Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 12120666 (posted Dec. 15, 2014)"
December 15, 2014
Over the weekend the Senate passed the House approved ‘cromnibus,’ and send the bill to the President’s desk. The bill will fund the majority of the government for the rest of the fiscal year, with the Department of Homeland Security being singled out to only be funded through February 27, 2015. During the Senate’s debate on the bill, there was one moment of intrigue when Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), no stranger to controversy in budget negotiations, forced the Senate to vote on a Constitutional point of order to defund the President’s executive action on immigration. Sen. Cruz was ultimately unsuccessful in his bid, with only 21 Republicans (and no Democrats) voting yes on his point of order, but by doing so he paved the way for current Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to keep the Senate in session and force votes on 24 of the President’s nominations, including his nomination for ICE director, Dallas-based U.S. Attorney Sarah Saldaña.
All this week, Immigration Politics will be looking back at our last two years and highlighting some of the best moments.
First up, January 28, 2013:
The bi-partisan powerful "Gang of Eight" Senators today released their "Bipartisan Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform" outlining a set of principles to guide the overhaul of the country's immigration system. Democratic Senators Schumer (D-NY), Durbin (D-IL), Menendez(D-NJ), Bennet (D-CO) and Republican Senators Graham (R-SC), Rubio (R-FL), Flake (R-AZ) and McCain (R-AZ) have all committed to the plan and a roadmap to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country, but only when strict border enforcement measures have been met.
Followed by a Senate bill on April 17, 2013:
WE HAVE A SENATE BILL. Late Tuesday/early Wednesday the Senate Gang of Eight introduced the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.” (AILA Doc. No. 13041760.) Senator Schumer (D-NY) took to the floor of the Senate to officially introduce the bill and thank his colleagues and the staff that helped negotiate and draft the legislation. (AILA Doc. No. 13041765.) AILA commended the Senate "Gang of Eight" for the Bipartisan Immigration Bill in a press statement. (AILA Doc. No. 13041761.)
December 12, 2014
For the last two years Immigration Politics has been bringing readers the what's what and the who's who of immigration happenings in Washington, D.C. and around the country. Next week, as this Congress winds down and the 114th Congress gets ready to be sworn in in January, we'll be bringing you the greatest Immigration Politics hits from the last two years-everything that could have been in the 113th Congress. We'll then go a short hiatus over the winter holidays and will return in mid-January.
DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson is heading to Dilley, TX on Monday to tour the new family detention camp set to open there in the next few weeks. Just in case anyone has forgotten, AILA, along with many other organizations, sent a letter to the President reminding him of all of the many reasons family detention goes against this country's values and morals. (AILA Doc. No. 14102843.)
Some have been talking about the potential implications of the President's actions on federal entitlement programs, such as social security, welfare (TANF), healthcare, and other tax credits (EITC and CTC). The truth is most people who sign up for DACA or DAPA will not receive many of these benefits, but there are some they could eventually qualify for. The National Immigration Law Center provides a good breakdown of what that looks like.
December 11, 2014
Well, they did, but just barely. Late this evening the House of Representation passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill to try to keep the government open for the rest of the fiscal year-well everyone except the Department of Homeland Security, which will only have guaranteed funding until February 27, 2015. The bill squeaked by with 219 yes votes, when 57 Democrats crossed the aisle to vote with 162 Republicans to help pass the measure, even though Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) had come out strongly against the bill for two provisions related to Wall Street and campaign finance. Now, the bill will head to the Senate where it has the support of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Appropriations Committee chair Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). The President has made very clear that he will sign this bill if it reaches his desk, with White House staffers spending much of the day yesterday rounding up Democratic votes in the House.
On Tuesday, President Obama sat down with Fusion news anchor Jorge Ramos, and at times the interview got downright uncomfortable. Ramos pushed back hard against the President on his deportation record, even while praising him for his executive action. Ramos: "As you're saying, you always had the legal authority to stop deportations. Then why did you deport 2 million people? For six years you did it. You destroyed many families. They called you the 'deporter-in-chief.'" Obama responded, "You called me deporter-in-chief, I did not."
December 10, 2014
Some might have seen that an intense debate is happening at the Washington Post over the size and scope of the President's executive action as compared to actions taken on immigration by past President (namely President George H.W. Bush in the 1990s). Well, Lawrence Downes of the NY Times Editorial Board wants to set something straight, sure the action by the President might be helping an unprecedented amount of people, but the thing to remember is that "the current problem is unprecedented. There are 11 million people living here outside the law. Congress should give them a chance to get right with the law. Congress refuses. So Mr. Obama acts to help about 36 percent of them avoid deportation, if they qualify."
The chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, Jason Furman, expressed strong views about "The Truth About immigration and the Economy" in an editorial for CNN. He states: "Immigration reform may be a complicated issue politically, but in economic terms, the case is clear -- it is one of the biggest levers the United States has to encourage economic growth and to raise wages."
On Monday, USCIS Director Leon Rodriguez attended a summit hosted by Cities United for Immigration Action, a coalition formed by mayors "to support and help implement President Obama's executive action on immigration." He blogs about his experience at the summit on The Beacon, the Official Blog of USCIS (who would have thought this would ever be a link).
December 9, 2014
In the latest edition of the House of Representatives not being able to get their act together, the House was unable to get the “cromnibus” (combination of: continuing resolution (CR) and omnibus) out of the House in time to give the Senate a chance to vote on it before the funding for the government runs out on Thursday, the 11th. So, instead the House will pass a short-term bill (think two to three days) to give both Chambers a chance to vote on the large spending bill.
AILA Texas chapter member Paul Parsons writes a beautiful piece for the AILA Leadership Blog on “the happiest days in [his] life as an immigration lawyer.” Yesterday, Mr. Parsons was able to help free a mother and her 10 month old toddler from the Karnes Detention Center after two months after a San Antonio immigration judge granted a $1500 bond (the lowest amount the Judge has been granting). Although this mother and child are bonding out of detention, he urges readers to remember the hundreds of families who remain detained.
In not great news of the day, the Judge assigned to hear the case filed by 17 states to stop the President’s actions on immigration hasn’t been so favorable towards the Administration’s use of discretion in the past. The Washington Post notes: “‘DHS has simply chosen not to enforce the United States’ border security laws,’ the judge wrote. He said the government’s failures to enforce immigration laws were ‘both dangerous and unconscionable,’ although he separately noted, ‘This court takes no position on the topic of immigration reform, nor should one read this opinion as a commentary on that issue.’”
Today, the President traveled to Nashville, TN to talk immigration in a small community organization setting—and he took questions from the audience. Watch him talk about letters he’s gotten from Republicans praising him on his action on immigration.
