Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 12120666 (posted Oct. 17, 2014)"
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?'"
September 29, 2014
Over the weekend, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) went on This Week with George Stephanopoulos
and made some interesting claims about his commitment to get immigration reform done. "I thought it [immigration reform passing by the end of the year] was too but it wasn't. We had a flood of children coming across the border once again proving that no good immigration bill can pass until we have real border security. Big things in Washington take bipartisan majorities. Issue of immigration, only way to do it, and frankly the right way to do it, is to do it in a broad bipartisan way…I said the day after the 2012 election it was time to do immigration reform. I meant it then and I mean it today."
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, 2014
In 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 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."
Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), chair of the newly created House working group on the humanitarian crisis at the southern border, issued a statement on the President's supplemental funding request indicating that the recommendations the group will release next week will cover both the funding request and potential policy changes: "The Speaker's working group will meet again tomorrow to discuss the humanitarian, security, and immigration issues surrounding the situation at the southern border, as well as the policy steps we believe Congress and the Administration should take provide solutions to this immediate crisis."
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 recipients who 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
This followed an open letter yesterday from multiple, large national immigration reform advocacy groups asking the President to hold off from taking executive action. The release urged the House to take action before the August recess, but also asked the President to exercise restraint in the meantime. "During this interim, we strongly urge President Obama and his Administration to allow for this process to take place before issuing administrative action. We believe the President should move cautiously and give the House Leadership all of the space they may need to bring legislation to the floor for a vote." Groups signing on included the National Immigration Forum, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
However, not all groups agree with this timetable. The immigrant youth organization United We Dream issued their own release after the White House announced the delay: "The Fierce Urgency of Waiting? United We Dream Outraged at President Obama's Decision to Postpone DHS Deportation Review." They argue that "to say that we can wait is to be complacent with the more than 97,000 deportations that will happen between now and August." The Alliance for Citizenship, Church World Service and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles both also denounced the President's announcement of the delay in executive action.
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, 2014
Yesterday, 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, 2014
In 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, 2014
Yesterday, 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, 2014
Today, 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, 2014
President 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, 2014
The 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