July 2015

Some States Still Pushing Back on Offering tuition equity to Undocumented Individuals


More than 900,000 young individuals nationwide who came to the United States before the age of 16 have been granted reprieve from deportation, and granted work authorization, under the Obama administration program from 2012.

Florida, Texas, New York, and California are a few among at least 20 of the states that offer tuition equity to students regardless of their legal status, according to a Law Center tally. Other states that provide in-state tuition to students who hold DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) status include Ohio, Virginia, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Missouri and Arizona are pushing back against the tide of states that are making college more affordable for undocumented individuals.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich appealed a May court ruling that had allowed the Maricopa County Community College District, one of the nation’s largest, to charge in-state tuition to students with DACA status. The Arizona Board of Regents announced that it too would allow DACA students who established residency to pay in-state tuition.

In Missouri, it is required that recipients of the state’s A+ Scholarship program be citizens. This bill passed soon after the body that oversees the scholarship extended eligibility to include DACA students.

Missouri’s latest budget also includes language barring colleges and universities that receive public funds from charging DACA students anything less than out-of-state tuition rates.

Private schools and foundations are looking for a way to make it more difficult in higher-education funding for students with questionable legal standing such as DACA recipients.

Immigrant Mothers Forced to Wear Ankle Monitors


Attorneys representing immigrant mothers detained in a South Texas family detention center say the women have been denied counsel and have been forced into accepting ankle-monitoring bracelets as a condition of release, even after the judge has made it clear that paying their bonds would suffice.

The leaders of a volunteer lawyers’ project said that in a letter sent Monday to Sarah Saldana, director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, they were “dismayed by the lack of transparency, and the coercion, disorganization, and confusion” surrounding recent releases.

Between 70 and 100 women who were called into courtrooms at the Dilley Detention Center Campus last week were told by ICE officials that they could be released with ankle monitors in place of bond, according to a motion filed by R. Andrew Free, a Nashville lawyer working with the CARA family Detention Pro Bono Project.

ICE wants ankle monitors, which use global positioning technology, on the majority of the women released, said Free in an interview.

One of Free’s clients was released under bond, and even though the judge reduced her bond from $7,000 to $1,500, which she planned on paying, a deportation officer said that even after her bond was paid, an ankle-monitoring device would also be placed on her.

In recent weeks, with a federal lawsuit challenging the detention of children, ICE began moving families through the centers faster, allowing many women to receive ankle monitors instead of paying bonds. Last Friday a federal judge in California ruled that detaining children in these centers did violate the terms of a 1997 settlement, and that families needed to be released rapidly.

New Immigration Policies Will Reduce the Number of Deportations


The Obama administration is set to put in new undocumented immigration policies into place that will reduce the level of deportations to even lower levels than the reduction he instituted earlier this year.

Deportations of undocumented immigrants with no serious criminal records will be lowered considerably as a result of new immigration policies enacted in November by President Obama’s administration, according to a new report issued last week.

The Migration Policy Institute (MPI), a respected immigration research institution in Washington D.C., released a 36-page study that states the new policies are likely to reduce deportations from within the U.S. by about 25,000 cases each year, and eventually extend protection from removal to a much broader number of undocumented immigrants.

For the first time in decades, the administration is promising to focus mainly on deporting foreign nationals with serious criminal convictions as contrasted to prior policies under which non-criminal and criminal immigrants were deported without much regard to priorities.

Deportation policies listed in the report are being implanted because they are separate from the presidential executive actions issued to shield from expulsion undocumented foreign-born parents of U.S. citizen or resident children and foreign nationals brought to the United States as children by their undocumented parents.

The new immigration enforcement policies mark a definite shift in U.S. deportation strategies, according to the report.

Under the new policies, the emphasis will be on deporting four categories of undocumented foreign nationals: those deemed national security threats, those detained immediately after crossing the border, those who are gang members and those with felony convictions.

This suggests that a significant number of undocumented immigrants who have less than serious criminal record and those with deportation orders and deportations that occurred long ago could remain in the country under new prosecutorial discretion guidelines authorized by the administration.

Proposed Rule Could Expand the Number of Undocumented Individuals Allowed to Stay in the Country


The Obama administration is advancing forward with plans to expand a waiver program that will allow additional undocumented individuals to remain in the U.S. rather than apply for legal status from abroad.

The Department of Homeland Security issued a proposed rule that would make additional changes to the waiver program created by President Obama’s executive action on immigration back in 2013. The action created a waiver that primarily allowed undocumented individuals with a U.S. citizen spouse or parent to stay in the country instead of having to leave the country and be barred from returning for three to ten years, if they proved their absence would create an “extreme hardship” for their spouse.

The new rule expands the eligibility to a host of other categories of undocumented people beyond those with citizen spouses and parents.