December 8, 2014
Today, the Department of Justice released new guidance for federal law enforcement agencies regarding the use of racial profiling. Unfortunately, the guidance, which has been in the works for over five years, offers a broad exemption to the use of racial profiling at the border. A footnote in the memo states: the new rules would not apply to “to interdiction activities in the vicinity of the border, or to protective, inspection, or screening activities.” This will apply to Customs and border Protection, the CIA and Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) agents. According to Yahoo News, Attorney General Eric Holder expressed disappointment with the exemptions for DHS.
December 5, 2014
A new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute's Religion & Politics Tracking Survey showed "50 percent of Americans thought Obama should have used his executive action for immigration changes, while 45 percent did not. But seven-in-ten Americans back his plan to allow parents who are not legally in the United States and have U.S. citizen or legal resident children three years of protection from deportation, provided they pass a background check and have lived in the U.S. for at least five years."
The ACLU has released a new report, "American Exile: Rapid Deportations That Bypass the Courtroom," chronicling some of the cases of the more than 70 percent of deported immigrants who are removed without ever seeing an immigration judge.
The Wall Street Journal sat down with incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and asked him if the next Senate could pass immigration reform in the new year. He suggests that it would be possible, but only in a piece-meal fashion. He said that he would start with border security to reassure the American people, and then H-1B expansion, H-2A provisions for agricultural workers, and some of the other things Senators can agree on.
December 4, 2014
In the worst news of the day, and also most pointless action of the day, House Republicans voted today on a bill authored by Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) that would have prevented the President from implementing his executive action on immigration. (Just a reminder: in order for a bill to become a law it must be signed by the President-probably not looking good on that front here.) The bill largely fell along partisan lines, but seven Republicans voted no, and three Democrats voted yes. The common wisdom is that this vote will allow Speaker Boehner (R-OH) to ensure he has the votes he needs to pass the budget next week to keep the government funding though the fiscal year.
In better news, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams joined Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon to "Slow-Jam the News" on immigration. Worth a watch.
December 3, 2014
Well, in the worst news of the day, 17 states have filed a joint lawsuit in federal court to try to block the President's executive action on immigration. The suit was filed by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and included: Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Mr. Abott explained his reasoning in a statement: "The President is abdicating his responsibility to faithfully enforce laws that were duly enacted by Congress and attempting to rewrite immigration laws, which he has no authority to do - something the President himself has previously admitted. President Obama's actions violate the Take Care Clause of the U.S. Constitution and the Administrative Procedure Act, which were intended to protect against this sort of executive disregard of the separation of powers."
Lynn, Massachusetts is an old industrial city where more than 30 percent of residents are foreign born. Colombian researcher and photographer Patino Contreras created an incredible interactive website providing snapshots into some of the immigrant residents of this small town.
In the same storytelling vein, Think Progress sits down with two teenage brothers in California, who, this summer, made the dangerous journey north from Guatemala to flee gang violence. The boys' mother was deported and is now barred from returing to the United States for many years. "She is currently staying in Tijuana, where she meets with her sons at Friendship Park every weekend." The boys' legal status is still in legal limbo, but they are making the transition to no longer living in constant fear.
The New York Times chronicles the "Genial Force Behind [the] Bitter Opposition to Immigration Overhaul," Roy H. Beck, the president of NumbersUSA. "Mr. Beck, a former environmental journalist who once worked at The Grand Rapids Press and The Cincinnati Enquirer, said he did not feel the rage toward immigrants that he is able to marshal in others. He said that he voted for Mr. Obama in 2008, and he is consistently described by his critics as genial and nonconfrontational. But he says that the rise in immigration levels is destroying the United States-both the environment and employment opportunities for the working class-and is angry at what he considers complicity by the government on the immigrants' behalf."
December 2, 2014
Today, two House committees made their feelings well known on the President's Executive Action on immigration. In two hearings in the House Homeland Security and Judiciary committees, titled respectively, "President Obama's Executive Overreach on Immigration" and ""The Impact of Presidential Amnesty on Border Security," House Republicans argued that the President had violated the Constitution by taking this action. Read AILA's statements for the "Homeland Security and "Judiciary hearing and catch up with tweets from "Advocacy Director Greg Chen. (AILA Doc. Nos. 14120101 and 14120100.)
Congress is coming up on an urgent, self-imposed, deadline next week-on December 12 funding for the government runs out, and unless Congress acts the country is heading towards a shutdown. But, leaders on both sides of the aisle have made public statements on their desires to avoid a shutdown at all costs. Today, details emerged on how that might happen. Politico reports that "House Republican leaders are pitching a plan that would fund nearly all government agencies through next September except the Department of Homeland Security. DHS - which oversees nearly all immigration operations - would only be funded until March. That vote is likely to come next week, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told lawmakers in a closed-door meeting Tuesday morning."
December 1, 2014
Last week, the Congressional Research Service published a report that, in fact, Congress does have the authority to block funding for USCIS even though it is an entirely fee-funded agency. The report was commissioned by Republican Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions and is not a public document. However, Huffington Post published a segment of the report that states: "Importantly, amounts received as fees by federal agencies must still be appropriated by Congress to that agency in order to be available for obligation or expenditure by the agency…the funds available to the agency through fee collections would be subject to the same potential restrictions imposed by Congress on the use of its appropriations as any other type of appropriated funds."
Latino Decisions released a new poll showing that Latino voters overwhelmingly support the President's executive action. 89 percent of all Latino voters support the President, but even more impressively, 76 percent or Republican Latino voters supported the President's action.
November 26, 2014
The American Immigration Council has released the "Guide to the Immigration Accountability Executive Action." The 23 page document walks through each of the points of the President's action and explains them in more detail. Additionally, AILA has released a free, public podcast featuring AILA President Leslie Holman among others that delves into more details of the announcement.
Think Progress and Vox have released helpful guides on how to talk about immigration around the turkey.
Yesterday, President Obama traveled to his home city, Chicago, IL, to talk more immigration. AILA National Secretary Marketa Lindt was able to document the action from up close.
November 25, 2014
Over the weekend DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson went on PBS NewsHour and made the case for the President's executive action on immigration. Much of the implementation will fall to him and his Department, and he traveled to South Texas immediately following the President's speech to make the case on border patrol. "It's important, in our view, that while we exercise prosecutorial discretion, and we have to make the hard choices for the benefit of public safety, border security, a lot of that should include sending the message that our border is not open to future illegal migration. And so - and we came out with that policy with the support of the enforcement community in DHS to send the message that we are going to prioritize going forward those who would come here illegally."
