently mandates that 34,000 people be held in immigration detention each night, no matter their individual circumstances. "The solution is to change the budget wording to make it both clear and sensible. For Congress to set a quota of how many people should be jailed each night conflicts with Americans' basic notions of justice. Whether someone requires detention should be decided by need, as calculated by judges and others charged with enforcing immigration laws, not to by an arbitrary congressional budget mandate."
No other law enforcement agency in the country makes detention decisions based upon a need to fill beds rather than an individualized assessment of risk factors. The Center for American Progress provides a variety of resources on the detention bed quota.
May 12, 2014
Speaker Boehner (R-OH) spoke extensively about his plans to address immigration in the House while speaking to the Hispanic Chamber of commerce today. Although he made encouraging remarks signaling he had thought about what that process might look like, he quickly fell back on his go-to talking point on why he hasn't been able to get it done: "We're at a point where my colleagues don't trust that the president will implement the law the way we would see it passed. So I've put the ball back in the president's court. He's going to do something to demonstrate some level of trustworthiness." He also put out a call for naturalized citizens to weigh in on policy proposals for legalization: "They are the people I will look to, because whatever it is we agree on, that's the straight-faced test. How do the people who did this the hard way, how do they feel about this process?"
In a panel discussing the economy and infrastructure, U.S. Chamber of conference President Tom Donohue made quite the prediction about the future of the Republican Party if they fail to pass immigration reform: "If the Republicans don't do it they shouldn't bother to run a candidate in 2016. I mean, think about that. Think about who the voters are."
The New York Times Editorial Board applauded the American Immigration Council's report on the inaction of Customs and Border Protection when faced with complaints filed against them, lamenting that, "If a Border Patrol agent beats, kicks, threatens or otherwise abuses you, you can file a complaint. What you can't count on, evidently, is anything being done about it.
May 9, 2014
Florida Republican, and immigration advocate, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart told CQ-Roll Call that August was the deadline for the House to act on immigration reform if anything was going to pass the 113th Congress. "The legislative process in essence, frankly, has to work on deadlines. There's a deadline. And the deadline is that if we don't get it done by August it doesn't happen."
Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) is allegedly shopping a deal with the White House on a limited immigration reform package that would include addressing the three- and ten-year bars as well as high-skilled immigration. He explained to the Washington Times his reasoning, "I think most Republicans agree that the 3- and 10-year bars have to go away because right now the people that are here illegally, they have to go home to become legal, but then they have to remain home for ten years. We remove those bars from them, you could fix the status of about 25 percent of the people that are here illegally right now if they return to their home country and then they come back legally."
May 8, 2014
Today, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder (head of the Department of Justice), released updated guidelines to "assist public elementary and secondary schools to ensure enrollment processes are consistent with the law and fulfill their obligation to provide all children—no matter their background—equal access to an education." (AILA Doc. No. 14050842.)
America's Voice released a new website, "Countdown to the Demographic Cliff," that counts the days until Rep. Luis Gutierrez's July 4th deadline for House Republicans to take action before the President acts.
The Friends of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce group has rolled out the rare ad in support of a Republican's re-election effort. The ad praised Colorado Representative Mike Coffman for being “a leader to fix our broken immigration system with bipartisan reform that secures the border and grows the economy."
National Immigrant Justice Center has compiled the "Top 10 Reasons Why Immigration Courts Need More Funding" in a post for Buzzfeed.
Yesterday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson met with leaders from the anti-immigrant movement, including Numbers USA, Progressives for Immigration Reform, the Center for Immigration Studies, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, and the Eagle Forum. The readout of the meeting from DHS provides no details as to the content of the meeting, but noted that the Secretary also met with United We Dream and members of the National Sheriff's Association.
May 7, 2014
Even with Speaker Boehner's encouraging off the cuff remarks a few weeks ago, mocking his fellow Republicans for their reluctance to take on immigration reform, advocates and congressional staff alike are starting to become frustrated with the lack of progress. This frustration is manifesting itself in an array of tactics and targets within the advocacy movement, as optimism that Congress can still get something to the President's desk before the end of the year on reform slowly dies. Buzzfeed reports that over the last several weeks Cecilia Munoz, a key White House staffer, has been hosting meetings with advocates and Congressional aides to discuss strategy and concerns as the debate moves (or doesn't move) forward. Expectedly, these haven't been entirely smooth conversations, with many groups in decidedly different camps on the best route forward. Many advocacy groups, including United We Dream, have turned their attention more fully to pressuring the President to act, and to act now: through both affirmative administrative relief as well as broad enforcement reforms. Others, including Sen. Schumer's (D-NY) key immigration policy staff members Leon Fresco, believe that any action by the President will kill the small chance for legislative reform that still exists.
This follows a Monday Bloomberg editorial telling the President to act (and act big), but only once reform is truly, really, dead: "But Obama should give Boehner and the House more time just in case. Then, once the patient is truly, surely, undeniably dead, the president should act. He has already directed Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to review options for easing deportations. News reports suggest the administration will take modest steps, if it takes any at all. But it's a bit late for small ball."
This month's AILA Interview of the Month features AILA member David Asser and DACA recipient Julio Sepulveda speaking on the "DACA Dilemma" and the need for a more permanent solutions. (AILA Doc. No. 15050743.) Julio explains how he came to this country when he was six months old and his lifelong ambition is to join the U.S. military. As an Arizona resident, even as a DACA beneficiary, he cannot even get an official ID card or driver license, much less enlist.
May 6, 2014
Today, the Department of Homeland Security announced a proposed rule change that would allow spouses of H-1B workers who have begun the progress of applying for a green card to obtain work authorization. (AILA Doc. No. 14050647.) This is one in a series of changes thought to be proposed as part of the DHS initiative to attract and retain highly skilled immigrants. AILA President Doug Stump comments on the proposed change, "For the eligible H-1B holders on the road to permanent resident status whose spouses are willing and able to work, this will be welcome news indeed….Only the spouses of H-1B workers who have passed some of the hurdles to receive an employer-sponsored green card will be eligible. That means a relatively narrow group of people will be helped by this change, while many H-1B visa holders' spouses will remain stuck in neutral, unable to contribute to their families or our country's economy." (AILA Doc. No. 14050651.)
In the series of Republican primary elections happening this Spring, one today will be watched closely by people on both sides of the immigration debate. North Carolinian Republican Renee Ellmers made waves earlier this year when she voiced her support for immigration reform, that included legalization for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country. Immediately right wing pundits like Laura Ingraham attacked Rep. Ellmers for her stance and her primary became a battle over her stance on immigration, with her opponent attacking her for supporting amnesty. "Even with a primary threat, Ellmers has refused to back down. She's held several immigration events in her 2nd District, including a Feb. 19 roundtable with a slew of pro-reform groups. And she's even scolded a constituent who disagreed with her on immigration, telling him in an exchange caught on video: 'You don't have any damn facts.'"
May 5, 2014
The Immigration Policy Center chronicles the astonishing lack of accountability at Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in responding to complaints of abuse. Through data made available through a Freedom of Information Act request they report that in the two year period between January 2009 and 2012 809 complaints were filed. Of those complaints filed, 97 percent resulted in "No Action Taken" and that "on average CBP took 122 days to arrive at a decision when one was made."
Over the weekend Vice President Joe Biden was giving a graduation address at Miami-Dade College's Kendall campus. While speaking about the importance of immigration to the country the Vice President was interrupted by an audience member who yelled, "Stop Deportations." The Vice President responded with: "We'll do that, too, kid, but let me finish this speech."
Last week Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) spoke to the Creativity Conference, a production of the Motion Picture Association of America in partnership with Microsoft and ABC News. Rick Klein reported on Twitter that "Goodlatte to @jonkarl: still searching for "grand bargain" on status of undocumented immigrants. "Believe it will happen." #CreativityCon"
The Wall Street Journal provides the "5 Things to Know About Obama's Record on Deportation."
May 2, 2014Yesterday, the Democratic Senator from New York (and a member of the Gang of Eight), Chuck Schumer, took to the floor of the Senate to take House Republicans to task for not passing something on immigration reform. He particularly singled out Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and the Republican leadership's willingness to give him a vote on defunding DACA last year. "He doesn't just spew hatred, he calls the shots. They're following Steve King over the cliff…Where are the people in the Republican Party with the courage to stand up to Steve King? If Republicans continue to kowtow to the hard right on immigration reform, they'll consign themselves to being the minority party for a decade…Every time any Republican raised the possibility of action on immigration reform in the House-Steve King is there, in his own words, 'manning the watchtowers 24/7' to make sure nothing can be passed to fix our broken immigration system."
Speaking of Rep. Steve King, he appeared on a radio show yesterday and made some extreme remarks about the prospects for immigration reform: "If it happens, this place will blow up. If they try to bring some kind of amnesty or a provision that convinces close to a majority of Republicans that it is a sleight of hand amnesty, this place will blow up and there will be a crisis like we have not seen in years in the House of Representatives."
In other anti-reform advocates news, the Federation for American Immigration Reform Congressional Task Force has announced a new effort to have Republican members of Congress and candidates to sign a pledge to oppose any efforts to reform the country's immigration system. The pledge contains three main components: "oppose any form of work authorization for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants living in United States," "oppose legislation that would increase the number of legal immigrants allowed in the country," and "reject proposals to increase the number of guest workers."
May 1, 2014In a stunning move today, the Republican controlled Florida legislature passed in-state tuition for undocumented students who satisfy Florida residency requirements. The bill now heads to the desk of Florida Governor Rick Scott who has already publically stated his support for the measure. A number of Republican legislators, including a co-sponsor of the bill, spoke in support of the act during floor debate in the Senate.
In other Florida state government news, the Legislature also approved the granting of admission to the Florida Bar for an undocumented law school graduate. The hopeful applicant, Jose Godinez-Samperio, revived a standing ovation from the Florida House after the measure passed.
Tens of thousands of people took to the streets today in honor of May Day protests and marches across the country. Immigration Impact reports that in Connecticut thousands came to New Haven to lift up the state's TRUST Act, which prevents local law enforcement from honoring detainer request from ICE. While in Los Angeles, marchers participated in a rally to "Keep Families Together."
After the ruling in an Oregon case last month, "at least four counties in Washington state and four in Colorado have joined a growing number of jurisdictions in Oregon that stopped holding undocumented immigrants in jail for the sole purpose of deportation."
April 30, 2014Yesterday, Speaker Boehner took the opportunity of his weekly press conference to walk back his comments from last week mocking members of his own caucus for being unwilling to tackle immigration reform. "There's no mocking. You all know me. You know, you tease the ones you love, all right?" Boehner told reporters following the meeting. "But some people misunderstood what I had to say."
Apparently, in a reaction to Speaker Boehner's comments last week Senator Cruz (R-TX) reached out to other Tea Party House members. Roll Call reports that "Senator Cruz gathered a group of House conservatives in his office Tuesday night, talking about immigration and House GOP leadership elections slated for after the midterm elections."
The Congressional Asian Pacific American caucus submitted a list of recommendation to Department of Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson on things the administration can do to help alleviate the suffering to families while waiting for Congress to act. Their number one recommendation is for DHS to expand the deferred action program to parents, spouses and siblings of U.S. citizens.
April 29, 2014Today, Mark Herring, the Virginia Attorney General, announced that DACA recipients will be eligible to receive in-state tuition at Virginia public universities. He finishes his letter announcing the change with the following: "No provision of federal or Virginia law can be read to punish these smart, talented, hard-working young people or to relegate them to a life of limited opportunities. To the contrary, these young people are legally entitled to in-state tuition if they otherwise meet Virginia's domiciliary requirements, even apart from it being the right thing to do, it is what the law requires."
April 28, 2014
Republican Rep. Joe Barton (TX) shocked some when he announced his plan to introduce sweeping immigration reform legislation that includes a path to citizenship for at least some current undocumented immigrants. On a Texas radio show he stated, "Republicans need to start talking about [immigration]. I'm a part of the majority party in the largest state that's still Republican and I want to keep it that way." His plan would include a path to citizenship for children, and legalization for those who haven't committed a crime.
DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson appeared on ABC News This Week yesterday and reported that he would be reporting something "very soon" on the review of the agency's deportation policy. "We're still in the midst of the review. And I'm consulting a wide network of people. But I expect to have something pretty soon."
PBS NewsHour shares some sobering election predictions for Senate Democrats as they chronicle the top ten most competitive Senate races in the country--eight of the top ten are currently held by Democrats, with a few seeking re-election and a few retiring from their seats. "Republicans need to gain six seats in order to take over majority control in the Senate."
April 25, 2014
The biggest news from yesterday, apparently Speaker Boehner (R-OH) is just as frustrated with the members of his caucus reluctance to move on immigration reform as the rest of us. In a meeting with the Middletown Rotary Club Speaker Boehner said: ""Here's the attitude. Ohhhh. Don't make me do this. Ohhhh. This is too hard. We get elected to make choices. We get elected to solve problems and it's remarkable to me how many of my colleagues just don't want to ... They'll take the path of least resistance. I've had every brick and bat and arrow shot at me over this issue just because I wanted to deal with it. I didn't say it was going to be easy."
Heritage Action wasn't thrilled about the Speaker's comments, chief executive officer Michael A. Needham: It's disappointing, but by now not surprising, that the Republican Speaker is attacking conservatives looking to retake the Senate. The Republican Party should be large enough for fact-based policy debates. Unfortunately, John Boehner is more interested in advancing the agenda of high-powered DC special interests than inspiring Americans with a policy vision that allows freedom, opportunity, prosperity and civil society to flourish.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) took the Speaker's comments to heart on Twitter: "If you want to pass immigration reform, @SpeakerBoehner, bring it up for a vote. It'll pass. #TimeIsNow."
The Speaker might be applying public pressure on his colleagues to support reform, but his fellow Republican, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), didn't include immigration reform in the Republican legislative Spring agenda he sent out to the caucus.
April 24, 2014
In the last few months there’s been much to do about the real story behind President Obama’s deportation numbers. AILA’s here to help tell the story behind the numbers in our new AILA Resource Page on deportations. (AILA Doc. No. 14042147.) The long and short of it: “There are two key statistics DHS deportation numbers. First are returns, individuals apprehended by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) who are then returned to their country without a removal on their record. Second are removals, which carry more severe consequences, such as a bar on the person returning to the United States for five or more years. In the past decade the use of returns has dropped significantly, while removal numbers have steadily risen, and are at a historic high mark.”
The Immigration Policy Center released a new report today, “Living in Car Culture Without a License.”
The Associated Press is reporting that 22 Republican Senators, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY), chastising the President for considering using executive authority to make changes to the DHS’ deportation scheme. They accused the President of "an astonishing disregard for the Constitution, the rule of law and the rights of American citizens.”
April 23, 2014
Much like the AFL-CIO did earlier this week, today, United We Dream released their list of the five things the President can do right now to “provide relief to the undocumented community.” These include creating an affirmative relief program (beyond just DREAMers), expanding the DACA program to encompass more people, expanding humanitarian parole and prosecutorial discretion and rolling back the use of detention.
The LA Times makes a persuasive case for bond hearings for detained immigrants. “If a court case can't be heard in a reasonable amount of time — and six months seems a more than reasonable amount of time to hold a person who has been accused but not convicted — then the detainee ought to be given a bond hearing in which a judge determines whether he poses a flight risk or threat to public safety.”
Two moderate Democrats expressed concerns regarding President Obama taking any kind of unilateral executive action on immigration if Congress fails to act. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) stated: “I don’t care if there’s a Democrat or a Republican president, and I know there is executive order and I know all that. But I’m one of those who, if you’re going to change the law, let Congress do it. I mean, it’s like the health care [law]. [Obama] keeps delaying certain things. He doesn’t have the authority to do that.” Rep. Lipinski (D-IL) echoed those same concerns, “I think that is very possible that it could be problematic if the president does that. I hope we don’t come to that.”
April 22, 2014
Today, two Illinois Republican Congressman announced their renewed support for immigration reform that includes legalization for the undocumented. Reps. Schock and Kinzinger posted videos outlining their position in anticipation of an event hosted by the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition (that included former Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert). Rep. Kinzinger made the economic case for legalization: "We must work hard to come to an agreement on how to bring undocumented workers out of the shadows, legally entering the work force and becoming part of the American melting pot that makes this country great." Rep. Schock made the case for citizenship and a future flow: "We need a clear path to citizenship for workers who are already here and a fair and efficient on-ramp for those who want to come here."