“DHS proposes to expand the class of aliens who may be eligible for a provisional waiver beyond immediate relatives of U.S. citizens to aliens in all statutorily eligible immigrant visa categories,” the proposed rule stated. “Such aliens include family-sponsored immigrants, employment-based immigrants, certain special immigrants, and Diversity Visa program selectees, together with their derivative spouses and children.”

An undocumented person, who lives in the country for less than one year and then leaves, is barred from reentering the country for three years. Any time spent illegally in the country after one year results in the undocumented person to be inadmissible for ten years. The waiver program allowed these individuals to remain in the country and avoid these penalties.

The proposed rule would also extend the category of those whom an undocumented individual can claim their absence from the U.S. would create an “extreme hardship”. Previously, the waiver could only be given if the undocumented person has a spouse or parent who is an American citizen.

The agency said the rule is intended to “prioritize the family reunification of immediate relatives of U.S. citizens over other categories of aliens.”

US Asylum Backlogs Soaring, Testing Patience for Those Fleeing Persecution


Many Syrians have waited for more than a year to hear back from U.S. officials as they wait in asylum backlogs. For many, the last sliver of hope for their futures in the United States. Around 4 million Syrians have fled the country since the civil war began, but asylum seekers lucky enough to reach the United States still face long and uncertain waits to be approved.

For thousands of asylum seekers who have escaped persecution and violence in their home countries, experiences such as leaving their families behind and having their children grow up without them are very common.

The number of pending asylum cases has increased by more than 800 percent over the last four years, and this has stretched out the period of uncertainty in some cases from six months to two years, or from two years to four.

For the asylum seekers that have made it to the United States, and were able to get a U.S. work permit, this has allowed them to make enough money to support themselves and their families back home in countries such as Kuwait. But the financial and emotional toll of long separations begins to mount over the years.

Since July of 2013, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) increased its numbers of asylum officers by 65 percent.

So far this year, USCIS has granted asylum to 83 percent of applications from Syrian nationals. But there is still a political tussle over asylum for tens of thousands of others waiting in line. U.S. courts have been inconsistent on granting relief to those fleeing gang-related violence, which make up many of the recent Central American cases.

The uncertainty of the time frame around asylum cases is also eroding immigration lawyers’ ability to manage their caseloads.

Failure to Reach Settlement on Both Sides in Family Detention Lawsuit


Both immigrants’ rights attorneys and the U.S. Justice Department have failed to come to an agreement in a family detention lawsuit over the conditions that families in immigrant detention centers face.

Attorneys on both sides have been attempting to strike a deal since U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee issued a tentative ruling back in April that the current family detention system violates an 18-year-old court settlement that bars immigrants children from being held in unlicensed, secure facilities.

Peter Schey, executive director of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, said that immigrant rights attorneys were disappointed at the fact that they did not see more willingness from the government to honor the earlier settlement.

Millions of dollars were spent into two large detention centers by the government for women and children after thousands of immigrants families, in particular mothers and children from Central America, crossed the border into Texas last summer. Many claiming they were fleeing gang and domestic violence back in their home countries.

In Gee’s possible and tentative ruling, she found that detaining the children violates parts of a 1997 settlement of an earlier case. The settlement requires that immigrant children be released only to foster care or relatives, and if they must be held, they are to be kept in the least restrictive environment possible in facilities licensed to care for the children.

She also mentioned that the settlement covered all of the children under the custody of federal immigration officials, including those with a parent, and that the new detention facilities are secure and not properly licensed for children.

The Justice Department argued that it was necessary to modify the settlement and use detention to try and deter more immigrants from coming to the border after last year’s increase.

The government also mentioned that it was a way to keep families together while their immigration cases were being reviewed.

Since Gee’s possible ruling, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has committed to making the facilities more child-friendly and provide better oversight.

Three-Year DACA Work Permits to be Replaced with Two-Year Permits


Due to a lawsuit, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) are required to collect any three-year DACA work permits that were issued or mailed after February 16, 2015. Over 2,000 undocumented youth received a three-year work permit and must now return them to receive a two-year permit.

These were approved and sent out after the U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen of Texas issued a temporary injunction back in February against the expanded version of DACA.  A relief program for the parents of U.S. citizen or legal resident children, also known as DAPA.

Advocates are urging young immigrants awarded with three-year work permits to return them to the federal government as the administration began on Thursday visiting homes of people who still have permits. Immigration advocates are also afraid that the home visits will cause confusion and panic, and so they are working on informing the immigrant community.

The home visits were to occur in Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Houston.

Approximately 1,000 of the 2,500 people have returned their work permits already. The agency has re-issued and mailed-out two-year work permits to those individuals who have returned them. Those who have not complied are being contacted by phone or in person, threatened with revocation of their DACA status.

The executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, Marielena Hincapie said that “while the immigrant community might be confused and fearful of this, the goal is only to retrieve the three-year work permits and replace them with a two-year permit.”