136 law professors have come out in support of the President's authority to grant "certain noncitizens in the United States "deferred action" status as a temporary reprieve from deportation." This follows an editorial from Stephen Legomsky, a law professor at Washington University and former chief counsel of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services from 2011-13, that argues the President's authority to act is "clear."
The Center for American Progress releases a report on how executive action will benefit economies for 26 states in the union. For example, in "California 1,214,000 undocumented immigrants are eligible for deferred action under the president's November 20th executive actions on immigration. If these immigrants are able to receive a temporary work permit, it would lead to a $904 million increase in tax revenues over five years."
In non-executive action news, TracImmigration just released a new report that less than a third of unaccompanied children had an attorney at their hearing in fiscal year 2014. Disturbingly, they've also found that the presence of an attorney "was the single most important factor influencing the case's outcome." In the latest figures, almost 75 percent of children with attorneys were allowed to stay in the country, while only 15 percent of those who were not represented were allowed to stay.
November 24, 2014
AILA has two great new resources to help readers make sense of the executive action announced last week. AILA's Take on President Obama's Immigration Executive Action provides a brief summary and some analysis of the different policies. (AILA Doc. No. 14112448.)
AILA's summary of the President's Immigration Accountability Executive Actions provides a rundown of the dozen plus memoranda put out since last Thursday. (AILA Doc. No. 14112446.)
It was just nine months ago, on March 14, 2014, that the President announced that he was ordering his newly installed Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson to do a review of the country’s enforcement policies in order to make them more humane and fair. The President, the Secretary and the country have come a long way since then. Politico delves into the politics and players behind the President’s decision to go bold last week on executive action. The story chronicles how closely held the process really was, with Secretary Johnson writing the majority of the memos himself: “Disciplined and direct, Johnson approached his work for the White House like an attorney going to the mat for his clients. Unlike some political figures, he wasn’t interested in buffing up his own image. As an early supporter of Obama’s 2008 campaign, Johnson had credibility in the president’s insular world. No matter what, he wasn’t going to leak details of the president’s plan.”
In case anyone cares, this is how Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach described the President’s plans on immigration: “Imperial, executive amnesty. The sacrificial shredding of our Constitution.” Now he’s planning on filing a lawsuit, perhaps joined by the state of Texas and a number of disgruntled ICE officers, to try to stop the President’s executive action. But first, according to the Washington Post, “he will have to prove the plaintiffs have standing to sue by showing they have suffered credible, personal injury because of Obama’s executive action.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been a fairly active advocate for immigration reform over the last two years; however, they were seemingly not impressed with the President’s decision to use his executive authority last week. Chamber President Tom Donohue stated, “Meaningful and lasting immigration reform can only be achieved through the enactment of bipartisan legislation…Executive actions cannot adequately fix our broken immigration system, and they raise important legal and constitutional questions.”
November 21, 2014
Well more and more details of the President’s executive action on immigration have been released. Read the more than dozen new memos from DHS, USCIS and ICE on AILA’s Resource Page on Administrative Reform 2014.
The President electrified a crowd in Las Vegas, Nevada today in round two of a speech explaining his decision to take executive action to a supportive crowd at Del Sol High School—the same place he made the speech two years ago outlining his principles for comprehensive immigration reform. There were a few choice quotes from the speech, but he continued to circle back to the same idea, that what this country really needed was for Congress to pass a bill. In fact, he even offered to “walk Speaker Boehner’s dog or wash his car” if it meant that he would let immigration reform come up for a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives. The real emotional moment of the event might have been when DREAMer Astrid Silva introduced the President. The President mentioned her in his speech last night, specifically the courage she showed to pursue her dreams and fight for reform as an undocumented young person.
House Republican leadership has planned their first hearing in the wake of the President’s announcement. The Homeland Security Committee, chaired by Michael McCaul (R-TX), will hold the hearing, with the no-way inflammatory title “Open Borders: The Impact of Presidential Amnesty on Border Security,” next Wednesday and have invited DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson to testify.
November 20, 2014
So, everyone is waiting anxiously for the President's big speech tonight at 8:00pm ET (which the major networks will not be covering), but throughout the day today a few tidbits about what the President might actually announce
have snuck out. (AILA Doc. No. 14112059.) The big one: parents of U.S. citizen and lawful permanent resident children will now qualify for affirmative relief, via deferred action. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that as many as 5.2 million people may qualify under these programs. Additionally, DACA eligibility will be expanded by eliminating the age limit for potential applicants. Early reports seem to indicate that border security will play a large role in whatever plan the President announces as well (for a reminder on how much this country has spent on building up border security in the last 13 years read AILA's Border Benchmarks Report). The White House has released a fact sheet, talking points, and a pocket guide on the executive action announcement coming tonight. (AILA Doc. Nos. 14112057, 14112056 and 14112058.)
Visit AILA Resources on Administrative Reform 2014 for all the information as it's released, and follow AILA Advocacy Director Greg Chen on Twitter for live updates over the next two days.
How will Republicans act after the President actually makes his announcement tonight? The reality is that no one seems to know, not even Congressional Republican leadership. Presumably without a shred of irony, incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) promised that Congress would act in the wake of the President's action: "If President Obama acts in defiance of the people and imposes his will on the country, Congress will act. We're considering a variety of options. But make no mistake. Make no mistake. When the newly elected representatives of the people take their seats, they will act." One can only imagine he's not talking about passing real immigration reform, but the country can hope.
FiveThirtyEight outlines the number of all executive actions Presidents have ever taken, and, spoiler alert, President Obama is nowhere near the top of the list.
November 19, 2014
Well, today the President announced that tomorrow night, at 8:00pm ET, he would be announcing his plans for executive action on immigration (follow AILA Advocacy Director Greg Chen on Twitter for live updates from the announcement). And then on Friday he’ll head to Las Vegas, Nevada, where he laid out his principles for Congressional reform two years ago at Del Sol High School, to discuss why he is using his executive authority now, and why Republicans in Congress must act to pass a long-term solution to immigration reform. Stay tuned for updates, AILA resources, press releases and other information on the AILA Administration Reform 2014 page.
Speaking of that announcement the NY Times reports that the “Deportation Reprieve May Not Include Parents of Young Immigrants.” Allegedly, “some [White House] officials have argued it would be more difficult both legally and politically to make the case for including parents of immigrants in the existing program for young people who came when they were children.” They also offer a handy infographic on exactly how many people might be helped by any affirmative relief program the President announces.
Not one to be outdone, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), took the opportunity to point out the “22 times President Obama said he couldn’t ignore or create his own immigration law.” Not all Republicans are as adamant that an executive action on immigration reform will really poison the possibility for Congressional reform. Original Senate Gang of Eight Member, Jeff Flake (R-AZ), still believes that legislation is possible: "I hope we respond with legislation. I hope we pass legislation.”