Rep. Xavier Becerra, Chairman of the Democratic caucus in the House, responded by "invit[ing] Representatives Schock and Kinzinger to sign the discharge petition to demand a vote on the bi-partisan bill (H.R. 15) to finally fix our broken immigration system."
The Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) announced the next phase of their campaign to pressure Congress and the administration to act on immigration reform. The "movement is issuing a deadline on House Republicans to act on immigration reform by June 28. At the same time, [they] are demanding that President Obama act immediately to stop needless deportations."
This Saturday AILA is sponsoring the eight annual Citizenship Day with more than 50 naturalization clinics in 22 states and the District of Columbia. (AILA Doc. No. 14042254.) AILA President Doug Stump commented, "Helping aspiring citizens, who have waited for years to have this chance, is incredibly inspiring."
Yesterday, for the first time in 30 years, an American, Meg Keflezighi won the Boston marathon. Keflezighi's story is an undeniably American one, as Immigration Impact chronicles in their blog, "He and his family came to the U.S. as refugees from Eritrea in 1987, and Keflezighi became a U.S. citizen in 1998, the same year he graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles."
April 21, 2014
Over the weekend the AFL-CIO urged the President to "go-big" on deportations in a memo detailing four steps the Department of Homeland Security can take immediately. They explain, "These steps should provide an affirmative mechanism for relief that will permit community members to step out of the shadows without fear of government or employer retaliation, must stop sweeping individuals into the deportation pipeline who do not belong there according to the Administration's own policies, must reform the enforcement and removal processes to stop criminalizing immigrant communities, must enforce DHS' own procedures to ensure that enforcement will not interfere with workers' rights, and must provide due process to those who find themselves in removal proceedings."
The Associated Press is reporting today that Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Jeh Johnson, "is weighing limiting deportations of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally who don't have serious criminal records, according to two people with knowledge of his deliberations."
In a piece today on NBC News, Simon Rosenberg defends his organization's recent report claiming that "the total number of "removals" and "returns" has actually plummeted during the Obama Presidency." The head of NDN argues that "The demonizations (of Obama) are unfair and actually obscuring the reality of everything that's going on here. Things have gotten far better. Groups have fought and they won. They've changed the system."
AILA provides the story behind the removal numbers on the new AILA Resources on Deportation Numbers page. (AILA Doc. No. 14042147.)
April 18, 2014
Apparently, in a fundraiser last month, House Speaker Boehner (R-OH) said that he was "hell bent on getting [immigration reform] done this year.” But advocates shouldn’t start celebrating yet, a spokesperson for the Speaker later clarified that “nothing has changed. As he's said many times, the Speaker believes step-by-step reform is important, but it won't happen until the president builds trust and demonstrates a commitment to the rule of law.”
In a decision that could impact localities across the country U.S. District Court Judge Janice M. Stewart “sided with a federal appeals court decision last month, which said localities are not required to abide by ICE requests and could be held accountable for wrongful immigration detentions.” Nine Oregon counties have now put a stop to honoring ICE detainers, and more could follow suit. AILA member Stephen Manning commented, “that in effect [this] makes Oregon a bellwether state.”
The New Republic takes a stab at explaining how groups on both sides of the immigration debate are attempting to use the President’s removal numbers to buoy their own arguments. They explain: “Obama critics on the left say it’s wrong to treat removals and returns equally, since removals carry permanent, more serious consequences. If you have one on your record, it’s a felony to cross the border again; reentering makes you a top target for DHS agents; and your chances of ever gaining legal status go down.” Whereas “Conservatives say that distinction is overblown—that what really counts is the sheer number of people the U.S. is sending back to their countries of origin,” rather than how.
April 17, 2014
Yesterday, in an interview with Greg Sargent of The Washington Post, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart-one of three Republicans signed onto H.R. 15 and an outspoken advocate for reform-admitted that he believes that if the House doesn't act the President will. "I'm convinced that if we don't get it done by the August break, the president, who is feeling a lot of pressure from having not done anything on immigration reform, will feel that he has to act through executive action."
Ann Coulter is warning real Republicans to not support any Republican primary challengers against incumbent Republicans, unless of course that incumbent Republican supports "amnesty." Her reasoning? "Amnesty will produce the exact same result as losing the entire state of Texas. In fact, merely continuing our current immigration policies will achieve the same result; it will just take a little longer. The population of Texas is about 27 million. With amnestied illegal aliens allowed to bring in their cousins and brothers-in-law under our insane "family reunification" policies, the 12 million illegal immigrants already here will quickly balloon to 30 million new voters - who happen to break 8-to-2 for the Democrats."
Yesterday, the Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter signed an executive order ending local cooperation with ICE detainers. He stated, "Initially, the purpose of local municipality ICE detainers and the Secure Communities program was to enhance the federal government's ability to apprehend dangerous criminals who enter the country illegally. But in practice, many of those being detained and deported have no criminal background or have only committed misdemeanors. As a result of overly aggressive use of these detainers, there has been a negative impact on some immigrants who will not report crimes to the police, don't want to be witnesses, and suffer accordingly."
April 16, 2014
Today marks the one-year anniversary of the introduction of the comprehensive Senate immigration reform bill, S.744. Some might remember the press conference hosted by the eight Senators who introduced the bill, four Republicans and four Democrats, flanked by advocates from all sides of the political spectrum, that launched an extensive policy and advocacy effort. (AILA Doc. No. 13041844.) At that time Senator John McCain (R-AZ) remarked, "We're all united in our determination that this bill reminds a fair, comprehensive solution, that has a good chance of passing the house and being signed by the President of the United States." Although that time of bipartisanship seems far removed in this era of hyper-partisan bickering in the House of Representatives, the 14 Republicans who joined the two independents and all of the Democrats in voting for that bill give advocates hope that reform is still possible.
Today, President Obama advisor Cecilia Munoz spoke with Fusion on the President's record on deportations. She stated that the "composition of who gets removed has changed a lot" since the Bush administration, even as Congress has doubled the amount of money given to Immigrant and Customs Enforcement to conduct enforcement actions. She also responded to advocate's call for a suspension of deportations, "What people are asking is that the president simply say he's not going to enforce the law with respect to 8 million-10 million people, which is more than your executive authority allows you to do. The answer to this conundrum is, and has always been, legislation."
President Obama and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) are having a disagreement about whether or not they had a disagreement today. Responding to a phone call that the White House characterizes as "pleasant" and meant to "wish the House Majority Leader a happy Passover," Rep. Cantor's released a statement claiming that: "The President called me hours after he issued a partisan statement which attacked me and my fellow House Republicans and which indicated no sincere desire to work together. After five years, President Obama still has not learned how to effectively work with Congress to get things done. You do not attack the very people you hope to engage in a serious dialogue." He also reiterated that the House would not take up the Senate "amnesty" efforts.
John S. Chen, CEO of Blackberry and a member of the Bipartisan Policy Council's Immigration Task Force, wrote an opinion piece in The Hill today: "Immigration policy: An annual April Fool's joke on U.S. companies." "The U.S. immigration system does a poor job of ensuring that our nation's employers, both large and small, have access to workers with the necessary skills in the STEM fields. Over the past decade, employer demand has routinely exceeded supply in the H-1B visa program, which is limited to just 65,000 temporary work visas per year for highly skilled individuals in specialty occupations."
April 15, 2014
Donald Kerwin, Executive Director of the Center for Migration Studies, explains why President Obama's increasing use of returns over voluntary removals signals this administration's seriousness about immigration enforcement. "Pro-enforcement activists treat the decrease in voluntary returns as evidence of a bad-faith, scofflaw administration, but in fact this shift reveals a harsher approach to removal, one characterized by more formal removals, more criminal prosecutions for offenses previously treated as civil violations, and a high rate of "criminal" removals for traffic violations, immigration offenses and other low-level crimes."
Politico reports that "House Democrats are rolling out a new strategy to target 30 House Republicans on immigration reform during the two-week congressional recess, marking a last-ditch effort to force GOP action on a legislative overhaul." The strategy includes distributing member specific memos in multiple language to the 30 Congressional districts targeted.
Today, faith leaders from around the country including, Esperanza, Southern Baptist Convention and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, joined President Obama in the White House to discuss immigration reform: "The faith leaders shared with the President stories about the impact the failure to fix the immigration system has on families in their congregations and communities. The President expressed deep concern about the pain too many families feel from the separation that comes from our broken immigration system."
Today is Tax Day and the Immigration Policy Center released some great graphics depicting all the ways in which immigrants contribute to the American economy through taxes. Undocumented immigrants paid $10.6 billion in state and local taxes in 2010 according to a July 2013 study from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. Meanwhile, the Center for American Progress gives the top five reasons why immigration reform means more tax revenue.
April 14, 2014
New Republic reports on the practice by the Department of Homeland Security of deporting immigrants without a hearing: “Deported Without Seeing A Judge: One of the Worst Parts of the Immigration System.”
Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick is getting creative in his quest to keep foreign entrepreneurs who attended higher education in his state. The Governor’s proposal “is aimed at making the visa process easier for entrepreneurs by getting around the H-1B cap through a loophole in the system. Institutions of higher learning are exempt from the H-1B visa cap and can apply for visas for their employees at any point throughout the year, which means foreign graduates who are employed by higher-ed institutions through Massachusetts's GER program would, in theory, have a much better chance of securing a visa then they would if they applied for one as part of the private sector.”
Howard Dean Bailey tells his heartbreaking story of deportation in Politico Magazine. A veteran of the Navy, with a U.S. citizen wife and two children, Bailey, a green card holder, was deported because of a decades old nonviolent drug conviction. After spending two years in detention he is now in Jamaica, having never visited that country since leaving as a 17 year old, 30 years prior. He comments, “It’s still so hard for me to understand how I wound up here. I served in the United States Navy with pride and honor; I am a husband and father; I was a business owner and a homeowner. I made a mistake, but that was 19 years ago and I never made another.” He continues, “I’ve met judges and immigration officials who said that they wanted to help. I believe they felt compassion for me. But all of them said their hands were tied by Congress’s mandatory detention and deportation laws and the Obama administration’s enforcement ‘priorities.’”
April 11, 2014
Yesterday, hundreds of AILA members took to Capitol Hill for the National Day of Action. AILA members and their clients met with over 350 Congressional offices and heard from Senators Bennet (D-CO) and Leahy (D-VT), and Reps. Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Gutierrez (D-IL), Garcia (D-FL), and Honda (D-CA) during lunch. See AILA's Facebook page for pictures from the event.
In the least surprising news of the day, sixteen Members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson expressing concern about "when ICE releases criminal immigrants onto the streets." The Members included Reps. Steve King (R-IA), Lamar Smith (R-TX), and Trey Gowdy (R-SC), among others.
April 10, 2014
The Hill reports today that Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is questioning some advocates' decision (including the Congressional Hispanic Caucus) to turn the pressure on the administration to halt deportations. "That's a gift to the Republicans. Because the fact is, the Republicans are never going to move unless they think there's a price to play politically for not bringing the bill to the floor. I see the pain and suffering of the deportations. But the answer, the medicine for every ill in the deportations is to pass comprehensive immigration reform." This comes after Pelosi blamed race for the hold up on immigration reform earlier that day: "I think race has something to do with the fact that (the GOP House leadership) are not bringing up an immigration bill."
The New York Times today reports on the "increasing numbers of migrants caught here seek asylum, setting off lengthy legal procedures to determine whether they qualify."
Sundays this April Al Jazeera America is airing a groundbreaking series focused on the southern border. "Borderlands" examines the border through the lens of the migrants that make the treacherous journey to come to the United States.
April 9, 2014
Senator Schumer (D-NY), a member of the Gang of Eight, responded to Jeb Bush's immigration comments on Morning Joe on Monday by arguing that he still has faith that the House will act on immigration reform this year. "Most people are for immigration reform. Most Republicans, they're in the vote-no, pray-yes caucus, they'd like it to pass as long as they don't have to vote for it. I still think we have a good chance of passing it this year." Senator Schumer continued, "The leadership of the [Republican] party realizes one thing, they won't do it in 2015…And [that] most certainly means they're going to lose the 2016 election."
This week, AILA member Ken Mayeaux wrote an op-ed for The Times-Picayune making the case for alternatives to detention and the end of the detention bed quota. "Just as Congress now recognizes the need for change in our criminal justice system, so too it is time for Congress to reverse the trajectory on immigration detention that began in part in Louisiana 30 years ago with the erection of an immigrant prison in the small town of Oakdale. Jailing people just to fill detention beds, especially in remote facilities without meaningful access to counsel, is not consistent with Louisianians' values of fairness."
April 8, 2014President Obama's record on deportation continues to be under attack in the media, specifically his claims that his administration is mostly deporting criminals that fall in their priorities. Time ran the article, "Most Immigrants Deported Under Obama Had Thin or No Criminal Record," joining Bloomberg who argued that "Obama Deports Thousands Senate Would Let Stay in U.S."
TRAC Immigration got in the action with their own report, "Secure Communities and ICE Deportation: A Failed Program." Some choice quotes from the report include: "If the same definitions were applied to every citizen-rather than just to noncitizens-available evidence (see TRAC's February 2012 report) suggests that the majority of U.S. citizens would be considered convicted criminals," and "More striking is that there has been an absolute decline in the number of noncitizens removed who have been convicted of any crime apart from traffic and immigration. During FY 2010 these individuals numbered 116,884. By FY 2013 they had declined to only 103,676. This means that the trumpeted increase in the number of 'convicted criminals' ICE has deported resulted entirely from jacking up the deportation of noncitizens whose most serious criminal conviction was a traffic or an immigration offense."
Yesterday, in a fact sheet titled, "Strengthening Entreprenuership at Home and Aboard," the White House made the following statement regarding the Department of Homeland Security: "The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will soon publish several proposed rules that will make the United States more attractive to talented foreign entrepreneurs and other high-skill immigrants who will contribute substantially to the U.S. economy, create jobs, and enhance American innovative competitiveness. These proposed regulations include rules authorizing employment for spouses of certain high-skill workers on H-1B visas, as well as enhancing opportunities for outstanding professors and researchers. These measures build on continuing DHS efforts to streamline, eliminate inefficiency, and increase the transparency of the existing immigration system, such as by the launch of Entrepreneur Pathways, an online resource center that gives immigrant entrepreneurs an intuitive way to navigate opportunities to start and grow a business in the United States." (AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 14040841.)
April 7, 2014The New York Times had some strong words for President Obama on immigration in an editorial published in Sunday's paper. "If President Obama means what he says about wanting an immigration system that reflects American values, helps the economy and taps the yearnings of millions of Americans-in-waiting, he is going to have to do something about it - soon and on his own. It has been frustrating to watch his yes-we-can promises on immigration reform fade to protestations of impotence and the blaming of others. All Mr. Obama has been saying lately is: No, in fact, we can't, because Republicans and the law won't let me." In that same vein, Fusion reports that a number of immigration advocates have taken up residence outside of the White House and vow to stay there until he takes action "to grant relief to families struggling with deportations."
The editorial came the same day as an article chronicling how "More Deportations Follow Minor Crimes, Records Show." "Since President Obama took office, two-thirds of the nearly two million deportation cases involve people who had committed minor infractions, including traffic violations, or had no criminal record at all. Twenty percent - or about 394,000 - of the cases involved people convicted of serious crimes, including drug-related offenses, the records show."
2016, it's starting! Potential presidential candidate Jeb Bush had some encouraging words on immigration at an event at his brother's presidential library over the weekend: "Yes, they broke the law, but it's not a felony; it's an act of love," he said. "It's a different kind of crime. There should be a price paid. It shouldn't rile people up that people are actually coming to provide for their families."
April 4, 2014
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, in a follow-up to the recent calls on the President to act in the wake of Congress inaction, "approved a list of recommendations Thursday on what actions DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson could consider to carry out President Barack Obama's directive to make sure immigration enforcement policies are being applied humanely." NBCNews.com reports that the recommendations include: expanding deferred action to those who would benefit from the Senate's legalization plan and extending parole in place and humanitarian parole.
Immigration Impact explains how each of the proposed changes by the CHC would actually work.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, doesn't seem to have a lot of hope, or desire, to see the House pass any sort of immigration reform legislation that encompasses all aspects of reform. Instead he "said that Republicans would be willing to work with the White House on a plan that would tighten border enforcement, raise the number of foreign workers and help some younger immigrants legalize."