The deadline to return the three-year work permits is July 30, 2015.

Texas Denies Birth Certificates to Children of Immigrant Parents


For nearly 150 years now the United States has recognized people born in the country as citizens regardless of the whether their immigrant parents are citizens. The state of Texas is now violating the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

In the last year, the state has refused to issue birth certificates to children who were born in Texas to undocumented parents. Four women have filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Texas Department of State Health Services asserting constitutional discrimination and interference in the federal government’s authority over immigration.

The practice of refusing to issue birth certificates is believed to be linked to the issue of unaccompanied Central American minors and mothers crossing the border from Mexico late last year seeking asylum.

According to the lawsuit, the women who requested birth certificates for their children at the state’s vital statistics offices in Cameron and Hidalgo counties were turned away due to insufficient proof of identities. The women were told the matricula consular –photo ID issued by the Mexican consulate to Mexican nationals living in the U.S. – would no longer be accepted as a form of ID. Central American mothers are being turned away because they only have a passport without a U.S. visa. Children are unable to be enrolled in school or daycare without a birth certificate and even unable to be treated in a medical emergency.

Jennifer Harbury, a lawyer with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, has mentioned that they have received dozens of call from mothers who have been refused birth certificates for their children. Harbury has mentioned they have recently had to file an amended lawsuit with several more plaintiffs.

James Harrington, an attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project, is also representing the undocumented families. The legal team is seeking a court order to reinstate the use of the matricula consular and foreign passports as valid proof of identity for undocumented mothers.

“Even in the darkest hours of Texas’ history of discrimination, officials never denied birth certificates to Hispanic children of immigrants,” said Harrington in a written statement. “Everyone born in the United States is entitled to the full rights of citizenship.”

Obama’s Immigration Deferred Action Spurs Huge Boost To Dreamers’ Wages

obama speech

According to a report released Thursday, undocumented young people – The Dreamers – have seen their average wages jump an approximate 45 percent since President Barack Obama granted them Deferred Action for temporary authorization to stay in the United States and legally work here.

With work permits under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, dreamers average an hourly wage of $17.29. The average wage before the program was approximately $11.92 according to the report.

The Center for American Progress, National Immigration Law Center and Tom K. Wong of the University of California, San Diego, illustrate the program’s economic and educational impact of the deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. The program has allowed nearly 665,000 young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. before they turned 16 to stay and work legally for two years, with the opportunity to renew.

The survey also found that 76 percent of the DACA recipients were employed, and 20 percent were going to school and not working. Forty-five percent were working and in school. The recipients who were working said they had better pay after gaining coverage from the program. Fifty-four percent said they had better working conditions.

The authors wrote that the higher wages mean more tax revenue and economic growth, which suggests that the program benefits the economy.

The report found that 89 percent of DACA recipients had received a driver’s license, and 21 percent bought their first car. More than 90 percent of those still in school said they had “pursued educational opportunities [they] previously could not.”

The survey was conducted in June with 546 respondents. Researchers were “confident” 467 of those are DACA recipients. Respondents live in 34 states the District of Columbia. The median age was 22. Of the respondents, 73 percent were women and 26 percent were men.

Woman Shot at San Francisco Pier Fuels Immigration Debate


Kathryn Steinle’s death in San Francisco caused by an immigrant that has been deported numerous times, and has several felony convictions, has fueled the immigration debate on tightening immigration control.

The woman was gunned down on July 1 by Juan Francisco Lopez Sanchez, a Mexico native, while walking with her father down a San Francisco city pier. When Sanchez was arrested it was revealed that he had seven felony convictions related to drugs and repeated illegal entries into the country. It was confirmed that Sanchez was previously release by the San Francisco Sheriff’s Office back in April despite a request from immigration asking that they hold him until U.S. authorities could take Sanchez into custody for deportation proceedings.

Immigration advocates across the country say that Sanchez is a rare exception to the millions of people who are in the U.S. illegally but live lawful lives.

After being interviewed by a reporter in jail, Sanchez mentioned that he found the gun under a bench and that it fired accidentally. The gun was reported stolen from a car belonging to a U.S. Bureau of Land Management ranger according to police.

At a court hearing this week, the man seemed to know very little English and his attorney, public defender Matt Gonzalez, said Sanchez had a second grade education.

Sanchez was found in front of a restaurant in the area about an hour after Steinle was shot. He was already on probation in Texas at the time of the shooting.

Groups advocating stricter immigration enforcement are hoping the episode leads to closer collaboration between local law enforcement and immigration authorities. The Center for Immigration Studies, a group that advocates for tighter policies and enforcement, posted a lengthy commentary Monday on Steinle’s death that was titled, “Another Life Needlessly Lost to Poor Immigration Policies.” It added a map of sanctuary cities to its website.