In direct contradiction to Speaker Boehner’s claim that the President doesn’t have the authority to act, and in a shout out to our friends at the American Immigration Council, Senator Barbar Boxer (D-CA) used a large chart to demonstrate all the executive actions taken on immigration since 1956. Read more about them in the American Immigration Council’s issue brief.
The Washington Times ran an interesting section in today’s paper devoted to “conservative and economic solutions to act now” on immigration featuring commentary from Ben Carson, Sen. Rand Paul, Paul Ryan, Jeb Bush, Gov. Susana Martinez, Grover Norquist, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, John Engler, Thomas J. Donahue, Jay Timmons and Alex Nowrasteh.
November 18, 2014
Well the temporary, remote family detention center in Artesia, New Mexico, really is a temporary facility apparently. Acting ICE Director Winkowski announced today that the Artesia facility will be closing, and that the new permanent family detention center in Dilley, Texas would pick up the slack. Winkowski made clear the administration was not backing down from their intention to detain small children, “We must be prepared for traditional, seasonal increases in illegal migration. The Dilley facility will provide invaluable surge capacity should apprehensions of adults with children once again surge this spring.” (AILA Doc. No. 14111849.)
AILA was not encouraged by the closing of one family detention center, simply to open another, larger, permanent facility. AILA Executive Director Crystal Williams commented, “The Administration is playing more games with the lives of women and children fleeing violence. This time it's a shell game moving people from one jail to another without regard for their well-being or human rights. There is no indication that the Administration is slowing down the massive escalation of family detention. Far from it, since ICE is opening a massive permanent facility in Dilley, Texas, run by a private prison company, that will have a capacity of 2,400 beds, becoming the largest immigration detention facility of any kind nationwide.” (AILA Doc. No. 14111800.)
Current, but not for long, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said today that he spoke to the President yesterday and told him he "should move as fast as he can" on immigration action. He also indicated that he would not rush the Senate to vote on confirming U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch as the next Attorney General of the United States. Some Senate Republicans are already indicating that her nomination may fall victim to misplaced anger at the President’s for his upcoming executive action on immigration.
Meanwhile, the Immigration Policy Center reminds us that if—or when—President Obama takes executive action on immigration, he won’t be the first U.S. president to do so. “Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush protected 40 percent of undocumented immigration from deportation through executive action.”
The Center for American Progress has a new report examining how this country’s emphasis on immigration enforcement over the last decade plus has put a huge burden on the country’s court system. “Since the U.S. Department of Homeland Security began operations in 2003, the combined budget for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, and Customs and Border Protection, or CBP—the primary agencies charged with enforcing immigration laws—has soared, doubling from more than $9 billion in 2003 to more than $18 billion in 2014. In contrast, overall funding for the Executive Office of Immigration Review, or EOIR—the immigration court system—is stuck in the millions, rising from only $188 million in 2003 to $312 million today.”
November 17, 2014
Today, six Senate Democrats sent a letter to President Obama supporting his decision to use his well-established executive authority to fix the country's broken immigration system. (AILA Doc. No. 14111744.) They state: "Immigrant communities have waited too long for House Republicans to catch up with the American public's support for comprehensive immigration reform. We strongly support your plan to improve as much of the immigration system as you can within your legal authority, and will stand behind you to support changes to keep families together while continuing to enforce our immigration laws in a way that protects our national security and public safety."
In more potential administrative action news, Democratic Representative Xavier Becerra (CA) had some strong words for those who oppose the President taking action when appearing on CNN's State of the Union, "If it were your child, and you were about to be separated from your child, simply because Congress is dysfunctional and doesn't get its job done, then you would say, 'My God, this is crazy, a citizen child being separated [from their family].'" Rep. Becerra sparred off with former Bush Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on the issue.
The National Journal comments on the rare occasion for a sitting, termed-out President to influence the next Presidential election that is more than 23 months away, but with an action on immigration President Obama might do just that. They argue that if the President does not "achieve a small recovery, even a well-known and relatively popular politician like Hillary Clinton will struggle to convince voters they shouldn't back the other party's choice for the White House." But "even if Republicans avoid the harsh rhetoric that has marked the previous responses to immigration policy-something Republican strategists acknowledge is no guarantee-their explanation that their objections are based on overuse of executive power might not resonate with the Hispanic community."
November 14, 2014
President Obama, speaking from Burma this morning, addressed the criticisms coming from Congressional Republicans around the coming Presidential action on immigration. "So [Congressional Republicans] have the ability to fix the system. What they don't have the ability to do is to expect me to stand by with a broken system in perpetuity. And I would advise that if, in fact, they want to take a different approach, rather than devote a lot of time trying to constrain my lawful actions as the Chief Executive of the U.S. government in charge of our enforcing our immigration laws, that they spend some time passing a bill and engaging with all the stakeholders, the immigrant rights groups, the law enforcement groups, the evangelicals, the business community, all of whom have said this is something that needs to be done, is way overdue. And we've been talking about it for 10 years now, and it's been consistently stalled."
Meanwhile The Atlantic hypothesizes about what Republicans might do in reaction to a President announcement. "If Obama acts this month, the biggest question will be whether the GOP tries to insert language into a must-pass federal spending bill to overturn the policy, thereby risking a government shutdown that party leaders have promised to avoid. The incoming Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, signaled he would not pursue that option. 'We will not be shutting the government down or threatening to default on the national debt.'"
Today, Rep. Luis Gutierrez appeared on Jose Diaz-Balart's show on MSNBC and made a bold claim if the President doesn't act on immigration soon or to the Representative's liking. "If the president doesn't go big, if the president doesn't go wide, if he isn't generous, certainly there are many throughout the country who say there should be a challenge for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party if it, once again, turns its back on our immigrant community. And if that were to happen, I'll give you a call, Jose. Because it will be something that we will be required to do."
November 13, 2014
Fox News announced breaking news today that "President Obama is planning to unveil a 10-part plan for overhauling U.S. immigration policy via executive action -- including suspending deportations for millions -- as early as next Friday, a source close to the White House told Fox News." No official word from the White House on the legitimacy of the reporting, but Fox News reports that the plan will "span everything from boosting border security to improving pay for immigration officers," and, of course, granting deferred action to a large group of people (potentially up to 4.5 million people).
117 House Democrats sent a letter to President Obama today asking him to take "bold and meaningful executive action" on immigration. (AILA Doc. No. 14111761.)