Earlier this week, in remembrance of the 6,000+ migrants who have died in search of a better life, seven bishops and Cardinal Sean O'Malley held a somber Mass in the shadow of the border fence near Nogales, Arizona. See pictures from the event at Buzzfeed.
April 3, 2014
NPR just released a new resource on the southern border, "Borderland." They explain, "We Took A 2,428-Mile Road Trip Along The Mexico Border: Here's What We Saw."
As we get closer to the April 5th day of action for the #Not1More campaign, which will call on President Obama to "turn back the deportation dragnet" as he nears the 2 million removal mark, members of the media and Congress are questioning his record on enforcement as compared to previous Presidents-and questioning the validity of the numbers being used. But, as Immigration Impact points out, "the effectiveness of immigration enforcement policies in the United States cannot simply be reduced to removal numbers. In other words, the system's functionality and fairness cannot be determined by counting how many individuals a president deports each year. An honest analysis should include an understanding of what belies the numbers, as well as a look at the human toll that is taken by the federal government's immigration enforcement strategy."
America's Voice has released an immigration scorecard for 12 key Republicans in the House who are facing tough re-election bids this year. They include Reps. Denham and Valadao from California, Gardner (who's running for the Senate) and Coffman from Colorado, and Jolly and Southerland from Florida, among others. The long and short of it? Of the five immigration related votes that the House has taken in the 113th Congress-including Rep. King's amendment to defund DACA and the ENFORCE Act-almost all of the 12 voted the wrong way every time.
Yesterday, Rep. Cardenas (D-CA) used an all-day hearing on the Republican budget proposal to force a vote on H.R. 15. Although all the Republicans on the committee voted against the amendment (with all Democrats voting in favor), Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), chair of the Budget committee, seemed to acknowledge his agreement with Rep. Cardenas' point that reform is related to reducing the nation's deficit and can help to balance the budget.
A few weeks ago, Scott Corley, executive director of Compete America, a coalition of technology companies, universities and trade associations that advocates for reform of U.S. immigration policy for highly educated foreign professionals, wrote an editorial in Roll Call arguing that the "limits set by Congress on high-skilled visas are preventing jobs creation in America today." He goes on to urge Congress to "act this year to end the visa crisis and stop the loss of jobs that we are experiencing." Well earlier this week, on the H-1B filing deadline, April 1st, Sen. Durbin (D-IL) sent a letter to nine of the nation's top tech firms asking them to "renew [their] commitment to passing comprehensive immigration reform legislation and to pledge that [they] will not support stand-alone legislation to increase the H-1B visa cap."
April 2, 2014
Today, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) once again took to the floor of the House to implore his Republican colleagues to take action on immigration reform. This time, however, he set an expiration date for Republicans to act-he states that if Republicans don't act by the fourth of July recess (34 legislative days), then the President will take bold action, he'll be forced to. He also urges Republicans to consider the implications of no action on immigration reform on any effort to reclaim the White House.
The Week isn't so sure that Republicans will heed Rep. Gutierrez's advice, they ask: "how bad politically must it get for Republicans before we can expect immigration reform to pass?"
Yesterday marked the filing dealing for H-1B visas, with the cap expected to be reached quickly. Lynden Melmed, chief counsel of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services from 2007 through 2009, writes about why this is so troubling for the country: "Rejecting H-1B applications impedes our economic recovery and deprives U.S. employers of the talent they need to grow their companies and compete in a global economy." The Immigration Policy Center has everything one needs to know about "H-1B Program's Impact on Wages, Jobs, and the Economy."
April 1, 2014
A new report released last week by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), a restrictionist think tank, argues that "interior enforcement activity [by the Obama administration] has already declined 40 percent since the imposition of 'prosecutorial discretion' policies in 2011." Alex Nowrasteh, from the Cato Institute, pushed back against the report by arguing that "her conclusion mistakenly conflates lower numbers of unauthorized immigrant crossers with a lack of enforcement." He continued by making the case that "a decrease in interior immigration enforcement relative to increased border enforcement does not signal the end of immigration enforcement."
Immigration Impact walks through the assertions made in the CIS report and provides clarifications of the numbers used by Jessica Vaughn, the author of the report, to back up her claims.
The Partnership for a New American Economy and the Latino Donor Collaborative's have released a new report that documents "how the number of Hispanic entrepreneurs in America has grown exponentially over the past two decades, powering the economy during the recent recession." The report, "Better Business: How Hispanic Entrepreneurs Are Beating Expectations and Bolstering the U.S. Economy," shows Hispanic immigrants in particular are now more likely to be entrepreneurs than the average member of the U.S. population overall.
The Week magazine shares some insights into the House Republicans' political strategy going into the midterm elections they gleaned from a conversation with Washington Post Capitol Hill reporter Robert Costa. The first one being that Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) is trying to "sound more moderate without being too moderate," in part by suggesting "the need for at least some small steps on immigration reform."
The Boston Globe Editorial Board made a persuasive case for why "Republicans should break ranks on immigration reform." they hope that "there must be at least 19 Republicans who feel, in their hearts, that a fair and open vote on immigration reform is more important to the country than party loyalty."
March 31, 2014
Not all Democrats are lining up behind the "Discharge Petition" filed on H.R. 15 last week by Democratic leadership in the House. Rep. Filemon Vela (D-TX) explains his reasoning for not signing the petition: "I do not believe that border security measures should be used as a condition to trigger the legalization or citizenship process. These two issues are separate and should be addressed in separate legislation. Border security measures are aimed at preventing undocumented immigrants from entering this country in the future and from halting narcotics and other contraband from entering the U.S. On the other hand, a pathway to citizenship addresses the approximately 11 million undocumented people who are already in the U.S."
As of last week the petition has 171 signers, all Democrats.
The Western Growers Association (WGA) is just one example of an association that represents business interests impacted by the lack of movement on immigration reform. CEOs who are members of the WGA's Agriculture Workforce Coalition have committed to keeping pressure on the House to act on immigration reform and WGA president Tom Nassif recently came to D.C. to meet directly with Republican members of the House to urge them to pass immigration reform. Fox News Latino reported that "Nassif said his group [WGA] is withholding hundreds of thousands of dollars in congressional races, an about-face from its generous support in the past."
Laura Murphy, director of the ACLU Washington, D.C. legislative office, outlines the steps the President can take to curb deportations now. These steps include "prioritize[ing] only the deportation of individuals convicted of serious violent offenses in recent years," "instruct[ing] DHS to cease asking state or local police to detain peaceful immigrants who pose no threat to public safety," and eliminating the use of 'no-process' removals (removals when an individual is not seen by an immigration judge.
March 28, 2014
Yesterday, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that "Passing comprehensive immigration reform is more important than Democrats' success at the polls in November." And that's not all, while speaking to the United State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce she added, "she would be willing to make any compromise necessary except on the inclusion of a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants-a key division between Democrats and Republicans."
Immigration Impact tells the story of a farmworker who "lives and works in fear" as an undocumented worker in this country. Juan is but one of "approximately 2 to 2.5 million agricultural workers on U.S. farms and ranches, over one-half [of whom] lack authorized immigration status." Last summer, the Senate passed a comprehensive reform bill that included a agricultural stakeholder agreement, which included a special path for agricultural workers currently in the country and a program to replace the H-2A visa program. "The hard-fought agricultural stakeholder agreement contains difficult concessions in the interest of reaching an agreement. It represents a win for agricultural employers, for farmworkers and for our national interest in a secure, safe food supply and should be respected."
Bloomberg reports that "Republicans favoring a broad revision of U.S. immigration policies are questioning why business groups aren't doing more to force the issue with the party's majority in the House of Representatives." They're not the only ones.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) has issued a "critical alert" that "DHS Enforcement Data Reveals Administrative Amnesty Much Broader Than Previously Understood."
Want to see "Where everyone in the world is migrating-in one gorgeous chart?" Then head over to Quartz.
March 27, 2014
AILA's National Day of Action (NDA) is only two weeks away, and it's not too late to register. Check out the AILA 2014 NDA Recourse Guide to get prepared to spend the day on the Hill lobbying for immigration reform.
Today, former acting director of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), John Sandweg, penned an op-ed for the LA Times encouraging the President and ICE "eliminate 'non-criminal re-entrants and immigration fugitives' as a priority category for deportation." He continues, "each year, tens of thousands of people are treated as enforcement priorities based on their immigration history alone. Many of these people have been in the United States for a decade or more. They often have spouses who are U.S. citizens and have never been convicted of a criminal offense. Frequently, they were deported years earlier and returned to this country to reunite with their families. As a result, focusing ICE's effort on them disproportionately separates parents and children, breadwinners from families, spouse from spouse."
Yesterday, two members of Congress, one Republican and one Democratic, introduced a piece of legislation to address the increasing number of unacceptable uses of force and violations of people's civil liberties during southern border searches by Customs and Border Protection (CBP). H.R. 4340, the "Border Enforcement Accountability, Oversight, and Community Engagement Act" seeks to "increase transparency, accountability, and community engagement within U.S. Customs and Border Protection, provide independent oversight of border security activities, improve training for U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents and officers, and for other purposes."The two co-sponsors, Rep. O'Rourke (D-TX) and Rep. Pearce (R-NM), both represent border districts and hope this issue could be a point of agreement by the two parties, but as Buzzfeed reports "Whether the bill will see much action is unclear. Speaker John Boehner has made clear comprehensive immigration reform isn't happening this year and that if the House addresses the issue at all, it will be on a piece by piece basis. That could give the Pearce-O'Rourke measure a chance, albeit a slim one." In related news, four immigration advocacy groups, including the American Immigration Council, have come together to launch a new website to establish accountability and transparency of one of the fastest growing agencies in the United States, CBP. The website, www.holdCBPaccountable.org, seeks to expose CBP abuses and hold them accountable. "As a first step, during the week prior to March 12, 2012, organizations worked with attorneys in states along both the northern and southern borders to file individual complaints for damages on behalf of ten victims of CBP abuse."
Fortune sat down for an interview with FWD.us president Joe Green to talk immigration reform prospects in 2014. The first question should give readers a hint of where they stand. "Fortune: It does not look like immigration reform will pass this year. What's the plan? This has been the defining issue for FWD.us. Green: We disagree with the premise of the question."
March 26, 2014
Today, House Democrats, flanked by immigration advocates, introduced a "discharge petition" on H.R. 15. Time reports that "the so-called discharge petition, if successful, would force the chamber to vote on legislation Republican leaders have said they have no intention of bringing up, preferring a piecemeal approach to the contentious issue. A majority of the House, or 218 members, would have to support the petition in order to force a vote, which is unlikely even by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's own estimation." The White House also released a statement in support of the petition. Immigration Impact has more on the specifics on how discharge petitions work and what the next steps are.
Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) main immigration policy advisor threw cold water on the prospects of the House ever voting on anything comprehensive today in a Tweet: "As I said before, if you're being told that the House has the votes to pass the Senate bill, you're being lied to -this also applies to HR15"
Greg Sargent, of the Washington Post, had some words of caution for House Republicans: either act now or watch the President take action come June. He lays out the difficulty Republicans will have to move on immigration reform if they wait beyond the summer months: "It's hard to see a scenario in which Republicans act on immigration reform beyond the summer. If summer comes and nothing has moved, pressure on Obama to utilize executive action to slow deportations will be overwhelming. He'll likely do something. The right will go into overdrive, making legislative reform even harder."
On a related note, Wisconsin Republican (and former vice-presidential candidate) Paul Ryan, told the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce that immigration reform is coming: "To me, it's not a question of 'if' we fix our broken immigration laws. It's really a question of 'when.'"
March 25, 2014
Today, number of immigration reform advocates-including AILA-met with Department of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson to discuss potential enforcement and border reforms the administration can pursue while waiting for Congress to do their work. The question that many area asking, on both sides of the aisle, is what effect potential administrative action could have on the prospect for reform in the House of Representatives. Theresa Cardinal Brown, the immigration policy director at the Bipartisan Policy Center thinks it kills its chances: "If the president were to take very strong executive action ... he would be completely writing off immigration reform until 2016, I would have a hard time seeing how Republicans move forward with reform in that atmosphere." But others, including Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), an outspoken advocate and participant in the meeting with the President, feel that the President must act now. Buzzfeed reports that "Gutierrez has begun putting together a new strategy: defining the next group of undocumented immigrants that would be politically acceptable for executive action, in the same way DREAMers were when Obama announced deferred action in 2012."
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) sent a letter to the editor of the LA Times expressing her concern for unaccompanied immigrant children. She argues that "the House must act on immigration reform. No matter your view on immigration, we should all agree that protecting unaccompanied immigrant children is a humanitarian issue that can be addressed with proper counsel and some compassion."
March 24, 2014
Last week MSNBC host Rachel Maddow spoke with Jose Diaz-Balart about the recent announcement by President Obama that he has ordered the Department of Homeland Security to do a review of their deportation policy and his power to do more. She highlights the story of a undocumented mother who spent over a year seeking sanctuary in a church in Chicago, before being deported to Mexico-last month she was part of a group of over 100 families that crossed the border in San Diego in an act of civil disobedience.
This Friday, the new film on the life of farm worker organizer Cesar Chavez will open across the country. Many advocates, including FWD.us founder Mark Zuckerberg in partnership with the United Farmworkers of America (UFW), are hoping to use the film as a rallying cry to bolster efforts for action on immigration reform, whether by Congress or the President.
In the wake of a number of newly introduced state laws dealing with immigration, both that focus on integrating immigrants in the community and those focused on increasing state participation in immigration enforcement, the Center for American Progress released a new report on "Understanding Immigration Federalism in the United States."
March 21, 2014
In a blog in The Wall Street Journal Laura Meckler lays out the case that "GOP Optimists Challenge [the] Common Wisdom on Immigration." She notes that "a few leading Republicans think there's a chance that Mr. Boehner may change course and bring the issue to the floor this spring or summer. Business, religious and law enforcement interests are among those pushing for the overhaul as a way to rationalize immigration policy and aid those now living here illegally."
The LA Timesfurthers the argument by these Republican strategists who are looking past November and towards 2016. "But some Republican strategists and donors fear that buoyant mood spells trouble for the party down the road-by masking the long-term problems that were so evident after the 2012 election. Chief among them: the GOP's abysmal performance among Latinos and the growing influence of minority voters in battleground states that will create a steeper climb to the presidency for Republicans with each passing year."
Yesterday, the Florida House of Representatives passed a bill to provide in-state tuition for some undocumented residents of the state. The bill passed in a 81-33 vote. The Republican leader of the House had thrown his support behind the measure early on, and several other Republicans came out in support. But the road ahead in the State Senate might not be as smooth. "Senate President Don Gaetz remains opposed to granting the tuition break and other top Republicans in the Senate have also come out against it."
Ruben Navarrette had some sharp words for President Obama in Tuesday's SF Chronicle. "When it comes to immigration, President Obama is in the protection business. And what he is protecting is the narrative that he has done nothing wrong. It's a line that is getting harder and harder to sell." He also demonstrated a healthy dose of cynicism regarding the President's meeting with advocates at the end of last week: "For Obama, the meeting had three purposes: to re-establish the narrative that the Republicans are to blame for everything that is unpleasant in the immigration mess including the record numbers of deportations carried out by the executive branch; to push back against critics and reassert control over his supporters; and to derail a resolution condemning the deportations that the Congressional Hispanic Caucus was getting ready to pass but ultimately tabled."
March 20, 2014
In a moving piece, featured on the front page above the fold, the New York Times chronicles the real world impact of the rise in federal prosecutions of unlawful entries into the United States and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) prioritizing immigration status offenders for removal. Josue Sandavol-Perez, 41, an undocumented immigrant with a U.S. citizen wife and two citizen children, who has lived in the country for 16 years, and "had no criminal record, paid taxes and was the primary breadwinner for his family," was deported this January. Unfortunately, because of a previous expedited removal, he was considered a removal priority by ICE. The Times argues that "Mr. Sandoval-Perez's case-as described by him, his family and court documents-previews the difficulties President Obama will face in a review he ordered last week, asking the Homeland Security secretary, Jeh Johnson, to come up with a more "humane" deportation policy."