Yet another reason to expand transparency and accountability of Border Patrol officers, today a number of advocacy organizations-including AILA-filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties raising "concerns regarding the failure by CBP to properly screen individuals who flee to the United States." The complaint provides detailed accounts of asylum seekers who were improperly screened or whose expressions of fear were ignored by CBP officers at the border.
November 12, 2014
According to a new study, ICE detainers are on a (rapid) decline. TRAC reports that "in the eighteen month period from the end of FY 2012 through March 2014, there has been a 39 percent decrease in the number of ICE detainers sent to local, state and federal law enforcement officials." Although the reasons for the drop are unclear, they hypothesize that it may be the result of more localities pushing back on the constitutionality of the detainers, therefore leading ICE to issue fewer detainers they felt "would not be honored."
November 10, 2014
President Obama went on Face the Nation yesterday and admitted that he's "deporting people that shouldn't be deported. We're not deporting folks that are dangerous and need to be deported." He went on to comment, I've got legal authority to make improvements on the system. I prefer and still prefer to see it done through Congress, but every day that I wait we're misallocating resources."
Over the weekend, conservative Senators Ted Cruz (TX) and Mike Lee (UT) issued a statement on the confirmation on Loretta Lynch for Attorney General, asking that she clarify her stance on the use of executive action and asking that her confirmation be delayed until the new Congress is seated: "President Obama's Attorney General nominee deserves fair and full consideration of the United States Senate, which is precisely why she should not be confirmed in the lame duck session of Congress by senators who just lost their seats and are no longer accountable to the voters. The Attorney General is the President's chief law enforcement officer. As such, the nominee must demonstrate full and complete commitment to the law. Loretta Lynch deserves the opportunity to demonstrate those qualities, beginning with a statement whether or not she believes the President's executive amnesty plans are constitutional and legal."
Republican Senator Ron Johnson (WI) will be the new chair of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee when the Senate switches to Republican control come January. He told the Associated Press that he has already began working on a border security bill that he will hope to push through the Senate next year. He told AP that "his legislation would include a guest worker program to reduce incentives for illegal immigration. It would build on work already done by Congress, including a House bill aimed at ensuring that 90 percent of would-be border crossers are stopped."
November 7, 2014
Today, President Obama and Republican Congressional leadership met at the White House to discuss a range of issues, including immigration. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) warned the President that taking action would poison the well on any potential action by Congress in the new session, but was unable to lay out any specifics of a Republican plan to tackle the country's flawed immigration system. Joining the Speaker in applying pressure on the President was Senator Cornyn (R-TX), a longtime opponent of immigration reform. He remarked that he was "sorry to say it seemed to fall on deaf ears."
November 6, 2014
Today the AILA Artesia Pro Bono Project just won their ninth asylum case! Read AILA Advocacy Director Greg Chen's tweets from the hearing and learn more about this case and the eight before it in AILA's case examples two-pager. (AILA Doc. No. 14102446.)
Senator John McCain (R-AZ) was a member of the "Gang of Eight" that drafted the Senate immigration reform bill and stewarded it through the process to eventually gain 68 votes, including the votes of 14 Republicans. He then urged his House colleagues to take up the bill, or pass their own versions of immigration reform, but, sadly, to no avail. Now, he's making a new plea, this time to the President of the United States: "I literally am pleading with the president of the United States not to act. Give it a chance. We've got a new Congress. We've got a new mandate. Let's let the House of Representatives decide if they want to move forward on immigration reform or not." Meanwhile, yesterday, six Republicans, including Jeff Sessions (AL) and Ted Cruz (TX), sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) expressing "alarm" with the President's decision to take executive action on immigration.
November 4, 2014
Today is Election Day! Republicans need to flip six senate seats (and retain the ones they currently have) to gain the majority in the Senate and control both houses of Congress. The statisticians at FiveThirtyEight are giving Republicans a 75 percent chance at accomplishing that goal. Some of the key races to watch include: North Carolina, Louisiana, Alaska, Arkansas, Kansas and Colorado.
Now that it’s Election Day, Congressman Luis Gutierrez is wasting no time to reminding the President of his promise to take executive action after the mid-term elections. The Hill reports that Gutiérrez “will host a press conference Wednesday in Chicago to push the president to take quick executive action to rein in deportations.”
Alejandro Mayorkas might be the Administration’s top pick to replace outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder to lead the Department of Justice. Rumors circling in D.C. and a letter sent by the National Fraternal Order of Police seem to indicate that Mayorkas is leading a short list of potential candidates.
AILA members, and AILA Artesia Pro Bono Project volunteers, Stephen Manning and Dree Collopy have an editorial in today’s Guardian asking “Why is Obama still locking up so many innocent women and kids on US soil?” They explain: “When the refugee detention centre in Artesia opened, the word had already come down from on high: ‘We will send you back.’ Sure enough, the government has done its level best to march these women and children through a traumatic asylum process – one in which legally established protections for refugees are being ignored or abused wholesale – to get them on their way to an airplane that sends them back to the lands they fled.”
November 3, 2014
Over the weekend, former Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney went on Fox News Sunday and expressed his confidence that a Republican controlled House and Senate could get immigration reform done. “But you're going to see a provision first of all to secure the border, second of all, to deal with those who have come here illegally and, third, to make sure our immigration policies are open and transparent to many people who do want to come here illegally. That's going to happen. You're going to be a bill actually reached the desk of the president, if we finally have someone besides Harry Reid sitting in the Senate.”
October 31, 2014
The Wall Street Journal has talked to someone in the administration who is “familiar with the administration’s thinking” on how the executive action this Winter will be structured. Allegedly, “the White House is considering two central requirements in deciding which of the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants would gain protections through an expected executive action: a minimum length of time in the U.S., and a person’s family ties to others in the country.”
Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) a staunch opponent of the Senate comprehensive immigration bill, S. 744, came out in support of a “pathway to citizenship for kids” at a debate last Tuesday night. “For children who came with their parents into the country and did not comply with our immigration laws, they are guilty of nothing other than coming with their family. We ought to provide them with an opportunity not only to go to school, but eventually serve in the military or complete a college education and earn American citizenship.”
In weird news for the day, Reuters reports that a U.S. federal judge ordered notorious Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio to participate in the same racial profiling training that his officers were forced to undergo because of recent comments made by the Sheriff.
October 30, 2014
In an op-ed in Univison, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Representatives Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) lay out the precedent for the President to act on immigration this Fall. “In addition to taking steps to make our immigration enforcement efforts more humane, there are dozens of reforms that the President can adopt. Two that could have the greatest impact involve the expanded use of his deferred action and “parole” authorities. Presidents have broad authority to defer removal when it is in the national interest, and past presidents have regularly used this authority. In the years immediately following the enactment of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush took bold action to protect the spouses and children of people who received status under that law.”
Politico Magazine has an in-depth examination of “The Green Monster,” more commonly referred to as Border Patrol. The article examines how the dramatic surge in hiring over the last thirteen years has led many officials formerly affiliated with the department to question the integrity and quality of the force. “But the Border Patrol has also become one of the nation’s deadliest law enforcement agencies over that same period, involved in more fatal shootings—at least 46—since 2004 than perhaps any other such agency…An internal report last year that the agency tried to keep secret accused its agents of shooting their weapons not out of fear for their lives but instead out of “frustration.”
Today, three Republican members of the Senate “Gang of Eight” sent a letter to President Obama asking him to not take executive action on immigration. Senators McCain (AZ), Graham (SC) and Rubio (FL) state: “Mr. President, we urge you to work with Congress to secure our borders and address the serious issues facing America’s immigration system. Unilateral action by the executive branch on this issue would be detrimental to finding and enacting much-needed long-term policy and legislative solutions to our broken immigration system.”
In what might be the most racist ad of the election cycle, attacks a state representative in Kentucky for supporting modified drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants. Think Progress highlighted the ad as suggesting “that granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants could lead to terrorist attacks like the ones carried out on 9/11 at the World Trade Center.”
October 29, 2014
Today, the AILA Artesia Pro Bono Project represented a mother and her two children at their asylum merits hearing, the eighth for the Project. This follows seven earlier merits cases, all meritorious—read about those seven cases and check out AILA Advocacy Director Greg Chen’s Twitter for updates from today’s hearing. (AILA Doc. No. 14102446)
The Washington Post runs a scathing editorial today accusing Republicans of conjuring up a “wide open border” to “frighten voters to the GOP.” The paper’s main complaint, using the silk screen of border security as an excuse to not do anything on immigration reform. “Desperate to conjure up arguments against immigration reform, much of the GOP has long been blind to the buildup and militarization along the border — even though it has been achieved by bipartisan authorizations of cash by Congress. After all, the standard rationale for opposing legal status for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants is to insist that the Southwest border first be ‘secured.’”
Buzzfeed reported yesterday that the “Justice Department and Homeland Security officials are sending to the White House their final recommendations on what immigration executive actions should look like” in the next two weeks. What those recommendations entail is still entirely unclear. Some might remember that it was way back in March that the President asked DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson to do a 90 day review of deportation policies in the department—the results of that review still remain a mystery.
October 28, 2014
32 House Democrats sent a letter to President Obama today expressing their “serious reservations regarding the detention of mothers and children as a policy matter,” and also their “immediate concerns pertain to the manner in which families are presently being detained and plans to significantly expand family detention in the months ahead.” (AILA Doc. No. 14102843.) The letter was spearheaded by California Representative Zoe Lofgren, the ranking member of the House Immigration Subcommittee.
Alex Nowrasteh, the immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute, has an editorial in yesterday’s TownHall.com on the decision by this President to drastically increase the detention of families. He remarks that critics of the President, who accuse him of ignoring immigration enforcement laws are really missing the point. The real law the President is ignoring is the one of due process. “Ironically, these critics ignore one of the most egregious offenses to the rule of law on this issue: the systematic denial of due process in immigrant detention centers across the country.”
Read a profile of Javier Flores in Saturday’s Washington Post, an undocumented immigrant with a wife and four U.S. citizen children who was deported to Mexico twenty three days ago. Mr. Flores had a good job in a window factory in Ohio, managing 30 people and paying $850 in taxes each month, but when he was pulled over while driving and detained by immigration officials all of that ended. Now he spends his time picking lines with his father and thinking about when he’ll be able to see his family again.
October 27, 2014
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is the House Majority Leader and the number two Republican in the House and he has some bold ideas about what Republicans will need to do over the next two years if they want a chance to win back the Presidency-his main suggestion: "govern." He's hoping that his Republican colleagues in the Senate (assuming they gain control of the Chamber) will embark on a joint legislative agenda to demonstrate that they are capable of getting things done. However, he is not too sure that immigration will be on that list, Politico reports, "McCarthy left open the possibility of passing an overhaul of immigration laws but said if Obama "tried to do it by executive order, that's the worst way," and it would "stop everything."
October 24, 2014
Today, the AILA Artesia Pro Bono Project won their seventh (out of seven) asylum cases for families detained in the family detention center in Artesia, New Mexico. This follows on two other victories this week for families detained. Read about the families that have fought, and won, their asylum cases. (AILA Doc. No. 14102446.)
Almost from the moment he introduced Senate bill 744 last year, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has been doing everything can to distance himself from it. Some might remember that in the run up to the bill's introduction, Sen. Rubio was a grand champion for the bill-appearing on many conservative radio and television show to stump for it, and seemingly winning over at least some of those hearts and minds. But that was a different time, and a different Republican Party. Many predict that Sen. Rubio is seriously considering a run for President in 2016, and, unfortunately, it seems that the Republican Primary voters still aren't too keen on a candidate who supports legalization for any undocumented population. At a campaign stop in New Hampshire today he had this to say about further efforts to pass a bill: "I don't think Washington, now or in the foreseeable future, is conducive to doing a massive piece of legislation on any topic."
October 23, 2014
The Center for American Progress has pulled together the "Facts on Immigration Today," to help keep the public up to date on why immigration (and immigrants) is so vital to the country's interests.
October 22, 2014
Today, in trying to read the tea leaves news, many were guessing that DHS's procurement of supplies to make millions more work permits and green cards, was a sign of what the President is planning on doing after Election Day on administration action. Not so fast, according to White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest: "I think those who are trying to read into those specific orders about what the president may decide are a little too cleverly trying to divine what the president's ultimate conclusion might be.What I would caution you against is making assumptions about what will be in those announcements based on the procurement practices of the Department of Homeland Security."
Yesterday, incumbent candidate Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Republican candidate Scott Brown sparred off in their one and only debate in their race to represent New Hampshire in the U.S. Senate. Immigration was a major point of disagreement in the debate, and anyone who has seen Mr. Brown's recent fear inducing border ad, can understand that the two candidates have very different viewpoints on the issue. Responding to a question on what the metric is for a secure border, Mr. Brown responded, "You know when it's secure when people don't come across it." Sen. Shaheen responded that "What Scott Brown has done is to grandstand on this issue."