Last night, House Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) attended a fundraiser in Silicon Valley organized by TechNet-a technology centered political network. But some in the tech community want answers from the Chairman ona timeline for immigration reform before they'll write any more checks. According to Roll Call Ron Conway, a venture capitalist and top angel investor had this to say: "In this case, because there's been mixed messages from the Republicans, before I write my check, I wanted some assurances that Bob Goodlatte would be prepared to discuss immigration reform and what the timetable is for immigration reform, because we're coming down the wire here with the [midterm] elections [approaching] and we need accountability."In other tech news, Compete America launched a new feature on their website to track the number of jobs being lost every day that Congress (specifically the House) fails to act on immigration reform. As of 5:30 P.M. (ET) their tally was 485,868 jobs lost. Their rationale: "Thanks to the limits on H-1B Visas, America loses not only scientists and engineers who could fill vacant high-skilled jobs, but also the additional jobs that these scientists and engineers would create. As a result, America loses 500,000 jobs every year. Spread across 50 five-day workweeks, this translates into 2,000 U.S. jobs not created every business day because of overly-restrictive U.S. immigration policy; or, to put it another way, that roughly equals a new job that is lost in America every 63 seconds."
Elise Foley at The Huffington Post reveals a long list of "what Obama can actually do to slow deportations," including the expanded use of prosecutorial discretion, tightening border priorities, making immigration law offenders a low priority, and ensuring policy changes actually happen at the ground level.
Last night, Massachusetts State Senator Jamie Eldridge successfully ushered the Massachusetts TRUST Act, a bill to "authorize police to honor the holds only for adult immigrants with criminal convictions who have served at least five years in prison" rather than all ICE detainers, through its first committee vote in a unanimously (with eight members abstaining). Massachusetts' Governor Deval Patrick opposed the expansion of the Secure Communities program two years ago, along with four other Governors, but the program was made mandatory.
For your daily laugh, watch Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, on Fox and Friends, accuse President Obama of ordering "ICE agents to break federal law" (because of the deferred action for childhood arrivals program), and of "cooking the books" on his deportation numbers.
March 19, 2014
The Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project released a troubling study of the confluence in the growth in federal convictions over the past two decades and the increased enforcement of unlawful reentry into the United States. “The increase in unlawful reentry convictions alone accounts for nearly half (48%) of the growth in the total number of offenders sentenced in federal courts” between 1992 and 2012. This coincides with the reduced use of voluntary returns by Border Patrol. “Unlawful reentry cases alone accounted for 26% of sentenced federal offenders—second only to drug offenses in 2012. This is up 13-fold since 1992, when offenders sentenced for unlawful reentry made up just 2% of sentenced offenders.”
A new report from the Partnership for a New American Economy and the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform makes the bold claim that America can either import labor or import fresh produce, but it must do one. The report, “No Longer Home Grown: How Labor Shortages are Increasing America’s Reliance on Imported Fresh Produce and Slowing U.S. Economic Growth” chronicles how “labor challenges faced by U.S. farmers and the inadequacies of the H-2A visa program are a key reason why American farmers have been unable to maintain their share of the domestic market.”
March 18, 2014
Last Friday immigration advocates spent over an hour in a White House meeting with President Obama, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and other senior advisors. Participants included representatives from SEIU, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), Center for American Progress, National Council of la Raza, PICO, among others. The White House reports that: "Secretary Johnson reemphasized his shared commitment to ensure our immigration laws are enforced effectively, sensibly, and in line with our nation's traditions as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. The President reiterated his commitment to maintaining consistent and sustained pressure on Congressional Republicans to take action on immigration reform as soon as possible. The President continues to believe that the only permanent solution to fixing the broken immigration system is through meaningful comprehensive legislation."
Nora Caplan-Bricker, in a piece for New Republic, makes the case that President Obama can, and should, stop deportations. "Some experts even believe Obama has the legal power to stop deportations altogether, though the chances he would do so are more or less nil. When activists and politicians discuss strong candidates for deferred action, they often mention the parents of Dreamers, family members of U.S. citizens, and, more broadly, those who have found work and are an asset to the economy."
The Fast for Families busses have been crossing the country for three weeks. See what they've been up with video and photos posted to their account.
March 17, 2014
A year ago the Republican National Committee released a 100 page report chronicling the opportunities to grow the Republican Party and win more campaigns. One of the only policy prescriptions included in that report was the need to pass comprehensive immigration reform. A year later, in an interview with Politico, the chair of the Party Reince Priebus reflects on the strides his Party has made towards the goal embodied in the report, specifically the need to shed the image of a "stuffy old men" who are "out of touch" with the country. Politico reports, however, that "Republican strategists acknowledge that the party has not shed its image as being dominated by white men, and some fret privately that just putting bodies into states won't win over many converts. On this front, the GOP autopsy's report was firm on one policy issue it said the party cannot ignore, especially if it wants to make headway with Hispanics."
In a scathing opinion piece in Al Jazeera, Belen Fernandez details "America's war on immigrants." He argues that "the U.S. has no fundamental interest in ending the war on immigration. To do so would be a dangerous, costly business. After all, as long as migrants are dehumanized as 'illegals' threatening national identity and security, we as a people can avoid any meaningful self-reflection that might force us to confront our collective responsibility and lack of humanity."
March 14, 2014
In a meeting with leaders from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) last night "the President emphasized his deep concern about the pain too many families feel from the separation that comes from our broken immigration system. He told the members that he has asked Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson to do an inventory of the Department's current practices to see how it can conduct enforcement more humanely within the confines of the law." Many see this as a response to the rising pressure from advocates-the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), National Day Laborers Organizing Network (NDLON), and several Democratic members of Congress (including the CHS), to name a few-who have publically called out the President as the "deporter-in-chief" over the last several weeks.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the administration is considering two potential changes under this directive: "The first change would ease or stop deportations of foreigners who have no criminal convictions other than immigration violations"; and the second would be a scale back of the Secure Communities program.
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) used this announcement to apply pressure to House Republicans on his Facebook page: "It's crystal clear where the issue of immigration reform is headed, and Republicans have only two choices to make. They can either help pass comprehensive reform which will greatly reduce the flow of illegal immigrants, grow our economy by bringing in needed workers in high tech and agriculture areas, and provide a hard-earned path to eventual citizenship for the 11 million in the shadows, or they can sit idly by and watch the President greatly curtail deportations while 11 million continue to live in limbo here in America. The choice is clear; a reform bill has the support of liberals, moderates, and conservatives and all we need is the courage of the Republican leadership to make the right and obvious choice."
This week, appropriators (those in Congress who dole out the money) in both chambers of Congress began discussing the President's Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) budget with hearings with Secretary Jeh Johnson. Most notable was a statement by Subcommittee chairman, Rep. John (Judge) Carter (R-TX), that he does not believe a detention bed quota exists. He stated that while the current law requires DHS to have 34,000 beds available, "they all don't have to have someone sleeping in them every night." Fusion makes the argument against the detention bed quota in a blog on their site.
Two new documentaries show the human side of the immigration debate, chronicling in different ways the journey from Mexico to the United States. On Sundays in April Al Jazeera America will be showing a groundbreaking documentary series that will "retrace the journeys of three migrants who perished attempting to come to the United States." The film "The Other Side of Immigration" asks the question, why make the hazardous trip at all. "Based on a National Science Foundation-funded survey of 700 Mexican households, the film challenges audiences to think about the many political, economic, and social causes and effects of mass migration in Mexico."
March 13, 2014
Last week Buzzfeed learned that the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) was planning to vote on a resolution to send to President Obama asking him to "slow deportations and increase his use of prosecutorial discretion." However, after some DREAMers and other advocacy organizations got wind of the actual text of the resolution they provided significant pushback that the asks of the President were simply not enough-that it's a statement that will not "move the process forward," according to Salvador Sarmiento, of the National Day Laborers Organizing Network (NDLON).
Well today, Buzzfeed reports that the CHC apparently heard the concerns of the community and significantly strengthened the language in the resolution. The resolution "will now call for President Obama to suspend deportations of those who would be covered by the bipartisan Senate immigration bill in addition to expanding deferred action."
This comes just a day after the House Republicans voted on H.R. 4138, the ENFORCE Act, a broad bill targeting Presidential executive action, but one that explicitly mentioned the President's DACA program. Rep. Luis Gutierrez took to the House floor to speak out against the bill and called out House Republicans for ensuring "that this do-nothing Congress forces President Obama to be a do-nothing President as well." Unfortunately, the bill ultimately passed (although very unlikely that it will be taken up in the Senate, and the President has said he will veto it if it makes it to his desk). The White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney expressed his own frustrations with the bill being brought up for a vote: "So it is, in my view, in our view, pretty amazing that today House Republicans went in the opposite direction by passing legislation targeting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy that removed the threat of deportation for young people brought to this country as children, known as DREAMers."
The Bipartisan Policy Center attempts to address Speaker Boehner's (R-OH) reluctance to address immigration reform in an election year in a new blog. They argue that "despite election year politics, history shows that meaningful legislation often passes in election years. This is especially true of immigration reform. Some of the most impactful immigration reform legislation of the last three decades has been passed in an election year, with several pieces coming under a divided government."
March 12, 2014
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has one reason why Speaker Boehner (R-OH) hasn't brought up immigration reform on the floor of the House yet. "We don't have the votes right now. Right now, we're working hard to find where that consensus lies."
As the President quickly approaches his two millionth removal milestone, more attention is being focused on who these two million people are that have been removed and why. The Immigration Policy Center took a look at the 2013 removals in order to get a better sense of who these immigrants are and whether Immigrations and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) claim that they were targeting criminals and public safety threats for removal holds water. They make the argument that it's actually a case of "Misplaced Priorities: Most Immigrants Deported by ICE in 2013 Were a Threat to No One." In fact, their research of 2013 removals show that "four-fifths of all deportation did not fall within ICE's definition of a 'Level 1' priority."
Republican Florida Governor Rick Scott surprised some people (probably some in his own party) when he came out in favor of a bill currently in the Florida state legislature that would provide college tuition equity for undocumented Florida residents that qualify.
March 11, 2014
Today, a number of national advocacy groups, including AILA, participated in a national call-in day to end the detention bed quota currently employed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). (AILA Doc. No. 14031043.) Included in the President's budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 was $1.8 billion to detain 30,539 immigrants per day, a decrease of about 10 percent than what was allocated by Congress in FY 2014. ICE as well as some members of Congress interpret the quota to require ICE not only to maintain those beds, but also to keep every bed filled every day. The National Immigrant Justice Center has a timeline of the detention bed quota since before its inception in 2007 and the National Immigration Forum has pulled together a factsheet on the DHS budget request in in the President's FY15 budget.
In a hearing today in the Department of Homeland Security Fiscal Year 2015 budget with Secretary Jeh Johnson, Representatives Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and the Chair of the Subcommittee Rep. Carter (R-TX), seemed to agree that the 34,000 detention beds maintained by ICE need not be filled every day, simply made available.
AILA, today, posted two new Public Service Announcements to highlight the public support for immigration reform and encourages members and stakeholders to share them widely to emphasize the wealth of public support for fixing our broken immigration system. (AILA Doc. No. 14031145.)
March 10, 2014
In a strong rebuke to the Republicans inaction in the House of Representatives on immigration reform, the Spanish language newspaper La Opinion published an editorial urging President Obama to take action. "It is time for the White House to take another step to decrease the pressure that now exists over the undocumented; to review in detail all the options within its reach to prevent the deportation of people with deep roots in this country; and to take action similar to that involving the Dreamers and the use of discretion when processing undocumented immigrants."
The two Tennessee bills introduced by a Republican legislator to provide tuition equity for Tennessean residents are taking different paths. The legislation to provide in-state tuition to the American citizens of undocumented parents has "picked up House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick as a sponsor last week, but the leader of the state Senate, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, says he is not ready to embrace the proposal" to provide in-state tuition to undocumented students.
March 7, 2014
Earlier this week the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), amended and voted on two bills relating to the "President's Duty to Faithfully Execute the Laws." While these bills dealt with an array of issues, much of the debate focused on the duties of the former Public Advocate Position in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Elise Foley, of the Huffington Post, explains: "The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill from Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) aimed at defunding a public advocate, or any position like it, within Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Congress defunded the position once before, but a different position, deputy assistant director of "Custody Programs and Community Outreach," simply absorbed the responsibilities, outraging some GOP members who said the Obama administration was skirting the law."
Frameworks released two new research reports on messaging to the American public on immigration reform. "Getting to 'We': Mapping the Gaps Between Expert and Public Understanding of Immigration and Immigration Reform," explores the impacts the disconnect between expert's and the public's understandings of immigration, immigrants and reform have on communication effectiveness. And "Stories Matter: Field Frame Analysis on Immigration Reform," that provides recommendations to advocacy groups on constructing compelling narratives to compete with restrictionist messaging.
March 6, 2014
President Obama, seemingly in direct rebuttal to Rep. Gutierrez (D-IL), Sens. Menendez (D-NJ) and Durbin (D-IL), and Janet Murguía (president of the National Council of La Raza) calling him the "deporter-in-chief" in the past week, today called himself the "champion-in-chief of comprehensive immigration reform." In a forum hosted by Telemundo, Univision and La Opinion-impreMedia he made the case that his hands were simply tied on the deportation issue: "What I've said in the past remains true: until Congress passes a new law I am constrained in what I can do."
Meanwhile, many in the immigration advocacy community predict that President Obama will reach the record setting two millionth removal sometime in the month of April. #Not1more, a coalition of groups organizing around halting deportations, is planning a day of action for April 5th. Find out more about the events planned around the country, and how to get involved at www.notonemoredeporation.com.
Today, in a voice vote, the full Senate confirmed Gil Kerlikowske for Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection. (AILA Doc. No. 14030653.) Kerlikowske is a career law enforcement official and former White House Director of National Drug Control Policy.
This month's edition of VOICE (AILA's monthly magazine) goes behind the scenes of a local coalition's lengthy and rigorous advocacy efforts to successfully push Miami-Dade County to pass an anti-detainer policy. (AILA Doc. No. 14022640.) For more information on what other localities are doing to push back against these voluntary ICE hold requests check out AILA's Take on Local Detainer Ordinances. (AILA Doc. No. 14030444.)
By now it's not news to anyone, the American people want Congress to get their act together and pass immigration reform that offers a road to legalization and eventual citizenship for undocumented immigrants living in this country. But just in case there were any doubts, the Center for American Progress pulled together the five most recent polls of immigration.
March 5, 2014
The Center for American Progress pulled together an interactive website that examines "Our Future, Together: Immigrants and the American economy." The website chronicles how immigrants and their children will be critical to the country's workforce and therefore America's economy. Users can see how "By 2030, immigrants and their children will play a big part in reshaping our workforce and filling the roles left by the Boomers," see how immigrants interact within the entire workforce, and the importance of the children of immigrants as the "aging of America" continues.
The #Not1More campaign has pulled together an impressive timeline of the events that have led to the current administration being within one month of removing more than 2 million people from the country. Everything from the beginning of Secure Communities, to President Obama's election, to SB 1070 is covered in this expansive history of deportations and removals under this President.
Senator Menendez (D-NJ), a member of the "Gang of Eight" and outspoken advocate for immigration reform, was honored yesterday by the National Council of La Raza. During his speech the Senator called on the President to act now to halt deportations: "While we continue waiting for the House of Representatives to wake up and move on immigration reform legislation, I urge the President to take action today and halt needless deportations that are splitting apart our families and communities."
The Council for American Job Growth, a group associated with FWD.us, has released a new 60 second commercial that will run for the next two weeks in all 50 states, asking watchers to call House Republicans and urge them to pass immigration reform. A voice over says, "No one debates we need to fix our country's broken immigration system. Republican leaders know it. They've even said so time and again. So why are Republicans cooling, retreating and even privately saying they'd rather do nothing this year? No, nothing won't do. Call House Republicans today. Tell them we've waited long enough; pass immigration reform."
State legislatures continue to push for initiatives to makes their states more welcoming to immigrants, even as Congress continues their do-nothing approach to the issue. Florida is the latest to join in an attempt to pass a bill granting in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants who are residents of the state. Although the Governor, Rick Scott, has not indicated whether or not he would support such a measure, the bill is gaining bipartisan support in both chambers of the legislature.
Earlier today, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) gave his fellow House members a "deporter-in-chief quiz." He awarded the current President with five gold stars to "show how aggressive the administration has been in enforcing immigration law."
Media Matters has released a new tool, Mythopedia, that seeks to use fact based research to dismantle some of the myths currently permeating the media on immigration. Watch their introductory video on the tool.
Additionally, the Americas Society and the Council of the Americas has released a new factsheet detailing the five ways that immigrants make cities more competitive in a global economy.
March 4, 2014
In an interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer Speaker Boehner (R-OH) expressed confidence that his reelection to the House leadership spot “won’t even be close.” He continued, “I frankly think I’m in better shape with my own caucus than I have been any time in the last three years...I think they understand me better.” Members of his own party, and immigration advocates, have been speculating that the Speaker may retire at the end of this term, which might have influenced his willingness to bring immigration reform to the floor of the House.
Janet Murguia, head of the National Council of La Raza, called President Obama the “deporter-in-chief” today, the first time the organization has so explicitly signaled out the President’s record on enforcement. “For the president, I think his legacy is at stake here. We consider him the deportation president, or the deporter-in-chief.”
Latino Decisions released a new report with an accompanying PowerPoint documenting the importance of the Latino vote in the state of Arizona. One piece of analysis documents that, “Careful analysis of the actual and potential vote in Arizona shows relatively small increases in Latino voter participation could have turned the 2012 U.S. Senate election in favor of Democratic candidate Richard Carmona.”
The President’s budget for FY 2015 was released today. The budget contains more than $2.5 billion for immigration enforcement and removal, including funding for 30,539 detention beds.
March 3, 2014
As the President is on pace to remove a record breaking 2 million people from the United States by the end of April, many advocates are wondering why he is pushing back so hard on the public pressure to use executive action to stop separating families. The National Journal argues that "the last thing the White House wants to do is take the focus off the GOP's divisions on immigration by pushing through a new deportation policy. Despite the protests last week, much of the grassroots anger over immigration remains directed at Republicans-and the administration would like to keep it that way."
Rep. David Valadao (R-CA) makes the case that if Americans understood more about where their food came from, and how it was harvested, they would be much more invested in making immigration reform a reality, in a commentary in The Hill. If the country fails to reform the immigration system, he argues, "less and less fruit, vegetables and milk will be grown close to home. More importantly, the cost of these goods will rise, making it even more difficult for parents to feed their families or for schools to provide children with nutritious meals…Every farm worker tending specialty crops or livestock supports two to three farm-dependent jobs in our economy. As we export our agriculture industries, we export American jobs."
On the same day, Valadao's Central Valley colleague, Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA), made the conservative values case for immigration reform, also in a commentary in The Hill. He pleads with his fellow Republicans: "To those who think Republicans cannot support immigration reform simply because we are Republicans - there are few ideas that resonate more with our values than working to increase revenue, decrease our debt and ensure fairness for all. As a party, we all agree that our debt and spending are out of control. We know that we must add young contributors to Social Security or face its impending collapse. Immigration reform is one way to do just that."
Fellow Republican Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) isn't buying it. He argues that the "House Immigration Principles: Not Working for the American People." "President Barack Obama recently talked about 'equal opportunities' for all in his State of the Union address. To me, this plan looks like unequal opportunities for Americans, especially the legal immigrants who came to this country to pursue better opportunities. It also puts Americans at risk each and every day. We don't work for illegal immigrants. We work for the American people."
The United States Hispanic population has increased six-fold since 1970, and 50 percent since 2000, according to data released by the Pew Research Center. That puts the total Hispanic population at about 50 million people currently living in the United States.
February 28, 2014
The Pew Research Center released a couple of important polls this week on where the American public stands on two important issues: legalization-with or without a road to citizenship-and the record number of deportations under President Obama. The first question, whether Congress should pass reform that include legalization, seems to be very much decided. Every poll that comes out showcases an American public that is more and more ready for reform, and this one is no exception. Pews found that 73 percent of Americans support legalization, although the support for citizenship is less robust; this includes 64 percent of Republicans surveyed. On the other hand, Americans are more evenly divided on whether the increased number of deportations under this President is a good thing (45 percent), a bad thing (45 percent), or don’t know (nine percent).
Speaker Boehner met with the President this week and immigration was the one area the Speaker highlighted as a positive discussion item: “Immigration — we had a very good, very healthy conversation on immigration.” However, when asked at a subsequent press conference about the issue he “declined to say whether the House would act on the principles the leadership laid out in January.
February 27, 2014
While some ask if the decision by some liberal immigration reform advocates to pursue the double pronged strategy of continuing to pressure Speaker Boehner and Republican leadership to hold a vote on immigration reform in the House and ramping up pressure on President Obama to more broadly apply deferred action and halt deportations is a good one. Greg Sargent, of the Washington Post, asks "Where's the center-right pressure on Republicans to act on immigration?"
The L.A. Times obtained a copy of an independent review of U.S. Border Patrol shootings by the Police Executive Research Forum, which does not paint the agency in good light. The Times reports that "The report by law enforcement experts criticized the Border Patrol for 'lack of diligence' in investigating U.S. agents who had fired their weapons. It also said it was unclear whether the agency 'consistently and thoroughly reviews' use-of-deadly-force incidents."
The Evangelical Immigration Table and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released an open letter to the House of Representatives yesterday urging them "to create bipartisan solutions that reflect these principles and our nation's values, creating just, fair and humane immigration laws."
The Center for American Progress released a new report that chronicles how "in addition to broad economic benefits, immigration reform would also improve the financial stability of the Medicare Hospital Insurance, or HI, Trust Fund, which pays for many of the critical health care services used by the millions of Americans enrolled in Medicare."
February 26, 2014
The House of Representatives had two hearings today that, although somewhat nominally, dealt with immigration. AILA provides a summary of the House Homeland Security Committee hearing with newly installed DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson. (AILA Doc. No. 14022548.) A number of AILA’s key priority areas were covered including, the use of force by CBP officers, detention policies and conditions, resources at ports of entry, and enforcement priorities. In a different, less useful hearing, (watch Rep. Gutierrez (D-IL) talk about how “do-nothing” of a hearing he thinks it is) the House Judiciary Committee talked about “Enforcing the President’s Constitutional Duty to Faithfully Execute the Laws.” (AILA Doc. No. 14022549.) Read AILA’s press statement on the hearing, “AILA Disappointed in House Hearing on Enforcement that Ignores the Obvious.” (AILA Doc. No. 14022644.)
Latino Decisions released a new report today surveying the impact of the Hispanic vote on future Texas elections and the makeup of the eligible Hispanic voters in the state over the next 20 years. They note that currently, “the Hispanic population in Texas is just under 10 million, which is larger than the entire state population in forty-three states.” In a PowerPoint presentation they break down the implications for both parties for future elections if they ignore or engage the growing Hispanic community in Texas.
Retired immigration court judge John Gossart, Jr. made his case for immigration reform today in The Hill, mainly that it “must enhance the courts’ resources and allow immigration judges to consider the individual circumstances unique to each case, and it must include fairness and opportunity for those who seek to become a part of the American dream.”
Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono (D) also wrote an op-ed for The Hill “urg[ing] the Department of Homeland Security to support recovery efforts by granting TPS to the Philippines.”
Lawrence Downes, of the New York Times, penned an editorial on the dramatic turnaround by Rep. King (R-NY) on the issue of immigration. He raised the question: “What changed? Mr. King’s heart, maybe. His district, definitely. Mr. King lives in Seaford, hamlet on the South Shore of Long Island that is 95 percent white, and has, for years, solidly represented the interests of the white, conservative middle class. But his redrawn 2nd Congressional District extends east to enfold heavily black and Hispanic enclaves like Brentwood and Central Islip. While Mr. King’s re-election this year seems a lock, 2016 may be harder, and he has been out getting to know his new friends.”
February 25, 2014
Three Republican Senators who voted in favor of S.744 last June are up for reelection this year come November, Senators Lamar Alexander (TN), Lindsay Graham (SC) and Susan Collins (ME). Of the three Senator Graham, an original member of the "Gang of Eight" is most likely facing the toughest battle in his primary election; however, even so most think that he will end up coming out on top of the five other Republican candidates he's facing in the primary, and will then have no problem in the general election. Senator Alexander is handily beating his Tea Party challenger, some polls estimate by more than 40 points. And Senator Collins main challenge will come from her Democratic challenger (not a more conservative Republican primary challenger), Shenna Bellows, former executive director of the Maine ACLU. So at this point, it doesn't seem that their votes in favor of immigration reform will cost them their jobs after all.
Roll Call did an informal whip count to see where House Republicans fall on the recently released "Standards for Reform" document. The results? few have taken a position: "What our poll seemed to confirm was what reporters have heard from Republicans repeatedly: There are vocal minorities in the GOP on both sides of the immigration issue. In the middle is a large group of Republicans who could be swayed either way. But many of those same Republicans believe Obama can't be trusted to implement an immigration overhaul."
Pew Research released an interactive map to present the data on remittance flows worldwide in 2012. They conclude that the United States is the top sending country, and that India is the top receiving country. In total "$123,273,000,000 in remittances were sent from United States to other countries in 2012," with Mexico being the largest recipient.
February 24, 2014
The New York Times Editorial Board ran a scathing editorial of the lack of due process protections for immigrants who have been locked up in detention without access to a bond hearing for lengthy periods of time. Profiling the number of court cases dealing with the constitutionality, or lack thereof, of this issue the Editorial board comments, "These rulings reflect the growing understanding - in the federal courts, if not at Immigration and Customs Enforcement - that the constitutional guarantee of due process demands that a detainee have a hearing within a "reasonable" time and that more than six months is not reasonable by any definition."
Tom Donohue, President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, wrote a thinly veiled blog to Republican leadership today extolling them to act on immigration reform. "There will never be a perfect time for reform. The political landscape isn't going to be any more conducive to reform in two years or four years. For too long, the can has been kicked down the road. And while we've failed to act, the problem has only grown worse. Today, the fact remains that it is in our national interest to get it done."
H.R. 15, the comprehensive immigration reform bill introduced by Democratic leadership in the House late last year, has been co-sponsored by all but twelve Democratic Representatives. The Hill profiles those who haven't signed on, some think the bill doesn't do enough to ensure immigration from underrepresented countries due to the elimination of the diversity visa, and some who think the legalization plan is too lenient.
February 21, 2014
As House leadership pushes the ball down the road on immigration reform-see: lack of immigration reform in Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-VA) Winter 2014 Legislative Agenda--some Republican members of Congress are still taking on the issue back in their home districts.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart is doubling down on the notion that the votes exist right now in the House of Representatives to pass meaningful reform legislation. In a conversation with the Washington Post's Greg Sargent he had this to say, "Can you draft legislation that has serious border and interior security, with sufficient leverage to force this or future administrations? I think we have drafted a way to actually do that. Can we deal with the undocumented in a way that is fair, that makes sense, that adheres strictly to the rule of law? I think we've also cracked that nut. We have legislative language that could potentially get the support of a majority of Republicans and a very large group of Democrats."
Some, like Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) are being confronted by activists on his stance on immigration reform as the Hispanic and agricultural community is growing in his district. "Ross supports a pathway to citizenship for some immigrants brought illegally to the United States as children by no fault of their own - the so-called Dreamers. He also backs a guest worker program, which would benefit the agriculture industry in his district, and more visas for highly educated students. But he says he cannot support a plan that includes a path to citizenship - something many conservatives consider amnesty."
North Carolina Republican Renee Elmers, while not supporting citizenship, offered that "it is not practical, it is not common sense, to assume that 11 or 12 … million people are simply going to pick up and leave our country. It is not possible because they have built their lives here, they have built their families here."
Others, like Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), are embracing the issue, if not citizenship, by convening town hall meetings comprised mainly of Hispanic constuents, entirely in Spanish. Although he tread carefully on making any concrete statements on position on the issue, he did admit: "I am more than willing to have a discussion about allowing at least part of the 11 million people here illegally to have some type of status. I'm just disappointed that more people in my party don't want to do that."
House Republicans who might face primary challengers this year have used that as a reason, or an excuse, to want to delay or prevent a vote on immigration reform-that by voting in favor of legalization or other reforms they will be threatened by a more extreme candidate in Republican primaries this Spring. While it is true that those who vote in Republican primaries tend to be more conservative than those who vote in the general election, FWD.us pollster Jon Lerner is here to disabuse them that a vote for reform is a vote to lose their seat: "Purely from a quantitative standpoint, the percentage of GOP primary voters who are hostile to what we might call … all manner of immigration reform is pretty low. It's about 20 to 25 percent or so. The Republican primary voters are much more concerned about border security and illegal hiring of illegal immigrants than they are concerned about a path toward legalization, or citizenship, to those who are already here."
Last Wednesday, President Obama, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper met for a North American Summit in Toluca, Mexico. The New York Times chronicles the tough line President Obama was forced to walk on issues like immigration, which obviously impact the relationship between the three countries.
February 20, 2014
This April come to Washington, D.C. and participate in AILA’s National Day of Action as we “Take on the House.” Registration is free. On Thursday, April 10th, hundreds of AILA members from around the country will descend on the nation’s capital and call on the House of Representatives to hold a vote on immigration reform this year! Armed with lobbying training from AILA National staff and your clients' stories and experiences you have the opportunity to educate Members of Congress and their staff about the problems plaguing our immigration system and why we can't wait.
Politico takes a look at the struggle within the immigration advocacy community as prospects for Congress passed immigration reform in the next few months begin to dim. They focus on the split between groups who are actively pressuring the President to halt deportations, and those still focusing entirely on the permanent solution that only Congress can provide. “The more dependent a group is on grassroots support, the more likely it is to pressure the White House to do something on deportations. The more a group’s influence relies on its access to power, the less likely it is to push back. Conservative and business-focused groups like Mike Bloomberg’s Partnership for a New American Economy, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Fwd.us have kept their attention entirely on moving legislation in Congress and have not sought to pressure Obama on deportations.”
Nevada’s junior senator, Dean Heller (R), voted yes on S.744 and yesterday he finally said what those in the advocacy community have known for months, “I believe as I stand in front of you today, if you put comprehensive immigration reform on the floor of the House of Representative, it would pass today.”
February 19, 2014
Well, so long as Congress is out to recess (literally-they're on break until February 24th), states continue to move forward on integrating immigrants into their communities. Last night Washington State took a big step towards becoming the fourth state to make DREAMers eligible for state financial aid when applying to college. Washington Governor Jay Inslee indicated he would sign the bill and stated, "This bill ensures that the young men and women we've invested in at our high schools and who aspire to become productive American citizens will now have fair access to the financial support they need to turn their dreams into reality."
In California, State Senator Ricardo Lara wants to make sure that all California families have access to health care, whether they have papers or not. In legislation he introduced, the Health for All Act, "undocumented immigrants could qualify for Medicaid coverage paid fully by the state. Those earning too much to qualify for Medicaid would be able to access an insurance exchange offering state-funded subsidies."
Maryland is preparing to start debate on a bill that would mirror California's TRUST Act, empowering local law enforcement to disregard ICE detainer requests. Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley recently "wrote the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday to ask why those deportations are taking place under a program [Secure Communities] designed to catch dangerous criminals."
And in Tennessee, where just one year ago they were debating passing Arizona copy-cat legislation, two bills have been introduced in the state legislature that would expand access to in-state tuition for DREAMers. One of the bills was introduced by two Republicans, one of whom State Sen. Todd Gardenhire, explained his support this way: "These are the serious kids that we ought to reward and allow them to get in-state tuition."
February 18, 2014
Rachel Maddow talks to Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA), chair of the Democratic conference in the House, about the rare tactic his caucus might employ to try to pass immigration reform in the House-a discharge petition. She also highlights a protest yesterday in front of the White House, in which 32 faith leaders were arrested while praying for reform as a sign that advocates are becoming either increasingly desperate or are still hopeful (or maybe both).
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs released the results of survey of 500 Midwest business leaders in a new report focusing on immigration. Among other key findings they found that "Midwest business leaders strongly support the comprehensive bill on immigration reform passed by the Senate (65% favor, 34% oppose)" including that "seventy-five percent of Republicans favor the comprehensive Senate bill."
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) went on CNN's State of the Union yesterday and "urged [his] House colleagues to consider whatever way they want to pursue to try to address this issues because it's going to have to be addressed. And to wait until 2015, when [they're] now involved in Republican primaries would not be a viable scenario."
The conservative editorial board of The Wall Street Journal chronicles "Washington's Growth Retreat" as evidenced by Speaker Boehner's (R-OH) failure to act on immigration. "But conservatives and the GOP are as responsible for the failure on immigration. The populist wing of the party has talked itself into believing the zero-sum economics that immigrants steal jobs from U.S. citizens and reduce American living standards. Neither claim is true, but Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions and the Heritage Foundation might as well share research staffs with the AFL-CIO."