October 21, 2014
Today, the American Immigration Council, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild and co-counsel, the National Immigration Law Center and Jenner & Block, LLP., filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act to compel the release of government documents regarding the expedited removal process against families with children, including those detained by DHS in Artesia, New Mexico. The release of these policies and procedures is particularly urgent given that the government has opened another family detention center in Karnes, Texas and has announced plans to open a massive 2,400-bed family detention facility in Dilley, Texas.
October 20, 2014
After the 2012 election, pundits and party leaders seemed to agree that in order for a candidate to win a national election, she would have to appeal to Latino voters-mainly by demonstrating a willingness to work on immigration reform with a road to legalization and citizenship. However, no one mentioned anything about state races, and now Republican Senate and House candidates across the country are attacking their opponents for being for "amnesty" and soft on "illegal immigration." The real question is, will running away from reform (and towards harsh enforcement and increased border) mean that Republicans will lose any chance they have at the White House in 2016?
October 17, 2014
Today, USCIS announced the Haitian Family Reunification Parole program which will offer certain eligible Haitian beneficiaries of already approved family-based immigrant visa petitions, who are currently in Haiti, an opportunity to come to the United States up to approximately two years before their immigrant visa priority dates become current. AILA President Leslie Holman commented on the announcement, "While I was delighted to hear this news and commend USCIS for taking this compassionate action, this is not a panacea for the still broken immigration system that our nation is forced to deal with every day. This is a small step forward, and while it will mean so much to the families affected, there are many more changes the President has the authority to make - changes that could help our businesses and economy, while bringing our families and communities together." (AILA Doc. No. 14102340.)
Minnesota AILA member Kim Hunter recently spent time volunteering with the AILA Artesia Pro Bono Project at the family detention center in Artesia, New Mexico. (AILA Doc. No. 14090249) This past Tuesday, she successfully helped a mother and her two young children who have been detained in Artesia for three months receive a grant of asylum from an immigration judge. Watch her explain what it meant to have ICE keep this family in detention even after they were granted asylum. (AILA Doc. No. 14101753.)
October 16, 2014
Today, ten Democratic Senators, Leahy (VT), Reid (NV), Durbin (IL), Schumer (NY), Murray (WA), Blumenthal (CT), Menendez (NJ), Bennet (CO), Hirono (HI), and Udall (CO), sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson expressing their opposition to the expansion of family detention by the Obama administration. (AILA Doc. No. 14101608.) They remark, "The decision to construct this new 2,400 bed facility - what will be the largest immigration detention facility in the country - stands in contrast to the principles this administration embraced just five years ago when it stopped detaining families at the Hutto facility in Texas and set aside plans for three new family detention facilities."
Human Rights Watch released a new report today based on a number on interviews with Hondurans who have been deported after only a cursory screening by a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer along the southern border. "'You Don't Have Rights Here:' U.S. Border Screening and Returns of Central Americans to Risk of Serious Harm" chronicles that "CBP's methods for interviewing migrants in expedited removal procedures are seriously flawed."
Some House Republicans, notably two who were members of the now defunct House Gang of Eight, told Buzzfeed that they believe immigration reform has a better chance of passing if Republicans win the Senate. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL): "I don't want to mislead; it's a difficult lift as we all know. But we would have a better shot at getting it done if Republicans take control of the Senate for the simple reason that it could be initiated in the House with close coordination with the Senate." Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador (R) thinks it will force Congress to do piecemeal: "I actually think it's more likely, if we take the Senate, that we will have immigration reform. We will be able to do it on a step-by-step approach like most Republicans have been asking to do and I think the American people want." But not everyone believes the hype. Longtime immigration reform advocate Frank Sherry, "The party is so fundamentally bigoted and anti-immigrant they cannot overcome the majority so that the few reformers can make it right."
October 15, 2014
The President called out Republicans last week for their short-sightedness of opposing immigration reform and again promising to use "all of the executive authority that he legally has to make fixes in some of the system…But whatever I do through the executive branch will not be as effective as we could do through legislation. And it's anybody's guess how Republicans are thinking about this. If they were thinking long term politically, it is suicide for them not to do this. Because the demographics of the country are such where you are going to lose an entire generation of immigrants who are looking around and saying, you know what, that party does not seem to care much about me and my life. And I think the smarter Republicans understand this. Short term, though, they've got a problem, and the Tea Party and others who oftentimes express virulently anti-immigrant sentiment."
The New York Times chronicles a New York City paramedic who later today will take the oath and become a U.S. citizen. But his path was not easy. A Pakistani who first came to the United States as a young boy to see his dying mother and then overstayed his tourist visa, he was tagged for deportation after complying with special registration program post 9/11. Although he was initially offered prosecutorial discretion, that reprieve only lasted a few years before he was brought back to court in 2006. Working with his lawyer, he applied for political asylum. "After an emotional three-hour hearing that included expert testimony about routine killings by extremists in Pakistan, an immigration judge granted his plea, over the objections of lawyers at the Department of Homeland Security." His lawyer, Ms. OuYang, "the daughter of a doctor who was among the first Chinese immigrants allowed into the United States after the repeal of the now-infamous Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, sees Mr. Hussain's case as part of a much longer history."
When the Administration announced the expansion of family detention beyond Artesia, first to the facility in Karnes, Texas and then the creation of a brand new, 2,400 bed facility in Dilley, Texas, they also announced that both of these detention centers would be run by for-profit corporations. In fact, the center being built in Dilley, Texas, will be run by the same corporation, Corrections Corporation of America, that ran the now shut down Hutto facility and was plagued with accusations of abuse and neglect. For those who want to learn more about the influence of a private lobby on America's detention system, the non-profit Grassroots Leadership just issued a report inviting you to "meet the companies set to make millions on the return of family detention."
October 14, 2014
Turns out that the unaccompanied children released to sponsors in the interior actually are showing up for their court dates, despite what others might want the public to believe (looking at you, Arizona Senators). The Executive Office of Immigration Review released new data that shows that 85 percent of the 10,041 minors showed up at their first court hearings.
FiveThirtyEight examines how "The Unaccompanied Minor Crisis Has Moved from the Border to the Courts." Even as the numbers of children coming to the southern border has dropped since the peak during this past summer and the media seems to have moved on from this issue (except for the vague references to these people bringing in Ebola or ISIS), apparently "the crisis is still causing havoc. The backlog of cases in immigration courts is the biggest it has been in 20 years and has been growing steadily since 2000 (including an uptick after the increased allocation of resources for border protection)."
October 10, 2014
Republican Senators Grassley (IA), Hatch (UT) and Corburn (OK), sent a letter to the lGovernment Accountability Office asking them "to review policies of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the agency charged with caring for unaccompanied minors crossing the southern U.S. border." In the letter they allege that, "It's unclear if a strategy has been formulated to deal with the impending surge in the next fiscal year, which the administration suggests could include up to 145,000 more unaccompanied alien minors."