"Immigration reform good for Nebraska business." That's the message of prominent business owners in Nebraska: Jim Partington of the Nebraska Restaurant Association, Dick Campbell owner of Campbell's Nurseries in Lincoln, the Nebraska Cattlemen, the Nebraska State Dairy Association, and Kathleen Grant of Omaha Together One Community. "Look around Nebraska and you will see immigrants who are essential to labor-intensive industries such as roofing and landscaping. They are the backbone of Nebraska's food production, processing and distribution chain, working in livestock feedlots, meat packing plants and restaurants. If you live in a building with a roof or ate a meal today you were likely the beneficiary of immigrant labor."
February 14, 2014
Conservative journalist George F. Will debunks the Republican talking points for why the House can't take on immigration reform this year in a piece for the Washington Post. These include, the idea that immigration divides the party, that immigration reform will only create future Democratic voters, cultural and assimilation concerns, border security, trust in the administration to enforce reforms, and the potential depressing of wages for low wage workers.
ESPN puts faces and names to the struggles of those living in migrant farm worker towns in their profile of the football team of Medota, California. This 20 minute piece is well worth the watch.
Greg Sargent, of the Washington Post, spoke with notable Republican strategist Rob Jesmer about the House Republicans' decision to put off tackling immigration reform. The former executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee debunked the idea that waiting is the answer for Republicans to take back the Senate: "I don't see any data that suggests that this would increase Democratic chances of holding the Senate. The idea that someone who is sitting at home mad at the president about Obamacare is going to wake up in October and say, 'I'm really mad that Republicans voted to solve the immigration mess, so I'm not going to vote' - I just find that to be ridiculous."
In non-Olympic related news from our neighbors to the North, the Canadian government has decided to eliminate its Immigrant Investor Program, which allows applicants "with a net worth of over C$1.6 million (U.S. $1.5 million) agreed to give the Canadian government an interest-free, C$800,000 loan for five years in exchange for a resident visa that could lead to citizenship."
Well, immigration reform advocates shouldn't count on any support from Rep. Raul Labrador, Republican Idaho Congressman and former AILA member, to bring up immigration reform on the floor of the House. When asked by NBC News if immigration reform is dead for the year he responded: "Yes. The President and Democratic leaders interfered with a good faith bipartisan effort to reach an agreement in the House on immigration reform. Democratic leadership did not want a conservative immigration bill to come out of the House because they wanted the Senate immigration bill to be the only vehicle for immigration reform."
February 13, 2014
"No Republican is safe," is the message coming from some immigration reform advocates, frustrated by the lack of movement from the Republican controlled House of Representative. Kica Matos, director for Immigrant Rights and Racial Justice at the Campaign for Community Change, went on to state: "We are delivering a very clear message to the Republican Party at large, and that is they better move on reform and they better move on it now. As we look at some potential districts that we are going to engage pretty deeply, there are some Republicans that we are looking at in so-called purple districts. So no, nobody is safe."
By this point Speaker Boehner (R-OH) has been all over the map on the approach his Chamber of Congress will take (if any at all) on immigration reform. After the introduction of the Republican "Standards for Immigration Reform" at the end of January, he quickly walked back any hopes that the issue would be taken up quickly on the floor of the House. The NY Times reports last week that this may be due in part to activism against reform. "The day before, the Tea Party Patriots group set in motion 900,000 automatic phone calls in 90 Republican House districts, connecting tens of thousands of voters to their members of Congress. The hashtag #NoAmnesty blazed across Twitter. About the same time, FreedomWorks, another anti-tax, limited-government group, was pulling in signatures on its "fire the speaker" petition against the House speaker, John A. Boehner."
Former Secretary of State under George W. Bush, General Colin Powell, went on Andrea Mitchell Reports and expressed his frustration on the lack of movement on immigration, specifically the DREAM Act. "If not now, when? We keep putting it off. At the beginning of President [George W.] Bush's administration, I was the secretary of state and we were moving on this, and then 9/11 threw it off track. But sufficient time has passed so that we should all understand by now that we are an immigrant nation. We are fueled with every new wave of immigrant who comes to this country." He went on to say, "The DREAM Act should be a no-brainer. I think we really have to buckle down and do something about immigration reform and do it as quickly as we can…There are certain elements within the [Republican] party which go out of their way to demonize people who don't look like the way they'd like them to look like, or who came from some other place."
February 12, 2014
The biggest news coming out of Washington D.C. today is that Congress actually can pass something important with little fuss, and quickly. Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed a "clean" increase to debt limit ceiling with a handful of Republicans (18 out of 232) joining almost all Democrats to get it past the majority vote threshold (a clear violation of the Hastert rule advocated for by members of the Tea Party caucus). Today, that bill went to the Senate where Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) decided to file cloture, thereby preventing a simple majority vote to pass the bill. Two Republican in leadership, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) and Minority Whip John Cornyn (TX) eventually decided to vote for the bill and brought ten other Republicans with them thereby pushing the bill over the 60 vote threshold needed to break past cloture.
Why is this immigration news? Well, Speaker Boehner, and others in the Republican caucus, still claim that the Hastert rule is in the main barrier to bringing immigration reform bill(s) up for a vote on the floor of the House. The debt limit ceiling vote proves it's not always the case.
In non-breaking news of the day, American voters overwhelmingly support immigration reform. FWD.us released a new poll that only brings this into sharper focus and includes the political ramifications for Members of Congress who don't take this up. "There is clear political opportunity for members of Congress who back immigration reform. Americans are far more inclined to vote for incumbents who support immigration reform (39% more likely/9% less likely). This is true among Republican voters (41% more likely/11% less likely), Democrats (43% more/7% less), and Independents (34% more/11% less) alike."
The United States is not the only country grappling with their immigration laws. Buzzfeed chronicles the lengths Australia and Switzerland are going to show immigrants that they're not welcome and the awesome responses of community members in support of immigrant populations.
In annoying news of the day, the organization "Gun Owners of America" recently sent an action alert to its members urging them to write their Representatives and ask them to "reject the ridiculous 'immigration principles' being hawked by the [Republican] leadership-principles that will eventually destroy the pro-gun movement in America."
February 11, 2014
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) doesn't buy Republicans' excuse on immigration reform, that the President can't be trusted to enforce immigration law. He took to the floor of the House of Representatives today to hammer home his point. "I wish you would tell the U.S. citizen whose spouse won't be with them on Valentine's Day, or the days that follow to help raise their U.S. citizen children. Or tell the estimated 5,100 children in foster care because their parents are in detention or have already been deported how the President can't be trusted to enforce immigration law."
And he's not the only prominent Latino who seems completely fed up with the lack of Republican leadership or movement on the issue of immigration. Jorge Ramos of Univision wrote a lengthy piece in Spanish calling out House Republicans on immigration. "Let me tell you a fairytale. The Republican Party made immigrants and Latinos believe for a moment that they really wanted to pass immigration reform this year. But all indications point this way: they're not going to do anything about it. The fairytale ends with undocumented immigrants remaining without legalization for a long time to come, and Republicans remaining without the White House in 2016." (Translation by America's Voice)
And La Opinion got in on the action as well with an editorial published last week. "The journey of the House majority when it comes to immigration so far has been a farce. A ploy that seems to finish the same way that cheaters end up-blaming others to justify their own decisions."
Two heavy weight political groups that often align with Republicans aren't getting along too well lately. The cause? Immigration reform. "The head of the Heritage Foundation's political arm said Monday that the comprehensive immigration bill passed in the Senate last year is the result of 'corporate cronyism' and blamed another group that often aligns with Republicans, the Chamber of Commerce."
Speaker Boehner's comments last week make the prospect of immigration reform anytime soon seem like a distant dream, but that doesn't mean something can't happen to help alleviate suffering at the hands of America's broken immigration system. Fusion chronicles a few of the "small-scale immigration fixes that Obama can work on now without jeopardizing a future bill." These include: releasing a border patrol reports, giving lapel cameras to borer agents, and enforcing existing deportation relief measures.
Early this morning the House Judiciary Committee hosted another hearing (their second in three months) on alleged asylum fraud. (AILA Doc. No. 14021041.) The hearing, "Asylum fraud: Abusing America's compassion?", focused on the increase in asylum seekers in recent years and the potential for abuse in the system. Chair Goodlatte (R-VA) has indicated that he wants to introduce a bill to toughen the program for asylum seekers. During the hearing some immigration rights activists interrupted by imploring the Representatives to keep their families together, and were then escorted out of the room.
"Immigrants deserve a properly staffed court immigration system," or so says Donald Kerwin, executive director of the Center for Migration Students, in a letter to the editor published in the Washington Post. He comments that "nearly 215 years ago, James Madison characterized deportation as "among the severest of punishments." A sufficiently resourced and reformed immigration court system would provide greater assurance that the right decisions are being made in these consequential cases."
February 10, 2014
The Economist followed up last week's great story on President Obama's record setting deportation number with an article on "America's deportation machine, The great expulsion." The magazine highlights the growing pressure the machine is putting on courts and the problem with a detention bed quota, but singles out Secure Communities as the real culprit behind the dramatic increase in expulsions. "The turning of police officers into immigration officials has brought border enforcement into areas of the country far from the deserts of the south-west. Secure Communities, the name given to the programme that links police work to the immigration database, began life in a single jurisdiction in Texas in 2008 at the end of George W. Bush's presidency. By May 2013 it was operating everywhere."
The American Farm Bureau Federation came out strong against enforcement-only immigration measures, such as the so-called SAFE Act, in a report released today. According to their research "an approach to agricultural labor reform that focuses solely on immigration enforcement would raise food prices over five years by an additional 5 percent to 6 percent and would cut the nation's food and fiber production by as much as a staggering $60 billion."
Senator Schumer (D-NY) is not content to just sit back and let the House of Representatives let the hard work of the Senate "Gang of Eight" die a slow death. In an interview on Meet the Press he seemed to call Speaker Boehner (R-OH) and other House Republicans bluff that their main obstacle to reform is a distrust of the President to actually enforce immigration laws. His solution? Wait to enact the law until 2017, after the President has left office. "Now I think that the rap against him - that he won't enforce the law - is false. He's deported more people than any other president, but you could actually have the law start in 2017 without doing much violence to it."
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), a long outspoken advocate against immigration reform, expounded on the current Republican leadership talking point that the President can't be trusted to enforce immigration laws in an editorial for Roll Call. "Even if legislation attempted to secure the border, could we trust the president to enforce the law? Let's look at his record. The Obama administration is releasing more criminal immigrants than they are deporting. Deportations from the interior have declined 40 percent since 2009. And the president has ignored, or undermined through executive orders, a half-dozen immigration laws. The American people rightfully have little confidence that the president would implement security measures."
February 7, 2014
CNN is reporting that "a CNN/ORC International survey…indicates that a majority of the public says that the government's main focus should be legalizing the status of the undocumented rather than border security." "According to the poll, 54% say the top priority for the government in dealing with the issue of illegal immigration should be developing a plan that would allow undocumented immigrants with jobs to eventually become legal U.S. residents. Just over four in ten questioned say the main focus should be developing a plan for stopping the flow of undocumented immigrants into the U.S. and for deporting those already here."
Remember the Senate Gang of Eight that drafted S.744 that passed the Senate with 68 votes last June? Well, Roll Call has how they're weighing in on whether Speaker Boehner's (R-OH) comments from yesterday mean the end of immigration reform in this Congress. Arizona Republican Senator Flake was disappointed: "I don't know how you don't read impossible out of those statements. I wish we'd do it. We can't keep putting it off." While New York Democratic Senator Schumer was more willing to give the Speaker the benefit of the doubt that passing reform would be difficult, but not necessarily impossible. The other Republican Senator from Arizona, John McCain, was somewhere in the middle: "I'm still guardedly optimistic. I think [Boehner is] reflecting a lot of the concern that people have because the president has stated, 'I've got a pen and I've got a phone.'" Senator Rubio (R-FL) took the opportunity to commiserate with the Speaker on the trouble with this administration: "The single greatest impediment to immigration reform is the belief among many that no matter what you write in the law it won't be enforced by this administration. I found that to be the single toughest hurdle to overcome when we tried it here in the Senate and I'm not surprised it's the same hurdle they are experiencing in the House."
Evangelical groups aren't too happy either with Speaker Boehner's (R-OH) latest comments to reporters that he doesn't see immigration reform happening this year. In an interview with the Christian Post, Jim Wallis, a member of the Evangelical Immigration Table, laid his frustration out pretty clearly: "With a strong majority of Americans, including evangelicals, wanting leaders to fix our broken immigration system, immigration reform is going to happen. The only question is how many families will be broken up and how much our communities have to suffer until Washington acts."
The Economist had some harsh words for President Obama, labeling him the "deporter-in-chief" in their most recent print issue. They ask "Why would a supposedly liberal president oversee something [the deportation machine] so illiberal, cruel and pointless?" Although they identify the potential for immigration reform and laws passed by nativist Republicans as two reason that the President has espoused when attempting to defend his record setting number of deportations (almost two million), The Economist isn't buying it. "Immigration reform is indeed a great prize. But die-hard nativists are unlikely to be swayed, no matter how tough the laws, and reform can pass without their votes. There are very few things about America that are as vindictive and self-defeating as its deportation machine. Rather than making excuses for keeping it, Mr. Obama should be exposing its awfulness and leading the campaign to de-fang it."
The Wilson Center hosted a conversation with newly installed Department of Homeland Security head Jeh Johnson today, his first as Secretary. Most of his comments focused on the agency's role in preventing terrorism on American soil, but he did weigh in on the immigration reform debate: "the Republicans' recent statement of principles on immigration is a serious step forward on immigration reform, and contains a lot to work with. With both parties' recognition that our immigration system is broken and needs to be fixed, this should not be an issue used in one way or another for political advantage; rather, we must look to find common sense solutions to a problem we all know we have."
February 6, 2014
Well, that didn't take long: while speaking with reporters today Speaker Boehner (R-OH) seemed to throw a bucket of cold water on the hopes of immigration reform (hopes that he had recently buoyed with the leaking of Republican "standards" for immigration reform last week). He placed the blame squarely on the President's shoulders: "There's widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws. And it's going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes." He added: "We are going to continue to discuss this issue with our members, but I think the president's going to have to demonstrate to the American people and to my colleagues that he can be trusted to enforce the law as it is written."
Restrictionist group NumbersUSA wasn't celebrating either, however. Rosemary Jenks, the director of government relations for the group, stated: "Unfortunately since we know that since the Republican leadership wants to push amnesty...we can't trust these declarations."
This came just one day after the Speaker posted FAQs about the Republican "standards" and a side-by-side comparison with the Senate immigration reform bill to his website. His response to "Isn't your approach 'amnesty'?" an unequivocal no. It goes on to say: "Just the opposite is true. Right now, there are few, if any, consequences for living here illegally. What we have now is amnesty. Using tough standards, the House's approach would prohibit a special path to citizenship for those living here outside the law. Before anything else, these individuals would have to admit they broke the law.
The Atlantic reminds us that "Immigration is the only reason the U.S. doesn't have an aging crisis," unlike many other Western countries. Citing a new Pew study, they report that "America's population growth, at 28 percent, will outpace that of many of our economic rivals, including Brazil's (18 percent) and China, Japan, and Germany (all declining)."
Rep. Goodlatte (R-VA) is still very concerned with alleged asylum fraud and is holding another House Judiciary Committee hearing next week to delve even further into the issue. He told the Washington Times: "Asylum fraud undermines the integrity of our immigration system and hurts U.S. taxpayers. Once individuals are granted asylum, they receive immediate access to all major federal welfare programs. Our immigration system should be generous to those persecuted around the globe, but we must also ensure our compassion isn't being abused by those seeking to game the system."
February 5, 2014
Last week, House Republicans finally released their "Standards for Immigration Reform." (AILA Doc. No. 14013053.) Watch AILA Advocacy Director Greg Chen explain what this means for the prospects for real reform in this AILA Quicktake.
Two conservative opinion writers at the Washington Post are imploring House Republicans to take their opportunity to appeal to Latino voters by passing immigration reform. Michael Gerson notes that "there are valid questions about the timing of the inevitable Republican transition on immigration reform. But it is a good and healthy thing that the argument among House Republicans is increasingly about timing rather than destination. Boehner's initiative is simply an honest recognition of the difficult, inevitable Republican journey that lies ahead." And Jennifer Rubin chides those in the Republican caucus who are showing their colors as patently anti-immigration: "I'm not sure which philosophy says that immigration is bad for America, that non-white people are hopelessly Democratic or that we should round up and deport millions (unless the anti-reformers who touted their respect for law and order now support ignoring the immigration statutes on the books and promoting lawlessness). It doesn't sound like conservatism, let alone the conservatism of the man they venerate, Ronald Reagan."