October 9, 2014
In the grossest political ad of the day, candidate for Texas Lieutenant Governor attacks his opponent over her opposition to deploying the National Guard to the southern border. He conflates terrorist attacks, the Central American humanitarian crisis and border security, all in one ad, an impressive feat. He ends the commercial with, “National security begins with border security — and that begins with the Texas Rangers and National Guard.”
One good news from today, maybe, is that the White House press secretary does not foresee Congressional Republicans threatening to shut down the government based on (or in anticipation of) executive action by the President on immigration. The Hill reports, “The White House would be ‘surprised’ if congressional Republicans link efforts to block any forthcoming executive actions on immigration to future budget or debt ceiling measures, press secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday. ‘I don't think that there are many analysts that believe that the political standing of the Republican Party was enhanced by shutting down the government,’ Earnest said. ‘So I would be surprised if Republican leaders chose to pursue that path again.’”
October 8, 2014
Two weeks ago, the Associate Press reported on a leak from a confidential ICE meeting that "an official with [ICE] revealed that about 70 percent of immigrant families the Obama administration had released into the U.S. never showed up weeks later for follow up appointments." Although the report provided no proof, break down or explanation of the statistic or any other data point, many were alarmed by the high number of no shows. Well, a new story from The Wall Street Journal today directly contradicts the claim allegedly made by an unnamed ICE official. "Between July 18 and Sept. 30, about 85% of unaccompanied minors showed up for a scheduled first hearing, and about two-thirds of adults with children appeared, according to data obtained from the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the agency that oversees the nation's immigration courts." Additionally, the data from EOIR confirms what has been a proven fact in immigration courts, that "those who have legal representation also are more likely to appear and win their case."
October 7, 2014
In yesterday's Colorado Senate debate, Republican candidate Cory Gardner came out strongly in support of immigration reform, "I believe some form of work status is going to be the ultimate solution that we come to. I believe earned status is going to be eligible to be part of the solution."
October 6, 2014
AILA responded to the two recent announcements from the Obama administration on immigration, the first regarding eligible immigrants with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) applying for the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) program and a second plan to allow young children from Central American countries to apply for refugee status from outside the U.S. AILA President Leslie Holman: "These two actions are policies that sound good at first, but in operation only pretend to be changes. What we really need is the President to take big, bold action that will help our military, our economy, our communities, our businesses, and our families. These pretenses of policy change aren't helping. Last week he promised real action on immigration. We need better proof than this." (AILA Doc. No. 14100640.)
The anti-immigration reform group FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform) released their new voting reports (House and Senate) on the 113th Congress. Let's just say the drafters of the Senate's comprehensive immigration bill did not fare well and neither did those who voted in favor of Alejandro Mayorkas for DHS Deputy Director or against the defunding of DACA.
October 3, 2014
Yesterday, the President addressed the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, and unsurprisingly most of his remarks focused on his plan to take executive action on immigration. Although the President has faced strong resistance from many in the Latino community (and AILA) for his decision to delay the announcement until after the election (but before the end of the year-or so he promises), he was still greeted with cheers and introduced by an enthusiastic Senator Menendez (D-NJ). (AILA Doc. No. 14090640.) The President acknowledged the anger in his speech, "Now, I know there's deep frustration in many communities around the country right now. And I understand that frustration because I share it. I know the pain of families torn apart because we live with a system that's broken. But if anybody wants to know where my heart is or whether I want to have this fight, let me put those questions to rest right now. I am not going to give up this fight until it gets done."
The National Day Labor Organizing Network, NDLON, has released a new report chronicling the destructive effect of the President's enforcement regime on American families. "Destructive Delay: A Qualitative Report on the State of Interior Immigration Enforcement and the Human Cost of Postponing Reforms," includes almost three dozen interviews with front-line organizers, legal experts, and people in deportation proceedings.
October 2, 2014
The White House today announced that they would be providing $9 million in funding for legal services to some of the unaccompanied immigrant children who have crossed the border recently. "The federal government will give more than $4.2 million over the next year to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in D.C. and the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants in Arlington, both of which will provide legal services to undocumented children in nine cities: Arlington, Va., Baltimore, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Memphis, Miami, New Orleans, Phoenix." This follows the actions of the state of California, who announced they would be providing $3 million in funding for these children, and New York City who announced that all unaccompanied children would be provided counsel.
The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants has launched a great new website detailing the experiences of refugees living in America. The site includes videos, stories and facts about refugees living in this country.
October 1, 2014
The Department of Homeland Security has released their immigration enforcement action report for fiscal year 2013 (October 1, 2012 through September 30, 2013). (AILA Doc. No 14100146.) The highlights included that DHS removed approximately 438,000 aliens from the United States with expedited removal orders accounted for 44 percent of all removals. Immigration Impact notes, "The Obama administration set another record for deportations…up nearly 5 percent from the 418,397 removals in 2012…The latest information shows that DHS is removing more people, more quickly, with more serious consequences, but the statistics also show those people are increasingly less dangerous. These latest numbers beg the question of what purpose the record deportations are serving. As MPI's Marc Rosenblum told the New York Times, "You can't look at this report and conclude that this administration has not been serious about immigration enforcement."
Melinda Henneberger of The Washington Post, recently visited the family detention center in Artesia, New Mexico and was taken aback by what she found. She comments, "But the emergency circumstances under which this chaotic, makeshift operation was set up make that harder. Trying to send immigrants back as soon as possible without violating their right to due process in applying for asylum is trickier still. And even the best intentions do not always translate into reality."
Yesterday, MALDEF, the immigration clinic at the University of Texas School of Law, Human Rights first and the law offices of Javier Maldonado filed a complaint alleging that sexual abuse has been ongoing at the for-profit family detention center located in Karnes City, Texas. This complaint follows a complaint made last week alleging several severe conditions problems at the facility, related to medical access and treatment of children, among others. The Obama Administration's decision to double down on family detention has severe consequences on the health and well-being of these vulnerable mothers and children, many of whom are fleeing violence and abuse in their home country. (AILA Doc. No. 14092255.)
September 30, 2014
Today, the President announced some of the details of a plan referenced earlier in the summer to allow some young children from Central American countries to apply in-country for refugee status. However, White House officials acknowledged that the program would not increase the number of refugee visas actually available, only allow for in-country processing for some. AILA's Advocacy Director Greg Chen was not impressed, commenting on his Twitter: "In-country refugee processing is like the Captain of the Titanic saying, 'We have some life rafts on board-this solves the problem, right?'"
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