February 4, 2014
Today, immigration advocacy group National Day Laborers Organizing Network (NDLON) submitted a rule making petition to DHS "seeking a temporary suspension of deportations for the millions of undocumented immigrants who would likely benefit from near-term congressional action on immigration. The petition requests that DHS issue a rule granting deferred action status to such immigrants." In a press conference yesterday AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka announced the union would be officially joining the effort to halt deportations citing that it "would actually improve its [the administration's] bargaining position with House Republicans if Obama unilaterally suspended deportations." Additionally, "millions of undocumented immigrants would be allowed to join the public debate."
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has released the revised N-400, Application for Naturalization form on their website. (AILA Doc. No. 14020440.) AILA and CLINIC collaborated on comments to the proposed revisions on February 15, 2013. (AILA Doc. No. 13022047.) A few weeks ago the Congressional Research Service released a new report providing background and data on the U.S. Naturalization Policy to help inform the current immigration reform debate. (AILA Doc. No. 14020442.)
February 3, 2014
Yesterday, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) went on Face the Nation to discuss the prospects for Republicans to move immigration reform in the House of Representatives. He began by reiterating the oft-repeated Republican line on the problems of working with President Obama, "There's a lot of distrust of this administration of implementing the law…I think we're going to have to do something about that to see a way forward on immigration." Leader Cantor did not provide any concrete steps forward or any specifics regarding pending legislation.
On another Sunday morning show, This Week, Rep. Paul Ryan echoed the same concerns: "It [immigration reform] depends on whether they're [the administration] willing to actually secure the border, actually have interior enforcement and not - and agree to not having an amnesty. If we can do that, where it's security first, no amnesty, then we might be able to get somewhere."
The Washington Post highlights the growing pressure placed on immigration court judges to make decisions that have the potential the forever alter the trajectory of immigrants lives, all in less than seven minutes. This has only been compounded by the lack of funding for additional immigration judges and the always changing landscape of immigration law.
Those watching the Super Bowl yesterday might have seen what some are calling the most controversial ad of the day-a Coca Cola ad featuring children singing "America the Beautiful" in seven different languages. Last year the CEO and Chairman of the company wrote an op-ed in USA Today calling on Congress to create a "modern system with rational laws and regulations, strong border controls, greater opportunities for skilled foreign-born professionals and a clear way forward for undocumented workers - a potential route to U.S. citizenship that bears all the rights, responsibilities and obligations of that coveted status."
January 31, 2014
President Obama weighed in on the Republican standards for immigration reform released yesterday in an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper. He seemed open to working with Republicans, even if that means no special path to citizenship: "... I genuinely believe that Speaker Boehner and a number of House Republicans, folks like Paul Ryan, really do want to get a serious immigration reform bill done. And keep in mind that the Senate bill and the legislation that I've supported already calls for a very long process of earning citizenship. You had to pay fines. You had to learn English. You had to pay back taxes. And you had to go to the back of the line. And at the end of that, you could get citizenship."
Today, the U.S. Conference of Mayors sent a letter to Members of the House of Representatives documenting their support for immigration reform this year. "As Mayors, we have a ground-level understanding of the pressing economic and moral imperatives that necessitate changing our national immigration system, and we urge the House to expeditiously bring legislation to the floor."
Two weeks ago the New York Times editorial board responded to the 18 billion dollars included in the appropriations bills for immigration enforcement in an on-point editorial, specifically targeting the detention bed quota as a waste of taxpayer money. Well, Rep. Bob Goodlattee, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, responded last week with a letter to the editor. In it her argues that "detention is the surest way to guarantee that those unlawful immigrants who have committed crimes and who have final orders of deportation are actually removed. Allowing criminal illegal immigrants to roam our communities needlessly endangers Americans."
January 30, 2014
In news that's been hyped for weeks, Republicans today released their "Standards for Immigration Reform." (AILA Doc. No. 14013053.) The one page document mainly follows the narrative that Republican leadership has been espousing for months: border security and interior enforcement as the top priority and a commitment to some sort of legalization program for those in the country without legal status. The document also highlights the important of implementing an entry-exit visa tracking system and employment verification, above and beyond interior enforcement.
AILA National President Doug Stump commented of the standards: "The release of these standards is a much needed sign of movement. While the principles articulated are vague, and amenable to any number of meanings, they show some promise of a willingness to look at our existing system and work across the aisle to find ways to fix it. We are encouraged that House Republicans see a need to bring those living undocumented in the U.S. out of the shadows, and that they wish to reform the legal immigration system, the dysfunction of which has been the primary factor in illegal immigration." (AILA Doc. No. 14013030.)
The National Immigration Forum released a report documenting the "Public Support for Immigration reform with Path to Citizenship Steady as House Gets Ready for Reform." The report includes the results of a number of polls done over the past few months on the public's attitudes towards reform, specifically with a path to citizenship. They note that "in general, the more a poll question describes requirements similar to those already contained in legislation, the more the public supports a proposed path to citizenship."
January 29, 2014
121 words on immigration reform in last night's State of the Union:
"Finally, if we are serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, and law enforcement - and fix our broken immigration system. Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have acted. I know that members of both parties in the House want to do the same. Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades. And for good reason: when people come here to fulfill their dreams - to study, invent, and contribute to our culture - they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everyone. So let's get immigration reform done this year."
President Obama gave Republican leadership in the House of Representatives a wide berth to move forward with immigration reform in whatever way they see best. Unlike last year he did not mention citizenship, he didn't make a call for comprehensive reform or give a timeline for getting reform done. He simply outlined reform as a priority and reinforced why it would be a boon for the American economy.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-WA) delivered the official Republican response to the speech and dedicated 42 words to immigration (in a much shorter speech). "And yes, it's time to honor our history of legal immigration. We're working on a step-by-step solution to immigration reform by first securing our borders and making sure America will always attract the best, brightest, and hardest working from around the world."
AILA President Doug Stump commented, "We've actually come a long way on immigration reform since President Obama's last State of the Union but we haven't gone far enough. The Senate passed a bipartisan bill but that's where the progress really stalled. The House needs to move on immigration reform or we won't get a system that functions for our country. Why is this so hard? I'm a Republican, I see the need for real reform, and I'm positive it can be done. However, if the House leadership continues to drag its heels, we ask that the President take immediate action to reform its deportation practices and reverse the harm done to families, businesses, and communities by aggressive and unnecessary enforcement. Keep those families intact, keep those businesses running until we see real reform happen, hopefully this year," he concluded. (AILA Doc. No. 14012904.)
This morning Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) went on MSNBC and confirmed that the Republican immigration reform proposal would include legalization, but that Congressional Republicans are concerned about the President going around the laws, especially when it comes to securing the borders. Chuck Todd pushed the Congressman on whether citizenship would be available to those who legalize under this bill. While Rep. Ryan was cagey on the answer, he seemed to indicate that immigrants would be able to adjust using existing channels if individuals are not on welfare, the borders are secured and they go to the back of the line.
Stuart Anderson released a paper through the National Foundation for American Policy, "A Path to an Agreement?: Analyzing Plans for Legalizing the Unauthorized Immigrant Population." In the paper he compares the purported House legalization plan, that does not provide a "special" path to citizenship, but instead confers legal status and then allows immigrants to use already existing green card categories to pursue permanent status if they so choose. He finds that this "potential House approach could permit an estimated 4.4 million to 6.5 million unauthorized immigrants to gain lawful permanent residence. That is compared to potentially 8 million in the Senate-passed bill, according to CBO."
The Evangelical Immigration Table continues their efforts to pray for reform. In a full page ad in USA Today they address Republicans: "Dear House GOP Members: We're Praying for You…We pray God will guide you and give you the wisdom as you develop your principles for immigration reform. We pray God will show you a path forward that honors the rule of law (Romans 13) and the call to welcome the stranger (Matthew 25). We pray for reform this year. Our churches, our communities, and our country urgently await your action."
State immigration enforcement is bad for public safety and bad for business. (AILA Doc. Nos. 14012849 and 14012850.) AILA has two new infographics that highlight how state and local immigration law enforcement laws waste resources and undermine trust and cooperation between immigrant communities and local police and how they're bad for business, harming states' economies, and costing jobs and tax revenue.
January 28, 2014
Everyone's talking about the Republican principles on immigration reform that are expected to be released sometime in the next week, but what do they really mean for the prospects for reform in the 113th Congress? US News and World Report reports that "the House is expected to move on eight bills this year that range from border security measures to new visa quotas," but advocates have yet to see any real legislative language indicating as such. Greg Sargent at The Washington Post expresses some optimism that rumors are swirling that the principles will include a legalization plan for the undocumented, but cautions that "opponents of reform will insist that Republicans demand such triggers in exchange for legalization, precisely because those opponents know it will kill reform."
The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) takes a look at "IRCA in Retrospect" as a guidepost for today's immigration reform. Although many politicians on both sides of the aisle like to point to the increase in the undocumented population following the passage of the law in 1986 due to the lack of enforcement as the most important lesson to be learned (on how to do things differently this time around) MPI argues that "IRCA's fundamental flaw was it exclusive focus on illegal immigration, neglecting to provide for future U.S. social and labor market needs."
Rep. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) has been tapped to deliver the Spanish Republican response to the State of the Union tonight. She has been an active support of immigration reform, coming out in support for citizenship and visiting the Fast 4 Families fasters at their tent on the National Mall.
America's Voice released a new website today profiling "The Human Cost of Inaction" on immigration reform. The site shares the stories of families fighting to stay together in the light of President Obama's record number of deportations.
January 27, 2014
The Fast for Families campaign is taking their show on the road. After a month long fast in Washington, D.C. whose visitors include the President and First Lady, the Vice President, the Minority Leader and dozens of members of Congress, the campaign announced today they will visit more than 100 congressional districts in the next three months to "engage constituents in a dialogue about the moral crisis caused by our broken immigration system and encourage them to fast, act and pray."
In an op-ed in today's USA Today, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), a longtime opponent of immigration reform or increased immigration makes the case that "Newcomers cost Americans millions of jobs." In anticipation of the President speaking on the importance of reform during the State of the Union tomorrow night he cites Harvard professor George Borjas research that "determined that high levels of immigration from 1980 through 2000 resulted in a 7.4% wage reduction for workers without a high school diploma" and that "current immigration policy resulted in a net wage loss of $402 billion for workers competing directly with immigrant labor."
The Center for American Progress released a report today using evidence from Europe and North America to make "The Economic Case for a Clear, Quick Pathway to Citizenship." "The literature on new and old immigrant-destination countries shows that the clearer the pathway to citizenship, the greater the gains, and that the optimal waiting period for citizenship is roughly five years. Placing significant restrictions and lengthy delays on immigrants' ability to become citizens diminishes the size of their ultimate economic premium for two reasons. The number of years that an immigrant can work for higher wages as a naturalized citizen declines, and immigrants have fewer incentives to invest in training and new skills as they age. Also, the best and the brightest immigrants may leave for their home countries or other, more welcoming countries."
Tonight, PBS will premiere the new documentary The State of Arizona, profiling the multiple perspectives that came to a head in the fight over SB 1070, the show me your papers law.
January 24, 2014
Over the last month, House Republicans, especially those in leadership, have been doing a lot of talking about the Republican plan for immigration reform, but as of yet have taken no action. Yesterday, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) offered some additional insight on what might be coming: "Let's just say it's eight bills - I don't know. These will represent a smart approach. We don't want to get into a situation where we end up with some big 1,000-page bill. But we do realize there are things that have to be sequenced."
Richard S. Biehl, the police chief of Dayton, Ohio (Speaker John Boehner's (R) home district) argued in a Roll Call Editorial today against the so-called SAFE Act. "And what I know from my professional experience is that the so-called SAFE Act, a bill pending in the House that would allow all 50 states and all localities to enact their own immigration enforcement laws, would be an unmitigated disaster and should not be used as a the vehicle to jump-start immigration reform. In spite of its misleading name, it would actually make our communities less safe."
The Heritage Foundation announced this week the hiring of Stephen Moore, a member of the Wall Street Journal's editorial board, as a chief economist. Moore acknowledged that he has taken a different stance on the importance of reform than the organization's current leader, former Republican Senator Jim DeMint. "Jim DeMint and I may not agree on everything about immigration, but what Jim wants me and others to do is develop a pro-growth immigration policy for the country. I don't want Heritage to be viewed as anti-immigration. We all know immigration is vitally important to our economy. Our goal will be to develop an immigration policy that's in the best interest of America, our economy, and allows the United States to get the best and brightest people to come here."
A recent Fox News poll asked respondents: "Which of the following comes closest to your view about what government policy should be toward illegal immigrants currently in the United States?" 1. "Send all illegal immigrants back to their home country," 2. "Have a guest worker program that allows immigrants to remain in the United States to work, but only for a limited amount of time," 3. "Allow illegal immigrants to remain in the country and eventually qualify for U.S. citizenship, but only if they meet certain requirements like paying back taxes, learning English, and passing a background check."
68 percent of respondents said they favored a pathway to citizenship, and only 15 percent supported sending immigrants back to their home country.
Did you know that illegal entry and re-entry was the most prosecuted crime at the federal level in the United States in 2013? With criminal charges filed against more than 90,000 immigrants last year, at a cost of over $1 billion, one has to wonder about the Attorney General's prosecutorial priorities. Ruthie Epstein, in a blog for the ACLU, reminds readers that "ICE is not the only player in the deportation game. In a prime example of misplaced priorities, our federal criminal justice system is playing an overzealous role in it too."
The National Council of LA Raza and Mi Familia Vota are joining forces to launch a Mobilize to Vote 2014 effort to register 250,000 Latino voters by the midterm elections in November. Both groups have played large roles in the push for immigration reform and are just two of many that understand the importance the outcome of the midterm elections will have on the hopes of successful immigration reform. As La Raza President and CEO, Janet Murguia, put it: "We must push to register as many eligible Latino voters as possible, particularly as we approach a midterm election that will no doubt have an impact on how issues important to our community-such as immigration reform-are addressed moving forward."
The Partnership for a New American Economy launched a new effort today in the fight for reform, #iamimmigration. The campaign gives people a platform to share their specific reason for supporting reform and easily share it on social media site.
January 23, 2014
The Department of Homeland Security released their annual report for Immigration Enforcement Actions in 2012. They note that: "ICE detained approximately 478,000 foreign nationals, an all-time high, 230,000 foreign nationals were returned to their home countries without a removal order," and that "DHS removed 419,000 foreign nationals from the United States."
Next Tuesday, at 9 p.m., the President will address both Houses of Congress in the annual State of the Union address. Most assume that the President will once again use the opportunity to single out immigration reform as a priority issue for his second term in the White House. Republican conference chairwoman in the House (and highest ranking Republican woman in Congress), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA), will deliver the Republican response to the speech. Rep. McMorris Rodgers has been fairly tight-lipped concerning her position on immigration thus far, especially on the issues surrounding legalization and a road to citizenship. Some might remember that Senate Gang of Eight member Marco Fubio (R-FL) delivered the Republican response to the State of the Union last year. Additionally, two DACA recipients will join the Illinois delegation to hear the President's speech firsthand.
FWD.us launched a new app today, born out of the "hackathon" the group sponsored with DREAMers last year. The app, Push4Reform, connects users with their Member of Congress and provides easy to use tools to contact them through various channels.
January 22, 2014
Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the Majority Whip in the House of Representatives and therefore a member of Republican leadership, has fully committed to "legal status" for undocumented immigrants currently in the country that allows them to work and pay taxes. His interview comes as the Republican conference is preparing to release a set of principles that they say will guide their work on immigration for the rest of the year.
Yesterday, the National Conference of State Legislatures released their annual report breaking down state immigration laws proposed and passed. They note that "state immigration legislation in 2013 seemed to shift in response to two federal actions in 2012 [the Supreme Court decision in Arizona v. United States and DACA], changing from a focus on immigration law enforcement measures to some expanded state benefits for immigrants." In 2013 states enacted a total of 184 laws (plus an additional 253 resolutions), up 64 percent from 2012. Some select highlights: eight states extended driver's license eligibility to undocumented immigrants, four states expanded in-state tuition to undocumented students (bringing the total to 15), and no states passed enforcement only omnibus legislation.
The New York Times reflects on the importance a decade long friendship might have in the continued fight for immigration reform on Capitol Hill. Speaker Boehner's (R-OH) newly hired immigration policy expert, Becky Tallent, and White House staffer, Esther Olavarria, have known each other since their days in the Senate, Ms. Tallent working for Sen. McCain (R-AZ) and Ms. Olavarria working for Sen. Kennedy (D-MA). During their time there "the two women spent months in marathon back-room deal-making sessions as they repeatedly tried to bring lawmakers together on overhauls that would have given legal status to immigrants, secured the border and opened the country to more legal workers. In the process, they formed a friendship that transcended party affiliation." Many are hoping that the relationship will help ease the tension that's preventing the House from moving forward on immigration reform today.
January 21, 2014
Starting tomorrow, the Republican National Committee will begin their winter meetings to discuss party strategy for the upcoming mid-term elections, among other things. While most pundits believe that the Republican controlled House of Representatives is not in any real danger of switching to Democratic control, and that in fact it is the Democratic controlled Senate that may switch it's majority party, top Republicans are urging Party leaders to look beyond 2014, to at least 2016. In an interview with the Associated Press Ari Fleischer, a top aide to President George W. Bush, had a simple question: "What is the character of the [Republican] party? Are we a more inclusive and welcoming party yet?"
A year ago the Republican National Committee (RNC) Chair Reince Priebus published a report detailing how the Republican Party could broaden its appeal. The only specific policy recommendation included in the report was the passage of comprehensive immigration reform. Although Speaker Boehner (R-OH) has stated that House Republicans will be releasing a set of immigration reform principles in the coming week, he has yet to lay out a concrete plan for bringing immigration reform (with a legalization component) to the floor of the House for a vote. So, while the RNC in the last year "has launched new efforts to reach out to racial and ethnic minorities" and "renewed efforts to win over Hispanics nationally with voter outreach staffers", many (both within the party and those looking in) are wondering whether it will be enough to get to 270 electoral college votes in 2016.
The omnibus federal spending bill approved by both chambers of Congress last week and signed by the President maintained a status quo for immigration enforcement funding, including mandating that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) maintain and fill 34,000 immigration detention beds every day. Often called the bed mandate or the detention bed quota, the practice is widely derided by law enforcement groups, immigration advocates, and those concerned with the cost of detention.
In an editorial this past weekend the New York Times questions the wisdom of spending $2.8 billion on detention at the same time other programs are being squeezed. "Take the irrational obligation to fill all those detention beds, at a cost of about $122 a day. Why make the people who run a vast and expensive law-enforcement apparatus responsible for keeping prison beds warm rather than communities safe - especially when there are low-cost alternatives to detention that don't involve fattening the bottom lines of for-profit prison corporations?"
President Obama has expressed confidence to Democratic lawmakers that the House of Representatives Republican leadership will pass immigration reform in 2014. Advocates are anticipating the President's State of the Union Speech to further advance immigration as a top priority for this White House and provide some insight into the President's plan to act if Congress won't.
January 17, 2013
Employment Verification (E-Verify) is often thought of as a necessary component of any comprehensive immigration legislative solution. Mandatory E-Verify was included in the senate bill that passed with 68 votes, and a more aggressive mandatory E-Verify bill passed out of the House Judiciary Committee last summer with all Republicans voting in favor (and all Democrats voting in opposition). (AILA Doc. Nos. 13041760 and 13071149.) In an article for the CATO Institute, using data obtained by a Freedom of Information Request, Alex Nowrasteh argues that "the economic costs of nationally mandating E-Verify caused by TNC [tentative non-confirmations] resolution delays would be higher than many of its proponents care to admit. That and the other economic costs of E-Verify, the worrying privacy issues surrounding it, its lackluster performance, and how it makes everyone ask for permission from the government to work should temper enthusiasm for this scheme."
This week the Senate and House came together to both pass a $1.1 trillion spending package for fiscal year 2014. This marks the first budget in a decade that hasn't increased funding for border patrol, although it does increase funding for customs inspectors. Unfortunately, the spending bill maintains the detention bed quota that requires Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to maintain, and fill, 34,000 immigrant detention beds a day.
Over 80 DREAMers havepublished an open letter to "friends and allies in the immigrant rights movement" calling on them to move beyond the banner of citizenship or nothing. Specifically they ask advocates and Democrats to "Focus on a practical legislative solution for immediate relief for families, even if it doesn't include a special path to citizenship. Our families and communities need relief now, not ideological hard lines."
On December 16th of last year the Philippines government officially requested Temporary Protective Status (TPS) for its citizens in the United States as a result of the destruction of Typhoon Haiyan. (AILA Doc. No. 13111806.) As of yet the United States government has not responded to this request. A coalition of Filipino advocates and community groups have come together to urge the U.S. State Department to grant TPS designation and are asking individuals to make calls into the State Department comment line (202-647-6575). Visit www.tps4filipinos.org for more information.
Will Justin Bieber be deported? Inquiring minds want to know. ThinkProgress tackles this important question, but also uses it to "underscore a problem that 1,200 immigrants, including lawful permanent residents, experience every day," the tragedy of deportation.
In the depressing news of the day, a restrictionist organization is capitalizing on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday by releasing an ad that asks if "high American unemployment and wage depression [was] Martin Luther King's dream?" Joe Guzzardi, Media Director for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS), commented, "As we mark the great Dr. King's birthday, it's safe to say, higher minority unemployment and no wage increase in 40 years were not part of his dream for Americans. So, why do so many of our congressional leaders today want to admit millions more immigrant workers to take jobs and depress wages when hardworking African-American and Hispanic American workers can't find jobs? Have our leaders lost sight of Dr. King's dream?"
January 16, 2014
The mid-term elections are still ten months away, but they are playing an oversized role in Washington politics. While many predict that Democrats have a slim chance of taking back the House (they would need to win 17 additional seats), the Republicans' prospects for taking control of the Senate aren't quite as dim (they only need to pick up six seats). Of 33 Senate seats up for re-election, 20 are held by Democrats and only 13 by Republicans. The Week profiles the seven Senate races they think will determine the fate of the Senate for 2015.
This all matters for immigration reform. If Congress doesn't pass immigration reform by the end of the 113th Congress (end of 2014), Senate bill 744 dies and the Senate will have to begin the process anew in 2015. Who controls the Senate (and by how many votes) could dramatically impact what that debate, and potential legislation, looks like.
The Immigration Policy Center releases a new report on the "Revitalization in the Heartland of America." The report focuses on "the journeys of three places-two cities and one state-in their efforts to implement strategies for future economic success that depend on immigration. The initiatives are taking place against a backdrop of tepid progress toward comprehensive federal reform of the U.S. immigration system."
January 15, 2014
Fawn Johnson, of the National Journal, threw some cold water over advocates hope for what the so-called "Republican principles" could mean for the chances of passing immigration reform. She reports that most expect the principles to be "broad, nebulous eve, and heavily focused on Republicans' favorite issue-border security." Now, that's not to say that these principles, no matter how enforcement or border security heavy, aren't a step forward on the Republican leadership's still elusive path towards sensible reform, but they're by no means a guarantee. As Johnson puts it, "no matter what happens [ultimately], Boehner will come out a winner just for the effort. If [the principles] flops over hardliners' objections to anything that approaches amnesty for illegal immigrants, Boehner and Republican campaign leaders looking for cash can still tell the business community they tried."
Even so, the conservative outlet National Review is skeptical of the House Republican leadership's end game and commitment to a piecemeal approach. "Conservative critics of the Gang of Eight bill have long suspected the GOP's "piecemeal" strategy is just a political ruse to get to a comprehensive result. Real step-by-step reform, they argue, would involve passing border-security legislation, for example, and only taking up other elements of reform once those changes have been signed into law and implemented."
Story telling is an important part of the immigration advocacy community strategy and Salon provides us with a great one. "This shopping mall's amazing story is the perfect argument for immigration reform."
January 14, 2014
Virginia lawmakers are hoping to join New Jersey in providing in-state tuition for undocumented students who attend Virginia colleges or universities. Two bills were introduced in this year's legislative session, one by a Democrat and one by a Republican.
Senate Democratic leadership is fighting back against an amendment proffered by Sen. Ayotte (R-NH) that would eliminate the child tax credit for five million children of undocumented immigrants. The vote on the amendment is expected sometime this week before an ultimate vote on the extension of emergency unemployment benefits.
January 13, 2014
Dr. Tom K. Wong, in a blog for the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies, ponders the political scenarios under which the House will pass immigration reform.
Think Progress reports on an exchange between House Majority Leader Eric cantor (R-VA) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (R-MD) on the economic possibilities of immigration reform: "Immigration reform could be an economic boon to this country. We've got to do it right … and along those lines, the Speaker has said we are going to look for the release of a list of principles of our position … of what we believe is an appropriate path forward for immigration reform...As the gentleman knows, I have been a strong proponent of the Kids Act, working with the Chairman of the Committee on it because all of us can agree that we shouldn't hold kids accountable for the misdeeds or illegal acts of their parents.
January 10, 2014
Politico reports that in an interview with Telemundo, set to air this Sunday, Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) "says he sees 'no reason' why current undocumented immigrants shouldn't gain legal status as long as Congress enacts tougher border-security and enforcement measures."
The National Immigration Law Center has pulled together a table to support Rep. Gutierrez's point, arguing that "DHS has the capacity to expand it prosecutorial discretion guidelines." In this table they have compiled they outline existing forms of prosecutorial discretion, the authority for relief and who is eligible.
January 9, 2014
The LA Times reports that Speaker Boehner told fellow Republicans in the House in a closed door meeting that he is working on a set of priorities to guide the House's effort to reform the country's immigration laws: "We are working on a standards or principles document."
Not to be outdone, Tom Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, did not shy away from the issue of immigration in his annual "State of American Business" address on Wednesday. "We're determined to make 2014 the year that immigration reform is finally enacted. The Chamber will pull out all the stops - through grassroots lobbying, communications, politics and partnerships with unions, faith organizations, law enforcement and others - to get it done."
Yesterday, 16 Republican members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to President Obama rebuking his attempts to get an immigration bill through Congress and to his desk. (AILA Doc. No. 14010944.) Citing the "21 million Americans who can't find a full time job" and the "6 million younger Americans who are neither working nor in school" they state that they "reject [his] call for the House to get an immigration bill to [his] desk that would permanently displace American workers." The signers included the usuals (Reps. Steve King (IA), Lamar Smith (TX), Mo Brooks (AL), and Steve Stockman (TX)) and other recognizable names (Reps. Michelle Bachmann (MN) and Joe Wilson (SC)).
Not that we need any more convincing, but FWD.us pulled together a list of the "14 Reasons To Pass Immigration Reform in 2014" with infographics included.
As we head into 2014 advocates, the media and Representatives themselves are concerned about the political will of Republican leadership to take on immigration reform during an election year. The theory being that forcing members of the Republican caucus to take "hard" votes on immigration related bills while potentially fending off primary challengers and/or Democrats in the general elections will make it harder for them to retain their seats in Congress. The Center for American Progress has pulled together "Five Major Immigration Laws that the House Passed in an Election Year" (although not all good, IIRAIRA anyone) to disabuse us of that notion. Additionally, back in June, Buzzfeed tried to dispel the notion that immigration would significantly affect Republican primary voters' decision making.
January 8, 2014Yesterday, Fusion reported that ICE confirmed that 13 pregnant women had been detained in immigration detention facilities over the last four months. Although ICE says pregnant women are not detained "absent extraordinary circumstances," Jorge Ramos delves deeper into the story to find out more about the circumstances surrounding the detention of these women. Buzzfeed picked up the story and ICE confirmed that "the undocumented immigrant [pregnant] women were an enforcement priority because they had either recently entered the country or had been issued final orders of removal."
David Leopold, former president of AILA, was shocked by the number: "If you're going to detain a pregnant woman there ought to be a damn good reason for it…But we have to ask ourselves a couple questions - are these people really priorities? And, if not, why are these women being locked up?"
Last year advocates successfully pushed back against an attempt to repeal the Child Tax Credit and the Additional Child Tax Credit for undocumented parents and their children. However, the fight continues. Although six Republicans joined Senate Democrats yesterday to push the extension of unemployment insurance benefits over a procedural 60 vote hurdle, they have been insistent in the need to find offsets to pay for the legislation. Sen. Ayotte (R-NH) put forward her own solution that again seeks to eliminate child tax credit eligibility for the approximately 5.5 million children with undocumented parents.
Yesterday, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed legislation granting in-state tuition benefits to undocumented students living in New Jersey. Speaking at the signing ceremony, flanked by a coalition of advocacy groups who supported the bill, he stated: "The fact is that the taxpayers of this state have made an enormous investment in these young people, and the question is: do we want to maximize our investment through giving them nothing more than an opportunity? There is no guarantee of success here, and because the DREAM Act has been signed it does not mean that every student who now has the opportunity to go to college will succeed. Some will, some won't. Some will exceed beyond anyone's expectations and some not. But our job, I believe as a government, is to give every one of these children, who we have already invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in, an opportunity to maximize that investment for their own benefit, for the benefit of their families, and for the benefit of our state and our country."
January 7, 2014
Yesterday, Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, joined restrictionist Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, on NPR for a discussion about “Reframing the Immigration Conversation for 2014.” Although Krikorian and Noorani faced off on the increased immigration numbers included in the Senate bill, Krikorian did acquiesce that deporting millions of immigrants may not be politically or logistically feasible. “Much of the public, including myself, is actually open to the idea of legalizing long-term illegal immigrants who aren't criminals and maybe have kids here, that kind of thing. I mean, you know, I'm not committing myself to anything, but that's a plausible thing. I don't like it. It's expensive. It's distasteful.”
Keeping up with Speaker Boehner’s (R-OH) and his internal dialogue on what to do on immigration reform in 2014 in the House of Representatives is an almost impossible task. Thankfully, the New York Times has pulled together a compilation of the varying statements he’s made on immigration over the last year or so.
January 6, 2014
John Stanton, staff writer at Buzzfeed, is here to throw cold water on immigration reform advocate’s hopes for 2014 as Congress returns to session. In his article, “Why 2014 Won’t Be the Year for New Immigration Laws,” he argues that although “ [Speaker] Boehner and his leadership team may be inclined toward handling immigration reform, they’ve made clear they won’t back a comprehensive bill. Rather, Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor remain committed to their strategy of moving a series of smaller measures — a position that hasn’t changed for months.”
Talking Points Memo thinks that the Speaker’s recent actions (hiring immigration expert Becky Tallent and lashing out at more conservative members of his party) should still be considered as potentially good news for advocates in the coming election year. But they note that “the Speaker faces important obstacles even if his endgame is more about messaging than results. Firstly, conservatives don't trust him on the issue and may not go along with his plans. Secondly, there's no internal consensus among House Republicans on which immigration reforms to enact. Thirdly, primary season is coming up and members will be watching their backs for conservative challengers ready to pounce on them if they support more lenient immigration laws.”
January 3, 2014
Last month Speaker Boehner (R-OH) gave advocates an early present by announcing that he had hired Becky Tallent, an immigration expert from the Bipartisan Policy Center, to join his staff. Want to know a little more about the Speaker’s newest hire, Fusion has pulled together some of her most relevant tweets.
January 2, 2014
Last Thursday, December 26, the California Supreme Court ruled that undocumented immigrants who meet the requirements to practice law in California must be given a legal license. The ruling was the first of its kind, although two similar suits are pending in Florida and New York. The ruling followed a California law, passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor last Fall, stating that undocumented immigrants who were otherwise eligible should receive licenses.
The NY Times seems optimistic that Speaker Boehner (R-OH) might be open to pursuing changes to this country's immigration system on the floor of the House in the 2nd session of the 113th Congress. However, they note that "House Republicans have a retreat scheduled this month, and are unlikely to make any strategic decisions about immigration before then" and that Speaker Boehner is as committed to a piece by piece approach as ever.
At the end of 2013 AILA sent a letter to newly confirmed Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson outlining suggested priorities for DHS for the coming year. (AILA Doc. No. 14010246.)
Last week, PBS NewsHour tried to answer the question: "Will 2014 yield immigration reform?" Judy Woodruff was joined by Mark Hugo Lopez director of Hispanic research at the Pew Research Center, Tamar Jacoby, head of ImmigrationWorks USA, Angela Maria Kelley, vice president of immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, and Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies.